Animals, Australia, Beach & Coastal Walking
Comments 23

Back Among My People

G’day, all.

The standard apologies for the long time between posts, the tardiness of my response to always-appreciated comments, and for just generally being an awful human being.

I’ve been back in the Bayside suburbs of Brisbane for a couple of weeks now, and am pretty well adjusted (by my standards), though there’s been a fair deal of lonesome soul-searching…


Why are we born to suffer and die? What is my purpose on the Earth? Toasted banana bread with my morning long black, or blueberry? The big questions that can afflict the lonesome drifter.

..and I do miss the feeling of short- and longer-term purpose that a multi-week walk provides, not to mention the simple daily routine of morning coffee, walking, vending machines, convenience stores, photography, nightly beer, and eating anything I damned well please in between.

(No wonder I actually put on weight despite walking around a thousand miles in those three months in Japan…)

I also miss the constantly rewarding 88-temple photographic project, though the editing and displaying aftermath of the actual picture-making is keeping me busy, as it will for several months to come.

Meanwhile, there are occasional storms to keep me entertained back here in the subtropical Summer — including one predicted for tonight — and I’ve resumed a far saner daily walking regime.

The downside has been a return to the dark world of insomnia. I’ve been medicated for about six months now (about which I’ll talk in a forthcoming post), and a side-effect is a nightly lurch into wakefulness.

Before Japan, it was happening around 3:00am or 3:30am, but since getting home it sometimes kicks in earlier. With dawn showing its face before 5:00 right now, I sometimes surrender and hit the streets at an insanely early hour to get in some pre-sunrise walking and shooting:


Early Risers. Fellow insomniac magpies on my street at 3:40am.


Pre-Peak Hour Sandgate.

Studying the light is as rewarding as ever. Rambling on the mudflats, I’m sometimes bathed in the cool blues of twilight…


Wader, Early Evening.

..and sometimes in the fiery oranges and pinks of sunrise over Moreton Bay:


Flames on the Flats.

One of the downsides of my style of leisure is that I’m usually short of human subjects, so I apologise for the heavy dose of selfies I’m hitting you with in this post. Television is even worse than it was before I left, and I have to find amusement somehow.

Please join me on one of my twilight tours:


More soul-searching. Actually, I don’t believe in “a soul”, although some folk certainly have soul, and I do enjoy some soul music on occasion.


Fellow sun worshippers paying homage. I observed to a passing senior citizen, “They must have a better tripod than I do,” and he replied, “You don’t know, maybe they’ve got a cheaper one.” Then I stated the obvious: “Beautiful morning.” And he replied, “They’re all beautiful if you wake up for them.” That guy had all the answers.


Siamese Jellyfish. Yes, they were joined — I checked. Just when you think you’ve seen it all…


The Goat Ghost checking progress on the Shorncliffe Pier reconstruction (slow — the Japanese would’ve had her done in a couple of weeks), with the lights of the Port of Brisbane beyond.


Footprints & Blown Highlights.


From the Sea We Crawled & to the Sea We Shall Return.


Wreaking havoc on a soldier crab settlement.


Into the Blue Dawn.


Sea turtle corpse, torn apart by either sharks or propellor.


Looking Back on Sandgate.

You get the picture.

Meanwhile, Halloween came and went without bloodshed but with even more commercial overkill than last year…


The Morning After.


Garbage Bag Witches, Before Dawn.

..and I predict that within a year or two we’ll be celebrating July 4 and Thanksgiving as well.

Oh, and it’s bush turkey nesting season! Down on the waterfront, much mess is being made of lawns and garden beds:


One rainy dawn recently, as a turkey destroys some beachfront lawn.

It’s jacaranda season, too, and there’s a fair bit of floral colour around, though I do miss the thickets of roadside cosmos that were thriving in Shikoku when I left:


Jacarandas, Sandgate Town Hall.


Even invasive plants have their pluses.


A backyard climber my mother tells me is a relative of jasmine.


Jacaranda Blossom Windfall.

Another plus of life back on dry land has been catching up, with the odd humanoid friend…


With old friend Chris at the Cardigan Bar, Sandgate. Chris was also travelling while I was in Japan: America, Canada and Iceland, about which I hear good reports.

..and with certain feathered acquaintances, including the magpies and butcherbirds that drop by several times each day…


Butcherbird enjoying a snack in the driveway. A magpie pair and I suspect one or more of the butcherbirds had some offspring while I was away, and it’s hilarious watching the magpies cram as many snacks as they can fit into their beaks before flying back to the nest.

..and my magpie tribe in the park up the road.

Here’s a sample of some shots from recent visits to the gang:


The tribe is enormous now — this is just a part of it. There are a dozen or more boisterous juveniles.


Morning Song.


Grumpy the Crow watches enviously.


Bench Mates.


Erm, that’s a $300+ viewfinder, but help yourself.


Best Seat in the House.


Sometimes it’s like American/Australian Idol, but with better melodies, and far more attractive contestants.


The juveniles can get obstreperous when the snacks come out (they know which compartment of my pack I keep them in). The resulting fracas is a little like the crocodile-feeding show at Australia Zoo, only far more dangerous.


The hand of God attempts to restore some order.


Air Show.


Competition for top-row sets can get pretty intense.


Sometimes I lead exercise classes.




Preachin’ to the Choir.


Bursting into Song.


Goalpost Serenade.


A Study in Anticipation.

It’s great for the old self-esteem to be back with this ever-enthusiastic and appreciative bunch. I read recently that scientists have “proven” that certain birds have individual personalities (“birdalities”?) — any bench-sittin’, bird-feedin’ loner could have told ’em that.

You can expect more Magpie Madness in forthcoming posts, in between flashbacks to Shikoku and samples from my pilgrimage project. I’m also planning some changes to the blog that I’ll talk about soon.

Alright, time I left the library (within the Town Hall in the jacaranda shot above) and headed home to the big Mac — nope, not the fast-food variety, the slick newish machine at my stand-up desk, where I do a few hours daily of photo editing.

But first, I believe it’s nap time.

Talk to you soon!


There’s always someone who tries to spoil the fun.

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote


    • No worries, Andrew. I have some nice shots from Mitsumine and hope to share them soon. But you know what “soon” means in this neck of the woods!

  1. Great stuff mate, some more wonderful images.

    You are the mantis AND magpie-whisperer. Great birds. People here get so freaked out by them bombing them (and occasionally there are indeed injuries), but I like them and could not help laughing maniacally as one repeatedly hammered the back of my helmet while cycling. I was weaving about and laughing, it was contest to see who would get accidentally hit by a car first, me or the bloody bird. Some fascinating thoughts on this bird in Tim Low’s new book. See: gibletwarming-sequel-to-harrisons-magpie-saga-20140602-zruve.html

    “It is a bird of much importance in its own estimation. It struts about quite fearless of danger, and evinces, on many occasions, great bravery.” Naturalist George Bennett, on Australian magpies, 1856.

    Look forward to hearing of your next far-afield plans, and best of luck with the mega-image-editing (and to conquering the insomnia).

    Cheers and all the best, Rob.

    • Robert, much belated thanks for the comment and that excellent quote!

      My sleep has stabilised: still weird but consistently weird at least. If I resist the urge to take a second nap in the afternoon, I can still get up at 3:00 or so, get in a walk and some photos, nap for an hour, and work into the evening on pictures etc. In total I’m existing on 5-6 hours per day now — a friend suggests it’s just a sign of ageing! Coming to the library in the afternoon to work is part of my strategy as well — not so easy to nap here!

  2. Impressive magpie photos, excellent write up. Love the photos of you on the beach in the water etc. Clearly you spend a lot of time planning and taking your magpie photos, perhaps you need to compile a set of photos and self publish.

    • Thanks, mate, yes, many of my shots are imagined conceptually and then it might take several attempts over many days to get them right, or almost right. I have some shots I’ve been trying to perfect for years!

      In addition to my Japan pilgrimage collection, I am indeed also working on a portfolio of magpie shots I want to present some day. In fact they are currently my most-revisited subject. They are relatively comfortable with me now and will carry on being themselves while I sit or stand quite close and can sneak in some shots unobtrusively. Very useful as I don’t use a zoom.

  3. Welcome back to Stormy Land, Goat. I hope you’ve been enjoying the sky action and managed to grab some shots? 🙂

    Once again a superb set of photographs! I must say I did cringe when I saw the claws on the viewfinder though. I see a documentary about Magpie Man coming up soon…

    I agree with you about magpies having different personalities. Anyone who spends enough time observing a group of critters can pick out different personalities in the group. We often saw it on the farm in sheep, goats, cattle and chooks. People think all sheep act the same. They don’t! It was quite amusing to us to get to know the different woolly characters. 🙂

    It can certainly be difficult to adjust to being home after an amazing trip even if the bed is more comfortable. Insomnia can be a pain. How’s the restless leg syndrome? Best wishes.

    • Thanks, Jane, yeah, I’m like a low-rent Grizzly Man! Hopefully I don’t end up the same way!

      The storms are great and I always look forward to the weather reports each night! In fact I have a post coming up of maggies with rainbows. One more rainbow would really set off the collection — maybe tomorrow?

      The leg thing has been good. I think it was really accentuated by being cramped in that little tent. I bought an exercise bike yesterday too so those impressive leg muscles I spent weeks building shouldn’t atrophy too much!

      • The maggies and rainbows pics sound great.
        Yeah, it’s amazing how quickly the leg muscles can disappear again. An exercise bike will help retain them. This year has been pretty slack for me activity-wise. Now it’s summer, the kgs will pile on unless I do something too. Happy pedalling and snapping. :0

  4. Hello sir. Kind of new to your blog but I see you talk a lot about soul searching and just wanted to share this with you.

    Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
    I Corinthians 6:19-20

    Just want you to know I am praying for you and that there is purpose for life only through Jesus Christ.


  5. Christina Tanski says

    Well, I guess the post above is a hard act to follow… so I will simply say that as always, your photos make me smile .(what luck you found Siamese jellyfish!) 🙂 I am so thrilled for you that you experienced Shikoku, and I enjoyed traveling with you, through your eyes, and your art. Looking forward to your future posts.


    • Much appreciated, Christina, the usual apologies for the criminally late response to your comment. Things have been weird but no weirder than ever, I suppose. My Shikoku project is ongoing, sometimes I can’t stand it anymore but I am really happy/proud about the results so far.

  6. All your photos are great, but I really love the maggies. The “Hand of God” photo is hilarious! They look just like kids in a classroom, in the act of being sprung by a teacher.
    I was chilling out in our local park recently, and enjoyed watching one magpie and a small family of wattle birds giving hell to a flock of pigeons. It was fantastic. The wattlebirds only chased them out of one area, but the magpie persued them all over the park. I’m not sure where the rest of the family were, but this one really didn’t want the stupid pigeons around! All the more power to it! 🙂

    • Thanks, I love that picture too. Those young maggies make me laugh every time. The noises they make when they get excited are hilarious and then the really bold ones get a bit nasty with the shier ones — it’s just like being back in school.

      Australian birds sometimes seem to be in an ongoing state of war with competing species. Their lives sometimes seem so much more interesting than mine.

  7. Andy A. says

    Right on, man! Soon your minions, your army of the skies, will do your bidding.. all for a handful of popcorn!

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