Birds in my backyard

After last week’s post about a newcomer bird in the garden, it occured to me it might be nice to show you some of my regulars. So here they are, in no particular order.

A young blue-faced honey eater. The green around the eye goes blue as they age

Adult blue-faced honey eater

A magpie lark, also known as a mud lark, or a pee wee

Scaly-breasted lorikeet – smaller but bolder than the rainbows

Crested pigeon. Dumb as a brick

A baby butcher bird begs for food

An adult butcher bird fans his tail

An adult magpie ignores the baby’s begging

A baby galah tries his luck with mum (who’s not very interested)

A long-billed corella. We get the other variety, too

Gee, and that’s just a handful. I’ll show you some more another time.

 

 

Here we go again

We the Australian consumers are being shafted again. I have to admit we should be used to it. We pay soooo much more for just aboout everything, really, than people in the USA or UK. Cars, ride-on mowers, computers, TVs, books, DVDs. This is not just the exchange rate. Major items like cars and mowers cost TWICE as much as what they do in the US, even allowing for exchange rate, and shipping. Books have always been much more expensive here than overseas etc etc. Even Netflix costs. Oh yeah, Netflix. Higher costs and crappy choices, not a patch on what’s out there in the USA.

This particular rant is the result of Amazon’s (understandable) decision to not collect GST for the Federal Government. Here’s a quote from The Australian newspaper.

“Earlier today Amazon announced that it would block Australian consumers from having access to hundreds of millions of items and forcing them to choose from a slimmed down offer on the Australian Amazon site.

Australian shoppers will be locked out from buying their favourite goods on Amazon’s US and UK platforms — which offer hundreds of millions of items for sale — after changes to the GST on online purchases forced the online retailer to partly quarantine Australia from its international network.”

And you can read all about it here.

“Slimmed down” is damn right. Amazon’s new Australian store is a joke. We buy online for a lot of things, both for price and availability, but Amazon (AU) doesn’t have the range we need. Living in a small town is nice, but the downside is choice of retailers. For example, apart from the limited offerings in Big W and Target, there is one bookstore in the Bay. One. Guess how much shelf space is allocatd to SFF? I buy my ebooks from Amazon Australia because I have no choice (that is, I can’t buy from any other Amazon store). The exchange rate plus the GST means I pay much more for books than I would through Amazon US. Yes, we can buy through other vendors. But (you’ll love this – we did) we cannot buy ebooks from B&N because we live in Australia! Can I have another ! please? I mean, really, WTF? It’s an ebook, delivered through the ether. Kobo, at least, has grabbed a brain and will take our money AND deliver a book, and Smashwords never embarked on such silliness.

GST is a good idea. It places the tax burden on everyone on a pay-as-you-spend basis. BUT… if you’re going to ask a multi-national to collect tax for you, then the option to withdraw service is there. It would cost Amazon a fortune to collect tax for the Australian Government. I’m not suggesting the company shouldn’t pay tax. But I think it’s important to remember that Amazon doesn’t actually manufacture anything. It’s just a shop front. People who actually make the stuff (like me when I write a book) already pay tax if we make a sale. Amazon’s profits come from providing that shop front. If all the highly-paid accountants and financial advisers got together I’m sure they could come up with an equitable solution, like asking Amazon to pay corporate tax as (say) a percentage of revenue made through the Australian online store. Or something. That way, the long-suffering Australian consumer wouldn’t have to be shoved into the backwoods yet again.

Back to local news.

I had a new visitor to the Magic Pool Fence the other day, a bird I’d never seen before. Having taken pictures, I went through the bird book and discovered it was a spangled drongo (true). This one seemed pretty happy around the humans and was pleased to pick up a piece of the meat I threw out for the butcher birds. A very handsome creature, mainly black with iridescent blue-green tail, and the same colour ‘spangles’.

I’m not sure why they called it a drongo, though. Seemed quite bright to me.

We’ve also had a solitary kookaburra hanging around for most of the day. That’s unusual. They’re gregarious birds that notmally hang out in families. I suppose he wanted to chill by himself for a while. He certainly wasn’t injured or ill – happy to eat morsels thrown out for him and could fly well enough. He disappeared at night fall but returned mid-morning. That has happened for several days.

We get a lot of different birds in our yard. It’s always a pleasure to see them.

And let’s end with the ever-present rainbow lorikeets.

 

 

 

Super blue blood moon? Ho hum

Blood moon in eclipse

The Big Event of the week was, of course, the Super Blue Blood Eclipse moon. Forgive my jaundiced lack of excitement. The so-called super moon is just a shade closer to the Earth than a common-or-garden-every-28-days full moon. Nobody makes a song and dance when the Moon is at apogee (furthest away from Earth), but that happens regularly, too. The blue moon is so named because it’s the second full moon in a calendar month. A month is something we humans dreamed up to divide the year (the time it takes for the Earth to travel around the Sun) into more manageable pieces. It has no further meaning. And the blood moon (the reddish hue) is because of the eclipse. Up there’s one I took earlier (2014, actually).

Yes, I looked at the gallery of wonderful blood moon photos online. I had to wonder about some of them, but anyway, here’s mine.

Bat flies in front of super blue blood moon (honest)

Eclipses do have an effect on wildlife, though. Even lunar eclipses. Maybe it’s some sort of mystical crow thing, but the local crows must have been planning their corroboree for weeks. They started group singing at around 1am (just about the time the lunar eclipse finished) and kept it (and me) up for hours. Some of the buggers still hadn’t gone to bed at 6am. I hope they had the mother of all hangovers.

For some time now I haven’t talked much on my own blog about what I do to entertain myself and maybe earn enough for the occasional bottle of wine, since I retired. Oh, didn’t I tell you? I write books. Sometimes people buy them, but the numbers have dropped off over time. Too much competition, not enough marketing. But I digress. I also take photos. Sometimes (but not often) people buy them, too.

In my writing world two things have happened.

The first is that after a hiatus of quite a few months, I’ve plunged into a new book. I’d had the beginnings of this story sitting in my work-in-progress file for several years. I stopped because I didn’t know where it was headed, thought about re-purposing it for another story line, then decided it was fine where it was. I explained it all in greater depth here. I’m ploughing along with it. As usual, writing isn’t easy. But challenges are great, aren’t they? Keep the little grey cells active and they’ll ward off Alzheimers.

The second thing that happened was that one of my books from last year WON AN AWARD!!!! Read all about it here. The SFR Galaxy Awards aren’t the same as the Booker, or the Nebula Award. I don’t expect to be the next great best-seller. It’s an award in a niche sub-genre (Science Fiction Romance). Books are not nominated, and it’s not a popularity contest. The judges are readers/reviewers in the genre and they give an award to whichever books they want to, based on their own criteria. For the Greater Good won an award for the most coveted cat. Whatever. That particular judge decided to showcase my book, and I’m surprised and humbled – and yes, pleased as punch. It has reinvigorated my enthusiasm for writing, which can be a rather thankless business. For more information about the book, including where you can buy it, go here.

All this boost to creativity is a great thing. I realised the reason I hadn’t finished that next book in this series was because my original concept for moving from the finished book (Kuralon Rescue) to the next book was flawed. The character dynamic didn’t work. Once I’d sorted that out, the cover I’d had done for Kuralon Rescue didn’t quite work anymore – although the story was fine. I decided to redo the cover myself. That had the additional benefit of allowing me to hone my Photoshop skills. The result is at left and I’m very happy with it.

I’ll be doing the cover for the new book myself, too.

Also after a considerable hiatus, I’ve taken out the camera again. The lorikeets appear to have had a Summer break from the pool fence, but they’re back. We’ve made friends with the local magpies and it’s quite funny to see one running over to say hello when we go outside. The youngster is quite happy to take a morsel of bacon rind from our hands, but the parents are a trifle more wary. We also have the usual crowd of butcher birds, noisy miners, blue-faced honey eaters, and the rarer pale-headed rosellas, as well as an occasional kookaburra, crested pigeons, pee wees and so on. I’m glad to say the koels and the channel-billed cuckoos have buggered off back to PNG (they’re migratory).

But we can’t get rid of the bloody crows.

So… here’s a few photos.

Scaly-breasted lorikeet – slightly smaller than the rainbow lorikeets

Blue-faced honey eater

They’re not always cute little guys

Pair bonding calls for grooming

Young butcher bird – they go black and white

Pale-headed rosella

 

 

 

Back into life as we know it

After all the travel dramas, life has fizzled out to its pretty boring routine. Except for the rain. 2017 will go down as a ‘feast or famine’ result in the rain gauge. Was it only this year that we bolted back home from Northern Queensland with tropical cyclone Debbie on our tail? After receiving only 26mm in January and February, which are supposed to be our wetter months, Debbie dumped 390mm in March. But after she’d emptied herself, the skies dried up. Winter is always the ‘dry’ here in Hervey Bay, but this was a drought. The grass (I couldn’t possibly call it a lawn) went brown, and even my large rosemary bush turned up its toes.

After the rain there’s a rainbow – and that’s the TV aerial

The rain was waiting for us when we got home from Europe. In the space of 3 weeks in October we had 561mm, and in November we had another 235mm. That’s about 32 inches in the old measure – Perth doesn’t get much more than that in a year. La Nina has arrived and we’re looking ahead at a long wet season. We’re not really complaining – that’s life in the sub-tropics. But I’ll have a little complain. The weeds, of course, burst out of dormancy long before the grass, and mowing was out of the question – the ride-on would have sunk down to its axles in the mud in a few minutes. As soon as the ground had dried a little the mower decided it was time for a refit. New blades and new bearings were (eventually) obtained. This is Queensland, after all. And the jungle was kind of tamed.

That’s not a permanent water feature

That long drought meant we had a large contingent of birds arriving at the pool fence for evening apple juice and a turn in the bird bath, and the predator birds were grateful for some uncooked bacon rind. When the rains came, everybody dispersed to their natural food sources, although we’d always get a few locals popping in. It’s been a while since we’ve had a four o’clock line-up, though.

The possum in his house

Not long after we came home we noticed a commotion from the local birds, who don’t like seeing the possum during the day. There he was, peering out of his house while all the birds screeched at him. He lives in a large hollow log which Pete had fitted with a roof and a base, and then tied to a palm tree. I suspect he was trying to tell us something, because that was when we noticed the base of the house lying under the tree. So that had to be fixed so he could move back in.

We have a pair of pee wees (magpie larks) in our yard. They decided that the TV aerial on top of the house would be a great place to build their beautiful mud nest. (See top picture) While they’re great builders, they’re sloppy and the roof under the construction site was a mess of twigs and mud. It’s also a lousy place to build a nest – no protection from sun and rain, and the eggs would be easy pickings for a crow or kookaburra. Pete hosed the nest down several times, but the birds persevered. So he rigged up fishing line to deter them. It worked – for two days, by which time they moved the construction up the aerial. But Pete is persistent, too. The aerial is now devoid of nest and festooned with fishing line, which appears to have had the added advantage of deterring the crows.

Lorikeets and their natural food

Our lovely local kookaburra

I’m glad to say after the health dramas plaguing us in Europe we’re all better. I’m thinking about starting a new book, but we’ll see. In the meantime I’ve been amusing myself playing Solitaire, and messing about with Photoshop. I’ll leave you with my latest creation. See you next week.

Afternoon tea

Line-up on the pool fence

Strange fruit

They start to gather a couple of hours before sunset, when the shadows start to lengthen and the light takes on that late afternoon glow. Sometimes there’s a line-up on the pool fence, sometimes it’s a couple of stalwarts clicking their claws at the feeding table. When I appear the tension ratchets up. As I pour the juice into the two bowls a couple of the bolder ones will sidle up, one red eye fixed on me, to steal a sip before the crowd arrives. But they’re already gathering, landing just outside my field of vision in a flurry of sound. I step back and there’s a rush, everyone trying to get their beaks into the juice. They drop down from the fox tail palm above the table, or the trees on either side where they’ve been waiting patiently. Bossy boots and his missus try to claim both bowls as their own, but while it works for small groups, the pair is overwhelmed by sheer numbers.

Afternoon tea time

A flurry of golden wings

The din is incredible, a cacophony of screeching that reverberates in my head. There’s more than thirty birds trying to reach two bowls of juice. They argue, push, shove, take off for a break or try to fit in, a sea of heaving green backs and golden wings. The light from the lowering sun is at just the right angle to make their wings shine golden, like bad impressions of angels. Drops of apple juice sparkle in the air. I swear half of it isn’t drunk at all. There are too many birds, too close together, so we toss out other enticements – apples cut in half, or a slice of multi-grain bread. That gives them something else to fight over, and lessens the crush at the table.

Sometimes one smarty-pants sends up an alarm signal and they take off in force, only to return in minutes as they realise it’s a false alarm.

Alarm call!

It’s almost hovering, looking for a spot to land

We’re out of juice (This Winky s/he only has one eye)

It’s over in ten or fifteen minutes. The juice is gone. Some hopeful souls bend over to look under the table to see if more is forthcoming. Others repair to the bird bath for a drink of water or a splashing soaking. Yet others return to the trees for a preen, with each couple doing that hard part at the back of their partner’s neck.

As the warmth of the day fades they’ll leave in groups of six, or four, or two, heading North to the trees along the foreshore or the major road, where they’ll roost for the night. There are a few more raucous fly-bys with their mates, a bit more pushing and shoving for the best roosting spots. Then after the last light has drained from the sky, the noise ceases for another night.

 

It’s time for the bats to venture out.