Category Archives: Birds

AUSTRALIA’S FAVOURITE BIRD – my practice shots

He's not as well-known as the kookaburra or the emu, but very well-liked.

The Superb Fairy-wren. He’s not as well-known as the kookaburra or the emu, but he’s very well liked. In a recent survey of 8000 bird lovers, he was the favourite. I say ‘he’, because this is a male.

Mevrouw T and I have signed on for a wildlife cruise around the Scottish island of Mull, once the weather improves in May. Puffins, otters, eagles, maybe peregrine falcons and dolphins too.

It sounds excellent, so I’ve decided to use it as an excuse to practise my wildlife photography. Armed with yet another new longish camera lens (Canon 70-300mm this time) I set off around Sydney’s Cooks River, just a couple of kms south of Casa Tulloch, to shoot the wildlife there.

I mustn’t let familiarity breed contempt – these shots are all of very common birds in Sydney, but no less interesting for that. Continue reading

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SHOOTING BIRDS – Sydney Olympic Park

I don't have a fancy camera with a long lens, but I managed to capture the shape of this black-winged stilt.

I don’t have a fancy camera with a long lens, so it’s a bit grainy at this distance. I do like the shape of this black-winged stilt, though.



Of course I don’t shoot birds with guns. In my opinion ‘sporting shooter’ is an oxymoron. It may not be easy to pick a flying duck out of the sky, but it only becomes sporting if the duck is also armed with a double-barrelled shotgun and taking aim at the guy hiding in the reeds by the water’s edge.
Continue reading

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DE BIESBOSCH – the Dutch go wild

Spoonbills feeding


Dry land is in short supply in the Netherlands, so there are few places where farmland has been deliberately flooded to create a nature reserve.

De Biesbosch spanning the provinces of North Brabant and South Holland, may be the wildest part of the country, so naturally a route planned by Greenpeace passes through it. We Pieperpad cyclists were very grateful. Continue reading

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SATURDAY PHOTO #6 – Kings Park, Perth, WA.

Kings Park in Perth, Western Australia, is a treasure – a large tract of landscaped gardens, bushland and playgrounds right by the city centre. In the Synergy Parklands area is a pond where children feed the ducks.

This little pied cormorant was drying himself there. I’m sorry I cut his toes off, but he should be pleased I captured him so sharply in focus.

Taken with my Panasonic Lumix FZ18 camera (not my best camera, but it’s portable, has a good zoom lens and it usually does the job).

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BIKE HELMET vs MAGPIE

While out on my morning ride today, I was swooped by a magpie. A sudden flutter of wings around my ears, a slap on the helmet and two squawks – one from the bird, the other from me. Australian cyclists know the problem only too well.

It’s that time of year; magpies defend their territory during the nesting season. These handsome black and white birds have a pleasant, musical call, strong necks, sharp beaks and a nasty nature. They are carnivores, direct descendants of velociraptors, it would appear.

They are also cowards, according to the old wives’ tale. They know they’re a protected species in Australia (though a noxious pest in New Zealand). They won’t attack if they know you’re watching them. Sneaky assaults from behind are their modus operandi, and they’re particularly vicious if you’re a dog, a toddler or a shaky cyclist who needs to steer with both hands.

Melbourne's Magpie Map

Melbourne has produced a useful magpie swooping map to warn people about black (and white) spots, where the birds are at their most deadly. Melbourne looks like a dangerous place. Alfred Hitchcock could have used it as the location for his film The Birds. It’s rumoured that Melbourne cyclists are leaving the city in droves and heading north, hoping we’re not quite as badly affected up here in Sydney.

Various solutions to the magpie problem have been suggested – carrying a golf umbrella, painting eyes on the back of a bike helmet, painting eyes on the back of a golf umbrella, attaching bird-repelling spikes, attaching bird-repelling spikes to eyes on a golf umbrella…

But we should all be grateful to a few courageous people who are prepared to put their heads on the line in the interests of scientific research and getting a laugh on YouTube:

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KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA – burkas in the bird park

It was the cheapest flight I could find between Amsterdam and Sydney, but it left me a sixteen-hour stopover in Kuala Lumpur. Awkward. Not long enough to justify a night in a hotel, and although KL International Airport was voted ‘best airport in the world 2005-06′, sixteen hours is a long time to spend drinking Delifrance cappuccinos and shopping duty free. Even the World’s Best Airport 2005-06 was unlikely to keep me conscious till a 10pm flight.

So I caught the fast train into downtown Kuala Lumpur. It took 28 minutes, cost 35 ringgits (about US$12) and dropped me off at Sentral Stesen near the Lake Gardens. There’s shade there. And a free mouse deer enclosure. Mouse deer (or is it mice deer?) are only interesting for about ten minutes, but when you have hours to kill, every little helps. Most mice deer in the cages were curling themselves up inside logs, ignoring their plates of chopped carrots and cabbage. They’re bigger than mice incidentally – more like rabbit deer, but with spindly legs and short ears.

Still fourteen hours left to fill. I saw there was a bird park next to Lake Gardens. I loved Singapore’s Jurong Bird Park, so this was worth a try. Entrance 45 ringgits (about US$15). Singapore is wealthy enough to put a lot of resources into its zoos. Malaysia’s bird park is less spectacular than Jurong, but nonetheless I was pleased I went.

Egrets and storks have free range in ‘the largest free flight aviary in the world’, because a net covers the top of most of the park, keeping the birds in place. This means that even a klutz like me can get close enough to a feathered friend to get a sharp picture (see sample above.)

More interesting still was the people watching.

In a muslim country, when I’m confronted by the sight of men walking around in t-shirts, shorts and baseball caps in the heat and humidity, while their womenfolk tag along in black headscarves or burkas, my first thought is ‘It must be awfully hot in there’. I was sweating profusely in spite of my loose, light-coloured clothing and planning a shower back at the airport. Maybe burkas are more comfortable than they look, and I am sure many women wear them of their own free will, but it seemed incongruous that these women were expected to wear modest traditional dress, while it was apparently fine for men to wear whatever they liked.

Having no religious belief myself, the idea that an all-powerful creator of the vast Universe would be so petty as to be offended if a woman bares her shoulders on a hot day seems ridiculous to me. Such cultural norms are surely man-made, and only other human beings take offence.

Yet I was pleased to see people in burkas apparently having just as much fun as the rest of us. If these women were fanatically plotting jihad against the west, they were disguising it very well, by smiling, licking icecreams, and having their photos taken with parrots on their shoulders. I liked them and was glad to spend a day in their company.

STOP PRESS: I did stay awake till 10, caught the plane, watched Clash of the Titans till it bored me to sleep, and arrived jet-lagged anyway.

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