We have had the most stupendous summer here in northwest Tasmania – long, hot, sunny days stretching into warm evenings with not a breath of breeze. It will all come to an end in the next few weeks and we will be stoking the fire and donning coat, scarf, hat and gloves to venture outside. There has been a preponderance of birdlife this season, perhaps due to the absence of our usual resident tiger snake. I could spend hours watching the antics of these wonderful creatures making good use of our many birdbaths. The Black-headed Honeyeater is endemic to Tasmania and is a very sociable sort. The youngsters have a brown head and bill, looks like this was a family outing.
An Eastern Spinebill arrives but, after observing the zealous activity, seems reluctant to take the plunge.
No such reticence from the House Sparrow, he just dives straight in.
When the splashing abates, a New Holland Honeyeater sneaks in for a quiet drink.
A lone swimmer enjoys the peaceful interlude before the next family arrive.
A few years ago, I posted ‘random rambling’, a selection of photos that didn’t really fit any one subject. I have since accumulated a few more that I thought I would share with you. The male blue wrens have been in their eclipse phase through winter and are now bobbing around the garden in their bright blue plumage in pursuit of the ladies.
In the forest, flowers of wild white clematis transform in autumn to feathery seed floss.
Here is a bit of silliness. Spreading a few tons of mulch, Michael captured this from his perch on the tractor. He calls it, “burying the wife”.
After dark, our garden becomes a marsupial playground and sometimes the critters are slow to leave come morning. This pademelon didn’t seem in any particular hurry to return to the forest.
The elegant art installation by a local orb spinner decorated the verandah. Backlit by the morning sun, it was fortunately too high to trap the unsuspecting human.
Sitting at the dining table one afternoon, I saw a flash of white in my peripheral vision. I assumed it was a sulphur-crested cockatoo but on closer inspection, a beautiful Grey Goshawk had landed in a tree just outside the window. The threatened species has a population currently estimated at less than 110 breeding pairs in Tasmania, we are hopeful our forest is home to at least one of those pairs.
I spotted this humongous fungus in the crevice of a tree trunk in the garden,
ten days later, it had started to shrivel and change shape.
Our magnificent Golden Ash tree provides shelter through summer before the leaves turn gold in autumn and fall to the ground.
On this particular day, I looked up from my usual gardening position on my knees and was awed by the comfort of the canopy. I felt as though the tree was embracing me
or maybe it was my handsome North Wind man?
Looking out of the window one day, I could see black objects on the horizon (my eyesight isn’t what it used to be). I took a photo for identification purposes and confirmed nothing more exciting than the neighbouring cattle searching for tasty remnants in a barren field.
I discovered this delicate, white fungus while picking the last of our daffodils, it reminds me of coral. Apparently, it is called Shizophyllum commune and is very common on dead wood.
Our holly tree, once starved of light under a huge gum tree we have since removed, has flourished. I think this is proof that Christmas should be in winter.
Both the red and yellow waratahs are presenting a stunning display this year
Our few days at the Lake House remain in my memory as the most idyllic sojourn of our trip. On the southern shore of Lake Taupo, Motuoapa Bay is a tranquil cove that is situated to capture the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets. A short stroll on our first evening delivered a fine example of things to come.
The bay is also the location of a fabulous marina and home to an assortment of pleasure craft. The $6 million redevelopment took 18 years from original plans to completion in November 2017. For those into statistics, over 39,000 cubic metres of sediment was removed from the original marina basin and channel before being turned into 5.5 acres of reclaimed land. Nearly 1,600 square metres of concrete floating docks offer 158 berths. There was very little activity during our stay.
The next morning, with cups of tea in hand to warm against the chill, we ventured out in the early light.
We weren’t the only ones enjoying the serenity.
Taking a closer look at the marina,
I wondered about the intriguing names on some of the boats.
We returned to our base to prepare for an exciting day out at Tongariro National Park.
The following day was one of relaxation and, as the light began to fade, we couldn’t resist one last dose of the stunning surrounds. Canada geese and black swans were seeking their supper in the spotlight of a descending Sol.
Another round of the marina and still no sign of life.
We spied a few of these unusual birds and have since discovered they are California quail, an introduced game bird with an interesting head dress.
Reluctant as we were to leave Motuoapa Bay and the Lake House, there were new adventures awaiting.
The mention of pigeons in Italy usually conjures images of tourists in Venice being smothered by masses of the unruly birds, left with hair dishevelled, clothing akimbo and the odd splattering of egesta. The feeding of pigeons in Piazza San Marco was legally banned in 2008 with a penalty up to €700 to discourage the practice. While we saw the occasional pigeon on our travels, they were very discreet and didn’t exhibit any manic flock behaviour. A paddle in the waters of Fontana dell’Acqua Felice cooled the feet on a warm day in Rome.
The ancient stonework of the Colosseum now serves as a comfortable columbarium. The word is from the Greek for pigeon or dove and describes the niches in walls designed for roosting and breeding.
The merging of local and imported breeds over the centuries has led to an array of colours and markings. There aren’t many places better to enjoy the morning sun than the walls of Chiesa di San Pietro at Porto Venere.
Pigeons have long been maligned as bearers of disease, possibly due to their indiscreet toilet habits and their link to the infection, psittacosis, which causes a pneumonia type illness in humans. Along with that, it seems they were responsible for the closure of five rooms in the Uffizi Gallery in April 2016. An infestation of ticks was discovered by a security guard and the rooms, displaying 15th century Italian paintings, were closed for two days to undergo pest control. The outbreak was blamed on the pigeons that perch on the Uffizi’s windows. No such problem in the Torre Guinigi at Lucca, there is plenty of aeration and fabulous views.
Pigeons obviously have a head for heights, what bird doesn’t? They can fly at altitudes of 6,000 feet or more with speeds up to 90 mph and can travel 700 miles in a single day. Some are happy to just find a quiet perch and admire the fabulous vista in Pienza.
One of the most intelligent birds on the planet, the pigeon can apparently recognise itself in a mirror as well as all 26 letters of the alphabet. Sounds like interesting research, some do look more inquisitive than others.
The belltower of Chiesa di San Donato in Bagnoregio provides a perfect niche from which to observe the wanderings of tourists in the piazza.
Pigeons have been used as messengers for centuries, the earliest reference dating back to 2500 BC. They have been credited with saving tens of thousands of lives in both World Wars with their efficient, reliable service. It wasn’t until 2006 that the last service, used by the police force in Orrisa, India, was disbanded. Presumably, the Orsini family relied on the birds to keep in touch at their palazzo in Pitigliano.
As well as breeding for food, sport and as messengers, pigeons were found to have another valuable resource. In the 16th century, their excrement was found to contain saltpetre, a substance used in the manufacture of gunpowder and fertiliser. It seemed to be in plentiful supply on the window ledges of Acquapendente.
The first mention of domesticated pigeons being used for food was in Egypt in 3000 BC and it is not unusual to find a piccione dish on menus throughout Tuscany. In January 2016, Italian celebrity chef, Carlo Cracco, caused controversy when he cooked a pigeon with turnips on Masterchef Italia. The president of the Italian Institute for the Protection of Animal and the Environment reported him to the police for encouraging people to cook wild animals. He overlooked the fact that pigeons are farmed for food and the law protecting pigeons only applies to wild ones. Of all the pigeons we encountered in Italy, this was by far my favourite.
Our garden has no shortage of birdlife. The wrens bob around happily keeping the insect population down and the honeyeaters commingle with the bumble bees around the flowering plants. Sometimes, all is not so peaceful. In summer the swallows appear, desperately seeking out their ideal position for the new seasons arrivals. This year, they built a cosy nest under the eaves at the southwestern end of house, not anticipating the unseasonal gale force winds that ensued. Plan B was in the more sheltered northeastern corner but they must have found a Plan C because there was no evidence of them using the nest. I’m sure they will be back next summer.
Kookaburras are one of my favourites, they are so handsome and their distinctive calls that sound like anything from a chainsaw starting to a raucous belly laugh always make me smile.
Our relationship was tested when our goldfish started disappearing and one day, Michael observed the kookie culprit. We really didn’t want to put a net over the pond and, knowing kookaburras are territorial, installed a metal facsimile to guard the pond.
It seemed to work for a while but, long story short, there is now a net over the pond and our new fish are safe.
We often have visits from the yellow-tailed black cockatoos, usually for water from the stock troughs. I like their mournful, wailing call and they work together as a team with one keeping lookout while the others have a drink. They, too, have recently tested our hospitality. We have a beautiful banksia that has finally reached the perfect dimensions to disguise a rainwater tank – the very reason it was planted.
One afternoon, the cockatoos decided to bring the family and feast on the seed pods.
About a dozen birds created havoc, breaking branchlets and flinging debris in all directions. They have returned numerous times, hopefully the tree will survive the onslaught.
The lounge window has always attracted birdlife, the double-glazing provides a flawless reflection. Most of them just look at themselves, some will tap and flutter against the glass while others will stand there and call incessantly. Tasmania is the only place you will find the Yellow Wattlebird, Australia’s largest honeyeater. It has a range of distinctive calls, all of which are very loud and not of the soothing variety, more like a soprano cough. One recently became completely enamoured with his own reflection, I took a closer look.
He retreated to the safety of the nearby birdbath and scanned the area
before returning to his mirror. In the meantime, I had adjusted my perch for a bird’s eye view.
Back to the bath for a quick dip
and he seemed satisfied with the result.
It is lovely to have so many birds around. Despite my grumbling, I wouldn’t want it any other way.