Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Comfort Zones Not Prisons

Birding is the pursuit of what is elusive yet attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope. That is an old quote about fishing, but it is perfect for birding as well.

It also gets me out to places I would never just “go” if I were not looking and hoping for birds. It gets me out period. I sometimes battle through massive anxiety to get out and go to those places. Although I have been open regarding my anxiety and depression issues, I still keep most of it buried under big-smiling selfies and new-agey views about living a genuine life. There is something to “fake it ‘til you make it,” but it only goes so far. It is often a difficult, and mostly invisible, struggle.

Nothing worthwhile that I have done in my life has begun in my comfort zones. Left to my own tendencies, I would have stayed at home, or in bars, drinking and smoking. And that is what I did for much of my twenties and thirties.

Last week I got out. I drove over 3 thousand kilometers, more than a few hundreds of those in a cocoon of anxiety that threatened to crush my spirit. But I carried on. I pushed through. This is the over-sharing kind of shit that I need to do. It is important for me to write this stuff down and look at it. I am 100% visual and being able to “see” things is the only way that I can begin to understand them. So I write for me and I share it with those who want to read it. If it helps one person understand that sometimes we can indeed push through our anxieties and conquer a fear, or fears, even just for a day or an hour, then I am very happy to share. Many people do not ‘get’ this. They don’t have to; it is not written for them.

I was an anxious child. I had a fear about going to school, although I learned to be funny and got on well once I was settled in. I have had separation anxiety issues all my life. Even when I was an entertainer touring full time, I would often go through massive anxiety as I left home. I would be fine once I was out there (sometimes it took a day or three), but I did it and in the later years, I did it mostly alone.

I’m not good at being alone. Sharing is the joy of life to me, but even as a small child I was most often alone. I have had to learn to find joy alone. Sometimes I do, more often I do not, but I am working on it. Life is a process.

I was the unplanned youngest (9 years younger than my brother) and as a child, I never “fit” in my family of origin. I understand this now. It certainly had a part in shaping who I am. That said, I am genuinely very proud of who I have become, even though there are these uncomfortable parts that I am sharing about here.

I self medicated my fear for years. However, as many of you know, I have remained sober since a rehab stay beginning on 16 April 1990. And I still do not smoke. I actually had a drag on a cigarette just this past weekend at a music festival. Yes, it tasted good, but amazingly, the magic was gone. I won’t take another and certainly will not start back smoking. I am actually glad I took that drag.

So with a bit of time open last week without any medical appointments, I decided to go out amongst it solo camping in Troopi for the first time. I say, “solo” as it was just me in Troopi, but I was driving in tandem with my old friend Robert Shore who was in his own Troopy camper. As I have said many times, Robert is like family to me. Lynn and I birded with him at various times across all of Australia. It was great to go out again.

First I had a 9-hour plus drive up to Robert’s home base in Parkes, NSW. It is where the famous radio dish from the wonderful film, “The Dish” is located.

We left Parkes the next day and drove up to have a look at Kooragang Wetlands near Newcastle for King Quail. They were not around. As the day was ending, we started north looking for a free camp. We found one by the “Ayres Rock” servo, a service centre with a fake Uluru on top of it. It was a fine spot to camp with toilets available and it was free.

Free camping by the "Ayers Rock" service centre.

The next day after a glance around Port Macquarie looking again for King Quail to no avail, we headed into the rainforest. We drove about 40 kilometers of logging track into Werrikimbe National Park to arrive at the Brushy Mountain Campground deep in amongst it. It was glorious. Then we hiked to the areas where our target bird, the Rufous Scrub-bird, was known to have been heard, and occasionally seen. We heard a couple, but none were close to the track. 

There was a beautiful old covered shelter with two massive picnic tables and a fireplace. As night was descending Robert started a fire and as the temperatures dropped considerably, that fire was much enjoyed and appreciated. We had our supper at the table with the fire crackling in the background. After dark we went out and looked at some frogs including a lovely green Barrington Tops Tree Frog.

From where I had parked Troopi, I could lie in the bed and actually watch the fire out the window from my bunk as I went to sleep later that night.

At first light we were down the track and again heard ‘distant’ Rufous Scrub-birds with no success, or real hope, of seeing them. As the forecasted rains began in earnest, we headed back to camp. Under the shelter, sitting by a revitalized fire, we talked about birding and about where we were.

The point was this. We had not seen either of our target birds, but that was all right. Those birds were only a portion of what we were doing. They had led us out there amongst it. We were deep in the wondrous rainforest of New South Wales. It was beautiful (even in the rain and fog) and I was there. I had to allow the appreciation of that into my heart. I did. And in writing this, I am reaching out to it, and I am touched by it yet again.

Here are a few photos on the way back. We did hear the Scrub-bird again, clear and close to the road on the corner of Oxley Highway and Knodingbul Road. But it was impossible to get down the mountainside slope to it. 

Sunrise from my last morning leaving NSW. I stayed in a caravan park to get a shower and was greeted by this morning view. Glorious.

There is so much more I could say and so much more for which I am grateful. And so much more that I hope to share in the future. I am very glad that these words connect for some of y’all. And if not, that’s okay too. More to come soonish…

Sending love from back at the Tiny House.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

I Love Orange-bellied Parrots

Last Friday I was looking down a track in the northern part of the Western Treatment Plant and saw a jewel in the grass. It was so green and bright that at first it called to mind an Emerald Dove. Of course I knew that it would not be an Emerald Dove and as my bins went to my eyes, the back of a tiny Orange-bellied Parrot appeared. I did not expect to see one of these beautiful birds, and as much as I loved looking at it, I wish I had not. That little bird should have been in Tasmania.

According to its leg bands, he was a mainland released male from earlier this year. He had a silver band with a Y on his left leg and a red ring on his right. He was actively feeding on the tiny grass heads and seemed happy, although a tad woebegone. I was deeply moved. I stood for about 35 minutes basically where I had stopped when I first saw him. I just kept taking photos and marveling at, and loving, this tiny treasure. I did not want to disturb him and he allowed me to spend a little time with him. Just the two of us.

Here he is...

Eat well my little friend... get strong.

Num, num, num...
Eventually, moving slowly and quietly, I called my friend Dez Hughes (the Wader Whisperer) who was only few kilometers away. He headed up to see the parrot. However, minutes before he arrived, it had flown up, around, and disappeared into cover in the same general area. As Dez stood there with me, it flew up and out again, giving him great views of those vibrant blues and greens (and orange-belly) before it landed again disappearing in the scrub. We left the area.

I first saw wild Orange-bellied Parrots in June of 2012 at the Borrow Pit at the WTP. There were three. I was a fairly new birder and I fell in love with these wondrous little parrots as I would. I took Lynn and my twelve-year-old granddaughter, Mandy, to see them. We had amazing views and I took copious photos. Below are a few from that day.

I do not know if these critically endangered little parrots can survive. There are only a handful left in the wild. Literally. There might be less than thirty maybe? I do not know exactly.

Time is passing. I find being sixty-four years old unbelievable. But when I look at the changes I have been through and that I have seen in this world, I reckon I have to believe it. I hate to think that one day there may be no wild OBP’s left. I am so glad that I got to show them to Mandy over five years ago and I am so glad I got to see them then as well. However, I wish I had not seen this little guy there where he should not still have been. I wish he had gone to Tasmania weeks ago.


I literally just now read that a male OBP that was seen at the WTP on 21 September has arrived at the breeding grounds in Melaleuca, Tasmania on 29 September! And my little buddy was eating constantly. Maybe he was storing up energy for a big flight. I will not give up hope. Maybe he is going to get to Tassie after all. I hope so with all my heart.

To help these birds click here: Difficult Bird Research Group

Sending love from the Tiny House.