Saying goodbye to Paika Station, we headed to our next stop at Coolamon, crossing the ultra-flat Hay Plains. Along the way we encountered a mob of emus.
Nearing the village of Carrathool (population 300), we were on the lookout for something that we had been tipped off about: a Worm Farm and Composting facility that was a mecca for Black Kites (Milvus migrans). We had been prepared to expect many birds in the sky, but seeing 100 (at a minimum) circling together was not something that we were ready for. Photos struggle to do justice to just how full of Kites the skies here were:
Had we read up on these birds, we might not have been so surprised. Bird guides agree that Black Kites are gregarious and commonly form loose flocks numbering hundreds of individuals. These flocks most frequently form around cattle feedlots, abattoirs and rubbish dumps. A composting facility fits the pattern, then.
Continuing our bad luck with raptor encounters, the light on this occasion was not great.
Black Kites are so named because they can appear black from a distance, but they are actually dark to mid-brown, rufous in their underparts, and with a pale brown head and neck.
When flapping, their flight is slow, almost lazy, and appears effortless. In contrast to the slightly larger Whistling Kite, Black Kites are more manoeuvrable, and they tend to bank and wheel a lot more. Bird guides seem to indicate that the Black Kite’s tail is “constantly” twisted and fanned.
At road level, the Galahs went about their grass-seed feeding undaunted by the clouds of Kites.
Back on the road, it was not much further on that we came upon the historic Carrathool Bridge (1924) – a hybrid timber truss bridge and a bascule span.