AN UPDATE (for the regular followers)

NOISY MINER

Thanks for all your lovely messages Blogging Friends, but I’m not supposed to use my right shoulder so won’t reply to each of you (who kindly commented on my previous post).

Just got the U/S results for my right shoulder this afternoon……

To put it simply…..full thickness tear (supraspinatus), bursitis (subdeltoid), tendonitis (sternoclavicular joint) and now…….will be going for a cortisone injection and getting the other shoulder scanned (which still hurts from 3 weeks ago).  The right shoulder also showed evidence of an old ligament tear.   (now, which fall was that I wonder to myself???  😀  )

An interesting one was the “synovitis in the sternoclavicular joint” – my doctor had never seen any patient with that before.   It basically means that where my collarbone joins my sternum (in the centre of my chest) it hurts like hell  😀

Have to try and not use my right shoulder AT ALL.    Full Rest!   Duh!    No picking up that heavy Sigma 150-z500mm lens to photograph birds on my balcony for a while (and no more typing or clicking with the computer mouse).

That’s all Folks   🙂  🙂

MARIBYRNONG WETLANDS POND AS SEEN FROM THE ROAD

 

 

ABSENT FROM THE BLOGASPHERE

I will be off the Blogasphere for the immediate future and that includes reading and commenting on the blogs I follow.

My shoulder injury from 3 weeks ago, which I have been struggling with and which I had u/sounded at the local radiology centre last week, has just got dramatically worse (literally an hour ago) and typing is extremely painful.

 

 

 

HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) – female

It’s rare that I don’t take a photo (or two) every day.

As far as I’m concerned it really doesn’t matter if it’s a good shot or a not-so-good shot.  Its all practice and practice is well worth the effort in Lockdown.

I love the image below.   It was made yesterday when the sun cast a brilliant beam of light on my balcony fence rail and despite the ghostly band of white in the bottom half of the frame (which is actually where a louvred window overlaps the pane below), I think its the face and eye which appeals in this shot.

I’d sprinkled a long row of birdseed on the fence rail in the hope of attracting a few more birds to photograph.  In general, it’s only the House Sparrows that like to snack on it,  but I still get Superb Fairy-wrens flying down to the grey balcony floor tiles and wander around in the hope of something tasty to eat.

I followed one male Superb Fairy-wren around the Japanese Maple branches for a quite a while yesterday, but despite having washed the glass panes of the fence, couldn’t get a clear shot.

 

It’s still fun and entertaining.

********

Only 14 new COVID cases in Melbourne in the last 24 hours (and sadly 5 deaths – all in the aged care sector).

We’re well on the way to achieving the goal of 14 straight days of an average of <50 new daily cases in order to drop down a Stage in restrictions on Monday, September 28th.

Only 7 days, 7 hours, 40 minutes and 5 seconds to go – not that I’m counting mind you.  😀

 

WHAT BIRD IS THAT?

Identifying birds around my home location are not always easy.

Especially when you’ve only got blurred shots and no, (or not much), head and beak visible.

Yesterday, I photographed a new bird in the Japanese Maple in front of my balcony fence.  The  windows, through which I was viewing the bird, were dirty so the autofocus kept zooming in and out – one minute on the bird and a couple of seconds later the dusty raindrops on the window (or green foliage blowing in the breeze).

In the shot below, you can see what looks like a grey or dark blue back, so it’s definitely not a Silvereye which is olive-green.

I was just about to delete the blurred shots this afternoon thinking it was just another Silvereye, when I realized the back of the bird was grey or bluish-grey……and the beak was dark and too long for a Silvereye.

The mystery deepened with the faint splodges of yellow on the bird’s back below.   They were very faint.

I can see this bird’s outline fairly easy on my 27″ iMac, but if you have a small laptop or ipad, you probably can’t see anything much.

Then I managed to get the back half of the bird in better focus showing the rump as being pale whitish.

Then it moved almost upside-down showing more of white-greyish underparts.

I cropped the photo down so that only the bird showed.

I could see what looked like black bands on its neck (above).

The images were just too blurred.

With that downy-looking soft feathered rump, maybe it’s a chick or young bird?

I finally decided it was a young White-plumed Honeyeater (Lichenostomus penicillatus), a bird I’d seen last year but not close enough to get a sharply focused image.

The only image of a White-Plumed Honeyeater I could find just now is the one below – photographed from quite some distance away and the image cropped down a fair bit.   It was made at the Jawbone Conservation Reserve and Marine Sanctuary in Williamstown on the nearest coastal area to my home.    (I’ve been there 4 times since I moved to the western suburbs and am keen to go back in Summer……..one day……..when the lockdown is over perhaps).

WHITE-PLUMED HONEYEATER (Lichenostomus penicillatus) ???

But then I remembered the bird I photographed on my balcony fence in 2017.   I thought it was a Grey Thrush-Shrike but a follower suggested something different (I can’t remember what he suggested).

GREY SHRIKE-THRUSH (Colluricincla harmonica) on my blacony fence rail.

Keep your fingers crossed the bird comes back another day so I can correctly identify it.

In the meantime, the first thing after breakfast this morning, I cleaned the exterior glass on my lounge windows.

Then I opened the sliding door wide open and set ALL 3 cameras beside my desk with the lens caps off.

I kept glancing up to the Japanese Maple and listened intently as the Superb Fairy-wrens chirped away to each other.   I can do this for hours, but I was catching up on the latest TV news between each glance to the outdoors.

Finally at 2.20pm I saw it.

I tried in vain to get a clear shot –  rather unsuccessfully – but here it is.

A female Superb Fairy-wren singing her little heart away to any male in the area.

It wasn’t a clear view, but it was in much better focus than yesterday’s efforts.

On a sadder note, another couple of branches on the Japanese Maple have died (see upper right in the image below).

Below, you can see where the dead branch from last year was cut off.

The Body Corporate who administer this apartment  building called out a horticultural expert and he said that the heavy rains hadn’t drained away last year and this was what was killing it – water-logged due to insufficient drainage.

I noticed at the start of winter that not all the leaves dropped off in Autumn.   I didn’t realize those dead leaves clung to a dead branch.

The best way to capture moments is to pay attention.  This is how we cultivate mindfulness.

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Hopefully, when I look back on this strict lockdown in Melbourne, I’ll remember the little moments that kept me entertained and gave me something to write about in the absence of nature walks.

NEW BIRD SIGHTING

I’ve had a busy couple of weeks with medical appointments, scans, tests, ordering online and the hundred and one other tasks when you have chronic pain & illness and don’t have a car to get around.

The current lockdown, curfew and having to keep within a 5km radius of your home in Melbourne only adds to the difficulties when you don’t have a car and have to rely on taxis to go anywhere.

The one good piece of news is that at the end of the month ‘elective surgery’ is going to open up again in our hospitals.   Despite a backlog of over 100,000 surgeries which have been on hold and will now take something like 6 months to clear, I have finally sourced a new orthopaedic surgeon and am cautiously optimistic that I might REALLY get to the stage of getting a hip replacement.   Even so, I have to pass a medical since I have a severe (inherited) heart condition and multiple other severe health issues.    Then there’s the……..well, I won’t bore you with the details, but daily life is getting to be really hard work – both physically and mentally – at the moment.

I’m totally fed up with this ever-increasing hip pain and I’ve watched so much TV or movies online that my eyes are getting ‘distinctly square’ (overseas followers might not know this expression from watching too much TV).

I live in one of the most picturesque urban areas in the western suburbs – including a nature reserve and river behind my apartment building (for the benefit of new followers), but without the ability to go for a lovely long walk, I’m restricted to indoors – mostly.

After I dismantled and re-homed most of my balcony garden a couple of months ago, I don’t get as many birds visiting my balcony.   Long-term followers will know how much that garden and its avian visitors meant to me over the last 4 years, especially in Spring.

Some images of the old balcony garden below (for the new followers).

ASIAN CLIMBING SPINACH (from the seeds my younger brother gave me).
A female Superb Fairy-wren standing on the rim of the veggie trough.
Part of the balcony herb & veggie garden Spring 2019
Heirloom tomatoes grownn for the first time.
Herbs, beans & leafy greens cut for today’s meals.

Apart from the stores and plant nursery being closed in the current 6 week lockdown in Melbourne,  there’s no point setting up a new Spring garden with the potential of  surgery and several weeks of recovery on the horizon.

It would cost a fair bit of money to start my garden all over again, although I’ve got all the plastic pots from last season and the plastic plant ID tags ready to purchase seedlings sometime in the future.

I have a list.   Gosh, I have an enormous ‘to do/buy’ list if it comes to that.

Although I did have my DSLR and long telephoto lens out of its pouch, I haven’t been holding out much hope of some avian visitors in the deep, dark shade of the eucalyptus tree.

One of the luckiest shots ever – A BABY GREY FANTAIL chick in the eucalyptus tree from 2 weeks ago.

The incredible sound of many chirping birds in its depths was almost deafening this morning, but with so many leaves, pretty hard to catch a bird in focus within the frame, for it’s a nature photographer that I am in retirement – the Grey Fantail above, caught by the lens was in a very lucky series of shots.

But the Japanese Maple on the left-hand side of the fence is bursting with new growth and a powerhouse of young buds and leaves for the bird-life in the area.   It’s also much less densely foliaged at the moment.

I was watching a YouTube online of some Willy Wagtails singing and a mother feeding it’s tiny offspring (which I’ll share next time I see a Willy Wagtail) when I noticed a flash of movement out of the corner of my eye.

I turned and saw the rear end of olive-green feathers and knew without a doubt I was looking at a new bird in my tree.

For ‘my’ tree it is as I am the tenant to benefit the most from its bird-attracting new foliage in Spring.

At first, I thought it might be a White-plumed Honeyeater which I’d seen a couple of times in past years, but there were more olive-green feathers on the bird (below) than a honeyeater.  The photo below actually looks like the rear or back of a Bell Miner.

I watched as the bird jumped from branch to branch between the bright green young leaves.

The #$@%! autofocus on the telephoto lens wouldn’t focus.

I’m actually fairly good at getting one focal point between branches and foliage after practising so much in recent years, but for some weird reason, it wouldn’t autofocus today.   My eyesight is too poor to use the manual focus ring on the DSLR/lens, but on autofocus, well, let’s just say I’ve had plenty of practice photographing the local birdlife.

I waited patiently for the bird to appear near the top of the tree where I’d have a clear view.

I knew that time would come as its the tiny new shoots that the birds like to graze on in Spring and those tiny leaves are in profusion at the top of the tree where the sun kisses the young branch tips.

Then the bird flew up to the top, turned so I could see its white eye-ring and I knew straight away it was a Silvereye (western race)  which doesn’t have the blue feathers of the eastern race – Zosterops lateralis chloronotus to be exact.

This is the first time in 4 years since I moved to the area that I’ve seen a Silvereye.

So I’m thrilled to share this shot with you today, as I can see by the fine downy feathers and small beak, it’s a young chick………very young-looking in the following shot.   I would say only days or a week old?

Every time I get a bit ‘down’ and dispirited in Lockdown, it’s the birds who uplift me with their presence and song.

A LITTLE ADVENTURE – 13th July 2014

As I sit indoors watching the wild winds toss the foliage and trees around outdoors and the blue sky shines down upon our lovely quiet housing estate, I can’t help but long for a little adventure.

A trip up the country.

THE GOLDEN HOUR OF THE DAY- COUNTRY VICTORIA

Scenes of some mountains.

Or hills would do.

Anywhere but here indoors.

Then I feel a little embarrassed in talking about such longing as the wildfires devastate the west coast of the U.S.   I watched some of the YouTubes on the fires a short time ago and once again,  was horrified at so much loss on top of the massive COVID surges in the U.S.   Then I thought about the other countries crushed with war and civil unrest.   I thought about the millions starving and how each crisis was faced with courage and determination (to survive).

So I hope you won’t think me insensitive in wanting a little adventure at the moment.

Just like my maternal Grandmother, second from the left, in the picture below.  it looks like she was a great walker and adventurer.  Check out the old boots my female ancestors were wearing up in this gold-mining town.

Irene, Helen, Margaret (Daisy)? their Aunt?, amd Mine Mgr at Morning Star Mine Woods Point – Early 1930s

OR my Mother in her youth – shown below with her bushwalking friends.   I always think of my mother in her garden, cooking, sewing or doing something indoors.

It wasn’t until I found the photo below and a few others that I discovered she was a great bushwalker before she came to Melbourne and got married.

MY MOTHER ON THE FAR RIGHT WITH BUSHWALKING FRIENDS

Back to the story………

Back in winter 2014, I felt like a little adventure too.  Not having a car means some outings (or adventures), have to be fairly close to home or at least close to public transport.

I decided to catch the train down to the bayside beach I visited many times in my childhood.

One of my paternal Uncles lived there with his family so I knew it well.

(or I thought I did)

I remembered the fun we used to have in the large sand dunes and picnics on the soft deep sand, sheltering from the wind with our large colourful beach umbrella or spreading the large beach towels and picnic rug between 2 high sand dunes.   My younger brother was still a baby, but that never stopped us having little adventures, either with just our parents,  or with the family friends we shared so many happy school holidays with.

Note: the family beach scenes below were made at Portarlington, not Carrum, but they serve to illustrate the scene.

My older brother and I used to take running jumps from the top of the highest sand dune we could find…..as long as it had lots of tufts of coastal grass to make climbing in the deep soft sand easier.

I don’t remember much of my childhood but I do remember those jumping competitions.

I don’t have any photos of us walking along the beach at low tide, on wet sand at dusk or even exploring rock pools or shell strewed wet sand at low tide.  But that’s what we did many, all those years ago.

I also loved to search for jellyfish in the receding tide.   To find one of those fat, curly jellyfish was considered a rare prize.

I still love walking along the beach looking for unusual shells or clambering over rocks,  peering into rock pools.

Anyway, I set off pretty early (for me) and walked down to the local train station on the 13th July 2014.

I ignored the weather forecast……….

…..despite it being mid-winter, very overcast and poor light for photography:  for, after all, that’s the reason for my nature walks since retirement.   Photography.

Something like an hour or more later, after stopping about 20 times for each suburban train station, (should have checked the time-table for an express train), I arrived at the tiny seaside town of Carrum.

It was nothing like the childhood memory.   It wasn’t like a quaint seaside town.

No smell of hot fish and chips either.

Did we eat hot fish and chips down the beach on family outings I ask myself now?   Probably not as we always packed a picnic lunch from home.

Carrum beach was all so very ordinary.

I finally found how to get to the beach via a side street from the train station platform and walked through a gap next to a beach house.

Where were all the spectacular sand dunes I remembered?

Why was the beach so narrow and what was that long boardwalk stretching far into the distance?

Had some of the beach washed away?   Or was it just high tide?   (Note: I didn’t think to look at the tidal info online before I left home).

I took a few quick photos and then dark storm clouds finally opened up and lashed the area with a torrential downpour.

Within about 15-20 minutes I gave up on my little adventure and still struggling to keep my umbrella from turning inside out and my camera bag and tiny backpack getting wet, I walked as quickly as I could back to the train station and caught the first available train home.

By the time I reached my own suburban train station the sun came out and it turned into a beautiful afternoon and a very enjoyable walk home.

There’s still that child in me that loves to explore, but perhaps I should REALLY look at the weather forecast in more detail AND perhaps I should just set off with no expectations in mind to avoid disappointment.

Some of my favourite memories and little adventures have come about in retirement, by just setting off from home, with no destination in mind, just out to enjoy whatever comes my way.

MORNING VISITOR

I heard a slightly different bird call as I was reading my overnight emails this morning and turned to face the slight gap in the louvred windows on the right-hand side of my lounge room.

It was a  Common Blackbird (Turdus merula) standing on my balcony fence.

On the rare times, I’ve seen a Blackbird in my (now depleted and re-homed) balcony garden in the past, it’s usually flown away before I could get my camera out.

This morning was different.   The Blackbird actually stayed for a while, so I first picked up the Canon DSLR with the 150-500mm lens and took a couple of shots.

No good, there was a bright spot behind the left-hand side of the bird and I’d forgotten to change yesterday’s high ISO of 3200 back to 800 (it’s usual setting).

I quickly got the Sony a6000 out (with its ‘kit’ lens of 55-210mm).   I was lucky enough to have the time to steady my arms and breathing and hold the camera very still and fire off 3 shots before the Blackbird flew awat,.

In the first shot, it turned its head at the same moment I pressed the shutter button, so it looks amusingly headless.

The next shot was OK…..if a little too far to the right of the composition.

The adult male blackbird is very distinctive: jet black with orange-yellow beak and eye-ring.  The female and juvenile are dark brown, paler and rufous on the underparts and brownish-yellow beak.  The female often shows a dark-bordered whitish throat.

Its calls sound like a ‘chink’ and ‘chack’: melodious, attractive fluting song.

Instantly, its sunny, chirpy disposition became mine and I was so thankful for its song.

**************

Earlier this week, our State’s Premier announced an additional 2 weeks lockdown and curfew to that 6-week current one which was due to end next Sunday the 13th.  He also announced that businesses – cafes and ordinary shops – wouldn’t re-open until the last week in October (I think) – my memory is more dysfunctional than usual at the moment.

So no shops open for quite some time yet.   I’ve now got so many errands listed on my TO DO list.    Most need to be done in-store, not online. Especially my hair-cut which is in the city.  I can’t do that online  😀   I did cut it myself earlier this year, but with a shoulder injury at the moment, I can’t hold my hands/arms up high.

So there’s not much activity happening in Melbourne (and its suburbs) for quite some time yet and Stage 4 lockdown will continue.

Regional Victoria has had no new cases overnight so they look more likely to step down a Stage if that continues.  They are currently on Stage 3 restrictions.

The Premier’s idea is that when we get down to single-digit new cases for a consistent period of 14 days, restrictions and curfew will be lifted……… (mostly).   We’re hoping interstate borders will be re-opened in the coming month(s).  Surprisingly, some of our fresh food comes from interstate, although I got all I ordered online this week, whereas most of the previous weeks orders were missing items.

Sigh!

 

GREY FANTAIL (Rhipidura fuliginosa)

Exciting news!

Yesterday when I was cleaning out my desk drawers, (a task one does in ‘lockdown’), I spotted a movement out of the corner of my eye.

I looked up and thought I saw a bird in the eucalyptus tree beside my balcony fence.   After collecting my DSLR and long 150-500mm lens out of its soft pouch on the floor, I slowly stood up and edged sideways towards the lounge balcony door.

Now,  normally this movement on my part would scare any birds away, but with the foliage being thick and not much light, I felt the only way to get a shot was open the balcony door and have no glass between the bird and myself.  I’d cleaned the exterior of my lounge windows only a week ago, but some rain, thick with yellow/orange dust, had re-soiled the windows mid-week.

FIRST SHOT OF THE GREY FANTAIL 5/9/20. I CLEARLY NEEDED TO GET CLOSER TO SHOOT OVER THE BALCONY FENCE RAIL.

The bird didn’t move much.   Take note of its soft downy breast feathers (below).   These and the size of the fantail suggested a very young bird, probably born in the last week or so.   It also looked rather fat so I might suggest it was well-fed by its mother?

A BETTER SHOT BUT WITH AN ISO of 800, CLEARLY A BIT OF NOISE or GRAINYNESS IN THE BACKGROUND FOLIAGE

It was very small and I wondered if the faint white on its face denoted a tiny Willy Wagtail chick initially.   Willy Wagtails have very distinct white ‘eyebrows’. I managed to get 2 shots before it flew away and when I downloaded them, I saw at once that it was a tiny Grey Fantail chick.

THE NEXT SHOT OF THE SECOND VISIT. I WAS HOPING FOR A FRONT-ON VIEW, BUT THE SPOT OF LIGHT REFLECTING IN ITS EYE (MAKING IT A FAIRLY GOOD BIRD SHOT) WAS MISSING.

It was so cute and similar in size to the Superb Fairy-wrens who move with such speed around my balcony area.

Next minute I saw more movement so once again repeated the exercise……got up off my desk chair and slowly moved to the doorway which I’d left open.

I actually repeated this 6 times as the tiny chick flew over to the other side of the road to the tall trees and back to my tree again.   It whipped around to the back of the tree and I watched for some time as it came back to the front-facing me.   Over and over, several times.

I HAD TO STEADY MY LEFT ARM AGAINST THE DOORWAY POST (to get handheld shots).   I missed quite a few when it moved.

It turned continuously as though it was showing off its new coat of feathers to its adoring public – aka ME!

THEN THE SUNLIGHT DISAPPEARED BELOW THE HORIZON AT THE TOP OF MY HILL AND THE TREE FOLIAGE, WHICH WAS ALREADY THICK AND DARK,  got PLUNGED INTO extreme DARK.

I switched the ISO to the highest speed on my Canon DSLR – 3200.   This high ISO creates a lot of noise, or graininess, in the background, but for a hand-held shot and a bird continuously on the move on that branch, it was the only way to get the bird in focus in such low light..

I walked indoors to get out the Sony a6000 ‘mirrowless’ with its fast 11 fps (frames per second) continuous shooting speed.   The Sony has a top ISO of 6400 which was the only way I was going to get more shots of the fantail in the dim light.   I only have one lens for this camera, but that would have to do.

With my eyesight, I can’t tell which of the following 2 shots is in focus, so I’ve given you both. With only the 55-210 kit lens for my Sony left now (the 18-200mm lens died in a fall 3 months after I bought the Sony in 2015).   I traded some lenses to buy the Sony, partly because of its light weight with my declining spinal condition, but also because, at that time it was the fastest fps (frames per second) on the market.

So the 2 shots below were handheld with my left elbow resting on the doorframe to try and steady the camera.  Hope you can see the bird right of centre.

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I’m hoping to see this tiny new chick a few more times in the afternoons.   I’m not sure why it flew back and forth betweeen the tall tree over the road and my eucalyptus tree so many times, but it kept me entertained for quite some time.

The first (and only) time I saw a Grey Fantail previously was in the Japanese Maple tree on the 19th September 2019.

That Fantail was fully grown (to my eyes) and continually flew up, down and all around the branches in the maple for 3 hours.

Here are a few of the 2019 shots.   You’ll notice the new Spring growth on the bare-limbed winter tree.

Yesterday’s tiny bird sighting really made my day.

A friend who lives on the top floor of this building rang me on Friday to say there were new ducklings on the large puddle of water near Frogs Hollow and also 2 black swans further down the river on the pond.

Dare I hope for another walk and some more photos in this glorious Spring sunshine?

You’ll have to keep following my nature blog to find out   🙂

SPRING

From the archives

22nd August 2017

Early Spring blossom

It’s that time of year when all the trees are sporting new growth.   I was looking through all the 1st September images in my photo library last night hoping to get one image from each of the 10 years since I took up photography,  but there didn’t seem to be many, so I decided to just share any images in this season from my archives.

The two images in this post are from a row of trees edging a children’s playground next to a large green oval where I photographed the pink and grey Galahs.

(I don’t see these Galahs in any other place in my area, just grazing on the grass seed in this one spot I might add)..