May 25, 2015

Riding the Devil’s Highway

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Tasmania might be known internationally as the home of the Hollywood cartoon character, Taz, based on the real-life Tasmanian devil, but the island state has another claim to fame. It is also the roadkill capital of the world, with one animal killed every two minutes on the bitumen, among them the endangered Tasmanian devil. With so much roadkill on view, Tasmanians joke ironically that perhaps a glass-bottomed bus tour should be added to the … [Read More...]

Fishing with dynamite

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Some birders I have met have this ability to literally charm the birds out of the trees. They are masters of the ancient birding art of “pishing” – making bird sounds by pursing the lips to attract the target bird’s attention. Birds are innately curious and any unfamiliar sound that vaguely resembles a bird call will entice them to come and have a look. My attempts at pishing usually fall on deaf ears but I decided to hone my skills … [Read More...]

Deadlines and wattlebirds

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A subordinate clause here, an eastern spinebill there. A split infinitive on the screen, a silvereye in the bottlebrushes beyond the window of my study.  The life of an online sub-editor is not an easy one, not like the days when I worked in the Mercury newsroom which merely offered a view of a red-brick wall enclosing an alley dividing the newspaper building with the post office next door. That alleyway, though, once produced a rare masked … [Read More...]

Watching the blues away

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BIRDS are the great escape from the strains and pressures of daily life, or at least they have been for me my entire life. So when a close friend was feeling low and bereft I suggested we take a stroll into the world of birds to take his mind of things. My friend had in recent days seen his only son leave for university study in England and was coming to grips with that feeling all loving parents eventually come to know, “empty nest … [Read More...]

Gangsters in the ‘hood’

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Thugs, muggers and bullies. The worst of Melbourne’s gangland violence may have passed but the standover men, and women, are still fighting their corner in the backstreets of St Kilda.  I’m not talking here about the notorious gangland families  –  the Morans, Williams and Sunshine Crew – but the gangsters of the bird world: the mynas and miners, the crows and currawongs, the wattlebirds and the magpies.  Added to the nefarious mix is a … [Read More...]

Harriers find a friend

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The patch of yellow grass in a shorn hay meadow held a secret within in its sun-burnt stalks swaying in the hot summer wind.  The secret was partially revealed as I approached the grassy oasis because overhead a bird of prey appeared as if from nowhere, letting out a shrill cry that echoed through the surrounding hills.  Treading carefully through the tall grass I suddenly caught sight of two creamy-white,  downy shapes, perfectly … [Read More...]

Feeling the heat

Black cockatoo

“Phew, what a scorcher” is a headline that came to mind, the sort of thing I would have written during my days as a wordsmith on a tabloid daily newspaper in London.  It was the hottest day on record in Hobart – a staggering 41.8 degrees Celsius – and I headed to Mt Wellington in search of cool air, and birds.  I was disappointed to find that the Pinnacle Road up the mountain was closed because of the extreme fire risk and settled instead … [Read More...]