Archive for the ‘Trips’ Category

I re-joined the local bird society, Birdlife Melbourne, a few months after aquiring a car. I had joined before but could not get to their monthly Beginner outings which were quite far from public transport. I’ve since been to three (having missed two). They’re well worth the effort 1) because I get to see places I wouldn’t otherwise visit,  2) I see new birds I haven’t seen before and become more familiar with others, and 3) I love taking photos of birds, even though the camera’s autofocus lets me down quite a bit. I’ll start with an annoying example:


There it was – a beautiful Crimson Rosella, just sitting there waiting for the perfect photo, and what does the camera do? It focuses on the bloody tree behind it! WTF? I did get the chance of a better photo after it flew further away.

I could go back to the older camera with manual focus but the zoom on this one is great. Often I just see a bird in the distance with no idea what it is. It’s only after I’ve zoomed in and taken a shot, that I can later identify it, like this white-plumed honeyeater.


The sheer number of birds in Australia is just amazing so there’s always a bird I haven’t seen or heard before. I’m always learning, surrounded by the experts, who can spot a bird as easily as I might find the fridge. Numerous times there’ll be birders focussed on a point in the distance with their binoculars and scopes and I try to find it with the camera zoom and see nothing at all. I’ve thought about buying a pair of binoculars with a greater field of view, but they’re not cheap.

So the first outing I went on was to Banyule Flats to the north of where I live. Lack of preparation meant that the camera battery died out quite quickly, which was annoying to say the least. However, I did get a shot of the tawny frogmouth just sitting in a tree above the carpark!


And I got my first view of the weirdest duck I’ve ever seen – the pink-eared duck.


It was spring, so there was no shortage of babies.


I also, unintentionally (I hadn’t see them), got a shot of tortoises!


The next outing I went to was a hot, sunny day at Yan Yean reservoir, further to the north than the last outing. I was rewarded again with a bird right next to the carpark – a white-faced heron.


I was not too happy with my photos from that day. A lot of the birds were quite far away on the water and my zoom was not up to scratch. I got blurry photos and headless bird photos (they will preen when I’m taking the shot). I did get a nice trio of wood duck and some other duck I haven’t identified. It looks the colour of a male chestnut teal but the head is the wrong colour – a female?



The good ol’ black swan

We saw a black-fronted dotterel and a common sandpiper (not so common, it seems).


It took me ages to spot the sandpiper on the far shore.

Flying in the sky was a darter (I had never heard of or seen one before).


It was an idyllic spot for lunch.


Nearby in a tree were several Nankeen night herons.


The last trip I went on was to Lilydale Lake to the east. It was a wet morning but we seriously needed the rain. We didn’t see as many water birds as we’d hoped but still some good sightings. The afternoon was bright and sunny.


A female darter waiting for sunshine to dry off

There were some young purple swamphen, or what I will always regard as pukeko.



Look at the size of those feet!

A few white ibis were around.


It was nice to see it in a more natural environment.


A little pied cormorant

I got a better look at female darters with their long necks,


and then we saw the very handsome male.


We saw a few corellas, sulphur-crested cockatoos and rosellas, and a few galahs.


As a bonus, from the lizard family, I saw a skink and a water dragon but they were too quick for me to get a photo. Another great day out.  I’m thoroughly enjoying the monthly opportunity to go bird watching.

By the way, if you care about birds, or wildlife in general, do sign this petition.


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I was yearning for my brother’s place and decided to fly over in January (rather than in December when the fares are horrendous). H picked me up from the airport. For a change there was no problem. (When I say she picked me up from the airport, she actually parked down the road, avoiding overpriced parking fees.) Unfortunately, it was just before the “5 o’clock rush” (actually an hour before). I thought we’d be ok, but it took forever just to get to the centre of town. Wellington’s traffic infrastructure is ridiculous. In short, it took two hours to get to Upper Hutt. Was great to see bro, and I spent several days there.


On the way to secluded beach

IMG_0025 IMG_0026

I accidentally hit a camera setting I don’t normally use. Amazing the different effects for the same place – one looks tropical and the other looks quite ominous.

I stayed briefly in PN. I didn’t have a car so couldn’t visit people and had no real desire to visit Massey or advertise my presence. I only met a close friend for dinner one night.

For the rest of the time we travelled to Napier and surrounds and returned to my bro’s on the way back to Wellington.

I got a bit of bird-spotting in.



Bertha, the goose, was still overseeing her flock.



I spent some time with my grand-kitty.


She was adorable and affectionate as a kitten but has grown into a rather aloof cat (not a lap cat at all).


Cider tasting in Napier

A pleasant trip overall.

Back to work it was. Last I wrote, I think I mentioned going full-time at one job and ditching the other. Sadly, the place I wanted to work full-time can’t guarantee they’d have enough work. However, the good news is that the hourly rate has gone up $6. Since then, a law has passed allowing casual workers to apply to their employers to go permanent. The hourly rate would be less, however. I worked out the difference allowing for time off, paid and unpaid. I’m better off staying with what I have. In the meantime, I’ve decided to cut back on the hours worked at the other place, taking more Saturdays and weekends off, so I can actually do stuff. I just had a three-day weekend and enjoyed it tremendously, getting out on a local bird trip, going to the Escher exhibition and generally relaxing and enjoying myself.

I’ve booked a holiday in the Cook Islands for my winter getaway. It’s a difficult place to get to from Australia. Although there is a direct flight (one day a week) from Sydney, it arrives at something like 2 am. My friend in Auckland wanted us to travel together, so I’ll be travelling to Auckland both ways, which, unfortunately, involves an overnight stay as the flight times are not conducive to safely connecting to my flights to and from Australia. The Cooks being on the other side of the date line doesn’t help. Anyway, something to look forward to however brief the stay.

I’m sad that summer is coming to an end. Even though it’s often in the 30s, I enjoy the sunshine. Already it’s getting dark in the morning. Last week we had a cold snap (20 deg only) and I hated it.

That’s all, folks.

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I hadn’t been to Healesville sanctuary (for Australian native animals) for several decades, so I thought it was time to visit again. I had intended to do so on my birthday but the weather forecast for the day was pretty shit. I therefore changed it to the day before. Luckily I had no work on.

It was about an hour’s drive and the first time I’d driven the new car at 100 km (you can tell I don’t get out much) for a short part of the journey. I think I was one of the first arrivals for the day. The first animal to come into view was the cassowary in a wire-fence enclosure, which wasn’t great for photography (or for the autofocus).


However, the koalas made up for that. There were about seven or more, easily seen.


What struck me was that they all looked so different – their characters showing up in their faces.


Such a gorgeous animal, and so sad that their habitat is being destroyed.

While I was admiring the koalas, a little bird was flitting around freely. It was a spotted pardalote and I found it difficult to get a good picture (autofocus problems or moving too quickly, or both).


Nearby were a small group (a mob?) of kangaroos lazing around.


Further on, a wombat, actually visible. Mostly they’re hiding in some burrow and I never get to see them properly, but this one obliged.


The day had started out well and there was much more to see.

One of the highlights was seeing a baby tree kangaroo in its mother’s pouch.


The next bird spotted (unspotted, haha) was a white-browed woodswallow.


(By this stage I was thanking myself for having emptied the memory card before the trip, as I had already taken dozens of photos.)

In an enclosure which you could walk into was a very striking bird with large eyes which just gazed at me.


Bush stone-curlew

Further on, in another enclosure was an echidna. My daughter had been lucky enough to see one in the wild. I couldn’t remember seeing one before at all (unless it was when I was a child).


Among the many birds I photographed was the purple-eyed Satin Bowerbird,


the Chestnut-breasted Mannikin,


and the very tame white-headed stilts.


Actually, I took a lot of bird photos (too many to share).  There were several walk-in aviaries dotted around the sanctuary.

The rock wallaby was cute, posed on a suitable rock.


The pelicans were being fed as I passed by them on the way to see Tofu, a Tasmanian devil.


I listened to the keeper give a talk about Tasmanian devils. They don’t actually deserve their reputation of being aggressive (like a wolverine). They are when it comes to food and mating, but they’re mostly solitary. They’re always pictured with their mouths open showing their teeth in an aggressive fashion but it’s more likely to be defensive. Sadly the facial cancer has killed off about 70% of the wild population. Tofu was pretty chilled.


I thought he was pretty cute and he’s popular with the keepers.


The sanctuary breed devils with others from fresh stock who are not diseased. They’re tested before they’re released to the wild (and are not displayed in public). I didn’t listen to the rest of the talk as I headed over to the bird show (rather like the show in Singapore’s Jurong Bird Park).

A couple of birds of prey flew around overhead, and also a sulphur-crested cockatoo. Then a young wedge-tailed eagle entered. He was supposed to open up a fake egg but didn’t co-operate.


We waited and waited as the handler seemed to think the bird would do as expected. He was more interested in sitting on a branch nearby.


It was obvious he wasn’t going to do anything and I’m surprised they couldn’t get the bird back and bring out another, so the rest of the show was cancelled, sadly. Knowing that he was young and inexperienced, they should have had him come out at the end of the show.

No Australian animal park would be complete without snakes and lizards.



Probably the highlight for the day was the lyrebird. I entered a bird enclosure and was looking round, having spotted a superb fairywren, when I heard some sounds. I thought it was a recording of the lyrebird (never expecting to see it or hear it perform). It wasn’t. I spotted it under some ferns but couldn’t get a good view as I recorded sound. Among the sounds it made was currawong and kookaburra as well as a weird space gun-type noise. Instead of uploading my videos, I’ve attached one below with the lyrebird in view. (These people were lucky enough to see its tail feathers displayed.)


The bird came out after its performance.


Small birds flitted around, including the Eastern yellow robin.


Next up was the water birds (after the parrots). On the way, a skink was on the path.


There was a wide variety of graceful wading birds, many of which I had not seen before,


Pied heron


Eastern cattle egret

and others I had, including the Royal spoonbill which I had seen in the wild in New Zealand, but now I got a closer look.


The aptly-named blue-billed duck, was swimming around.


The last animal I saw was a dingo, just lying in the dust, looking off somewhere. Autofocus did not like the wire fence.

I had a late lunch before heading off home. Not to be outdone, the white ibis (known colloquially as the “bin chicken”) got in on the act. It was very interested in my sandwiches. I had to shoo it off several times before it could snatch a piece.


So, a wonderful day.  I took over 300 photos, so the above is just a fraction. I would recommend it over Melbourne zoo, which I personally dislike and would never go back to.








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A new year

Things will change this year. I’m over having two part-time jobs. I’ve applied for another and in the likely event that I won’t get it, I will try to wangle five days a week out of one of my part-time jobs, which seems possible, I’m glad to say. I want my weekends back, my evenings back, my time to be my time. Bugger this working all hours at the drop of a hat, having to make excuses if you don’t want a shift, spending way too much time doing administrative stuff on their secure website (which takes ages to load), keeping up with pathetic goals, doing inordinate amounts of training in stuff you’ve done several times before. It’s all just a bit too PC. I’m sick of it. I haven’t had time to do what I want to do.

So, this year, as soon as possible, I’ll get rid of the weekend/evening work and then can actually do stuff, like blog, take photos, plan trips out of Melbourne. I feel like I’ve spent my whole time at work with just one day off a week. I had to forgo the walking group and the Welsh dancing in the weekends because of work. I had to turn down voluntary work because I didn’t have any spare time.

First up is a trip to Ballarat next Saturday. Normally I’m working on Saturday but I got rid of the shift. Then a trip to NZ to see bro. I haven’t told anyone in PN as I won’t have a car this time, and am uncertain whether I’ll be in town long enough to visit. If I do it can be a surprise. In the meantime I don’t want to commit to anything. Then in July I’ll head over to see my friend in the Cook Islands. Then C is talking of spending Xmas in NZ this year which would mean another trip. And while the weather is good M and I must get out and about and explore Melbourne environs. The summer goes by so quickly.

Ok, time to get ready for a shift this arvo. How exciting – not.

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Day four

I just had a morning left in Sydney, flying out in the afternoon.

I headed to the Queen Victoria building to go downstairs to the home/kitchen ware shop. Always worth a visit, for some reason.



I couldn’t stay away from Circular Quay and walked back there. It was much nicer with fewer people around.


I wandered up to the opera house.



Had a beer for my father (looked on by seagulls).


Watched the bridge walkers.


It’s not something I would do, being scared of heights. I don’t even like going up ladders.

Alas, all too soon, it was time to head to the airport.

I said farewell to Sydney from the train platform.


It was a nice flight down,


then I was back in Melbourne, catching the bus to Southern Cross, then home.




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Day three

I didn’t have any great plans today apart from meeting a cousin from the other side of the family.

I walked down to Circular quay and had planned to wander around the Rocks area. I hadn’t known there was a marathon on which affected access to some places.


However, I walked where I could and explored the streets.


I found the Argyle Cut, which I hadn’t seen since a visit with my father decades ago.


There used to be some stalls, etc, in an old building in The Rocks, but it now appears to be privately owned or something – looked like some sort of restaurant or hotel. These guys looked as baffled as I felt. It seemed a waste of heritage real estate.


Next to it were some outdoor stalls, but overall, a very disappointing experience. I had a pretty crap coffee and people-watched. Perhaps it was just too early in the day.


I battled crowds to get to the opera house, which I hadn’t yet visited in my trip of reminiscences. It wasn’t worth the struggle to get through really.


What am I saying? Away from the crowds, it’s always worth it.


Pretty soon, it was time to catch a train to Bondi Junction to meet up with my cousin.


Cousin P met me at the station and we got a bus to a cafe at Bondi beach, which she and her husband regularly visit. I had never met her husband in the all the years she’s been married to him. They have three adult children, all of whom I have never met either. As for P herself, I last saw her at her mother’s 90th, seven years ago. I finally met D, P’s husband at the cafe.

Nice view of the beach from the cafe but it’s not Manly. It looks barren in comparison.


We headed to their house not far from the station. Lovely little semi-detached with period features. Had a good yarn and a cuppa.

I headed back on the train with no real plans for the rest of the day. I walked to Darling Harbour, feeling a little tired and wondering what to eat for dinner. I wandered along to the aquarium and realised that much more had been developed past that since my last visit. I kept walking. I wasn’t hungry but was content to sit and watch people.

Rather than walk back, I got a ferry to Circular quay, via Luna park. By this time the sun was getting low.




A sailing ship appeared – probably one of those training ships.


I thought I was farewelling Circular Quay and the harbour so I watched the ferries for some time.



I got a train back to Museum station from Circular Quay (the ferry and train trip had been free, thanks to special Sunday rates). I can’t recall what I ate for dinner but it was light. I had been eating croissants every morning, and, no longer being used to eating so much bread, I felt I had put on weight. I won’t do that again on my next trip. Pottles of yoghurt will probably be better.



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Day two

Today I’d planned to visit Manly – another place of family memories – for myself and my father in particular. I think he said it was his favourite place. I have a picture of myself as a baby sitting on the sandy beach. Besides which, I love ferry trips.

I left fairly early. I had not expected the streets to be so empty even at that hour on a Saturday (compared to Melbourne which seems crowded no matter what time of the day or night it is).


A cruise ship was in. Giant things they are. I have no desire to ever go on one (except perhaps for river cruises).


It was hot and sunny. I was not prepared for this, coming from cold, gloomy Melbourne. I had to buy sunglasses and, in Manly, sun block.

I didn’t go onto the beach.


I had planned to follow a track around towards North Head, something I had not done before either. I stopped briefly at Cabbage Tree Bay (or Shelly beach) where I met a bush turkey. I hadn’t seen one since my trip to northern NSW many years ago.


I followed the Shelly beach walking track above.


By now the heat had started to turn up. I think it got to 32 deg. I loved it. Such a change from the long and dreary winter in Melbourne.

It felt good to see the Tasman sea for some reason. Melbourne might be close to the sea but it’s not “there” to be seen. Sydney is a city of beaches, Melbourne not so.



I enjoyed the track. Hardly a soul on it. I tried to imagine what the area would have looked like before the likes of Captain Cook came to “discover” it.



I had forgotten that there were wartime outposts on the head, so it was a surprise to see tracks off to view them.


By now it was evident that the shoes I was wearing (the coolest of the few I brought) were not comfortable enough without socks to continue walking far, so when I reached Bluefish Drive and saw that the track on the other side was another hour or so, I decided to head back towards the ferries via Little Manly beach. A nice view of the ferry…


I stopped to look at the idyllic beaches across the way,


and couldn’t help thinking “You lucky bastards”.


The sea was unbelievably clear, so different to the polluted waterways of much of NZ.


There was a small cafe nearby, but it was rather crowded and packed with kids and pushchairs or strollers or whatever they’re called these days. So I continued up the hill and over towards the ferry terminal.

Hard to believe it was only September and it was like a summer’s day.


If I’d had my togs (or bathers/swimmers in Aus), I would have been tempted to join them.

I stopped at the bar next to the terminal and indulged in a beer. I would have wanted to do this with my father. We never shared a beer together on our last visit to Sydney. As if echoing my thoughts, I overheard a woman at a nearby table “Want another beer, dad?”


What a view…


I took the return ferry trip, taking lots of photos, especially as we approached the iconic bridge and opera house.




On my walk back to the hotel, I had planned on looking inside St Mary’s cathedral.

However, turns out there was a fancy wedding going on. I continued to the hotel.

I didn’t think much of the nearby aquatic fitness centre. Looked pretty bloody small (joke).


That evening, instead of 2 minute noodles in the hotel room, I decided to go to an Asian restaurant down the road in World Square. I went to Din Tai Fung which was recommended. I’m not in the habit of eating in a restaurant alone. It just feels weird. I ordered more noodles (idiot) with dumplings and added spinach (not realising that was extra). It had a flavour that I couldn’t identify and didn’t like. Oh well. I was in and out of there within 20 minutes (probably more like 10-15). With no-one to talk to there was little point hanging around.

My last full day in Sydney up next. Too short a visit.


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