by Leila Jeffreys
Rating: ★★★★★
isbn: 9780733631061
Publication Date: November 5, 2015
Pages: 188
Genre: Non-fiction
Publisher: Hachette Books

Fine art photographer Leila Jeffreys captures the beauty and diversity of some of our most colourful and elegant feathered friends.

In BIRDLAND, Australian fine-art photographer Leila Jeffreys presents us with a bird-watching experience like no other, drawing birds out from their leafy shadows and airy territories and presenting them to us with the skill and intricate detail of a portrait painter. The result is a stunning encounter with some of the world's most beautiful birds.

On display are fine feathers of all types-eagles in burnished battle armor, fairy floss pink cockatoos, owls in spangled evening wear, and the finches and parrots who couldn't settle for just one or two colours, so chose the whole palette instead.

Captured in a moment of stillness, Jeffreys's feathered sitters reveal qualities and features that invite human projection. Meet the sociable gang-gang cockatoos Commander and Mrs. Skyring, always up for a soiree; the dignified and kingly black kite Fenrick; and the adorably gamine Pepper, a southern boobook owl with impossibly huge eyes and irresistibly cute skinny legs.

Sydney-based Jeffreys works with animal rescue and conservation groups to create her portraits. Her love and compassion for her subjects is evident throughout, and every bird has a story, which Jeffreys shares in a profile of nearly every species in the back of the book.

There are working birds, like Soren, the wedge-tailed eagle, who patrols areas to prevent cockatoos from damaging buildings and lorikeets from overindulging on sugar on hotel balconies; Blue, the orange-bellied parrot who is part of a breeding program to increase the population of this critically endangered species; and Sirocco, New Zealand's kakapo conversation superstar.

BIRDLAND invites us to rediscover birds, to gaze unhindered, and to marvel at their many-splendored glory.

A gorgeous book that I’d eyed about a year ago and dismissed as too decadent; coffee-table art books generally don’t make it into my book budget.  Luckily, I received it as a birthday gift last week, so I could wallow in the beautiful bird portraits guilt-free.

Then, at the end, I saw the List of Works, in which Jeffreys included general information about the species, and almost always, a small anecdote about her experience photographing the individual bird.  They were, apologies to Jeffreys and her obvious talent, the best part of the book, because while her photos are stunning, those little anecdotes brought them, and the bird, to life.  So much so that at some points, I found myself a little misty-eyed and a lot jealous.

A beautiful book for those that enjoy birds and photography.

Non-book post: Spring is here!

Yesterday was our first nice weather day, with a high of 21C (70F) and full sunshine.  We’re still in total lockdown, but the government amended the rules a few weeks ago to allow us to drive to our exercise, as long as it’s within 5km, so I dragged MT out to a new-to-us park known as Willsmere Park or Kew Billabong.  For those who may not know, a billabong is a backwater or stagnant pool, made by water flowing from a main stream or river during a flood. We had no idea it was there until recently, and it’s lovely.  We got there ‘early’ by MT’s standards, a bit later than I wanted to, but in time to have the park to ourselves for about 45 minutes, before everyone else in a 5km radius descended.

I didn’t get a lot of pictures, mostly because we were busy checking out the lay of the land at first, and then, well… people.  But we did chat (at a distance) with a lovely woman for whom the park was obviously her ‘local’, and she pointed out a pair of Tawny Frogmouths sleeping off the day, though one woke up long enough to shuffle his feathers and sun himself for a moment before dozing back off.

She also pointed out a nesting box for a pair of sugar gliders and told us if we were there at dusk we’d have half a chance of seeing them depart the box.  Guess where we’ll be at dusk sooner rather than later?  (Sugar gliders, if you’re unfamiliar with them, are the cutest damn tiny possums that fit in the palm of your hand.)

We’re only allowed to be out a couple of hours a day, and by the time I’d done the circuit there were hoards of people socially distancing, and cyclists trying their hardest to thin the herds (a major bike path goes through the park), so we headed back to the lot in time to see that it wasn’t only the humans enjoying the sunshine and cavorting in the spring weather:

I suspect, if you asked the neighborhood dogs, they’d say that water bowl was for them, but I doubt any of them would try to tell the cockatoos that.

Isolation walks

We’re running out of interesting neighborhood to walk in, so we re-visited the ‘posh’ side of the street, and I at least got a few pictures in counter of all the lovely spring photos my N. Hemisphere friends are sharing, including one of a mystery tree full of little seed balls that make it look festive:

I have no idea what kind of tree it is, but now that I’ve noticed it, I’ve seen one or two on a few streets around me.

One of the prettier streets at the moment:

How the 1% live; I included it only because the blue-jacketed guy shamelessly peering through the gates is MT, counting the number of black cars parked in the driveway (6, and they were really all black).

On our way back from our last walk, we cut through the park, checking on a few trees we discovered several weeks ago.  They’re peppercorn trees, and they grow everywhere here, something else I only recently discovered on these walks.  After doing a LOT of research to make sure they were the edible peppercorns, not the toxic ones, we picked our first batch:

They don’t look like much, but they smell divine.  Once they’re finished drying out, I’ll de-husk them and we’ll have a go at grinding them up; there’s debate on whether or not they grind in a mill well – we may have to pull out the mortar and pestle.  Either way – I love the idea of a fresh supply of peppercorns; it’s an unexpected bonus to these local walks.

Pandemic bird of the day (with bonus llama)

These were neither taken near my home, nor taken recently.  They’re both from my trip in February out to country Victoria.  The birds are also not going to be new to anyone, but I’m posting both because they make me smile, and because – in the case of the llama – I knew at least one of my BookLikes friends is a fan.

First, the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo – rocking the mohawk long before teens got their hands on their dad’s electric shavers:

And, well, 2 domesticated geese, but really it’s about the supremely satisfied looking llama:

Pandemic walks / bird of the day

MT and I did another neighborhood circuit a couple of days ago, this time going across the road to the ‘posh’ side of our neighborhood (and it’s seriously posh, with houses big enough to fit ours in their mudroom.  I brought the wrong camera with me, so I didn’t get any examples.  But we did come across a bird I haven’t seen in our area before.  The crested pigeon is a common bird, and I’ve seen it on the other side of town, but never near us.  I always smile when I see them, because they look a bit alternative, with the head-gear, their prismatic colouring, and their perpetually startled expressions.


Lockdown walks / #stayathome bird of the day

I’m taking Mike’s excellent lockdown walk suggestion and folding it into my intermittent bird of the day post.

My neighborhood is nice, and we like it a lot, but it’s definitely not Bath, but there are a few gorgeous gardens, and I passed this unbelievable Hibiscus bush, the size of which I’ve never seen the equivalent of, even in Florida.  The picture only captures what’s overhanging the fence – I can’t even imagine what it looks like on the inside.

And peeking out of the center is a Little Wattle Bird (which is only little relative to its cousins the Red Wattle Bird and the Yellow Wattle Bird):

He blends pretty well, until he opens his beak, then he sounds like an angry Pterodactyl.

Non-book Post: What I’ve been doing instead of reading, Part 2

(Archive post moved from BookLikes)

Last weekend, we took off for 2 nights for a place we’ve been trying to visit for years: Kingbilli Estate.  ‘Estate’ might be a stretch, but to each their own.  It’s, in essence, a working farm.  A Llama farm, to be exact.  But in its previous incarnations it was a goat/donkey/horse/pony farm and a wildlife rescue hospital, so there’s a little bit of everything (except goats) rambling around the llamas, including a flock of Indian peafowl.

Years ago, the owners built two stone cottages on the property; one for international volunteers, and one to let out to tourists.  Their daughter has since taken over the property, and while the llamas, ponies and horses still have their space, she’s restored most of what was once grazing land back to natural scrub and forest.

Our Cottage

The property still acts as a half-way house for injured wildlife, and there are no limitations as to where guests are allowed to roam, so we – I – went in with the hope/expectation of seeing a lot of Aussie wildlife I’d normally have a hard time seeing: wombats, bandicoots, sugar gliders, etc.

I soooo should have known better.  They heard I was coming and took themselves off.  There were wombat holes EVERYWHERE but not a single wombat did we see.  Nothing but llamas, donkeys and ponies, oh my.  And birds, thank goodness.  So many birds, it was a constant riot of birdsong around the cottage, which sat right on a little stream (which, until the drought, had a platypus in it, dammit).

All in all it was gorgeous and as they only have the one cottage to let, we had it all to ourselves.  Three days of total peace-out bliss – and no phone reception or internet service.

I’ll only share the interesting, colourful birds with y’all as I know not everybody is a bird lover.  But everybody loves baby llamas, right?

Baby llamas!

White-faced Heron

Pacific Heron

Superb Fairy-wren (I just report the names, but you can tell, he thinks he’s superb.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo – rocking the mohawk

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo – falling off his perch

Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo

Leaden Flycatcher

Silvereye, blending in

Golden Whistler- this one kept throwing himself against our bedroom door’s glass; eventually we figured out he wasn’t attacking his reflection, but picking spiders and bugs off the eaves and the door frame.


If you stayed with me up to this point you’re either very kind or really like birds. Either way, thank you. That’s it though – until tomorrow, when we’re off on another expedition. It’s a rather unusual one, but I promise to keep the bird pics to a bare miniumum. After that, I suspect MT is going to enforce a ‘rest period’ and my attention will be solidly back on the books. 🙂

Non-book Post: What I’ve been doing instead of reading, Part 1

(This is a post brought over from BookLikes)

As mentioned in my previous post, we’ve been getting out into nature the last few weeks (with another hike scheduled for tomorrow).  The first was a morning hike at a local park we’d never been too – an old reservoir-turned-parkland.

I was expecting primarily birds, because the park is still in a pretty urban area, and I got birds, but I also happily got a bit of everything else too.  I’ve recently become a member of as a way of keeping track of, and identifying, what I find when I’m out and about; it’s also a way to contribute to science.  So I got pictures of all sorts of flora and fauna.  I’ll limit my sharing to a few birds, some mammals and one reptile (lizard).

The bird:

White-faced Heron

The mammals:

Eastern Grey Kangaroo

Eastern Grey Kangaroo, exiting stage right

Swamp Wallaby (no swamp required)

Swamp Wallaby also exiting stage right

And the reptile:

Blotched Bluetongue – it’s blotchy, and it has a blue tongue