See the forest for the trees 

From watching hours of television as a child, I had a vision of an English forest.  Today I saw one and liked it. Minsmere reserve has a small patch of forest with meandering trails. It also has a Canopy Hide, the first I have seen.

But first, the view from my window.

It’s not a great picture but it’s the best I could do considering the small window and nearby clutter.  Once again I was using my panoramic setting on my phone.

The Blaxhall YHA is very clean and organised. The managers have been here for several years and it all runs like clockwork. I will miss it.
Before my English forest experience, I visited Dunwich and the Dingle Marshes. Apparently Dunwich had quite a history and was a large port which was lost due to coastal erosion. I guess that’s climate change for you, although it was in the early 1200’s, (I’m expecting a comment Rob).

I managed to add Kestrel to my current list of fifty eight bird species at the Dingle Marshes.

Australia has lost a large amount of its forests when compared to what it had before European settlement but England has as well – only it would have been much earlier. I’m no expert but one could speculate that nearly all the English forests were exploited for building ships and housing at some stage and much of what is seen now are plantings or natural regrowth.

The forest at Minsmere is home to many birds but it does not have the same diversity as one would expect in an Australia forest. However the Canopy Hide is a great way to get up high in amongst the upper branches of the trees.

The structure itself is very solid and fits in relatively well.

Inside the hide one could sit for long periods. It’s rather quiet up there in the canopy and if you manage to be there alone, as I was . . . it’s wonderful.

Lastly I would like to quickly touch on the English country side and it villages.  Tomorrow I’m travelling from Blaxhall to Scarborough, which is around 420 km, (much to the horror of locals) but most of it will be on the A1.  Once you’re off the motorways the roads are very narrow, the villages small as are houses. 

I’ve taken some shots in this region and I expect to take more as I travel further.

The Blaxhall pub. I had a drink there today. Small, comfortable with a mixture of English accents.

Some of the local houses in Blaxhall early this morning. They are neat and maintained.

And a post office/general store on the way to Dunwich this morning.  I took this for Pam.

I haven’t seen many families with three or more kids in these little houses and I don’t expect to. Young couples or baby boomers buying a weekender is common. Blaxhall is in an “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and has many planning regulations to protect its vibe. 

However, my trip is still young and there is much more to see.

Follow the Road for Five Miles

I’ve never had a car with an inbuilt SatNav but being in a foreign country, driving through dozens of roundabouts, narrow little roads and watching my speed for “miles per hour” instead of “kilometres per hour”, I’m falling in love with the woman on my SatNav. 

But first there is the London Underground and the English rail system.

The London Underground reminds me of a hand full of spaghetti thrown on a flat surface. Each line was a good idea at the time. Working out where to change for your destination is a bit like a puzzle designed to ward off dementia.  I’ve always had a secret fear of the London Underground but I think given a few weeks, it would become a talking point over a beer to find the best route to somewhere off the top of your head.

Above is my train to Ipswich. It doesn’t go anywhere near Cocksfoster, which is a shame because I’m dying to see Cocksfoster. However, I fear I may die ignorant of the story behind its name.

The train was quick, exceptionally comfortable and ran every thirty minutes. It even had WiFi and a plug to charge your iPad ! 

I arrived at Ipswich with Great Expectations but regretfully, what I saw was not inspiring and I feel my first few days in London was influenced by the geography of my accommodation. 

Enterprise indeed, this is where my brand new rental car was waiting for me. The shopfront may not seem to be all that flash but it is Ipswich and this is where my new true love is located. I just had to find the unmute button to unleash her dolcet tones. 

And then there’s Minsmere. 

For the uninitiated to birding. . . this is a hell of a spot to visit, if you like bird watching. For a newly arrived Australian, I could not ask for more. And to top it off, today the weather was fine, if not warm and birders were there in numbers. 

The man at the desk, also named Malcolm, asked for my RSPB membership card but that was something I failed to include in my extensive packing list. “That’s OK” he said. “I’ll find you on the database . . mmmmmmmmmm computer says no” . . so I had to pay nine pounds.

It was well worth it. 

There are more bird hides in Minsmere than birds. . . . I exaggerate but there are many and in every hide are some very helpful birders who are just waiting to assist a newly arrived person from the colonies completely ignorant of English birds.  One young man on a bus trip from outer London assured me he was a big fan of Steve Irwin. “So am I” I lied. 

My dear mother, who is not long for this world, always told when I was young and in her care . . . . “You’re not the only pebble on the beach.” Dear mum loves England and whilst at the time I didn’t understand the pebble beach analogy, I do now. 

But the clouds were wonderful and the volunteers at Minsmere, including my new friend Malcolm, were very helpful.

And as we strolled along the pebbly track to the next bird hide, I asked someone, “what is that thing in the distance?” “Oh” he said. “That’s a nuclear power plant” 

Instantly I thought of Monty Burns and a monorail . . . but just as quickly I was distracted by a new bird and a tick.  Anyway those things are safe, aren’t they ?

Following is a series of photos of just things that took my fancy.  

So far. . . England is everything I expected and more. 

The purple bag is wonderful, as were these ladies.

A bird hide overlooking some new birds for the elderly man from the colonies.

A fence post, (I have a fetish about fence posts but especially those with a nuclear power plant nearby).

A seat nestled in amongst the weeds . . .er . . . native vegetation. Each seat has a brass plate commemorating someone who was a regular visitor and supporter of the reserve but has passed away. 

If I lived in England, I would visit Minsmere again.  But there are more reserves to come. This is but the first.

Almost Typical Tourist

My sleeping cycle is still a bit off, so I was up early again today.  Having a room mate who sounded like a muffled chainsaw in the bunk under me doesn’t help. 

I have one more night of dorm sleeping and then the rest of the trip is a room for me only. 

My last two nights at London finds me on the third floor of the Earl’s Court YHA.  Above is the view from this morning around 6:00 am, panoramic using my iPhone, hence some of the buildings are on a slant.  I think that’s the reason.

I easily found an uber person after having a coffee from a nearby Starbucks.  The driver works full time as a bus driver but he’s young and wants to learn a trade. I really do like uber. It’s so easy to use.

The guy at the top of this monument should have learnt a trade as well. Then he may not have lost an arm fighting for God, King and Country. 

I love the lions at the Trafalgar Square monument, but in the photo below I kept the empty yogurt tub in shot. It is as it is.

It’s hard to believe I actually stood at Trafalgar Square and just quietly, I love the shot below. With Big Ben in the background I kicked a goal in the first quarter of the day.

Those of the hand full of readers to this blog would appreciate my love of politics. Seeing the English Parliament building was very cool but considering there is an election in a week, I’m surprised there is not more happening.

The taxi above is not moving and was carefully positioned for this shot. There were a number of photographers there but I managed to squeeze in and get mine.

I have no idea what it’s about.
The interesting thing about getting up early for a stint of “tourism” is seeing the locals working or commuting past the attraction. Below are some shots of people and surprisingly many cyclists travelling past monuments and significant structures without a second thought.

You may be able to see the number three on the traffic light  above the white van. This is to warn the pedestrians how much time they have remaining to cross. It’s a good idea and would work well in Melbourne.

For those of you who know central London, there is a church called Westminster Abbey nearby the Parliament. It’s very old and full of dead people. It’s a fascinating place with a log of religious fashions and take overs.  A chronical of middle aged white men wanting to maintain their authority.

It’s a bit sad for those who hold their religious ideals close as outside there is a carnival of tourists taking photos of each other or themselves nearby a place of worship. However, the people who manage the church are doing well. You can even by a coffee or souvenir in their specially designed shop. 

I’m far from religious but I’m very grateful I was told. . . nay, almost directed to see it and enter. 

A couple of more general photos within London just because.

I love the drab sandstone bricks against the bright red bus.

It’s nice of the English to recognise Mahatma Gandhi with a statue despite having ruled his country and people for so long. 

And finally. . . . a peaceful moment along a waterway, the river Thames.  Waterways are the same the world over. They flow down hill, usually into an ocean and they attract people to sit and contemplate. 

Tomorrow I catch a train to Ipswich and pick up my rental car.

Much more Birding in London

It’s day two of my trip to Great Britain birding and whilst I can’t promise a post every day. . . I do have something for today’s efforts. 

After waking at 3:00 am. . . I eventually organised myself to spend most of the day birding at Hyde Park and an unexpected visit to The Regent’s Park.

But first, below is a shot of where I’m staying. It’s the Youth Hostel in Earl’s Court. 

And a closer view.

It looks old on the outside and it seems older on the inside.
Hyde Park is rather large and today I virtually walked around it. There are expansive lawned areas and many old and large trees.

I walked around most of the lake, (The Serpentine) and added a few more birds to my list of 33. If you’re into keeping a birding list in either Australia or Great Britain, try 

Of note was Mandarin Duck, a truely beautiful duck that I’ve admired for many years. 

I also saw some very cute signets, (swan chicks). Mute swan are the most common swan in Great Britain.

I met another bird watcher who suggested I visit The Regent’s Park. It was quite warm today and there were many people paying a visit to this park.

It’s attraction seems to be the water birds of which there are many. A lot are Hybrids and difficult to identify.

It seems the English park managers are also trying to protect habitat for wildlife and do so by fencing areas, thereby allowing brambles and other natives to flourish. It’s strange to see Blacberry and Hawthorn being protected.

I’m expecting it to rain tomorrow but I will make an effort to visit some of the usual tourist spots. I saw one today known as the Marble Arch.  It’s been moved from its original position a bit like the Yellow Peril of Melbourne.

Great Britain 

I’m spending some time in Great Britain. 

To get there you need a plane, and here’s a plane I found at Melbourne Airport.

Part way to Great Britain I stopped off to find another plane, one that was going all the way to where I wanted. I just had to find the right gate . . . let me see. . .

Its a big airport at Hong Kong but eventually, after walking what seemed to be several kilometres, I found the plane I wanted.

Then I was there at Heathrow Airport. It’s also big.  An early morning trip on the underground, on the Piccadilly line that ends at “Cockfosters” I arrive at my Earl’s Court accommodation.

Needless to say I can’t sleep so I walk to Hydes Park.

And see my first Squirrel.

And several birds including a Robin. Quite a vocal little fella and for a Robin but they aren’t like our Australian Robins, or so I’m told.

A quick trip to see Liz but she wasn’t there. However there was a bit going on:

I was told off for standing on a wall to take this photo, but it was worth it.

Then back to the hostel at Earl’s Court and some shots during a stroll.

And to finish off a long day. . . . what we Australians think of as horses “joining” must not be the same for the English.


I like movies and I can watch my favourites many times. The link of one particular scene in one of my favourites is below but be warned, there is swearing involved.

It’s from “The Paper”…… go f*#k yourself

You may ask, why raise this in my blog?  Good question.

The answer is . . . . .  my tomatoes.

Another aspect of The Paper of note is the term “Gotcha”.  It refers to the headline of the New York Sun when two innocent Afro-American boys are arrested for murder.

Stick with me now, I’m almost there.

Recently I’ve been having problems with my Tomatoes and a Blackbird that has been pecking at them, just before they’re ready to pick. This is an ongoing issue and I believe it’s one particular bird.

To rectify this, I put up some netting over my tomatoes and that Blackbird was caught in the act of pecking at them. I rushed out and he fluttered about in a panic and could not get out from under the net.

Naturally, being a long term experienced mist netter, I was able to catch the Blackbird from the netted tomatoes. See the photo below.


Tomato stealing Blackbird Jan 2016

Relax everyone. I didn’t kill Mr Tomato Stealing Blackbird, I’m vegetarian and try not to kill sentient beings but I did give him a very good talking to !!!

He has not returned to the tomatoes and I have started to harvest them without any being pecked.

Isn’t that nice  🙂


Big Desert Wilderness Park

It’s been awhile since I last posted on this blog but something I must share is a recent hiking session I had with a friend in April. We hiked into the Big Desert Wilderness Park in Victoria. We camped within the park for two nights.

Before we started our hike we stayed with some friends who have a wonderful property north of Nhill where they have carried out some great work rehabilitating a farm. One of their nesting boxes had a sleepy Western Pigmy Possum.

Western pigmy PossumThere are no tracks in the Big Desert Wilderness park, no camping grounds, water or toilets. Pushing through the vegetation can be tough but in recently burnt areas it’s much easier. Hence, we tried to utilise the burnt areas as much as possible.

Post fire Banksia cone Big Desert 1I love the Mallee and in particular I love the trees. It’s difficult to capture the beauty of a Mallee Eucalypt in a photograph, despite having tried many times. The photograph below is good but does not do this fantastic tree justice.

Malle Eucalypt in the Big DesretAnd of course when there is no Television to watch, no internet or mobile towers, entertainment is most often the simple things of life like a sunset. We sat and watched the sun set and best of all, it’s free and happens every day.

Sunset over burnt areas Big Desert - Version 2