About Me

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Canberra-based naturalist, conservationist, educator since 1980. I’m passionate about the natural world (especially the southern hemisphere), and trying to understand it and to share such understandings. To that aim I’ve written several books (most recently 'Birds in Their Habitats' and 'Australian Bird Names; origins and meanings'), run tours all over Australia, and for the last decade to South America, done a lot of ABC radio work, chaired a government environmental advisory committee and taught many adult education classes – and of course presented this blog, since 2012. I am the recipient of the Australian Natural History Medallion, the Australian Plants Award and most recently a Medal of the Order of Australia for ‘services to conservation and the environment’. I live happily in suburban Duffy with my partner Louise surrounded by a dense native garden and lots of birds.

Friday, 31 December 2021

Farewell to 2021!

This post continues a now well-established tradition of mine of posting on the last day of the year, aiming to offer one photo taken each month of the year as a way of celebrating the year that has gone. Sadly, for the second year in a row, about the only thing to celebrate about 2021 is that it's nearly over. We should never feel like that - life is too transient to wish away, but it's a bit hard to avoid these days. In addition to the obvious COVID pall it's been a very sad one for us in personal ways, but so it has been for many others too. One spin-off of these things is that I took relatively few photos - in other years I've struggled to decide what to leave out, but not this time. However there was only one month where I actually had no photos to choose from, and in that case I've 'borrowed' from a previous month. (My blog, I make the rules! :-) )

The long drought had finally broken in mid-2020, and we swung into the wet La NiƱa phase of the climatic cycle, so it was generally rainy and cool and the bush responded well to it.

Travel was of course very restricted - some of the time we couldn't leave the immediate environs of our suburb - but we managed one trip early in the year to South Australia to attend a family wedding deferred from last year, a couple of fleeting trips to the nearby south coast, one to the Blue Mountains, and a week in western New South Wales when things opened up a bit. As a result more of these than usual were taken in the ACT, mostly close to home. However it was the year that it was, and here's my version of it.

(As ever I don't make any pretence to photographic excellence, but have chosen the pictures because of their associations, and in most cases because they are ones I've not previously used this year in a blog posting.)

JANUARY

Male Gang-gang Cockatoo Callocephalon fimbriatum, Narrabundah Hill, Canberra.
This is our nearest 'reserve', though it's not an official one. I walk there early on summer mornings
in particular and this beauty was the star of one such walk. It is a declining species of the
near-coastal south-eastern ranges and this encounter was a much-needed reminder
that nature exists outside of our concerns. (I'm prone to feeling philosophical
in January, before the year starts to gain pace!)

FEBRUARY

A bee-fly (Comptosia apicalis I think) on a paper daisy Bracteantha bracteata in our garden.
It - ie the garden - is recovering well from the drought and it has given us especial
pleasure and solace this year.

And a second one from February, an Eastern Bristlebird Dasyornis brachypterus,
at Currarong, south coast NSW. This is our favourite coastal destination, on the north
end of Jervis Bay (more about it here), and this bird is nationally Endangered,
with perhaps only 2000 left in coastal heathlands. The Currarong area is a stronghold
and an early morning walk will usually produce a couple, but this is the closest
I've ever been to one, and the only decent photo of one I've ever taken.
A highlight of the year.

MARCH

In March we made our only interstate trip, as mentioned above. On our way back from Adelaide we camped a couple of nights in the wonderful Gluepot Reserve (run by Birds Australia) in the mallee country of South Australia (more on it here). It was still suffering from drought and the special mallee birds weren't much in evidence, but we had it to ourselves and we enjoyed our time.

I like this snap of 'our' gecko, an Eastern Tree Dtella Gehyra versicolor which ventured
out of an empty pipe by the toilet block at night.

APRIL

April was still a window of relative calm and freedom of movement before the doors, quite properly, slammed shut again. We took the opportunity to spend a few days in the Blue Mountains to check the autumn flowers, and as compensation for being prevented from going there for Christmas. But there we made a very exciting discovery.

Pink Flannel Flower Actinotus forsythii, at Narrowneck near Katoomba, Blue Mountains.
I'd never seen this species, though two other Actinotus, including the familiar big white
Flannel Flower A. helianthi, are common. I'd long wanted to see it but didn't have much hope as
it's confined mostly to rugged remote mountains along the Great Dividing Range south
from the Blue Mountains, and flowers only in the summer following a big fire,
and only if it's then rained. I knew they were flowering profusely in summer but
we couldn't get there then, so were very pleased to find a few persisting in
some sheltered sites.

MAY

By May things were starting to shut down but we did some local walks, including one along the Murrumbidgee River at Casuarina Sands, not far from here. In March there had been major flooding across New South Wales, and while the ACT wasn't impacted as far as loss of life or property was concerned, the local rivers well overflowed their banks. We got over 160mm of rain for the month, compared with the long-term average of 54mm and our walk came with some dramatic reminders of this.

A testament to the force of the river a few weeks earlier, metres above the bank. Our route
was strewn with trunks and branches of River Oaks Casuarina cunninghamiana killed by
the fercocious fires of 2003. It was a double reminder of nature's power.

JUNE

June was a very bad month for us at a personal level, and the camera remained in its bag for the duration. Here's one from the Blue Mountains a couple of months earlier to fill the void. 

Golden Scalycap Fungi Pholiota aurivella, Coachwood Glen, Megalong Valley,
Blue Mountains. A memory of a lovely walk in cool temperate Coachwood rainforest.

JULY

Here we managed a much-needed couple of days at the coast. It was a time of quiet reflection and easy walks. We spent some time watching this engaging Echidna in a quiet coastal village street, pottering in people's front yards. It was a delightful interlude.

AUGUST

In August the National Botanic Gardens finally reopened to visitors (they closed and reopened several times) and we'd probably never valued so much the opportunity to stroll there. 

A highlight was watching this magnificent male Satin Bowerbird Ptilonorhynchus violaceus
snacking on the luscious fruits of Lilly Pilly Amena smithii, a common small tree of
coastal rainforest edges.

SEPTEMBER

For what at least seemed like quite a while we couldn't leave our 'region' of Canberra, or exercise with friends. Finally in September, as spring was exploding, we could again walk with another person and I enjoyed a morning walk nearby with my friend Chris, exchanging thoughts and enjoying the views and birds.

Looking across the Molonglo Valley, site of a growing housing development, through a hazy morning
to a hillside glowing with wattle. It seemed like some sort of promise of better days.
It was premature of course!

OCTOBER

Finally in October we could travel without restriction within the ACT (and local parts of New South Wales, but not elsewhere). For some time there had been regular reports of an uncommon visitor to the ACT at Campbell Park across town, and I had been very much hoping that it would wait until I could visit it!

And as you can see, it did. Red-backed Kingfishers Todiramphus pyrrhopygius are
birds of the dry inland and when they turn up here it is usually in a drought,
so not sure what this one's story was, but I was glad it dropped by for a while.
A really lovely bird, especially from this angle!

On the walk out I encountered some Yellow-rumped Thornbills Acanthiza chrysorrhoa
feeding on the track. They are common right across most of the country but are always
welcome in my binoculars. However this one appears here because of its seeming little
dance for the camera, like a child showing off.
(And yes, of course I'm being anthropomorphic!)

NOVEMBER

In November we finally managed to leave Canberra to take a short trip to western New South Wales, specifically to see the River Darling flowing strongly after a string of dry years. It was a welcome escape, though the weather wasn't kind and we didn't see as much as we'd hoped. Nonetheless we were very grateful for the opportunity. The picture I chose for the month isn't one I expected to choose as a memento of the month though.

Caper White Butterflies Belenois java are common across the entire continent except
for the south-west corner, and through the islands well to the north. You wouldn't then
expect me to feature it as a highlight of the year, but we were enthralled by the
experience of driving through whirls of them for hundreds of kilometres on the drive
home. It was impossible to imagine how many millions there were across the landscape.
This female was on a copper burr Scleralaena sp., a saltbush, though it's
not a food plant; the caterpillars live on shrubs of the caper family Capparidaceae.

DECEMBER

In December we again had a few days at Currarong, this time for Lou's special birthday. One day we went to a nearby village to look at a coastal lagoon, then had coffee sitting outside a cafe in a fairly uninspiring row of shops near a busy road. The whole experience changed though when a small flock of Figbirds Sphecotheres vieilloti appeared in a street tree by us and proceeded to sing cheerfully.

This is essentially a bird of the tropics and subtropics, but is scattered
down the coast nearly to Victoria, and is probably extending its range south.
I'm always surprised to see them there though, and this one brightened that
dull little shopping strip no end. It was a good few days, and this was a surprising highlight.
So, this is a version of my year, though to be honest it would have been hard to interpret some months very differently! Next year, maybe...

Thank you for reading, today and through the year - it means a lot to me that you can find something here that is either enjoyable or informative, and preferably both! It's been another tough year, and there is nothing at the moment to suggest that next year will be better, but there is always the natural world to distract us, inspire us and absorb us. I hope you'll join me there at some stage.
NEXT POSTING THURSDAY 20 JANUARY

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This will mean one email every three weeks at the current rate of posting. 
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Thursday, 16 December 2021

Mount Kenya; wet forests in dry plains

Some five months ago I wrote a post about Shaba National Reserve in northern Kenya, wonderful arid wildlife-rich landscapes reminiscent in some ways of outback Australia. I promised then to offer another post on its neighbouring reserve, Buffalo Springs, and so I shall. But before doing that I'm going to introduce you to (or perhaps remind you of your own time on) magnificent Mount Kenya, a nearby but very different landscape. It is the highest peak in the country, and second only to mighty Kilimanjaro in all of Africa, though it doesn't get the press of Kilimanjaro. 

The volcanic peaks of Mount Kenya, some 5200 metres above sea level and way above the tree line.
The sides are streaked with huge glaciers, which sadly are shrinking fast. Our excellent
South African guide (we also had a Kenyan guide), Gareth Robbins of Rockjumper Tours,
told us that he had never seen it clear of clouds!
In 1849 German missionary-explorer and linguist Johann Krapf became the first European to sight the mountain, and asked its name. It is not entirely clear as to the meaning of what he was told, but he recorded it as both Kenia and Kegnia, which later became Kenya, and was applied to the entire British colony in the following century, and finally to the Republic of Kenya after independence in 1963.

We were only there for two nights and the intervening day, and could easily have spent more time there (as indeed everywhere!), but in that time we saw enough for me to want to share something of the experience with you. 71,000 hectares of the peaks and their flanking forests were declared as national park in 1997 and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Our two-storey wooden lodge was situated in tropical forest 2200 metres above sea level, overlooking an artificial waterhole with suffuse lighting at night.
The waterhole by night (above) and day (below). Cape Buffalo Syncerus caffer came and went
seemingly 24 hours a day.

 
The constant proximity of the buffaloes means that the lodge is fenced,
and there is an armed guard on the gate.
We discovered late in our stay that there is a tunnel from the ground floor to
a viewing room quite close to the waterhole, from where this photo was taken.
Red-billed Oxpeckers Buphagus erythrorynchus were constant attendants of the buffaloes,
removing ticks and other skin parasites.
Also regular at and around the water were smaller numbers of the very handsome antelope, Defassa Waterbuck Kobus defassa. This species, from central and west Africa (this is close to its eastern limit),  has recently been separated from the Ellipsen Waterbuck K. ellipsiprymnus which is found south and east from here.
Defassa Waterbuck male. He is distinguished from the Ellipsen Waterbuck by
the absence of a distinctive white ring around his rump.
Apart from the obvious attraction of the water, the mud seemed to contain chemicals attractive to the antelope, especially the smaller elegant Cape Bushbuck Tragelaphus scriptus.
Female and young Cape Bushbuck. For more on mud-eating in animals, see here.
 
This Spotted Hyena, moping home early in the morning, was not at all enjoying the mud
which by now was not confined to drying pools!
When the mud was dry (the rain came towards the end of our stay, fortunately) it was attractive as a dust bath, especially for the delightful Speckled Mousebirds Colius striatus.
The mousebirds are just six species, confined to Africa, of a whole Order of birds.
Below is a slightly clearer photo of a Speckled Mousebird, taken elsewhere in Kenya.

Lovely Cinnamon-chested Bee-eaters Merops oreobates hunted insects over the waterhole.
Bee-eaters are (yet) another favourite bird group of mine.


However we spent much of our time in the top floor balcony, a magnificent open-sided area which looked over the waterhole towards Mount Kenya on one side, and into the forest canopy on the other three sides.




This male Blue Monkey Cercopithecus mitis seemed to spend his time between the balcony
and the kitchen surrounds, hoping to scrounge food. He had only one hand, perhaps due to a
poacher's snare, but seemed to be doing fine.

From this balcony we enjoyed a range of forest-dwelling birds, though most of them didn't stay long enough to photograph.

Montane (or Mountain) Oriole Oriolus percivali. This special bird is restricted to
a very few mountain rainforests in east and central Africa.

The demure little White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher Melaenornis fischeri
is another specialist of central and eastern African mountain forests.
An afternoon drive in the forest produced two very exciting bigger birds, with excellent views.

Hartlaub's Turaco Tauraco hartlaubi is found almost solely in Kenyan
mountains, and was especially welcome.
Silvery-cheeked Hornbills Bycanistes brevis are more widespread, in tall wet forests
for most of the length of east Africa, but I'd not seen it before this trip. At 80cm long
it's up there with the biggest hornbills, and very impressive indeed.
In more open areas roadside wires are always worth a look too.
Abyssinian Thrushes Turdus abyssinicus are another bird of the north-eastern highlands.

Holub's Golden Weaver Ploceus xanthops lives across much of the southern
half of Africa, often building its big woven grass nests in colonies.
 

The Northern Fiscal Lanius humeralis is a very widespread and familiar species,
a shrike which is often seen watching for prey from powerlines and telephone wires.
Arriving back at the lodge in the near dark, we were greeted by a couple of delightful little Mount Kenya Duikers Cephalophus hooki. These tiny antelopes are found only on Mount Kenya and the nearby Aberdare Range.

Mount Kenya Duiker, a recently recognised species, based on the work of the eminent
Colin Groves of the Australian National University, who sadly died recently.
But our mammal highlight of the stay came that night as we watched from our balcony the rain pouring down, when suddenly a family of Giant Forest Hogs Hylochoerus meinertzhageni appeared from the other side of the clearing. This is a shy species which I'd long wanted to see, and is the world's largest all-wild pig which can be two metres long and weigh a quarter of a tonne. They made their way in the rain around the waterhole and came to a flat area under a soft light almost below us - I suspect that this is a feeding station with which they're familiar, but there was no food that night and they didn't stay long.
Giant Forest Hogs, mother and babies, our farewell treat from Mount Kenya!
When you can eventually go (or go back) to Kenya, of course you'll want to visit the 'classics' such as Amboseli, Maasai Mara and Tsavo, but you really should include Mount Kenya if you possibly can. It's something very different indeed. 

I'll be back here just once more in 2021, to relive our natural history year with one photo from each month - though it won't be easy this year!
NEXT POSTING FRIDAY 31 December
I love to receive your comments and in future will be notifying you personally by email when a new posting appears, if you'd like me to. All current subscribers have been added to this mailing list and have already been contacted.
This will mean one email every three weeks at the current rate of posting. 
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or could simply mark an email as Spam, so you won't see future ones.
Thank you!

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Woodswallows, the original grey nomads?

A long time ago, a popular 'getting to know you' game involved a series of  'if you were type of a XXX, what would you be?'. Seems a bit quaint now, but maybe it's still played? Anyway, in my circles at least XXX usually came round to 'a bird'. My answer would usually be 'a woodswallow, because they wander the great inland plains of Australia' - I was then a romantic too. I was also somewhat disingenuous, as only a couple of the six Australian species actually do that, but the person I was talking too probably wouldn't know that. (These days, if asked my favourite bird, and believe it or not it happens, usually on radio, I say 'the one I'm looking at', which is pretty much true, even if unsatisfactory to the enquirer.)

Firstly, and because this is Australia where such confusions in bird names are common, woodswallows are not swallows! From the early days of the Sydney colony the name Wood Swallow was used to distinguish them from 'real' swallows. Their only connection is that both bird groups are superb aerialists, making a living by snatching small insects out of the air. George Caley, the early Sydney botanical collector who reported to Sir Joseph Banks in London, noted that ‘Their resting places were on the stumps of trees which had been felled’, which seem to have spurred the 'wood' part of the name. After a while however many people failed to see the point of this distinction, so for the next century they were just lumped with 'other' swallows. Confusing indeed. 

White-breasted Woodswallow Artamus leucorynchus, Toompine, south-west Queensland.
The silvery-blue black-tipped bill is typical of woodswallows (and of the rest of the family), as
is this habit of perching in the open to watch for passing flying insects.
I also reckon that they typically look very alert, like this, but I guess any bird that survives has to!
So if not swallows, what are they? We now know that they are in the same family as the much bigger Australian magpies, currawongs and butcherbirds, which in turn is an old Australasian family, going back perhaps 45 million years. While we think of that as a recent revelation, in fact it had been suggested long ago. Back in 1907 a connection between woodswallows and Australian magpies had been suggested by William Pycraft of the British Museum; this was largely ignored, but eventually confirmed and extended to currawongs and butcherbirds by Allan McEvey in 1976. McEvey, from the Museum of Victoria, based his conclusions on skeletal studies (as had Pycraft 69 years previously). In particular he noted, uniquely among Australian passerines, a shared strange extension of a cheek bone – a ‘bifurcated zygomatic process’ if you’re that way inclined. For the intervening 70 years however the best Australian ornithologists were admitting they had no idea where woodswallows fitted into the bigger picture. It took the pioneering DNA-DNA hybridisation work of US ornithologists Charles Sibley and Jon Ahlquist in the late 70s and early 80s to settle the question.

Black-faced Woodswallow Artamus cinereus (and orb spider), west of Winton, central Queensland.
This is an inland species, found throughout the continent except for the moist south-east,
but not one of the wanderers.

There are eleven species of woodswallow, all in the same genus, and six of them are Australian. One of these - the White-breasted Woodswallow above - is found as far north as Malaysia and the Philippines. Most of the others are restricted to New Guinea, plus one each in Sulawesi and Fiji.

White-breasted Woodswallow on a wet tropical morning from a hotel window in
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysian Borneo.
The Latin name for the group, Artamus, is a somewhat curious one too. It's Latin for a butcher, or murderer. Seems a bit extreme, though they certainly do away with a lot of insects. But if I was one of their bigger relatives, like a currawong or butcherbird, with a tough reputation to uphold, I might be a bit put out that my little cousin had that fearsome name, while mine translated as 'loud-mouthed' or 'noisy' in both cases! (Strepera for currawong, Cracticus for butcherbird). It comes down to history. In 1771 Linnaeus himself placed the White-breasted Woodswallow in the Old World genus Lanius, the shrikes. Lanius itself is another word for butcher, so when the esteemed French ornithologist Louis Vieillot recognised the error and gave woodswallows their own genus in 1817 he used another 'butcher' word, Artamus. Whether he did this out of respect to Linnaeus, or because he also thought they were shrike-related, is unclear.
Dusky Woodswallow A. cinereus delivering a butcher's meal to chicks
in the nest, Canberra.
Not all woodswallows however go to the trouble of catching their own meals. Kleptoparasitism (what a wonderful word!) is practised by at least a couple of species, and thus probably more. This means stealing someone else's food, and observations have ranged from a White-browed Woodswallow snatching food from a much bigger Black-faced Cuckooshrike about to deliver it to its chick, to various stories of Dusky Woodswallows mugging a range of smaller birds for their hard-earned meals.
This female White-browed Swallow A. superciliosus is definitely catching her own food,
in the form of this locust on the streets of Karumba, far north Queensland.

However there is another, also fascinating, aspect of woodswallow diet. As well as being primarily aerial insectivores, they also forage on nectar and pollen, even to the extent of having evolved brush-tipped tongues like honeyeaters. It seems that they could be important pollinators of some inland plant groups, though I'm not aware that this has been much studied. While all Australian woodswallows sup on nectar from time to time, only the inland nomads, the White-browed and Masked Woodswallows, do so regularly and across their range. But this tongue is a very sophisticated and specific tool, taking up liquid by osmosis like a paint brush, so why is it possessed by species which seemingly rarely use it? Perhaps the ancestral woodswallow was much more nectar-dependant, before its descendants diversified into chasing insects across the skies? If so, why retain it if you're not using it? It's all very satisfyingly puzzling.

Female White-browed (above) and male Masked Woodswallow A. personata hanging out, as
these species often do, at Cobbold Gorge Station near Georgetown, northern Queensland.
The relationship of these two species is another delicious puzzle. They are the only two woodswallow species which specialise in wandering across the vast arid inland plains, following the rains and resources, though drought will bring them closer to the coast to breed, including in Canberra. A thunderstorm in the dry country is likely to bring big flocks of these birds, along with swallows, martins and, in summer, swifts when they are visiting from the northern hemisphere, to feast on the insect hosts caught up in the turbulence. 
 
These woodswallows are usually found in mixed flocks, calling down from the skies. Their calls are indistinguishable to our ears but given our poor aural acuity this doesn't mean much. Significantly and most surprisingly however their mitochondrial DNA cannot be reliably distinguished either. This is not unexpected in species which have only recently separated, but in that case we would expect them to be isolated geographically, or to interbreed readily. Neither is the case here. They often breed in mixed colonies, but rarely if ever form a mixed pair. Most peculiar. Those much more erudite than I cannot explain this situation. Here are some typical flocks of these two species.
White-browed and Masked Woodswallows often gather in large numbers on exposed
branches, flying out to harvest insects. This image and the next are also from Cobbold Gorge.
Masked and White-browed Woodswallows coming to drink at a waterhole.
(And a bonus Budgerigar for the sharp-eyed reader.)
Even this is interesting, as insect-eaters often find enough moisture in their food
and don't need to drink.
Part of a huge flock of these species in western Queensland.
One difference between these two nomads is that Masked Woodswallows are much harder to pin down in a photograph in my experience, but of course that's likely just to be me and is not a reliable taxonomic character! In both species the sexes are distinctly different (which is unlike the other Australian species where they are indistinguishable), the females being a washed-out version of the sharper males.
White-browed Woodswallows during a relatively rare breeding event in Canberra,
at Mount Ainslie NR. Female above, male below.
The most familiar inland woodswallow is the Black-faced, which doesn't seem to move around much, but is spread across the entire continent except for the moist south-eastern strip, coming to the coast especially in the tropics. I love seeing the first ones as we drive west or north-west, as it means we've reached 'the inland' which we love. They are common on the power lines.
Black-faced Woodswallow, Great Sandy Desert, Western Australia.
The least familiar of the Australian woodswallows is the Little Woodswallow, which is rather like a small chocolatey version of the Dusky Woodswallow. I suspect that it isn't that scarce, but it lives where there are relatively few observers, especially in association with cliffs, ranges and rocky outcrops. 
Little Woodswallows A. minor, West MacDonnell Ranges, central Australia.
The snuggling behaviour is common to most woodswallow species - in fact there are
plenty of accounts of up to 200 woodswallows clustered together, clinging to the bark
of a tree, to spend the night. Such roosts have also been reported during the daytime,
even on warm humid days, so it's not primarily about keeping warm.
Yet another sweet woodswallow mystery.
In the south-east the only regular woodswallow is the Dusky, which arrives every spring to breed here from its wintering grounds in Queensland - that is, it is a migrant rather than a nomad. In Canberra it is very familiar in the hill reserves of Canberra, around the urban lakes and in the lower slopes of the ranges, though I don't often see it over suburbia. It has a very distinctive silhouette, with diamond-shaped wings as it soars out from a perch to catch its next snack.
Dusky Woodswallow by Lake Burley Griffin, Canberra.
Dusky Woodswallow feeding chicks, Canberra. This site, in an upright broken spout,
is typical of the species, though other species have other preferences.
The white wing edges and tail tips are prominent in flight.
White-breasted Woodswallows are especially smart I think (speaking only of their attire, not their intellect). They are found throughout the eastern inland, west to central Australia, and are found around the northern coastline from about Sydney to Shark Bay in Western Australia. Inland they are nearly always associated with water. 
White-breasted Woodswallows, Winton, central Queensland.
These photos were taken just a few seconds apart, and I loved the sudden switch of
focus to their right as something caught their attention.
White-breasted Woodswallows at Neweys Reserve, Cobar, central western NSW.
They are especially snuggly, even for woodswallows.
It's hardly a secret - especially now - that I'm a huge fan of woodswallows, old Australians which I find especially characterful. I hope you enjoy them too, and that maybe I've even given you a couple more reasons to do so. Enjoy summer (or winter, depending on where you are).

NEXT POSTING THURSDAY 16 December
I love to receive your comments and in future will be notifying you personally by email when a new posting appears, if you'd like me to. All current subscribers have been added to this mailing list and have already been contacted.
This will mean one email every three weeks at the current rate of posting. 
I promise never to use the list for any other purpose and will never share it.
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or could simply mark an email as Spam, so you won't see future ones.
Thank you!