19 December 2023

2023 Year in Review: Living the Canberra lifestyle

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Canberra is full of characters – both animal and human – and Region loves telling their stories. Cats, dogs and birds feature highly in our top of the pops for 2023 but we also have plenty of people doing strange and wonderful things.

Here’s a look back at the ACT region’s unique lifestyle in 2023 – and proof we are happy to have a laugh at our own expense.

15. Aspiring LEGO Master’s collection got so big, his family moved house
by James Coleman

Eric Wanigasekara and his LEGO collection. Photo: James Coleman.

Eric Wanigasekara’s LEGO collection started with one small fire truck gifted by a friend in 2016 when he was five. Within eight months, he was tackling larger, more complex sets rated for 19 years-plus. Then, the layouts began taking over the living room.

This was “dangerous”, according to his parents – so they took action.

14. Meet Bandit, one of Australia’s first registered assistance cats
by Lizzie Waymouth

tabby cat wearing a coat sitting outside cafe

Bandit is well acquainted with Canberra and Queanbeyan cafes – she isn’t usually allowed on the tables. Photos: Lizzie Waymouth.

It’s not every day you visit a Canberra cafe and see a cat on a leash sitting calmly with its owner. But Bandit is no ordinary cat. In fact, she’s among the first registered assistance cats in Australia.

Bandit’s owner, known by the nickname ‘Boat’, was close to retiring from a career in law enforcement and considering getting another cat after spending several years without any pets. A life-long animal lover, Boat was easily persuaded when a friend said she had some kittens she was fostering.

13. The Antonov and 6 other cool planes that have landed at Canberra Airport
by James Coleman

A gigantic Antonov AN-124 Ruslan transport aircraft

The Antonov AN-124 taking off into the sunrise at 6 am, 18 January 2023. Photo: Darren Boaden.

It was the talk of the town in January. And not just because it was January and not much else was happening in Canberra.

The Antonov AN-124 isn’t the largest aircraft in the skies – the Airbus A380 takes that cake – but it is the largest dedicated commercial and military transporter in service. And one was at the Canberra Airport from 16 to 18 January, en route to Darwin and then the Middle East. Photos and videos captured by plane spotters flooded social media for several days.

You can read the full story here, but it’s time we got our flying goggles all misty and looked back at what other cool planes have landed here in the past.

12. Across Canberra’s suburbs, choughs are sociable, cheery kidnappers
by Ian Fraser

birds on tree branch

White-winged choughs are super-sociable. Here a family is huddling and preening. Photos: Ian Fraser.

We’ve all seen white-winged choughs in Canberra, even if all those black or black-and-white birds can be a bit confusing sometimes.

Once you get your eye in though, you’ll be able to pick out the choughs every time. They’re always in chatty groups, usually feeding on the ground, with slim curved beaks and bright red eyes (except for the youngsters).

White-winged choughs are highly sociable birds, but they have an aggressive side, as naturalist Ian Fraser explains.

11. Victoria rode every single one of Canberra’s bus routes in a year – here’s what she found
by James Coleman

woman hopping on a bus

Victoria Wells is coming to the end of her epic adventures on Canberra buses. Photo: Victoria Wells.

To most of us, Canberra’s bus routes have a fairly singular purpose – to get us to and from work in medium-level comfort, preferably without sending us into the back of the seat in front every time there’s a stop. But to Victoria Wells, they’ve become much more.

Over the past year, Victoria has tackled every single one of Canberra’s 64 bus routes and published thoughts on each via her online blog, In Transit.

10. Would you believe Canberra had a motorcycle racetrack? In Macarthur
by James Coleman

Macarthur Park Circuit

Macarthur Park Circuit on Coyne Street. Photo: Terry Walker.

The southern suburb of Macarthur is all residential homes today, so it might be surprising to think that 45 years ago, thousands of people lined its paved roads to cheer motorcycles racing past.

Measuring 2.8 kilometres, the ‘Macarthur Park Circuit’ comprised Coyne Street, Jackie Howe Crescent, Merriman Crescent and Carson Street in Macarthur, near Fadden and Chisholm, between 1978 and 1981.

It came about when several riders in the Canberra Motorcycle Club had enough of complying with NSW rules and went looking for a local tarmac street circuit where they could hold their own race meets.

9. Do you pass ‘the Canberra test’? Comedian Jimmy Rees roasts the capital in viral video (again)
by James Coleman

Jimmy Rees

Jimmy Rees in ‘Border Control for Canberra’. Photo: Screenshot.

What’s the number 1 sport in Canberra? What do we wait for in our bus shelters? What’s flower best describes Canberra? These questions and more are answered in new viral video by comedian Jimmy Rees. (It pains us to say it, but chances are you’ll get them all correct.)

8. Record-breaking fish a highlight for Canberra on the Water fishing competition
by James Coleman

Man holding big fish

Kurt Mitchell holding the biggest fish he’s ever caught, from the Murrumbidgee River. Photo: Kurt Mitchell.

Kurt Mitchell officially has the biggest bragging rights in Canberra.

The fridge repairer by day and hobby fisher every other time hauled a 93-centimetre Murray Cod from Lake Burley Griffin this year, breaking the previous record set in late February 2022.

7. Local photographer nails Canberra life in viral memes
by James Coleman

Canberra on Instagram

‘The Mortz’ on Instagram features memes about Canberra. Photo: Screenshot.

You might know him by his handle, “themortz”.

Daniel Morton Jones has more than 4000 followers on social media platform Instagram. Some are there for his photography, but the vast majority for the way he pokes fun at Canberra life with memes.

The north-south divide, getting on a bus only to realise it’s stopping past Dickson, how tradies behave on William Hovel Drive at 3 pm, and how to talk to someone who hasn’t copped a fine from the cameras on Northbourne Avenue yet. We’ve all been there, and now Daniel has tied these experiences to various memorable quotes and scenes from movies and TV shows to create viral results.

6. Videographer takes whole year to create ‘hyperlapse’ of Canberra’s Centenary Trail
by James Coleman

dave fanner on One Tree Hill

Dave Fanner on his journey. Photo: Screenshot.

A Canberra videographer has spent a whole year circumnavigating the ACT on foot and on wheels to create a hypnotic seven-minute ‘hyperlapse’ showing off our seasons and events.

Using a 360-degree camera and drone, Dave Fanner captured all 145 kilometres of the Centenary Trail walking track over the course of last year, stopping past Floriade in the spring, a cricket game at Manuka Oval in summer and Balloon Spectacular in autumn. Watch it here.

5. ‘I don’t know how they afford it’: Canberra owner offers hot hatch to those stuck for a formal car
by James Coleman

Ella Noble and her 2018 Ford Focus RS

Ella Noble and her 2018 Ford Focus RS. Photos: Ella Noble, James Coleman.

Ella Noble is the proud owner of a limited-edition Ford Focus RS, and she offered to drive kids to formals for free.

When Ella attended her high school formal in 2010, it was in a Toyota Corolla her mum bought for $200.

“I don’t know how they afford it these days,” she said.

4. Why you’re seeing painted dots on Canberra’s clever cockatoos
by James Coleman

cockatoo with ink on its back

Looks like they’ve been playing bingo. Photo: Cognitive and Cultural Ecology Group.

After cockatoos in Sydney learned to open wheelie bins, ecologist Dr Lucy Aplin set out to discover how long we have in Canberra until ours do the same. The news is not good.

3. Pet owners urged to check dogs for grass seeds after near-tragedy
by Sally Hopman

Dog with little girl

Leo the Maremma in happier times with his favourite human, Jordynn, daughter of his owner Lauren Bersinic from Murrumbateman. Photo: Supplied.

Had it not been for the quick action of his owner and his vet, Leo the Maremma probably wouldn’t be with his Murrumbateman family today.

Leo’s human, Lauren Bersinic, who says she loves the 50 kg dog as if he were a second child, noticed something wrong with him when he went off his food.

He was lethargic and clearly not himself, so she felt around his body and discovered a lot of swelling under his right front leg. She took him to the vet the next day. The diagnosis: a grass seed had penetrated his skin, infiltrated his internal organs and turned septic.

2. Is it more romantic to take the Canberra to Sydney train?
by John Coleman

NSW TrainLink Southern XPLORER train at Canberra Station at night

Not exactly art deco, but it’s handsome, isn’t it? Photo: John Coleman.

It’s more expensive and takes longer than the car or the bus, but what does the train from Kingston to Sydney have going for it? John Coleman reclines his seat 40 degrees to find out.

1. What’s with the dead-looking magpies? Canberra biologist explains why birds ‘sun’
by James Coleman

Magpies sunbathing

Magpies sunbathing? Yes, it’s a thing, for an important reason too. Photo: Emily Ruth, Canberra Notice Board Group, Facebook.

Spotted magpies lying around your garden in a trance-like state? The good news is they’re not dead. Or drunk. James Coleman investigates.

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