Archive for July, 2007

What is your hobby?

I’ve just returned from my daily walk.

Actually, “daily” is a bit of a misnomer. I should be going for a daily walk for the good of my health. Too often it is more like a weekly walk, though I have been good over the last week or so, especially during our short holiday in Robe last week. More of that in another post.

As I was approaching home I saw an Australian Hobby sitting quietly on a dead branch of a mallee tree on the roadside. It seemed to be posing just for me, and stayed there as I walked by. It probably knew instinctively that I’d left the camera home!

I’ve always puzzled over the name “hobby” for this species. An alternative name, “Little Falcon” seems so much more apt. Can any of my readers throw any light on why or how the “hobby” part of the name came into being?

Sadly – I do not yet have a photo of this species to share with you.

UPDATE: There have been many comments left below in the comments section about this topic. Some of the comments were posted to the Birding Aus forum.

Birds in the News #91

The latest edition of Birds in the News #91 has been posted on “Living the Scientific Life“. It contains plenty of reading about birds from all over the globe with links to many articles about birds.

It was a dark and stormy day

Last week we went on a short five day holiday to the south east region of South Australia. I was accompanied by my wife, her mother and our adult daughter. It was our daughter who chose the destination: Robe on the Limestone Coast of southern South Australia.

Robe is a lovely seaside village with a very interesting history. Many original buildings from the middle of the 1800s are still in regular use. Oops – this is starting to sound like a travelogue – I’ll be writing more about that kind of thing on my travel blog here.

Back to the birding.

We left home in Murray Bridge mid-morning. The storm clouds had been gathering, along with a strengthening wind. By the time we reached Meningie it was time for lunch.

Lake Albert, Meningie, South Australia

Lake Albert, Meningie, South Australia

It was useless trying to have a picnic lunch on the beautiful lawns on the shore of Lake Albert in the main street. I parked the Mazda Bravo directly into the prevailing wild wind, lowered the tailgate and tried to assist my wife preparing some lunch. Mother-in-law and daughter wisely stayed in the car. We had to hold onto the food – it was in danger of being blown into Victoria!

Lake Albert, Meningie, South Australia

Lake Albert, Meningie, South Australia

White Caps:

Later we attempted to make a cup of tea. As we carried the mugs from the back of the car to the front to hand them through the window, white-caps appeared on the surface of the tea, splattering it all over the car. That’s wild wind. And it was bitterly cold.

I had to be content to do my birding from the driver’s seat in the car while I enjoyed my meal and cuppa. I didn’t take too many photos – there were very few birds to be seen. They’re not silly – they were probably sheltering somewhere sensible!

Camera trouble:

While trying to get a few shots of the scene I had some camera trouble. Actually the camera was fine – the batteries were flat, as were the next two sets of batteries I tried to use. It was one of those things I neglected to check before leaving home. Lesson learned. Fortunately I had a third set of batteries that kept me going during the short five day holiday. Just as well – I’d left the charger home.

A few hardy birds:

I did record a few hardy birds while we had our lunch. Several Australian Pelicans battled bravely with the wind out on the lake. A small flock of Silver Gulls huddled near some rocks, along with a solitary Dusky Moorhen. Two Little Pied Cormorants courageously sat atop a post on the jetty, defying the wind to blow them into the water. I also observed two Masked Lapwings on the roadside verge as we entered the town, along with several Australian Magpie Larks. Just out of town I saw a single White Faced Heron way out in a paddock – well away from the lake and the wildest of the wind. Two Crested Pigeons clung for dear life on a power line; I was amazed that they hadn’t been blown clear across the country. I think I saw several House Sparrows in bushes near the car, along with a Willie Wagtail and a Common Blackbird.

It was not an auspicious start to birding activities on my mini-holiday.

I’ll write about the rest of the week over the next few days.

Rearranging the nest

I’ve not been posting many new articles on this blog in recent weeks. I’ve been very busy rearranging various aspects of the nest.

By that I mean we’ve been making a few changes to our house, rearranging the rooms. My new office – formerly our bedroom – has a lovely outlook over the garden and nearby trees – perfect for birding but a slight distraction from writing.

All the furniture moving, shifting and rearranging reference books, cleaning and so on has meant little time for birding and writing on this blog. Now that is all over – so back to birding and writing on this blog.

And thrown into this mix was a short holiday at Robe on the south east coast of South Australia last week. It was cold and the birding was good without being great. I intend writing about what I saw over the coming days. Stay tuned.

How to go birding in an unfamiliar country

I have only had a limited experience at birding in an unfamiliar country. In late 2005 and early 2006 I spent four days in Thailand and three weeks in Nepal. A handful of species were easily identified; I recognized them from birds I’d seen here in Australia. Most species were a struggle to identify, despite doing over six months of study in the relevant field guides before leaving home.

Many birders would recommend hiring local birding guides. These guides have local knowledge about where to find the best birds and most will be able to show you the best ways to identify what you are seeing. I only had the benefit of a local guide on two occasions. He was made available as part of the package deal from the travel agent I used. He was actually a general guide but his specialty happened to be birds; this was a bonus for me.

For birders travelling on a restricted budget, hiring a guide may be out of the question. The next best thing is to access someone through Birding Pals. This is a worldwide service provided to travellers who are birders. I understand that this is largely a volunteer service to birders everywhere.

Disclaimer: I haven’t used the service provided in this way, so I cannot say whether or not it is a worthwhile way to go. It just sounds like a great way of contacting and meeting fellow birders in another country. If any of my readers has any experience of Birding Pals, good, bad or indifferent, please leave a comment for the benefit of others.