INSECTS

From the archives……..again!  (I’m not doing much new photography at the moment).

I rarely photograph insects, partly because I don’t see them (being short-sighted and only having distance glasses) and partly because I’m so intent on birds or other larger subjects, I don’t look for them (insects).  There’s certainly more than one image in my library where I was photographing a flower and didn’t even notice there was an insect on the flower until I downloaded the day’s shooting on to my large 27″ screen  🙂

It’s always fun to review them though.  Most of the butterflies were shot in the Butterfly House at Melbourne Zoo in or around 2012.

The last image has an interesting story behind it.

It was made with my little Canon Point & Shoot in the early days of my Photography hobby in 2010.  At the time, I thought it was rather good and submitted it to iStock Photos to see if they would take me on as a stock photographer, but of course in my naïvety, I didn’t realise how good you’ve have to be to be a stock photographer and I was rejected.  Also they had too many flower images and that was my main subject in 2010.

The interesting fact was that I found another photo with the same insect and flower with almost the same composition on iStock Photos made by a Swedish(?) photographer.  Now what are the odds of someone on the other side of the world shooting almost the same composition, insect & flower.   I’ve seen many images made by different photographers in landscapes etc, but a subject this small………..amazing.

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WINTER ROSE

From the Archives – 13th June 2017

I hate walking along the main road to the nearby Shopping Centre.  (In fact I usually catch a bus, tram or taxi).

It’s so boring.

The roads.

The cars.

The car exhaust fumes.

The traffic sounds.

So back in mid June I set myself a challenge to see how many flowers I could photograph in residential gardens, (or next to footpaths), along the walk.  It worked.  By the time I’d found the last flower on the journey, I had arrived.  And I didn’t even notice how long it took.  Here’s a couple of images I shot along the way.

………and I wasn’t bored one little bit 🙂

 

MELBOURNE…..

No new nature images to share this week, only a few photos I shot on Monday from the Princes Bridge (overlooking the Yarra River) on the southern perimeter of Melbourne and some shots from my archives.

Most of the river cruises leave from this dock (where the ferry in the lower right of the frame is situated). I’ve been meaning to catch one of the tourist cruise boats for years, but never got around to it. Some 35 years ago when I worked in the centre of Melbourne, we did have our annual office Christmas party on one of these pleasure boats in the middle of the Yarra River though.
On the south side of the Yarra River, all the Rowing clubs have their boat storage sheds and club rooms. Some are very old from the mid to late 1800s and other club houses are much more recently built in the 20th century. Going by the dark-looking storm clouds in the sky, there must have been heavy rain in the outer eastern suburbs.
On both sides of the river, there is a walking/running/cycling track shaded by large trees and you can actually follow the river trail for many miles to the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne.

I’ve had the good fortune to live in various locations near/next to a major river, parkland, nature reserve or the Royal Botanic Gardens for most of the time since I returned from a 2 year working holiday in the U.K & Europe in 1978/79.  I’ve moved several times due to job changes or my rental property being sold and me having to move.   In one case I shared a house with a work colleague and we had to move out due to demolition of the whole residential area to construct a new south-bound freeway.

For those interested, the map below gives you some idea of the many public parks and gardens in and around Melbourne’s inner suburbs,   The grid of streets and lanes in the centre of this map shows where the Central Business District (CBD) and main shopping area in Melbourne.  The Yarra River exiting the bay and running from the lower left of the frame, winds its way across the centre of the map and then north-east for many miles.

The Maribyrnong River (which is 5 mins walk from my current apartment) enters/exits the Yarra River mid left of the map frame and heads north-west of Melbourne (city).

As you can see, we are lucky to have many public parks and gardens in Melbourne and its surrounding inner suburbs as shown by the green patches on the map – the 38 hectare Royal Botanic Gardens (shown below) is just one of many gardens for locals and tourists alike.

Note: all the images below are from my archives as I haven’t been to the Royal Botanic Gardens to do any photography since I moved from the area in April/May 2015.

LAST LIGHT

The last rays of daylight touch the tips of the Rosemary plant on my apartment balcony.

Since I made this photo 3 days ago, several more branches of the plant are coming into flower.

So strange to see the flowers in mid-winter.  But since my pink daisy and blue Bacopa are still covered with flowers, one can only assume there must be some heat generating from the floor-to-ceiling glass windows in my apartment to create some sort of micro-climate?  The Sage, Lemon Thyme and Oregano have all died back for the winter as normal, but my English & Italian Parsley, Mint and Rosemary are still growing as though it is Spring.  I was reading an article the other day which suggested that Australia actually has 6 seasons and we’d be better off planning our gardens that way.  Personally, I think Melbourne has 365 seasons and the weather bureau forecast still can’t get their daily/weekly forecast right 🙂

Have been off the blogosphere and blog reading for several days this past week as I’m feeling all ‘blogged-out’ and except for half a dozen photos made of the sun going down, my camera is starting to gather dust again!

Still, I did read a whole book in that time which is most unusual for me as I find the eyestrain tiring and reading difficult these days.

 

SULPHUR-CRESTED COCKATOO (Cacatua galerita)

From the archives……..19th October 2012

This series comes to you from the Dandenong Ranges National Park – the range of hills overlooking the eastern suburbs of Melbourne.  I have seen these Cockatoos in the Royal Botanic Gardens and down by the Yarra River also (running by the southern side of Melbourne city out into Port Phillip Bay) but they were always too far away to get a good shot.

They’re found on the northern, eastern and south-eastern areas of Australia and very common.  Their white feathers make them easy to spot high up in the trees.  One day I found a couple grazing on some grass seed about 4 feet away from my walking path along the Yarra River, but I didn’t have a camera at that time and they flew away quickly on sensing my presence.

SACRED KINGFISHER (Todiramphus sanctus)

From the archives……..19th May, 2013.

One of the advantages of bird photography in the Great Aviary at Melbourne Zoo is the ability to use the waist-high guard rail of the boardwalk as a tripod.  I could never have got sharp focus of this Kingfisher with a hand-held shot using the heavy Sigma 150-500mm telephoto lens otherwise.  On this particular occasion, the disadvantage is getting the cage wire in the background of the image.

The Sacred Kingfisher always chose this sunny spot to warm up (on a cold day), whereas some of my Zoo images show no cage wire at all.  This beautiful bird is found all over Australia except for the arid centre of the country.

Sacred Kingfisher

SATIN BOWERBIRD (Ptilonorhynchus violaceus) – female

From the archives…..

In all the years I visited Melbourne Zoo’s Great Aviary, I never managed to get a decent shot of the male Satin Bowerbird.  The 2 or 3 shots I did take were too soft in focus to be worthy of sharing and I deleted them only recently.  The male is a rich glossy blue-black all over.

But the female……..well, I did score a couple of nice shots of that and in both images the eye is a gorgeous blue/purple not unlike the feather colour of the male  (although my Australian Bird Guide book doesn’t mention this characteristic, so maybe it was the light on the day that gave the eye this colour).  It’s a fairly common bird on the south-east coast of Australia, but I’ve only seen it at the Zoo.

Satin Bowerbird – female (Ptilonorhynchus violaceus)
Satin Bowerbird – female

MAJOR MITCHELL’S COCKATOO (Cacatua leadbeateri)

From the archives……

I love the soft pink colour of the Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo and when it splays out all its crest feathers it is very handsome indeed (according to the image in my Australian Bird Guide).  I’ve never seen it fan out its crest feathers myself though.

In Melbourne Zoo’s Great Aviary, this cockatoo is very friendly with the Eclectus Parrots (bright green male & red/blue female), so much so, that one of my images of the M/M Cockatoo ‘talking’ to the female Eclectus Parrot scored the back page of the March 2012 Zoo News magazine.  I felt very flattered as I’d only been photographing birds at the zoo for a few months or so at the time – (for some strange reason the editor reversed the image).

pink Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo & male Eclectus Parrot
Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo and female Eclectus Parrot

I used to watch this Cockatoo and the Eclectus parrots for ages as they really do appear to be talking, or communicating, with each other.

NOTE: Today the weather forecast was for 90% rain and possible hail so I’m catching up with blogging and blog reading.  It’s past midday and all I’ve seen is blue sky and sunshine (with some rather brisk wind blowing my balcony plants) so far.  Where’s the rain & hail that made my planned ‘at home’ day I ask myself?

BLUE-FACED HONEYEATER (Entomyzon cyanotis)

The Blue-faced Honeyeater is common in the north and north-east of Australia, but very scare in the south, so it was good to see these lovely birds in Melbourne Zoo’s Great Aviary.

This is one of my favourite bird shots from all the zoo visits I made over the years. I think part of it was the angle of the shot and secondly, I like the blue in the background complementing the honeyeater’s blue head.  As an artist (well, water-colour painter, potter & several other artistic skills, I like the overall colours & composition as much as the subject in photography).
These two honeyeaters landed right in front of me after the aviary staff had put some mealy worms on the wooden post for them at feeding time.
I was too slow zooming out on this shot so the bird’s tail got chopped off, but It was still a treat to be so close to this bird. Most of the feeding trays are close to the boardwalk in the Aviary, so if you’re there at the right time, you can observe the birds closely (and get some nice close-up shots).

PIED IMPERIAL PIGEON (Ducula bicolor)

From the archives…..

The Pied Imperial Pigeon actually comes from South-east Asia, but is now found in the north-east Australian state of Queensland.  The images below are from the Great Aviary at Melbourne Zoo and I’ve included a few old images of the Great Aviary to give you some idea of what a great space this is.  It’s enormous and covers 3 temperature zones with a water course running from the top Rainforest end down to a large pond in a dryer more temperate zone.

The boardwalk runs up to about 20 feet above the aviary floor, but on cold winter days, the birds are ‘indoors’ in sheltered spots and hard to see.

Spring, Autumn or a sunny Winter day are the best times to visit (when the birds are sun-baking in the trees (level with the boardwalk).  A couple of times, I’ve been to the Zoo specifically to spend a couple of hours in the Great Aviary (only) and it’s been closed for maintenance.

Pied Imperial Pigeon – this one looks like a rather obese older bird.

I dropped my Zoo membership a couple of years ago as I’d been about 100 times in 3 years to practice (mainly) bird photography and really………just how many times can you photograph the same birds.  Now that I’m living in a western suburb of Melbourne, I’m quite close to the main Melbourne Zoo (as the crow flies – about 3 miles or 6 kms).  Shame there isn’t a direct route over the Maribyrnong River from where I live now.

Melbourne Zoo is a great location to spend a hot summer’s day as the landscaping around most of the exhibits is temperate rainforest.

 

AUSTRALIAN PELICAN (Pelicans conspicillatus)

From the archives….

Haven’t been doing much photography in the last week, but we’ve had a couple of great sunny days for walking and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the invigorating fresh cool winds.  Rain forecast for the coming week and weekend, so it’s back to the archives for some images to share.

IT’S ALL IN THE FRAMING……..

A friend said to me once, “where do you find all these nature reserves and natural bushland areas in the suburbs?”

I replied “it’s not just what you see in the image that makes these photos look like you’re out in the country.  It’s the details you leave out.  It’s about looking up maps and finding all the marked green belts or public parks, then going there and walking around the area.”

Driving in a car in the suburbs is usually about getting to your destination.

Walking around gives you the opportunity to really see  the natural elements along the way.

This portrait sized shot could be anywhere in the countryside.

I’m always looking for birds to photograph, but I’m also looking for my slice of nature (since I don’t have a car to drive to the country or mountains to enjoy the peace and tranquility).

But add in the road, houses and the bus stop into the frame and you realise you’re just in the inner western suburbs of Melbourne.

Living in Nature is all about what you can see and do outdoors, despite living in a town or city.

Living in Nature is not just about looking in any direction in a suburban setting.  It’s about seeing the individual details within your urban environment and taking time to hone in on the flora and fauna as individual subjects.  Being in nature can be easier than you think.  Even a weed or native grass species on a vacant suburban house plot has visual interest (if you open your eyes and really look at the small details).

THEN THERE ARE THE GREBES………..

I don’t often see Grebes and if I do, they’re always in the middle of a lake or river.  I’m wondering if their food source is in deeper water?

They dive often, but I managed to get a couple of good shots of the Australasian Grebe (Tachybaptus novaehollandiae)  in Frogs Hollow last October (just after I moved to Maribyrnong).  The reddish-brown neck is the colour of a breeding grebe.  This species is the smallest and dumpiest of the grebes found in Australia.

But the day I walked all the way down to Newells Paddock Nature Reserve (about 3.7kms) nearly 3 weeks ago, I saw about 7-8 Hoary-headed Grebes (Poliocephalus poliocephalus) along the river….mainly in the centre.

To be honest, I wouldn’t have recognised them as they were too far away, but an elderly man sitting on a bench told me what they were.

And the image below was cropped down to about 10% of its original size in an attempt to see it a bit closer up.  This particular Hoary-headed Grebe was in the middle of the river.

So while I take many bird photos on my walks, it is rare that they’re close enough to fill the frame and share online these days.  The White-faced Heron, Willy Wagtails and the various Cormorants are the exceptions I guess.

A neighbour told me she’d seen an owl on her balcony very early one morning, so perhaps I need to get up earlier 😳

RED-RUMPED PARROT (Psephotus haematonotus)

Here’s some more examples of the small birds that graze in the low-lying Frogs Hollow field.

So you can see them better, here’s some images I made when I was living on the north-east side of Melbourne next to the Yarra River.

The lovely males are easy to spot.
The plain females are not so easy to see as they blend in with the grass. Since they always seem to graze in pairs, it’s the males that I spot first.
This image of a female is probably the best shot I’ve made so far.

RED-BROWED FINCH (Neochmia temporalis)

I’ve photographed several small birds grazing on seed in recent weeks – mostly late on a sunny afternoon.  I haven’t shared those images because the birds are generally too far away to see much feather detail OR they are poor shots with waving grass spoiling the image (the shots below are examples).

The images below were made with the Sigma 150-500mm lens fully zoomed out to 500mm and I was trying to get a focal point on their eye before they did the next ‘hop’.  Not easy.  Since I can’t see the eye, I have to just aim at the red part of the head which is quite clearly visible.

I spotted about 4-5 of them pecking at seed around one of the trees below the gravel walking path which goes straight down to the river.

Here’s a photo of the field (to the right of the nature reserve as I face the river) that I’m talking about.  The image was made last October so it’s still water-logged from the record-breaking Spring rains we had in 2016.  I was standing on the gravel path on the lower left of the image below and the birds were in the field which is about 6 feet lower than the walking path.   While the birds were only about 25-30 feet from my position, I guess I’d need a 700mm lens to get close enough to get a really good shot to share.

A DISAPPOINTING SHORT WALK

(NOTE: this will be my last long post for a long while 🙂 ).

Just before I came indoors at the end of last Sunday’s walk, I had turned around to survey the land between my apartment block and the river and had suddenly seen a very flat open path into the Nature Reserve.

At the late hour of 4.20pm, it was too late to venture in to explore, as the sun would dip below the top of the hill and place this area into deep shade, or semi-dark, early (on this mid-winter day).

We’re past the shortest day in the southern hemisphere but it still gets dark relatively early.

Between rain showers on Monday I decided to walk down the slope and enter the mown pathway for a quick exploratory walk.  I only had my heavy duty umbrella and lightweight Sony a6000 in my hands.  A quick check of the rain radar online shortly beforehand had shown what looked like clear blue sky for an hour or so.

But it was very wet all around me.

The grass/reeds were still a good 7-8 foot high and mostly impenetrable either side of the path.

This area of high grass was where I’d had my first sighting of the European Goldfinch last October (in the 3 images below).

The non-indigenous tree with the fruit in the first Finch image above, has now been cut down as shown in the tree stump below.

The blue water is just a large deep puddle

I had also seen a Red Wattlebird in the thick tree cover on the eastern rim of the nature reserve (below) so I knew there were definitely birds to be seen (and photographed to share online) in the reserve.

Red Wattlebird – not a good shot per se, but at least you can see the pink ‘wattles’ or what I call ‘earrings’ which identify the Red Wattlebird from the Little Wattlebird.

I had also seen Red-browed Finches on the chain wire fence along the southern rim of the Nature Reserve last December (images below).

Back to Monday’s short walk………

After about 50 feet,  the broad path made by the tractor/grasscutter came to an end and I found myself in a winding tunnel where I had walked through last summer.  Some of the overhanging branches I had cut back with my secateurs had grown over again and the path became very slippery in the knee high grass.  I was soaking wet up to my knees by this time and cursed not thinking to bring one of my Mother’s old walking sticks to poke around checking for hidden holes.

I eventually reached the lake edge (with about 2 feet of a rather prickly looking bush between my feet and the water).

This is where I’d walked last summer and where I felt it would be wonderful to have a cleared pathway and small wooden jetty, or lookout, for visitors to enjoy spotting water birds on the lake.

I had seen Little Pied Cormorants, Eurasian Coots and a Black Swan swimming around in the small patch of water I could see over the Nature Reserve chainwire fence many times before.

I felt sure nature lovers would enjoy this Nature Reserve if only the council made a path around the enormous patch of water and cleared some of high grass and water reeds.  The Council wouldn’t have to clear too much for visitors (and me) to spend a couple of hours in these Wetlands and Nature Reserve.  I’ve been told the Council have shelved this whole idea of a path due to lack of funds.

As you can see by the image below, it really is potentially dangerous to attempt to walk through this jungle.  It’s impossible to see where firm land ends and boggy holes or the lake edge begins.

I was so disappointed and headed back towards home.  There are about 4-5 apartment blocks and a row of townhouses built into the side of the hill and you can see how close we are to the Nature Reserve in the image below………approximately 100 feet (?).

The sun came out from behind the rain clouds and I decided to walk a short way along the western rim of the reserve.

The golden heads of Wild Radish were about thigh high and I got even more wet trying to find a path through to what looked like a slight gap in the trees, but eventually decided it was too risky for a fall or twisted ankle in the uneven, invisible ground beneath my feet.

WILD RADDISH

Yesterday, my walk took me over to Pipemakers Park and the Tuesday morning garden volunteering group.  The Park Ranger (I’d met in Newell’s Paddock Wetlands and Conservation area) had told me about this group and remembered me as soon as I walked up to where they were working.  I met the small group of 5 volunteers and was shown around the ruins of the historic old pipe workers garden and where they had cleared all the paths, cut down the overgrown shrubs and started re-planting some of the herb garden in recent weeks.

Apparently, one third (roughly) will be indigenous plants from the past (before white colonists settled the area in the early 1800s), the central third will be a restoration of the pipe worker’s original herb garden between the mosaic paths…….and the other third will be planted with modern garden plants.

Now I know their plans for restoration and replanting, I can either join the Tuesday morning group (unlikely as I get up too late), join one of the volunteers who does more weeding on Friday afternoons OR just go over any time and do whatever I can to help.  I’ve decided to give it a try and see if my lower back pain will allow me to stretch (and get some exercise too).  I really do need a new hobby or something to do in the fresh air.  I seem to photograph the same birds and scenes all the time on my recent walks and I need a new interest that is close to home.

 

I’ve had a 2 lots of lumbar spine surgery, so not sure how much I can do.  In the past I’ve found weeding and gardening a good way to stretch my back and surprisingly, I always feel good after a couple of hours of light gardening.  The photos below were made before the Volunteering group started the project.  The Green Army had weeded the bluestone-edged Herb Garden though.  The Green Army was an initiative by the Government to employ about 15,000 unemployed, or homeless (?) youth to do gardening and environmental restoration work around the country, but the Park Ranger was telling me, they only ended up with about 5,000 workers and some of the initiative has now been abandoned by the Government due to lack of funding.

Shame about that.  The Green Army still exists, but much depleted.

(note: there are still groups of volunteers who maintain the many green spaces found throughout our suburbs and country towns, especially on the river flats first explored in the early 1800s before towns and cities were established in Australia).

 

A WINTER WALK – Random Shots

There was a brisk cold wind in the winter air yesterday, but the sun was glorious.  For the most part, the skies were clear and a vivid blue.

I headed towards Pipemakers Park to check out what the Tuesday morning Gardening group had done towards restoring the old turn-of-the-century garden ruins and bumped into my new acquaintance, Steve, as he was heading for the car park.  By the time we’d finished our conversation, picked up after our last encounter some weeks ago, the best of the light was almost gone and I never did make any images of the garden.

After a quick inspection of the flower beds, I headed down to the Pipemakers Park pond/lake as the sun was just about to disappear behind the high cliff top.  I was facing straight in to the sun and had to keep the camera pointed downwards in order to see or capture anything in the brilliant glare. Birds kept flying down to splash in the water (for food or a drink?) and then fly up to the stronger water reeds.  I caught a few splashes with my camera, but not the birds who made them, so that lot of images went straight into the trash bin.

I headed over and around the perimeter of Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve to go home and noticed Andy the Grass-cutter must have been through in the last couple of days.  He’d got down from his tractor to chat only a week or so ago and mentioned he hadn’t seen me around.  I assured him I’d been out with my camera several times but had to avoid the Nature Reserve having turned my ankle in a hidden hole in the calf-high grass.  He said he would cut the path more often (as he had done through the summer months for me).

It almost felt like summer with the warm rays upon my back and I spied a couple of Spotted Turtle-doves basking in the sun.  All the dried water reeds you see in the image below hide another large pond.

They must have sensed my movement as I swung the heavy long telephoto lens up to capture the scene and one flew up to the top of the tree trunk sculpture that can be seen in all 5 of the local ponds (or lakes)…..how big does a pond have to be before it becomes a lake I asked myself?

The sun sparkled on some of the undergrowth nearby, but I was so glad Andy had cut the grass very short in the pathway – so much easier to see the ruts and little rises in the natural surface of the pond surrounds.

 

The Banksia bush next to the path at this point had lots of flowers on it.  There are over 200 Banksia species in Australia and many of the plants won’t open their fruits until they are burnt, hence the role of bush fires lit by the indigenous Aboriginal people of Australia for thousands of years before white men settled here.

The sun was getting low by this time, so I headed along the short gravel path for home.  One minute it can be the bright glare of the golden hour and next minute, deep shade so dark it’s almost impossible to see where you’re walking, so best to make haste at this time on short winter days.

Just before I walked up to my ‘back gate’ (through the apartment block car park entrance), I turned around to look at Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve and once again, gave a sigh of appreciation at how lucky I was to end up with another home in such a beautiful location.

Then I spotted a large newly sawn tree stump on the edge of the Reserve which must have been cut down late last week.

But more importantly, I saw a very clear wide path into the Nature Reserve, probably made by the council in their task of removing all non-indigenous trees in the area.

But it was 4.20pm, too late and I had far too much heavy camera gear with me to explore where this western rim path went, this late in the day.  Today, the forecast is for rain or showers most of the day and half the coming week so I’ll look forward to exploring the new path another sunny day.   You can’t tell by the photo below, but that thick grass either side of the mown tractor path is about 8-9′ high and was quite impenetrable for someone like me.

REMAINS OF LAST SUMMER

Sometimes I think I’ll never find something new to photograph around my local area and then, I take a random shot of nothing in particular and just love the result.  I had my heavy long 150-500mm lens in my hand when I made this shot and can’t believe I managed to hold it still enough to capture the fine hairs of this dead thistle(?) from so far away.

ABBOTSFORD

I think I mentioned to a commenter/new follower recently that I had deleted most of the 4000 images I made when living in Abbotsford on the north-east side of Melbourne (including all the corresponding WordPress posts to make room on this blog and reduce my massive Photo Library on my Mac Pro laptop).  I did keep all the sunrise/sunset images and about 30 other images of the walking trail to Dights Falls and the Collingwood Children’s farm (located next to the Yarra River).

BUT (silly me with the intermittent Brain Fog all us Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome sufferers have to live with), forgot that there are about 3300 images still in my WordPress Media Library.

So for the benefit of a new follower, Angus, who is now living in Abbotsford, here’s a few images from along the river and from my south-facing 3rd floor apartment balcony from May 2015 – October 2016.

I used to wash my floor-to-ceiling windows every week, ever in winter, so I could photograph the sky colours as they changed from dusk to sunset (and sometimes even dawn if I woke up early enough).   Every night I could sit at my desk (placed to face the windows) and watch the sky change colour and then disappear into night.

……and while my current 1st floor apartment is located on the western side of a building half-way down a steep hill next to Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve in the western suburb of Maribyrnong, I can still see the occasional sunset high up on the hilltop.