Sunday, October 3, 2010


Little Egret
I had intended writing this piece late Saturday afternoon [3 October 2010], shortly after our return to Nanango but as Steinbeck quoted, borrowing the words from that most famous of Scottish poets, Robbie Burns, the best laid plans of mice and men often gang… JETLAG! I don’ recall it effecting either of us to this extent back in the 1990s when Fay and I travelled extensively around the globe in pursuit of birds – indeed, we frequented the skyways so often that on more than one occasion we earned sufficient “frequent flyer” points to facilitate a number of internal, intra-Australia, flights. These freebies brought us a number of Australian Lifers; together with much appreciate tours of the Clare [South Australia] and Hunter [New South Wales] Valleys, renowned more for their wines than for their birds but to the discerning eye, and palate, famous for both.

Not that there was much to report, a flight back home is, well, to all intents and purposes, a flight back home and the norm is that nothing much worth reporting occurs on such journeys. In avian terms this is probably the case in this instance. We did pick up our only, to date, Middle Eastern tick, a humble, if rather invasive, Common Myna. There had been a small number of other birds flitting around, visible from the transit lounge of ABU DHABI airport but it was late, the light was dimming and the birds never approached close enough for anything but the most cursory diagnostic peek.... a pipit type, something akin to a swallow… The Myna hung around on the edge of a nearby aero-bridge to afford us the opportunity to view all its tale-telling features. Indeed, there were three of them at varying distances and angles of view.

Black-headed Gull

What did have me almost totally gob-smacked, surprised beyond speech, was that for the first time since the knee replacement operation [22 July 2008] my bionic part didn’t trigger the metal detector as I walked through the arch at the airport security area. You probably need to have an artificial, metallic, bit to fully appreciate the difference between a lion leaping through a loop and the same creature leaping through a lighted loop. Having become accustomed to the lights flashing and the alarm resounding I had in fact stopped and pointed down to my knee to indicate the source of the problem. I think I had even started the now almost inevitable stoop to untie my bootlaces- just as I had done on the outward journey. An armed guard bearing nothing more disarming than the most friendly of smiles beckoned me on with a kind “It’s okay, sir.”
In true Shakespearean style I offer the following brief aside: never judge an entire nation by what you might see/hear via various forms of the Media. Not all Arabs are bomb-toting terrorists, just as not all Christians attending weekly church rites are Christian. Until back in 1997 I think I had a rather jaundiced view of North Americans; loud and brash with little sense of humour or at least a sense of humour too cryptic for the likes of me to fathom. It was of course a cynical opinion based on too many hours of American television programs in which the cops only ever chased villains in high speed cars and, again almost inevitably, shot them dead at the end of the chase. The Arizona café owners and the Pittsburgh widow shattered those illusions.
To cap off the Abu Dhabi experience, on returning through security at Singapore’s Changi International Airport, where on the outward journey the metal detector had clanged its dire warning to all and sundry that a potential terrorist was passing through, nothing happened, not so much as a lowly grind or metallic gnashing of electrodes. And again, I hesitated, already pointing my right index finger towards my right knee. I was waved on.

Since the knee replacement in July 2008 I have passed through ten airport metal detectors and in 80% of those instances the alarm was raised and I was more carefully scanned by the hand-held detector and pat searched. What was different on these two last occasions? Is it a sign of better things ahead?

We arrived home mid-afternoon, Saturday 2 October, pleased to find the house still standing, the two dogs and three cats still alive and looking well and the Sacred Kingfisher back on its old limb surveying the area which Fay and I, in our more foolish moments, believe belongs to us.


Sometime in the near future I will analyse the trip in avian terms and put down some reflections. I will of course blog the essentials here but the full version will appear on my soon-to-be-revamped website: http:/

Meanwhile, for those interested in following the birding exploits of a “Staffordshire Stray” on his local patch, the South Burnett region of Queensland [approximately three hours by car NW of Brisbane] , I invite you to glance across at Indeed, given a little more spare time I hope to create a blogspot with an even narrower focus – provisionally to be called Backyard Birding: Allen Road.

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