Welcome to the News section of the iNSiGHT Ornithology website (
www.simoncherriman.com). This blog contains updates about various things I've been up to, interesting environmental issues and observations I make regularly while going about my day. It is designed to be fun AND educational, and inspire you about our wonderful natural world. Happy reading!

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Goanna Tweets

While working at my desk over the warmer months earlier this year, I would often notice a sudden outburst of alarm calls by the resident group of New Holland Honeyeaters (Philidonyris novaehollandiae, known as Bandin / Woorening in Noongar), and peer out the window to see what had disrupted them. At first I usually couldn't see any other animals, but as I watched the birds carefully, I noticed their attention was focused on the upper surface of a thick limb of the ornamental peach tree. Then I could usually make out a scaly head and the tip of a black tail, just visible from beneath, which told me the reptile's identity: a Black-headed Monitor (Varanus tristis).

On one occasion I crept outside and managed to take a few close images of this beautiful lizard (including the one above), before it scurried higher up into the tree and out of reach. You might remember my Mum taking some great photos of this same species (and possibly the same individual!) a few years ago, which prompted me to write a blog post called 'Goanna in the Roof'. Since that time, we've observed at least two different monitors entering and exiting the roof, and delighted not only at them continuing to find refuge in our house, but also because of the free rat control they are likely providing! Next week the Black-headed Monitor will feature in my upcoming Get Green article for the West Australian Newspaper's Ed! Magazine, as shown below (click to enlarge and read).

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Bush Skills for Youth

As an environmental educator, it is always a great thrill to spend time with a brilliant group of young, upcoming naturalists, especially in the magic setting of some Perth Hills bushland. Today's 'All About Eagles' workshop in John Forrest National Park was no exception. I had the privilege of working with Kathy Levett from the East Metropolitan Regional Council's "Bush Skills for Youth" program, and we ran a workshop for 12-16 year-old children who gave up a morning of their school holidays to learn about Wedge-tailed Eagle ecology through a hands-on educational workshop.

The format of the day involved a talk in the National Park's Margaret Forrest centre about eagle biology, then a walk up into the hilly country to search for eagles and experience a deep valley, like the ones may resident Perth Hills 'wedgies' call home.

During the walk, I was thrilled to talk to some young boys and girls who were wearing camouflaged clothes and even carrying a short length of rope "just in case he needed to climb a tree!!" This gave me fond memories of my early teenage years when I first began to explore the vast hills forest and discover eagles in the wild.

After a break for morning tea we got stuck into the real fun part of the activity - building eagle nests! The 30 children divided into three groups and each gathered their own sticks, carefully prepared the lining of fresh eucalypt leaves and constructed the most realistic eagle eyrie they could. I was very impressed with how accurately the kids undertook the construction - they would make a good bunch of eagles!

Last time I conducted this activity was back in 2012, but the happiness on the children's faces told me it was still a fun and enjoyable way to learn ornithology. And what better setting than an outdoor bush classroom?!

We completed the morning with a 'bush detective' activity which involved the children doing a treasure hunt for various prey remains (bones and feathers) that I hid in and around the completed eagle nests. It was great to watch the kids search high and low around their nest, making sure they left no stick unturned! A final discussion on the identify of each prey animal consumed gave everyone a real insight into what it's like to conduct research on eagles in real life.

Thanks so much to Kathy and EMRC for the opportunity to be involved in such a fantastic environmental education program, and to Rolf Perey from Guildford Photographics for documenting the morning with an eagle-eye for detail! I'd also like to thank the Department of Parks and Wildlife for their cooperation in allowing us to use the National Park facilities. I'm looking forward to the next eagle workshop already!