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Careful Mathew ... that’s no chook’s nest

Watson Drilling employee Mathew ‘Chook’ Rhook found an eagle's next on the Hay Plains on Tuesday.

ZOE MCMAUGH June 20, 2014 3:25am

Seeing an eagle’s nest on the Hay Plains is not unusual for Watson Drilling employee Mathew ‘Chook’ Rhook, but one in particular caught his eye on Tuesday.

Driving along in one of those familiar Watson Drilling work rigs, Mathew and workmate Dave Holden spotted this massive mix of sticks, wire and branches about 3km off the Cobb Hwy between Booroorban and Hay.

There was no mistaking that it was the resting place of the majestic wedge-tail eagle, but it was the nest’s distance from the ground — approximately two metres — that drew the pair in.

‘‘I’ve never seen one that low so we had to go take a look,’’ Mathew said.

‘‘I couldn’t see inside, but there were no eagles around.

‘‘I’m not six foot tall and I could touch the bottom of the nest. I couldn’t believe how much wire was inside.

‘‘It was huge ... probably a metre in diameter.’’

Murray Local Land Services district vet Dan Salmon said from an observational point of view, he believes low nests are unusual for eagles.

‘‘I’m no expert, but I do see a fair few of the nests around the region,’’ he said.

‘‘I have seen nests down to about 12 foot, but nothing ever that low before.’’

Information on wedge-tailed eagles on the Australian Museum’s website indicates low nests are not unheard of in Australia, but usually only when taller trees aren’t available:

‘‘Wedge-tailed eagles build their nest in a prominent location with a good view of the surrounding countryside,’’ it says on the website.

‘‘It may be built in either a live or dead tree, but usually the tallest one in the territory. In some parts of Australia, where tall trees are absent, small trees, shrubs, cliff faces or even the ground may be used.’’

Certainly for this Watson Drilling crew, it was a novel nest that made for a great photo just on sunset.

‘‘I was pretty happy with the shot,’’ said Dave, who also has his own fencing business.

‘‘I’m thinking about starting up Dave’s Outback Fencing and Photography.’’

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