Sunday, 24 December 2017

Black-shouldered Kite hovering

The widespread and common Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus axillaris) is an Australian endemic and one of two Elanus Kites found in Australia, the other being the rare Letter-winged Kite (Elanus scriptus). The Black-shouldered Kite is less common in arid area whereas the Letter-wing is an arid zone specialist.

They both hover brilliantly and can maintain a fixed position in space even in blustery air.

With no last-minute Christmas shopping to do, a walk in Macleod Morass seemed like a good way to spend the afternoon of Christmas eve as the drizzly morning had limited any photography outdoors. As we walked around the Morass I noticed a Black-shouldered Kite and luckily towards the end of the walk we crossed paths with it as it moved along an escarpment. In a cool and moderate southerly wind it stopped at intervals to hover and search for dinner – these kites often take rodents such as mice and rats.

Fortunately, one of its stops to hover was close to me. With the camera on a tripod the kite was easy to focus on as it maintained a fixed position above me. I had to shoot the sequence of photos below in poor light - a fully overcast sky with strong backlight reflecting off the low cloud. Due to the very grey light the images had very little colour and given the bird is mostly grey and black I decided to apply a monochrome filter to the shots.

Please click on photos to enlarge.

The Kite swings into position above me for another hover session.
Its eyes are focused on the ground below for a rodent dinner.
The light grey wing and tail feathers seem translucent and highlight just how amazing the delicate structure of feathers are.

With nothing detected in this location the bird moves on, leaving me with seven photos that I can only hope will be adequately exposed and in focus. 

As Ansel Adams, the brilliant and justifiably famous American photographer used to say in response to countless questions on how to take good photos, f/8 and be there. Certainly, in the case of the Black-shouldered Kite this afternoon, being there paid off.

Photos taken with Canon 5D MKIII and Canon 500mm prime lens with 1.4X extender = 700mm focal length, ISO 320, +1.67 ev, f/5.6

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