Duck Day – Queens Park, Moonee Ponds

Saturday was a Duck Day.

I’ve been mostly housebound in recent times and somehow never got over to the Royal Botanic Gardens to photograph Autumn.

I caught a tram over to Queens Park for a couple of hours on Saturday, but the light was lousy, I couldn’t hold the camera still for long and the wind blew the few flowers around too much to get sharp focus.  Out of a couple of hundred shots, I only kept about 40 images and these were mostly under-exposed.

Looking towards the sun (due to being on that side of the lake) left my skies totally blown out and mostly white and the bird life in silhouette.  I tried to fix them to no avail in post processing yesterday.  I tried lightening the shadows in the image below, but my meagre editing skills are not sufficient to replace the sky (without reloading Lightroom or Photoshop).  I have the discs in my drawer from my old desktop computer days pre 2012 and there IS a Mac disc in there somewhere, but I don’t have the sight or patience to do that degree of editing.  I only tweak the contrast, erase the annoying spots  and do some minor cropping etc in the El Capitan photo software usually.

In the end I tried to take photos where the sky wasn’t in the frame.  Easy when photographing the birds (only) actually.

I was amazed at how many ducks were on the lake.  There must have been at least 60-70 Pacific Black Ducks, either on the lake bank or in the murky looking water.  Occasionally they’d all take flight and it looked like the 2 groups were changing places – land or lake – backwards and forwards.  They didn’t seem to fly far.  It was very enjoyable watching them all take flight though.

Dozens of Eurasian Coots (charcoal black with white beaks), a young Australian Pelican, what looked like a Mallard, some Grey Teals (I think) and some Chestnut Teals also enjoyed the lake.  I chased a Little Pied Cormorant part way around the lake rim in an effort to catch it with a fish in its mouth, but only ended up with some blurred images of it with, what looked like a Yabbie, or some other sort of crustacean.  The 4 blurred images below were the best out of about 40 attempts.  The water on its back looks to be in better focus that its head.  Even setting the DLSR on continuous shooting didn’t score me a focused shot of its head (or the Yabbie), but it was a lot of fun trying.  I suppose I might have put the ISO on Auto in the low light conditions.  Ehrrr , but I didn’t think of it at the time.

I only caught a shot of this Pelican swimming away in the distance.  It had a different  coloured beak and feather pattern to the usual Australian Pelican and I wondered if it was a juvenile.

A man with a little point & shoot camera came up to chat and told me he’d never seen a Pelican on the lake before.  He did tell me he’d seen some (of my favourite) Nankeen Night Herons in the past though, so I’ll have to go in my archives and check the dates of my old Nankeen Night Heron images and see if they were from a certain date/week/month of the year.   There was one cormorant on the small island warming its feather for a while, but when it turned to profile so I could see its face, it closed its wings.

This shot below was one of the best of the day and I wasn’t sure, but wondered if it could be a young Grey Teal.  Female Pacific Black Ducks, female Chestnut Teals and Grey Teals look pretty similar to me, but my Guide Book says Grey Teals have red eyes and dark metallic looking legs with a softer brown feather colour.  If any follower knows for sure, let me know in the comment section.

I made another shot of the lovely mosaic near the cafe/kiosk which turned out much much better than that made on my first visit to this 22 hectare park.

Queens Park is mostly lawn and a few avenues of old trees with a couple of playgrounds for the children.  It doesn’t have the numerous flower beds like the Royal Botanic Gardens on the south-east side of Melbourne.   Only a few trees had Autumn Colour, but the children seemed to like playing with the leaves anyway.

The man I was chatting to next to the lake remarked that he’d never seen so many seagulls washing themselves before.  I couldn’t get a well focused shot of them flapping and washing themselves, but did get several of them standing still on or near the island in the lake.  I gave his observation some thought and agreed.  I’ve never seen seagulls flapping and washing themselves down the beach either.  Sure they do a lot of flapping and splashing, but this lot of seagulls actually looked to be washing themselves.  Shame I couldn’t capture a shot of the action.

 

 

Pacific Black Duck with a sleepy male Australian Wood Duck in the background on the island.

And lastly I saw this lone male Australian Wood Duck on the island a bit later on when it was standing, but it seemed to have something wrong with its wing.  Perhaps it was a juvenile moulting its soft downy feathers (which do tend to leave the bone/frame a bit bare), but the rest of the duck looked like an adult.  I have several images of young Australian Wood Ducks moulting and growing their adult feathers so am quite familiar with the ‘scruffy’ look of juveniles.

As to Health News…….The MRIs from a few weeks ago show a slipped disc in my neck and severe disc disease, 6 slipped discs in my lumbar spine and with the vertebrae eroding away (not osteoarthritis), I’m not sure how long my photography hobby will continue.  It’s getting harder to bend, kneel or twist & turn lately.  This disc condition  will not improve with exercise or physio due to the poor condition of the vertebrae.  In several spots there is almost no disc left at all, so you can well imagine how stiff and inflexible I’m becoming.  I often wonder if the Sheuermann’s disease had been picked up as a teenager, whether treatment could have made a difference.  Most teenagers afflicted with Scheuermann’s grow out of it in 2-3 years, but those that that don’t, (aka me), have a lot of back pain and scoliosis later in life.  This is made worse by the Fibromyalgia pain condition I’ve had since 1980.  In the meantime, blog following and blogging is being reduced more & more this year.

I must admit I seem to be taking 2 steps forward and 3 steps backwards in the last year or so.

 

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BACOPA (Sutera cordata)

I’ve photographed the lovely flowers of this blue Bacopa several times since I planted the seedling some time last year (?).  It has grown so well on my west-facing apartment balcony and was a delight to see every morning when I got up and sat down at my desk (which is facing the window and balcony garden).  A few weeks ago I give all my herbs and flowers a fairly aggressive haircut, especially the mint and Bacopa which was almost trailing on the ground from the top of the 10 inch pot.

The nursery label, which I’ve kept, says it has an abundance of flowers from Spring to Summer, so I fully expected it to lie a little dormant through Autumn, especially now that Winter in Melbourne is approaching.

Within days of the haircut, (about 8″ off the long tresses and a crew cut on top), it started flowering again and my image, made yesterday, shows a healthy show of colour once again.

I’m now wondering if it will flower all winter…..miracles do happen in my potted garden from time to time.

(and my 3 pots of Mint, which I use a lot in salads in summer, cut down to about 1″ stubble, is almost 5-6″ high in each pot again).

SHADES OF PINK

 

Grevillea ‘Little Drummer Boy’

 

SHADES OF GREEN

From the Archives……over the last 7 years.

Just how many (mainly) green photos can you shoot when you’re Living in Nature – I seem to have hundreds.  Here’s a small selection.

THERE & BACK

Quick walk there and back late this afternoon.

THERE & BACK IS…….. TO THE RIVER & BACK (about 7-8 minutes, but I always take an hour).  Had to hurry tonight as the sun was threatening to go behind the hill……and my elbow (slipped, whacked last Friday and x-rayed a few days ago) didn’t want to carry any weight.  Neither did my neck or lumbar spine.  Methinks I’ll have to find another hobby 🙂

Yesterday was the 17th May, seven years to the day since I bought a little Canon point & shoot camera and took up photography.

 

NEWELL’S PADDOCK WETLANDS & CONSERVATION AREA

This image is cropped about 65% of the original and I was handholding my heavy telephoto lens and DSLR, despite the weight..

I’m forever wanting more (than I can get) in nature photography in the western suburbs of Melbourne.  I admit it’s one of the few frustrations in life these days. I currently live in one of the most absorbing and fascinating green belts along the Maribyrnong River and yet………..even with a long telephoto lens……….usually handheld –  I can never seem to get close enough to the bird life.

I really enjoy the challenge of bird photography.

The spotting of a previously unseen species.

The identification of it from my Photographic Field Guide – Birds of Australia – by Jim Flegg (which is an excellent guide if you’re in to bird photography in Australia).

The observation of the individuals and how they interact with each other is fascinating.  The Willy Wagtail, such a relatively small bird, taunting and attacking several enormous crows is an interesting example.  Willy Wagtails seem to be very territorial and become aggressive warriors if other birds fly near their nests.

Or the numerous Noisy Miners on the ground, on posts or in trees.  I see them everywhere here in the Western Suburbs.

Last Friday’s trip to Newell’s Paddock Nature reserve and the wetlands area was a prime example.  It was only my second visit since I moved to the area about 7 months ago.  And walking over the squishy carpet of succulents in and around the main pond, I couldn’t get as close as I would like.

A bright shaft of Autumn sunlight lit up a ball of whitish-grey ‘fluff” on some tall grass at the edge of the island in the main pond last week.

It was a hand-held shot using my 150-500mm lens (despite the lower back and neck pain I’m currently experiencing).

I just couldn’t identify it on my newish large 27″ Dell screen at home.

I cropped the image down considerably and stared at the tiny ball of fluff on the computer screen for ages.   Didn’t help that I hadn’t used a tripod and the image was a little soft in focus.

I’d never seen any bird quite like it.

Finally, the other night, I decided it was a very, very young – maybe only a few days old (?) – Silvereye (Zosterops laterals).

Here’s an image I made in the Royal Botanic Gardens in late February 2011, a couple of months after I bought my first DSLR.

Silvereye – Zosterops lateralis

…..and here’s a cropped version of the same image.

Silvereye – Zosterops lateralis

These birds are incredibly hard to spot in heavy foliage.   In fact, its usually the eye between the foliage you see first.

I’ve finally decided that the ball of fluff on the island in the Newell’s Paddock Wetlands pond is this same bird.  It’s the faint white circle around the eye of the fluffy ball that’s given me the clue.

I know these tiny shy birds are seen regularly in Newell’s Paddock via a pdf on Birds in Newell’s Paddock I came across by sheer chance on the Internet (which I’ve now bookmarked).

What do you think?

NEWELL’S PADDOCK WETLANDS RESERVE & FOOTSCRAY PARK

Last Friday, I finally got back to doing a long walk.

The forecast cloud cover faded just after I caught the bus to Footscray Park and the cool wind picked up as I walked through the formal entrance down the steep pathway towards the Maribyrnong River.   When the sun came from behind the clouds, the downhill trek became a real treat.  I love walking in Autumn and Spring with a cool wind on my face.

I made some lovely shots of the flowers in the Park and surprisingly, there were some stunning Autumn flowers out in full bloom, but getting down low to photograph the ground cover Peruvian Lilies (or Alstroemeria) was a real pain.  I bent down low and used the tilt screen of the Sony a6000 ‘mirrorless’ but the sun reflected off the LCD screen so it was really hit or miss whether I got the low-down shots in focus.

I then kept walking quite some way along the Maribyrnong River to Newell’s Paddock, entering the Wetlands from the rear riverside gate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was one of those days when the river held hundreds of sparkling ‘stars’ of sunlight as though there was a path of diamonds across the water surface.  Really pretty and made up for the lack of interesting landscape either side of the river in this green belt along the river.

There was a real change of colour to be seen in most of my photos of Newell’s Paddock, from various shades of green a few weeks ago, to tinges of Autumn orange and russet throughout the grasses and succulent ground cover in the conservation area of Newell’s Paddock Wetlands.  The golden rays of the sun made some of my images look like they’d been photoshopped, but no, the warm colours were definitely for real.  I’m pretty sure I had the White Balance on Auto also.

But my favourite shot of the day was looking over the fence at the most eastern pond and surrounding greenery (below).  I stood there for ages just enjoying the view of this green oasis in the middle of suburbia.  How lucky we are in Melbourne’s inner suburbs to have such wonderful parks and gardens amidst the residential housing estates.