Sunday, July 21, 2013

Week ending 21 July

This was one of those weeks where, without any real effort or intent on my part, we had a fun, focused week of learning - all around the theme of  (no surprises here) - birds!

The first event was supposed to be a walk with members of the local ornithological society - we've just joined after discovering they are a lot more child friendly than I'd been led to believe following a previous enquiry. Sadly that was cancelled. Not sure why but there was possibly flooding on the track we'd  have walked. Miss 12 had requested a trip to the local wildlife park so we spent the day there instead. Despite being a little chilly we had a great day - saw lots of animals and learnt a lot about how how everyday actions can help or hinder conservation efforts.

Hand feeding the giraffes was a definite highlight.

The zebra was another favourite. She came up really close to us, even pressing her snout through the wires, while ignoring or retreating from other visitors. Miss 12 was entranced. The otters seemed entranced to see us - until they realised we weren't their keeper bringing food. The black and white lemurs weren't camera friendly and sat with their backs to us most of the time. No such problems with the ostrich or the meerkats though!

Tigers, cheetahs, spider monkeys (huddled together against the cold) and gibbons (we wouldn't want them as neighbours - their booming is incredibly loud!) were other highlights.

But, being us, we spent lots and lots of time in the walk-through aviaries. Even though we've seen many (but not all) of the species in the wild, the more confined space of the aviary, plus the fact that the birds are more accustomed to humans, meant observation and photography was a lot easier.

The bellbird (on the left) was incredibly friendly. We've seen plenty in the wild but they've never come so close. The blue duck is one of our many endangered species but can be found in high country rivers. We plan to go looking over the summer. We laughed at the spiky hairstyle of this kereru. Tui (far right) are master mimics and vocalists - no doubt helped by the fact that they have two voice boxes.

 Kea are mischievous mountain parrots. I love their plumage. Normally you can walk through their aviary at any time but right now the youngest bird (he has the yellow features on his face) is going through a troubled teen stage. He apparently likes to land on people's heads, grab and rip their bags etc so public access to the aviary is restricted to a couple of times per day when the keepers are present. Miss 12 was a little disappointed that he was relatively well behaved when we were there - although he did seem fascinated by my red bag.

These red crowned and yellow crowned parakeets were easy to track through the aviary. If the flashes of red and yellow didn't give them away their calls did.

As well as viewing the animals we took the opportunity  to talk to the keepers about qualifications and experience needed to get a job there. Miss 12 was pleased to learn that she could volunteer - but disappointed that she'd have to wait until she was 15.

The second bird related event was Miss 12's first online class.  She's taking this summer bird class via Currclick. We didn't attend live since it starts at 3am our time and the small benefits of attending live versus watching the recording don't make getting up in the middle of the night worthwhile. I'm not sure how I feel about the class yet. Basically it is a PowerPoint presentation then a series of videos. I felt the PowerPoint was too fact dense in places- almost jargonish -  without a lot of extra explanation which I think could have aided understanding. We could have found the videos ourselves online - but then again we probably wouldn't have. We had a few technical difficulties as well, mainly with things lagging.  That said the class did inspire interest in the topic - birds-of-paradise  - and I noticed research and reading inspired by the class so that is definitely a good thing. I'm hoping the opportunity for interaction with classmates and teacher via the class blog will be positive and make up for my reservations. And we are debating getting up at 3am and attending live next week as an experiment to see if it improves the technical side of things.

Our third bird activity was watching the video The Big Year. A friend recommended it to me at the start of the year when he realised Miss 12 was a keen birder but I couldn't find it and then forgot about it. This week I discovered it on the shelf at the video store. Quite a nice little film about some fairly serious birders and a competition to see who can spot the most birds in a calendar year. The plot provided some good opportunities to talk about values, making good decisions, what's really important in life, ethical behaviour plus the sort of birders we want to be (those who do it for the enjoyment  rather than as a competitive pursuit). And,  it convinced Miss 12 and me that we are not devoted enough birders to ever attempt helicopter rides to see snowcocks, small plane rides to Attu ... or even trips on rough seas to view seabirds. We are a bit wimpy that way!

Fourth was the opportunity to join local birders conducting an annual wader survey at a nearby lake. Beginners were welcome and paired with more experienced birders. The woman we were paired with certainly knew her stuff, and where to track down certain species of bird on the section of lake and surrounds that we were assigned. Lots of mad careening down very muddy farm tracks (where we feared getting stuck - glad we were in her car and not ours), pulling over and stopping suddenly on the wrong side of the road (we were on back roads with not a lot of traffic) when she saw something out of the corner of her eye. She was amazing at identifying birds in the air - something Miss 12 and I are still working on. So we picked up lots of tips, got introduced to some good birding locations and saw over 30 species including four that were new to us. I'm pretty sure we'll be doing more activities with this group in the future.

Miss 12 also worked on the bird bath that has been an ongoing project for weeks and weeks now.  More waiting than work though. Dh was keen to help her with the construction - the glue involved was definitely an adult job! Sadly he has been really busy and hasn't had the time for anything other than work so construction time has been limited. But finally it was all assembled and ready for painting. Nothing fancy - just utilising old house paint that was lying around. We also constructed another couple of feeders to hang up around our yard. It is always interesting to observe which species prefer which type of food and from which feeder. The postcard exchange was also ongoing with four or five cards going each way. The favourite card received was  an Indigo Flycatcher from Malaysia.

In non-bird related activities we celebrated a major birthday. My oldest is now 21! Not entirely sure where the years have gone. Looking back at his baby photos I still can't believe the hospital let us take him home - we look so young and inexperienced in the photos! Having him turn 21 gives me an opportunity to look back fondly on my 21st. I was just a few months into my first "real" job, living in a new city. A guy I'd been friends with for a few months flew into town and took me out to to dinner at one of the swankiest restaurants in town. Pretty impressive for a first date - especially considering he was still a student on a limited budget at the time. Maybe not so surprising that we were engaged within the year and will be celebrating our 25th anniversary in 18 months.


  1. I love all the animal and bird photos!! You have some gorgeous shots. Keilee has taken CurrClick classes several times. She always enjoys them but she has always been able to take them live. I wonder if that makes a difference? She enjoys the interactions with the teacher and the other students. Happy 21st to your son. Wow. I love your 21st birthday story!! :)

  2. Wow! What great pics and up close animal experiences...very cool!
    Great story about you and your husband:)