When Ambush Turns to Active Pursuit: Brown Goshawk Vs. Australian Raven

The Brown Goshawk (Accipiter fasciatus) is one of Australia’s most acrobatic aerial hunters. They are within the Accipiter genus of raptors (birds of prey) that is the global Goshawk genus. Ever Accipiter is known to utilise cover and perches to catch their prey unaware. The Brown Goshawk in particular is known to weave through dense forest and capture and kill unsuspecting birds before they can move a wing!

Brown Goshawk - Accipiter fasciatus Copyright Chad Beranek

Brown Goshawk – Accipiter fasciatus (Copyright Chad Beranek)

However, on rare occasions the hunt go wrong, and something unexpected happens. In these rare instances, a Goshawk can either make the decision to commit to the hunt, or pull out to conserve energy. In this short article I will describe one of these instances: A Brown Goshawk in a long distance aerial pursuit on an Australian Raven (Corvus coronoides).

I was on Broughton Island, which is not far from Newcastle on the east coast of Australia, where I observed lots of commotion in the bird world. Seagulls squawked and took flight in a large white undulating mass, while I saw two ravens joining the mass. The ravens seemed particularly frantic compared to the seagulls. And that’s when I spotted a fast dark shadow tailing them that darted from the other side of the bay…

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“Initially the Goshawk pursued the Raven in a westerly direction, at first observing the Raven from behind, then gathering speed and making contact with it in what appeared to be a beak-first attack. The Raven changed angle after the first observed attack, and proceeded to dive. The Goshawk appeared easily faster than the Raven in diving flight, and again made aggressive contact using its beak.” From Beranek (2017)

The hunt

The hunt

The Raven once again changed direction, this time angling north-west and slightly upwards. The Goshawk circled to adjust its position and once again pursued the Raven, this time coming from below. The Goshawk attempted to attack the Raven but missed. The Raven appeared to flap its wings frantically as the Goshawk approached. After this attack, the Goshawk let the Raven gain a lead before closing the distance for another attack. At this stage, the interaction was proceeding further out in the bay and it was impossible to obtain distinct images with a camera. Further observations were made with binoculars. On the sixth and final attack, as the Goshawk approached the Raven, the former outstretched its talons and grasped the Raven in mid air. The Raven did not appear to be struggling to break free and looked limp; presumably it was either dead or exhausted.” From Beranek (2017)

These kinds of long distance aerial and acrobatic pursuits are rare in nature for Goshawks, and represent less than 3% of hunting observations. A variety of factors can lead to such behaviour, such as prey availability and the condition of habitat. To read more into the science side of these kinds of hunts visit either one the links below:

Researchgate link

Australian Field Ornithology Link

Chad T. Beranek (2017) A successful long-distance aerial pursuit of an Australian Raven Corvus coronoides by a Brown Goshawk Accipiter fasciatus. Australian Field Ornithology 34, 87-90.

 

 

South Coast Wildlife Tour

On the weekend of the 12th – 14th, Gumnut Naturalist will be touring the south coast. Check below for a list of events and how to get involved. This is our second south coast tour! Last time was a great success, we got to see an awesome amount of animals! See the videos at the bottom of this page to see what adventures we got up to last time! We would love you to join us this time and see what spectacular creatures we encounter this time.

 

Friday 12th May

11:30 am – 12:30 pm – Frogs of the Illawarra by Chad. Venue: Shoalhaven Heads Bowling Club. FREE! RSVP by Tuesday 9th May. Contact Andrew Britton on 0408 050 748 or andrew.britton@lls.nsw.gov.au.

 

Saturday 13th May

3:30 pm – 5 pm – Frogs of the Illawarra Workshop by Chad. Venue: Jervis Bay Maritime Museum. FREE! Includes light refreshments. RSVP and get more information by contacting 02 4228 9246 or wollongong@cva.org.au.

5 pm – 6 pm – Frog field spotlighting tour by Chad and Jayden. Location: Wirreecoo Walking Trail. FREE! RSVP and get more information by contacting 02 4228 9246 or wollongong@cva.org.au.
Previews of finds for the last south coast tour

Previews of the frogs of the Illawarra talks

Cassowaries need to be helped, not feared!

Who said dinosaurs went extinct? The Southern Cassowary certainly doesn’t think so…

 

Deep in the rainforests – and occasionally patrolling the beaches, roads and campgrounds of Far North Queensland – an ancient creature struts its stuff. A tall casque sits atop its head whilst two wattles droop from it’s neck – yes, it’s a Southern Cassowary. The Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuaris) is a large flightless bird found in North Queensland and Papua New Guinea. They forage on the Forest Floor for fruits, of which some can only be digested by the Southern Cassowary; hence the importance of protecting this federally listed endangered species.

The cassowary has coarse hair-like feathers which give it a glossy and rough appearance when seen close up. Its wing stubs carry a small number of long, modified quills which curve around the body and appear rather imposing but serve little function other than decoration. Each heavy, well-muscled leg has three toes, with the inside toe bearing a large 12cm long dagger-shaped claw  used for fighting other birds, not humans as we have been led to believe. Newly-hatched chicks are striped dark brown and creamy white for approximately 6 months then the stripes fade and the plumage changes to plain brown. As the young mature, the plumage darkens, the wattles and casque develop and the skin colour on the neck and wattles brighten.




There are 5 factors in the decline in numbers of the Southern Cassowary, that have made it an Endangered species:

  • Ongoing loss of habitat through clearing for residential development and agricultural expansion
  • Fragmented habitat – ever decreasing forest size (especially from roads and subdivisions)
  • Car strikes – road kills are the number one cause of adult cassowary deaths
  • Feral pigs – impact on their habitat and eat eggs
  • Dogs – attack cassowaries and can often cause death because they are especially aggressive to chicks and juveniles. This also leads to a dislike of Cassowaries by civilians as it encourages a mentality of ‘the Cassowary attacked my poor dog’ regardless of the truth of the situation in which the dog most likely initiated conflict and the Cassowary is a native Endangered species whilst dogs are declared a pest when feral.

 

 

Unfortunately the media does not portray any species of Cassowary in a positive light but as I discovered on my trip to Cape York, the Southern Cassowary is one of the most curious, inquisitive and pleasant birds to share company with, and certainly not deserving of the reputation it has been given. The only time to exhibit extreme caution around the Southern Cassowary is when the Male is taking care of young chicks and even in this situation if you give them room to move you will be fine. If you do stumble across one with young, and it does get defensive, the best option is to hide behind an object, like a tree, or try to appear taller than you are by putting your hands in the air.

I encourage you to slow down when driving through the bush no matter where you are in Australia but also treat yourself and go looking for Cassowary this year, if you’d like to see Southern Cassowary in the wild feel free to contact us on Facebook or at gumnutmail@gmail.com and we can recommend locations to see these ancient and misunderstood birds.

Illegal logging causes habitat DESTRUCTION of a threatened owl in Beecroft

There is a piece of bushland known as Byles Creek Valley which is home to many different animals, and is even a stronghold for many threatened species such as the Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua) and the Red-crowned Toadlet (Pseudophryne australis). This amazing bushland is found at the bottom of Malton Rd, Cheltenham in the northern suburbs of Sydney, and is considered a natural treasure by many of the locals. Unfortunately, a developer has purchased this piece of land with full intent of destroying it and developing it. Thankfully the community is in opposition due to the natural history of the area, and the presence of threatened animals also warrants special conditions and restrictions of development.

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However…. On the 17th of February 2017, the council was alerted that trees were being felled on this iconic site. Council staff and other concerned residents attended the seen immediately. It was determined that the logging contractors were engaged by the property owner to carry out land clearance and tree felling. In this instance the property owner has acted illegally and unlawfully, going against the conditions set out by the Land and Environment Court.

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Not only were 20 trees cut down, some of them potential roosting sites for the local threatened Powerful Owl, there were copious amounts of rubbish left within the bush. It’s infuriating how much damaged and destruction can occur in one day from one mans selfish greedy decision. Everyone should be outraged by this blatant disregard for the environment from this property owner. They clearly have no empathy for the native plants and animals who call this area home, and would happily wreak havoc and put threatened species more at risk of extinction, just for short term monetary gains. They will even go against the law to get what they want. The only word that comes to mind when thinking of someone like this is GREED.




Please share this post far and wide so that this atrocity is highlighted. We can’t let crimes against nature like this go unnoticed!

The link between YOUR health and nature

Have you ever felt rejuvenated and reset after going for a bush walk? Have you ever felt a calmness and inner glow after spending a night camping in untouched forest? Have you ever felt a sense of well being and awe when you stroll through at a biodiverse wildlife garden? Research is beginning to show that there is in fact a genuine reason for these feelings which have genuine benefits for the human body.

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While there are obvious benefits in spending time in nature, such as clean air for the lungs, allowing your eyes to adjust to longer distances, and physically engaging your muscles, there are other more subtle but also more potent ways immersing in nature improves your health. It’s all to do with how your brain chemistry works, and in particular, how the stress hormone cortisol works.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with cortisol, it’s a hormone which is important for many normal body functions, such as sleep, inflammation and the flight or fight response. However, long term exposure to elevated levels of this hormone can cause weight gain, impaired immune system and can shorten your life. When cortisol levels are spiked in your system, your body is essentially saying “don’t do what ever you just did again”. For example, in stressful situations such as bungee jumping, your cortisol levels will spike. This is a reaction to preserve your life.

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Now that we understand the basics of the hormone cortisol, we can have a look at the difference between the brain of someone who lives in the city and someone who lives in nature. Lets look at a hypothetical situation; say you have identical twins which live almost identical lifestyles (i.e. eat the same food, do the same amount of physical activity etc.), but one lives in the Sydney CBD and the other lives in the rural forested areas on a property in Dungog. Disregarding the effects that pollution would have on the twin in the city, the twin that lives in the bush surrounded by nature will be expected to live longer.

Why? The answer is due to cortisol. The body of the twin in the city has long term elevated levels of cortisol that then the twin in the bush. The reason the cortisol is so elevated in the twin in the city (once again disregarding factors such as noise pollution and alter sleeping regimes), is due to simply looking at the city. Evolution has devoured genes which give us positive neurochemicals when we are in biodiverse bushland with lots of different animals and plants, and in contrast, give us negative neurochemicals, such as cortisol, when we are not in biodiverse areas. This is so that it will force us to seek out areas of plentiful resources.

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Now of course cities have plentiful resources, in fact they have more resources at our fingertips than any other place. However, you have to understand that our brains and bodies have not caught up to modern technology and cities. Evolution of humans has taken place over hundreds thousands of years and cities have only been around for a couple hundred, or a couple if you count civilisations such as Rome and Egypt. To achieve a higher level of health the every day human MUST immerse in nature regularly. This leaves us with two options to gain maximum health benefits from nature.




The two options are: Go on weekly adventures into the bush, or if you have a tight schedule and are generally too busy to make this commitment, bring biodiversity back into your living space (visit the Backyard Conservation project to learn more). Either way doing one or both of these will enable you to control cortisol levels and enable your body to stop worrying. Some experts even suggest spending a whole weekend on a camping or hiking trip in the bush as this amount of time can reset your sleeping cycles and bring you back to natural cortisol levels. Please share this post and spread the word so that we can all achieve greener cities and ultimately, better health.

 

If you want to use any photos in this post, please contact us. All photos are copyrighted and property of Gumnut Naturalist.