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

Advertisements

Magical Monday

New bird alert! New bird alert! Excitement, excitement!

And what a relief it is on a day like this, a week like this, to feel excitement!

I haven’t been having a very fun time of it, to be honest. Everything is a bit or a lot hard, tedious, effortful, difficult, troublesome, not worth it. Getting up is a drag, showering is a hideous ordeal, eating is just tiring, deciding to do anything is impossible! I’ve been sleeping a lot, avoiding thinking about my to-do list a lot, and just skimming through the days til bedtime.

It’s not fun!

But here is an effort, however tiny and minuscule, yet enormous and huge, to get out. Just for a little bit. Just to have done something other than be at home; unproductively, unsuccessfully, un-impressively at home.

It’s all in my new direction from the psychiatrist – getting outside, enjoying the sunshine. I’m trying to do my bit since he has turned my life around. I owe him that much.

I realise I also owe that much, or more, to my husband as well so here it comes Beautiful: I promise to try your caring suggestions and get a bit motivated and interested if I can!

Ah, IF. The stories you could tell…

So in the late afternoon on Monday I gathered myself up, stuffed myself into some clothes (hopefully matching!), got the car out and took myself down to my old favourite birding spot; Blackburn Lake Sanctuary.

I can’t believe how long it has been since I was down here last! I’m definitely going to make more of an effort to get here more often because let’s face it, in suburbia anywhere it’s a great privilege to have some green spaces nearby for an escape/retreat/sanctuary/reset.

And every time it rewards me so greatly. This time I didn’t even get past the car park for the first hour!

I heard some lorikeets, assumed they were Rainbows but then caught a glimpse and they had shorter tails and red on their head! New bird!!!!

They were truly beautiful, and fun, and acrobatic, and shrieky, and a challenge to get still enough for a decent focused photo!

Honestly I felt as much satisfaction from changing the settings to get a better picture as I did in finding a never-before-seen-or-photographed-bird!

I changed to shutter mode to still their actions after using the programmable mode gave me a too-slow shutter speed and was too slow to focus, and was too dark and too grainy! Then I had to keep adjusting the ISO and exposure as I followed the birds around depending on whether I was shooting up at the outside of the tree in full sun, shooting under the canopy up into the dark shadow or straight across at a neighbouring tree…etc.

I was pretty proud of some of the photos I got. I always recognise that chance and luck have quite a bit to do with the photos, but having purposely set the variables, I do take pride in the fact that the photo was taken by chance and the settings were perfect for that chance!

So here’s a few of my favourites! Hope you can enjoy looking at them as much as I did taking them!

We start in some gorgeous wattle trees where there’s some pretty fierce competition from cranky Red Wattlebirds and Noisy Miners, plus some quiet guests in the lovely Galahs.

New bird! The gorgeous Musk Lorikeet - vibrant red forehead, cheek and tip of beak, wattle

New bird! The gorgeous Musk Lorikeet – vibrant red forehead, cheek and tip of beak

Musk Lorikeets are apparently notoriously hard to find because like other lorikeets the only time they’re quiet is when they’re eating! Add to this their preference for eating on top of the canopy where they not only blend in with their green underbelly but are hidden by layers of branches and leaves! So I feel pretty lucky that they choose these low growing trees to feed from.

Pretty pretty pretty! I love the yellow patches just above the wing and the blue head!

Pretty pretty pretty! I love the yellow patches just above the wing and the blue head!

I always appreciate it when my birds kindly move to the dead trees and branches – it’s very convenient to me! Thanks for the photo op!

The perfect camoflage - despite the colourful patches, when the lorikeet turns its back it becomes invisible!

The perfect camouflage – despite the colourful patches, when the lorikeet turns its back it becomes invisible!

This is a photo that makes me really proud of what I have achieved! To shoot past all of the sticks and leaves to get a clear focus on the bird is a very tricky thing, and something I wouldn’t have been able to do before my photography course – kudos to Master Your Camera’s Wendy!

This is a photo that makes me really proud of what I have achieved! To shoot past all of the sticks and leaves to get a clear focus on the bird is a very tricky thing, and something I wouldn't have been able to do before my photography course

The dangling upside down antics of these Musk Lorikeets are so delightful! In this shot you can make out the brownish yellow patch on its back

This photo is typical of my excitement when I find a new bird. At first I just snap away furiously to get a shot, any shot. Then I realise they’re not going anywhere and slow down and start adjusting the settings. Then I can take a breath, stop and actually look at composing a shot for the best photos of the day – this is just about it!

This photo is typical of my excitement when I find a new bird. At first I just snap away furiously to get a shot, any shot. Then I realise they're not going anywhere and slow down and start adjusting the settings. Then I can take a breath, stop and actually look at composing a shot for the best photos of the day

Always dangling for the best bite to eat! Love all of the different colours.

One downside of shooting through the exterior is that you can get foggy patches in your photos!

I love this photo for the underbelly of the bird, something that isn't always photographed but I find it fascinating!

I love this photo for the underbelly of the bird, something that isn’t always photographed but I find it fascinating!

Then the Red Wattlebirds and Noisy Miners got too overpowering and my new friends all flew off squawking and squarking! Luckily they didn’t go too far and settled in a nearby eucalyptus and a different wattle tree. This was perfect as they were in the clear path of the afternoon sun which always makes everything look beautiful and good as new!

And towards the end I get this shot! Love it, this shows so much character of this bird!, gum tree, eucalypt

And towards the end I get this shot! Love it, this shows so much character of this bird!

Saturday and Monday

I have been having some great days lately.

At my last visit with the psychiatrist he assured me that despite having poor energy and motivation, he felt I was 75-80% of the way to recovery.

He increased my lithium dose minutely and organised to have a blood level taken after 5 days at the new dose. That was Saturday morning. I see him this Thursday and I’m feeling so excited because for the first time in a long time I feel like I’m making real, sustainable, predictable, reliable progress.

I feel like I’m getting my life back!!

This is a big statement but it’s really, truly real.

I’m not all the way there but I’m so much better than I have been for a long time.

So Saturday I had the blood test. My long disused pharmacy knowledge is begging to be used so excuse the following jibber jabber.

Lithium is a tricky medication. For a lot of medication, you start at a certain dose, then increase by certain increments and the effect of the medication increases at the same rate as the dose to a set maximum dose.

For lithium and a few other medications, you start at a certain dose, then increase at ever smaller and smaller amounts because the removal of the drug from the body is limited and once the removal process is used up, more dose increases quickly lead to toxicity. For these medications there may not be a set maximum dose for all people as it depends on an individual person’s removal processes, or metabolism.

So a blood concentration or level is used to ensure that the medication is between under dose and overdose limits. These levels are determined during development of the medication for use or during clinical trials.

The blood test has to be taken at the right time so that the result is meaningful. In the case of lithium, the range we use to determine whether the drug is working but not toxic is established as a “trough” level. This means you take the blood test just before the next dose is due when most of the medication should have been removed by the body’s metabolism. If the body’s metabolism has been used up or “saturated” then the trough level will be higher than it should be and the patient is at risk of toxic side effects like blurred vision, unsteadiness, possible vomiting, diarrhoea etc. In fact the patient may already be experiencing these so the doctor will talk to the patient about side effects that they are experiencing plus look at the blood level result to get a clearer idea of what is going on.

The other part of taking a blood test is that it has to be timed correctly to when the dose was last increased. If the dose is increased today and we take a blood test today, the effect of that increase won’t be shown. If we look at the level and increase the dose based on that, we will have acted prematurely and risk the patient getting toxic side effects. So with each medication, there is a length of time between a dose change and when the level should be taken called the steady state. Consider it to be the time it takes for the higher dose to come to equilibrium or to spread out through the body so that it is present everywhere in the body to an equal degree.

For lithium, steady state is 5 days so the blood test must be taken at least 5 days after the last dose change.

Well that’s got that out of my system!

So to have the blood test at trough state, I have to be at the blood collection centre by 8.15am on Saturday. The reason for this is that I took my medications the night before at 8.15pm. Meaning I had to wake up at 7.30am! Good plan, very hard to follow through!! But I had the additional incentive that my hubby was going mountain bike riding and had promised to take me along so that I could go bird watching. I’d wanted to head out to King Lake for bird watching for a while so I was excited for that.

So I forced myself out of bed, through the shower and into the car without breakfast. I also had to have a fasting blood test. I packed my tablets and some food in with my fleece-lined coat and camera and off we went.

I won’t show a lot of my photos from Saturday at Smith’s Gully, just the new birds. But I wanted to say that we left home at 8am and returned at 4pm and I did okay!! This is so exciting for me! I didn’t tire out, I didn’t sit in the car and wait for the boys to get back, I didn’t feel exhausted, I didn’t feel like I couldn’t do what I wanted to do!

I did have a nap when we got home, then went out again for tea with my hubby. But I had walked and walked, I took photos for hours, it was pretty freezing cold, I didn’t have any lollies or chocolates or my other usual treats, I didn’t get grumpy or tired or feel worn out.

What a great day!!

The beautiful Queenstown Cemetery housing old-time gold rush prospecters

The beautiful Queenstown Cemetery housing old-time gold rush prospecters

Gorgeous yellow bulbs growing wild and free in the bush

Gorgeous yellow bulbs growing wild and free in the bush

I loved the beautiful gum bark, looks so much like a watercolour painting, and serendipitously shot an Eastern Rosella!

I loved the beautiful gum bark, looks so much like a watercolour painting, and serendipitously shot an Eastern Rosella! See top left corner

Mother and baby Eastern Grey Kangaroo across the paddock, as soon as I pointed my camera they all looked! So observant, gum trees, grass

Mother and baby Eastern Grey Kangaroo across the paddock, as soon as I pointed my camera they all looked! So observant

Large male Eastern Grey Kangaroo bounding across the paddock, grass, trees

Large male Eastern Grey Kangaroo bounding across the paddock

Beautiful country scene in Smith's Gully, lily pond under the gum trees, grass, reeds

Beautiful country scene in Smith’s Gully, lily pond under the gum trees

One of the many beautiful scenes of the winter sun showing through the gum trees

One of the many beautiful scenes of the winter sun showing through the gum trees

Group of Eastern Grey Kangaroos bounding across the green grass, gum tree

Group of Eastern Grey Kangaroos bounding across the green grass

A tiny litting bird that I've been trying to identify with a good photo for a while! I believe it is a Striated Thornbill; alternate opinions welcomed :)

A tiny flitting bird that I’ve been trying to identify with a good photo for a while! I believe it is a Striated Thornbill; alternate opinions welcomed 🙂

Striated Thornbill with a grub, the longest one sat still all day!!, tree branch

Striated Thornbill with a grub, the longest one sat still all day!!

Male Superb Fairy Wren in the bush, not new but always stunning!, grass, trees, bushes

Male Superb Fairy Wren in the bush, not new but always stunning!

A gorgeous Treecreeper that I have never seen before, I think its the White-Throated Treecreeper, tree branch, leaves

A gorgeous Treecreeper that I have never seen before, I think its the White-Throated Treecreeper

An accidentally amazing shot of a Grey Fantail in full flight!, tree, branch

An accidentally amazing shot of a Grey Fantail in full flight!

A day of rain, cloud, and the odd gorgeous blue sky :), dam, green grass, gum trees, clouds,

A day of rain, cloud, and the odd gorgeous blue sky 🙂

Mother and Joey Eastern Grey Kangaroo, so beautiful! green grass, eucalyptus

Mother and Joey Eastern Grey Kangaroo, so beautiful!

Beautifully delicate wattle sprig - looks like Spring!

Beautifully delicate wattle sprig – looks like Spring!

Sunshine, blue sky and everything is green, green, green, gum trees, shadows, green grass

Sunshine, blue sky and everything is green, green, green

Then Monday, after a slower Sunday. I’d organised to go for a walk with my Grandma at Blackburn Lakes. A couple of new birds, and so many kookaburras!!

A Noisy Miner is a very common sight but I just love this cute shot!, pink flowering gum tree

A Noisy Miner is a very common sight but I just love this cute shot!

I find these sky shots really fetching, I have taken a few lately but this one really draws me in, gum tree

I find these sky shots really fetching, I have taken a few lately but this one really draws me in

Australian Magpie, common but still awesome

Australian Magpie, common but still awesome

Juvenile Australian Magpie singing away, gum trees

Juvenile Australian Magpie singing away

A nesting mother Dove or Pidgeon sitting on its nest

A nesting mother Dove or Pidgeon sitting on its nest

Pair of Kookaburras sitting in a tree, gum tree, euclypt

Pair of Kookaburras sitting in a tree

Common Noisy Miner again, but how pretty are those wings? Sadly mis-timed! dead tree

Common Noisy Miner again, but how pretty are those wings? Sadly mis-timed!

Gorgeous pink native flower, not sure what but its so cute

Gorgeous pink native flower, not sure what but its so cute

Beautiful serene Blackburn Lake

Beautiful serene Blackburn Lake

Pretty Blue Iris flower probably sown by birds

Pretty Blue Iris flower probably sown by birds

Some kind of fungal growth on a tree

Some kind of fungal growth on a tree

Is this our state floral anthem? Its a type of native bell flower

Is this our state floral anthem? Its a type of native bell flower

A new bird to me, the Golden Whistler, a stunning bright yellow!, gum tree

A new bird to me, the Golden Whistler, a stunning bright yellow!

Pretty little Flame Robin showing off its bright colours

Pretty little Flame Robin showing off its bright colours

Westerfolds Park

In spite of a grey day threatening rain and a brisk winter chill wind we headed out to Westerfolds Park last Saturday morning. We’d been out once in the autumn and really enjoyed this beautiful retreat but wanted to come back and see the other side of the park.

With our coats zipped tight and camera at the ready we headed off around a loop looking for birds.

The main sight for the morning was rainbow lorikeets. They were everywhere, barreling in between the trees using their wings as rudders, calling raucously from the trees, dangling from branches, and always amazing me with how their bright primary colours can camouflage so perfectly with the creams and khaki greens and greys of the gum trees.

rainbow lorikeets, Westerfolds Park, gum tree

Trio of Rainbow Lorikeets in a gum tree at Westerfolds Park

acrobatic rainbow lorikeets, westerfolds park

Rainbow Lorikeets doing acrobatics to find lunch

Rainbow lorikeet camouflaged amongst the gum trees

Rainbow lorikeet camouflaged amongst the gum trees

We also saw a new bird that I haven’t seen before, which turns out to be a Grey Butcherbird. On first glimpse it looks like something between a Kookaburra and a Magpie.

grey butcherbird, westerfolds park

Grey Butcherbird found in Westerfolds Park

And I think that this is an immature Grey Butcherbird but not completely sure...

And I think that this is an immature Grey Butcherbird but not completely sure…

Then a delightful kookaburra settled comfortably on a branch above the creek

laughing kookaburra, soft and fluffy

Soft and fluffy Laughing Kookaburra sitting on a branch

We found some beautiful Crimson Rosellas disguised in the green grass

eastern rosellas, green grass

Eastern Rosellas blending into the green grass

And another one up in the trees

eastern rosella, gum trees

Gorgeous Eastern Rosella high up in the tree

Always fun to see some common birds and get some good shots

australian magpie, lunch, hunting, green grass

Australian Magpie on the lookout for lunch

noisy miner, branches

Cute little noisy miner scraping its beak on a branch

We attempted to get a photo of one of the many swallows flitting and diving all around us – kudos to my hubby for getting some pretty good shots!!

welcome swallow, flitting and diving

Flitting and diving Welcome Swallow

welcome swallow, fast, agile

Another fast and agile Welcome Swallow

Again, have to share the photography credits with my husband who is a better photographer than me and was firing on all cylinders with his bird spotting too!!

All in all a fun morning out 🙂