DARTER (Anhinga melanogaster)

From the archives………

In my efforts to reduce my photo library, I’ve come across several bird images that I don’t think I’ve ever shared before.  Mainly because they didn’t have particularly sharp focus.  This image of a Darter (Anhinga melanogaster) in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne is one of them.  The image was made in July 2013 – Winter.

This cormorant-like bird was standing near an old wooden jetty on an island way out in the middle of the large Ornamental Lake in the Royal Botanic Gardens and I didn’t have a tripod at the time, so a hand-held shot with the heavy 150-500mm lens was the best I could do.

I went back many times over the following days with a tripod in the hopes of a better shot, but never ever saw the bird again.

It’s a very large bird with a long sinuous neck and very distinctive feather pattern.

With its wings outstretched in the image in my Australian Bird Guide Book, it looks so much like many of my Cormorant shots of birds drying their wings out.  My Guide Book says it swims down low, often with only its snake-like head and neck out of the water and dives frequently, so I was pretty lucky to catch this Darter sitting quite still on a tree bough.

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AUSTRALIAN WOOD DUCK (Chenonetta jubata)

……………From the Archives

The Australian Wood Duck (Chenonetta jubata), is one of the commonest ducks to be seen around Melbourne’s public parks and gardens and I seem to have photographed them more times than most other birds (except perhaps the Nankeen Night Heron and the Pacific Black Duck, that is).

Young teenage female at Maribyrnong Wetlands about 30 mins walk from where I currently live in the Western Suburbs.

Looks like a couple of clear sunny winter days coming up next weekend according to the weather forecast, (which is always wrong 🙂 ), so I hope to have some new images to share afterwards.  I’ve been out and about in recent days with shopping, errands and/or appointments, but not doing photography.  There was a time when I’d take a camera everywhere, but not so these days.

PIED (or LITTLE PIED) CORMORANTS?

I see Cormorants everywhere along my stretch of the Maribyrnong River, but now I’m starting to look a little more closely.

When a fellow bird-lover informed me the Pied Cormorant (Phalacrocorax varius) has a hooked beak (and more orange coloured), I think I’m starting to see the differences between them. The Pied Cormorant is larger for sure, but when you’re photographing them from a fair distance away and there only one bird, size is a difficult concept for me.

I’m wondering if I’ve identified Little Pied Cormorants (Phalacrocorax melanoleucos) when they should be the larger species.  (same issue with Little Black Cormorants and the larger Great Cormorants which are both black).

Some examples below.  I think the 4th image is the only Little Pied Cormorant in this post.  The other 4 images are the larger species.

SPLENDID FAIRY-WREN (Malurus splendent)

I’ve been trying to get close enough to the small birds that feed on the low-lying field of Frogs Hollow on sunny afternoons, but either I haven’t got my 150-500mm lens with me on my walk OR they fly away before I can get close enough.  Finally I decided to just share these images.  I accept I will never get closer to get a really decent shot.

First I saw them next to the wood pile between my apartment building and the path leading to the river. I couldn’t get close enough, but there were about a dozen wrens hopping around on the grass or on the newly cut trees. Apparently these trees were cut as they weren’t native to the area and will soon by taken away by the Nature reserve ranger/staff. Shame about that in one way, as the pile were good cover for small birds from larger predators.

Mostly, in trying to photograph small wild birds, I am having trouble hand-holding the heavy lens as I follow the tiny birds as they continually hop around.   A tripod would be of no use in this type of situation.

About a week and half ago, I managed to capture them in a bit better focus, together with a flock of red-browed Finches and Red-rumped Parrots.  All together there must have been about 30 birds of the 3 species in the one area.

I managed to catch one in the grass.
Than I caught the backside of one walking down the gravel path.

I think all the Fairy-wrens were females.

Than I followed about 5 birds as they hopped down towards the river, eating grass seed at the path edge along the way.

I have to say that I find trying to photograph tiny wild birds more than a bit of a challenge.  I realise how lucky I was when I was living next to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne for 15 years.  Most of the birds I photographed were used to humans and I could get quite close.  Even the herons or cormorants on the large lake island usually stood still in the afternoon sun and I was able to use a tripod.

The following 2 shots were the closest I ever got to the wrens when living on the north-eastern side of Melbourne next to the Yarra River.  They are males.

This shot was made in deep shade so I’ve lightened the shadows in PP as much as I could without getting too much ‘noise’ or graininess in the image. In this case I had to watch the patch of blue flitting about among the green foliage and brown tree trunks as the rest of the bird was hard to see in the deep shade.
This shot of a male Splendid Fairy-wren was the best I’ve ever shot in the past. Apparently the males change to all-blue in the breeding season, but I’ve never seen one completely blue.

BALCONY GARDEN UPDATE……

It’s been raining overnight and I’ve woken up to a rather chilly day.

While the first month of winter – June – is nearly over, we’ve had surprisingly little rain so far in Melbourne.  It’s been mainly light showers in the western suburbs (where I live) for this last week, but enough to stall my efforts to get outdoors for some walking and fresh air (and/or nature photography).

More frequent showers are forecast for the next few days though.  I have to be honest and say that at least 2 days this week, I’ve spent most of the day watching my favourite Italian detective DVD series with the sound turned off, reading the subtitles only and a hot pack on the back of my neck.  Seems to be the only thing that truly reduces this long-running severe headache. Earlier this week,  I received a referral to a Neurologist who specialises in migraines, but when I got a quote for his initial consultation, I silently said “Ouch” and put the heat pack back on my neck.  Gee, some of these specialists cost more than my food budget for 2 months.  Maybe I’ll try some acupuncture, as at least that’s partly covered by my private health insurance. I’ve only just realised (in my foggy brain pain state) that the wonderful Chinese Doctor and Acupuncturist who I used to go to (in early 2010) is only a tram ride away.  Now why didn’t I think of her 5 months ago, I ask myself.  All I can say is that I’m forgetting lots of things these days.

My west-facing potted garden on my balcony is still thriving, despite the intermittent nature of Mother Nature’s rain drops.  I gave all my herbs and flowers another massive haircut a week or so ago and the flowers have spread their colourful petals even more.  Will this blue Bacopa and pink Argyranthemum ever stop flowering, I’m wondering?  Herbs love a good prune regularly and although its winter, only the Sage, Oregano and Lemon Thyme have really died back for the season.  My Rosemary, Mint, English and Italian flat-leaf parsley are surging ahead with the speed of a ‘Road-runner’.

For the first time, I’m growing Sorrel and Tuscan Kale.  Both are looking rather lively, although the Tuscan Kale seems to be rather slow to start (for my dinner table). Apparently, Sorrel tastes a bit like Spinach, so I’m keen to give it a trial run in my limited balcony space.

NOTE: all the images in this post were made yesterday.

Even my Rosemary has got new blue flowers on one spike.

 

DUSK ………LAST NIGHT

Rain today, so I’ve been indoors trying to catch up with some blog reading.

Sunsets don’t have to be spectacular.  Sometimes you just sense the breeze whispering in the tree tops and the sound of birds chirping close by and relax into watching the sun go down.

This image was made from my apartment balcony.

LITTLE PIED CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax melanoleucos) – Maribyrnong River

I’ve never been able to tell the difference between a Little Pied Cormorant (Phalacrocorax melanoleucos) and a Pied Cormorant (Phalacrocorax varius) as I’ve never seen them together to observe that the Little Pied Cormorant is a fair bit smaller.  A bird watcher on last Friday’s walk gave me the clue. A Pied Cormorant’s beak is hooked at the tip. Apparently they’re both seen along this river, together with the Little Black Cormorant and the Great Cormorant (also black, but larger).  The image above is definitely the Little Pied Cormorant.
I saw the Pied Cormorant on a rock near the bank of the river approximately here (just before I go under the bridge to reach Newell’s Paddock Wetlands and Nature Reserve)
I don’t why these Cormorants try to hide from me, because my ‘distance’ glasses, which I use all the time now, give me excellent vision for spotting birds at a long distance. It’s close-up that I have a problem. Note: my reading glasses which were pretty useless anyway, kept breaking at the hinge of the side frame.  After the 4th time (and the 4th lot of $70 to fix them), I gave up.  Wish I could still wear my old multi-focal contact lenses – they would have been perfect for photography. 

 

GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba) – Newells Paddock Conservation and Wetlands Reserve

I wasn’t going to share this photo of the Great Egret in the Wetlands because it was so far away and I was having trouble holding my heavy long telephoto lens still (after my long walk along the river path to get to the Wetlands).  You can’t see much feather detail.  But soon after this shot the Park Ranger came up to chat and I never ended up getting my tripod out of its bag.  But the Park Ranger did mention another gate along the fence on the other side of the Wetlands, so I’ll check it out next visit as for the most part, I was looking into the sun trying to photograph birds on this downriver side of the Wetlands.

Not ideal at all.

 

AUSTRALIAN WOOD DUCK (Chenonetta jubata)

AUSTRALIAN WOOD DUCKS (Chenonetta jubata) – male in the foreground with the brown head and female (with the stripe above and below the eye) in the background.

On the way to Newell’s Paddock (via the river cycling/walking path) last Friday, I came across a pair of Australian Wood Ducks (Chenonetta jubata) dozing in the sun on a tiny jetty.  I walked up behind them quite close and fully expected them to fly away, but they didn’t.

Both opened and closed their eyes from time to time to keep an eye on me.

Then I slowly walked up to about 3 feet behind them.  They were one very tame couple.

Absolutely amazing and I felt really honoured to be allowed to observe them so closely.

By the way, the image below shows what superb weather Melbourne is having at the moment.  Even Melbourne’s ever present wind has died down in recent days.  The Park Ranger I was talking to in Newell’s Paddock Conservation and Wetlands Reserve was telling me we are going to have a very dry winter here in Melbourne.  This does not bode well for the flora and fauna, either now or next Summer.

 But for the time being, at least its great outdoor walking weather for me.

MASKED LAPWING (Vanellus miles) – Maribyrnong Wetlands

…….and Silver Gull in rear of course.   This is only the 3rd (or 4th) time I’ve seen a Masked Lapwing in my life.

The masked lapwing (Vanellus miles), also known as the masked plover and often called the spur-winged plover or just plover in its native range, is a large, common and conspicuous bird native to Australia, particularly the northern and eastern parts of the continent, New Zealand and New Guinea. It spends most of its time on the ground searching for food such as insects and worms and has several distinctive calls. There are two subspecies; the southern novaehollandiae has distinctive black markings on the shoulder and side of the chest, and is sometimes recognized as a separate species, the black-shouldered lapwing (Vanellus novaehollandiae). These brown-black, white and yellow plovers are common in Australian fields and open land.

“Can’t a Bird get a little privacy around here?”

“It’s not my fault you pooped just when I pressed the shutter button 🙂 ”  (says Vicki to herself).

NOTE: to fellow bloggers……my severe headaches (and neck pain) continues and my brain MRI last Thursday is showing some anomalies….. one issue being that insufficient oxygen is getting to my brain.  Until I get further clarification, I’ll be spending more time offline and out walking in the fresh air.  I’ve got plenty of photos to share so I’ll try to just upload one or two (with no, or minimal, writing).

Maybe I’ll just stick to one day a week to read the blogs I follow, so, dear followers, I haven’t dropped you, just need to stay off the computer more for the time being.

Besides the days are glorious at the moment…..blue sky, sunshine and crisp Winter air.  Perfect for walking along the river.

BLUEBERRY “Nellie Kelly”

My potted blueberry is flowering.

On re-reading the identification tag from the plant nursery tonight, apparently it produces red flowers during winter.

I’ve never grown a blueberry before, let alone in a pot on a west-facing balcony, and was surprised to see the flowers at this time of year.

Looks promising for a good crop next Spring/Summer.

A PERFECT WINTER DAY

Yesterday, like several other days recently, the weather has been superb for walking (when I actually get out the door that is).

Today dawned just the same.

Blue Sky and Sunshine all throughout the Day.

Barely a cloud in sight and a brisk chill in the air, (actually it went down to 4 degrees Celsius during the night in Melbourne – quite chilly).

Unfortunately my brain is not complying with my body these days, (literally), and I can never make up my mind where to go, so while I dither around, the clock moves on to mid-afternoon and then, with the shortest day in the southern hemisphere looming on the horizon, it is too late to set off.  Sometimes I wonder if I’m getting early Dementia or something, but I’m hoping its just the severe headaches I’ve experienced in the last 4 months (for which I now have extra, extra strong prescription analgesics).  I went through 5 months of severe headaches 7 years ago when I was still working full-time so I’m hoping its just another phase.   I find I’m typing some weird sentences too.  So if you’ve noticed some unusual spelling or funny sentences on my blog (or commenting on your blog), ignore it.  They are not typos, they are brain hiccups 🙂

Yesterday I had to go to the local chemist/pharmacy and the hardware shop, but I couldn’t resist the call of the river and local bird life.  Even the short 6-7 minute walk from my back door down to the river is a delight as the dew droplets sparkle in the shade of Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve next to the gravel pathway.

I saw so many birds in both the trees and on the pathway. No Willy Wagtails for a change, but certainly many of the common Spotted Turtle-doves, Magpies, Wrens, Noisy Miners, Crows, Blackbirds and a few feathered new friends whose names I don’t know.  Can be hard to see the details as looking into the Sun towards the north over Frogs Hollow from this path makes mostly silhouettes.  Someone has cut down several trees and laid them across part of the small area of grass between my ‘back gate’ and the gravel car-width pathway.

I was rather mystified initially, but after seeing all the Splendid Fairy Wrens hopping around, under and on the branches I wondered if the local council, (or whoever looks after this area), was deliberately creating a haven for insect and little critters or tiny birds?  There were about a dozen wrens hopping around and I muttered to myself, regretting leaving the heavy long telephoto 150-500mm birding lens at home.  I only had the Sony 55-210 lens and my short Canon 17-50mm  ‘landscaping’ lens in my shopping trolley (leaving room for my shopping later in the afternoon), so couldn’t get a good shot of these tiny birds to share.  These were 2-3 hopping along the gravel path too, but they moved quickly as I approached them, so no photos there either.

Or maybe they’re (the trees, not the birds) lying in wait for the landscaping ‘chipper’ truck to cart them away for mulch making.

It seemed like everyone was outdoors…….. walking, cycling, playing golf on the other side of the river, Canoeing/rowing/boating down the river, or whatever mode of transport kept them in the warmth of the sun, in my case…..legs of course.  Not that much wind either.  For a change, I can’t complain about Melbourne’s predictably unpredictable weather forecasts.

This is the same walk I do regularly every couple of weeks or so now, but there always seems to be something different to see (depending on the weather).

No ducks on the little ponds I passed, but there were many Little Pied Cormorants basking in the sun as I walked  down the peninsular of land, over the tiny footbridge on to the island, then another footbridge back on to the long strip of land.  My destination was the rocky causeway heralding Maribyrnong Wetlands (Bunyap Park or Edgewater Wetlands depending on which side of the grass and pond you’re on 🙂 ).

I can’t help a little smile creeping over my face at the 3 signs with different names, every time I walk around the pond (with its reed covered island in the middle).

Is there an invisible ‘fence line’ which divides the pond into 3 distinct wetlands?

Or, maybe it’s administered by 3 different local councils?

Whatever the case, I find the signage highly amusing each time I pass.

I cross this causeway or walk around the pond to get to the bus stop on the other side of the nearby road (faintly seen in the upper right of the image below).  I might add there’s lots of water in this particular stretch of wetland, whereas it was almost completely dried up last Summer.

Then, having just missed a bus according to the timetable on the nearby post, I sat in the sun on a residential garden brick wall lapping up the sun’s warmth while waiting for the next mode of transport to appear.   This particular bus route only runs 3 times over a 2 hour period, weekday or weekend, so there can be a long 40 minute wait at worst scenario – but yesterday I only had to sit for about 25 minutes.  If I wasn’t going to the shops and hardware store, I would have walked back home again.

I’m lucky to have a tram and 2 different bus routes going down my nearby main road, but I love this particular bus route as it goes via the long scenic route, Footscray Gardens, a few streets away from Newells Paddock Wetlands and Nature Reserve, and then on to the next suburb (and a train station).  I have yet to explore one of the trains that pass through this particular station up to the countryside in Central Victoria.  It will mean getting up very early and close attention to the timetables for a whole day trip and getting back home methinks.

The Autumn leaves on the boardwalk outside the chemist shop reminded me of how much Autumn colour I’d missed capturing with my camera this year.  I was stuck indoors (for the most).  And since I’ve reduced my photo library down to a bare 2000+, there’s not much to share from my archives (that you haven’t already seen).  To be honest, this lack of images to share, is also supposed to force me outdoors if I want to keep this my 3 WordPress Photo blogs going much longer.


EUROPEAN GOLDFINCH (Carduelis carduelis)

They’re back.

The European Goldfinches, I mean.

I was just about to turn the computer off, when I heard the (now) familiar call of the European Goldfinch.  I looked up from the keyboard and could see one on the tree in front of my apartment balcony fence (about 10 feet away from where I was sitting at my desk).  I prayed for it to stand still while I swiveled around in my desk chair and pulled the long telephoto lens out of its carry bag, swiveled back to the window and aimed…….. (with the lens cap on LOL ).  I sent a telegraphic message again “please don’t fly away yet” and took the lens cap off ……….and the damn camera wouldn’t autofocus.  Did I tell you I dropped this heavy lens last Sunday?  Well, I did and am still not 100% sure it is autofocusing as quickly as usual.

Anyway, eventually the Canon DSLR & long lens did autofocus (and I fired off a couple of shots before this sweet little bird, with its cheerful song, flew away).

I’m pretty sure it was a male from what I could see of the red facial markings and black cap.

I had no idea what setting the camera was on, but since I use it for bird photography 97% of the time, I was in luck with a relatively fast shutter speed and the camera was on Shutter Priority mode.  And better still, the overnight rain had left minimal dirty water droplets on the lounge window to spoil the shot.

I’ve heard their song several times on sunny winter days recently, but never actually seen them until this morning.

I can hear a couple of them calling to each other now, but have no idea which bush they’re on.

A FEW MORE IMAGES FROM YESTERDAY’S WALK

Yesterday, after I left the River & Cormorants, (mentioned in the previous post), I headed to the late 19th C garden ruins in Pipemakers Park.


It was a short walk and I was hoping for some wintery scenes for a blog post.

A Willy Wagtail sits on a drinking fountain near the semi-shade of the Pipemakers Park pond.
Note the bottom half of a Spotted Turtle-Dove in the top left of the frame, which I never saw at the time of shooting.

Soon after arrival, a Kindred Spirit came up to chat (and return the lens cap I had dropped further down the path – phew 🙂 ).

Turns out he used to do the photography on overseas travel trips with his journalist Wife many moons ago and we had much to talk about……. like…..Photography, photography, photography, the Light, the Light, more light and the many overseas places he had visited – many I’d never seen on my own overseas travels back in the mid to late 1970s.

There’s nothing I like to talk about more than Photography, Nature and overseas Travel, especially if it’s to some far-flung destination off the usual tourist route.  And if its to an isolated destination like northern Europe, Alaska or the Far East all the better as far as I’m concerned.   If I haven’t been to it, I’m sure to have read about it or have a book/dvd or nature documentary at home, so I usually try to prolong these little interesting chats on my walks as long as possible.  I must have been an explorer in a previous life as I certainly haven’t had the opportunity to travel to some of these remote locations in my current life.   In fact, these days, in enforced early retirement, I spend much time in solitary bliss and at home.

Eventually I ended the conversation with wanting to catch the light.

I turned around and found the wintery shadows had grown long from the ruins & trees and I only had a short time before I’d have to set off for home or get caught in the dark – not something to do, as the Kindred Spirit warned me, (just as a couple had warned me some weeks ago down on the River at dusk).

So I ended up with just a few photos of nothing much in particular.

 

LITTLE PIED CORMORANT – ( Phalacrocorax melanoleucos)

This image was actually made walking home as the sun lowered in the sky, casting a golden glow over the whole area.

Yesterday was one of the most beautiful Sundays in Melbourne we’ve had for weeks and it seemed like everyone was outdoors in order to make the best of a perfect Winter day.  It was almost, (but not quite), WINDLESS!  A windless day in Melbourne is pretty rare, but most non-photographers probably don’t notice that.

Anyway, I sat at my desk totally overwhelmed by indecision.   I couldn’t decide where to go and what to do.  This  inability to make decisions has resulted in more afternoons at home than I would care to admit.  Lately, sometimes I think my brain is declining quicker than my body 🙂

In the end I decided to just pack my cameras (all 3) into my old wire shopping trolley, attache my tiny backpack to the back and water bottle to the front of the basket, walk down to the Maribyrnong River and decide ‘upriver’ or downriver’ when I got there.

WILLY WAGTAIL
LOOKING INTO THE SUN JUST GAVE ME A SILHOUETTE

Yesterday, I had the good fortune to spot 3 Little Pied Cormorants close to the river bank straight away and I spent some time trying to capture them within the frame.  Initially, I was too far downriver of their position and the sun was in my eyes, so I walked about 15 feet to an upriver position and tried again.  One of the Cormorants actually landed on the rocky bank about 6 feet away from me, but that didn’t mean it was easy to photograph.

Sometimes I think birds turn their head away deliberately to tease me.

The Willy Wagtails certainly do, but those fiercely territorial little birds are always on the move anyway.  The Willy Wagtails certainly move their tails backwards and forwards even when standing still, so getting a good shot usually takes time and a lot of patience OR….. a lucky shot.

Here’s the resulting series of shots I made…Cormorants sun-baking are definitely easier to photograph than some bird species.

Anyway, it was all good fun.

I then walked on upriver to Pipemakers Park for a couple of hours of Photography.  This park area is actually only 10 minutes walk if I walk via the shortcut around Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve and don’t make any photo stops.  I can turn a 10 (or even 5) minute walk into 2 hours quite easily.

While we’re on the subject of Little Pied Cormorants……

At the end of the afternoon as I was walking home, I was amazed to see about 40-50 Little Pied Cormorants flying upriver.  They dropped down to the river surface near where I was standing and all dove under the water hunting for food in the murky depths.  Most popped their heads up in unison, took some more breaths and dove down again.  They repeated this several more times and then all arose into the air and flew off upriver.  All my shots of the birds rising from the water in flight were too blurred to keep.

This was truly the most extraordinary sight I had seen on the river since moving to this suburb 7 months ago.

I have never seen so many of the same species flying overhead and then feeding together on the Maribyrnong River near my home.  Of course, I was looking into the brilliant late afternoon sun and I can’t shoot flying or fast-moving birds ‘for peanuts’ so you’ll have to use your imagination.   The following images just give you a hint of the spectacular sight.

You just had to be there to experience the thrill of the afternoon.  The following slideshow shows only part of the enormous flock.

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A Walk on the Wild Side

 

OK….ok….I live in Suburbia (on the western side of Melbourne).

For me, the walks I do are on the mild side.

The important thing in life is to make the best of what you’ve got.

You can spend your whole life wishing for more, (or better scenes for photography for example), but then you’ve never lived at all – you’ve only stood on the side lines.   Better to just make images of your local surroundings, rather than not at all.  Best to be mindful and attentive to your current reality.  Besides I’ve got plenty of travel books and nature DVDs to satisfy my love of remote locations in nature.

Tuesday dawned cold, but dry, and my 4 month old severe headache threatened me…… to either get outdoors for some more fresh air or it would get worse.  (yesterday it actually did, get worse  I mean 🙂 but a pre-planned appointment with my Dr scored me some stronger analgesics).

I complied and not only reached the Maribyrnong Wetlands pond on Tuesday afternoon, but I actually walked home again, instead of catching the bus (shown by the continuous line on the map on the left of the page).  To be honest, part of the reason I catch the bus is to go to the local Pharmacy or Shops on the way home.  I rarely do the 10 minute walk along the main road to the local Shops as its downright boring  and I’ve always been the type of person to go on the scenic route to get anywhere, even in Melbourne’s inner suburbs, even if its four times the distance.

I set off with my wallet, phone, keys and tiny bottle of water and spare camera battery in my coat pockets and my lightest camera (Sony a6000) in my hand.  I can’t carry my tiny backpack or heavier DSLRs/lenses at the moment.  I hoped the weather forecast would be right for a change as I left the folding umbrella at home.  It was (although the sun went behind the clouds and the wind bit into my face with with a hearty appetite partway through the return journey).

It’s definitely Winter here in Melbourne.


While I’ve done this walk many times since I moved to this suburb 8 months ago, I’m always looking for something to photograph.  Yesterday I practiced some more landscapes.  Same views I’ve shared before with you, but I continue to change the horizon, or amount of water in the frame, to see which makes the image well-balanced (just in case one day I get to the mountains or countryside to photograph some real landscapes).  Of course, those hideous electricity pylons that tower over this green belt of land and river always seem to get in the way and spoil the view.

You can never get too much practice when it comes to Photography – whether you’re a beginner, a seasoned amateur OR a professional (making a living from the craft).

After I left Frogs Hollow, I took the well-trodden tiny path at the water’s edge, instead of the asphalt cycling/walking path on the long peninsula of land.  This leads me to the island with a small footbridge at either end.  This time I saw a rubbish dredge thingey, (whatever i’s called), near the river bank which I hadn’t seen before.  Little Pied Cormorants and Little Black Cormorants, (or were they the larger Block Cormorants?), stood on its frame in the sun lapping up the warm rays and I tried to get a bit closer as the 55-210 lens on the Sony doesn’t reach as far as my 150-500mm lens of my Canon DLSR.

I must have passed about 5 new seedling ‘forests’ since my last walk along this route.  The local council or land management team have been hard at work.  Turning to look into the sun revealed  lovely silver water, but when the sun went behind the clouds, I realised how cold the day really was and headed for home.


…..and here’s the good news.

When I travelled through the city 2 weeks ago, I stopped at Michaels Camera Store, (where I regularly shop and drop in to ask questions I might add).  I asked one of the salesmen, who are all skilled photographers themselves, how on earth do you photograph birds through thick foliage with the Sony a6000?  I can do it easily with my Canon DSLRs, but not the Sony ‘mirrorless’.

If you’ve followed my nature blog for a long time and remember me moaning about the lack of this ability when I first bought the camera 2 years ago, you’ll be surprised to hear that there is an easy solution.  Apparently, changing the focus mode to flexible spot (which is actually a square, not a dot like on the DSLRs), is only the first step.

You can actually change the Flexible Spot, aka ‘square’,  into S (small), M (medium) or (large).  My Sony was actually set on L.

Duh!  I felt like such an idiot.  I have never read this anywhere in the online manual.  Seriously.  As I mentioned when I first bought the camera, the Sony a6000 menu is convoluted, and for me, not very logical or easy to remember.  Even the reviews I read of the camera before I bought it say the same.  But the sales assistants in Michaels Camera Store  are ever so patient and kind and always make you feel as though your questions, no matter how small or trivial, are always normal and often asked.

So I tried it out on the way home on Tuesday amongst the artificial watercourse below my apartment block.  I caught sight of a Purple Swamp Hen among the 9′ high water reeds and actually scored a focused shot of the bird.  A reed got in the way of the head, but that doesn’t matter.

Can’t wait to try it out on a bird high up in a tree in a future walk.

🙂