Rare raptor pictured at rocket test site on Eyre Peninsula


A bird enthusiast has photographed a rare raptor, last seen in the southern Eyre Peninsula in 2004, and may be a chick from one of the 10 birds remaining in South Australia.

Photographer Fran Solly saw the square tail kite (lophoctin isura) at Whalers Way, south of Port Lincoln, while looking for another endangered species – the very shy Western Whip (psophodes nigrogularis).

Whalers Way is a private coastal tourist attraction that is home to vegetation preserved under a heritage agreement.

Ms. Solly has photographed hundreds of birds.(

ABC Eyre Peninsula: Jodie Hamilton


Rocket site

The site is used by South African space industry operator Southern Launch to conduct three test rocket launches for a longer-term presence at the site.

Environmentalists fear that rocket launches threaten the rare birds that inhabit Whalers Way, including the southern emu (stipiturus malachurus) and the Western Whip.

In a previous statement, Lloyd Damp, managing director of Southern Launch, said the testing program would measure the effect of noise on local species.

Taiwanese rocket Hapith I at a launch pad
The Whalers Way site is used to launch three rockets.(



“If the effect is detrimental to the environment, then of course the project as proposed should not proceed – we should look at other mitigation strategies or activities so that the local environment is preserved. “

Mr Damp said the company would seek to clear less than 1% of the land at Whalers Way, if a permanent program was approved.

“These sections of the land are outside the heritage agreement,” he said.

Two people standing on a height overlooking deep green bush vegetation
Much of the Whalers Way area is subject to a heritage agreement. (

ABC Eyre Peninsula: Jodie Hamilton


Concern for birds

Ms. Solly is concerned about the impact of rockets on bird life and the impact of habitat loss.

“These birds were on the Eyre Peninsula and the last recorded breeding of a square-tailed kite on the Eyre Peninsula was between 1989 and 1991, and then the last recorded sighting was in 2004,” Ms. Solly.

While she had photographed hundreds of birds in the area, the western whip bird had been elusive.

Hawk extending wings from back to tail, light brown fluffy feathers on legs
The rare square-tailed kite was pictured in the Whalers Way tourist area.(

Provided: Fran Solly


“We’ve certainly heard them, but these birds are incredibly secretive,” she said.

“We didn’t get the photo, but we did have something so exciting.

“A lot of bird watchers across South Australia are a little excited,” Ms. Solly said.

A spokesperson for the Environment and Water Department said kites were mostly found along coastal and sub-coastal areas from the southwest to northern Australia, Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.

They have not been listed as endangered nationally, but have been listed as endangered in South Australia.

“There are several known pairs that breed regularly in the Lofty Ranges,” the spokesperson said.

“The bird sighted at Whalers Way may be an offspring – of successful breeding activity in the Lofty Ranges – seeking to establish its own territory, visiting the area, or just passing through.

“There have been few records of birds on the Eyre Peninsula in recent years.”

The spokesperson said the main threats to the species are the clearing and fragmentation of their open forest habitats, the disturbance of nests, the collection of eggs by private collectors or as part of the illegal species trade. savages and illegal shooting.

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