Ravensbourne Revisited – Where’s Wompoo?

If abundant alliteration alarms you, I suggest you avert your attention to an alternative article, as I’m feeling phonetically flamboyant on this fine Friday morning.

Wildlife watchers or flora and fungi fans will probably agree that repetition reaps rewards, particularly in rainforests.

While new destinations are often exciting, revisiting the same terrain will often reveal surprises.

The time of day, weather, season, and number of walkers on the track all affect observations.

Recent rambling at Ravensbourne National Park resulted in several new bird sightings. On one particularly successful trip, I spotted white-headed pigeons, brown cuckoo- doves, a wonga pigeon, and my first wild wompoo fruit dove.

I casually mentioned my wompoo sighting to Ralph, an avian enthusiast I’ve known since those heady days of university over thirty years ago. This revelation resulted in him giving up his precious leisure time to share a walk with me at Ravensbourne.

Back in the old days, I sometimes assisted Ralph with entomological expeditions and through these trips came to discover his birding passion. As most of us do when fostering friendships, I tried to participate in his interests.

However, attempting to enter the world of the committed birdwatcher (or twitcher, as many prefer to be called) is fraught with peril for the unsuspecting novice. I was definitely a fungi fanatic, not a budding bird buff. My early attempts resulted in an embarrassing gaffe that developed legendary status over the years. There’s a reason I became known in some circles as the “Starling Darling”.

While looking through a window at the University of Queensland grounds in the late 1980s, I spied what I thought were extremely rare birds.  Sunlight highlighted their distinctive speckled patterns and iridescent green sheen. In my eyes they were startlingly beautiful. Heart racing, I bounded down the steps to the coffee room on the next floor, where Ralph and his colleagues were congregated, and informed him of my amazing avian discovery.

A little sceptical of my rare observation, but not willing to risk missing a “tick” for his species list, Ralph hastened to the window. In my defence, I’d grown up in rural areas where most households owned free-ranging domestic cats. These purring pets are pernicious predators, and when left to roam, spread disease and kill many native Australian species. Due to their success, my childhood list of backyard bird sightings was short, indeed.

The story of my “rare” European starling was a source of amusement to other birders (as well as the entire university department.) While it is no longer discussed, the memory survives in my own mind as an invisible indicator of my lack of birding expertise. By showing my wompoo to Ralph, I hoped to banish my birding blunder into oblivion, restore my ragged reputation, and also cement a smile on his face.

And here is where I reveal why Ralph requested a pseudonym and that I not expose his face. In his opinion, it is embarrassing for an Australian twitcher to reach his fifties not having seen a wompoo fruit dove. In fact, he refuses to call himself a twitcher these days due to his lack of dedication.

Like many of my university friends, Ralph’s environmental science career was curtailed by the corporate cage. Research funds are often rare, unpredictable, and short term. In order to pay bills he now spends his days closeted in an office tackling mountains of paperwork, attending meetings,  and answering hundreds of emails instead of examining dung beetles in poo. Rainforest jaunts are extremely rare.

So it was with an element of excitement and a huge sense of responsibility that I took Ralph to one of my regular Ravensbourne routes. Would we spot the Wompoo again?  I was confident, probably over- confident, but when enthusiasm strikes, one must run with it!

I hadn’t even unbuckled my seatbelt when Ralph rushed out of the car gripping his bulky binoculars. A flash of feathers in the rainforest canopy had caught his attention. Craning his neck, he was now in full stalking mode. This was not to be a casual Sunday amble, but a serious avian quest.

I saw another flash of wings and recognised the deep purple of a wompoo’s chest. Would Ralph have his wompoo wish satisfied before we’d even left the carpark? This seemed too good to be true. It was too good to be true.

Even though I was sure it was my wompoo, according to twitching rules, my identification doesn’t count. Ralph had to positively identify it himself and he wasn’t 100% certain. He needed to see it in more detail.  After half an hour of unsuccessfully scanning the carpark canopy, I suggested we hit the trails as there may be other birds to spot and I expected the wompoo would return once we disappeared for a while.

Ralph was naturally sceptical. The Starling Darling did not have a remarkable reputation when it came to birding.  After entering the dense rainforest we were quickly rewarded with the sights and sounds of whipbirds, brown cuckoo-doves and white headed pigeons.

Pulses remained steady though as these species were ticked years ago and not the purpose of this trip.

The distinctive call of a wompoo jerked Ralph’s head upwards. Here is a link to a recording made by Andree Griffin and R.J. Swabby and shared on the Birdlife Australia site. There is no mistaking their calls and you can understand why they are called “Wompoo.”

The next couple of hours were spent scanning the canopy in search of a clear wompoo sighting to satisfy strict twitcher protocol.

Periodically hearing their distinctive sounds from different directions teased poor Ralph. I feared for his sanity and felt guilty for putting him through this torture. Fifty year old necks aren’t as flexible as those of twenty year old students.

If you’re a twitcher, or intimately connected with one, you may be aware of the love/hate relationship some have with their passion. At one point Ralph’s mood suggested he’d declared war on the wompoo.

We walked, waited, watched, and listened at regular intervals, but a definitive identification continued to elude him. This wompoo was wary.

It is not surprising really that Ralph is both an avid golfer and a birder.   Like golfers who battle inclement weather and may spend many hours and funds practising to improve their handicap, twitchers may go to extraordinary lengths to increase their ticks.  For some, adding to their list only produces a short-lived “high” followed quickly by a need to focus on the next “hit.” It can be quite addictive.

If you doubt my words have a quick read of this ABC article by Bec Whetham  Twitching: The Obsessive World of Extreme Birdwatching about Australian, Kay Parkin, who won the Big Year Record Twitching Award in 2010. She actually started ultra-marathon running to take a break from twitching. Here’s a small excerpt:

“Twitching is an expensive and emotionally taxing obsession. Kay’s obsession has come at a great cost. “Dead broke”, she worries about the day a cop pulls her over for a balding tyre on her car. Since starting serious birding in 2009, Kay has hopped onto a plane every fortnight in pursuit of birds.  But it’s the birding anxiety — the “real medical condition that all twitchers suffer from” to the point of vomiting, nightmares and anxiety attacks — that catches her. Kay recounts the first time this extreme anxiety really dawned on her. It was 2015 when she finally convinced her birder friend to go on his first twitch.

That night the two of them booked flights to Sydney and left for Penrith first thing in the morning. He was a “nervous wreck” — the unbearable pressure and anxiety of putting time and money on the line in pursuit of a bird you may not see was all too much. Despite finding the bird he hated the experience and swore never to do it again. Kay found it hilarious.”

I suggested to Ralph that he may derive some joy from ground discoveries but unlike me, he’s not a mycological minion.

Fan-shaped and fuzzy fungi  did not flame his fervour. I started to have doubts that I would be able to satisfy Ralph’s feathery fantasy.

I also tried to cheer him with the variation in  trunk surfaces at Ravensbourne.

Feather-shaped leaves were colourful but not equal to a wompoo.

Even these fine ferns and lovely lichen didn’t serve to elevate Ralph’s mood.

As we wandered and wondered (and in my case, worried) if our Wompoo would materialise, we passed diverse vegetation.

Where, oh where, was wompoo? He wasn’t in the piccabeen palms, despite the presence of fruit.

He wasn’t in the vine thickets.

Was he in the eucalypt forest?

No sign of him there.

On the rocky ridges? No.

Was he in the sandstone caves?

A dove silhouette on the floor sent a flood of adrenaline flowing.

But it was only a white-headed pigeon…again.

In fact, hundreds of tracks on the sandy floor indicated this was a favourite haunt.

I don’t blame them. I’ve taken shelter from the sun and rain on a few occasions.

Flowers don’t have wings so are easier to spot than wompoos.

And spider webs tend to be stationary also.

Smaller birds are common in the area. The yellow eastern robin is my favourite and I never tire of its curious nature and melody.

Brightly coloured wrens near the sandstone outcrops always lift my mood.

Occasionally I spot yellow-tailed black cockatoos.

White-browed scrub wrens flitter about the dark leaf litter by the paths, usually evading my capture.

A wonga pigeon appeared, but despite also beginning its name with “wo,” it is not the same as a wompoo and Ralph had ticked it off his list long ago.

The mood was quiet to say the least as we plodded the last hundred metres back to the carpark. It takes a lot to completely kill my enthusiasm, though.

I sent a silent wish to the wily wompoos to make an appearance so Ralph could end his frustrating walk on a high, but even I didn’t expect what followed. As soon as we reached the carpark, a wompoo flew right past Ralph to perch on a tree branch just above my car!

I assume you’d like to see more than its fluffy rear end so here are two pictures from my first sighting several days earlier.

I wish I could tell you that Ralph whooped with wonder at the wompoo,  that he issued squeals of delight, that he jumped for joy and yelled, “Hallelujah!”  The reality was rather an anti-climax. Ralph was surprisingly subdued. Instead of celebrating the moment, he seemed eager to drive home as soon as he’d confirmed the identification.

After questioning him later about his quiet demeanour, he gave an explanation. At the time he mainly felt overwhelming relief rather than excitement because at last, after so many years, an embarrassing omission from his bird list had been corrected.

I hadn’t read the ABC article about Kay back then. It seems Ralph’s reactions are not uncommon among the twitching fraternity. Commenting on her birding trip to Bruny Island, Kay said:

“That rush of adrenaline is immediately followed by this remarkable sense of relief but then, until you get all 12 (birds found on Bruny Island)… you go ‘okay, forget that one, what’s next?'”

I suspect the hours of neck craning along with my unrelenting childlike enthusiasm may have also wearied Ralph, although he was far too polite to suggest this.

Has the experience helped me shed my Starling Darling label and transformed me into the Wompoo Whisperer?  Sadly, I’ve not had another sighting since this quest. I can’t help wondering if the wary wompoo may have wearied of so much worship…

78 thoughts on “Ravensbourne Revisited – Where’s Wompoo?

    • Thanks, Tracy! I’m relieved to know I’m not the only person to be dazzled by a starling. Hahah. They may be common but I do think they are beautiful in the sunshine. I just retrieved your comment from my spam folder. I don’t know why it ended up there. I also noticed that WordPress had me unfollow your blog. I’ve refollowed. I’ve had other people tell me this has happened to them as well. I hope no-one thinks I purposely unfollowed them! All the best. 🙂

      • I’m planning an invasive species post, Jane, as an excuse to show off some photos of the starling. No need to shun them completely. 🙂
        I’m going into people’s spam a lot lately so not to worry.
        Also, I probably unsubscribed you by accident, Jane. My touchscreen laptop has a mind of its own when I accidentally touch some part of it. Often I am unable to work out what it did. If I ever get a new computer, I’m going back to the old tech.

        • That sounds very interesting, Tracy. I’ve often thought about doing a post on exotic species but never got around to it. My garden is a combination of introduced and native species and sometimes it’s hard to know what to do with the non-natives. I’ve recently discovered that my large geisha bushes can be harmful and invasive but their beautiful flowers attract so many native bees and butterflies and provide birds with safe homes so I am hesitant to chop them down. I know it will take a while to grow other native flowering plants to replace them and I worry where the wildlife will source their food in the meantime. I often see lantana on walks and it is a terrible problem but at the same time it provides food for little birds and insects. It’s a shocker for taking over forests though and so difficult to control. It’s a never-ending job.
          My touchscreen phone gets me into trouble all the time. Well, that’s my excuse anyway. Haha. It’s more that I don’t know what I am doing and my fingers don’t work properly! Thanks again, Tracy. 🙂

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Susan, as I had a lot of fun writing this one. Seeing new birds is always a thrill and when you can help someone else gain a new tick, it’s a bonus. My silly starling mistake all those years ago still makes me laugh. Ravensbourne is one of my favourite places for birdspotting. It’s only a small national park, but has a great deal of diversity. Thanks for taking the time to comment, as usual. 🙂

  1. A Wonderful entertaining story Jane, enjoyed sharing your walk, as a birder. Fantastic Fungi! Love the colours and textures you captured and of course the light. The Wompoo is always a birders delight due to their usually deep rainforest habitation, as they eat only the native fruits of the forest. Interesting read about Kay’s twitch addiction, classic of The Big Year movie. As a birder we oscillate between birdwatcher and twitcher at times but as a fellow birder once said, and Kay realised, the ‘difference is the dollars’, only the wealthy can successfully twitch. I find most of the twitchers I meet on the track are wealthy retire or semi-retired professionals or CEOs. Thanks again for a brilliant post Jane! All the best! Its great hearing from you again my friend!

    • Thanks very much, Ashley. While I do love watching birds, I don’t think I could ever be a dedicated twitcher. Seeing a new species is exciting but I think I gain just as much pleasure out of regularly watching the behaviour of birds I see commonly around my garden or on walks. I also don’t think I could justify spending so much money just to see a new bird even if I was rich. 🙂 I’m happy for others to enjoy the extremes of birdwatching though. I wonder if there is an equivalent word for a fungi fanatic. I suspect I’d be more prone to a mycology addiction. I am always hoping to see a new species. Unlike with birds, there is not a lot of behaviour to enjoy by watching a species I see regularly. Heheh Thanks for your very encouraging feedback. Best wishes. 🙂

  2. Great story and photos. I certainly understand the plight of the environmental scientist. Geologist myself.

    • Thanks, Steve! I’m glad you enjoyed it. Yes, you would certainly be familiar with the strain of applying for grants and the unpredictable nature of environmental science employment. The insecurity can drive many scientists to alter their career paths, particularly if they have a family to support. Every change of government can mean lost funding or even job loss. All the best. 🙂

  3. Poor Ralph, how really wretched his ramble remained for so long. How sad to be teased by sound but no sighting. And how downbeat the dove discovery was. How fortunate for you that there was such a flurry of fungus and variety of views. Beautiful photographs illustrated a most enjoyable story. Thank you.

    • Oh Tom, thank you for the laughs! 🙂 I know there are rules about not overdoing the alliteration, but I find it such fun. It makes me happy, so why not? I really enjoyed your comment containing so many clever combinations. I particularly wish I’d thought of “how downbeat the dove discovery was.” I think your mind is much sharper than mine. What fun to have you as a teacher! 🙂

      • You are too polite. I was just trudging along in your footsteps. I am sorry to have trodden on your toes as far as overdoing the alliteration went.

        • Oh Tom, it was a delight to read your alliteration in the first comment. No toe treading issues here. I had to read it out to my daughter who was back home for a few days. It was hilarious. Thanks again. 🙂

  4. Extremely well written and entertaining with superb photos. I love photographing lichens, mosses and fungi, as well as flowers. You do a lot better with your general rain forest pics than I do, although my close ups are OK.. Have you thought of sending this article with pics to a magazine such as Audubon?

    • Thank you very much, Barrie. As you can tell, I enjoy photographing lichen, moss and lichen also. My old camera had a better macro feature but a poor zoom. The new Canon has a superior zoom that enables me to take much clearer shots of birds, but unfortunately it comes at a cost of my macros. I do miss how good the old camera was with flowers but for under $400, it’s difficult to get a camera that can do everything wonderfully. One day I may invest in a DSLR and try different lenses, although my technical knowledge is quite poor. At the moment I’m really enjoying what I have though. Now that I have more time to myself, I am planning to follow up with some old writing goals so perhaps you may see my writing elsewhere. Best wishes. 🙂

    • Thank you very much, Michael. I’m not a professional of course and my technical skills are certainly lacking, but I really enjoy taking shots of the wildlife I see on my walks. I love to relive my encounters by looking through my albums. It warms my heart. I appreciate your kind feedback. All the best. 🙂

  5. Thank you for sharing yet another elegant tale and perfect pictures.
    Twitching sounds dangerously addictive and expensive, though;
    I am glad, I am just a funghi fan … and not even mildly extreme about it.

    • Haha…yes, I can’t really see myself ever becoming a twitcher! As I wrote in a reply to someone else, while I like to see new bird species, I gain just as much pleasure out of watching the regular feathered visitors to my garden. Their behaviour cheers me immensely. Ah yes, we share a love of fungi. I find them fascinating. Much research is indicating how incredibly important they are to healthy ecosystems. Thanks for your ongoing enthusiasm, Marina. It’s much appreciated! 🙂

    • Thank you very much, Isabel. I’ve spent many hours wandering the trails of Ravensbourne. There are always surprises. It’s one of the few national parks close to me that is not over-run with walkers. This makes viewing and photographing wildlife much easier. Best wishes. 🙂

  6. Phonetically flamboyant indeed Jane:) Another great post, you’re on fire at the moment! Thanks once again for the great photos, your blog is a great reference for all things avian…and then there are the fungi shots, all I seem to get in a rainforest are leaches! Cheers Kevin

    • Thanks very much, Kevin. I suspect my phonetic flamboyance may have been precipitated by a strong pain killer I needed to take earlier in the week, to treat an abdominal condition. It does tend to have some strange effects! I’ve read writing guides that warn against overusing alliteration, but if it’s fun why not, I say. 🙂 The birding is pretty easy at Ravensbourne because it’s usually pretty quiet. I’ll be avoiding the place during the school holidays though. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for me to find quiet spots these days. I’m usually a terrible tick magnet in rainforests but for some reason miss out on the leeches. I have no idea why they steer clear of me, but I’m not going to complain! Happy hiking. 🙂

    • Haha…thanks, Brian. I reckon it would be great to have a party or fun contest where we endeavour to communicate by using as much alliteration as possible. But then, I am a bit weird that way. Not everyone appreciates the things that give me a buzz! I was a very strange child and I probably haven’t changed in that regard. All the best. 🙂

  7. Poor Ralph! I feel a remarkable amount of empathy for him. In fact, I literally know how he feels. So I can say with confidence that he only recalls the starling sighting now when you bring it up. Your knowledge of nature has long since eclipsed his and he is very happy it has. Your remarkable writing ability has always surpassed mine so I hope your readers will forgive placement of my poor prose as a postscript.

    • Haha. Thanks, Lycra Man. Yes, our mutual friends have commented that you bear a striking resemblance to Ralph on certain occasions. In fact, you could be twins. Please pass on my sincere thanks to Ralph for tolerating my over-enthusiasm on that wander and for agreeing to let me write about the experience. As for the comments about my knowledge and skills surpassing his, I know you are being way too generous. Thanks, though. All the best. 🙂

  8. The Variegated fairy wren made me suck my breath in. How utterly fabulous and beautiful. I even love the name… a fairy wren, what could be better? As for your adventure with Ralph… I love encountering birds I’ve never seen (or even heard of), but I’m afraid I don’t have Ralph’s sense of dedication to the twitching way. I’ll go with the flowers and lichens and other fascinating stuff… actually a lot of nature’s variety. I tend to draw the line at snakes somewhat. Don’t relish that startle reaction to their movement. But it’s all good! Fantastic images and narrative! Good to see you back again. 😀

    • Hi Gunta! The variegated fairy wren is a gorgeous little bird, isn’t it? This one is actually in the transition stage to getting the full coloration. If you google the name you’ll see how the adult male breeding plumage is meant to look. It’s even more startling. Fairy-wrens have harems of fairly dull coloured females. It’s a delight to watch the group singing and flitting around together. The males are such show-offs. Heheh. Yes, even though I do love seeing new birds, I’m not as dedicated as Ralph either. Hopefully, I didn’t make him suffer too much by dragging him around Ravensbourne pointing out all the other things I find fascinating. 😉 Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. It’s always great to hear from you. 🙂

      • OMG that has to be the cutest little bird I’ve ever seen. (I took your suggestion and googled them.) Lucky you to see them in real life. I wouldn’t worry overly much about ‘Ralph’… he should be eternally grateful to you for providing him with his long sought after wompoo (what a NAME!)

        How very bizarre about the unfollowing. I think I’ve encountered it in the past. To be honest, I don’t pay a great deal of attention to statistics and such, so you’re safe popping in whenever you like, without any recrimination from me! 😀 I’m just always happy when you post. I doubt we will ever solve the mystery of WP’s ways. May it provide us with great posts from far away for many years to come.

        • It is adorable isn’t it? They often entertain me on walks. They’re quite curious about me and the male will come over to check me out (or maybe he is trying to warn me off?) Their sounds are lovely too. 🙂

    • Also, as I’ve just told another blogger, I’ve noticed that WordPress keeps automatically unfollowing me from certain blogs. Every time I go to your blog, I try to follow it and then the next time I look, I am no longer following it. Just wanted to let you know in case you think I intentionally keep unfollowing you. Other people have told me they are experiencing the same problem. It only seems to be some blogs. I’ve no idea why.

  9. “Mentioning “mycological” made my morning mind imagine “mythological”, and then I wondered if the ancient Greeks and Romans had a god or goddess of mushrooms.

    Your wompoo reminded me of the Catalan composer Mompou. The Wikipedia article about him notes that “In 1957, aged 64, Mompou married the pianist Carmen Bravo (c.1923 – 29 April 2007). She was 30 years his junior. It was the first marriage for both of them and they had no children.” The article doesn’t say whether Mompou was fond of shampoo or of the wompoo.

    As for starlings, Wikipedia says this:
    “In 1890, [Eugene Schieffelin] released 60 starlings into New York City’s Central Park. He did the same with another 40 birds in 1891. Schieffelin wanted to introduce all the birds mentioned in the plays of William Shakespeare to North America. He may have also been trying to control the same pests that had been annoying him thirty years earlier, when he sponsored the introduction of the house sparrow to North America. European starlings were not native to North America. Schieffelin imported the starlings from England. Scientists estimate that descendants from those two original released flocks now number at more than 200 million residing in the United States. The starlings’ wildly successful spread has come at the expense of many native birds that compete with the starling for nest holes in trees. The starlings have also had negative impact on the US economy and ecosystem.”

    • Hi Steve! It’s great to hear from you again and thank you for your very interesting and fact-filled response! I am left a little lost for words. Before I say anything else, I apologise for my lack of comments on your own blog (and everyone elses.) I’m afraid I’ve struggled to maintain my presence in the blogging community the last year or two and don’t expect people to look out for my posts these days. I’ve been very deficient at giving anything back in return.
      Anyway, back to your reply. Wow, your comment about a possible god or goddess of mushrooms got me fantasising. I assume you’ve already thoroughly researched the possibility just in case. If there was one I wonder what he or she would be called. Perhaps I should undertake the task of creating one? I don’t think I’ve got any Greek heritage though. It might have to be a German god/goddess of mushrooms. What about a god/goddess of slime mould? Perhaps not. 🙂
      As for the Catalan composer, Mompou, I’d never heard of him until reading your comment. I will have to search for a piece to listen to. That’s quite an age difference between him and his wife, but as I get older (and possibly a tad wiser) I’ve found that when it comes to relationships age doesn’t seem to matter that much as long as you have mutual interests. I assume a passion for music helped fuel Carmen and Mompou’s other passions!
      What can I say about starlings except that they are a highly successful invasive species. I haven’t researched their numbers in Australia, but know they have pest status. Two hundred million in the US now from those 2 small flocks? Astounding. Indian mynahs are a huge problem where I currently live. They’ve driven the native parrots out of the nest boxes in my trees. They are fabulous mimics and often trick me into thinking there are other creatures or even young children in my back yard. Thanks again for your entertaining and educational reply! 🙂

      • I first encountered music by Mompou in Carlos Saura’s 1976 movie “Cría Cuervos”. As I recall, the sad “Canción” of “Canción y Danza #6” repeated intermittently throughout the film:

        I hadn’t researched a classical god of mushrooms but in searching just now I found at


        that “The Romans designated a particular deity, Robigus, as the god of [the wheat fungus known as] rust and, in an effort to appease him, organized an annual festival, the Robigalia, in his honour.”

        • Thank you for introducing me to the compositions of Mompou. Whenever I think of wompoos, I’ll be reminded of his beautiful and emotive piece you linked to. I will have to look for more of his music.
          Ah, Robigus, the Roman god of rust…now why didn’t I know that? How fascinating. Thanks, Steve. 🙂

  10. Damn wompoo! You worked quite a suspense there, Jane. Good to see that my friend “Hi-viz bird”, aka the yellow eastern robin, made an appearance. Probably the most Health & Safety conscious bird in the wide world, that fellow.

    I was surprised to read how ‘into it’ twitchers get but, at the end of the day, I shouldn’t. I’ve seen plenty of documentaries on pro climbers who bordered on the obsessive with their quest to climb *this* wall or *that* wall… I could never do it, way too lazy.


    • Haha. Thanks very much, Fabrizio. I’m glad you enjoyed another appearance of the yellow eastern robin. Every time I see them now I will be reminded of your description of them in your comment from the Warrumbungle blog post and smile.
      Ah, yes, pro-climbers. They can be a dedicated bunch as well. That’s another hobby I couldn’t really get into for a few reasons: short legs, bad knees, weak wrists and a fear of death! I went to the Bannf mountain film festival last year and saw some impressive climbing films. I must admit that I don’t really have a strong desire to reach summits. I admire their dedication though. There was a film about the plight of the Sherpas and their families in Nepal which brought home the realities of how tourism impacts these people’s lives. It’s often a very dangerous job, but there are few other options for them to support and educate their families. Spending a little money helping the local people educate their children so that they can obtain safer jobs is probably a more ethical financial outlay for tourists than spending the money on airfares and the climb. I hope the film persuades some people to consider the needs of the locals. There was another excellent one about two English men building a log canoe with the help of an Indigenous group in the Amazon. Sadly in a postscript, the villagers were forced to relocate due to a large company wanting to use the land. It’s wonderful that a film festival about adventuring can also educate us about important social issues. Best wishes. 🙂

    • Also, I’ve noticed that WordPress keeps automatically unfollowing me from certain blogs. Every time I go to your blog, I try to follow it and then the next time I look, I am no longer following it. Just wanted to let you know in case you think I intentionally keep unfollowing you. Other people have told me they are experiencing the same problems.

  11. Hi Jane. I enjoyed reading this highly entertaining post. The photographs are wonderful too.
    I think twitchers miss the point of birding – being in nature and enjoying the experience of observing what birds come along. Dismissing a bird because it is ‘common’ blinds a person to the beauty and character of that species.

    • Thank you very much, Margaret. It’s so lovely to hear from you. I must say I agree with you about the beauty and character of common birds. I still get a buzz out of the melodic warbling of my local magpies and the antics of incredibly intelligent crows. Many species visit my garden birdbath each day and it gives me such joy. It’s a good thing I’m not a twitcher as my income is low so I would be extremely frustrated trying to add ticks to my list! Wishing you all the best, Margaret. 🙂

  12. Woo-hoo! Or should I say Wom-poo!? You are indeed the Wom-poo Whisperer. Well done. Such beautiful birds.

    I think you have the best approach, certainly better than that of Twitchers I think – enjoy the walk with eyes open – and see and appreciate everything you can. Twitchers are a bit like trainspotters I think, but then I’m pretty much OCD about a million things so can’t throw any stones, lol.0

    Great writing and superb images, Jane.

    Cheers, Rob.

    • Haha…thanks very much, Rob! I do hope I see another wompoo. I couldn’t believe it appeared right before we were about to leave. I would prefer to be known as the Wompoo Whisperer rather than the Starling Darling. My enthusiasm has led to quite a few very embarrassing gaffes over the years.
      I hope I didn’t offend any Twitchers with my blog post. I also have a few interests I tend to be quite obsessive about! Just ask my kids… 😉 I admire their dedication but am so glad I haven’t caught the birding bug. I think it would drive me barmy and more broke than I already am. All the best. 🙂

  13. Great article, Jane! You proved that the Starling Darling knows her Wompoo from her Wonga. That is a very Australian sentence!! 🙂

    • Thanks, David! Haha. I love the wonderful names of many species and places in Australia. Many Aboriginal names reflect the sounds, movements, appearance, use or significance of a species or a geographical feature. I think it makes a lot more sense than some other ways of naming such as after a British monarch. There is a place called Wonglepong that I pass by regularly. I’ve read it refers to reverberating sounds that Aboriginal people could hear in the rainforest on nearby Mt Tamborine. Such a wonderful word, I think. I hope all is well with you, David. 🙂

      • I lived in a place in Sydney called Woolloomooloo for a couple years. Never got tired of that name and never got tired of spelling it for people. 😃 I am all for the use of Aboriginal names. They are great names and they reflect the connection of humans, place wildlife and the processes of nature. Makes sense doesn’t it? 😊

        • Yes, it certainly makes more sense and also recognises the thousands of years of Aboriginal custodianship of the land before the Brits turned up and started naming things after their monarchs and explorers… 🙂

          • Makes you wonder what the psychology is behind naming everything after a member the the royal family. I’m certain that there is method in the vanity. Something to do with oppressing the masses, no doubt. Off with their heads! 😃

  14. Hi Jane! I am away from home in a very stormy Austria and was so pleased to see your post this evening. Insufficient time and slow wifi notwithstanding I must tell you how much I’ve enjoyed your amusing post and its beautiful photos. Thank you too, for visiting my blog and having a look at my few and far-between posts. I agree with Margaret and think I could never dismiss my regular garden birds as common.
    I am always fascinated by your Australian place names; not only the exotic ones but those which descibe the terrain and also those names that were brought from Europe. You have mentioned Ipswich before (I live near Ipswich, Suffolk) and today I recognise Ravensbourne. I grew up in Kent near the River Ravensbourne and went to Ravensbourne School for Girls. Your Ravensbourne looks very different from mine which was very dull and suburban! I hope I can post thus inconsequential comment before the wifi fades again. Best wishes my friend 😊

    • Hi Clare! You are in Austria – how exciting! I do hope the weather improves though. “Very stormy” doesn’t sound pleasant if you are wanting to tour. How generous of you to use your limited time and slow wifi to read and comment on my blog post. You put me to shame. I’ve been very neglectful of other people’s blogs I’m afraid! Thank you for sharing your interesting thoughts about the similar place names in your region. Sometimes I google the weather for Ipswich and am surprised by my results. Then I realise it’s your Ipswich! How funny that you went to Ravensbourne School for Girls. I wonder how many people googling the River Ravensbourne end up at my blog. I’ve noticed a lot more UK visitors with this post. Even if I never make it to the US, I can still say I’ve been to Texas as there is a small town by that name in Queensland. I’ve been to Inverness in Australia plenty of times and it certainly doesn’t look like Inverness in Scotland! There is an Amberley RAAF base near Ipswich and it took it’s name from the property on that site that was owned by my children’s distant Grandfather. He came from Amberley in Sussex originally and so named his Australian property after it. I have to smile when I see some of the names of UK towns used here for land that does not resemble it in any way. It probably helped them to cope with the harsher conditions to have a reminder of home I guess. I still don’t know how the women coped with the heat in their long European dresses on arrival. Your comments are never inconsequential. They are always enjoyed and appreciated. Take good care of yourself, dear Clare. 🙂 xo

  15. Excellent post, I love your writing style.
    Beautiful pictures too!
    Your adventures are always so fun to read about.

    • Hi Sophia! It’s lovely to hear from you. Thank you for your encouraging comments. It’s great to see you sharing your passion for writing on your own blog. Wonderful stuff! I hope you keep going. I’m not very consistent these days. All my best. 🙂

  16. To adopt a TV ad by Castrol ” Starlings ain’t starlings”. Get thee to Tanania and see some of the starlings there which IMHO more colourful thanWompoos. An might have a lion or rhino as a backdrop!

    • Hahaha…thanks, Martin! 😀 Yes, no doubt there are some weird and wonderful starling species across the world. I’ve never even made it to all the states of Australia, let alone headed overseas. If I ever have the money to travel there, I’ll be sure to mention you in a blog post about it! Ah yes, a lion or rhino as a backdrop would certainly be a very thick icing on the cake, indeed! Even though the starlings I see here are pretty common, I still appreciate their features now, long after my embarrassing gaffe all those years ago. Great to hear from you. Thanks very much for reading and commenting. You gave me a smile. 🙂

  17. I admit this time I had to go back to look at the tree, vegetation, and fungi images because I was so wrapped up in the story about Starling Darling trying to shed that faux pas from the past. I found myself bypassing the photos to see just how the story unraveled! You never disappoint me, Jane, with your tales of woe and fancy on these hikes! I’m always drawn in, mostly because you tell on yourself – foibles and faux pas, keeping me in stitches!

    I agree with Margaret, that twitchers may miss out on something, just ticking off on a list, or overlooking the common birds. I cannot tell you how many times I make an observation that is strange behavior for a species, simply because I stayed to photograph for a while or just watch and relax a bit. I like to think we really get the full experience when we’re open to everything instead of being focused on just one thing.

    • Sorry for the late reply! I missed your comment in my notifications. Thanks, Lori. My life is basically just a series of never ending faux pas really. Hahah. It happens so often that I’m not even sure I get embarrassed these days. There has been a suggestion I am somewhere along the Autism Spectrum and I suspect they may be right. I should really get around to finishing a few more stories about my foibles. There is one where I nearly flashed my bare chest to all and sundry accidentally on an iconic walk in the Grampians in Victoria last year, but my walking partner managed to save the situation (and possibly my life.) I am not a natural climber. 🙂

      I agree with you and Margaret that in just ticking off lists, twitchers can miss so much. I am still surprised by the behaviour I see from my common back yard birds. The crows, magpies, and currawongs give me so much entertainment.

      Bushfire season has hit Queensland early and in a shocking way. At one point there were over 70 bushfires this last week and sub-tropical rainforest in Binna Burra is still burning. The 70 year old log cabins my daughter and I stayed in there have burnt to the ground. It’s devastating for the wildlife and fragile plant species. As a consequence, I am seeing birds in my 1/2 acre block that I’ve not spotted in the decade I’ve lived in this street. I’ve been putting out extra water and food for the feathered refugees. While I love being able to observe these species at close range, I wish it wasn’t because their usual habitat is going up in smoke! I hope the weather your way is being kind to you and the farm, Lori. I also hope the big clean up has not exhausted you! 🙂

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