On doggies and owls in 2021

by | Jan 9, 2022 | owls, science communication, Wombat Forest, writing | 4 comments

With the coronavirus pandemic entering Year Three, it is getting harder to tell what year it is, or indeed what has actually happened! To round off 2021 and get ready for the year ahead I wanted to recap some highlights. It was a big year!

First of all anyone who knows me well knows that the BIGGEST event of 2021 was the peaceful death of our beloved King Charles cavalier Leela. Our gorgeous cavvie reached the grand old age of fifteen and a half – with “mummy” on tenterhooks riding what I call the old dog rollercoaster as the role slipped from companion to nurse for about three years. By the end she was heavily medicated on three different heart meds, two or three arthritis meds, on a special kidney disease diet and required lifting in and out of the car, and ramps to get about the house. Leela also smelled very very bad! It is hard to remember now but I bought baby sheets from the op shops to lay under her on our bed and couches – I called them stink blankets and they were great for absorbing her smells and stenchy fluids! Despite all this she ate and drank and poo’d like an absolute champ – and emanated this magical joy and good cheer ALL OF THE TIME!

Leela stopped eating the last weekend of August and on the Monday we took her to see Emma and Lou from Hepburn Veterinary Clinic – Leela loved going to the vets so much her whole life ( friends! treats!) that a final trip seemed in order. 🙂 We are so incredibly grateful Leela got to experience nearly 5 years as an only dog without Mr Puff the fluffy white cloud aka dominating terrier haha. She was soo gentle with all wildlife, my budgies and other birds, and with kids. She loved little girls the most. I hope she is being patted by a bunch of sweet little girls over the rainbow bridge!

Leela in 2018 next to some Showy Podolepis – at Tipperary Springs

Owls Owls Owls!

While I was still working at Birdlife Australia, I started a monthly radio segment on ABC Mornings with Gavin McGrath. These short casual chats were great fun as we discussed all things bird and I answered folk’s questions. Gav isn’t a birder, and some of his questions, and the callers’ questions were fresh and interesting and actually bloody hard! For example – why are some cockatoos white and other black?? I think I riffed a bit on evolutionary relationships between the different cockatoo genera stretching back some 50 million years…

Thanks to this radio segment – and the awesomeness of my mate and former editor of Cosmos Andrew Masterson, I ended up doing some contract comms with Science In Public for National Science Week. I wrote web copy for the Hoot Detective project website, based on the great work by the nocturnal bird scientists at Birdlife Australia, and I did a series of radio interviews. So great!

And THEN lovely Tanya Ha from Science in Public called to see if I was up for a long form, personal style interview on the ABC podcast “Conversations”. I had carefully saved the show in the podcasts section of my phone years ago – and then never had a listen! Anyway I was delighted – and I had three long lovely chats with Alice the producer as we prepped for the actual interview.

I was terrified! Even though I enjoyed live radio, and public speaking – this felt different as the Conversation was to be recorded forever! I was also feeling like maybe I wasn’t mentally up to the task as I was still grieving super-hard for Leela, and also reeling from my beloved mum’s cancer diagnosis and need for surgery (Note: mum is all good now- hooray!) But I am so glad I pushed on through as it was a wonderful experience!

As a child, Tanya Loos was captivated by the narrative of an earth pulsing with living beings.

By the age of nine, armed with her binoculars, Tanya was recording field notes and tracking the wildlife at her favourite sit spots, out in nature.
She became a field naturalist, fascinated by the unique character of each different environment she came across.
When she turned 35, Tanya decided to study ornithology, to add to her field naturalist toolkit.
For the past 19 years she’s followed the local Powerful Owl population in Wombat Forest in Victoria. For Tanya, the majesty of these top predators represents the fragility of the beloved environment she shares with them.
from the blurb under the interview – see here if you missed it! : ) )

In this cute photo I am smiling at my Dad, who played a huge role in my life – as geologist, science buff, and fellow nature lover. Alice the producer was fascinated by the fact that Dad worked in mining and exploration for mining companies like BP, and asked if this was ever a source of conflict between us? We simply never mentioned it – even when I was a teenager and reading lots of George Orwell and listening to Dead Kennedys. I guess Dad’s best friend Hans was a high up exec for Monsanto so maybe BP seemed the lesser of two evils?? haha