Saturday, 28 September 2013


Here it is!  My new book.  It's due in the bookshops on Tuesday.  You can get a special deal by buying it here: I hope you like it!  And I should thank all the wonderful photographers who helped make it look so good.  Not forgetting NewSouth who've done such a great job in producing it so well.

This really would make a great Christmas present.

Friday, 20 September 2013


Pacific Black Duck, taken by Jim Smart

I hadn't been to Trin Warren Tam-Boore since March, so I thought it was time for another visit.  This artificial wetlands in Melbourne's magnificent Royal Park, so close to the city centre, is usually a pleasant spot to spend some time.  I was there for just 45 minutes.  The weather was cloudy and far from perfect, yet I managed to record 28 species.  That's not bad.

I had actually made a fleeting visit to this spot the week before, and heard a Horsfield Bronze-Cuckoo.  He was sitting high in a leafless deciduous tree, but despite the bare branches, he still took some finding.  I don't believe I've ever seen a bronze-cuckoo in Royal Park before.  My records for this site are not extensive, but I did live in Parkville for ten years, so I have strolled through the area many times.

On this visit, I was delighted to hear him again.  I also heard a Little Grassbird, which is not unusual for this site.  And I heard a Grey Shrike-thrush, which is called by some, rather unkindly, a 'GST.'  Why should such a glorious songster get a nickname with political overtones?

The other birds I saw were all predictable.  My favourite bird, the Willie Wagtail, is always present here.  So are our common gallinules (coots, swamphens and moorhens).  The reliable ducks are Pacific Black Duck, Australian Wood Duck and Chestnut Teal.  (There is a rather optimisitc illustration of a Blue-billed Duck next to the 'bird hide' but I doubt the water is ever deep enough here for this species.)  There are usually feral and Crested Pigeons, as well as Spotted Doves, and always Silver Gulls.  Common Blackbirds are just that, as are Magpie-Larks and Superb Fairy-wrens.  Welcome Swallows are guaranteed.

The most common honeyeater is the White-plumed, followed closely by Red Wattlebirds.  New Holland Honeyeaters are prolific too, as are Noisy Miners.  Little Wattlebirds are not quite so reliable.

I walked around the pond on the other side of the road and here I saw an Eastern Great Egret foraging at the edge of the water.  There were also Red-browed Finches and White-browed Scrubwrens. 

Altogether, a very pleasant forty-five minutes.

Friday, 13 September 2013


Brush-tailed Possum, note Pied Currawong's tail above

The Pied Currawongs and Noisy Miners were being unusually vocal this morning.  The currawongs are nesting but I have not been able to discover where.  I've noticed them breaking off live twigs from the silver birches next door and flying off with them.  I have not observed the miners and currawongs interacting before.

A glance out the window explained the excitement.  In broad daylight, a normally nocturnal brush-tailed possum was sitting in my oak tree, apparently alert, being bombed by the currawongs, who were, in turn, being bombed by the miners.  I have to assume that there was something wrong with the possum, or he would be sleeping in his drey, not active during the daytime.  However, as far as I could tell, he was fine.  He could certainly run up the tree quite fast.  Yet, he chose not to return to the safety of his drey.  He is still high in the tree as I write and the currawongs are calling constantly.

Many Melburnians dislike our possums.  Here we have both brush-tailed and ring-tailed and they're both undeniably very cute.  They can make a mess on the paving and apparently they like to eat roses.  If you chose to grow roses, I'm sure you can share a few with our native wildlife.  I'm on the side of the possums.

Only once has a possum irritated me mildly.  Someone forgot to close the flue on our chimney.  (It wasn't me!)  A possum fell into the ashes in the fireplace, got such a fright that he urinated, then proceed to leave sweet little black footprints all over my beige curtains.  He celebrated, too, in my kitchen, creating quite a bit of havoc for one small marsupial.  We found him the next morning, asleep, behind the couch.  A very cute little ring-tail.  He was taken outside, where I hope he was reunited with his family.  No one has forgotten to close the flue since.

The currawongs are still calling outside, but I can no longer see the possum.  I do hope he is safe.

Monday, 9 September 2013


Returning from a successful Short-tailed Grasswren hunt

If there was someone in Australia happier than Tony Abbott on Saturday 7 September 2013, then it was me! On that auspicious day, I saw a pair of Short-tailed Grasswrens and thus deleted a bogey bird from my list.  So a big thank you to Peter Waanders and to his group of birders who allowed me to join them for the morning on Stokes Hill in the Flinders Ranges to see this elusive bird.  What a treat!

Rog drove me over to Hawker and back, so thanks to Roger too.  We did not do much birding en route, my total for the trip was a measly 99 species.  Highlights were parrots (Elegant and Mulga, as well as Cockatiels and Blue Bonnets) and chats (both Crimson and Orange).  We saw just one fat feral cat and just one snake.  The countryside was blooming, good recent rains meant everything looked very healthy.

It was a quick trip, but an extraordinarily satisfying one.  I have looked for Short-tailed Grasswrens on many occasions, usually on Stokes Hill (where Peter Waanders showed it to me) but also other locations in the Flinders Ranges.  To finally add this difficult bird to my lifelist is a most rewarding experience.

Next month I will turn my attention to another bogey bird of mine:  the Rufous Scrubbird.  Let's hope I can be just as successful with that.