Friday, November 27, 2015

Genuine Granddaddy

I never knew my grandfathers, but I had two grandmothers who loved me. One was in Wisconsin and I did not see her very often at all, yet even as a little child, I knew that she loved me. My other grandmother lived next door to us and was the true source of nurturing in my younger years. I was certainly not mistreated by my parents, but I was often ignored. “Emotionally neglected” would not be far off the mark, but I had it great compared to many. And I did have my Nana and I am very grateful.

Nana. Pure love. She was way into her 90's here. She was born 1 January 1890. She was 13 years old when the Wright Brothers invented the airplane, then she saw men walk on the moon. Incredible.
I never really knew what my heart was capable of until I was a granddaddy. At this point in time, I reckon I am closest to my fourth grandchild. Many of you already know her as Angel Face. I have known her since she was just over a year old. I have always tried to be the granddaddy that I would have liked to have had. She seems ok with how I am doing. We have a lot of fun and I enjoy her company more than that of many adults. I am truly grateful.

Taken yesterday at her school
I have six grandchildren here. That is a lot and they are spread out amongst three families. They are all precious to me, but I cannot be with them as often as I would like. It is logistically impossible. So of course I see some more than others and that will ebb and flow as they age, and our travels continue. I am grateful for every one of them.
My youngest grandchild... they are toy binoculars, but a granddaddy can dream, can't he?
My next to youngest grandchild drawing with her granddaddy (I was an art major).
I am mostly grateful that I can be with them at all. I am grateful that I can show them by example, what I consider to be a genuine life. I place myself on NO pedestal, far, far, far from that. But I have chosen and, with some success, walked a path different than most. Particularly as I have grown older and wiser (it happens) I have learned the true value of living genuinely. If I can live that for my grandchildren, and let them see what that looks like, I will have been as good a granddaddy as I aspire to be. And for that I will be more grateful than I am capable of putting into words.

I wish you all joy with your loved ones. Blood does not make a family any more than brick and mortar make a home. Family is love. May yours flow openly and genuinely between you and those you love.

Birds. Peace. Love. Friends. Family.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

More Portland Victoria ~ Olive Whistler

I saw my first Olive Whistler in Toolangi, Victoria on 4 April 2012. It was a positive i.d., but no photo nor much of a look. I heard it, and I saw it and I ticked it. I was grateful. Lynn had never seen one at all, so when Rob Farnes mentioned there was a good chance of seeing an Olive on the road to the Gannet Colony, we gave it a go the next morning. We had only gone along the path maybe 50 or so meters before Lynn (my hearing ear person) heard it. Then I heard it too and then we saw it. It hopped up into some bare branches and gave us lovely looks and did some whistling as well. I am very grateful! What a sweet bird. It is currently my favorite whistler.

Olive Whistler in the act of whistling 

Our buddy, Robert Shore (who had been with us viewing the Cape Gannet) had seen Rufous Bristlebirds by the lighthouse the day before, so with the Olive Whistler ticked for Lynn and the year list, we headed over to that windswept point. Eventually, in spite of the howling winds, we managed to see one of the Rufous Bristlebirds that were calling amongst the scrub by the lighthouse. It is now on the year list (oddly, we had dipped on them at Pt. Addis earlier in the year). I am grateful. The view of the ocean by the lightstation was simply stunning. Once again the birds lead us into awesome. I am so grateful!

One of the more beautiful windswept ocean views that I have seen. The bristlebirds were behind me amongst the scrub hiding from the wind I reckon.
And… on our way to Portland we passed through Dunkeld on the edge of the absolutely beautimous Grampian Ranges. I took Lynn’s photo in front of the world famous Royal Mail Hotel. We were too late for brekkie and too early for lunch (and we did not even get a look at the prices). We picked up a nibble from the local bakery though, and headed on to our date with a Cape Gannet. I am indeed grateful for this wondrous journey.
My bird girl in front of the Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld, Victoria.

Birds. Peace. Love. Getting Out Amongst It.

Monday, November 23, 2015

New South Wales Down To The Coast Of Victoria

Early last Friday morning before the heat went crazy, we headed up the mountain to Barren Grounds Nature Reserve in New South Wales. The temperature eventually went over 40C - about 105F, but it cooled off nicely in the evening. BG is one of my favorite places. It is beautiful and birdy and I love it.
Troopy seeking the shade in the car park at Barren Grounds.
The habitat there is classified as a 'hanging swamp plateau'. This is because it has large areas of heath and swamp and it is elevated up on a plateau. It also gets a lot of rain. I must say that it is definitely my favorite hanging swamp plateau! We were there and I am grateful!
Looking out across the plateau
My birding partner in one of the more forested areas by the car park.
I have been to Barren Grounds several times. I got my lifer Pilotbird, Ground Parrot and Eastern Bristlebird there on past visits. Lynn had also gotten the parrot and bristlebird there last March, so on Friday we were hoping to find her a Pilotbird and that we did. I am very grateful.
Eastern Bristlebirds having a bit of lunch.

We also had some rather low flying White-throated Needletails over Barren Grounds.        
We had not found the Pilotbird where I had previously seen them. So we concentrated our search in the foresty areas around the Illawarra Lookout because that was mentioned in Tim Dolby’s blog. Just past the path to the lookout, I could see where some people had walked through the brush. Not a trail, just a spot where for some reason several people (birders perhaps?) had tromped in. We walked in about 25 meters and almost immediately heard two Pilotbirds. With a bit of manuvering around Lynn was able to get good lifer looks. I am grateful! (And thank you Tim).
Pilotbird (this is the one that I first saw there. I stood back out of the way and only had glimpses of Lynn's lifer. I did not need to try and get its photo).
It is now Monday and we are in Portland, VIC where early this arvo, Lynn, Robert and I got our lifer Cape Gannets at Point Danger. This was a perfect example of social network bird connections working. I had mentioned in Victorian Birders on FB that we were going to try for the Gannet today. My friend Paul Dodd suggested getting in touch with Rob Farnes. I did. Rob offered to take us to the Gannet Colony and we got the bird. Tick! I am very grateful. We had Lifer Pie (a little chocolate mud cake for me) with coffee. A wonderful day and I am grateful! 
Cape Gannet looking at you.
See? I'm a Cape Gannet!

Stay tuned there is so much more to come. I wish you all joy from the southwest coast of Victoria.

Birds. Peace. Love. Earth. Laughter. Music. Amongst It.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Back In Deniliquin Again

We first birded Deniliquin, NSW last February. When we heard that Phil Maher, “the Plains Wanderer whisperer” (as I just thought of calling him), had the Sunday following our return from Norfolk Island open, we got in touch again. There were several birds out there that we hoped to get on the year list (and maybe a couple on our life lists). We arranged to meet Phil in Deniliquin on Sunday the 15th. I had the eye issue (read the blog before this one), but we headed on inland to meet Phil. Except for my pretty full-on anxiety, it was wonderful birding. I will let the photos and captions tell most of the tale. I am grateful! (And I do LOVE Plains Wanderers).
Superb Parrot looking its name...

Tawny Frogmouth and chick. 
The other parent Tawny Frogmouth, I think it is the mom.
Grey-crowned Babblers with nest material.
Australian Owlet-nightjar
Grey-crowned Babbler with more stuff
Lynn's lifer Baillon's Crake peeking through the reeds.
The closest I have ever gotten to a Blue Bonnet
Loved the expression...
Australian Pratincole 
Banded Lapwing (love their goggles).
My first lifer of the day, Orange Chat. He was SO orange!

An adolescent Banded Lapwing
My second lifer of the day, Inland Dotterel. I was very happy to see these birds!

Pedionomus torquatus, the Plains Wanderer... I love them. 
Mr. Plains Wanderer
One of my very favorite birds. We were able to walk and find them, rather than driving and spotlighting. These were taken in just the light of a hand-held torch. It was wonderful.
The sun setting in Plains Wanderer territory.
Following our day and evening with Phil, we needed to head back over to the coast. He suggested we go by way of Binya State Forest where he thought we’d have a good chance at Painted Honeyeater. So we spontaneously changed our routing and reserved a cabin in Leeton for Monday evening. We arrived at Binya about 1:30pm and it only took us about fifteen minutes to locate a beautiful pair of the Painted Honeyeaters. I was, and am, very grateful.
Painted Honeyeater! Not an easy bird (for me anyway) but it was there in Binya.

Our pal, Robert had strongly suggested we have a look at Fivebough Wetlands in Leeton. Phil had also mentioned it. Driving in, we saw the wetlands entrance just 2 kilometers from the cabin. After a bit of a rest, we went over to have a look. We walked to the Bittern Birdhide (that is really its name) and as we reached it, I saw an Australasian Bittern flying low across the wetlands. We both got great looks and I managed some recording shots. Sweet! I am grateful!

Australasian Bittern! 

So here we are now in a little motel room behind the pub in Jamberoo, NSW. We had an excellent morning yesterday at Barren Grounds, but that is another blog. I am so very grateful for so much. I will keep writing (and taking some pictures too) and will do my best to share all this with y'all.

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

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Being Real And Grateful

When we were picking up Troopy at the car yard last week (and transferred the soul and essence of Matilda into her), I had a black spot and floaters appear in the bottom vision of my left eye. It scared me. A lot.

A very long story sort of short… I went to an optometrist, then later a hospital and the next morning, an eye surgeon. I had a small, but very neat tear in my retina. He lasered the edges of it and set up a return appointment for a week later. I went to him yesterday and was given an all clear on the healing progress. There are floaters and blurring issues to deal with, BUT all is well with my retina! I am so, so, so grateful.

I did not want to write about this in here until I had some sort of resolution in sight (accidental pun, but not a bad one). I just wanted to go on with what we were doing, and that is what we did. We got some great birds too! However, during that week following the laser surgery, my anxiety stayed at an insanely high level as the blurriness and floaters continued and even increased. I do have my issues with anxiety and not writing about it is not being genuine. Sometimes the happy-face selfie has a scared inside and that's real too.

So now I am sharing this and sharing my massive, deep felt relief and gratitude that things turned out as they did. Taking care of something like that as you are traveling can be difficult, but we were able to do so thanks to the help and support of our wonderful friends. It all came together quickly and it was taken care of and I am so very grateful (and I can now really and truly rejoice in Troopy!).

Yes, our adventure continues… full on and amongst it!
The evening of the "all's well" appointment... My girl, my Troopy, my gratitude.

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

Friday, November 13, 2015

Some More Photos From Norfolk Island

We are in a little caravan park cabin in Yass, NSW (Troopy is not yet set up for camping). We are on our way to Deniliquin, NSW to do a bit of birding there Sunday and Sunday night. Since there is good internet on our wifi here, I thought I would post some photos from Norfolk Island and Phillip Island that I had not previously posted. Some were phone pics that I did not have access to until I was back on the mainland on the mobile network. Regardless, I have them now and I am grateful. Here is one from the phone...

There are hundreds of feral chickens on the island. Many on the grounds where we were staying. This little one (not sure if it is young or just a small sort of chicken) tended to follow me around and and sometimes lightly pecked me on my toes. He was cute in a homely sort of way.
Here are some more photos of one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. I am very grateful for being able to visit Norfolk Island (and Phillip Island as well). I am grateful once again for the birds leading me into awesome.
Sydney from the air as we are leaving. You can see the Opera House in the back left.
Our cottage was the one on the right after the first one. You can just see the roof. 
This is the road right by our accommodations. Cows have the right of way on the island. The name of the place was The Coast, but it had formerly been the Ponderosa and everyone still called it that. 
The view from our porch. That is Phillip Island to the right of the big pine.
A better view of Phillip Island. I did the hike to the top (and got two life birds!). 
The small Nepean Island in front of the tip Phillip Island. It was once used to quarry stone. 
Slaughter Bay where I snorkeled. The name comes from combining the words "slack water" and does not represent any slaughtering. It is ridiculously beautiful. Yes, that is Phillip Island in the back.
One of the many Red-tailed Tropic birds. This one was seen from Captain Cook Monument overlook and shows the pink that you can sometimes see on them. They are gorgeous birds.
Me at Cook's Overlook.
Landscape going up Phillip Island. Before they got rid of the rabbits, the island was almost all red earth as the vegetation had all been eaten. Even many trees were lost as they ate at the roots.

This is where the boat drops us off and picks us up. That is Beck on the left. She was our guide. There were three other people with us on the "trek." We were very fortunate with the calm seas. Often the rocks are awash and the footing can be tricky.
A tall, cool looking rock just off Phillip Island. It has a name but I have forgotten it. 

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