While watching Black Kites in Darwin, I was thrilled to spot what I thought at first was a White-Bellied Sea Eagle gliding on the air currents. When I checked afterwards, it turns out it was a Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus), also known in Australia as the Red-Backed Sea Eagle.
Brahminy Kites are found on the Indian subcontinent, South-East Asia and across the northern coastal edge of Australia. In Indonesia the Brahminy Kite is the official mascot of Jakarta, while in India it is regarded as the contemporary incarnation of the sacred bird Garuda. The Malaysian island of Langkawi is named after the Brahminy Kite.
While it may be another common bird, given its cultural importance I think of my sighting as rather auspicious.
Earlier this month I spent a few days in Darwin for a conference. In the early mornings and late afternoons I had the chance to get out and about a little. Not that you can easily go that far in Darwin – in Australia’s tropical north the temperature range each day (it doesn’t really vary from one day to the next) was a minimum of 20 degrees to a high of 33 degrees. Hot.
Having previously been to Charles Darwin University, where the conference was being held, I knew it was a very short walk to the beach and that there would likely be some birds around. I couldn’t quite manage the 600mm beast, but my Tamron 70-300 and my back-up Nikon D5000 came for the trip. Over the next few posts I will share some of the photos from the trip – the birds and some of the other beautiful and fascinating things I came across.
Pretty much literally the first thing I saw when leaving the airport was the black kites (Milvus migrans) circling over the city. They are identified by Darwin International Airport (along with a bunch of other birds) as potential aviation hazards and apparently have a tendency to raid the food of inattentive locals on picnics. I assume the hot air over the ocean created the right kind of thermal updrafts and there were plenty of them soaring over the beach. The most numerous raptors in the world, black kites are opportunistic scavengers and are distinguished by their forked tails.
Despite being far from uncommon, they are still a beautiful site as they soar and glide overhead. One of the most amazing things to me was how they close they were. I am used to shooting birds, particularly raptors when I come across them, from a long way off and I just assumed I would be doing a lot of cropping to the photos from the 300mm lens. It is pretty rare to not even be able to fit the whole bird in the frame! I’ve included one of the closest shots to give an idea of how close they sometimes came.
Amusing myself taking close-ups with a little compact camera I came across this hard working bee, coated in yellow pollen from the flowers she was visiting.
A lovely butterfly I found on my lunchtime stroll yesterday.
I really enjoy photographing cities at night and in the early morning. I particularly like being able to capture some of the movement of city life, the people and vehicles in motion, as well as the interplay of colours generated by the city and its structures.
In this last post focusing on my quick visit to Brisbane, here is a gallery of some of the images I captured with the trusty Sony NEX 5 and fine old Konica 40mm lens. As always, click on any picture for larger versions.
In the gardens along the south bank of the Brisbane River is a Nepalese Peace Pagoda. The pagoda was erected on the sight in 1988 as part of Brisbane’s World Expo. Following a campaign supported by a petition with 70,000 signatures, the pagoda was maintained on the site and is the only international exhibit remaining from the Expo.
The pagoda was hand carved by 160 Nepalese families over a two year period, using 80 tonnes of Nepalese native timber. The separate pieces were shipped to Australia and erected on site.
The peace pagoda is not actively used as a temple, but is regularly used for weddings, events like book launches and private meditation.
Shortly after I published my last post, I realised there were a few shots of the Wheel of Brisbane that I had wanted to include. These are they.
In the gardens just below the wheel there is a Nepalese temple erected during the World Expo held in Brisbane in 1988. At night the carved deities are illuminated beautifully and I liked the patterns created by the temple figures and the wheel through the trees behind.
Two more views from the wheel, looking across the Brisbane River.
The wheel shortly after dawn.