Escaping ones desk is always a challenge. There is inevitably another email to answer or proposal or report to write. So this afternoon when I took a few minutes to walk outside to inspect how my garden was holding up after a few days without rain, I realised just how beautiful a day it was and decided it was time to leave the keyboard behind and take a walk.
While the sun was shining, I took myself up to a river crossing at Kororoit Creek which is surrounded by industrial buildings and in easy view of the incredibly ugly train overpass that is unnecessarily being built 200 meters from the water.
There are a number of places close to my house where I can see birds and they are some of my favourite animals to photograph. Thankfully, the shore birds don’t seem to notice their built up environment and I arrived at just the right time to see many of them enveloped in dappled sunlight.
I had the birds all to myself and while taking photos is a way to capture the moment, I was happy just to witness their activity as they went about feeding, preening and generally enjoying the sunshine.
Some of the birds in this tiny patch of water included those with the most unlikely features. The Royal Spoonbills have beautiful white feathers and jet black spoon shaped bills which they waft left and right through the water to sift out food. One of my favourites are the Red- Necked Avocets whose tips of their black beaks tilt upwards in the most surprising way! Black Winged Stilts have legs so thin that I don’t see how they stay standing and the Sooty Oystercatcher is just a joy of red and black. Check out those legs!
As I continued walking, I entered a grasslands area and here the birdlife changes. They’re mostly smaller and a little noisier. Beautiful, tiny (less than 8 cms high) are the Zitting Cisticolas. I just love their high pitched little song like hiss of a snake only less scary which immediately tells me that they’re around even if I can’t see them. Unless you get one like this that sits atop a tiny branch and makes his presence known to everyone!
A little bigger but just as flighty, the lovely Crested Pigeons shimmer in the sunlight and are not bothered by the flocks of sparrows (which are becoming more rare) also enjoying the warm air.
I found myself at Cherry Lake, Altona having walked much further than I intended… following the birds. In a whispering She-Oak I was delighted to see White Eared Honeyeaters and Red Brow Finches dropping down to take little sips and dips in the lake then quickly returning to the She-Oak. I hoped there were no large fish in the lake else these little birds would have made some quick fish a bitesized meal! A Little Wattlebird didn’t want to miss out so he soon joined the fun.
I’m sure there were many other birds I either didn’t see or couldn’t photograph… as soon as they hear me coming, most vanish into the undergrowth or behind a convenient bush. But occasionally, as with the Red Browed Finches, they tolerate me standing right under their tree as they flit back and forth.
Seeing any birds is always a joy and I encourage to get out into your own backyard and see what you can see. Listen and look up and down. They are all around you!
If you enjoyed accompanying me on today’s walk through Williamstown and Altona, think about making a donation to BirdLife. before June 30th. Many of our birds are in danger of disappearing completely. Let’s not forget how much they add to our lives with the colour and song. Enjoy the sunshine this weekend.