This presentation features photos and stories about an unusual biology field trip to the far outback of Australia in 1991 while on sabbatical in the laboratory of Prof. Jack Pettigrew at the University of Queensland. The focus of the study was a rare raptor, the letter‐winged kite, which is the only hawk that hunts at night. The bird is found exclusively in Australia and predominantly in the semi‐arid grassy outback of Australia. The diet of the kite is almost exclusively rodents, in particular the long‐haired rat, which can be found in plague proportions during the occasional years with heavy rainfall in the outback.
I accompanied Jack and another student for a 12 day trip in one small study area in which we photographed (pre‐digital) the kite and its environment, climbed coolabah trees to count eggs in nests, and caught and banded juvenile kites. It is thought that the kite has an unusual visual system and we were testing the hypothesis that the hunting success correlated with the available light, i.e., the phases of the moon. In addition we documented many of the other unusual animals of the outback.
Tom C.T. Yin, is a PhotoMidwest member and Professor Emeritus of Neuroscience, UW‐Madison.