Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Very Special Bird

I have written about special birds before. Not a nemesis bird; that is a different species altogether. This is a special bird that you have wanted to see for a long time and for more reasons than it just being a cool, beautiful life bird. I saw one of my Special Birds yesterday and I am grateful!

I first got into birding here in Australia in early 2009. My Australian son-in-law, Rob also did some birding and when we were visiting them in Melbourne (without our own car back then) he would tell me tales of a wondrous, mystical land called, Chiltern. It was not really far away, yet it held such wonders as the Turquoise Parrot and… the legendary, endangered, yellow-black-and-white magnificence that is known as the Regent Honeyeater. In my opinion, this is God’s own Honeyeater. Although sadly at one time it was called the Warty-faced Honeyeater. I trust whoever named it that was drummed out of the animal naming business never to insult another living creature. So to me, the Regent Honeyeater represents my birding beginnings as well as being a wicked cool honeyeater. I am grateful for it.

As Matilda is being tweeked for our coming journeys, we drove the Prius up to Chiltern Monday afternoon. We arrived in the area where we were to look for the birds the following morning with Dean Ingwersen of Birdlife Australia. And regardless of the 20% chance in the forecast, it was pissing down rain. Lynn and I gave it a good go and spent well over an hour squishing around and not seeing Regents. So we packed it in then had a lovely night with friends in Rutherglen (fifteen minutes from Chiltern).
Raining, getting dark, and I am following BSBO!
The next morning we were back in the Box-ironbark forest to meet Dean. And in just a few minutes, the man I have come to call the “Regent Honeyeater Whisperer” was pointing out a beautiful pair of Regent Honeyeaters. I was, and am, very grateful. Thank you Dean!
The Lifer-Selfie with Lynn and Dean!
Almost ready to go off into the forest... again... in the rain.
Regent Honeyeater!
The flashes of yellow when they fly are gorgeous! 
I love this bird.

A Very Special Bird indeed.
We saw a total of six Regents. We watched two pairs as well as observing a female constructing a nest! We also met a lovely young lady from the UK who is working on her Doctorate on their breeding patterns. It was a glorious morning. And yes, it continued to rain although not very hard and I was able to have the camera out and grab some recording shots. I will definitely be back, hopefully next autumn on a sunny day and I’ll get a few more photos. BUT don’t get me wrong, I am happy as the proverbial clam that I got these and that I saw the birds. I am very grateful!

The markings on their backs are so beautiful.

Birds. Peace. Love. Earth. Laughter. Music.   

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Quick Trip Quick Blog

It was going to be about two hours tops. There is nothing in my world that makes time pass more quickly than birding. Lynn too has also remarked how quickly time goes by during this, my favorite of all outdoor activities. In our busy weekend it seemed we could take a couple of hours for a quick pop over and have a look along Point Wilson Rd. A friend had seen Purple-crowned Lorikeets there recently and had gotten some amazing, eye-level photos. I figured it was worth a “quick” look-see.
Point Wilson Road (technically Twenty Nine Mile Rd off the end of Pt. Wilson but you get the idea).
No Lorikeets were seen, but it was delightful. Point Wilson Rd. runs along the edge of the WTP so you know I was in my Happy Place (one of them anyway). I was not on a photo quest. There will be tons of photos to be taken in the coming months. I did take a few during the two hours that grew into, let’s be honest, three hours. I mean… I had to stop and look at how much the Banded Lapwing chicks had grown in just three days! They are easily half again as big! They are cute as and I am grateful. Here are a few photos...
Mr. Red-rumped Parrot 
Mr. Red-rumped Parrot
Mr. Flame Robin 
Brown Falcon leaving
Beautiful immature Black Kite
immature Black Kite (not very black is he?)
He was eating something small off the road. We never did see what, probably some sort of insect
I love Banded Lapwings and their children. 
Banded Lapwings and one of their growing kids.

Birds. Peace. Love. Earth. Laughter. Music.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Being Granddaddy (No Birds Were Seen In This Blog)

Yesterday was exhausting and exhilarating. No, I was not chasing some awesome birds through the brush. I was in the house being ridden, pulled, pushed, sat upon, climbed upon and delighted by some of my grandchildren. Grateful much? Indeed I am, with all my heart.

William, my two year old youngest grandchild was doing some serious digging in the sandbox. Emily, Delilah and I played a lot of Hide and Seek. Incredibly we played this game in mostly three rooms, one of which was a bathroom (difficult to hide in, although Delilah managed to lie in the tub in such a way that I did not see her). She is the master of this game. She can fit herself inside a shelf for heavens sake!
She begins to emerge from the shelf. 
Emily and I drew pictures of the shells for a while, but the most fun was just playing pretend. We pretended the floor was lava again. That is always fun and you get three lives, but you can be alive again and get three more. I will not go into the details of the rules. Delilah makes them up as we play. As I have said many times, “She is the boss of me.” And really, I am grateful.

Emily drawing pictures of some of the shells.
At the end of the day, we all had a delightful dinner at the local pub. I split my usual parma, a savory indulgence called the English Spuddy (a parma with a layer of mash over the top and gravy on the side) with my grandson, Judah. That made for a fully satisfying meal without the “oh-my-god how did I eat that whole thing” feeling that I usually have after one. I am very grateful. It was a wonderful day. I am a birder, singer of silly songs and a few other assorted things, but I do dearly love being granddaddy.

Delilah and Granddaddy dressed for the pub.
Birds. Peace. Love. Earth. Laughter. Music.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

WTP Yeah You Know Me

I know the WTP and it knows me. The WTP is the Western Treatment Plant in Werribee, Victoria. I am by no means the master of this birding nirvana, in my opinion Steven Davidson deserves that title as much as anyone could. But it is my favorite place to bird in the world and I know it pretty well. If I had to choose a spot as my Home Patch, this is it. I was back there for a few hours yesterday and I am grateful.

Lynn and me at Gate 8 of the WTP. We didn't even go into that section as we ran out of time. 
It was chilly.
I’ve stated that once I have shrugged off this mortal coil, I would like my ashes scattered at the Western Treatment Plant. I have been assured by my loving family that someone will flush me down a toilet in Melbourne and I will indeed end up there. Seriously, I love the place. It is where I became a birder. I can trace the beginnings of my real birding passion and enthusiasm back to an afternoon at the WTP in early 2009. That is awesome. I am so very grateful.

Young Whistling Kites messing about.
A couple of Great Cormorants sharing a tree with Little Black Cormorants.
We had some good birds yesterday, nothing unusual, but all very wonderful. The best bird of the day was just before we began. A pair of Gang Gang Cockatoos flew right over us as I was loading the car. I heard them calling first. Their squawking sounds like twisting an inflated balloon only really loud. So the Little Big Year list began on 20 August 2015 with a modest (considering where we were) 52 species. We birded the joy of the birds, the list being secondary. That is my intent for this year, but we will see.
Banded Lapwing adult hanging out in the paddock on Beach Road.
Three Banded Lapwing chicks in the paddock.
Black Swan cygnets by mom or dad's ruffly back end.
Black Swan and cygnets
I love Zebra Finches.
Zebra Finches
Zebra Finch spill on aisle four...
Somewhere beyond cute there is a land where Zebra Finches live...

Birds. Peace. Love. Earth. Laughter. Music.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Circle of Love

I know this is a bit “hippie-dippie,” but there is a core of friends which we sometimes refer to as the Tribe. This core for me is based mostly in birders, musicians and other artistic oddballs. Surrounding this core is also a wonderful circle of friends that I may not know quite as well, or be quite as close to, but they are here in my heart as well.

I love these people because they are real. They are genuine. They are living who they are. Some may not be working at their dream jobs, or living their ideal lifestyles right at this moment, but they are genuine. They are real and we really like each another. This is the circle of friends, the circle of love. I feel it wherever I am on this planet. And I am so grateful.
And we were here above the clouds just a couple of hours from Oz with the sun rising on tomorrow. 
If I were a talented cartoonist, I would draw Lynn and me waiting in the seating area of an airport gate with a huge group of sort-of “ghost figures” gathered around us, supporting us, caring about us, loving us. They (y’all) truly are there with us in spirit. I have written about Far-Close Friends, this is all part of that same connection and love. I am grateful for this above all things.

Life has some strange, often bizarre, occasionally heartbreaking changes to throw in our paths. Yet things are the way they’re supposed to be. And I am so grateful that we have ended up a part of this Community, this Tribe, this Circle of Love.

Yes, you have all been with us and will continue to be with us in my thoughts and my heart on this journey. We learned that the Qantas flight from Dallas to Sydney is the longest non-stop flight in the world and it is on the largest commercial airplane in the world. So there was no problem accommodating our Circle of Love! I am grateful beyond words. So I will stop writing now.
After more than 15 hours, we are finally getting close to Oz.
Closer... and we still have to fly from Sydney to Melbourne and then drive to Torquay.

Birds. Peace. Love. Earth. Laughter. Music.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Never Forget: John Young Found the Night Parrot

John Gould's lovely illustration of Night Parrots from the 1860's. John Young produced the first photographs of living Night Parrots.
In 2013 John did what no one else had been able to do. He rediscovered the Night Parrot. John Young’s accomplishment cannot be overstated. He put in fifteen years and tens of thousands of his own dollars into tracking down this elusive bird. Of course no one can "own" a species, but John has as good a claim to doing that as anyone could. He found the Holy Grail of Australian birds and there are many of us who will never forget that. I for one am very grateful.

My friend John Young and me laughing (of course).
There has been much news lately about these parrots. The capture and tagging of one of these incredibly rare birds, and the creating of a conservation reserve to protect the area that John found has created a flurry in the media.

A Google search of news of the Night Parrot produced these and more.
Some of these articles have been poorly written, several copying lines from each other such as referring to John Young’s stunning, clear first photos as “blurry images.” Sadly, the Australian Geographic article was one of the worst. We cannot allow John to be minimized to a footnote in the story of the Night Parrot. Perhaps the reserve should be named the "John Young Conservation Reserve?" Regardless we should always remember John's amazing accomplishment.

This article is one of the "better" ones: ABC Night Parrot

Birds. Peace. Love. Earth. Laughter. Music.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

And The Birds Shall Lead Us

I have called it our Great Adventure, our Big Adventure and our Little Big Year. We are close to its beginning. Lately I’ve been saying, our Grand Adventure. Whatever we call it, it is going to be amazing. I also have no delusions about it being easy or comfortable. We will do our best to route our travels so as to avoid extremes in weather. We will be brand new to this lifestyle and we have so much to learn, but learn we will. Many thousands of Aussies our age and older (often referred to as the Grey Nomads) live in their motor homes, campervans and caravans traveling full time. And if they can do it, we damn sure can! I am so grateful for this opportunity. Just wow.
We have large foldable maps of Oz, so I reckon this beauty will remain on the wall of the kitchen here in the US awaiting our return. 
Once again, I will mention that we are not, and I am not, doing a full-on Birding Big Year. BUT we are birding our way around Australia… for a year… I would be an idiot not to keep count of the species for that 12 month period. So, it is a big year list without the craziness of a big year effort. We will not be flying across Oz to chase vagrants… ever. But we will bird as we travel the whole of Australia. Over the year we will have circumnavigated (and bisected) this amazing continent. We will see many of the wondrous Australian iconic sights. And yes, the birds shall lead us. Grateful much? Indeed I am.
And the Birds shall lead us...
I cannot live without purpose. I would honestly wither and die. So the birds, and yes the “list” is the carrot ahead of the cart for me in our coming adventure. It is the underlying “purpose.” I have no delusions of grandeur for achieving a high big year number; as I have said, I am not doing that! I have a simple goal to see a lot of birds and that is plenty enough of a carrot to dangle ahead of me. Such is birding, listing, and the joys of making your own rules. I am grateful. 

The planning table is all (mostly) packed up. That's 12.5 lbs of weight there in maps and notes (5.6 kilos).
I will continue to Blog and Facebook about our travels as regularly as time and internet permit. So please come along with us and share in this adventure. Many of you will already be there in our hearts anyway. I am grateful.

As Carl Sagan said, “Be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides." I plan to make the most of this opportunity!  And occasionally (and only occasionally) there will be ice cream!

Coffee carmel cookie ice cream, yes it is insanely delicious.

Birds. Peace. Love. Earth. Laughter. Music.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Gratitude Retrospective: Ian Gillan Part 2, R. Bruce in England 2004

In Part One (scroll down to July 27 if you missed it) we had decided that I would do a tour in England, specifically in southwest England where Ian lives. So in early December of 2004, I arrived in the UK and I was driven to Ian and his wife, B’s lovely home in Lyme Regis, Dorset. He had arranged for his friend, Steve Black to put together a pub tour that would end with a show at Steve’s performing arts theatre in Axminster, Devon. I am very grateful to them both as well as for Terry Stacey’s help with sorting the PA.
Sally, Ian, Steve and me
Ian and me figuring out the mobile phone I would be using.
It’s an odd feeling, especially looking back now as I have my heart spread across two countries and two hemispheres. But I remember feeling a pull, a connection there. I am not into the whole ancestry thing, but I am mostly English and Welsh and I reckon my roots are there. I could feel it.
My roots.
It is difficult for me to believe that it has been over ten years now. It does not seem that long until I try and remember details. I am struggling. But I don’t need to remember too many details, as I have said, this blog is, “Short, easy to read and has pictures.” So I am going to rely heavily on the photos. I am grateful that I have them (twas all "point and shoot" back in the day). Here are just a couple of the pubs on the tour.
The Ship Inn Pub
On stage at the Ship Inn Pub
Yes, it is the Nags Head! A lovely little pub in Lyme Regis.
At the Nags Head
Yes, I did have a blast! There were great shows, wonderful people and wonderful new friends. You can’t be in southwest England without visiting Stonehenge and Glastonbury. Thank you Steve Cross for being such a fun tour guide! I am grateful.

Stonehenge and me
The iconic shot of Stonehenge. Even right by the motorway, it is still awe inspiring.
Saint Michael's Tower on Glastonbury Tor
Glastonbury Abbey
The Chalice Well in Glastonbury
I remember returning to Steve Black’s flat after a gig and eating fish and chips while watching “Sherlock Holmes” on TV with Steve and Sally. Now that’s an English evening, mate!
Steve's flat was just around the corner. Convenient indeed.
I fondly remember sitting by the fire after a delightful supper with Pat and Steve Campbell and talking (mostly listening) about King Arthur with Steve (and by the way, yes most men in that region do seem to be named, Steve).
Steve Campbell by the fire discussing the Arthurian legend. I had a great time.
And I had a wonderful time at B and Grace’s combined birthday party with the pirate theme!

Steve Black and me as Pirates!
The birthday girls (I wish I had not just gotten the back of B's head) but there they are.
And I will never forget hiking with Ian on the Undercliffs. I even stood on the Cob (a jetty like breakwater) as Merle Streep did in “The French Lieutenant’s Woman” which was filmed in Lyme Regis. I am so grateful for all these experiences and these wonderful memories of them.

Ian, my hiking guide on the Undercliffs.
Standing amongst the boulders of moss covered chalk on the Undercliffs.
Standing on the famous Cob at Lyme.
The finale of the tour was at Steve Black’s performing arts centre, the “i.e. Theatre” with a sold out show that broke the house attendance record. That is a memory I will cherish for the rest of my life. I am grateful.
The i.e. Theatre SOLD OUT.
The audience at the i.e. Theatre. I love them to this day. Just look at those wonderful faces!

Birds. Peace. Love. Earth. Laughter. Music.