I have been a birder for many decades and over the last few years, I have been hooked by bird photography. I have also had my struggles with my health, so the title of this book attracted me at once.
Author Joe Harkness has endured bouts of depression as well as the stresses of the life of a teacher. I, too, have struggled with depression and the stress of teaching forced me to retire earlier than I had planned.
The author gently explains how getting out birdwatching and into the fresh air, getting exercise and taking his mind off those stressors in his life literally has saved his life. Birdwatching and being out enjoying the natural environment has been to him more therapeutic than any medications or counselling could ever achieve.
This book, although it is based on birdwatching in the UK, is applicable in any country. Only the bird species will be different. The author has included many practical hints at the end of each chapter. It is a timely publication in view of the enormous stressors the vast majority of people are experiencing these days. I highly recommend it.
Note to self: get out birding more often.
Bird Therapy blog written by Joe Harkness
In yesterday’s Advertiser paper here in South Australia, they featured a story about the recent reports of Red-whiskered Bulbuls. This is an introduced species from the India, and potentially a major pest species here in our state. It is a threat to several significant agricultural industries, including wine grapes, the citrus and strawberries.They are also a major threat to our native bird species.
I have known about some reports late last year from Mt Torrens in the Adelaide Hills region, one of our major fruit growing areas. More recently, the article claims that there has been a recent sighting in Eudunda, a mid-north town very close to the world-renowned wine growing region of the Clare Valley.
The article goes on to say that Biosecurity SA has spent $60,000 in their attempt to capture and destroy 10 known birds in the region. That seems a great price to pay for so few birds, but the threat to a 400 million dollar fruit industry is very real. There is a hefty fine for anyone releasing this species into the environment, a practice sometimes undertaken at weddings or anniversaries. Even keeping this species in captivity is banned here in South Australia.
There is an ever-present threat that some may inadvertently or deliberately be released here. The species is present in both the Melbourne and Sydney regions. The photo above was taken on a walk I did some years ago in Sydney. This was along the Flat Rock Creek to Middle Harbour walking track. The only other place I have seen this species was at the Australian Botanic Gardens at Mt Annan, also in the Sydney region.
I wanted to link to the article in The Advertiser but it is a restricted article; one needs to take out a digital subscription to the paper.
Several years ago we visited Morocco and fell in love with the country. It is a land of great contrasts and beauty, and we found the people to be friendly and welcoming. During our tour, we visited many wonderful and beautiful places. One of those places was the Sahara Desert. It did not disappoint. Over recent weeks, I have posted a few of the bird photos I took at the time.
The highlight of our visit to the desert was a camel ride into the Sahara on sunset. This was on Christmas Eve, so it certainly was a Christmas with a difference and certainly one to remember. We slept in a Berber tent in the desert overnight. The next morning – Christmas Day – we rode back to a local hotel where we had a late breakfast. While we were eating I managed some good photos of several local bird species. You can read about them here and here and here.
Today I feature another bird species seen at that location, the beautiful Southern Grey Shrike. This bird posed cooperatively for me on a light fitting just a few metres from where we were sitting. I love it when the birds pose like that – so considerate of them. This species, a member of the shrike family of birds, is found in northern Africa (except in the heart of the Sahara), Spain and through to Pakistan and India in the east. It is a passerine bird of medium size. It eats rodents, insects and will even take small birds as a part of its diet.
- Southern Grey Shrike – the article on Wikipedia
- Eurasian Collared Dove – an article about another species I photographed in the same location
- White-crowned Black Wheatear in the Sahara
On our tour of Morocco a few years ago we stopped for breakfast in the garden of an auberge (hotel) on the fringe of the Sahara Desert. We had spent the night in a Berber tent in the desert. It happened to be Christmas Eve – one we will not forget because it was so different. During breakfast, I was able to add quite a few photos of birds hanging around the gardens and buildings of the hotel.
One of the delightful birds I saw and photographed was the White-crowned Black Wheatear (Oenanthe leucopyga). This was a “lifer” – the first time I had ever seen this species in my life. I was so pleased to get several good photos of the bird. At the time, I didn’t know what it was and I have needed to do plenty of research here at home, both for this species, and for many others seen on the trip.
I have discovered that wheatears were once regarded as members of the Thrush family. In more recent times the experts have agreed that they are, in fact, members of the Old World Flycatcher family of birds.
They breed in the stony deserts from the Sahara across northern parts of Africa and as far as Iraq. It also occurs as a vagrant in parts of Europe, even occasionally in Great Britain. It makes a nest in the crevices of rocks or walls.
This species eats mainly insects. It also has a loud song, but the one I saw wasn’t calling.
You can read more about this species on Wikipedia here.
House Sparrows are an often over-looked bird species.
In my last post, I wrote about a visit a few years ago to the Sahara Desert in Morocco. In that post, I shared photos of the Eurasian Collared Dove I saw in Merzouga on the edge of the Sahara Desert. My wife, my daughter and I were on a tour of Morocco. The emphasis was on being tourists. Despite this, I was also on the lookout for opportunities to see new birds – any birds – and to get photographs of as many as possible.
After our camel ride into the Sahara Desert on sunset, we stayed in a Berber tent on Christmas Eve. Pre-dawn on Christmas Day saw the group staggering up a nearby sand dune to witness the sun rising over the desert, a truly wonderful experience. After riding out of the desert on camels again – such uncomfortable animals – we had breakfast. This sumptuous meal was in the grounds of a nearby hotel.
While having breakfast I was able to photograph a small number of birds nearby, including the female House Sparrows shown in today’s post. I found that this is a common species throughout Morocco. I recorded it in many places, including the bigger cities like Casablanca through to smaller rural villages.
I even noticed a small flock of them in the few trees near our campsite out in the desert. There was obviously enough food around to sustain a small population a considerable distance from houses. I find this is also true of this species here in Australia. I have seen quite large flocks – up to many dozens or more – quite some distance from human habitation, their preferred habitat. The small flock I saw in the desert had the advantage of plenty of grasses on and between the sand dunes nearby, as illustrated by these photos.
I am intrigued by the photo below. This shows two female sparrows at a hollow in the mud and straw wall of the building near where we had breakfast. I couldn’t tell whether they had made the hollow, or some other species had done it. It reminded me of the House Sparrows I encountered when I was a child. I grew up on a wheat and sheep farm in the Murray Mallee district of South Australia. The plentiful sparrows often made small nesting tunnels in the straw-thatched roof of the cow shed, as well as the roof of a hay shed.