Friday, October 29, 2010

A Roommate Lost And A New One Found :-)

I had been a bit afraid of how I would cope with suddenly living alone again. There were obviously quite a few advantages associated with not having a roommate. Like, it would surprise me if the disappearing ice-cream problem would persist and also, my expectations were that it would be significantly easier to negotiate pillow ownership with an opponent less :-)

So there I was with all the pillows and a bucket of ice-cream while feeling slightly lonely, when a movement revealed that a new little visitor had moved in; a freezing tiny lizard was trying to warm in the sun on the cold floor of my sun-room. Reptiles desperately need heat to be able to move and this little fellow looked in trouble, it was so cold that it could barely move and it looked hungry .. and it was not the ice-cream it was after :-)

I quickly arranged a tiny puddle of water and a selection of food crumbs in the sunny windowsill, lifted the cold little lizard up there and got hold of my camera and macro lens. It was incredible easy getting the close-ups of the lizard, it barely moved .. for about 2 min! :-) After that its movements became faster and I decided to observe from a distance.

I somehow had imagined that it would just stand there and let the sun slowly heat its body, instead the lizard immediately flattened itself onto the warm windowsill as soon as I had placed it there to maximize heat transfer. What a smart feller! :-) The crumbs disappeared and the little fellow took off up along the sliding window - great little happening on an otherwise boring August day :-)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Botany Bay National Park - Land of The Southern Emu-wren

After that I have been traveling, I often end up revisiting many of my old favorite spots close to Sydney. Being slightly beaten up by jetlag, full up of exploring foreign territories and often running out of memory card space ;-) it is very convenient to just go and have a bit of a relax in one of Sydney's not so busy backyard - Botany Bay National Park, specifically the area between Boat Harbour and Cape Solander, qualifies for that.

Apart from delivering some good bushwalking and great vistas, it is a fantastic spot for some lazy birding and it gives the visitor a chance of seeing one of the cutest small birds Sydney has to offer; Southern Emu-wren - Botany Bay was where I saw my first SE-w and it proved to still be the spot. Get a bit away from the coast into the scrubby parts of the heathland, keep the camera ready and listen for high pitched wren chirps and you might get lucky :-) This time I got onto a female SE-w exposing itself to a bit of afternoon sun for about 20 seconds (top photo) not bad at all.

Great blue sky, Cockatoos flying above and some opportunistic plants flowering despite of the calender showing mid winter. Sydney is not to shabby a place to live :-)

It is possible to cover the full stretch from Cape Solander to Boat Harbour and back in a few hours, it is even possible doing it while birding, but depending on the activity of the feathered inhabitants it can take you most of an afternoon. I expected Boat harbour to be fairly quiet mid August, it is just a bit too early for the arrival of all the exotic waders, so I decided to cut the walk short and save some energy for later in the year. It could very well be the right time of year just now to release some of that energy - the internet is full of rumors about good waders around and there is a few of them that I still need to see. :-)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Barren Grounds - Finally I Got My Ground Parrot :-)

Back in Australia and back to Barren Grounds Nature Reserve. The faithful readers out there will remember that I have been to Barren Grounds at least twice while blogging; the trip with Jarrod where we saw the Jewel Spider and when Gemma and I had a (nearly too) close encounter with a Highlands Copperhead. In total I have probably made the trip south 5 times, so why keep going when you have already seen all that stuff? ;-)

Well, despite of all those visits, I had only seen 1 of the 2 birds Barren Grounds is famous for: Eastern Bristlebird, ca. 2 years ago I was down there and saw half a dozen of them running around in less than 1 hour, but on every single visit I have dipped on the Ground Parrot! Despite of missing 5 times, Barren Ground is still the best spots in the universe to go if you want to see Ground Parrot, Pezoporus wallicus, it is simply just a tricky bird to see.

Finally, the little green-feathered parrot decided to show :-) We had two sightings, firstly a bird in flight which I did not manage to get photos of and ca. 1 hour later, but not to far away from our first sighting, we got views of a bird in high grass ca. 25 meters in front of us on the path, I managed to get a few poor photos of that one, I cannot rule out that it was not the same bird.

Good stuff! Quite happy to finally get decent views of this little secretive gem. Apart from the GP we saw very few bird, it could be because weather was less than impressive. Strong winds, cloudy and so little light, that it nearly felt like evening - maybe that had helped us, since the GP is famous for only showing during early morning and at dusk. Only one other bird qualifies for the blog - Beautiful Firetail above is always a good spot.

Hopefully I will still go to Barren Grounds once and a while, it is great bushwalking down there and after having finally covered most of the birds flying around at the plateau, I can just concentrate more on all the other stuff making it worth getting your lazy bum of the sofa. :-)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Back in Copenhagen - Danish Holiday Coming to An End - Final Post

The holiday was coming to an end and I was only a good long weekend away from having to board another lovely long-haul for down under. Before that, however, we were going to take full advantage of a long weekend opportunity in Copenhagen.

As I stated in the very first post, Copenhagen knows how to put on a show and if you ask, there is a good possibility of some of the friendly locals taking you for a little tour - particular if you actually know them ;-) We caught up with a(nother) friendly little gang of Larsens, which gave us the tour of Christianshavn where the keen tourist will be able to tick the spire of Church of Our Saviour (Vor Frelsers Kirke) and one of Copenhagen's newest and most popular sights: Noma - the best restaurant in the world!!

Best way to see Copenhagen is from the water! Head down to Nyhavn and jump onto one of the canal tours, that will take you around the harbor and canals for about 30kr ($6). The full tour will take you about 1 hour, and all the boats I have been on have excellent guides that are capable of covering all the stories in a minimum of 3 languages without even breaking a sweat.

Having to sit still in the flight back home to Sydney for a day I convinced my companions to join in on a solid walk up along the harbor front to Langelinie. Great walk with heaps of stuff going on around you. The new Opera House in the photo above is a newcomer, it only finished in 2005. Discussing the architectural quality of the Opera is a favorite topic of many Danes. Expectations were sky high since that combo - Danish architect and Opera House - has quite a fine track record. Sound quality is apparently state of the art, so no matter what people think of the building otherwise, it is probably fair to primarily judge an opera on its capability of producing nice sounds :-)

We reached Amalienborg and dad was on home turf, he is probably the only one I know that has actually been invited over to visit the Queen :-) Another visitor were in town and he had arrived in style - Paul Allen had sailed in on his ship "Octopus", 125m long, 60 crew on board, 2 helicopters and a submarine just to mention a few of the facts about this tinny .. it only just makes top ten on the largest superyacht list, but hopefully Paul does not care about that :-)

The little mermaid was not home at Langelinie this summer - she had made the trip to China - Expo 2010 - to help promoting Danish export, quite a task for an old lady :-) Instead we used a bit of time at the Gefion Fountain, which definitely has the size to impress - strange how it has been absolutely crushed in level of appreciation by a tiny non-water-squirting figurine sitting quietly on a rock :-)

Fantastic stuff! Great holiday! It nearly felt a little sad to leave for Sydney, but very few things in life are irreversible and I will probably do the same trip once and a while in the future. I have created a little Picasa album with all the photos from these Danish-Holiday blog posts and a few bonus ones. Feel free to access them by clicking the link below. :-)
Denmark summer 2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Summerhouse - Orchids and Hedgehog - Denmark - Part 6

The summerhouse has quite a few features that adds to the joy of going back home. It delivers extremely quiet nights (and days), which results in some top quality sleeps - I could cut an hour of my standard sleep and still feel more refreshed than I would after a night next to the bus stop in Coogee :-D ... but why cut when there is no need? ;-) The quality of BBQ equipment is another big plus, and in combo with someone volunteering to steer the machinery and a series of lovely Danish summer evenings, we could in no way complain about our countryside accommodation.

During the last ca. 5 years we have had an orchid growing in an area close to the summerhouse - a wild one that is, we did not plant it and we are not giving it any special treatment - except for a visit once and a while when we are out for a walk. Nevertheless it consistently manages to flower every summer and even deep into the Danish winter you will still be able to spot the dead flower stem standing tall above the snow - if you know where to look.

The little beauty is from the Dactylorhiza family (Gøgeurt), a good guess would be D. purpurella (Purpur Gøgeurt) since the flowers are distinctly more blueish than red, but variation in color is very common and the D. purpurella was indeed for a long time considered just another color variant of D. majalis. All orchids in Denmark are protected and all of them are in trouble - extensive use of the land, drainage, use of fertilizer etc. have made these fantastic flowers rare, which spurs the next level of treats - "collectors" removing them from their natural habitat and placing them in their gardens, where they slowly deteriorate and die do to badly matching soil composition not providing them with their needs. In reality I do not think many are "stolen" from nature, the big culprit is the loss of idle land being allowed to just be there without human intervention.

As if it was planned we managed to convince one of the most lovable dusk loving Danish mammals to perform a little show for our international visitor. Despite of the spike look, no one can help falling for the hedgehog (pindsvin). Indeed Little G. took charge of the camera and managed to immortalize the little feller below.

Great stuff! The holiday was slowly coming to an end and it was time to leave Jutland. Before getting airborne, however, there would be a couple of days in Copenhagen - probably a good idea, since Sydney can be a bit intimidating when you arrive straight from the dark end of Jutland :-D

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Klosterheden - Denmark - Part 5

Back to another favorite spot - Klosterheden, where we had seen the White-throated dipper (Vandstær) last winter. Once again absolute fantastic to see everything green and bursting with life when your last memory of the place was quiet and covered with a layer of snow.

Naively - or should I just say optimistically - we had talked ourselves into believing that there was a chance of seeing beaver(s), as evident from the wood work in the pictures above we definitely saw signs of beaver activity, but there was not even a shadow of the bark eating semi-aquatic rodent to be seen. A chat to one of the park officers revealed that the chance of seeing our target creature by waltzing through the forest ca. midday middle of summer was next to non-existing. These creatures are exceptionally shy and nocturnal - a combination that often makes a creature a really difficult (and good) tick, like most of the shy nocturnal mammals and birds in Australia :-)

Birds were good, but again getting the photos was really hard. A dense green danish summer forest does not give you many chances of catching anything through the foliage. Finally I managed to get a BIF shot of a Common Buzzard, only fair since they are as common in Jutland as Common Myna in Coogee. Years of abuse from humans have, however, made them extremely wary and your best chance is to either approach them in a car or be lucky to catch one flying towards you.

Klosterheden was teaming with Roe Deer, during our winter walk we had seen glimpses of a couple, but this summer day we good great views of something like half a dozen including a little deer family.

All good, nothing wrong with a good solid walk in the forest and dipping on the beavers just mean that there will have to be another wander in the Klosterheden next time I am under those distant skies.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Birding Vejlerne - Denmark - Part 4

One of the good things about a little country is that you are close to everything :-) I have previously claimed that Balling was located less than 10km from one of the best bird spots in Denmark, however, getting in the car and driving for about an hour will take you to what is probably the best birding area of all of Denmark and arguable one of the best places in Europe for birdwatching: Vejlerne or The Vejler.

During the middle of the 19th century the kingdom of Denmark lost a few wars, it hurts your pride to loose, but even worse loosing a war or two often involved the loss of land i.e. your production of bacon and milk goes down the drain. So what to do? - lets drain all the lakes and wetlands and make them into prime farm land! .. luckily it was harder than expected and in a few cases the projects were abandoned - like in the case of vejlerne - resulting in some of the best bird habitat around.

Located in the north end of Jutland, Vejlerne becomes an absolute crucial pit-stop opportunity for the army of European birds migration between the warm south and the cold north, who would not like to take a little breather and stock up on food before having to make the journey across the water.

The Danish birding community must be very well organized, the hides are absolutely top-notch quality! Good seating options, windows that can be opened just enough to get a clear view with your scope, but still keep the wind out (not something you think about in Australia, but it surely make sense in colder climate) and very appropriate the hides have thatched roofs making them blend into the reed forest surrounding them. The level of equipment for use was another welcome surprise, in most of the hides there were binoculars for anyone to use - but a free-to-use roof mounted (and spring suspended) monster binocular allowing you to get good focus on every single bird between Sweden and England must be the Nirvana-model of fully equipped bird hides - Fantastic stuff!! :-)

Birds were good, really good - but it was hard to get proper close. I managed to get a good BIF of a Marsh Harrier (Rørhøg) on the hunt around one of the bird hides. 5th photo is a BIF of a Northern Lapwing (Vibe). It is a bird that used to be very common in DK, but sightings are now down to about 25% of what it they were 35 years ago. Just below the Lapwing is a familiar sight - or nearly - the Eurasian Oystercatcher (Strandskade) looks very much like the Australian Pied O. equivalent. Highlight of the day - bird wise that is - was to see Eurasian Crane (Traner)! With the help of the roof mounted binoculars we all managed to get good views of a few of these fantastic birds. Pretty impressive, since they were probably about 1km away - unfortunately well and truly outside of Bigma range .. maybe I should cool the need for a wide-angle lens and start buying and stacking teleconverters with the Bigma! ;-)

Great day in the reeds! Judged from the smiles in the photo above I was not the only one enjoying myself ;-) Lovely place, definitely somewhere I would like to go again. Funny that the hardest part of this blog post was probably to find the Danish names for some of the birds :-) .. and I must admit that I still think Oystercatcher is a better name than Strandskade :-D