Sunday, October 29, 2017

Week Ending 29 October 2017

This was one of those weeks where I was glad we weren't homeschooling - because Miss 16 was far too busy to fit any formal bookwork into her schedule!

She arrived home from banding camp on Monday evening satisfied and happy, but rather tired since she'd been up until 1:30 that morning banding waders and had then got up at 5 am to go back out banding passerines. That got cancelled due to the rain but she didn't get back to sleep! All the other girls took a nap in the afternoon, and many of the guys were taking it easy as well but she volunteered to go back to the banding site and help take down all the nets and poles. I laughed when she appeared through the gate at the airport because she looked like a walking zombie. Sounds like camp was lots of fun though and she was happy with the banding she did - especially a Fantail and a Wrybill, both birds she'd wanted to get some hands-on experience with. And they saw a Shore Plover. It's  one of our rare endemic waders and the first one she's ever seen so that was a highlight.


Miss 16 was banding this godwit by headlamp after midnight!

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday involved lots of computer time. She had a couple of short online courses to complete - prerequisites for a 2 day course she'll be doing next week. There were also final touches that needed completing for her paper (captions for photos which a photographer kindly allowed her to use, plus the last pesky footnotes). The local birding newsletter which she edits is due out soon, her column for the national magazine is also due in a few days and the young birders group has a magazine out soon which she's helping to guest edit, since the regular editor is busy with school exams. So lots of work there. Plus there was her paid job -  2- 4 hours coaching each day. And she had a job interview on Thursday. She'll be starting as a checkout operator at a local supermarket in the next couple of weeks. I think her plan is to work both jobs until the end of the year and, assuming she doesn't hate checkout work, to then resign from her coaching job. Checkout work offers more hours, more secure hours (the gym is constantly changing them) and the ability to work more hours at a time  i.e. 10 hours over 2 days instead of 8-9 hours over 4 days which she thinks she'll prefer.



Getting ready to attach a leg band to this Dunnock.

On Friday morning there was more bird banding as part of our local project. The initial site isn't as productive as we'd hoped so we may try elsewhere next time. Then it was briefly home before she headed away on a weekend field trip with our local birding group. I organised it and was meant to go but since my vestibular issues have been playing up I thought it best I stayed behind. Didn't think it was fair to risk spoiling everyone else's weekend if I was totally out of commission for at least 8 hours. Highlights of the trip for Miss 16 were two Kaka flying overhead (they are her favourite bird),  a group of Westland Petrels rafting out at sea and then flying in to their mountain colony at night, a very friendly South Island Robin hopping around a picnic table plus Fernbirds scurrying among the foliage.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Week Ending 22 October 2017

Just a short post this week, but one full of bird-related things for Miss 16.

She's spent a bit of time in front of the computer working on revisions for her paper that's been accepted for publication . Trying to describe in minute detail some aspect of certain feathers that indicate the  bird at the centre of the paper was a juvenile rather than an adult is time consuming, as is trying to locate a reference the editor has asked be included. Still the job is nearly finished and it will be a  great boost to her CV.



There was also an unplanned trip to the lake, after a very rare duck (only 10 recognized sightings ever in the entire country) had been spotted there. We spent several hours peering through the scopes trying to find one duck among a flock of about 1000. Finding it took some time  since the flock was tightly packed, not to mention flighty (luckily they never went far). Once we found our bird we then waited and waited hoping for better views - "turn around and take your head out from under your wing you silly bird". The bird never cooperated so we had to be satisfied with less than perfect views. At least we found the bird though.

Miss 16 snapped this through her scope with her cellphone. If you click through to enlarge it and look carefully you might be able to spot the bird we were after!

The main event though is the three day teen banding camp up north. It's a great  chance for her to catch up with her birding friends (they are scattered around  the country) and hopefully get lots of banding and bird handling in as well. Three days of concentrated banding should help her progress more quickly to the next level banding permit, although different banders operate differently so working with new people can be a bit confusing and frustrating if they expect you to operate differently from the way you've been taught so far. Just have to hope the weather cooperates since you can't band if it is wet or too windy. She's not due home until Monday meaning it'll be a very quiet weekend for Dh and me. Mr 19 is also away, volunteering at a scout event and we don't see Miss 22 much anyway since she's busy with her own life - study, work, boyfriend, friends - and pretty much only comes home to sleep. I joke that we'll barely notice the difference when she moves out next year.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Week Ending 15 October 2017

Wow - what a week this one has been! A couple of Miss 16's friends from up north really wanted to go birding down south, so they asked her to join them - and then invited me along as a chauffeur/chaperone! They flew into town and then we headed off on a 3 day, 1500 km road trip to some of the more remote parts of the country - plenty of steep, winding roads to contend with. The guys planned a very full-on schedule, full of early starts and late nights. But it was worth it - they tracked down most of the species they were looking for. Not as many new species for Miss 16 and I but we were delighted to finally see Yellowheads (we heard them calling on a trip back in June but had to leave before we managed to spot them), and were  thrilled to get great views of Rowi (rarest of our five kiwi species). Despite running a bit behind schedule we did manage to catch one Fiordland Crested Penguin coming ashore but both Miss 16 and I would like to return in the hope of better views. Another highlight was great views of a pair of nesting Crested Grebes. It was fascinating watching the parents switch over incubating duties and see one of them building up and patching the nest. They are graceful on the water but amusingly clumsy on land.



Heading back up the track after looking for penguins.

I was pretty tired by the time we returned and would have loved to spend the following day relaxing, but alas I had lots of preparation and organisation to do for a Conservation Week activity the following day. Despite my last minute, slightly rushed preparations I think our part in the event went well. We had lots of nests for the kids to admire before encouraging them to have a go at constructing their own. We also had several native specimens for them to look at and learn about, as well as a scavenger hunt where they tried to find ten bird species that were common in the botanic gardens where the event was held. Hopefully we succeeded in giving some kids and their families an increased appreciation for bird life.

All set up - just before the crowds arrived.

Nest building with clothes peg beaks.

That was yesterday and I'm determined to do as little as possible today. I'm definitely in need of some R+R as is Miss 16.

Before we headed off on our epic road trip, Miss 16 received some great news. An article she wrote has been accepted for publication in our national ornithological journal, which is a pretty big deal. It's gone through the peer review process and only a couple of minor revisions were required. She'll get to that first thing next week and the article will appear online shortly after that, and hopefully in the print edition before the end of the year.

Also, this arrived before we headed away.


I'd long since planned on using this in Miss 16's final year of homeschooling. Turns out that this may have been her final year (pretty sure we've decided that even if she does homeschool next year it will be a transition year - half time homeschooling and half time working to earn money for university; the other plan will involve a half-year university prep course (since one university she is keen on will not accept her without some formal qualification and this is the least annoying option!) followed by a half year of employment. But we've decided to make a start on it shortly and just work through it as and when she has the time.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Week Ending 10 October 2017

Our first week of not homeschooling (Is it just a break or have we finished for good? I still don't know. Funnily enough I was reading about Myers-Briggs personality tests this week and it became incredibly clear that I am a J who likes to have decisions settled; Miss 16 is a P and prefers to postpone decision as long as possible in case new information comes to hand; clearly I need to resign myself to not knowing until the very end of this year - or even later - what next year will bring) was a good mix of having things to do as well as plenty of down time for game playing, reading or just doing nothing.

The highlights of Miss 16's week was undoubtedly the beginning of a bird banding project. This will be a long term collaboration between our birding group and the local council. We've been keen to start something for a while but lacked a suitably qualified bander to lead the project and help train up beginner banders. Now that we've found the magic person it'll mean Miss 16 will be able to gain regular banding experience and work towards the next level banding qualification which will allow her (and the council rangers) to band without supervision. The overall aim is to learn more about various passerine species (lifespan etc) plus discover how they use the city 's habitats.

Setting up the nets.


Releasing the first bird from the net


A silvereye about to be banded, weighed and measured.


This young blackbird was one of a pair which were removed from their nest, banded and then returned. They're likely to fledge in 24 hours.

There weren't a lot of birds around on the first day out, but we weren't rained out (the forecast hadn't look promising), a few birds are better than none, and the project is now actually underway. I went along as well - I've ruled myself out of actual banding (doubt my eyesight would let me see well enough to read the band number, let alone safely secure it to a very small leg!) but I'm happy to help in a support role, carrying equipment, helping to set up the nets and keeping the paperwork in order.

Our birding group hosted two workshops this weekend, training people on how to use the eBird database. Miss 16  helped out at the beginner course since the numbers were a little too large for the instructor to manage himself, and then attended the more advanced course. I've had plenty of positive feedback about the courses which is good and Miss 16 learnt a few things. I wasn't able to go since I've picked up a virus which has triggered a recurrence of the vestibular systems which plagued me last year and the year before. Hoping they clear up once the virus goes.

Miss 16 also had a couple of professional development sessions. She coaches gymnastics and trampoline three days a week and these session looked at floor and vault skills with the aim of enabling the coaches to better help the gymnasts develop their skills.

Linking to the Weekly Warp-Up and Homeschool Highlights