Fun and games

I have been having a really happy time lately. Somehow things have been going really well for me. And for the first time I do believe that my bike riding has something to do with it.

I’ve been cynical of the supposed serotonin-increasing effect that exercise is meant to have on a person. I have experienced severe depression and so many people have told me to exercise, encouraged me to exercise, told me how exercise would help, and asked me if exercise was helping, and referred me to endless articles that supposedly prove how exercise should help me and would help me by increasing my serotonin.

I never got it.

I never felt that I was “better” after exercising, and specifically after riding my bike. I think this is mainly because in my lethargy and weight gain, exercise was so difficult to get started and to maintain that the sheer effort of exercise was greater than any benefit that may have been lurking way back there in the background. I didn’t feel a buzz, I didn’t feel elated, I wasn’t flying high or whatever it was that I was meant to be feeling. What exactly was I meant to be feeling, after all? Exercise was meant to increase my serotonin, yeah? What was the effect or end result of that increase in serotonin meant to be, exactly? What would it feel like if I had it? How would I know I had it? Would it be a direct effect? Would it occur at the time or would the effect be cumulative? I’m sure there are some answers out there but I’ve avoided looking at them, because for a good long while my bike riding was harder than it was anything else, and I just didn’t believe in the serotonin thing.

Until now. I haven’t lost any weight as yet, but half a dozen people have told me lately that they think I’ve lost weight; I’m hoping that means I’ve put on muscle and lost fat but time will tell. I’m a lot less lethargic thanks to returning to work, and having a regular schedule, and places to go, and people to see. Regular bike riding has definitely built up some kind of stamina in me, more than I would have had 13 months ago when I did my first ride with Wheel Women, and thought I would die from it! I view bike rides a lot more optimistically these days, I’m happy to say. This is based on my cumulative experience of so many rides; 60 rides in 59 weeks since March 2015, when I first got back on my bike.

This increased stamina has been improved on recently when I did a 4 day bike riding tour with Wheel Women through central northern Victoria. Anyone who is friends with me on Facebook will have seen the photos! To prepare for the tour I rode every day for 3 days over Easter in the week prior to the tour. I did this to prepare for the anticipated soreness I might experience when getting back on the bike day after day, and to try to build up the endurance that I would need on the tour. I didn’t ride long or far, but riding every day really did something. Then riding 62km, 43km, 37km and 28km for 4 consecutive days  on tour built up another kind of stamina. Arriving at this level of stamina has brought my riding up to another level, and since I got back its been like I’m riding on a cloud. I think it’s because the 3 rides I’ve done since I got back to town are less kilometres, bar one 40km ride, and less strenuous, also bar one ride with a few “gentle” hills, but overall they aren’t as tough as the rides I did while I was away and so I’m riding within my limit, inside my reserves and so it all feels easier!

And I love that!

There’s a saying in cycling, and probably in all sports, and maybe in life too that a certain thing doesn’t get easier as you develop your skills in it, you just get quicker at it. But at the moment I’m not only quicker at riding, but it feels like it’s easier too. And that feels awesome! Not all of it of course, hills are still a bit of a nemesis but I’m even going easier up hills! And I’ve changed my philosophy about hills since the tour. We did 40km or so one day that was more or less flat; my ideal situation, I thought. But now I think differently. Flat terrain just means that your legs go up, go down, go up, go down, rub in the middle on the bike seat, chafe from the bike shorts however comfy they are to start with, get tired, have no chance for a break unless you want to slow down, and it all gets tedious! I thought it was ideal, but now I can see the downsides to flat, and the upside to undulating and even hilly!

At least with undulations or little hills, you get a break while you’re rolling down the other side. It can be quite fun actually, a little up then a little rest on the way down. A little extra work for a little less work; it feels worth it. Plus it’s kind of a challenge for this girl from Flatlandria to operate the gears correctly to get up the incline without changing pedal rotation speed…it can be one way to keep your brain going when your legs aren’t loving the effort.

So here I am, having fun and games on my bike 🙂 I’ve even recently bought a T shirt that says ‘I want to ride my bicycle’. And I’m even heading out on my own after publishing this to do a ride that really sucked a month ago, just to test out my new theory that with the new stamina I’ve built up lately, it’s gonna be a whole heap easier, faster and more fun this time.

Wish me luck!

Serendipity

I had been looking forward to this past Saturday all week!

It was going to be my very first bird watching outing with BirdLife Australia, a group that I have recently joined as they seem to perfectly fit my need for like-minded people who are just as excited by finding birds as I am! They are a bird watching, photographing and conserving group and there are a bunch of great benefits to being a member! Exciting times!

So far all of my bird watching has been fairly ad hoc, on the run and just as I happen upon it. I’ve been fortunate to have wandered into many excellent birding locations by chance and happenstance, and a few excellent recommendations from friends have definitely given me a helping hand in the right direction. We are very blessed in Australia with birdlife, and Victoria is no exception. Luckily many varieties of birds still happily inhabit our backyards and local parks so that often we don’t need to make an effort at all to see many birds of all colours and sizes and sounds.

I joined this group a little while back and mostly for their regular birding outings as I still have a fair amount of caution about diving into thickly wooded areas alone! I’ve been testing out my nerves lately about going out alone into nature, and I’ve found out about myself that I’m okay walking around grassy open parks, okay with going into thicker wooded areas if it’s just a short section of the park, happy in any parks near a busy road and occasionally with full mobile reception and fully charged battery I’ll brave further off road. And so far I’ve been perfectly fine, so I’m gradually getting less jumpy and wide-eyed 🙂

My generalised anxiety has mostly abated with the treatment that I’m on for bipolar and depression but being a female alone in a area where no-one can see me, probably no-one can hear me scream and where I could potentially although quite unlikely but still scarily be attacked is one residual fear that I can’t quite shake off. I’m getting a lot better but I guess it probably is a safe and self-preserving habit to have. Especially since I’m taking most of my excursions during the middle of the day, which isn’t a peak time for other people to be walking through parks and gardens. Anywho, point being, I’d rather go with a bunch of strangers that I’ve never met than by myself 🙂 Especially when every one of the strangers is as interested or more in birding as me, and probably not so much in the other people around them.

Having said that, if I can coerce my husband or one of my friends to go with me, and they’re available during the same non-working hours as me, I’d definitely take that over the stranger business!

Moving on. My other motivation for joining a bird watching group was their expertise in identifying and locating birds and their intimate knowledge of birds and where to go and what to find when.

The particular sub group who had organised this bird watching trip are especially interested in photography which is perfect for me!

I’ve taken the opportunity while I am off work and free during the day to take an eight week course in photography. I saw a flyer for the course when I was out on a bird watching walk at Blackburn Lakes and it looked like exactly what I’d been needing.

The poster asked if I had a digital SLR camera but was still using it on auto? Why yes I was. It asked if I was frustrated with my photos and wanted to learn how to master my camera? Absolutely! So I signed up and started the classes. And I have learned a LOT! Still more to go but I’ve done five classes and I have already been able to apply a lot of what I’ve learned to my photography but I need to practice, practice, practice. I’m also learning the imperfections of my camera as I go along, and my list of what I need is growing…I can see that an upgrade will be in the cards some day but in the meantime I’m just enjoying being able to take better photos than what I could before 🙂

So, bird watching group found and joined; photography course turned up at the right time with the needed skill set; and now I’m all set for a day out enjoying the best of both! Yay for me!

So Saturday morning, Serendip Sanctuary, somewhere short of the You Yangs. I woke up to a good going fog and it was consistent all the way along highway and kept up to some degree most of the day. It was interesting to see how the fog showed up in photos taken at long zoom.

The Serendip Sanctuary wetlands, gum tree, green grass, water

The Serendip Sanctuary wetlands

A good drive with no traffic later, I pull into the car park. High excitement! Followed by a few moments of oh my goodness I am way out of my league! when I saw all the tripods, enormous camera lenses, binoculars, camouflage, neutral toned clothing and vibe of general expertise! Oh no I’m the amateur surrounded by experts! But everyone was very reassuring and helpful and in fact very keen to teach and show me the ropes.

Our group of bird watching and photography enthusiasts, all much more well equipped than me! lens, camera, camouflage, tripod

Our group of bird watching and photography enthusiasts, all much more well equipped than me!

Before I even got into the park I had seen several emus grazing in the paddock next to the sanctuary! Awesome! I’ve hardly ever seen emus in the wild; how exhilarating!

Emus in the wild! Not a great photo at full zoom and the fog really shows up at that distance!, grassland, bushland

Emus in the wild! Not a great photo at full zoom and the fog really shows up at that distance!

It turned out to be the most amazing day out! I think one day back a few months ago around Kialla Lakes I counted 25 species of birds in one day. Someone else is the group was counting on Saturday and I heard that they got over 50! Of course some we can’t take much credit for; some sections of the park were enclosures of captive birds, so that was easy game but that didn’t take any of the enjoyment out of seeing birds that I haven’t seen before.

Fun fun fun! I highly recommend this beautiful sanctuary; I find it absolutely astonishing that so many beautiful birds and animals can be accessed for nothing at all! Zero charge; amazing! There are enclosures, open park land, paddocks, waterways and wetlands, hides walking tracks; everything you need for bird watching.

One of the hides looking out over the wetlands, gum trees, swamp

One of the hides looking out over the wetlands

So of course I have to add some photos, but I promise only to post birds I have seen/posted ever before. I’m a bit disappointed with my photos, a lot had annoying camera shake which has me warming to the idea of a tripod but still not sure how it’ll work for me. I’ll have to keep thinking about it…

Ok not new but I am very proud of how this photo of a pair of Chestnut Teal ducks turned out!, wooden post, trees

Ok not new but I am very proud of how this photo of a pair of Chestnut Teal ducks turned out!

Overall I think my shutter speed was too slow for a lot of photos so I ended up with a lot of blurry shaky photos; but at least I know how to improve my shots next time.

Another shot that I am very happy with, I think the bird is a White-Browed Scrubwren but happt to take other opinions, gum tree, branch

Another shot that I am very happy with, I think the bird is a White-Browed Scrubwren but happy to take other opinions

Male Red-Rumped Parrot showing all of his fabulous colours; of course it is easier to get great shots in a small enclosure, bird wire, bird feeder

Male Red-Rumped Parrot showing all of his fabulous colours; of course it is easier to get great shots in a small enclosure

Female Red-Rumped Parrot, very difficult to find through the viewfinder!, green grass, dew

Female Red-Rumped Parrot, very difficult to find through the viewfinder!

Definitely not new, but I love this picture of a Willy Wagtail at rest for a brief second, wooden post

Definitely not new, but I love this picture of a Willy Wagtail at rest for a brief second

Okay I officially take back my statement that I will only post new birds; I just can’t stick to it!

Cute little bunny rabbits hopping around the enclosures, green grass, paddock

Cute little bunny rabbits hopping around the enclosures

I find male Superb Blue Wrens are always delightful to photograph no matter how many times I get the chance, green grass

I find male Superb Blue Wrens are always delightful to photograph no matter how many times I get the chance

I got such a great series of this New Holland Honeyeater but this is one of my favourites, gum tree, blossoms

I got such a great series of this New Holland Honeyeater but this is one of my favourites

Beautiful Cape Barren female goose with gosling in the nest

Beautiful Cape Barren female goose with gosling in the nest

Now this really is a first, an apparently an uncommon sight: the White-Winged Chough!, gum trees

Now this really is a first, an apparently an uncommon sight: the White-Winged Chough!

A Black-winged Stilt mirrored in the wetlands, not as good a photo as I would have liked; reeds, water

A Black-winged Stilt mirrored in the wetlands, not as good a photo as I would have liked

My favourite photo of a male Superb Blue Wren, unfortunately affected by reflection from the glass, swamp, window sill

My favourite photo of a male Superb Blue Wren, unfortunately affected by reflection from the glass

I have been trying for a while now to get a good picture of a Welcome Swallow flying and this is the best yet; still have a ways to go, swamp, wetland

I have been trying for a while now to get a good picture of a Welcome Swallow flying and this is the best yet; still have a ways to go

A beautiful example of the many Magpie Geese around the waterways, wetland, swamp

A beautiful example of the many Magpie Geese around the waterways

A very cute Wallaby checking out the surroundings, one of several lounging around, leaves, dirt

A very cute Wallaby checking out the surroundings, one of several lounging around

The easiest shot of Red-Browed Finch ever; of course they were safely in their enclosure from which they could come and go, but we could not!, drinking, dish of water

The easiest shot of Red-Browed Finch ever; of course they were safely in their enclosure from which they could come and go, but we could not!

Another new kind of duck! YAY! This one is the male Freckled Duck, it was quite shy so I was not able to get a good clear shot, grasses, red nose

A new kind of duck! YAY! This one is the male Freckled Duck, it was quite shy so I was not able to get a good clear shot

This Beach Stone-Curlew did NOT want to be photographed! He just kept walking away

This Beach Stone-Curlew did NOT want to be photographed! He just kept walking away

An unexpected delight! Spotted tiger quolls playing together, branches

An unexpected delight! Spotted tiger quolls playing together

What a beautiful multicoloured Buff Banded Rail! A lovely discovery, green grass

What a beautiful multicoloured Buff Banded Rail! A lovely discovery

For a duck afficionado, this Musk Duck is just amazing! What strange characteristics it has!, rocks, green grass

For a duck afficionado, this Musk Duck is just amazing! What strange characteristics it has!

Another delightfully colourful bird, the Blue-Faced Honeyeater - none of my shots were in clear focus but this shows the colours at least

Another delightfully colourful bird, the Blue-Faced Honeyeater – none of my shots were in clear focus but this shows the colours at least

An inscrutable Tawny Frogmouth sitting on a log on the ground, safe and sound in his enclosure, grey, brown

An inscrutable Tawny Frogmouth sitting on a log on the ground, safe and sound in his enclosure

Red-Cheeked Honeyeater, very common but still a fun shot, eucalypt

Red-Cheeked Wattlebird; very common but still a fun shot

I wish I could have got a clear shot but any shot is great for my very first time seeing Brolgas, especially when there is an adorable baby Brolga!, fences, gates, green grass

I wish I could have got a clear shot but any shot is great for my very first time seeing Brolgas, especially when there is an adorable baby Brolga!

Also the first close-ish photo that I have gotten! I was told that it is a Black Shouldered Kite; I have no idea, birds of prey are an area I have no experience in at all!, dead tree

Also the first close-ish photo that I have gotten! I was told that it is a Black Shouldered Kite; I have no idea, birds of prey are an area I have no experience in at all!

I have an amendment to make to a previous post from Lake Drysdale where I wrote that I saw and photographed Masked Lapwing plover chicks. I was mistaken; they are in fact their own species, the Red-Kneed Dotterels.

Entertaining little Red-Kneed Dotterels fishing along the shoreline, bushes, march

Entertaining little Red-Kneed Dotterels fishing along the shoreline

One slight conflict of birding with experienced birders is that I am ecstatic at every bird I see, and they are only really excited if it seems to be an unusual or interesting bird…ah well, I still made use of their expertise and knowledge so no complaining 🙂

I am told this was another Black Shouldered Kite; I will have to check it out for myself. One slight conflict of birding with experienced birders is that I am ecstatic at every bird I see, and they are only really excited if it seems to be an unusual or interesting bird...ah well, gum tree

I am told this was another Black Shouldered Kite; I will have to check it out for myself. 

A gorgeous little Black-Fronted Dotterel fishing along the shoreline, water, reflection,

A gorgeous little Black-Fronted Dotterel fishing along the shoreline

Wow! I do not know what to say about this odd looking male Australian Bustard! Quite unique!, bushes, green grass

Wow! I do not know what to say about this odd looking male Australian Bustard! Quite unique!

And finally, just for fun, a cheeky New Holland Honeyeater posing for us while dancing up and down on the window

And finally, just for fun, a cheeky New Holland Honeyeater posing for us while dancing up and down on the window