And the bush has friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him, In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended, And at night the wonderous glory of the everlasting stars.

Banjo Paterson (1889)

Monday, January 30, 2012

West Coast Ctenotus

This is a short video of a nice West Coast Ctenotus (Ctenotus fallens) I found at an old abandoned farm in Wandoo forest, east of Perth. These large skinks are found along the lower southern half of the west coast of Western Australia and moderately common around Perth, especially in low coastal vegetation on sand, but are also found in the Perth hills, especially near granite areas.

You can see a nice glint of sunlight in his eye, most of the time you just see a tail disappearing into the bushes with these fast agile skinks.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Lithuania - One from the archives

In August 2008, we were in Lithuania for a cultural and birding holiday. My family came from Lithuania after the Second World War, so it had always been a desire of mine to see the 'old country', with the added bonus of some very good birding.

I've dug these pictures out from my archives, after requests from some members of my family to see them. I hope they and you enjoy them.

One of my favourite pictures, the Three Crosses at Three Crosses Hill above the capital Vilnius. Crosses have stood here since the 17th century, because of three monks who were crucified on this hill. The Soviets bulldozed the originals after WWII, the Lithuanian people have rebuilt them!

Liz at the Vilnius Museum.

One of the beautiful parks in Vilnius, Sereikiskiu Park..

The view of Vilnius from Three Crosses Hill.

The park near Three Crosses hill.

The Bernardine Church in Vilnius.

The church of St. Anne, made of 33 different types of red bricks. So fine a church, Napoleon wanted to take it back to Paris!

Another of my favourite photos, the beautiful Church of St. Catherine.

The Presidential Palace in Vilnius, used by Napoleon during his march on Moscow.

The main tourist street in Vilnius, Pilies Gatve (Castle Street).

One of the nicest hotels right in the centre of Vinius, The Narutis Hotel.

Cathedral Square with The Vilnius Cathedral (first started in 1387) and bell tower, looking more like a lighthouse. The square once had a moat that ran around the square's perimeter, so ships could sail to the cathedral door. The moat had walls and towers on the inner side, the bell tower is the only one left.

Inside the Cathedral.

Time for a 'small' beer. I did order a smaller beer, but the staff got it wrong, oh well no worries!

The Baltoji Voke fishponds, great birding area with over 200 species recorded, about 30 km from Vilnius. We saw Bitterns and large numbers of Spotted Redshanks here.

Great bird habitat, numerous ponds with old fish feed towers.

Some of the old feed towers are put to good use as bird viewing platforms.

Images of rural Lithuania.

Liz anf our birding guide on the hunt.

Lots of edible fungi in Lithuania, but this isn't one of them.

Beautiful Lithuanian forest.

Some of the wooden carving are fantastic. This one looks like Jesus has a tooth ache!

Birding out on the big bog.

Looking towards Poland.

Something really likes small pine cones, a squirrel or woodpecker?

Observation tower at the big bog.


Merkys River, Dzukija National Park.

Good walkways and hide.


The young Marsh Frogs are on the move.

Loads of them. How many are in this photo?

The old KGB Headquarters in Vilnius, now a museum.

A dark place with a dark history.

The padded room, you were put in a straight jacket and bashed, the padding helped deaden your screams!

Lots of small dark underground cells.

Another wonderful KGB room, you were made to stand naked in the darkness on that small plate. If you fell, you fell into the basin of freezing water, then were made to stand on the plate again, maybe for days!

I finished with this nice photo, which to me depicts the future of Lithuania and it's people, rebuilding all they have lost and looking forward to a brighter future.

I look forward to returning to Lithuania one day, to see more of the culture and my heritage, and to do some more wonderful birding. I can recommend to anyone looking for a interesting country to go birding or just looking around, go to Lithuania.