Sunday, 28 April 2019
Yesterday I drove with nervous haste to a location ~100km south of Mundaring, where I had detected a cessation in movement from Baakininy’s transmitter late on Friday night. This was the 11th time since 2013 that such a scenario has arisen with Wedge-tailed Eagles tracked as part of my research, and on all previous 11 occasions, either me or a person volunteering to assist with on-ground check-ups had been saddened to locate a dead eagle. Given that Baakininy’s position was only a few kilometres away from where I locaed the carcass of Djoorabiddi, a bird killed in suspicious circumstances in January this year, I prepared myself for the sadness that comes with finding yet another eagle with whom I had become so familiar, dead...
The GPS led my good friend Jeff and I to a small patch of bushland surrounded by sheep farming paddocks. I scanned the scene for feathers blowing in the wind, and sniffed the air for the all too familiar scent of death. A tall, dead Marri tree, ideally suited to eagles for a perch, loomed ahead. The metres counted down. Ten. Eight. Five… and suddenly, Jeff picked up a tattered piece of neoprene on the ground. THEN… I saw the transmitter, with harness attached, frayed at the weak link. But no eagle in sight. We checked the area thoroughly, but nothing. Not even a feather. 537 days after we satellite-tagged Baakininy in Gidgegannup, and after following her 10, 000km + journey throughout this vast land, our part in her journey has come to an end. She had shed her harness, with both the weak link and our connection to her epic travels cut… but this magnificent creature lives on, free to fly another day!
Since our last update, there has been little to report in her movements. She had remained relatively sedentary in a area less than 10 km in diameter, just east of North Bannister at the edge of the WA Wheatbelt/State Forest Boundary. From our observations made yesterday, a number of other equal-aged (2nd year) wedgies have been frequenting this area, perhaps an indicator of ample food supply for these non-breeding birds. Some photographs of two of them can be viewed on my Instagram and Facebook pages, and although neither is our Baakininy, they give a good idea of what she now looks like.
The valuable data collected by this remarkable eagle will make a significant contribution to my research, and I’d like to thank Tronox and Parks and Wildlife for their sponsorship of this bird. I’ll be posting more updates via social media channels in the coming days, so please keep an eye out!