Monday, October 3, 2011

Juggling Act

The more I become involved, the more it seems to me that running a regular birding blog has become akin to being a circus juggler. The most dominant ball of the act has to be one’s job and career, perhaps all the more so if that involves children [although no doubt there would be others, in different occupations, who could argue the same case for their particular line of work]. There remains the expected maintenance and upkeep of your property, exasperated if you deliberately elect to buy an older building that needs time, effort and increasing amounts of energy to renovate and modify.

Almost undoubtedly, it is perhaps my pedantic need to list, to write, that creates the greatest hurdles to blogging. With me it is not simply a matter of seeing and/or hearing a bird and committing the species to paper.

Yes, I do that.

Take Allen Road. Some years back I produced a simple recording sheet with columns for species name, number of birds noted, a H/S column to indicate whether the species was “Seen” or “Heard” [the former always taking precedence]. The last, and widest, column allows me to jot down a few notes as to location or observed behavioural traits. I even acquired a clipboard to provide a reasonable writing surface when recording this data.

All that, in itself, may have readers pondering the root cause of my professed dilemma. With a few adaptations, moderations, I have few doubts that most birders engage in some such system.

My difficulties, my obsession, starts later when I come to transcribe those basic “field” notes to a more substantial format. In the old days, before computers and the Internet invaded the 20th century, I simply copied rough notes into my journal – no self-respecting male birder back in those dim and distant days would ever have admitted to having a diary. Diaries were girls’ stuff, secret women’s business!

A number of birders I know have just dropped the journal entries and enter their bird records directly into a personal computer file, or record their sightings onto one of the growing number of public databases available online [Eremaea comes to mind as a widely used Australian example]. I have done this in the past and to a lesser extent, usually limited to the rarer species, I occasionally still commit sightings too the Birds Queensland Newsletter and/or their website.

However, unlike many of the above-mentioned birders, I have been unable to drop my old handwritten journal. My Allen Road records alone date back to April 2001, in an era before I had access to my own personal computer. I had access at school but that created another set of problems. Thus, I continued to keep a diary of birds noted on each visit to Allen Road and even to this day, when Fay and I live on the property rather than pay occasional visits, I continue the habit. Those records now run to three volumes and I would be loathe to suddenly drop that format.

I of course keep my own electronic records, a practice enhanced when I recently acquired a copy of Bluebird Technology’s simple, but very effective, Bird Journal [currently at version 2.3].

So, my records start with the basic field notes which are then transcribed to a handwritten journal and finally added to Bird Journal.

And the Allen Road records are the simplest of the birding records I keep! The South Burnett region becomes a mite more complicated while any birding trips further afield [e.g. our recent venture out to Sundown National Park] take on huge proportions. My handwritten entries are not merely simple notes, each trip is written up in full.

Which brings me to the original thrust of this blog. I had intended to keep a weekly account of our activities at Allen Road [as I had intended to do with the South Burnett in general] but one or more of the balls in the delicate juggling act keep slipping, spilling over, rolling away.

Once a month is now on trial.

This is a particular good month for birding activity in this neck of the woods. It is spring and that is the season of regeneration, of new life emerging into the world. I have written elsewhere [] of the advent of spring. Allen Road has been mentioned in passing.

As with the South Burnett in general [always remembering that Allen Road is but a small corner within that entire region] Allen Road also displays clear signs that winter, albeit reluctantly judging by some of our more recent overnight lows, is waning.

The arrival of the Little Friarbird Philemon citreogularis as early as mid-August became the scout, the indicator that we were in for an early spring. A day later the Noisy Friarbird Philemon corniculatus made its presence known; in both instances we had heard these species elsewhere in the South Burnett – the Little as early as 3 July, the Noisy at school on 28 July- and July is normally considered to be mid-winter.

At the end of September the Olive-backed Oriole Oriolus sagittatus arrived. Later that same day [26 September] while walking back from the dam we heard the Australasian Figbird Sphecotheres vieilloti. Another duo of signs that spring is springing upon us.

Nevertheless, in secret Fay and I always await the arrival of one particular species before we are prepared to openly declare that winter has gone, that summer is around the corner. Not that we had long to wait. The first Sacred Kingfisher Todiramphus sanctus of the season was heard the following day, 27 September and later that same day we saw it perched on overhead wires along Allen Road.
Spring is here. We await the arrival of another handful of iconic species between now and the advent of summer.

The Spangled Drongo Dicrurus bracteatus we know is present a few kilometres down the road, in open woodland on the edge of Tarong Power Station. The Channel-billed Cuckoo Scythrops novaehollandiae and Eastern Koel Eudynamys orientalis have yet to make their presence known.