Tag Archives: birds

2150. Oh for a photo in focus

Recently I’ve been busy; busy busy busy; and I’ll tell you why. But first there’s some explaining to do.

A common bird in New Zealand is the fantail. It’s smaller than a sparrow but with a tail that fans out. In some places (such as where I live) there are dozens of them. They don’t behave like most birds. They flitter-flutter around your head when going for a walk. They’re catching insects that are disturbed. Picture a juggler going for a walk with three or four feathered friends being juggled in the air. If you twirl a tree leaf back and forth between thumb and forefinger, a fantail might sometimes land on your arm! They also come through your house cleaning up any spiders and bugs.

AND because they don’t keep still for any amount of time they are almost impossible to photograph. I have a reason for wanting to photograph one in particular which I shall tell you about shortly.

The usual colouring of a fantail is a dull brown back, yellow breast, and tail feathers that are white and brown. Here is a photos of one that kept almost still for long enough.

Recently in my nearby little town of Stratford, a pure white fantail appeared in a park. Dozens of would-be bird-watchers crowded the park each day in the hope of a glimpse. Only one onlooker managed a half decent photo. I haven’t seen the bird.

Now here’s my secret… About two minutes from my house, in a little glade of trees, is a pitch black fantail. Every day I take my camera on my walk. He/she is usually there flitting about, but seems a little shyer than some of the other fantails. Hence, after a month I have only two out-of-focus photos.

I don’t want to announce its where-about because who wants dozens of onlookers walking onto ones property? So that’s what I’ve been busy doing each afternoon after lunch. I shall post a further photo on this blog should a successful photo session occur. I thought a black fantail to go with the white fantail could be fun.

Tomorrow I shall post a piece of music called “Fantails” composed for oboe and piano. It doesn’t try to capture the fantail’s call which is a twitter-twitter to disturb insects. Rather the music tries to capture its flitter-flutter-all-over-the-place-flight. And who knows? Today’s walk might perhaps be my lucky in-focus day!

2028. The endangered Zapata Rail

(The opening sentence for this story was suggested by Herb of The Haps with Herb. If you want to join in the fun of suggesting a future opening sentence for these stories, please leave your suggestion in the comments – only one suggestion per person!)

It sure wasn’t everyday that you see one, that’s for sure. Nick had returned daily for several hours to the swamp in the hope of catching sight of the critically endangered Zapata Rail (Cyanolimnas cerverai), one of the world’s most threatened waterbirds. The sighting had been by two staff members of the Natural History Museum of which Nick was in charge. He had sent them out one afternoon on a mission to “sight the Zapata Rail” as one had not been seen in over four decades.

His staff’s sighting had been reported in newspapers up and down the country. It was brilliant publicity for the museum. In fact, the two staff members were almost overnight sensations themselves. Wonderful!

Nick now knew then that there was definitely at least one of these birds in this swamp. That is why he had returned for five days in a row on his annual vacation. His vacation ended tomorrow. Today was his last chance.

Suddenly a Zapata Rail’s head protruded from the sawgrass at the side of the bank. After a few seconds the bird emerged slowly into the open and stopped.

Nick raised his gun.

The stuffed Cyanolimnas cerverai  is proving to be a popular addition to the museum’s collection.

1914. Award 23: The Aqueduct Plugger Award

Just when I was beginning to doubt the existence of any sort of Higher Being, The Dumbest Blog Ever nominated me for The Adequate Blogger Award. Thank you Dumbest Blogger – it is indeed a thrill. This exemplary award was created by James of James Proclaims. Thank you, James. James not only has interesting postings but he makes pithy and/or sharp-eyed comments here and there. James thinks that answering the questions of this award is “really just a box ticking exercise”. Well James, get yourself a coffee and make yourself comfortable, because I’m about to tick (check) a few boxes regarding The Dumbest Blogger’s complex queries about the meaning of life.

Yipee!

The Dumbest Blogger’s Stupid Questions:

1. Do you like birds?

I am a bird freak – just chickens and ducks. The ducks will have to wait another time because I want to tell you about my Faverolles. Faverolles are a breed of chicken that have an extra toe on each foot. The males have gallant beards and the females have gorgeous ear muffs. They are the quintessence of what the carol Twelve Days of Christmas sings of on the third day when the gift was “Three French Hens”. Faverolles are French! I don’t have them for eggs or meat. I have them for style.

Incidentally, even one bird is a Faverolles – it still has the S on the end. Isn’t that classy? Sort of like a double small “f” starting a surname. Here is a photo of a couple of French Ladies – they are definitely a class act of ffaverolles.

Below is a photo of my rooster who was once King of the Fowl Yard. He looks vicious, but Faverolles have the loveliest of characters. So if you have little kids and you want a couple of pet chickens, get Faverolles. They are child friendly and won’t attack and claw and peck like other beastly breeds. They are a large breed although apparently there is a bantam variety. I’ve never seen the bantam variety so don’t know if they’re as child-friendly as the larger Faverolles.

This particular rooster teamed up with the dog. Every day together they would patrol the garden. No other member of the poultry establishment was allowed over the fence to scratch about. A stray hen would be chased by dog and rooster back to safer ground. The dog and the rooster were inseparable for about three years. The best of friends!

One day an up-and-coming young rooster challenged this big rooster to a fight. The big rooster came off second best. He was no longer in charge of the harem. Mortified he came into the garden to patrol with the dog, and the dog bit the big rooster’s head off.

2. What is your favourite movie?

My favourite movie is Babette’s Feast. If you haven’t seen it don’t expect an action-packed experience. It’s a couple of hours about a woman cooking dinner.

The lead character in this marvelous 1987 film is Stéphane Audran. (The film got an Oscar – if you think that’s important). It’s a brilliant movie.

I have seen this movie twice which is twice more than I have seen The Lord of the Rings. I have also seen The Dam Busters twice – back in the late 1950s – but it’s not as good as Babette’s Feast. As you can see, I’m not that big on going to the pictures. I’ve made three or four attempts to watch Gone with the Wind, the last time being just the other day after they threatened to ban it. The video began and I awoke from a deep sleep on the sofa three hours later and everyone else had gone to bed.

3. When was the last time you used a pencil?

Gosh! It must be years. These days they have medication.

When I was a kid, before the Internet and before TV, my first cousin Bert Worsnop and me (we were the same age) collected coloured pencils. You registered somewhere, and every now and again you’d get some coloured pencils in the mail. Each was a different shade. I think there was something like 180 different shades in the collection. They were fantastic. Of course they were so precious that we kept them in a cabinet and took them out simply to look at but never use.

4. What would you do for a Klondike bar?

My maternal grandmother’s brother, Uncle Herbert (Charles Herbert Lightoller – the highest in command saved off the Titanic!) joined the gold rush in Canada’s Klondike in his earlier days. No doubt it was hard work, and he unquestionably would have killed for a Klondike Bar to quench his thirst up there in that wilderness.

Charles Herbert Lightoller

To get a modern Klondike bar I would have to buy a ticket to North America because I’m not sure that they have them where I live. My passport died years ago, so no Klondike bar for me unless a Klondike bar gets mailed over. We have Eskimo Pies – although the name has recently been changed I believe to something less systemically racist.

Incidentally, I have a letter (in my possession) from Great Uncle Herbert written to my grandmother in which he says “Imagine Doreen expecting her fifth. It must be something in the weather”. That fifth was me! So I was almost famous (of Titanic fame) even before I was born.

I took my mother to see the Titanic movie and all she said at the end was “All that money and he wasn’t the slightest bit like Uncle Herbert.” (She also insisted – family tradition – that the captain of Titanic was drunk).

5. What is the biggest problem facing the human race at this moment in history?

The artistic world is ruled by rules. Publishes and marketers determine what is good and what is bad. This book won’t sell so it’s bad. AND never start a sentence with an “And”. And you use the passive voice. And… And you should do this. And you should do that. This is the way to paint and write and compose. The artist’s world can’t change the world because it’s hidebound by the world.

Anyone who steps out of the established pattern is a nobody.

It’s like lab technicians claiming to be scientists. They’re not scientists; they’re technicians. They put stuff into beakers according to how they’ve been told.

Einstein played the violin. Newton sat in the apple orchard.

Bring back creative people and stop telling everyone how things should be done! Yeah – the bees are in my bonnet.

Newton, Beethoven, Einstein
If you want to employ a genius you have to put up with the hair

6. If James has 42 pieces of chocolate, and Joe has 37 pieces of chocolate, and both James and Joe give 3 pieces of chocolate to Susan, then what is the moral significance of James having 42 pieces of chocolate to begin with?

Clearly Susan had secretly given James the 42 pieces of chocolate in the first place for “favours received” – possibly one on each occasion. Bad luck, Joe. I doubt whether this snippet of unethical behaviour could be classed as having “moral significance”.

When I went to boarding school (in my teens – we weren’t rich and snobby we just lived too far from a high school so we had to go to a boarding school) a dining table sat eight students: seven plus a “table prefect”. Everyone had their set table and chair. There were about 450 students. The small daily slab of butter was in a dish on each table, undivided and uncut. Turns were taken each day to divide the butter into eight equal parts. The person doing the dividing would get the final piece – just to make sure it was divided evenly. Oh the care taken over a quarter inch butter cube!

James and Joe and Susan and others can stick their chocolate or butter where-ever. Personally, I’m off to grab an Eskimo Pie before they go the way of Gone with the Wind.

The Rules – see Question 5 above!

My Nominees:

Anyone who knows me knows I don’t nominate but I recommend. This is NOT because I’m lazy but because I’m lazy. It’s also NOT because I’m afraid of hurting those who miss out because they haven’t been nominated but because I’m afraid of hurting those who miss out because they haven’t been nominated. If I may – just this once – take the easiest way out and suggest clicking on the icons of those who give this a like. That way you’ll be taken magically to their site where there’s so much to discover!

Thanks for reading and thanks again to The Dumbest Blogger and James Proclaims.

1852. After the long journey

How wonderful! Rafferty (known to his friends as Raff) belonged to the Spiggyholes Ornithologist Society. Like most bird-watchers he was consumed by a passion for observing birds. Every Saturday, sunshine or not, he would disappear into the environment with camera and binoculars.

It was on one of these Saturday excursions that Raff spied a pair of Condove Variegated Flicktails (Australissimus flickbumibus). These birds were native to a neighbouring continent and had never been seen in this country before. When I say “neighbouring”, the continent and Raff’s country were separated by a sea of hundreds of miles. The pair of Condove Variegated Flicktails (Australissimus flickbumibus) had clearly been caught in a massive storm and been blown across the ocean. It was not a migratory bird. Such a thing happened only once or twice in a century or so. If the storm-blown birds settled and reproduced they would be classified as “native” to the country because they were not introduced by humans.

Raff’s excitement knew no bounds. The Condove Variegated Flicktail (Australissimus flickbumibus) was by no means a boring bird, unlike most of the native species of his country. The native species were all black or dark grey or dark brown or dark green. Quite dreary really! Whereas the Condove Variegated Flicktails (Australissimus flickbumibus) were a bright and colourful addition to the native fauna. Let’s hope they breed.

And sing! My word! Could the Condove Variegated Flicktails (Australissimus flickbumibus) sing or what?

Raff wrote an article (complete with photographs) for the Ornithological Bulletin, a monthly magazine dedicated to the promotion of native species of birds. What a furore the article caused! Half the readers were thrilled with such a colourful and musical possible permanent settler. The rest of the readers were dismayed. The new species would undermine the habitat of the native Leaden Brown Muted Caw-caw bird (Boringdullnus dozimus).

That’s why a representative was sent by the Government’s Ministry of the Environment to shoot the Condove Variegated Flicktails (Australissimus flickbumibus) dead.

1837. Mother Thrush’s baby, Guzzle-Beak

“Now, now, Guzzle-Beak,” said Mother Thrush to her baby in the nest. “You must learn not to complain about your food. It doesn’t matter if you find a bit of lettuce in your caterpillar. Just quietly eat it and things will be fine. It won’t kill you.”

“Look at what happened to your brothers and sisters. There were five of you at the start, and they complained about the food. Next thing, they disappeared. It’s a nasty world out there and we must learn to be grateful for small mercies.”

“Your father and I have worn ourselves to a frazzle finding food for you. So a bit of appreciation wouldn’t go amiss. Taking a positive attitude to things will see you right in life. You’ll go places.”

Just then a hawk swooped down from nowhere, grabbed Guzzle-Beak in its talons, and flew off.

“Oh well,” sighed Mother Thrush eating the caterpillar she had brought for her baby and spitting out the bit of lettuce that was mixed in, “Mr. Thrush and I shall start a second clutch tomorrow.”

1820. People in glass houses

People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones – or so the saying goes. Geoffrey Higginbotham lived in a glass house.

It wasn’t one of those garden glass houses, you silly person. It was a real house but it had lots and lots of glass; big (in fact huge) glass panes in the doors and windows. The view out was spectacular. The view in was zilch. The windows were tinted and acted like mirrors.

It had one disadvantage: birds were forever attacking their own reflections in the glass. There would be a WHOMP and a dead bird would lie on the path beneath the window. This could happen several times a day.

Geoffrey tried to save as many birds as possible as often as he could by throwing stones and small rocks at them to scare them away. I know what you’re thinking: people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Geoffrey never broke a window with a stone. Not the once. But there was getting to be quite a collection of rocks and stones on the path. One day, Geoffrey tripped on a rock, broke his ankle, and fell headfirst through a gigantic pane.

Which is the real reason why people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

1792. The Gentle Redneck

(This will be the second of two postings today because I’m fixing up the numbering system and having two postings on one day is the easiest way to do it! Sorry about that – I usually have a personal rule of only one posting a day!)

I hate it when people call me a “Gentle Redneck”. Just because I live in the foothills of North Carolina doesn’t mean to say I’m a Redneck.

Glad to have got that off my chest, but it’s not what this story is about. This story is about how I like to shoot animals and birds. I used to keep a list of the critters I shot, but now I do it just for the heck of it. So it doesn’t matter about keeping a list.

My favorite was the Bearded Screech-Owl. I shot it down in Mexico a couple of years ago. Had to wait up all night for it to make an appearance, and when it appeared I was pretty pleased with the result. I have it now on a shelf in my billiard room. It takes pride of place and I like to think it supervises the billiard games with my buddies. It’s endangered as you might know and there weren’t (back then) many of them left. Being quite small it provided me with quite a challenge.

I’ve shot some quite big animals too; polar bears for example. And not just mammals from North America. I got literally dozens of koala bears when I was visiting Australia. In Madagascar I was lucky enough to get several varieties of lemur.

I used to have a really good one of a New Zealand kiwi. It was stuffed by a “talented” niece. I seem to have misplaced it. I don’t know where it is now. I like to keep an eye out for endangered species. Sometimes the scientists do a cull as part of the breeding program. Don’t ask me how that works but apparently it does. If I find out that a cull is going to happen I step in and ask if they would mind me shooting a few first. I’ve never been turned down.

So there you have it. I’ve shot dozens of creatures over the years. The highlight was when the National Geographic used a photo I shot in the Amazon of a three-toed sloth. That shot got an honorable mention from the Photography Society that I belong to.

1559. Birds, bees, and butterflies

Flora was true to her name. She had planted her large property in plants to attract butterflies and bees. When summer came there were flowers flowering and butterflies fluttering and bees buzzing. She planted shrubs to attract nectar-eating birds. Who needs wind chimes when choirs of bellbirds tinkle in the breeze? And to lie in bed a little longer in the early hours of a summer’s day and hear… the birds!… oh! the birds! The dawn chorus! It was a piece of heaven fallen from… heaven.

Flora’s new neighbour didn’t appreciate Flora’s slice of bliss. “Those bloody birds wake me up every morning. What a racket. As for the bees – I see you’ve put in a hive. Some people react to bee stings. The bees are a menace. And as for flowers, especially lilies, don’t you know people get hay fever from the pollen? I suggest you pull a few things out and start recognizing the needs of other people who live nearby.”

Flora didn’t flinch.

The neighbour’s property was empty and well sprayed. There wasn’t a weed in sight. For that matter, there wasn’t a plant in sight, not even a blade of grass. “We’re getting ready to put it all in concrete. It’s so much nicer, and easier to maintain, and we’ll charge only a few dollars for every kid who wants to play.”

Flora left her paradise for one and a half weeks to go on the Horticultural Society’s Grand Garden Tour. It was one of the highlights of her year. When she returned her garden was dead; no thriving nectar-producing trees, no bellbirds, no lilies, and butterflies, and bees. Even the hive sat silent. Flora asked the neighbour what had happened.

“I done nothing,” said the neighbour. “We’re putting our concrete backyard into a go-cart race track for the local kids. You could learn a trick or two from that as to how to be neighbourly. No bee stings. No hay fever. No bird poop all over the go cart track.”

And that was that.

1483. A reflection on a pair of wood pigeons

Mr and Mrs Wood Pigeon were a handsome couple. Not only that, but Mrs Wood Pigeon had laid an egg. It was a smooth, white, oval egg. They were both very proud of it. Mrs Wood Pigeon sat on it first, and then Mr Wood Pigeon had his turn at keeping the egg warm. For several days they took turns at incubating their fabulous egg.

Mr Wood Pigeon had another job in between sittings. He had to make sure the area around the nest was safe from enemies. There was one smart-alec male woodpigeon on the other side of the field. He clearly had his eye on Mrs Wood Pigeon. He would strut around, and then perform spectacular aerodynamics just to show off. And he imitated everything that Mr Wood Pigeon did. If Mr Wood Pigeon flew up in the air, the smart-alec would as well. If he flew down, so did the smart-alec. It was infuriating.

“One day I’m going to teach you a good lesson”, called out Mr Wood Pigeon to the smart-alec across the way. And he did! One lovely sunny afternoon, just after Mrs Wood Pigeon had taken over the care of the egg, Mr Wood Pigeon swooped across the field in pursuit of the smart-alec. The smart-alec flew towards him at a fantastic rate. They collided. WHAM!

Mr Wood Pigeon’s neck was broken. He’d flown into his reflection in the window of the house across the field. Mrs Wood Pigeon waited and waited, but Mr Wood Pigeon never came back.

Poem 80: When birds begin to sing

When birds begin to sing
I know with joy that spring is near.
Somehow, this time of year,
the birds join up in pairs and build
nests, lay eggs in song-filled
days, feed, are never stilled lest
the fledglings leave the nest too soon.

Fresh things are everywhere!
Flowers bloom! Fruit forms! The air – it cries
new life! And butterflies!
And bees! Yet here, in my old, spent
winter of discontent
I must not not forget to turn
the page, the page, the page.

Listen to the poem read aloud HERE!

(Based on the Vietnamese Luc Bat).