Thursday, December 22, 2011

for what
in this year's-end market
goes a crow

nani ni kono
shiwasu no ichi ni
yuku karasu

何にこの師走の市にゆく烏 (なににこのしはすのいちにゆくからす)

Basho, Haiku #488

I have been dipping in and out of Basho: The Complete Haiku as my bed time reading this year. I think the short form suits the level of commitment that I can give to anything that is not about post-conceptual or  Australian animal/human relations. The edition I have is a new translation by Jane Reichhold a respected haiku poet as well as translator (with an extensive, but ugly, website).

Each haiku has a small explanation. The following is for #488:
New Year - 1689. It seems Basho was surprised to find himself going off to shop at the end of year like everyone else. He often wore black robes and therefore called himself a crow.

This haiku sums up my feeling at this time of the year. I avoid Christmas for as long as possible then in the end find myself swept up at day or two before buying books for my Haico, an extra present each for my niece and nephew and liquor chocolates for dad.

Before I went to Tokyo, Haico told me that for him the sound of Tokyo was the mocking laugh of the crows echoing and bouncing off the built canyons of the narrow streets. It became one of my sounds of Tokyo too, along with the alternating toy-like squeak or witches squeal of the brown-eared Bulbul.

About 12 months ago a friend told me a Basho haiku that seemed apt, but somewhere between her telling and my remembering, it got scrambled. My memory of it was:

even in Tokyo
longing for Tokyo
the call of the crow

the actual haiku is #658:

even in Kyoto
longing for Kyoto
the cuckoo

Happy end of year.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Windy Sunday O'Connor ridge

I went back onto O'Connor ridge this morning, mostly because I really enjoyed the walk yesterday and I was hoping to spot the Speckled Warbler again but also because I had neglected to take my camera yesterday. There is one clearing a the top of the first ridge section (climbing up from Dryandra St) where some of the fire trails meet, that seems to have become a graffiti gallery. The first two pictures are two sides of the same tree.
I"m not sure whether this type of eucalyptus sheds its bark, meaning that these pictures will be fall off over the coming months. Given the way that Canberra public space is organised and policed it doesn't surprise me that graffiti artists have taken to painting trees, although I am concerned for the trees health. The large trees could be at least 80 years old and providing nesting hollows for birds and marsupials. 

The wind was blowing pretty hard so I knew it was not going to be an easy day for seeing small birds. In the area that was alive yesterday I only saw one juvenile Red-Wattlebird. In fact the day pretty much belonged to the Crimson Rosellas and Red Wattle birds. Although I walked further this time and came to a grassy area and a family of White-winged Choughs

On the way down I heard a familiar repetitive 'kek kek kek' calling of several birds. On the dead tree pictured below, I saw 3 Sacred Kingfisher. The subtlety of their colouring makes my heart sing.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Walk on O'Connor ridge this morning

2 Friar Birds gleaning in the flower eucalyptus blossom
Several of solitary sulphur crested cockatoos at various points on the trail- they all seemed to have gather at the park across the road in the evening.
A pair of Crimson Rosellas with 2 green juveniles
A juvenile Dollar Bird perched on the top of a dead eucalyptus squawking (my first sighting of the season)
1 Pied Currawong
I paused for a long time in a mixed feeding flock that was buzzing around in a thicket of small eucalyptus and acacias and identified for sure:
Several beautiful Spotted Pardalotes
A Weebill with a very pink-looking bill
A Buff-rumped Thornbill
Brown Thornbills
A family of Superb Fairy-wrens
and under an wattle a Speckled Warbler - listed as vulnerable in NSW. I think I have only seen one of these birds before ( I don't have my field guide with me.)
3 Galahs flying over on my way down the ridge

Heard but not seen:
Striated Pardalotes
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes
A White-troated Tree-creeper


1 feral rabbit
2 Eastern Grey Kangaroos (that link will take you to a website that tells to the best places to see each species, they Mt Ainslie in Canberra! This link will take to the ACT government site that has information on some tracking they are doing on Eastern Greys in urban areas)

2 humans with dogs
1 human sweating on a mountain bike
1 human with a pram and a sleeping baby
1 human in training for mountain climbing
3 wide brim hat wearing retirees

(most bird-links are to the excellent Canberra Birds website)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sunday surprises #2

I went to check out the Primavera exhibition with Andzrej. This year due to the refurbishments of the museum, it is being held off-site in The Rocks area, with an exhibition in the Bond Store and surrounds. I am not sure whether it really works too well as a show- maybe that is the venue? Or maybe just that Primavera is a show that put together around a group of young artists without too much relation to each other? I enjoyed some works individually, although I think it was not so interesting for show that was at least partly conceived of as working in public space.
The Brown Council have three videos in the exhibition, I can't quiet remember the titles (the wall panels are non-existent which is REALLY frustrating. I had no idea who made all the works...), 2 in the Bond Store and one installed in this historic stone room that looked like it was a laundry at some point as there was some cement and brick troughs on one side of the room.
 The three videos are inter-related with the one installed outside playing on the idea of disappearing ( I just looked it up on their website it's called Disappearing Act.)
There are quiet a few nice things in the work- like the awkward mix of theatrical acting/movement and deadpan performance to carry out the "disappearing act". Its really clear how the artists 'magic' themselves away, and it that way the work opens up the magic of the viewers imagination rather than dazzling us with techno wizardry.

The room is not quiet light tight and there are plenty of gaps that let light in. There was a moment in the when the video went to black, which was just before the moment below when each of the four performers came into screen to start walking out backwards.
 Instead of getting a black screen there was an incidental image projected from an accidental camera obscura or the room was a giant pin hole camera. I couldn't work out what the image and was and where it was coming from but, it was a very nice unexpected magical moment.

Sunday surprises #1

This morning the sky told me:

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Somewhere on the Midlands Highway,

in someones front paddock, this good advice:

I should pay attention, it's been a tough couple of weeks back on the mainland. I have been feeling a little behind on my documentation of the I live with bird project and overwhelmed with reading students papers and prospective students applications- as a result the usual fear freeze.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Monday, October 3, 2011

Saturday daylight savings.

After packing up at the John Hart Conservatory Fernando and I went to look at the monkeys. If you don’t know Launceston then you are probably doing a bit of a double take at the sentence.

Short story is that City Park has a zoo display of Japanese Macaques. There is a history of having animal displays in City Park and some years ago Launceston wanted to keep this tradition and so found the animal most suited to the weather conditions. Unlike the monkey park in Beppu, the monkeys are contained behind perspex walls because they have hepatitis.

Saturday was the day the clocks shifted to Eastern Summer Time; it was also the first day of the monkey being on display till 4:30 (instead of 4). We arrived at about 10 past four. The monkeys were very restless and soon started milling around the cave in the corner of their enclosure where the door is their evening enclosure. I think their body clocks where telling them that their keeper was late. Below are 4 short films of there behaviour during the 20 minutes of waiting.

Monkey #1: forlorn sitting and pacing

Monkey #2: agitated calls

Monkey #3: temporary abandonment of the waiting game

Monkey #4: waiting over

Saturday, October 1, 2011

twitch tip #3

Fernando and I meet up with Ralph this morning who is the co-coordinator of the Birds Australia Atlas entries in the North of Tasmania. We had a really good conversation about birding and the Tamar Island Wetland site. We were sitting in front of the large observation window so the footage has the aesthetic of a 4 Corners program as though Ralph was a fugitive whose identity needed protecting. The quickest part of the conservation to post is his twitch tip for the Banded Lapwing- occurring more reliably in the north of the state instead of the south.

Twitch tip #2

One of the first bird stories in Launceston was the photo of the Grey Goshawk in The Examiner. I have seen Grey Goshawks, but only the grey morph, which does not occur in Tasmania. I noticed that the photographers had a Spanish last name. As Fernando, (this project curator) is part of the South American diaspora I was wondering whether Launceston was small enough that he would know all the other Spanish speakers in town, so that we could get a chance to see the bird. It is of course, with the photographers being friends of Fernando's sister Amparo. But of course, seeing birds is never guaranteed...

But at least a couple of leads to follow up..

Friday, September 30, 2011

Yoko and Zorro

are the names of the two birds tether at the MCG to scare off the Silver Gulls. Yoko is a Peregrine Falcon and Zorro is a Wedge-tail Eagle.

There is a short video news item on the smh. site that has some good footage of the gulls on the pitch, in case you are like me and never watch AFL, and so don't have an idea of the issue. But even better The Doctor on Triple J has a short interview with Alice and Graham (the handlers) and the birds, on his radio program where Zorro interjects a few times. (its at 27:00- once the story has loaded you can move straight to that point)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Joshua and Jimbo

Guest Post by Fernando do Campo, curator of I live with birds

The first birds I ever cared for were two juvenile pied butcher-birds. Not too young, early days of fledgling stage – it was my first shot at being a wildlife carer. The matriarch of ‘Rockhampton Wildlife Rescue’ dropped them off, with cage, pot of raw (ironically kangaroo) mince and dried insect mix. Jimbo and Joshua, as they were affectionately named by Hilario my brother, were a certain-to-survive rescue mission. That woman is partly responsible for my animal addiction. I was a nerd, a fanatic that could not be on the highway for 5 kms without yelling at dad to pull-over so that I could check the pouch of a carcass. Art school got in the way of what I was certain would be a career of wildlife veterinary. Until very recently I was happy with this and refocused all my energy into the colourful, sometimes gratifying art world. Raquel Ormella’s project for Iteration:Again, I live with birds, makes me recall these stories. I don’t think it’s the reconsideration of career paths or Raquel’s contagious bird-fever, but rather the revising of priorities and commitments, of things I love and enjoy.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bek's emu

Fernando and I had a interesting conversation this morning with Bek Verrier about an architecture project she is working on for University. The idea is for a community centre in Adventure Bay on Bruny Island. I'll post some more about that soon but below Bek is talking about how she grew up on an emu farm just outside of Hobart. 
Male emus (like male cassowaries) are the ones that sit and brood the eggs.

angry white backs?

There have been lots of articles in the Sydney Morning Herald at the moment about swooping Magpies. The photo above comes from a great series by Darren Pateman in Newcastle. From the picture above, you can see that Pateman has a camera mounted in his helmet capturing a series of stills with the Magpie in various positions including an amazing image of the maximum downbeat of the birds wings. This article also has some moving images of the event.

 Having grown up in dry woodland country I know exactly the trepidation of having to cross a nesting Magpies territory. There was a pair in the large hockey fields that I had to cross from Kingswood station to the Univeristy of Western Sydney campus. For six weeks I would walk with a automatically-opening fold-up umbrella at the ready to point towards the incoming bird. The 'pop' of the umbrella worked every time to dissuade the bird from attacking me. 

One of the things I am enjoying about seeing this common bird in Launceston is that the subspecies hereCracticus. tibicen hypoleuca is a "White backed" magpie where as the magpies in Sydney are C. tibicen tibicen and are part of the "Black back" group.
Anyone know of a swooping male in Launceston?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Hi All,

I have had some feedback that you haven't been able to comment without a Blogger ID. I have changed the settings so hopefully this will not be a problem now. You still might have to fill in the security text - which is to stop spam.

Under the comment box there is a drop down menu which asks for a blogger or google etc account. You don't need one of these- the very last option is anonymous. If you use that option but want to tell me who you are just sign off in the comments box.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

John Hart Conservatory #1

Thanks to everyone who visited the temporary sound installation in the John Hart Conservatory over the last two Saturdays.

I have heard that for many visitors it was the first time they have visited since the renovation a few years ago. I first saw the conservatory about 4 months ago and don't know what it was like before. I've heard it described as a jungle and a kids adventure wonderland, also that the plants where being vandalised. Does anyone have any photos to share?
send to:

Flashed flowers #8

Wattle season is over in Sydney, the Callistemon season has started, these ones are stolen from the neighbourhood. This one might be callistemon citrons, but hard to tell. Callistemon citrons is also know as "Endeavour", which is the one used in street planting in greater Sydney. It has taken me a long time to consider collision beautiful, as I associated them with dried up dusty suburban nature strips, their fluffy leaves blacked and polluted by parked cars. Haico loves them and he has opened my eyes to how the flowers are delicate and beautiful. Andrew McQualter and I have drawn them in our collaborative wall paintings "Constructed woodlands". The flowers on the type in the vase are slightly longer and fatter than the "Endeavour", and the leaves are smooth rather than fluffy.
Scaevola "Purple fanfare" from our garden- this one flowers all year round.
Kangaroo paw from our garden, photographed before, these have been flowering continuously for 3 months now.

All in 60s west German ceramic vases.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Harassed Sea-Eagle

Cycling in to Sawtooth on Friday I heard a mixture of Masked Lapwing (I notice people call them "plovers" here) and Magpie alarm calls. Looking up I saw an adult White-bellied Sea-Eagle being chased and harried. Penny had told me you could sometimes see them over the Gorge, so I was not so surprised to see one, but never the less still find it quiet amazing that an urban centre 60km (?) inland is visited by one of these birds.
post impact from a bold Magpie 
It's a bit hard to see in this photo but the belly is a solid white

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Twitch tip #1: Nankeen Night Heron

After my talk at the Launceston Art School I got a good twitch tip from Penny Mason, head of Painting.

Nankeen Night Heron, Lauceston Gorge, about 500 metre in from the gate keepers cottage.

I must remember to keep my camera in the horizontal position...

"a triumphant goshawk"

From the Launceston Examiner Tuesday 13/9/11. Photo by Julian and Oriana Santamaria. I particularly like that that s/he is eating a feral Spotted Turtle-Dove.

I have seen a couple of Grey Goshawks- one who is resident in the Royal National Park south of Sydney and the other in the mangroves near the Cairns airport- however both where the grey morph. Fingers crossed I see Launie's resident. Any tips on a reliable spot for a sighting?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A beginning: again

Tamar Islands Wetlands this morning with Liam and Fernando filming. I arrived in Launceston on Monday and since then it been a fairly hectic schedule of work.

For those who follow my blog regularly, my blog has been temporarily taken over by a project I am working on called I live with birds, which is part of a larger exhibition: Iteration:again.

This is just the briefest of posts as its time to sort out a artist talk that I will be giving at the Art School at 12:30.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Flashed flowers #7

3 wattles from Canberra and Namadgee National Park. The last vase was too heavy to hold up.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Shop lifting bird

A short video of a seagull taking advantage of the chaos during the London riots to do a bit of looting of his own. My feeling is that he might have done a bit of shop lifting before or at least was used to people emerging with food from this door. I love the way he "runs" away.

There is a few seconds of black before the start.

Thanks to Peter for the link!

flashed flowers #5

A green Cooks River wattles-I think acacia falcata based on the leave shape and the pattern of the flower pom-poms. It was in the bouquet from last week as well. The acacia longifolia have just about finished flowering, and the Sydney green wattle - acacia decurrens, are just about to come out. 
Gleaned from the Cooks River walk.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Ruben's magnolia

On a recent trip to my parents I dug through a box of books and found some of my collection of artists books including one by Lucas Ihlein.

Lucas and Ruben. photo by Lizzy from 2008

Lucas and I where co-owners (? fans? carers?) of Ruben. The book was of some of Lucas's writing from 1998-1999 when Ruben was a kitten, and includes two Ruben poems/ stories. The first one is about his naming and the second a dream. Reading them really took me back to that moment in time. I could see the room we where sitting in when we had the below conversation and the bed we shared where the dream occurred.

click to make bigger to read.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Remembering Nagasaki

Nagasaki Days

by Allen Ginsberg
I -- A Pleasant Afternoon
  for Michael Brownstein and Dick Gallup
One day 3 poets and 60 ears sat under a green-striped Chau-
        tauqua tent in Aurora
listening to Black spirituals, tapping their feet, appreciating
        words singing by in mountain winds
on a pleasant sunny day of rest -- the wild wind blew thru
        blue Heavens
filled with fluffy clouds stretched from Central City to Rocky
        Flats, Plutonium sizzled in its secret bed,
hot dogs sizzled in the Lion's Club lunchwagon microwave
        mouth, orangeade bubbled over in waxen cups
Traffic moved along Colefax, meditators silent in the Diamond
        Castle shrine-room at Boulder followed the breath going
        out of their nostrils,
Nobody could remember anything, spirits flew out of mouths
        & noses, out of the sky, across Colorado plains & the
        tent flapped happily open spacious & didn't fall down.
                                                        June 18, 1978

II -- Peace Protest

Cumulus clouds float across blue sky
        over the white-walled Rockwell Corporation factory
                                        -- am I going to stop that?
Rocky Mountains rising behind us
        Denver shining in morning light
-- Led away from the crowd by police and photographers


Middleaged Ginsberg and Ellsberg taken down the road
        to the greyhaired Sheriff's van --
But what about Einstein? What about Einstein? Hey, Einstein
                                Come back!

III -- Golden Courthouse

Waiting for the Judge, breathing silent
        Prisoners, witnesses, Police --
the stenographer yawns into her palms.

                                        August 9, 1978

IV -- Everybody's Fantasy

I walked outside & the bomb'd
        dropped lots of plutonium
        all over the Lower East Side
There weren't any buildings left just
        iron skeletons
groceries burned, potholes open to
        stinking sewer waters

There were people starving and crawling
        across the desert
the Martian UFOs with blue
        Light destroyer rays
passed over and dried up all the

Charred Amazon palmtrees for
        hundreds of miles on both sides
        of the river

                                August 10, 1978

V -- Waiting Room at the Rocky Flats Plutonium Plant

"Give us the weapons we need to protect ourselves!"
        the bareheaded guard lifts his flyswatter above the desk
                                                -- whap!


A green-letter'd shield on the pressboard wall!
        "Life is fragile.  Handle with care" --
My Goodness! here's where they make the nuclear bomb

                                        August 17, 1978

VI -- Numbers in Red Notebook

2,000,000 killed in Vietnam
13,000,000 refugees in Indochina 1972
200,000,000 years for the Galaxy to revolve on its core
24,000 the Babylonian Great Year
24,000 half life of plutonium
2,000 the most I ever got for a poetry reading
80,000 dolphins killed in the dragnet
4,000,000,000 years earth been born
                                                Summer 1978

You can listen to Ginsberg reading this last section as it was one of the songs in the work Hydrogen Jukebox by Phillip Glass.

Remembering the many killed by nuclear bombs and accidents, sending peace and love to all. 

daylight owl #2

From the Sydney Morning Herald today:

A beautiful but disoriented barn owl was discovered on the Fairfax Media balcony yesterday before it flew across the park to the Google building, where Barry Alexander from the Australian Wildlife Rescue Organisation (WIRES) rescued it with a net, and some patience and not a little tenderness (which, when we put it like that, sounds rather like the title of a sweet, if maudlin, country and western song). Anyway, we called WIRES to ask why the owl was pottering about in Pyrmont, and found ourselves talking to their Sydney raptor co-ordinator, Caroline Enfield. ''The first thing to remember is at this time of year you've got some young males about who are not quite as savvy as the adults, and they end up perching in the wrong places, and, when the sun comes up, it becomes hard for them to re-orient to the warehouses they might normally live [in].'' We would like to reinforce at this point Enfield is talking about young male owls. When we spoke to her she was on her way to give an assessment of his health. ''We'll keep an eye for a couple of days,'' she said, ''and let it go at night, probably at the casino, as it's near the water, and its feed supply - rats and mice.'' (Again: we are talking about young male owls.) Enfield added people were often surprised such birds were so near the city. ''There are peregrine falcons at the airport and on the Westfield buildings in Bondi, because their food source - pigeons - is close by. They are around us all the time, but people don't look up.'' Stay tuned for an update on ''Barney''. Or send in a better name should you think of one.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

flashed flowers #4

Three different kinds of Cooks River wattles- Acacia longifolia is one of them, the other two have been hard to identify. I have done a search on the wattles listed as local but the combination of flower and leaf structure didn't seem quiet right. There are about 700 Australian acacia.
All gleaned from the neighbourhood and the Cooks River walk.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

sunrise this morning

From my bedroom- looking towards Mt Ainslie, Canberra.

It was a wonderful mild week with the local green wattles starting to bloom. A relief after last week with everynight going below -3 and frost hanging around till  9:30.

For more picturesque images of frost on plants, rather than the back window of the car just before the 8:30 dash to work, check out Mart's pictures on his blog about the nature on his property in the Canberra district.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The robin is the one

The robin is the one 
That interrupts the morn
With hurried, few, express reports
When March is scarcely on.

The robin is the one 
That overflows the noon
With her cherubic quantity, 
An April but begun.

The robin is the one 
That speechless from her nest
Submits that home and certainty
And sanctity are best.

I went out to visit my parents today and took the chance to dig through some boxes to find some poetry books that I was into when I was a student. I have a student at the moment who is writing poetry and so I wanted to find the sorts of things I was reading when I was her age. (which the time in my life that I now think of as when I was not a birdwatcher, or sometimes I think of it as the time when I didn't realise I was a bird watcher, as I have some many bird associated memories.)

One of the books was a collection of Emily Dickinson poems and flicking through in on the train home I found this one about a robin, a nice synchronicity with my current project.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Paper birds #2: the green screen

work in progress. Using the green screen at ANU. Not sure of the title yet.

This will be a new video that re-tells my first encounter with a Pink Robin in the Styx Valley in Tasmania. I was told at the time that it was a Rose Robin. The misidentification lead me to become a twitcher. The video will have a narrative where I try and think through why the correct identification was important to me.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Saturday afternoon

1960's lamp post O'Connor

A perfect day in Canberra: crisp clear air, bright sunshine and warm (for winter), t-shirt and light jacket weather...
but its going to drop to -3 tonight.

The park on the ridge wehere I am living at the moment.
Early flowering grey Cottamundra wattle.