SPEED DEMON: The Peregrine falcon. Picture by JIM THOMSONI was taking my wifefor lunch last week and we were a bit early, so I popped in to visit a property north of Maitland that I go to on occasions.

It turned out to be very interesting, notably for the birds of prey present.

The first I spotted was a Kestrel hovering,hunting for food on the ground.

Then as I moved round the property there was a commotion of plovers attacking something on the ground, which I soon realised was a Marsh Harrier.

It was getting bombarded by plovers and it was obvious that it had attacked plover chicks. I managed to get a few shots of the plovers attacking but they are too soft to keep, but I did get a nice shot of the bird as it swept round.

Just then a bird swept past me at high speed – what was that? – too big for a Kestrel. Fortunately I spotted it again heading for a dead tree on a hill with mum and I in close pursuit in the 4WD.

We approached the tree slowly,getting the car into a position that would give me good light.

The Peregrine appeared to take no notice of me and it would seem that this bird is easier to approach than some of the other birds of prey.

IN FLIGHT: The marsh harrier. Pictures by JIM THOMSON

Over the next 15 minutes it dived down onto the ground picking up small prey and returning to the same perch each time, allowing me to get a number of shots.

For many centuries the Peregrine Falcon has been a symbol of speed.

It swoops on its panic stricken prey at speeds of more than 300km/h and will kill any small bird that flies in the open.

The Peregrine Falconswoops on its prey from above and catches it with its talons, or strikes it with a foot so that the bird is stunned and falls to the ground.

It also attacks birds larger than itself hanging onto the prey as it drops to the ground, it then plucks its prey before lifting off to a more sheltered spot.

SPEED DEMON: The Peregrine falcon. Picture by JIM THOMSON

This particular bird was more than likely one of a pair that has been nesting in the Maitland area for some time.

The nesting spot is known but extremely hard to approach.

The Marsh Harrier is common in our area, not only in the Maitland area but is often seen in the Newcastle wetlands, its hunting style is always low to the ground, sweeping over reeds etc and taking its prey by surprise.

After all that it was time to take my wife for lunch.

A great day.

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