Friday, December 25, 2020

Christmas Wishes

Wishing you and yours a 

Very Merry Christmas!

If you're at home and in lockdown, or ill, or unable to connect with loved ones please know that I'm thinking of you.

The King Parrots always remind me of Christmas

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Wildlife Wednesday - more birds

The Alice Springs Desert Park is a fantastic 'zoo' experience. It's spread out across quite a space, but has gorgeous, well-maintained walking tracks, lots of native 'scrub' and lots of information. There are a lot of bird aviaries, a nocturnal house, lots of other critters to see, and zookeeper chats.

We went in the afternoon when it was 42C and the woman at the entry tried to talk us out of paying our entry, and coming back the next day when it was cooler. But it was day 1 and Mr E was still in go-go-go mode, we had plenty of water, we have been used to the heat, so we went in. We were the only people in the park, aside from staff, and I'm pretty sure they watched us on CCTV to make sure we didn't die! The woman who let us in, met us as we were leaving (like, joined us for the last stretch before the exit)!

One of the joys of the bird aviaries was that they had a really light mist fall at random intervals and there was plenty of natural and man-made shade for the birds. 

Another aspect was that with no other people, and it being so hot, the birds sat pretty still!

So here are some pics:

(I'm missing some IDs - I'll try to fill them in later on)

Red-tailed Black Cockatoos

A variety of birds, including budgies

Pied Stilt

Zebra Finch

Australasian Grebe (I thought it was fake!)

A bunch of zebra finches

Western Bower bird (with pink blotch on back of head - that's real)

Port Lincoln Parrot

Orange Chat

Splendid Fairywrens

Princess Parrots

Diamond Dove

Spinifex Pigeon

White-winged Fairy-wren

Banded Lapwing

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Soapbox Saturday - the power of women

During this past week, I felt the incredible power of women. Women who are making a difference in the world. It was an incredible and humbling experience. One I hope I never forget.

I attended court as a support person for a woman who had been assaulted in a domestic violence situation. It's a harrowing experience for her, and I wanted to offer my support - not knowing what I could do, or what I was expected to be, but being there anyway.

The court was an Australian local court, and first up, let me say that it was nothing like TV. The Aussie justice system is nothing like that of the US. And although I had been in regional court houses, this one was nothing like that either. I mean, the basic set up was the same, but the size of the room was vastly different. The room we were in was quite small and almost intimate. 

As it was a domestic violence case, and the victim was testifying, the court room was closed. This meant the barrister, his off-sider and the defendant were there. The judge and his staff of 2 were there. The police prosecutor was there. And I was the only support person allowed to be in the room, along with the victim.

Protection of the victim, and making sure they were as safe as possible, was paramount. We were met outside court by Mission Australia's Court Support Staff. A staff member and her volunteers. They were lovely - friendly, knowledgeable, and reassuring. They helped us navigate the entry into the building (like an airport security check).

Then the Sheriffs had to determine how many people were allowed to support the victim. The men doing this were brisk, but the Court Support Staff were supporting multiple victims, and although they entered with us, made it clear that they were not to be counted as our numbers. There was a female Sheriff, who ensured a 'safe' room was opened for us, so we could walk briskly in and be in a safe space. This meant no inadvertent contact with the ex.

The police officers and prosecutor visited us in there and let us know what to expect, and what time frame this may take.

Other women and children were in this room - this safe space that attempted to make us comfortable. It had a small kitchen facility, no windows, and a locking door. Lounge chairs, plus hard chairs. Paintings and pictures by local schools and artists.

After the evidence-giving, the female Sheriff, rushed to re-open the room so we wouldn't be have to see anyone associated with the case as they left. The police prosecutor came down to the room to give thanks, to let the evidence-giver know that she did well, and to explain the next part of the process.

At every stage, the Mission Australia Court Support Person remained with us. She gave advice, answered questions, reassured us, and chatted to us like a friend.

It was a long day from 9 am to almost 5 pm. Much of it spent sitting and waiting. It was by no means a pleasant experience. BUT the women involved in this made the experience the best that it could be. Each person empathised, did extra to ensure safety and comfort, took time to explain and ask if we understood. At times, I felt as if we were encircled in a huge hug of feminine care and love.

This wasn't what I expected. This was so much more than I could have ever imagined.

I've struggled with the masculine-feminine balance (or imbalance) in our society. But this week, I got to see women changing the balance. Women working hard to support and protect other women. Women who are largely strangers to them, but they've made their career one about creating safe spaces for other women. That was such an incredibly powerful event to witness.

Violence against women should never happen, but unfortunately, it does. For the women who are reporting it and taking the matter to justice, thank goodness for the incredible women in the system who are helping, assisting, supporting, and trying to make things better.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Wildlife Wednesday - birds, birds, birds with a few other criiters

I'm just back from a most marvellous holiday to the Northern Territory - Alice Springs and Uluru. 

We're so lucky in Australia to be able to travel. I'm so lucky to be in a position where I can afford to travel. And I'm incredibly lucky to have the health that allows me to travel - and for the first time in at least 15 years, I travelled without complete and utter exhaustion (with a few mega-walking days too!).

Going to the Territory in December isn't the smartest thing if you're not a fan of hot temperatures. Most days were between 38 - 44C. We had a couple of days under 38C which was fantastic. Nights were in the mid to late 20s. But we knew we could do the hot, dry heat of the centre. We used to live in the centre of NSW, which has similar weather conditions, so I was hoping I hadn't become 'soft' living on the coast. And I'm pleased to say I'm not too soft!

Travel when here are only domestic tourists, and in summer when people don't generally want to go to hot places without a beach, is BLISS for people who don't like crowds. Most of the McDonnell Ranges' sites we had to ourselves - except for the birds, insects, mammals, reptiles (and a Park ranger we kept bumping into - even in Woolies!).

So, here are some of the wildlife we encountered around Alice Springs. It was so incredible to see so many birds and be able to snap them. Some were right at the edge of my zoom lens - they seem to know to keep their distance! :)

Next week, I'll pop up some of the bird life from the Alice Springs desert Park. If you're ever up there, that place is incredible!

Crow escaping the heat

Brown Falcon

Crested Pigeon

White-rumped Miner - adult and juvenile


White-browed Babbler

Port Lincoln Parrot

Black-fronted Dotterel

Zebra Finches having a drink

A blur of a rainbow bee-eater in flight (just above mid photo)

Rainbow bee-eater (back)

Diamond Dove

White-plumed honeyeater

Magpie Lark (pee wee)

Sacred Kingfisher (back)

Sacred Kingfisher (side)

Australian Magpie

Another Crested Pigeon

Another Miner

Another Brown Falcon, watching me carefully!

Spotted (or Western) Bower Bird

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Wildlife Wednesday - Little Pied Cormorant

The Little Pied Cormorant (Phalacrocorax melanoleucos) is a cute little bird. They feed by diving underwater for fish and crustaceans, yet they aren't truly waterproof, so they need to dry their feathers. They do this by holding their wings out, which to me is the customary cormorant pose!

Sometimes they feed in flocks, but mostly they're seen alone or in small groups with each bird having it's own space to dry.

I love the expression in this picture

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Wildlife Wednesday - Royal Spoonbill

Spoonbills have long been a source of fascination. That beak is insane - like a curved wooden spoon, black, shiny like plastic! All waders really intrigue me because of their life in the shallows burrowing in the mud/silt/sand for food, but spoonbills have always caught my eye.

I was on a roam, and I'd been stalking out a white-faced heron perched in a mangrove tree for a while. Then I got distracted by some crabs on the river bank, tiny fish swimming and then leaping from the water in a choreographed ballet (and no, I wasn't quick enough to capture that!), and then a crow flying by caught my eye. It was squawking in that 'look, look, look" way. 

I looked.

It looked like cockatoos in a tree some distance away. But they were big. So, maybe an egret. I wandered over.

A spoonbill! Head tucked under its wing, I thought asleep, but it had it's eye on me.

I spent far too long standing beneath that tree taking photos of the majestic Royal Spoonbill. I'd never seen them anywhere but on the river flats, and then only occasionally. Without that crow telling me to look, I would have walked right past this tree. It was in a yard and across the road from where I was, so I had no reason to go there, and I'd been too busy focussing on the river!

I wonder what else I miss every day?!