Golden Bay Falcons

General birdwatching discussion, help with bird identification, and all other things relating to wild birds and birding in NZ that don't fit in one of the other forums.
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kengeorge
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Location: Golden Bay

Golden Bay Falcons

Postby kengeorge » Sat Aug 04, 2018 11:37 pm

In Golden Bay we’re lucky to have good numbers of NZ Falcons. There are a pair that live in the cliff top trees behind the Penguin Café here in Pohara, less than 3 or 4 hundred metres away from me here at home. I see them or hear them going over every other day. Most other parts of the Bay have resident pairs or singles too. There are a very active pair up at Pakawau, on the western side of the Bay, I see them around the high tide wader roost at Tomatea Point, where many hundreds of SIPO, many VOC, plus Caspians and gulls park up on the sandbank to wait out the high tide. You can see the waders easily from the road, which runs along the shore. On the other side of the road is a dairy farm, and it’s there the Pakawau falcon pair hang out. This afternoon, about 3.00pm, I watched as one of the falcon pair smashed an immature Black Backed Gull out of the sky, hitting it fast in mid-air over the dairy farm paddock; looked like it broke the gull’s neck, killing it instantly- the dead gull dropped into the paddock beside a small pond. I watched from the road for about an hour while the falcon straddled the gull, ripping feathers and flesh off it. About halfway through the feast, the falcon took a rest, it sat quietly (still straddling the gull) and half closed it’s eyes for about 15 minutes. Then it continued to feed. The paddock where this was taking place had low grass, the cows having eaten it down. When the falcon looked like it had had enough, instead of just flying off and leaving the carcass exposed out in the open for the harriers to finish off, the falcon dragged the carcass (easily as big as the falcon itself) about 80 metres across the open ground, some of it up a slight incline, under an electric fence into an adjacent pasture area where the cows had been excluded, and hid the remains of the gull carcass in a patch of long grass. The falcon then flew up to a boundary fence post and sat for 3-4 minutes, looking around as if to check that it’s ‘stash’ was safe, and then flew off. Coincidently, a local friend had told me a couple of years ago how a falcon had systematically worked it’s way through his small flock of free range house chooks, and that he had watched the falcon drag the half eaten chooks off into the undergrowth, coming back later to feed again. In the photos below, the last shot shows the distance the falcon dragged the carcass to hide in the clump of grass. The boundary between the longer grass in the foreground and the short grass in the background is where the electric fence runs. I have more photos of this, 3 is the limit to upload.
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Colin Miskelly
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Re: Golden Bay Falcons

Postby Colin Miskelly » Sun Aug 05, 2018 8:55 am

Thanks for sharing this Ken - fascinating!
Cheers
Colin
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kengeorge
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Location: Golden Bay

Re: Golden Bay Falcons

Postby kengeorge » Sun Aug 05, 2018 5:37 pm

Here's more shots of the falcon hauling the dead gull under the electric fence and into the clump of long grass, last shot is the falcon sitting on the nearest fence post and having a look around. I went back again this arvo to check, the dead gull had been dragged back out of the long grass and mostly eaten. No way of knowing if it was the same falcon back for seconds or one of the local harriers. I met a guy who told me he'd been sitting up on the balcony of the cafe at the base of Farewell Spit and had watched a falcon take out a tui right out on the grass area in front of the cafe. The tui was badly injured but wasn't dead and flapped around a bit; the falcon landed on the grass beside the tui and proceeded to play with it the same way a cat will play with a mouse it's captured. The Farewell Spit cafe is only about 5 kms further around the Bay, it could have been the same falcon as above, no way of knowing. As far as their numbers locally go, the falcons seem to be doing OK.
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phil hammond
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Re: Golden Bay Falcons

Postby phil hammond » Mon Aug 06, 2018 9:17 pm

Great photos and great report ---loved reading it!
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kengeorge
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Location: Golden Bay

Re: Golden Bay Falcons

Postby kengeorge » Tue Aug 21, 2018 7:05 pm

The long time Pohara resident falcon, who has lived in the trees on the large rocky escarpment above the Pohara Penguin Cafe, has now got a mate (August 21st 2018). Much synchronised soaring and swooping observed, with a lot more soaring than rapid wingbeat flying that is more characteristic of the karearea, loud calling by one to the other ki-ki-ki-ki-ki, and both came down to ground level and ran around on the ground in the small grassed reserve right opposite the Pohara Penguin Cafe, one also perched on the wooden fence on the Pohara Top Ten Holiday Park boundary with the reserve and allowed a suprisingly close approach.When they flew back up to the bluff, with a reasonably stiff on-shore breeze, the karearea were observed hovering in one position with tails fully splayed in a wide fan like a kestrel. In normal flight the tails are usually held long and straight in a spade shape. I'm hoping the pair nest up on the bluff, they will be a great sight for the summer campers in the Top 10 Holiday Park, with the added attraction of anybody wanting to watch the falcons can sit in the outside garden bar at the Penguin Cafe, beer in one hand and binos in the other, and they'll be right above you. Falcon pairs have nested around that area previously.
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kengeorge
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Location: Golden Bay

Re: Golden Bay Falcons

Postby kengeorge » Tue Jan 08, 2019 9:53 pm

Pohara falcon pair still together, I see/hear one or the other 3-4 times per day, the escarpment where they live is only a few hundred meters from where I live. Tonight I was out for a walk in the perfect summer evening and I heard one calling as he approached the cliffs (I presume it's the male - about 25% smaller than the mate, who is bigger and a deeper chocolate brown). He started calling about 800 meters out from the roost trees on the cliffs, his usual ki-ki-ki-ki approach call. I could see he was carrying something. As he got closer the call changed to a different softer sound and the female came up out of the trees and up to join him. When she was about 10 meters below him she rolled over, almost upside down and stretched her claws up towards him and he dropped whatever he had and she caught it and rolled back over to normal flight position, having done a complete 360 degree roll in about a second. Per David Attenborough moment. This was directly over the people having dinner below at the pub's outside dinning area. Just goes to prove- NEVER leave home without your binos on!!
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Adam C
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Re: Golden Bay Falcons

Postby Adam C » Wed Jan 09, 2019 12:21 am

Yes great report Ken! Great reading!

I remember seeing one smash an adult Blackback in the top of Stour Stream, Ashburton lakes area. This one also was an instant kill and pretty dam incredible to see. They are so incredibly stauch! The complete opposite of the old 'Kahu' I still weirdly have a soft spot for kahu though. Just 2 completely different birds.
“Nobody grows old merely by living a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.”

Samuel Ullman
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kengeorge
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Location: Golden Bay

Re: Golden Bay Falcons

Postby kengeorge » Sat Jan 19, 2019 9:43 am

Correction to my earlier post, the softer call I heard was probably the female and the "wee-up" call she makes. Even in the general context of falcons being noisy, the Pohara pair seem to be a particularly rowdy and flashy couple. With their roost trees one side, and the hunting grounds of the farmlands 2-3 kms to the west, the airspace that this pair interact in is directly over the Pohara Top 10 Holiday Park and the main Pohara residential area (including my house). Several times a day, there is general argy-bargy between them and the local tui, harriers and gulls. I was sitting out on my deck yesterday talking on the phone when the male falcon and a harrier got into it less than a 100 meters above me. A very noisy 30 seconds or so, and I had to pause my phone conversation........after the falcon and the harrier had moved off, my mate on the other end of the phone said "What the hell was that racket?" Great stuff!! Photo shows the trees on the cliff area with the Penguin Cafe below. The Pohara Top 10 entrance is on the left hand side, Pohara beach being just a few meters away.
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Jim_j
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Re: Golden Bay Falcons

Postby Jim_j » Sat Jan 19, 2019 10:33 am

Exciting times....!!!

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