Saturday, January 24, 2015

Week Ending 25 January 2015

Miss 14 is back from her week long ornithology field course and had an amazing time. Mind you a brief text I received mid-week already clued me in to that - 'Mist netting is so cool. Lesson to take from it is that kingfishers bite hard :)'.

Not sure if this was the offending kingfisher or not, but that bill sure looks like it can bite hard!

I'm amazed at how much they fitted in to the week. There was lots of practical work - wader watching most days and nights.

Then there was mist netting and cannon netting where birds are trapped (passerines in the mist nets, waders in the cannon nets), stored in bags or crates (to calm them and prevent them injuring themselves) then banded, weighed, measured, assessed and otherwise processed before being released.

Then there were classroom lectures and presentations - how to identify waders, bird anatomy (including a dissection), migration, moult patterns, how to deal with the paperwork side of birding - using ebird and filing a rare bird report among other things. They looked at the ecology of the area more broadly - taking samples of the sand, using microscopes to study the small creatures the birds foraged for and investigating the plants plus other creatures that live in the area. This included a spider walk but Miss 14 has real spider phobia (her older brother had to be hospitalised for a spider bite once and I think this has put her off even though she was far too young to remember the incident herself), so one of the tutors took her on a frog walk instead!

There were also presentations by some students on bird projects they were involved with plus plenty of informal learning such as the course coordinator (who got into birding via art) who spent one lunchtime giving her pointers to improve her field sketches. Although she was by far the youngest person there - by at least 20 years - she had a fantastic time. She added at least twelve new species to her year list; five of them new to her life list as well.

A New Zealand Dotterel - one of the new additions to Miss 14's life list.

By seeing a much larger number of birds in one place than we get down here - hundreds of knots seen every day as opposed to us occasionally seeing one or two - her familiarity and thus ease of identification improved. Plus she got to actually handle birds and learn from a variety of different experts. Despite being really tired - some days involved getting up at 4:15am and she could not be described as a morning person - she was buzzing when she arrived home and hasn't stopped since. All in all a fantastic start to the year for her.

In other news Mr 17 landed his first real part-time job. He has been delivering  circulars for several years but will soon start as a bakery assistant in the same supermarket Miss 20 works in. He'll be working a few more hours than I'm entirely comfortable with so I've made it clear that if he can't keep up with his homeschool work then the job will have to go. Neither Mr 22 nor Miss 20 had real jobs until they were at university (we preferred to support them and enable them to focus on learning) but different children need different things and I think a job is just what he needs.

I spent all week battling what seem to be an inner ear viral infection. The bad news is there is nothing that can be done but wait for it to run its course. The good news is that is usually 7-10 days so I'm hoping I'll soon be free of it. When the vertigo hits it is really debilitating and I can't move for several hours. As a result I've been sticking close to home all week, which meant I missed the annual Busker's Festival.

We ended the week with a family video - The Birder's Guide to Everything. Because as you know we (at least Miss 14 and me) just can't get enough of all things bird related around here!

Linking up with Kris's  Weekly Wrap-Up.


  1. What an amazing opportunity for your daughter! Wonderful.

    So sorry about your ongoing ear infection! This past summer I had a double ear infection (my first since childhood!), plus pneumonia and a sinus infection. I hope you are felling much better very soon!

    1. I know that you know, more than most, how debiitating vertigo can be. I'm just hoping mine is a short term affiction

  2. WOW what a great trip! Great pictures too. I hope you feel better this week!