Friday, January 29, 2016

Greater Sooty Owl! Tick!

James Mustafa invited us to go spotlighting with him in Bunyip SP. After a few false starts, we were able to sort a night that worked for all of us. Then the weather reared its rainy head. It seemed as if it might wash out our plans. But after consulting the questionably reliable weather forecasts, we thought it was worth a go. We were originally going to camp in the State Park, but it was so rainy that we decided to splurge and get a room near the park. So Friday arvo we headed up from Torquay, and after slogging our way through Melbourne traffic (I do not know how anyone can actually live there and do that daily) we arrived in Pakenham. We got our room, a bite to eat, and then headed up to Bunyip State Park.

We were early, as usual, so I got out to have a look around. There were a few birds about, mostly ‘up’ in the canopy and I called to Lynn to come and have a look. I said, “I think that’s a robin.” It was and Lynn had her first lifer of the evening, Rose Robin! James arrived while I was trying to get a usable recording photo of it (I never did) but we all got decent looks at a female Rose Robin. I am grateful.

It got better. It was an excellent night. Before it was even fully dark, we had amazing views of Greater Sooty Owl. There were two, both younger birds who he was familiar with. In just about the same spot we also had an Australian Owlet-nightjar. Then a female Powerful Owl called repeatedly, but chose not come into view for us. Just around the corner, we watched three juvenile Southern Boobooks flying about above us. This was incredible owling, and all within a couple of hundred meters of our car. Amazing. I am so grateful.

Before leaving the park, we had a quick look around for Masked Owl, but the fog was moving in and visibility was very poor. We called it a night and Lynn and I were back in our warm, dry cabin by 11pm. That is my kind of spotlighting! I am grateful!   
Greater Sooty Owl, yes!

I do not use a flash and these photos were taken merely as recording shots. They are not much as far as photography goes, but they mean a lot to me. I was, and am, thrilled!

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

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A Noble Passion

It had been a bit of a sad time, even here in the wonderful land of Oz. The imminent passing of a very close friend’s terminally ill son, and the world’s loss of some of its greatest musical brilliance had muted the colors a bit for me. Anxiety and depression have always been a part of my life and they will rear their hideous heads when they can. And they had, although understandably so.

So yesterday I was just plugging along being, “okay” when I got a text from my buddy, Philip Peel (met through Facebook- I am SO grateful).

He said, “Hey mate, Phalarope at WTP now! Meet you there lol.”

I asked, “Where?”

“T section pond 5. It’s on Facebook Vic Birders. Photos too.”

John Harris had seen it that morning while he was doing water testing for frog surveys. He said he had only picked up his binoculars for about five minutes and happened to notice the bird. Michael Ramsey had posted the sighting on the Birdline Victoria and Victorian Birders Facebook pages. I was on the computer doing planning for our upcoming travels and wasn’t watching FB. I called Philip and got more of the scoop. He was on his way and in about five minutes, so were we.

Lynn and I raced (at the speed limit, but not a smidge under) up the M1 to the WTP. We arrived at the T-section and could see some other vehicles by pond 5. I saw Philip. I saw our friend Jenny Stephens as well. But there was no Red-necked Phalarope to be seen. We kept looking. In the meantime, Lynn got her lifer Spotless Crake in the Crake Pond and other birders arrived. Still no pharaope, we left that pond and widened our search out into the other ponds of the T-section and Western Lagoons. We searched, but we did not find.

I am a firm believer in “keep checking where the bird was last seen.” So before we gave up, I wanted to return to the area of pond 5. So did Philip and his family. As Lynn was locking the gate behind us, I saw Philip by Pond 7. He was with other birders and he was looking intently. Any experienced birder can “bird birders.” That is, to know what is going on at a distance by body language and actions. I knew they were looking at the bird. Then Philip waved to us. Bingo. I was incredibly grateful.

We drove over to the pond and were soon on the lovely little bird swimming low in the water amongst the other waders. Dwarfed by the stilts, it was swimming erratically to and fro as phalaropes tend to do. Once spotted, it really stood out. It is very possible that Philip and I had seen it earlier, farther away in this pond, but it had flown before we could get the scope on it. That is not important, we did see it in the end and I am very grateful. The light was horrible for photography, but that is also not important. It is about the bird and the friends. Here are some recording shots...

Red-necked Phalarope, Pond 7 in the T Section of the Western Treatment Plant.

Dwarfed amongst the Stilts (Banded and Black-winged)
We saw other friends there, and hugs were shared as we all shared this special bird. Just before leaving we did a Lifer Selfie with our friend Michael Gooch. I wish we had thought of it whilst Philip and Jenn were still there. It would have been great to have them in it as well. These are friends that I have come to know through birding and through our Facebook connection. I am so grateful. I have heard this morning that more friends saw the phalarope after we left and quite a few went back this morning and had excellent views in Pond 5. 
Michael Gooch, Lynn and me in the Red-necked Phalarope Lifer Selfie (and yes, Lynn and I had Lifer Pie in the form of ice cream treats on a stick later that evening).
In closing I am going to quote our friend Jenn Stephens who we met for the first time on the pelagic out of Port Fairy. In a Facebook comment yesterday she said:

“Isn't birding a noble passion? It was great to sail the mighty seas one week ago with yourself and Lynn, only to bump into you both today. I love the fact we can all share so selflessly in this interest we all have a common belief in. Thanks all for your kindness, company and generous spirit. I 'flew' home smiling all the way.”

So did we, Jenn. So did we. I am smiling right now and I am so very grateful for that bird, and for you and the other dear friends that birds have brought us. Noble Passion indeed!

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

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Music Dying

"...It's hard to tell the night time from the day.
You're losin' all your highs and lows
Ain't it funny how the feeling goes away?"

I was moved last week when Bowie died, a genius was taken from us too early. But I cried today. I do not like feeling feelings. I always preferred to numb them. I was good at that, and I miss it. When I was a practicing alcoholic living alone in Nags Head, NC in the 80's sometimes I would listen to the Eagle's, "Desperado" alone late at night. Numb or not, tears would roll down my face and I lit another cigarette and opened another Miller Lite, and another, and another.
The living room of my cottage in Nags Head, sometime in the early 1980's I reckon.
When those who wrote the soundtracks of our lives die, it can feel like a part of us dies too. That's how it feels to me (feelings again). I am grateful that there was a Glenn Frey and that he wrote such wonderful, incredible songs. But to be honest (and genuine), I am not feeling very fucking grateful right now.

I've never tried to put YouTube videos in the blog before. There are two links below that go to good versions of those songs. Thanks, Glenn...

Love. Just. Love.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Facebook Connection: Wood Sandpiper

Wood Sandpiper was not on my Australian list. They are not rare birds, nor are they necessarily an easy tick. I knew that they were sometimes seen at the Dandenong Wetlands up by Melbourne. But I had never been there before and knew nothing about the spot except its general location. This is where the Internet and Facebook come into play. I am grateful for both.

I was able to go to the Explore Data section of eBird where the wetlands are a Hotspot. I clicked on a map of the wetlands and had a look. David Adam, who I met through Facebook, had posted some beautiful photos of Wood Sandpipers at the Dandenong Wetlands on the Victorian Birders page a little over a week ago. I sent him a message. He sent me a map with details of where he had seen the sandpipers. In less than twenty minutes I had learned where to park, where to walk and where to look for these birds. I am grateful!

So yesterday mid-morning, Lynn and I headed up the M1 toward Melbourne. We arrived at the wetlands at 12:30pm. It was breezy and threatening rain. With scope, camera and bins, we headed around the oddly intestine shaped ponds. We searched the areas where David had seen them, making a loop around the first three ponds. We were coming back down the main path as it began raining big drops and we spotted three Wood Sandpipers going about their business. We had very satisfying looks and I took some photos. I am grateful.
There they are, all three together.
Dancing in the rain.
Big raindrops 

Showing the barring on the tail.
So there you have it, a good example of the Facebook connection with birders working! I am very grateful. I will include a map of my own showing where we saw them and where David indicated that he saw them as well.

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

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Birds, Whales, And A Diamond

Yesterday we went out from Port Fairy, VIC on a pelagic trip. For non-birding friends, that means deep-sea birding. I will be honest and admit that pelagic birding is not my favorite. But I do it because there are some awesome birds that can only be found offshore, sometimes way offshore. Getting to the birding areas usually requires hours of just riding in the boat and that can be boring and uncomfortable. It’s not a seasickness thing, I use the patch and it works well for me. I grew up around boats and I love the sea, but as I got older, seasickness became an issue for me. Not anymore with the patch and I am grateful.

We had a wonderful time and saw some awesome birds and made some delightful new friends. There was an amazing pod of (50-some?) Long-finned Pilot Whales who stayed in the area of the boat with Oceanic Bottlenosed Dolphins intermixed with them for about a half an hour. It was a moving experience to be in the presence of these marvelous mammals. I am so grateful for that experience, and I thank my friend, James Mustafa for organizing this trip. Our best bird of the day was the Little Shearwater, which had not been seen in Victoria for about 10 years.
And so it begins...
Long-finned Pilot Whales with Oceanic Bottlenosed Dolphins

Fairy Prion
White-faced Storm-petrel 

My "recording" shot of the Little Shearwater. Trust me.     
Steven Castan's much better recording shot. It was a Little Shearwater.
                 Fairy Prion again                      
Wilson's Storm-petrel

The long ride back in...
On a different  and very grateful note…

Monday as we were driving to Port Fairy, I discovered that my earring was gone. Over 25 years ago Lynn took a diamond from a ring and had it made into an earring for me. I have worn it since. I never take it out. After a few years, I had a ‘locking back’ put on it to hopefully keep it secure. Well, it came loose and it was gone. I was not grateful.

I did not know where it had been lost and to make things worse, in a photo from last Friday, it did not appear to be in my ear. I figured it was gone. I had deep emotional attachments to it, but still it is just a thing. We have “let go” of more things than most. Some on purpose, some not so much. Well, this afternoon Lynn found my diamond! The back was on the bathroom floor and the diamond was on the floor of the laundry room. It is a wonderful gift that she was able to give me twice. My diamond is back and I am so very grateful.

The gift given twice

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

Sunday, January 10, 2016


We are "roosting" for a bit in an amazing space. We are house-sitting for friends here in Torquay, Victoria. Their home is one kilometer from our son’s house where we get our mail and store our extra stuff. So it is amazingly convenient. It is also one of the most comfortable, positive feeling spaces in which I have ever been. We will be living here through the end of January and I am so grateful!

I will only post a couple of pics because I don’t feel that it is appropriate to share a bunch of photos of someone else’s home on the internet. Here is a shot in the main lounge room. Things here are wood and glass, and fabric and stone. Things are real. There are books and comfortable nooks, curving walls and sliding doors, extra beds and extra pillows, and a massive deck across the back that connects it all. Our friend is a wonderfully talented woodworker and he built this house himself. There are sections on which he is still working. As with the best homes, I imagine this house will remain in process, changing with their lives. I am grateful to have had a small part in the lives of these wonderful people and to have this chance to share in their space.

Here is the long dinner table that of course, our friend made. It is a beautiful table and it is so nice for my ADHD brain to be able to spread out again to look at books and things. I love this house! I am grateful.

Speaking of ADHD, here’s a quick birding update: The most recent new bird on our year list was this Broad-billed Sandpiper on 8 January. That puts the list at 479 since 20 August (my Australian life list is now 560 with the Paradise Shelduck, and Lynn’s is now at 522).
Broad-billed Sandpiper 
Paradise Shelduck photo by Mike Carter.
PS, As I was finishing writing this, a white morph Grey Goshawk flew across the yard over the workshop behind the house. Man, I love this place.

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

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Twitched: Paradise Shelduck At Lake Wollumboola

I will try and tell a quick tale of a twitch.

We had heard about the Hudsonian Godwit that was being seen at Lake Wollumboola in NSW, but we had plans and bookings on Kangaroo Island. The Hudwit would be an Aussie Lifer for us both and we considered chasing it, but we continued with our plans and had a wonderful time on KI (as you can see in the two blogs before this).

Then we heard that a Paradise Shelduck had also shown up at Lake Wollumboola. This was an Australian first! Except for an old record in 1950 on Norfolk Island, this was the very first record of this bird anywhere in Australia. So as we boarded the ferry at Penneshaw to leave KI, we decided to go for it. We did the trip across in just over two days, leaving from Murray Bridge, SA and over-nighting at a nice little caravan park in Port Darlington, NSW.

After driving through heavy downpours of rain as we wound our way down toward the coast, we finally made our way over to the little parking area by the lake in Culburra Beach. When we pulled in, we saw Mike Carter just putting his scope together. We had arrived at the same time as the man who has seen more birds in Australia than anyone! I was and am, very grateful! 

That's Mike Carter and me (Lynn snapped a photo of us as we walked back).
Lynn, Mike and I headed down the beach along the lakeshore, and a little over a kilometer along we spotted the duck on the southeaster shore. YES! We continued a bit closer and got better views, but still allowed the duck plenty of room. With the rain drizzling and threatening to pour, I had decided to leave my camera in Troopi. However, I did manage to take a few of my first ever “digiscoped” shots. I do not really know how to do this, and the adapter for the phone is packed away somewhere. Regardless, I managed to point the phone at the image in the eyepiece and fiddle with it until I got some recording shots. I am massively grateful.
The first look and my first attempt at digiscoping... but there it is! Paradise Shelduck at Lake Wollumboola, NSW.

It's not like I got better at it, but you can see the duck.

Paradise Shelduck, Lake Wollumboola, NSW 
We checked the Godwits around the lake carefully, but did not see the Hudsonian. We will go back this morning and give the Hudwit a couple hours of looking before we head south toward commitments in Victoria. I will let y’all know if we find it. I’d love to make it a double twitch, but still… We saw this mega rarity and I was with Mike Carter when he added a bird to his Australian List! He is at about 875 now. That is incredible! I am so grateful to have met, and birded with this amazing and personable gentleman. Timing. It is everything.
Lifer Selfie with Mike Carter, Lynn and me. Paradise Shelduck, Lake Wollumboola, NSW 6 January 2016

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

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Kangaroo Island ~ Part Two

It went from hot to howling and the winds were blowing a gale. That does not really make for easy birding! But we have had successes. We finally managed Rock Parrot on New Year’s Day. It was an interesting tick, but I am grateful!

Thanks to local info from Craig Wickham, we headed to Point Ellen Friday afternoon to search amongst the windswept (wind-slammed) scrubby, mallee heath west of the point. We went a couple of kilometers on the track with no luck (amazing wind) and headed back. We had returned about halfway when a lovely male Southern Emu-wren hopped about in a bush by the track. I was showing it to Lynn and it moved to another part of the same bush. As she was looking for it with her bins she said, “I’ve got parrots! With blue faces!” She was on two Rock Parrots under the bush with the Emu-wren. Then they flew. She got great looks and I only saw them flying away (I did not even get a photo of the Emu-wren). But I am very grateful to have seen them! Later on Saturday afternoon, we returned and I had another walk amongst the heath and saw them again. Although once again they were flying, I had much better views of these very cool parrots.
Where Rock Parrots live.
Another target on KI was the island subspecies of Glossy Black-cockatoo. Again with Craig’s suggestions, we went looking for them Saturday morning and found two pairs! I was lucky enough to get a few photos, then we left them be (we think they are looking for nest spots). I am very grateful to see these beautiful and endangered birds. They are currently my favorite cockatoo.

Ms Glossy Black-cockatoo (Kangaroo Island sub species)
Mr. Glossy Black-cockatoo
I slept late and Sunday morning began slowly with wind and occasional light rain. We packed up and headed to the areas to the northwest to once again look for the Elegant Parrots. We drove about the usual spots (corner of Playford and West End and a bit down the rough track to Borda Lighthouse) then to Gosse-Richie Rd. We were perhaps 5 kilometers down that road when a stunningly, glowingly, gorgeous little green and blue parrot flew up right beside Troopi then crossed in full view in front of us. Elegant! They are well named. We were thrilled and I am grateful! I wanted that bird. No photo of the parrot was possible, but this Shy Heathwren obliged. They are such cute little birds.
Shy Heathwren
Then we had one more bird here that we wanted on the year list, Purple-gaped Honeyeater. After consulting our books we drove down to Hanson Bay Rd. where we found three of these cool Honeyeaters. I am indeed grateful. 

Purple-gaped Honeyeater (Craig said that the island sub species of this bird sometimes does not have an actual purple gape).
We drove to the east end of the island and had a wonderful visit with new friends, Anita and Paul Flynn last night (and a delicious dinner). Then we camped in Troopi on their site here in Antechamber Bay. We leave KI on the 11:30 ferry. It’s been a wonderful time and I am grateful and will see if I can get this posted. And lastly, here are a couple of Crescent Honeyeaters from the campsite.

Crescent Honeyeaters right behind Troopi

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