“I’ve just noticed a bird about 20 feet away from me”, I said on the phone to someone. The Hoary-headed Grebe had been sitting there quietly for about 10 minutes while I had been on the phone. Until that moment, I hadn’t even noticed it was there, tucked up against the perimeter fence of the Papunya Water Treatment Plant.
I finished the phone call, and then took some photos from beside the car. It still didn’t seem intent on flying off, so I approached it. As I got nearer, it still seemed content to stay where it was. Unfortunately for the Grebe, a few of the large ants from the nest nearby had also noticed its presence, and, deciding the Grebe was an intruder, starting attacking its feet. At this onslaught, the Grebe started to move. I backed off, not wanting to scare it as there were at least 4 birds of prey in the area – a Wedge-tailed Eagle, an Australian Hobby, a Whistling Kite and a Black Falcon.
I moved back to the car, and then the Grebe did the most surprising thing. It followed me. Eventually it nestled onto a patch of weeds only 6 feet from the front of the car. I snapped a few more photos, then noticed a shadow pass over the car – the Whistling Kite, not too far above. I started to think what I had in the car that I might be able to use to help it into the confines of the Ponds. I felt it was probably injured as it hadn’t behaved normally, but was delighted it had given me some wonderful photo opportunities.
The Grebe decided to take matters into its own wings and after the Whistling Kite had moved onwards and upwards, the Grebe started an attempt to escape to safer ground – presumably over the fence. Inside my head I yelled “don’t do that, you will be brunch!”
Alas, the fence seemed too high and its flapping attracted some unwanted attention. When it collapsed to the ground about 30 metres from the car, the Whistling Kite was ready to pounce. It swooped down and picked up the Grebe, only to drop it almost immediately. It swooped down again, and again dropped it. It tried a third time, same result. By this time I was wondering which of the other birds of prey had noticed the commotion, and sure enough, as the Whistling Kite finally managed a decent grip, the Black Falcon swooped in. The Whistling Kite took to the air, chased by the Falcon, carrying the Grebe. It flew to a large bush nearby and the Falcon sat on an adjoining leafless tree. The Whistling Kite didn’t like this close attention, and with prey firmly secured, decided to fly at the Falcon and let it know what it thought of its efforts to steal the meal. Eventually the Falcon took to the sky, leaving the Kite to consume the unfortunate Grebe.
Although it is all part of nature, it seems different when the prey, providing beautiful photos and sitting not far from you, is taken only a short time and distance away.
Whistling Kite and the Grebe
Whistling Kite and Black Falcon