A Bird in the House …

… is worth nothing at all as it is a very stressful experience for all involved.

I was in my room earlier this evening while downstairs all the bustle of making dinner was going on, when I heard Dad say something about there being a small hummingbird in the house.

As we’re not in the Americas it clearly wasn’t a hummingbird, but when I went to look there was a tiny, olive green bird with a relatively long, curved black beak darting  frantically around the ceiling.

You can see why Dad thought it was a hummingbird. This photo is nawt mine.
You can see why Dad thought it was a hummingbird. This photo is nawt mine.

It was clearly highly distressed; hitting the ceiling again and again with little ‘thump’ noises, flying into the walls and hanging off the rims of the downlights. Watching it panic thus was awful.

First I closed all the doors so it couldn’t go into another room, then I got a broom and sort of waved it around a bit and it moved towards the front door (was this related to the broom waving? We may never know), which was open, but I couldn’t convince it to fly down to it and out.

I thought that maybe it was attracted to the light so I turned them off and switched on one outside, but that did nothing (we will find out later that I was half right).

The little bird thumped into a wall again and again, then /fluttered down to the floor where it sat next to a door looking dazed. I picked it up, feeling it’s heart thudding in an insanely fragile chest. It was almost weightless, like holding a few grapes or a large flower. I took it out to the garden and opened my hand.

It didn’t move. I was afraid I’d broken it’s neck. I felt utterly responsible for that warm, small creature; as if something infinitely precious was crouched in my palm (as indeed there was). It looked so small, it’s body beak to tail barely longer than my index finger.

urgch
I didn’t take this photo and this isn’t my hand, but it gives you an idea of how small and fragile looking these birds are.

Oh shit, what have I done?

My eulogy for the tiny bundle of feathers was cut short as it sat up on one of my fingers, gripping it with tiny claws, looked around then vanished with a pprrrp of wings. Relived, I went back into the house – only to find it dashing itself fruitlessly against the ceiling.

Note to self: close the door behind you.

This time it’s movements were more intense as if it’s encounter with me had scared it further. It hurled itself at the ceiling time and again as I stood below it, hands wringing with stress.

What if it had a heart attack? It’s beak was so slender – what if it was damaged against the roof? What if I can’t get it out, and find it dead in the morning, cold feet curled and stiff; blank eyes accusing? I hate the way the head of a dead bird lolls.

It was fluttering in a corner now, then dropped into the laundry basket. I scooped it up and hurried it to the garden, closing the door behind me. I crouched down by a thicket of bushes I often see small birds in, but it just sat in my hand listlessly, no longer moving it’s head around. It seemed to have let go of my finger and just be lying there.

Sitting there under a macadamia tree beside some bamboo I thought it would die in my hands. It’s heartbeat was slowing. It did not sit on my finger or move to fly away; I couldn’t convince it to climb onto a small bamboo stem.

I had almost given up hope when, with a sound like a deck of cards being shuffled, it burst out of my hands. It’s wing brushed my face and I flinched; then it was gone.

After dinner I was sitting by the windows trying to figure out what it was. Some kind of honeyeater, probably. The outside of the flyscreen was covered with insects attracted by the lights – and eating those insects with a whirr of wings, I saw a tiny green bird.

It clung onto the mesh, it’s head swiveling this way and that, it’s body contorting around itself, slender beak snapping up insects. It looked exactly like the bird from earlier – it may have even been the same one. It was not to be afraid at all and I used my bird book to guess that it was a juvenile eastern spinebill (Acanthorhynchus tenuirostis).

A juvenile eastern spinebill. Note how flexible they are, you should have seen it on the flyscreen; it was like an acrobat. This photo isn't mine.
A juvenile eastern spinebill. Note how flexible they are, you should have seen it on the flyscreen; it was like an acrobat. This photo isn’t mine.

I guess the one that had come in was eating insects then had been unable to get out again. We will make sure to keep the doors closed in the future.

There isn’t really a point to this story, I just thought I’d share it. It’s nice to be fairly certain of what it was. It was really nice when the bird flew away with the exaltation of free wings. To get that feeling, follow this link and pay attention from around 4:00. (Also, it’s one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written, so just generally listen to it whilst imagining yourself bushwalking through the mountains on a clear winter’s day, watching a bird fly over a sunlit valley.)

I could say something about caring for urban and peri urban biodiversity, but I don’t feel like that’s a valid statement because, a. If there wasn’t an ‘urban’ the bird wouldn’t have been in danger; and b. I just feels like a wanky thing to say.

So yeah. Interesting story.

 

 

Repower Port Augusta

This is a rough transcript of a speech I gave at an Earth Hour event this year after we watched 2 Degrees, a film wich I can highly reccomend. It talks about the collosal fail that was the Copenhagen CoP in 2009 and the wonderful story of the Repower Port Augusta campaign, which I was lightly involved in in 2012.

I want to start by acknowldging the traditional owners of this land, the Gumbaynggirr people, and their elders past and present. I want to apologise to the elders of the past, of all countries across Australia, because they were stewards for tens of thousands of years and looked after the country, and in the 200 years of whitefellas being here we now have all kinds of environmental problems.

We’re here tonight to work on fixing one of those problems; climate change.

A warning: this is a slightly interactive talk.

In 2012 I was part of a group that walked the 328km from Port Augusta to Adelaide. It was really fun; I met some lovely people, travelled through beautiful countryside, and became an expert in taping up blisters. For two weeks we walked through heat, dust, rain and cyclonic winds and when we finally marched into Adelaide and were met by a huge, supportive crowd it was one of the most exciting and powerful things I have ever done.

pt_augusta_rally
We walked into Adelaide and about 2000 people joined us to march through the streets to the SA Parliament. It was wonderful; we were all singing and dancing and chanting and the police cleared the streets for us and that night we were all over the news right around Australia. #kickinggoalsallovertheplace

(We were all over TV the day we arrived in Adelaide. Ellen Sandell was AYCC Director at the time, check out her talking to the ABC here.)

Repowering Port Augusta will start a new way of thinking in Australia. This project will prove that renewable are not only viable, but that they are better than fossil fuels. It will show that we can move away from the fossil fuels that cause climate change without compromising our standard of living or the environment. This campaign, and in particular the Walk, marks a turning point in Australia’s interaction with climate change – when a community stood up and took action instead of waiting for action from a government.

community vote
The Repower Port Augusta team lead by Daniel Spencer who was the AYCC SA co-coordinator at the time (pictured) and the late Joy Baluch, who was Mayor of Port Augusta for decades, put in hundreds of hours of work to put together a community vote which showed overwhelming support for solar energy over fossil fuels.

I went because I wanted to be a part of it, to be able to say, I was there; much like I am tonight. I loved the idea of showing how much I cared in the real world, not just through a petition or something, but through tangible action. And I can tell you, with the number of blisters I got it was very, very tangible.

Volunteers of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition were invited to go on the walk and we helped to escalate the campaign and create national awareness of it, which we did wonderfully. This was only possible because of hundreds of hours of work put in by the PA team and their volunteers.

See, as a Walker, I was just one cog in the Repower Port Augusta machine. Leading up to the Walk and in the years since, the Port Augusta team worked hard with the local community to grow support for concentrated solar thermal for their town. Port Augusta hasn’t been repowered yet, but the community is so behind it that it will be.

Here’s the first interactive bit: If I said Vincent Lingairi and Paul Kelly, you would say … ?

(If you don’t know the song, have a listen here. It is a classic from one of Australia’s best contemporary musicians about a very important episode in our history.)

We know that from little things, big things grow and because of their determination and commitment, this little group of South Australians as the potential to grow into Australia’s first big renewable energy project.

cst
A concentrated solar thermal plant in Spain. The mirrors shine light onto the top of the tower where molten salt is heated up and put in tanks. The salt is used to heat water to spin the turbines to create electricity and can provide baseload power.

The lessons from Port Augusta are important now, as the science gets grimmer, time slips away from us and governments around the world – and in Australia – refuse to take it seriously. It’s easy to lose motivation.

But in 2012 a hundred of us walked 328km for solar, this week UniSuper, Australia’s 7th largest super, announced it would start transitioning away from fossil fuels, and tonight we are all here to continue strong climate action in Coffs Harbour.

unisuper
There is still a long way to go on UniSuper, but this is a good start.

Even if you’re just six people with five laptops and one idea, with enough time and effort you can change climate change. We can save the Great Barrier Reef, we can transition Australia to renewable energy, we can divest from fossil fuels, change hearts and minds, and lead our governments.

Port Augsta teaches us that we have the skills, technology and will to beat climate change, we just have to get our local community organised and put in a lot of work.

Second interactive part: I want you to all hold out your hand and imagine that there’s a little puzzle piece on it. Now all we have to do it fit them together to grow something big.

earth hour
While I was giving my speech in NSW, Canberra was looking mighty fine for Earth Hour, fitting 3600 little candles together for one big message: we have to fight climate change to save the Great Barrier Reef.