OFFLINE FOR A WHILE…..

I will be offline for a while (due to back/shoulder/neck pain).

 

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NANKEEN NIGHT HERON (Nycticorax caledonicus) – 8th June, 2013

Surfing through my archives makes me think I took my best bird photos in 2013.

Is it because I could get up closer to the bird life in the Royal Botanic Gardens and Melbourne Zoo?

I think some of my best bird shots were of the Nankeen Night Heron.

It’s still my favourite Australian bird.

I remember the day in the Botanic Gardens when I first saw it and thought I’d captured a shot of a rare bird.  Of course as time went by, I realised it was as common as mud in the Botanic Gardens.  You just had to pick the right time of day, season and location……..and it did help to use a tripod as they were mainly on the islands in the middle of the large Ornamental Lake.

The shots in this post were made at Melbourne Zoo and I used the wooden post of the viewing platform as a tripod.  They were not caged or in the large Aviary.  They lived on the enormous island in the middle of an area I used to call Pelican’s ‘Lagoon’ (as that was where the Australian Pelicans and Cormorants used to gather to be fed at 4.00pm each afternoon by the Zoo Staff).

If you’re a bird photographer, do you think your best bird shots were of your favourite bird species, or do you think the best shots were…… right time, right place and proximity to the bird?

AUTUMN ISN’T ALWAYS FINE

The week following the previous post’s images (from my archives) wasn’t fine at all.

The 17th May 2013 down at St Kilda beach, one of Melbourne’s closest bayside beaches, was freezing cold and a very brisk wind indeed.

A Pacific Gull basks in a ray of sunlight to warm up.
Halfway along St Kilda’s long pier, the waves crashing on the rocky outcrop below look as though they’d be very cold indeed.
At the end of St Kilda pier, I sit in the windless side of the iconic Kiosk looking over the boat marina to the city in the distance.
Looks like rain over the city.
WHISKERED TERN (Chlidonias hybridus)
The city skyline is bathed in sunlight after the rain clouds blew away.

The St Kilda Pavilion is an historic kiosk located at the end of St Kilda Pier built in 1904, originally known as Parer’s Pavilion and later renamed Kirby’s Kiosk but locally known as St Kilda Kiosk. Burnt down in 2003 and later rebuilt to its present form. Excellent Fish’n’Chips
Must have been high tide this day, as the ramp leading down to the sand was almost covered in water.

 

LOOKING FOR AUTUMN

Since I moved from the south-eastern side of Melbourne where I lived next to the Royal Botanic Gardens, I’ve been planning a trip back to the RBG to capture some more images of Autumn.

Going through my archives this morning, I came across the photos I shot on the 6th May 2013.

Seems like early to mid-May is the best week to go.

Here’s a few old images to whet your appetite.

And RBG images wouldn’t be complete without a shot of my favourite bird photography subject – the Nankeen Night Heron – captured on this same Autumn day.

(for those interested, this shot was made after scrambling down a steep slippery slope of wet rotting Autumn leaves under a large tree and nearly falling into the lake.  While quite funny at the time, I’m glad I saved myself in time as I would have had to walk home in a muddy, wet pair of jeans, but more importantly, I would have missed this favourite shot of the Heron.  This half-sunken tree the heron is standing on is hidden from the regular walking path and I liked to claim it as my secret spot to see birds up close).

But while one can get  close, one false move and the bird(s) fly away.

Of course there are flowers in bloom in Autumn – here’s a few.

Hebe
Climbing Foxglove (if my memory serves me right).
Cobra lily (Arisarum vulgare)
Indian Shot Plant (Canna)

 

MORE IMAGES FROM ‘A PERFECT AUTUMN DAY’ (on Wednesday)

A ‘second’ PERFECT AUTUMN DAY

Yesterday afternoon was just as glorious as the previous day (and mentioned in the previous post) and a fine promise of the lovely Autumn weather to come (over the next few weeks).

Autumn and Spring are my kind of weather with warm sunny days, cool breezes, intermittent rainy days to refresh the earth/air AND………… in my mind, excellent walking weather.

(we won’t count today which is overcast, cool and intermittent spots of rain on my balcony floor so far, hence me being indoors writing and uploading this post).

I decided to go back to Pipermakers Park to take some photos of the wonderful mosaics to share with you.  Yesterday I walked along the western perimeter of Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve and straight through the landscaped area up-river to the Park.  For a change, I walked the shortest possible route without stopping to do any photography on the way.  It took exactly 10 minutes from my back door to the Park’s Colonial garden ruins.

 

The colours of the map of Australia (with the tiny island state of Tasmania on the lower right side) are the 3 colours of the Aboriginal Flag………… Black – represents the Aboriginal people of Australia…….. Yellow circle – represents the Sun, the giver of life and protector……. Red – represents the red earth, the red ochre used in ceremonies and Aboriginal peoples’ spiritual relation to the land.  The colourful array of flags around the map I presume are all the nations in the early settlement?

I decided to make this another long post and include some of Pipermakers Park’s history, as I find the whole idea of manufacturing companies making a herb and vegetable garden and building bluestone cottages for their workers in the mid 1800s, absolutely fascinating.

 

The mosaic below is enormous (about 15 feet across?) and filled with interesting colours and details.

Sadly, the 12 bluestones worker’s cottages from the mid 1800s are no longer visible (well, not that I saw in my walks around the area), only a couple of bluestone factory buildings and garden ruins.  I notice the garden paths have been raked and some of the dead grass in the herb garden replaced with bark mulch on Wednesday’s visit.  This is only a tiny segment of the work and money required to restore such a vast site to its former glory.

The Herb Garden looked rather stark with its empty beds, but at least you can see some of the mosaics a little more easily. and some bluestone rock wall ruins (which may have been the worker’s cottages at one end of the garden???).  The information office seems to be open on a Tuesday, so I’ll drop in sometime soon to see what else I can discover.  My knowledge of the history of the area is certainly very sketchy at best.

I took a hand brush over to the park yesterday to clean twigs and small stones from some of the mosaics and it was interesting to see how well some of the colours and patterns have withstood the test of some 150+ years.

At the risk of making this post far too long, I’ve summarised the early history from a couple of Mr Google’s websites.

  • Pipemakers Park is an eight hectare reserve located on Van Ness Avenue on the Maribyrnong River in Maribyrnong.  It is located in the Maribyrnong River Valley and includes flood plain and a steep escarpment along the Van Ness Avenue boundary.
  • Prior to European settlement, the Marin Balluk were the people of the area occupying land extending to Kororoit Creen to the west and Sunbury to the north.
  • They were part of the Wurundjeri Tribe and members of the Kulin Nation. Archaeological evidence further upstream has proved the presence of Aboriginal people in the Maribyrnong River Valley for more than 40,000 years, however no archeological evidence has been found of Aboriginal activity in the reserve itself.
  • The river was a valuable food source, and the escarpment offered good viewing points of the valley, however the area was probably not a major camping site due to the tidal nature of the river, it lacked a fresh water supply.
  • The area was explored and settled early in Victoria’s European history, with survey and land licences occurring in the 1840s. Pastoral activity quickly gave way to industrial uses with Raleigh’s boiling-down works established in 1848.
  • The Melbourne Meat Preserving Company occupied the site in 1867 followed by Australian Frozen Meat Export Company in 1880.
  • The Hume Pipe Factory occupied the site in 1912 and production halted in 1974,
  • In 1978 the area was purchased by the Melbourne Board of Works. A Bicentennial grant of $2 million in 1987 supported development of the site and in 1988 Pipemakers Park was opened.

The Melbourne Meat Preserving Co. pioneered meat preserving by the vacuum process, as the Australian Frozen Meat Export Co. pioneered bulk freezing and is credited with the first successful frozen meat export in the world.

Since my bookshelf has a couple of books (and the TV series) of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s (1874 – 1922) early exploration of the Antarctic and mentions the tinned meat he carried on the ship ‘Discovery’, I wondered if those cans had originated from The Melbourne Meat Preserving Company?   Who knows?  Perhaps it’s not a stretch of the imagination to think that many early Antarctic voyages included tinned meat from this site?

And this is enough typing for this Easter weekend break.

(alright, I didn’t type it all……. I did cut and paste much of it from Mr Google)

Phew! 😉  🙂  🙂

A PERFECT AUTUMN DAY

Yesterday was a perfect Autumn Day on my side of the Maribyrnong River.

Blue sky and sunshine all throughout the day.  The weather forecast had mentioned fog in the early morning, but of course I arise too late to catch that.

Only the occasional light fluffy cloud wafted around on the cool breeze, which makes for a delightful day to spend outdoors.

Mid morning, I’d been sitting at the computer reading a Master Plan made in 2015 by my local Council and was dismayed to see that a walking path through the Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve and a ‘lookout platform‘ over the small lake had a LOW priority (amidst the 50 items on their agenda).

When I finally finished reading my emails and got dressed I headed outdoors to check whether the deluge of rain and wild weather we’d had in Melbourne a few days ago had filled the lake in Pipemakers Park.  It had been dried up with only a small puddle left on the eastern edge a couple of weeks ago.

I headed down the wide gravel walking path to the river and could see the Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve lake was as full as usual from my raised position looking over the Reserve chain-wire fence.  I noticed that the path I had extended, (from Andy the grass cutter’s wide tractor made path), had well and truly filled in with thick undergrowth over the Summer months.

My path was now totally invisible in the foreground of the image below.

Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve was lushly covered and a rich green from recent rainfall.  Actually the Reserve from this side always looks green, just more of a vivid green depending on the light and time of day.  Late in the day it looks more of a golden-green as the Sun sinks behind the hill-top.

Soon, perhaps even now (?), the weather would have cooled enough to send the snakes back to their beds, and I might attempt to walk  a short distance into this Reserve in the near future.  You may remember that I’d seen signs warning of snakes in the area in the warmer weather and had left this thickly wooded reserve well alone for some months.

When I was nearly to the river I turned left to walk the eastern perimeter path of the Reserve which runs in line with the river cycling/walking path.  The normally low-mown grass was about 6-8 inches high.   Andy, (the grass-cutter), quite clearly hadn’t been around for a couple of weeks and the rain had already started to green-up Summer’s remains.

This eastern perimeter of the Reserve had the remnants of high dead grass and trees in general, but looked surprisingly green underfoot.  Doesn’t take long for Mother Nature to send a green cloak across the ground after a decent rainfall.

As I walked further ‘up-river’ the grass got higher and I very nearly twisted an ankle in an grass-covered hole.   I do so hope Andy will ride his tractor over this perimeter path again soon.   Can’t have accident-prone me adding to my high number of falls in old(er) age.  (note: the reason I have more falls than most humans is that I tend to walk everywhere, instead of driving a car like most Aussies – well that’s my theory anyway 🙂 Secondly, I have a bad habit of walking backwards or sideways with the camera against my eye and don’t watch where I’m going 🙂 Thirdly, I take after my Father’s side of the family and………you get the drift). 

I crossed over to Pipemakers Park and walked down to, what was, the dried up lake.

I looked over to the sculptured tree trunk in the middle.  All 5 ponds/lakes in this area have a bare-limbed tree trunk sculpture in their midst, which is rather attractive as a landscape element in the middle of the 6-8 foot high water reeds.

I was pleased to see the pond was nearly full of water again, but as always, tall grass and reeds hid most of the water surface.   I didn’t see any water birds, but could certainly hear the sounds of the Australian bush orchestra playing a full rehearsal.

Frogs croaking made the perfect back-drop to the main Bird Symphony.

This is the first time in the 6 months I’ve lived here that I’ve heard frog sounds in this particular part of the park.

Then up the winding path through the landscaped area to Pipemakers Park and the ruins of the Colonial garden, to see if the vine over the concrete arbor had changed colour.

It had.


 Then a brief walk around the Colonial garden ruins.

Someone had obviously started clearing out the dead grass beds and raked some of the pathways.  Many olive trees were full of green or black fruit.

The dozens of beautiful mosaics dotting the paths and garden ruins needed a good sweep to make them photo-worthy though.  I made some photos of the mosaics last year, but they weren’t that clear on the day.

I wondered if there was a Volunteering day that had brought locals in to do some maintenance and restoration of these early 19th century worker’s gardens.

I’d love to see the herb and rose garden restored and I’d certainly be willing to help in some way.  I notice the raised Rose Garden beds are high enough so I wouldn’t have to bend over much.

Note to self……must do a Google search or drop in to the nearby information office to ask about this.  I keep running this mental note through my foggy brain, but keep forgetting (as I get distracted and side-lined easily in my daily routine).  My short-term memory is like a sieve anyway.  I suppose there’s nothing to stop me going over and doing some weeding or sweeping regardless of who is doing maintenance.  If there’s one thing I’m really good at, it’s gardening maintenance.  I can’t do heavy digging or gardening, but many hands make light work – my dextrous hands could be just the bonus this old garden needs.

I left the area to walk over the short grass back down-river where I interrupted some Red-rumped Parrots (Psephotus haematonotus) feeding on grass seed.  I only had my Sony a6000 with it’s 55-210mm lens with me (as it was a bad back-pain day and I couldn’t carry a DSLR & ‘birding’ long lens), but my shots were good enough to crop down a little to make the birds larger in the frame.

The 3 colourful birds are the males and lit up by a shaft of light, is the plainer olive-green female.

The Parrots scattered as I slowly advanced towards them.

I had my usual black attire and rubber-soled walking shoes, so I usually get mistaken for a tree if I walk slowly enough.  Seems Red-rumped Parrots can see through my disguise though.

Next minute they flew up to the tree branches and my shot of them among the deep shade was sharp enough to crop down and lighten the shadows revealing the yellow underside of one bird below.

Then on I walked back past the ‘hidden’ lake and on past Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve…… down-river.

Some shots of that downriver area later, as today has dawned another perfect Autumn Day and I’m heading outdoors again.

Don’t know where.

Just somewhere in Nature.

I hope the Bloggers I follow will understand my lack of comments and/or Likes on their Blogs these days, but an exacerbation of back pain this year means an exacerbation of shoulder, elbow and wrist pain making typing my own blog about the most I can do (in general).  I follow mainly photography blogs now, that are filled with images (as opposed to some writing blogs I’ve enjoyed in the past).

Luckily Photography just needs the touch of a shutter button and eyes wide open 🙂

WILD WEATHER IN MY STATE

I knew if was cold and continuous rain yesterday around Melbourne, but 80mm rain overnight in the western suburbs gave us a good soaking.

Hopefully the dried up ponds and lake edges in the parks and nature reserves surrounding my area will have filled up for the bird, insect life and wild critters in the area.

A group of Australia Wood Ducks feed along the dried up edges of the pond at Maribyrnong Wetlands.

Wild weather, flash flooding and SNOW in alpine regions (2 months early) made me glad all I needed to do overnight was get up in the early hours and close my slightly open windows to stop the noise of the blinds flapping.  It was one of those nights when the howling wind in my apartment building made me glad l had a roof over my head.

ST KILDA BEACH – 23rd August, 2015

How to reduce a massive photo library?

Easy.

Get Ruthless.

Be Bold.

Delete the practice shots in particular.  Why keep them?

I’ve now deleted most of the old shots which were used to illustrate the day’s nature walk on this blog.  After all, once the walk is done, its done and finished.

So, while I’d got down to 25,000+ images in my Photo Library 18 months ago, I’ve only got 2900+ left today.  By the end of the this week, the total will be 2000 – my new Target.

(note: I have shot over 80,000 images since I took up Photography as a hobby in May 2010, but lost quite a lot from a couple of computer crashes on my old Windows desktop computer – my Apple Mac Pro, purchased in October 2012, is set up with a remote auto back up and once the 2 TB back-up disc is full, it sends me a message and then, it drops off the oldest backup and makes room for the current day’s back-up).

I was aiming for 5000 images in my Archives and over the weekend, I got really, REALLY, fed up trying to find a particular image to illustrate a new post, so deleted about 3000 more.  By the time I’d finished, I felt as though an enormous weight had been lifted off my shoulders.  Now, I can find any old image I want.  Now, I no longer have 900+ folders in my archives.

Out of a few hundred photos shot on the 23rd August 2015 down at St Kilda Beach, I only kept 11 and although long-time followers have seen them before, here they are again in this post for the new followers.

I like these shots.  I like where I placed the horizon, the composition and so on.  While they were shot in winter and it was pretty cold on this day, the light was good (mostly 🙂 )

The sun had come out and the wind had dropped (mostly) – Melbourne only has a windless day about 2-3 times a year 🙂

….and by this last shot on that day, you can see that people were on the shore (or in the water) enjoying the break in the Winter weather.

It rained all day yesterday and the temperature seemed to be closer to Winter (than Autumn).

Cold and raining today too, so a good day to plan which park or nature reserve I’ll explore next.

At least I don’t have to water my balcony herb garden.

FOOTSCRAY PARK

After 6 months of living in the western suburbs of Melbourne, I finally got around to visiting Footscray Park yesterday afternoon.

I had previously dismissed this park as being of minimal interest (when passing by on the bus route).  But yesterday, there were still a few flowers in bloom at this time of Autumn.  It’s not a place I’d go to again, except maybe next Spring.  After all the years of walking around the Royal Botanic Gardens when I lived on the south-east side of Melbourne, most public parks and gardens seem rather ‘ordinary’ in comparison.  Yesterday I could hear lots of bird song along the paths, but apart from Common Mynas hopping about on the lawns, only managed to capture a Little Wattlebird high up in a tree.

I’d rather photograph a wildflower than a cultivated one now.

These days I prefer to go on a Nature Walk (with my camera), somewhere a little more rustic too.

  • Footscray Park is one of the largest and most intact examples of an Edwardian park in Australia. The 15-hectare park is located on the south bank of the Maribyrnong River in Footscray in Victoria. It is classified as a heritage place on the Victorian Heritage Register for its aesthetic, horticultural and social significance to the State of Victoria and was the first gardens to be placed on the register. The park is noted for its botanical collection, ornamental ponds and garden structures.

BIRD LIFE ON THE POND

On the way back from Footscray Park late yesterday afternoon (post to come on those images), I stopped at Maribyrnong Wetlands (Edgewater Wetlands or Burndip Park depending on which sign you’re looking at around the pond).  The sun was starting to go down towards the nearby hill and the last few shots were lit by a golden beam of light.

The ‘regulars’ were swimming lazily around pecking at the occasional pond weed, but mostly having a last stretch for the day, before settling down for the night.

 

WILL IT, OR WON’T IT?

Rain I mean.

There’d been light rain showers on and off for a few days and I welcomed not having to water my balcony garden every night at dusk.  It had become such a chore this past summer that I was close to clearing the whole potted garden out 🙂  Even with the light rain, the plastic pots dry out surprisingly quickly.   I gave up on the more attractive terracotta pots many years ago.

Yesterday, I was determined to go for a short walk to get some fresh air.

The sky looked ominous.

It had been raining lightly overnight and threatening to rain some more as the morning passed by.  ‘Daylight Savings‘ had finished Saturday night in Melbourne too.

So I decided to just walk down the gravel path to the river (and back), with my cameras inside waterproof bags in my wheeled trolley.  Unfortunately, my lower back pain is making it harder and harder to carry my little backpack and camera bag over my shoulders these days.

It’s probably only  a 6-7 minute brisk walk to the river from my ‘back gate’, but I walk so slowly looking around me at the bird life, that it usually takes me 15-20 minutes (or more).

I stopped at the end of the curved gravel path and looked over the small fence (which stops people falling in the artificial water course in Frogs Hollow).This divides the murky water and high water reeds from the riverside walking/cycling track.

I could have lightened the exposure on the image above, but it shows how poor the light was when facing into the sun covered clouds, so I left it slightly under-exposed.  It was not a particularly nice day, but the sky did lighten later as I stood searching the water surface for some bird life.

This small fence is a great place to rest my heavy long telephoto ‘birding’ lens – so there’s really no need to take a tripod for low-light exposures.

There were dozens of tiny birds zooming overhead and a couple of times, they seemed to be only about 4-5 feet over my head but totally impossible to photograph.  I’m just too slow.  I saw one tiny bird on a water reed, but by the time I changed cameras (having just used my landscape lens) it was gone.  I think it was an Eastern Spinebill.  Then I saw a few flashes of blue overhead and conceded those tiny birds were probably male Splendid Fairy-wrens.

There were lots of Willy Wag-tails about, both on the gravel path and even on the water reeds.  They seem to fly down to the ground, wag their tails this way and that just to tease me into taking a few photos.  Then when I got closer,  they fly into the air and land further along the path as though showing me the way.  

It doesn’t take much to amuse me in retirement 🙂

A Pacific Black Duck swum lazily by on the artificial water-course.

Then it came a bit closer and turned side-on, but with the algae-covered water, it made a rather ordinary shot.   The algae seems to have grown quite a lot over the hot summer months.  Perhaps it’ll die back now its Autumn.

There were 2 Purple Dusky Moorhens in the distance.  But a bit too far away to make for a good shot.

Then out of the corner of my eye I spotted a Noisy Miner settle  upon the fence and managed to get a couple of clear shots.  These Miners are quite common in Frogs Hollow, but are usually up on a tree branch with the sun in front of me, so as to form a silhouette.  In fact, there are many bird species which can be seen with the naked eye, but only photographed as a silhouette in Frogs Hollow.

A walker stopped to ask what lens I was using and from then on we had a great chat about the various birds we’d seen or photographed.  He was a Nikon user, but admitted he hadn’t done much photography lately.  Nothing like a chat with a Kindred Spirit to pass the time of day.  He told me about another park which was filled with bird life, but it sounded like it was about 45-60 minutes brisk walk north (around the bend in the river),  For me that would mean a 1 1/2-2 hour walk.  Not that I mind walking, but I tend to walk slowly and keep stopping looking up and around for birds and since I lose track of time when out bird-watching.   I might have ended up walking back home in the dark.   I have my tiny lantern and a pencil-sized LED torch in my backpack, but after a warning from a couple the other week, I am wary of walking home in the dark in this unlit area.

Eventually, the fellow nature lover left me as he had a long walk ahead of him and now that ‘daylight savings’ has finished over this past weekend, it will get dark much earlier on overcast days.

I walked the short distance home via the Frogs Hollow low-lying field (instead of the higher gravel path) and disturbed about 7-8 Purple Swamphens grazing on the low-lying grass. They flew away before I could get close enough for a shot though.

This whole coming week is going to be great weather with no rain – sounds promising for some nature photography.  But Melbourne’s weather is predictably UN-predictable.

Next park to explore will be Footscray Gardens.  I had dismissed it as being rather ordinary-looking when I went past on the bus recently, but it IS relatively close to a bus stop and when I read about it over the weekend on Wikipedia, it sounds like it’s worth a visit.  Might be a good place to do some flower photography next Spring.

  • Footscray Park is one of the largest and most intact examples of an Edwardian park in Australia. The 15-hectare park is located on the south bank of the Maribyrnong River in Footscray in Victoria. It is classified as a heritage place on the Victorian Heritage Register for its aesthetic, horticultural and social significance to the State of Victoria and was the first gardens to be placed on the register. The park is noted for its botanical collection, ornamental ponds and garden structures.

While I’ve been housebound on hot days, I’ve been exploring the local area via Mr Google, so with cooler weather on the horizon, it’s time to explore more in reality.  I’ve printed off a couple of maps and some bus timetables too.

I’ve also cut out reading ‘writing’ blogs for the most, too.  When the weather is good I don’t like to waste too much time online.