Sunday, March 23, 2008

Animal Encounters XXI

Finally! A spot of sunny weather has enabled me to get some shots of this elusive bird. For today's animal encounter, we've got

The Masked Plover

The masked plover is a large, common and conspicuous bird native to Australia, particularly the northern and eastern parts of the continent. It spends most of its time on the ground searching for food such as insects and worms and has several distinctive calls. Day or night, the plover can be heard making its noisy, penetrating 'kekekekek' call. Sometimes called the alarmbird (for obvious reasons), these wading birds generally gather in loose flocks, usually near waterways where food is abundant. They feed mainly on seeds, molluscs, worms and insects.

Looking for food

Come breeding season, plovers want their privacy and split into pairs to nest and breed from late spring through winter. Together they guard their nest (a depression or mound on the ground) and then their chicks, aggressively fending off potential attackers.

On the attack run...

Medium-sized birds, plovers are brown with a black crown and white underparts. They have long red legs and grow to about 35-38cm. With bright yellow wattles on their forehead and face, and a small spur on the edge of their wing, they are hard to mistake (and frightening if they attack!). Attacks are most vicious on other birds such as ravens, and also cats and dogs but once the chicks reach 60% in size after 2-3 months, the chances of this happening decrease. Strikes are much more rare on humans since they are more aware. Sometimes the bird can damage its wing in a strike but usually survives and is flightless as the wing heals. Some masked plovers never breed due to increased dangers such as people on footpaths, cars. Nearly always two birds are seen together, male and female but many can be seen in groups at times, especially during feeding on coastlines.

Getting uncomfortably close.....

Found everywhere except Western Australia, they are most often found in open grassy areas close to water. It's not uncommon to see plovers nesting in parks, playing fields or on grassed lawns.

I'm going to run away now!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Warp Speed

Wowee! How fast time seems to have passed when you're really busy! It felt like only last week that I wrote the previous post, but in reality it was over a month ago. A lot of things have happened in the past month, starting with me ironically crashing my bike a week after writing up on it here. It wasn't like a big crash or anything serious. I was travelling and I hit a mud patch, which I then proceeded to crash into a hedge and ended up part sliding in the hedge and part sliding down the road. I suffered two massively sprained fingers and a heavily bruised knee. Thank god for the protective kit I was wearing! If not for that, bits of my knee would have ended up on the road. The bike just had some minor cosmetic damage, but it did put a dent into my plans to sell it.

After all that excitement, work started getting really serious again (not that it wasn't serious in the first place!). And then my birthday appeared around the corner. Turning 27 seemed to have just crept up on me. I still felt the same as I was 26...heck I still felt the same as I was 23! Well...older and wiser that's what I'd like to say. So wise that I kept my birthday celebrations really low key. I simply went out for some celebratory drinks with good friends at a nearby bar and was well in bed by 12am.

The following weekend, I had a really wonderful guest, the all encompassing and wise Justin, coming from London to stay with me for a couple of days. We both used to live together when we were in university and I had a really great time catching up with him.

Now, I've got my sister staying with me for this weekend. It will be her last time here before she heads back to Singapore for good. She has been studying in Dublin for the past three years as part of her medical degree and she will have to spend the final two years in Singapore working and studying in a hospital/clinic before she can be qualified as a doctor. As usual, whenever you put two siblings together, there is a small amount of rivalry and bickering.

Anyway, that's a really quick update for now and hopefully I'll have time to make another post sometime soon. I would also like to continue my animal encounters series which has been on the back burner due to poor weather and lack of time. But for now...warp speed...engage!