A swamp harrier soared high above the Waterworks Valley, painting the blue sky in circles against a backdrop of streaks of white cirrus cloud. It was a rarity for my neck of the woods and my good friend Brian “The Flute” Owens had seen it first, pointing skyward and then identifying the raptor. Focusing my binoculars, I thought it might be a brown falcon at first, more common in my valley, but with naked eye Brian spotted the bird of prey’s distinctive feature, a white rump … [Read more...] about A harrier in tune with the wild
On The Wing
A column for all seasons
Everyone has a story about birds. They are all about us and are our contact point with nature. The birds I see are usually in an urban environment and so I concentrate on these in my writing. I don’t pretend to be an expert but birds of the city and suburb are also the ones that most people identify with, the species you do not need a compass and binoculars to seek out. A scarlet robin singing in a garden is just as exciting as a swift parrot in an ancient forest and is worth just as many words in my On the Wing writings.
You can’t keep an old birder down and so it was during the last week of October when I took my binoculars and crutches up to the Waterworks Reserve near my home to participate in the Aussie Backyard Bird Count. No matter I was only six days out of hospital after undergoing total knee-replacement surgery. The birds and Australia’s army of birders demanded I do my bit to participate in the annual census of our feathered friends. I wasn’t being quite as brave, or foolish, as … [Read more...] about A home in mankind’s world
The most harried and hindered bird of our beaches – the hooded plover – looked remarkably relaxed when I found a family of them one summer’s afternoon, strutting under a bright blue sky, gentle waves lapping at the shoreline close to their nest. In the past I had only seen the tiny plovers amid throngs of people, the “hoodies” on their short, stout legs trying to keep clear of not just the human beach users, but their dogs, horses and on several occasions, four-wheel-drives … [Read more...] about Hoodies find paradise lost
Many years ago when I found a young bird which had fallen from a nest I was confronted by the dilemma many of us face at this time of year – what to do with the little bundle of feathers, flesh and bone lying at our feet. In my case the bird happened to be a kestrel in my native Britain and it crossed my mind to keep it, and perhaps use it for a fledgling interest in falconry I had at the time. I was young then, in my teens, and no doubt influenced by a classic British film … [Read more...] about A bird in the hand
Spring was in the air as the sweet smell of newly mown grass and linseed oil drifted across the Tasmanian Cricket Association ground on the Domain. Grass cut, bats oiled, the players donning whites at the oval and, in another celebration of the end of winter, welcome swallows sweeping across the pristine turf still coated with early-morning dew. I was not patrolling the pitch and its surroundings to look at the returning swallows, however, and their close relatives, tree … [Read more...] about Birdsong and the crack of leather on willow