Wednesday, 30 July 2014

WBW 107 - Puffins

One of the best things from a birdwatching point of view about my recent trip to the UK was the chance to see birds that I had seen on a regular basis in the past, but were now not found in Australia. They may be common to UK birders, but they were special for me,

And an even better thing was to see birds that I had only seen on a few occasions in the UK again - and one of these birds was the Puffin - or to given it its proper common name, the Atlantic Puffin.

I watched these delightful little birds - and they are not as big as most people think - on The Farne Islands, off the coast of Northumbria in the NE of England.  If you have any interest in birds and find yourself in the UK in spring or summer, this is a place you really should visit.

The Farne Islands sit just a couple of miles off shore, and can be reached by boats that leave from Seahouses. And on these islands (along with many, many other birds) live about 40,000 pairs of Puffins!

Its a place to get excited about.

The Puffin (I really cant bring myself to add "Atlantic") is a little ball of a bird, about 30cm long, with a white face, and, in summer, a brightly coloured beak.  Going by the name of Fratercula arctica, it is an auk and has more than a passing resemblance to a penguin.  To round out the wonderfulness of these birds, they nest in burrows and fly with a startlingly fast wing beat.

The puffins of the Farne Islands (and elsewhere) are a migratory bird, breeding on the island and then heading out to sea for the winter.  It is assumed that these birds spend much of the winter in the middle of the Atlantic - but this is not really the place where much birdwatching goes on, so there is still a deal of uncertainty about this.

If there was ever a bird guarenteed to make you smile, I think it would be these.

Now its over to you once more - and this week I should be able to visit sites and reply to comments!

Click away!

Monday, 28 July 2014

Hampstead High Street 1; A Walk with Jet Lag

We arrived in London early in the morning, and despite the obvious attraction of going to bed, we tried to settle into out accommodation and generally stay awake.

We rented a small flat, over a shoe shop, on Hampstead High Street, just a short walk from Hampstead Heath.  There was a pub just over the road, and book shop just up it.  There was milk in the fridge and tea in the cupboard.  Who could ask for more!

Those of you who have followed my blogs may have noticed I have a tendency to look for things small and generally unnoticed - so on my first walk I photographed doors, street signs and found new way to show that I really was in Hampstead.

I'm not sure if these will appeal to many people - only time will tell.

You can find more images from around the world at Our World Tuesday.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Green Man

This is the first in what may be a longish sequence of images from my recent month in the UK.  Wonderful weather - summers like when I was a kid - and lots of good things to see!

We spent a few days in Norfolk, a part of the UK I had never been to.  On one of the days we went to Norwich and spent some time in the Cathedral.

One of the things I wanted to see there was a roof boss carving in the cloisters. The cloisters were build between 1297 and 1430, with the Black Death causing considerable delays in its progress.

The roof boss carving shows a human face, surrounded by leaves, called "The Green Man".

Similar figures are not that uncommon in many churches in the UK (and other parts of Northern Europe), but there meaning and significance is debated.  A common line of thought suggests that the face - which is always flanked by leaves or branches - is an adaptation of a pre-christian religious symbol.  If these earlier religions were rooted in a close connection with nature, here we may have a woodland spirit, the essence of places small and green, peeking in on the rites and rituals of the religion that largely replaced it.   I have to say, its a thought that I find rather comforting.

You can find more macro images at Macro Monday 2 and I Heart Macro  SM.

Friday, 25 July 2014

A post at last!

Greetings - have some of you may have noticed I have not been replying to comments over the last month.  This was because I was in the UK for a month and put the blog on the back burner tallow for friends, family and such like - all the post were scheduled before I left, just to keep things ticking over!

So, normal service will resume, and I'll be back out and about in the world of blogs soon!


Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Wild Bird 106 - Superb Fairy-Wren

If Black Swans were a shock to the early european settlers in Australia, I really can't image the impact that this bird would have had.

This is a male Superb Fairy Wren (Malurus cyaneus) singing its heart out to let other know who is boss.

These birds are tiny as mice, and just as fast.  They tend to gather in family groups, so it is rare to see one on its own.  While not as vocal as some wrens, these fairy wrens make up for that in colour.

This is the typical "blue wren" of South-East Australia, and one day I hope to be able to get decent images of some of these other species.

I don't have time to do much more today - so, sorry for the short post!

Over to you!

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

How to Train your Dragon

My kids are the perfect age to love the current crop of animated films - and recently there was an exhibition of some of the drawings and models used in the production of the films.

I did not take many pictures, but this is one of my favourites, as it seems to be a different angle from most.

I can remember when I went so see the original Toy Story and we were laughed at by the person taking the tickets as we were about the only couple there with no kids - so maybe the love of these films says as much about me as it does about the age of my kids!  Who knows.

You can find more shots from around the world at Our World Tuesday.  SM

Monday, 21 July 2014

Railway Signs

I found these signs on a road side display on the way to the Grand Canyon.  I just liked the bright colours (of in this case colors) and the simple lines.

You can find more macro shots at Macro Monday 2 and I Heart Macro.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Wild Bird Wednesday 105 - Small Grebes

There are few birds that seem as special to me as grebes - owls maybe, parrots possibly, maybe even kingfishers.  But when I was a kid they had a special kind of mystery attached to them.  It was a well know story that the RSPB was formed (at least in part) because the demand for ornamental feathers from the Great Crested Grebe had pushed this species to the edge of extinction in the UK, and "something needed to be done".

So, every time I saw one (and they were never that common in my neck of the woods) it was a reminder of the possibility of action and success.

I have found grebes of all types hard to photograph - too shy, too distant, too willing to sink slowly and unseen underwater and just swim off.

So, seeing grebes today - and for a lot of reasons I see them far more often than I did as a kid - is still a bit of treat.

So, here are two species of small grebe - Pied Billed Grebes from Arizona and Hoary Headed Grebes from Australia.

Hoary Headed Grebe
Hoary Headed Grebe 
Hoary Headed Grebe
Hoary Headed Grebe
Hoary Headed Grebe

Hoary Headed Grebe
Now (for the 105th time) it's over to you - click on the link and off you go.  SM

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Classic Australian 2

With the possible exception of wolves, the poor old Koala must be subject to more myths than almost any other animal that actually exists.

1. They are not a bear - in fact they are more closely related to Wombats than any other species
2. They are not drunk - yes, they are fermenting their food, but thats because they (just like any other mammal) cannot digest cellulose, and they are waiting for the bacteria in their guts to do the work for them.
3. They are not in a drugged stupor because of toxins in the leaves - see above!


1. Yes, they do spend most of their time asleep - but thats because they are waiting for the bugs to do their work.  And also, if your diet was basically nutrient poor cardboard, you would spend as much time asleep as possible!

2. Yes, their brain does not fill their cranium! A good 30% of the volume of the cranium is taken up with a kind of pale jelly.  In the evolutionary war between low energy use and university graduation, low energy use won!

But there are, never the less, a cracking animal!

You can find more pictures from around the world at Our World Tuesday.  SM

Monday, 14 July 2014

Beached Washed

I found this collection of rocks, shells and bones on the beach recently - I don't know if it the remains of a barbecue, or the washed out remains of a life - but what ever it was it caught my eye.

You can find more macro shots at Macro Monday 2 and I Heart Macro.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Wild Bird Wednesday 104 - Black Swans

One of the brief moments in history I would like to see would be when the first European settlers in Australia discovered that the swans were black.  This must have come as a bit of a shock.  In the UK the mute swan is so well known, that it must have been considered the default condition for "swan-ness" - and then out of the undergrowth swims a huge black bird, with just a touch of white, and an impressively red beak.

I sort of imagine that there may have been some swearing along the lines of "what the @#$* is that!".  Even though I knew that the swans here were black, it still came as a shock when one swam past for the first time.  It makes me wonder what impact the chalky white ones will have on me the next time I see one.

This birds formal name - Cygnus atratus - means "swan in mourning" - which really does suggest that this bird made people think about swan-ness in a new way.

With a wing span approaching 2 m and a weight of about 6 kg the males are an impressive bird, and the females are not far behind.

These pictures were taken during my recent trip to Phillip Island, where they popped up all over the place.

Well, now its your turn - click the button, link up and join in the fun!  SM

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Classic Australia 1

This design of wind pump is an Australia classic - and while its location  may be a little contrived, just a few hours from Melbourne, I still like it.

You can find more images from around the world at Our World Tuesday.  SM

Monday, 7 July 2014


On a recent walk home I found these plants invading new territory - a little bit of botanical annexation!

You can find more macro shots at Macro Monday 2 and I Heart Macro.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Wild Bird Wednesday 103 - Sooty Oystercatchers

This will be a rather briefer than normal WBW this week - rather busy with life and such like.

Like most osystercatchers this is a bird I associate with sea-shores and waves, and salt air.  We have two species of oystercatcher in Australia - The Pied and the Sooty.  The sooty - Haematopus fuliginosus - is a lover of all things rocky and sharp.  Its habitat is normally rocky shores and wave cut platforms.  While I have seen them on sandy shores, it is always something to comment upon.

The two pictures here of this bird walking on sand are a but deceptive, as these were just small areas of beach on an otherwise rocky shore.

Now its over to you for WBW 103.  Click on the link below and off you go.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014


I was struck by the almost graphic arts nature of the stripes on this beach - and the addition of a White-Faced Heron made it even better.

This picture was taken on Churchill Island - which is an small island just off shore from Phillip Island.

You can find more pictures from around the world at Our World Tuesday.  SM