Black Kite and Australasian Gannet on the Wing, Solid Swell on the Reef at Apollo Bay and a Cray Boat

The black kite is a smaller raptor than the wedge-tailed eagle, but it has the flying ability, strength, beak, talons and eyesight required to make it a bold and efficient predator. It is a species found in abundance throughout Australia.

Black kite flying
Soaring over paddocks between Apollo Bay and Marengo.
Black kite flying
Note the slightly forked flat tail. The black kite uses this almost continually in flight, twisting it left and right as it manoeuvres.
Black kite flying
Descending at speed with its focus fixed on something on the ground. It disappeared for a short time behind a line of scrub. I assume it spotted (and collected) something to eat.
Black kite flying
The wing structure and beautiful markings are plainly visible in this shot. The black kite has excellent eyesight. Note that the legs are extended and the talons are closed. Compare this to the next photo where the legs and talons are streamlined and tucked away close to the body.
Black kite flying
Detailed markings on the underwing of the black kite. The slight fork in the tail is clearly visible in this photo.
Black kite flying
This photo shows not only the flexibility of the wings and tip feathers, but also the tail twisting momentarily about 60° to the right. The tail twitches quite rapidly left and right in flight. That eye looks very focussed.
Black kite flying
The tail is twisted to the left in this shot. The wings are fully extended, forming an almost perfectly flat plane. What an impressive slab of a wing in this configuration. The wingtip feathers are not extended but tucked away completing the aerodynamically low-drag surface of these impressive wings. The black kite appears to fly effortlessly as a result of its strong manoeuvrable wings with their substantial span and area in relation to the size of the bird.
An entirely contrasting flying style is that of the sulphur crested cockatoo which in comparison to the black kite has a fast and shallow wingbeat pattern. It appears to me to flap then pause and start to fall, then flap again, pause and start to fall again etc. The black kite soars effortlessly, putting in a few lazy deep flaps of the wings here and there as required. Watching the black kite fly fills me with wonder at its mastery of the air. Watching a sulphur-crested cocky fly makes me wonder how it stays up, why it bothers flying further than very short hops and whether walking might be more efficient.

An earlier post on this blog included some photos of black kites at Apollo Bay:

https://southernoceanblog.com/2021/08/19/otways-temperate-rainforest-motorbike-ride-black-kites-and-winter-ocean-swell/

Australasian Gannet

Australasian gannet soaring over hills
This Australasian gannet was soaring over Mounts Bay between Marengo and Apollo Bay. The foothills of the Otways are in the background. I was standing on Hayley Point near Marengo when I took this photo. The head is slightly inclined down as it scans the ocean for food. These birds soar and fly effortlessly.
Australasian gannet soaring over hills
Still soaring over Mounts Bay, still looking intently at the water below..
Australasian gannet flying low over breaking surf
Once the gannet reached Hayley Point it descended to very low level above the sea, often flying below the level of breaking waves and just above the turbulent white water.
Australasian gannet soaring over hills
Shadow revealing how close this gannet was to the surface of the water. There are great aerodynamic efficiencies (principally reduction of the drag created by the wing producing lift) when a bird (or an aircraft) flies within half a wingspan of the water/ground beneath it, such as this bird is doing.
Context shot on left, and close crop showing detail on right. Having the wings ‘hinged’ mid-span which permits wing configurations in flight as shown, is just one of many interesting features of the gannet.
Closeup of Australasian gannet soaring low over breaking surf
Australasian gannet climbing over large breaking wave
Steep climbing turn to the left to get out of the way of the approaching breaking wave.

If you wish to read more about the Australasian gannet, there two earlier post on this blog that might interest you:

https://southernoceanblog.com/2020/02/26/australasian-gannets-breeding-on-southern-ocean-clifftops/

https://southernoceanblog.com/2020/10/11/west-coast-beauty/

Cormorant doing a water landing

Cormorant landing awkwardly in the sea
Cormorants fly well and handle the water well. Landings and takeoffs from the surface of the sea are not a problem. Plunge diving from height to catch fish underwater is spectacular to watch and a very successful way to catch fish. But I included this photo because in pilot terms, it appeared to me that this bird came in for the water landing a bit ‘hot’ and had to wash off excess speed quickly to stay upright and stable. Note the legs splayed and its large webbed feet extended out the front to create braking, with wings wide open and extended upwards to assist in deceleration. Also, the splash trail directly behind the bird shows that this was not a spot landing. But the landing ended well. Good to see that birds, like aircraft pilots, sometimes have ‘arrivals’ as distinct from ‘landings’.

Moderate swell on Little Henty Reef on a clear blue morning

Three images reflecting the energy and zest of the morning

Spectacular fan-shaped breaking wave
Little Henty Reef is often the scene of white water mayhem as lines of big swell meet their first obstacle on the long journey from the storm which created them in the higher latitudes in the Southern Ocean. But on this spring day the swell was moderate in size and clean in a light offshore wind. Most waves were breaking quite ‘normally’. But being Little Henty Reef, without size to work with, it still turned on a wave with an element of spectacle in the form of this barrel that didn’t follow the usual rules. The translucent curtain of water radiating out from the colourful eye of the barrel was special.
Wave with green barrel
A larger but more conventional barrel.
The walk south on the (very slippery!) rock shelf at Hayley Point does not always present this view.

Clean green waves and blue skies

Heavy shorebreak closing out
Wave of substance closing out evenly along its length. A light offshore wind was blowing the spray over the back of the wave.
Clean green wall on breaking wave
Not a huge wave, but there is still a lot of energy being dissipated here. While that smooth green wall looks inviting, this wave was breaking over very shallow reef.
Double barrel wave
A triple-barrel wave. This looks more like a Little Henty Reef wave.
Wave smashing on reef
R to L: gently sloping green face, small barrel over exposed reef with spray blowing back over the wave, exploding white water going in all directions.
Moderate wave breaking on visible reef
It looks like the start of another radiating curtain of sparkling water developing, but on this occasion the breaking wave simply collapsed into white water.
Tortured water closeup as it hits ref
A closer look at the energy unleashed when the wave collides with the reef.
Clean breaking wave on Marengo reef
Clean and green.

Cray boat from Apollo Bay near Hayley Point, looking for pots that had moved in recent big swell

Cray fishing boat off Hayley Point
This boat from Apollo Bay was looking for cray pots that had been set in the area then shifted by the swell.
Crayfish boat near breaking waves
The telephoto lens makes the cray boat look closer to the lines of breaking waves than it was.
Crayfishing boat partly visible offshore in swell
The size of the swell on the calm-looking sea beyond the breaking waves was revealed by the cray boat appearing on crests and disappearing in the troughs. The uneven horizon indicates that there is substantial swell at sea.
Operations normal in green rolling swell.

Solid moody swell on Little Henty Reef

Another day, and a contrast to the clear air and blue skies in the photos above. The swell was bigger. A large high pressure system over the western half of the state created haze in the lower levels of the atmosphere. Spray from the breaking waves hung in the air over the reef. The golden hour pastels appeared on cue.

Moody sunset swell
Moody swell as the daylight faded.
Pastel coloured large breaking wave at sunset
Sunset pastels washing over a powerful wave.
White water  from breaking wavehigh in the air at sunset
One of the smaller waves of the evening, but for some reason the white water down the line went skyward.
Breaking wave and bird at sunset
What a show!
Big whitewater, golden eye of the barrel and green wall of wave in the shadows at sunset.
Light from the setting sun turned the eye of this wave gold.

4 thoughts on “Black Kite and Australasian Gannet on the Wing, Solid Swell on the Reef at Apollo Bay and a Cray Boat

  1. Thanks for that comment Michael. I have enjoyed watching and photographing waves for a long time, but my interest in photographing raptors is relatively recent. I looked at your blog and as I couldn’t find anywhere to comment, I will do so here. Your photographs in the post featuring raptors, all taken by you in your travels, are excellent. I am not surprised that you selected those two photos of the golden eagle in Mongolia to head your high quality collection of sharp close-up photos of raptors from around the world.

    Like

  2. Hi John.

    Another marvellous suite of photos. The content produces the effect of transporting me to the scenes photographed and described. One “look over there”, “now look over here” moment after another. Bird action quiet, what about these cascading, splintering waves…..

    How big are the kites relative to the other birds in the post? It seems to have many aeronautical tricks in its kit. And what a handsome broad shouldered creature is the Australasian gannet. A smooth operator, particularly when contrasted with the warts and all crescendo of the cormorant.

    Speaking of smooth operators, your opening photograph could have been used in the promo of the James Bond film “Golden Eye”. The gannet is the avian equivalent of James, neither shaken nor stirred in such close proximity to those crunching breakers.

    Hunto

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Hunto,

      I’m pleased to hear that you enjoyed this set of photos.

      The black kite is noticeably smaller than the wedge-tailed eagle, and less imposing in profile. The black kite lacks the eagle’s long neck and long feather-trousered legs, and has a smaller bill and talons. But particularly in the air, they are readily identifiable as a raptor.

      The Australasian gannet is larger than the black kite and smaller than the wedge-tailed eagle. Comparing the weight range of each of these three birds gives a general idea of the size difference: black kite 500-671g, Australasian gannet 2.0 to 2.8kg and the wedge-tailed eagle 2.5-4.5kg (Menkhorst et al).

      The Victorian DELWP fact sheet on wedge-tailed eagles states: “The Wedge-tailed Eagle has a wing span that can reach up to 2.8 m and will stand up to 1 m tall. They can weigh up to 5 kg.” (https://www.wildlife.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/115343/Wedge-tailed-Eagle.pdf)

      I have waxed lyrical on more than one occasion in other posts on this blog about the Australasian gannet. Suffice to repeat, it is my favourite bird. Cormorants get the job done, but the Australasian gannet in all its modes performs with consummate efficiency and elegance.

      Cheers,

      JL

      Like

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