Tag Archives: lorikeets

Let’s all celebrate Australia Day together

It’s Australia Day here in Oz, the day back in 1788 that marked the official founding of the penal colony in New South Wales. It’s a Saturday, as it happens, but after a few years of celebrating the day itself (ie not having a public holiday if the 26th January was a weekend) we’re back to having a long weekend. Monday 28th January will be a public holiday.

Over the last couple of decades Australia Day has become contentious. Some of the ‘indigenous’ people say it’s a time of sadness, marking for them ‘invasion day’ when ‘their’ lands were overrun by white folk from the other side of the world. There are very few pure blood aboriginal people in Australia now. Many people who claim aboriginal descent have only a small fraction of aboriginal DNA. The activists seem to forget the other part of their culture. Young aboriginal leader and Alice Springs councillor Jacinta Price has an aboriginal mother and a Scottish father. She doesn’t support changing Australia Day to a ‘better’ day (whatever that may be). As she says in this article, Australia Day does not celebrate the undeniable brutal treatment of the indigenous people after settlement. It celebrates what this nation has become.

Australia Day has always been one of the more popular dates on which to become a citizen of this country. Some of Australia’s city councils, which carry out citizenship ceremonies, have decided not to perform the ceremony on Australia Day in response to politically correct sensibilities.

You can’t change history. What happened in the past, happened. Only idiots deny that aboriginal people were murdered by white settlers (although there was some tit for tat). Yes, many aboriginal people are still disadvantaged, living on the outskirts of our society. The Australian Government is trying to address that disadvantage.

“In 2015‑16, total direct government expenditure on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians was estimated to be $33.4 billion, a real increase from $27.0 billion in 2008‑09.” [1] That’s for about 800,000 people who identify as indigenous out of a population of about twenty-five million.

But anyone who lives in remote parts of Australia is disadvantaged, regardles of race, religion, or creed. Food, housing materials, consumer goods are all more expensive, employment, education and healthcare are harder to come by.

If Australia were not the country it is today that expenditure would not be possible. Trying to change the date of Australia day is, to my mind, ludicrous. One Australian Prime Minister has apologised to the indigenous people for what was done to them by earlier generations. It’s a bit like asking the French to apologise for the Battle of Hastings, or the Romans, or the Angles, Saxons, and Danes, for setting up settlements in Britain. Etc. It makes not a scad’s worth of difference. They’re just words. These days, we’re all Australians – whether indigenous or immigrant. Or a mix of both. The best we can do is make the country an even greater place to live – for everybody.

In related news, it seems the grave of Captain Matthew Finders, who circumnavigated and mapped the Australian continent, has been found under Euston Station in London. And since I think it’s important that we remember the aboriginal parts of our history, too, read this article about Bungaree, who accompanied Flinders on his epic voyage.

The Big Dry that has replaced our wet season so far this year is biting hard. The farmers are doing it tough and so is the local wildlife. I often post photos of my noisy, colourful little mates. Here’s a littl video I took so you can see and hear the full display.

 

A long, dry summer

Somebody sent up an alarm call

Here in Hervey Bay we’re begging for rain. It’ll probably have as much impact as praying but at least we can feel we’re doing something. The grass is brown and crackles underfoot, except for the bits that manage to get some water from somewhere. We never water the grass. We recycle the water from our septic system onto the garden, so the bromeliads and the natives are hanging on but one of our two mango trees has a drift of dead leaves under it. The other one benefits from next door’s septic. Each evening we water parts of the garden that look particularly desperate but when it comes down to it, there’s nothing like good, soaking rain. Even 10mm makes a huge difference. This is supposed to be our wet season but over the last few years January has been dry. Let’s hope the coming weeks include some wet stuff from the sky.

The line-up at the pool fence

The dry weather doesn’t just affect the plants. Our bird bath is popular and I have to refill it every day. I usually only put out apple juice for the birds in the evening but I’ve had some of the braver parrots coming to the door asking for AJ in the morning and I’ve had to provide second sittings several times. They’re not reliant on being fed. When natural food is plentiful we don’t see that many and sometimes we’ve been completely abandoned. But never for too long.

Strange fruit

The butcher birds and the miner birds are always here hoping for a hand-out and we’re visited less regularly by kookaburras and magpies. We also hear, but not necessarily see, the pale-headed rosellas.

Our resident possum who lives in a tree log on the opposite side of the pool raised a baby, which has moved into a bird house attached to a palm tree. The hole was too small for it so it did some renovation, breaking the marine ply to make the hole larger. I think the house will soon be too small. But that’s nature.

This week we’re being changed over to Australia’s broad band network. That happens on Wednesday. We’re all ready. Let’s hope our ISP is, too.

Apart from all that, I’m working slowly on a new book. It’s SF, next in my Morgan’s Misfits series. I’ll never make a fortune from writing but it keeps my brain active.

If you’re into praying, or voodoo, or witchcraft – whatever. Could we order some rain, please?

Thanks in advance.

 

Just another lazy Sunday

The thing about being retired is which day of the week it is doesn’t matter much. In fact, you know those questions they ask old folks to see if they still have mental capacity? One of them is ‘what day of the week is it’? Just as well I have a computer because otherwise, quite often I wouldn’t know. The state of the shops and car parks is a bit of a give-away. Even with every-day trading, at around 1pm on Saturday afternoon, Hervey Bay shuts down. The roads empty – although there are still plenty of people in Bunnings or the Mall.

Sunday’s a bit the same.

Oh – and Wednesday is bin night, so we have to remember that one to put the bins out for collection. Still, if we forget we’ll know Thursday morning when we see the rows of bins outside everyone else’s house.

Butcher bird doing exercises

The animal life doesn’t give a damn what day of the week it is. This morning a butcher bird came to tell me he was waiting for breakfast. We give him small pieces of bacon rind. He eats the first piece, waits with the second piece in his beak, then I throw a handful out. He (and a couple of others) eat their fill then take the rest back to the nest.

Then the resident lorikeet couple  came to the veranda. The male comes up and virtually knocks on the door. “Where’s ours, missus?”

If it happens to be bath morning we get a hootin’ hollerin’ bunch of bathers in the bird bath. It’s very popular with everybody except the miner birds who still prefer the Big Blue swimming pool and the adrenalin rush of bathing in danger.

You might recall I mentioned a couple of weeks ago our mango trees were covered in fruit? Not anymore. Most of it has fallen off. Even so, there’s something out there that likes unripe, hard mangoes. The windfalls have been chewed by rats or possums, maybe both.

After another very dry month, a large storm system swept past last evening, slapping the Bay area with a sideswipe as it headed out to sea. After a bit of sound and fury it dropped 9mm of rain on our grateful garden. We’d like some more, of course. What else is new? But then, in Australia it’s boom or bust. In a month’s time we might be begging for some dry spells.

The rains have arrived

Mangoes everywhere. That’s a small part of one tree

This one wasn’t too bad – sound and fury and 15mm of rain

The drought in Queensland appears to have broken – in our part of the world, anyway. A series of storms have swept in from inland Australia, the warm air mingling with a blast of cooler air coming up from the South, a perfect combination for storms. We were lucky. There was lots of thunder and lightning but no gale force winds, no hail, and no torrential rain.

Which brings me to another observation: Our two fairly large mango trees are covered in fruit, despite near drought conditions all through Winter and into Spring. You know what? I think trees are smarter than us when it comes to weather. The Bureau of Meteorology is predicting a dry Summer (because of El Nino). I reckon the mango trees are predicting good summer rains.

We shall see.

On the photography front, one of the big hassles of being a photographer on holiday is having to cart around lenses and the like. I did it for a few years, but changing lenses is cumbersome and frankly rarely happened. As I get older, I’m finding it harder and harder to cart around tripods, heavy lenses and so on. That’s okay for younger, fitter wildlife photographer types but I’ve slowed down of late. I don’t even get down to the beach much.

So… I’ve rationalized the camera situation and down-sized a bit.

I still have a Canon 70D and two smaller, lighter lenses – but I’ve sold a few items and bought a Nikon (shock-horror) Coolpix P1000. The camera is in the ‘compact’ range but it’s actually a hefty piece of kit rivalling the weight of a Canon 5D. Its claim to fame is an incredible zoom lens which will cover 24-3000mm. No, that’s not a typo. Three thousand. It means I can take the device on holidays and be able to take a landscape, then zoom in on a bird. Perfect for my needs. No, it’s not a ‘professional’ level lens and it has some short comings, but it’ll do for a hack like me.

I’ve started playing around, I have a lot to learn, but here are a few photos.

Who’s a bully, then?

Several years ago we used to put bird seed out for the parrots. While lorikeets mainly feed on nectar, a lot of the other breeds like cockatoos, corellas, and pink and greys, like seed. The trouble is, at first you get a trickle, then you get a flood and there’s this pushing, shoving, jostling bunch of birds all after getting a beak into a bowl. And that can lead to spreading diseases like the truly awful beak and feather disease.  Although its worst manifestation occurs in sulphur-crested cockatoos, the virus can be transmitted to other parrots. In fact, it can affect birds like wedge-tailed eagles when they eat an infected bird.

So I don’t put out seed anymore.

These photos date back to when I did. There’s bird seed in the bowls. One solitary sulphur crested came down to take a look and liked what it saw. But it didn’t want to share with any of the lorikeets.

The lorikeet isn’t impressed with the new arrival

The cockatoo pushes its weight around

The lorikeet tries to stand its ground

But in the end it’s just too small

Um… does any of this remind you of politics?

Humans are tribal. It’s hard-wired into our behaviour, one reason why we, as a species, have been so successful. It’s also why we fail on a global scale.

The UN was a good idea that is now well past its use-by date. It is ham-strung by the power of veto afforded to six countries, and it is riddled with corruption. Rich, powerful countries – I won’t name names but they remind me of sulphur crested cockatoos – buy votes from small, impoverished nations, like lorikeets. The ‘debate’ over whaling is a glaring example, as is the ineffectual posturing over Syria. Self-interest dominates the debate. That, and wealth. The same things happen in global sporting bodies such as FIFA the Olympic Games, cycling, cricket…

A similar pattern is emerging in Western politics. ‘Our’ politicians aren’t listening to the people anymore. In Australia, where voting is compulsory and where we have a strong, two-party system, votes for the two main parties is eroding fast. We’re turning to smaller groups who more effectively reflect our mindset, be that the Greens, One Nation, or the new Australian Conservatives. Judging by my Facebook feed, voters in the US and the UK are similarly disenchanted with their governments.

And what about ‘globalism’, that necessary precursor to a global parliament like the UN, where every country shares its resources and its wealth? Once again, it’s a nice idea.

I’m beginning to think that globalism is one of the main reasons why levels of pollution in our oceans and cities have soared. We catch fish in Australia and send them to China to be cleaned, scaled and wrapped in plastic to send back to us. OF COURSE they’ll send us back the same fish, how could you doubt it? We can get any vegetable, any time of the year – grown on the other side of the world, packed in plastic and sent to our supermarkets. When I was a kid my brother used to catch crayfish off the moles at Fremantle harbour, a yummy treat for all the family. Now, a little cray which he wouldn’t have bothered with costs so much at the supermarket I don’t even look. Meanwhile, crays from Western Australia are put on a plane still alive, and flown to the Japanese fish markets.

Seems to me we’d be better off living simpler lives, eating what’s in season, making do.

It’s all a matter of perception

Everlasting daisies in King’s Park

A few days ago a friend shared a set of pictures from Gardening Australia on Facebook. They are stunning photographs of flowers taken by Craig Burrows. It’s a shame they didn’t tell us what the common name was for each photo because with the “ultraviolet-induced visible fluorescence” process, they are transported to the extraordinary. In fact, I was very much reminded of the world-building in the movie Avatar. Just for fun I took the above photo and changed the photo’s temperature right down to purple. This is what it looked like.

Not quite ultra-violet

Which got me thinking. We see the worlds around us very much from our own point of view, and we miss so much. Bees see the world in ultraviolet. I wonder if their view is like those pictures? Our sense of hearing is vastly inferior to that of dogs and other predators. I love Terry Pratchett’s description of sense of smell as experienced by the Watch’s werewolf, Angua. For her, smell tells a great deal about the maker of the smell. It comes in layers, and it has a history, so dogs can sense how long ago bitch X was here.

Then there’s hearing. Once again, dogs and cats can hear things we don’t. Elephants can communicate in wave lengths so low we can’t hear them, while dolphins use much wider frequencies that overlap our sense of hearing only to a limited extent. Dolphins in fact use sound to ‘see’.

And all this is on our own small blue dot. We can’t begin to know what’s out there in the vastness of space. What will a;ien species be able to do? How will they use their senses? And you know, that was the disappointing part of Avatar for me. Pandora was inhabited by wondrous, diverse (if recognizable versions of Earth) creatures. But the dominant species was a new version of pick your location of indigenous tribe. I suppose that was necessary in a romance movie for humans.

For this week I thought I’d share some lorikeet pictures. They brighten our lives, amuse, and annoy. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Jostling over the apple juice. Note that one hanging upside down. I think they think that’s how the apple juice gets there. Also the two in the middle about to have an animated discussion.

This bird inserted himself between the two arguing – because there was a tiny gap

Things get a bit raucous

And sometimes they look like they’re dancing on the air

The bird bath is always popular

About THE most useful thing any backyard can offer the local birds is a place to bathe. This bird bath is in a protected location, with a tree nearby for grooming and drying. It’s also well off the ground, so local cats won’t be an issue. I keep the water clean by emptying the bath and giving it a light scrub before re-filling to get rid of algae. That’s done pretty much daily. You’d be surprised at how much dirt and loose feathers a bunch of birds will leave behind.

And because I do that, I get to enjoy this.

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This is a bonded couple bathing together

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Much splashing about

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They duck right under the water

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When one is finished, the other will get into it

Nature in the raw #photo

Note the fighting on the table

Note the fighting on the table

There’s nothing quite like watching wild animals doing what they do. I’m privileged to live in a bird rich neighbourhood. If you come here often you’ll know about my local rainbow lorikeets. They come to the pool fence not far from the kitchen window to partake of apple juice, and sometimes fruit like apples and pears. Yes, they’re cute and colourful, but they’re also aggressive little buggers, so there’s always a lot of pushing and shoving and beaks and claws.

But then, even when there’s no food available, the birds feel comfortable to do what they do. They almost always arrive in pairs and though males and females look alike, you can pick the males from their behaviour. The males quite often put on dominance displays. They fluff themselves up, arch their necks and strut. More often than not, they’re doing that to impress their lady friend because they’re feeling amorous.

Like this.

How about it, sweetheart?

How about it, sweetheart?

You can see she’s receptive. She has her legs spread wide, ready to carry his weight. So he hops on and has his way, using his wings for balance. Most birds don’t have penises, so really, they’re just rubbing their bits together. It  doesn’t last for long, though it may happen several times. Eventually, she’ll get fed up with his advances and snap at him to tell him she has a headache. Or a backache.

Amorous lorikeets

Making whoopee

 

 

 

Wanna make something of it?

Wanna make something of it?

 

 

 

 

 

The other place you get the aggressive eye contact and arched back is when the boys have a standoff. Here’s one. You can tell it’s all different.

But whatever they do, they are endlessly entertaining. It’s a pleasure and a privilege to have them share their lives with me.

Qucik! Everybody scarper!

Quick! Everybody scarper!

Pictures from the magic pool fence

I’m fortunate enough to live on a property where there’s room for a swimming pool. One of the downsides of having a pool in Australia is it has to be fenced. At least one and a half metres high, unclimbable, with self-closing gates. It’s a legal requirement to reduce the incidence of toddlers drowning in swimming pools, and non-compliance leads to fines. Yeah, yeah. We’re not forced to fence dams, or the ocean, or even garden ponds. We don’t get visits from people with small children and our property is fenced, but that’s irrelevant.

Hey ho. Rant over.

The upside of having the pool fence is that it’s not far from the back of the house and the local birds like to use it to perch. So we built a little feeding platform on it, where we put out bowls of apple juice for the lorikeets, and sometimes some seed for the seed-eating birds. It works like magic, folks. Here’s a few pictures to prove it.

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This is what happens when the alarm call goes up

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Long-billed corella looking handsome

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A young blue-faced honeyeater (that green patch becomes blue as the bird ages)

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A sulphur-crested cockatoo laying claim to the bird seed. That’s a full grown lorikeet he’s bullying

Wet crested pigeon

A crested pigeon in the rain

Jockeying for position

Jockeying for position

Happiness is a new camera #photo

When you get past a certain number of years on the timeline of life you don’t wait for birthdays to give yourself presents. I’ve had a Canon 550D camera for several years now, and it has served me very well, but I’d started to yearn for something better. My favourite subjects are moving birds and whales and there had been a few times when I’d thought I’d captured a stunner, only to find it was slightly out of focus, or fuzzy around the edges.This is an example. It looks great small, but blow it up to full resolution and it’s not quite there.

sea eagle

So when I discovered that a lot of photographers who published their work in National Geographic used the Canon 5D Mark III I went into lust overdrive. After a few sleepless nights I thought what the hell? You can’t take your money to heaven (or hell, for that matter). So I used some of my writing earnings and became the proud owner of a 5D.

It’s a whole new learning curve, but here are a few shots I’ve taken with it so far. I think it’s worth it already.

Hold on tight

Hold on tight

Coming in

Coming in

butterfly on rosemary

butterfly on rosemary