Archive for the 'Australia' Category


Just a Duck

We called at Leighton Moss RSPB on our way up to Southern Scotland a couple of weeks ago. Why wouldn’t yoy? It’s a great reserve. A duck was in front of one of the hides that I didn’t immediately recognise. Based on the size of the bill it was a shoveler species. An obvious escape. I thought initially Cape Shoveler but no, it was more like something I was much more familiar with … Australian Shoveler.

However, it didn’t match exactly the birds I’d seen on my many visits to the former colony. The breast and flanks seemed to be the wrong colour/patterning and the facial crescent was much more prominent. A 2018 paper in Dutch Birding describes the quest of several Dutch birders to identify a similar hybrid duck on the island of Schiermonnikoog. The article is here. What do you think?


A year, a marsh and a painting

On the 14th February, this Sunday, it will be exactly a year ago that Tania and I tied the knot and became husband and wife; our ‘paper’ anniversary. What a year it’s been. A strange year to say the least. We’ve been together; that’s all that matters. It could have been so different if we had delayed the wedding. In fact if we had put back Tania’s move from Australia, it could have been catastrophic. We count ourselves as fortunate; lady luck dealt us a good hand.

When we have been able to get out we have made use of the time to let Tania see a little of the Norfolk countryside. One place we have returned to time after time is Cley. We both love the marshes there.

John Hurst is a Norfolk landscape artist of impeccable quality who produces watercolour paintings I have admired for years. ( He captures just the right quality of light for than unique combination of sky and reedbed Norfolk has to offer When we saw his painting of Cley Marshes looking east towards Walsey Hills we knew we had found an ideal joint 1st anniversary present.


2020 – my best year yet.

I’ve been receiving cards over Christmas from family, friends, neighbours and customers and they all have had something in common. The wording has been different in each, but the sentiment has been the same … ‘better year in 2021’ … ‘hopeful for change’ … ‘can’t wait until restrictions eased’. You get the drift.

Well, Tania and I must have been on a different planet. We’ve had a great year.

We went on holiday to Florida, we got married, we’ve had the longest honeymoon in history and Tania got a visa to stay and work in the UK and got a Job in the middle of a pandemic. What’s to hate?

Sure, to be wrapped up in ourselves and completely insulated to the misery that is cruelly thwarting the world would be wrong. However, we have managed by careful and thoughtful practice to avoid crowds, be mindful of others and from day one wore gloves and masks when shopping and stayed at home when appropriate. These are OUR rules, not those of some twat in Westminster that can’t even comb his hair. We haven’t extended our liabilities up to the limits of recommendations. We’ve always worked within them. Long before Christmas restrictions my daughter and I decided that she wouldn’t join us this year. Because it was the sensible thing to do. Distance. Distance. Distance. If anyone decided otherwise then they are doomed to disappointment.

So, the best moment of 2020? There have been a few. I’ll cover some in a future post but one moment springs to mind where we shared an evening with a calling Barred Owl. Disappointingly it never did emerge from its hole in a large tree. We were within Mahogany Hammock in the Everglades. As darkness crept through the trees and shapes turned into imaginations a lightshow emerged. A million diamonds flashing in the dark. Fireflies, here there and everywhere. It was like being in a scene from Avatar. I was spellbound.

In reality, the best part of the year has to be spending so much time with Tani. I would guess you would think I have to say that, but to be honest who could not think the world of someone who takes with her a bit of grated cheese or muesli every morning. Just to feed the Robin that greets her in the dark on the platform of West Runton Station. A little Antipodean with a big heart.

Merry Christmas to one and all.


Goodbye 2019

Well, we’re nearly there. A new year. A new future. A new start.

As we stride forward over the threshold drinking our ‘cup of kindness’ it’s hard not  to look back. For Tania and I it has been a year of paperwork, patience and facetime. That’s now over. For good. 2020 will cement our future… together.

On the wildlife front 2019 was again full of sightings. The Bay of Biscay trip sits high on the list of favourites; how can a rare petrel and a cast of whales not be up there. Lots of highlights on the tours and day trips. Two trips to Australia were also up there. A place I’ve become to regard as my second home. However, the trip Tania and I did to the South coast of Victoria in July around Warrnambool sits atop the pile. Just the variety of birds, wildlife, locations and photo opportunities was just fantastic.

So what of 2020. Florida is on the agenda, the Forest of Dean. Oh! … and a Wedding! The round the UK mammal tour will run as will Central Scotland and the East Coast Seabird Tour. Cornwall, Scillies, and Cumbria are also all booked and will run. Whatever, 2020 brings it’s set to be exciting, different and interesting. I couldn’t ask anything more from life.

The photo is a Black shouldered Kite that we spend a pleasant evening photographing on Victoria’s south coast. Happy New Year!


Fires and Eucalypt loving marsupials

It’s been a pretty mild winter here of late. Maybe that’s something to do with the furnace in the basement of the planet. :0) With the highest temperature ever in Australian history to hit the record books this week it seemed appropriate to highlight the plight of some of the Australian wildlife.

The bush fires which are an inevitable part of 45 degrees centigrade plus temperatures are a devastating event for many Australians and our heart goes out to those fighting the fires and those who are suffering loss of family and property. Seemingly sometimes wildlife also pays a price. Many birds and mammals can escape however particularly at risk are Koalas. Although they can move relatively quickly over short distances a speed necessary to escape a wide firefront can’t be maintained. They inevitably perish. Some populations of this unique mammal are at high risk and with the total number of wild Koalas numbering less than 80,000 the survival of the species could be in the balance.

One charity directly helping the situation is the Australian Koala Foundation A nice Christmas present in someones name rather than an unwanted gift this Christmas.

This is one of the Koalas Tania and I found last November on Raymond Island. We had such a good time there and the wildlife was so accommodating. We had a great half hour just watching this individual.




In Australia we saw plenty of Little Black Cormorants; LBC’s. They appear to be a sort of cross between our own Cormorant and Shags; showing features of both.


Whales, Stone Forests and Waving Tails

I was daydreaming about Australia the other day. I was carried back to a headland, Cape Bridgewater, close to Portland on the south coast of Victoria. We went mainly to look for whales, which we found … well actually Tania found in good numbers; but there was also a petrified forest there too that was worth visiting. As we walked along the sparsely vegetated cliff top this little fella jumped out and started shouting at us. A Striated Fieldwren. He had the amusing habit of waving his tails as he sang. The way he greeted us and appeared to be saying “Hi”made me smile.


Falling for an Emu

I wanted to photograph Emus. They are just about as close as a bird gets to a dinosaur. Having been told Tower Hill on the Victorian coast was a good place to see them we made an early morning visit in July.

We saw one almost immediately. Several more followed. I pursued one up hill through the Wattle bushes to watch it where it it fed peacefully. I had been told not to get too close to Emus by several people; apparently they can be quite vicious.

As I was happily photographing ‘my’ Emu I became aware it was paying more than a passing interest in me … or more likely my camera. I’m guessing it saw its reflection in the lens. I took a step or two back to bid a retreat when I lost my footing. Down the hill I went. Not a soft landing! Luckily the bird didn’t treat my horizontal repose as a sign of weakness; have you seen the size of the claws on these things!

When I recovered it was feeding happily again; …but I’m sure I heard it laugh!



Wonderful Songster

A delightful bird that occupies the coastal scrub around Portland and area is the Singing Honeyeater. A really wonderful songster.


A trio of Robins

Australia has more than its fair share of Robins; 16 species in all. of which 7 occur in Victoria.

The You Yangs are a block of granite rising proud of Melbourne’s coastal plain covering about 30 square kilometers; much of which is given over to the You Yangs National Park. It is an area rich in bird life. At the end of last month I spent a day there mooching around searching for a few things to photograph. I was in my element.

The first birds I saw on walking to the aptly named ‘Big Rock’ was a pair of Eastern Yellow Robins. It wasn’t until I got to the top did I find the Scarlet Robin – a new bird for me. Well, in fact. I didn’t find it, it found me. Landing on the ground in front of me I was blown away by this sprightly little bird. However, nothing prepared me for the Flame Robin we stumbled across at the end of the day. As the light of a winters day began to fail a beacon of colour perched up in front of us. Wow!

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Apr 2023


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