21 October 2021

Rare snap has Yass photographer flying high

| Sally Hopman
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Mother bird with nesting babies

The Peregrine Falcon with her young nesting in a Yass Valley cliff face. Photo: Rhonda Corcoran.

Rhonda Corcoran reckons she was just in the right place at the right time. Other photographers and bird lovers beg to differ.

The Yass photographer, who has only “seriously” been shooting the abundant birdlife of Yass since the beginning of the year, last week caught a rare Peregrine Falcon with three babies in the nest. Although the powerful bird of prey is native to Australia, it is considered rare across all states and territories.

With a wingspan of up to 100 cm and up to 55 cm in length, the raptor is one of the most in-demand sights to behold for bird watchers and photographers.

Although she was not the first to see the raptor, she was the first to capture it at home with its new family, and could not have been more excited.

There’s an active bird photography community in the Yass Valley, with Rhonda saying she had heard there was a raptor around after another local photographer Tom O’Dea, shot the first image of it.

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“I saw Tom’s post on social media and I had a pretty good idea where he had seen the falcon so I went to have a look too,” she said.

“Seeing it on Tom’s Facebook page tweaked my interest big time. I thought it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack but I found mother and babies first go.”

Having lived in the Yass Valley all her life, Rhonda said she had a couple of clues where she might find the bird when she saw a decent-sized eucalypt tree while looking through her zoom lens. “That’s when I saw it – the adult bird and what looked to be fluffy babies.

“The next day I spoke to some bird experts and did research with Dr Google to confirm what sort of nests they build and I knew it was the one.

“It was so amazing to not only find the falcon but to manage to photograph it with its newborn babies in the nest.

Three baby birds in nest.

On first sighting, photographer Rhonda Corcoran thought she had caught two falcon babies in the nest, but the next day she went back to find three. Photo: Rhonda Corcoran.

She initially thought there were two babies, but on going back the next day, she was delighted to see three fluffy little heads.

“It was incredible. I watched both parents fly round, circling, looking for food then one parent returned and fed the babies with something that looked shredded, but I couldn’t really see.”

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Rhonda estimated the nest to be at least three storeys high, not unusual for the raptor which is known to build a nest in cliff faces. Local legend has it that they used to breed in the cliffs of Good Hope, outside Yass.

Rhonda said developing an interest in wildlife photography was a natural progression from her regular walks around the town. “I walk a lot and it’s been on these walks that I’ve become so attracted to the birdlife.

Woman with camera

Yass photographer Rhonda Corcoran only took up bird photography seriously earlier this year but has already captured a rare find – a nest of baby falcons. Photo: Sally Hopman.

A self-taught photographer, Rhonda uses an Olympus camera with a zoom lens which gives her the distances she’s after but the portability that allows her to get to where the birds are without having to lug a ton of gear with her.

“I know there are better cameras I could be using, along with a tripod and longer lenses and they can take amazing pictures, but I’m just learning and this is good for me to walk around with. The more I learn about bird photography, the more I want to learn.”

Check out more images on Rhonda’s Instagram page.

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