Flighty Friday

[Written 22nd June, 2015]

Okay, now I get it!

It really is a big deal.

Actually I’m a bit exhilarated!

I finally found them! Well actually a really nice guy with his twins in a pram wearing a camera found them, and came and got me so that I could see them too. Many thanks to him for that, but what I mean is I finally got to see them!

gum tree, eucalypt

Several of the Swift parrots at Macleod station

The famous Macleod Station Swift Parrots!

Otherwise named by other birders as The Great Houdini! They have certainly nailed the vanishing act on the last three times I’ve gone looking for them! But to be fair, thanks to some advice from another birder, I’ve realised that I’ve been looking for the wrong thing.

branch, acrobat

The belly of an upside down Swift parrot doing acrobatics

I’m used to rainbow lorikeets and musk lorikeets. You can tell where these birds are at all times of the day and night by the raucous racket that they make! So every time I’ve gone over the Macleod I’ve followed the noise. This has been an unfailing tactic in the past, so I went by history and experience. This did lead to a first in a lifetime sighting of a few Scaly-breasted Lorikeets mixing with the Musk and Rainbow Lorikeets, but no Swift Parrots.

pink flowering gum, musk lorikeet

Just for variety, one of the Musk Lorikeets, the noisy ones!

So today was my ‘4th time is the charm’ visit! The plan: walk quietly around the station looking up into the eucalypt trees for sight of birds, rather than listening for their sound. And it was the perfect plan. Even without the kind gentleman I would have come across them, but sharing it with someone else was nice. The excitement and satisfaction is better shared, otherwise random shrieks of joy and jumping up and down clenching fists frightens nearby innocent strangers and inspires parents to gather their children and retreat to a safe distance!

colours

So many different colours! It’s hard to take it all in!

So, the Swift Parrot. This flock is estimated to be up to 30 birds, so I’ve heard. The word has spread like wildfire among birders around the country, and people have traveled serious distances to see these gorgeous creatures. Most days I see people posting photos to Facebook of their experience with finding these quiet, well camouflaged birds. And the sightings have been very reliable every day for several weeks. And now I’m a part of it!

climbing, food

This Swift parrot climbing up the tree for more food

Why are we so excited and motivated to see those beauties? Well for a start they are just stunning! Pretty colours, graceful flight, acrobatic climbers and most significantly, they are endangered. These parrots breed only in Tasmania in the summer; during those months they can only be found in that state which is their home territory and the location of their nests in hollow trees. They migrate to south-eastern Australia, i.e. Victoria and maybe southern NSW, in the winter. They are considered nearly extinct in SA. Year old birds who won’t be breeding sometimes stay here for the summer while the majority of the population head back to Tassie.[1]

magazine, celebrity

I feel like I’ve met a celebrity in the Swift Parrot! I might never see them again, and here they are on the cover of Birdlife’s quarterly magazine!

So they’re endangered, only here in the winter and they’ve set up shop right here in the city, in the square between a strip of shops, a kindergarten, a school and a train station of all things! Not exactly the distant, peaceful, undisturbed bush/forest that you would imagine.

Noisy Miner, power struggle

The annoying Noisy Miners trying to shoo off the Swift Parrots…eventually they won, for now

Which gives me an opportunity to grind one of my favourite axes!

I take issue with people favouring the country to the exclusion of the city.

hello

Well Hello there! Nice to see you

Of course you all have the right to your own opinion. And to be clear, I grew up in the country, moved to the city when I was eighteen to study instead of moving to another country city, moved back to the country for a job when I was twenty two because my city option fell through, and moved back to the city because trying to live in the country was killing us when I was twenty six.

pretty

Just so pretty from every angle!!

I love the country. It really feeds me to find some green spaces. I love the city; my life is there and I love the energy and opportunities.

I don’t understand having a total block opinion of the city. It’s the greatest variety of types and cultures and one opinion can’t apply as a blanket. My husband came from the city, my pharmacist education came from the city, some of the best days of my life have been in the city. Of course growing up in the country was something I loved too.

territory wars, back off

Territory wars are rife around Macleod, Noisy Miners vs. anything else! This Swfit parrot is telling Noisy to back off!

Having a narrow view of those “city people” and “city drivers” is not well thought out. Most “city people” don’t live in the city, as in the CBD. Not many people live in the actual city. We live in suburbs of the city, just like you live in suburbs of country; there is pretty much no difference between where I live and you live in most cases.

The majority of “country people” and “country drivers” don’t live in the country, as in open plains and wide spaces. Not many people live in the actual country. And as above, suburbs vs suburbs.

flock, quiet

A flock of Swift Parrots – if they sit still it’s pretty easy to miss them!

Those in the CBD and those out in the open country can debate the issue, but most people forget that for the rest of us, we’re actually living more or less the same life whether we’re in a town or city.

I can find undisturbed bush land where you can’t hear any traffic and feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere within a 10 minute drive or bike ride from my house in the middle eastern suburbs. Once there you would have no idea that there’s a freeway just the other side, that you’re surrounded by housing. And at the centre of a lot of towns you’ll find it hard to find a park, be walking past plate glass buildings and have all the fumes of the cars just like the city.

rainbow lorikeet, pink flowering gum

Can’t forget a photo of the many Rainbow Lorikeets that rule the rest of the playground at Macleod

I think it’s time we agreed everything has it’s good and poor aspects, and stop being scared of what we don’t know. You never truly know until you go and experience the other side of life. So get out there, live on the other side.

pose

Another shot in bad light so it doesn’t do this bird justice, but what a pose!

It’s always pros and cons. If you didn’t have the city, you couldn’t live the life you enjoy. Without the country, you wouldn’t have many essentials that make up life as we know it.

tomorrow

What a day! What an experience! I’m tempted to head back tomorrow…..

Point being, if a flock of an endangered species of bird that can migrate to anywhere they like choose the suburbs of the city instead of the country, can it really be that bad?

[1] Museum Victoria Field Guide to Victorian Fauna, free app

Raymond Island

Hello again friends,

I know I’m a bit off my usual topics at the moment but I had an amazing four days away at Wattle Point on Lake Victoria near Paynesville last week, and I just want to relive it over and over!

Cuddly cute Koala soaking up the afternoon sun on Raymond Island

Cuddly cute Koala soaking up the afternoon sun on Raymond Island

Did I mention at any stage that I’ve gone back to work? I’m currently doing 3 shifts of 5 hours from 8.30am to 1.30pm each week on Monday, Thursday and Friday. I started back EXACTLY six whole months since I left and it’s going well.

Except that it sometimes cramps my style! I say this jokingly, mostly, but being off work with the whole week at your disposal apart from doctors appointments, psychologist appointments, classes and whatever activities I was up for had its great points especially in the last two months after I started lithium and was actually able to function!

The most adorable baby Koala learning to climb and cling to branched all by itself!

The most adorable baby Koala learning to climb and cling to branched all by itself!

And having to work around three shifts of work is fine, except when an extended trip comes up. I worked around my Thailand trip (more to come on this!) because I was booked in before I started back at work, but this week long holiday came up with my mum and dad and I had to just take the bits that I could get. My year long contract finishes next week so I want to make the most of being able to make money while I have the opportunity!

The majority of Koalas just seem like they're snuggled up in bed, gum tree

The majority of Koalas just seem like they’re snuggled up in bed

In the end I worked Monday, caught public transport 4 hours across Victoria to spend Tuesday and Wednesday with mum and dad, caught public transport back to work Thursday and Friday, then drove back with hubby and a great friend to spend Saturday and Sunday. Just a bit tiring but the lengths people go to for a holiday… 🙂

The first Koala of the day, quite at home next the the main road and the kids playground and low enough down to touch!

The first Koala of the day, quite at home next the the main road and the kids playground and low enough down to touch!

So the holiday. It was a fascinating opportunity that came up through the Otis Foundation, an incredible institution that raises money for women who have had breast cancer. The money goes towards providing holiday accommodation free of charge to the woman with breast cancer and her family. The idea of the holiday is to leave breast cancer and all of its trappings behind: chemo, radiotherapy, medicines, nausea, pain etc and just go on retreat from the real world for a while.

Sitting pretty, propped up on all side

Sitting pretty, propped up on all side

And it truly was a retreat! The house at Wattle Point was fabulous and absolutely suited to holiday makers with loads of windows looking out over Lake Victoria, an open fire for chilly nights, outdoor decking and BBQ, tables and chairs for outdoor dining, spa, window seat, hall book shelf and gorgeous gardens, pond, orchard, chook yard, canoes and trampoline. Amazing! And there were all kinds of birds, plus rabbits and hares running across the lawn!

Stunning!

Snuggled up with a branch for a prop

Snuggled up with a branch for a prop

Sleepy grandpa Koala with a "do not disturb' face

Sleepy grandpa Koala with a “do not disturb’ face

20 minutes from Paynesville, 20 minutes from Bairnsdale, 10 minutes from Blond Bay game reserve, 25 minutes from the silt jetties, Bluff lookout and the flora and fauna reserve.

So much to see and do!

I can see one hand dangling, and neither leg is hanging on...

I can see one hand dangling, and neither leg is hanging on…

But one of the most amazing of all of the local attractions is the Koala trail on Raymond Island. This is connected by chain ferry to Paynesville, an easy 5 minute crossover and then the delights begin!

Immediately! For free! And so thrilling and delightful! So on a perfectly sunny glorious morning we headed for Raymond Island.

Another Koala in an incomprehensible position with too many limbs lolling down!

Another Koala in an incomprehensible position with too many limbs lolling down!

Snoozing along a limb in the afternoon sun

Snoozing along a limb in the afternoon sun

The very first tree after you cross over the road from the ferry to the park had the first koala! Right there! Right in the fork of the tree! You don’t even have to look; it’s right there! And it’s not in an enclosure or a wildlife park; these are wild koalas put on the island nearly 100 years ago to prevent them from becoming extinct. I went through the park last Tuesday and again on Saturday with more people, and as hard as it was to believe, there were even more koalas the second time around!

Just postcard perfect! Thanks for turning your head just at the right moment

Just postcard perfect! Thanks for turning your head just at the right moment

This Koala climbed out here to feed...looked pretty precarious!

This Koala climbed out here to feed…looked pretty precarious!

Fluffy ears with a good view of the world from up in the sky

Fluffy ears with a good view of the world from up in the sky

I hope you enjoy these super cute delightful creatures as much as I did! I think from now on when I’m having a down day, these will be my cheer up photos!

The cutest, most alert koala of the day...check the next photo for what he did next!

The cutest, most alert koala of the day…check the next photo for what he did next!

Having a good ol scratch, oh to be that flexible!

Having a good ol scratch, oh to be that flexible!