RED-RUMPED PARROT (Psephotus haematonotus)

Spring is the time to see the Red-rumped Parrots (Psephotus haematonotus) grazing in the nearby parkland, especially Pipemaker’s Park, only about 15 minutes walk from my home.

They always seem to travel in pairs, although it’s the blue male that I’ve captured in the nearby parkland below.

They’re a medium-small long-tailed parrot with the male having upper parts bright green, with green breast and bright yellow underbelly.  The long tail is green above and grey below. Wings green with rump prominent and distinctive in flight.  I remember once seeing about a dozen in flight behind my current apartment building next to Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve, but have never managed to capture them flying overhead.

The female is more olive-green with a green rump and quite dull in comparison.

I first saw them in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne (below), but only once in all the years I lived in the area.

Red-rumped Parrot (Psephotus haematonotus)

They were a regular sight in Abbotsford along the river to the north-east  of inner Melbourne, when I lived for 20 months next to the Yarra River and National Park area…….especially in the grass next to the walking path through the Collingwood Children’s Farm.   The images below are probably the closest I’ve ever managed to get to them.

They’re not the sort of bird species I’d expect to see on my balcony though.

Since I deleted the archives on this blog and started afresh, I have a more comprehensive index on the right-hand side of this page and eventually, I hope to have posted and described every bird I’ve photographed over the last 8 years since I took up photography.

It’ll take me a while, but at least the index is an easy way to find each bird species.

EUROPEAN GOLDFINCH (Carduelis carduelis)

EUROPEAN GOLDFINCH (Carduelis carduelis) on the young tree in front of my balcony. It was bouncing up and down in the strong gusty wind and I was urprised to find the bird in focus when I downloaded the image.

I’ve just found the other Goldfinch image I wanted to share this morning.  I spoke about sighting this colourful finch for the first time this season in an earlier post.

PHOTINIA ROBUSTA (Photinia x fraseri)

The white-flowering small bushes at the top of my steep road are in flower at the moment.

Although I’ve made the occasional photo at their varying stages of growth, it wasn’t until last week that I saw a plant label attached to one of them and was able to identify it.

I know little about common garden plants and have always had to rely on Mr Google images or my 2 Australian Plant Encyclopaedias to identify anything.  I even keep the plant labels of the potted plants I buy for my balcony garden as I forget the Botanical names almost as soon as I plant them.-

Photinia Robusta (Photinia x fraseri) is a spectacular fast growing dense evergreen shrub.

Dark glossy green leaves with brilliant red new growth and clusters of dainty white flowers in Spring make this an attractive hedge plant, and clipping throughout the year will flush on new growth to repeat the bright show of colour. It can be kept clipped to around 1.5 m tall and wide.

They are suitable for a full sun to part shade position, frost tolerant and requires little water once established.

There are about 4 plants in a row in front of a green-painted power junction box (which feeds this housing estate I suppose – I’m guessing).  The 2 images below were made late afternoon with the power box between the sun and the plants, throwing them into deep shade quite early in the afternoon.

I love the glossy red leaves that contrast so vividly with the green.  Even the tight flower buds are attractive in their own way.

EUROPEAN GOLDFINCH (Carduelis carduelis)

For the first time this year, I spotted a European Goldfinch in my Japanese Maple tree last Friday.

( I say MY Japanese Maple because it’s spreading its brilliant lush green foliage in front of my balcony, as opposed to the other Japanese Maple growing next to the front door of my apartment building).

JAPANESE MAPLE 10 DAYS AGO
JAPANESE MAPLE AT THE START OF SPRING PHOTOGRAPHED FROM THE FOOTPATH/ROAD.

I’d been spring cleaning some kitchen cupboards and decided it was time for a rest and briefly sat down at my desk in front of the lounge windows mid Friday afternoon.

I saw a splash of colour and something like 3-4 red-headed birds flew from my tree off to the Eucalyptus saplings further down the row of apartment balconies.

S&$#!  I missed them I thought to myself.  They had to be European Goldfinches and the first of this season.  What was worse, with no intention of doing any photography that day, the cameras were tucked up in their soft pouches on the floor beside my desk.

Then I spotted it.

One remaining European Goldfinch was bouncing up and down on an awkward flimsy branch in the wind – just like a small child bouncing on a trampoline.  It was in the worst possible location for a clear photo from where I was sitting.

SORRY ABOUT THE LOUSY SHOT, BUT AT LEAST YOU CAN SEE THROUGH THE BLUR A REASONABLE OUTLINE OF THE EUROPEAN GOLDFINCH

Could I bend sideways and pick the long telephoto lens up without the movement frightening the bird?

The birds that land on my balcony are usually pretty skittish and except for the House Sparrows, which are getting more used to my presence, they fly away very quickly if I make the slightest movement from my desk chair.

I raised the heavy lens very slowly and took the lens cap off.

Snap! I’d caught the bird within the frame before it suddenly flew off.

I turned the computer on and downloaded the shot and despite it being a poor one, with door frame, dirty window and so on, I finally decided to share it this morning.  I’ve cropped off the blurred left side of the image (above) and the right side (which was just black door frame) and ended up with a portrait sized photo (instead of the original landscape size).

To show newcomers to my nature blog which bird I’m talking about, here’s a couple of images I took last year when the tree was bare-limbed.  I’m sure I’ve got some better photos somewhere but my photo library is a mess and I can’t find them.

I’ll be keeping an eye out for future Goldfinch visitors now.

It’s getting to be a really exciting time of year bird-wise and I think I’ll pull some images out of Sept/Oct 2017 to share in the coming week.

NOTE: I dropped into the camera store located in the local large shopping centre (500 shops) last week and asked them about the broken inner ring from between my telephoto lens glass and the screw threads and they said they couldn’t tell me if it was going to be a problem as they were only sales staff.

Duh!  Now if that my Michaels Camera Store in the city (of Melbourne), which only has one branch and has been operating since 1916, (and where I bought all my camera gear), they would have been able to tell me pretty much anything, let alone going up to the repair department located on the 1st Floor of the building.  I’ve checked out a few photography forums to no avail.

Anyway, with no other reason to go into the city centre in the near future, and a change of bus routes of the 3 buses which do go into the city centre, it might be a long time before I go to Melbourne.

In the grand scheme of my life, while the city is only about 10-11 kms away as the crow flies, I am now fully immersed in the western suburbs.

Previous to this apartment, my homes have always been about 2 kilometres from the city centre and even within walking distance.

The new underground rail link and 5 new railway stations in the city may be a boon for many city travellers going from the north of the city to the southern suburbs, but I’m on the wrong side of the Maribyrnong River to make any use of it.

I’m too far west.

For those interested, every single high-rise office/apartment block and suburban residence you can see in the image below (taken a couple of weeks ago), was built since I was born – gosh, do I feel old 🙂  You can also see in this image, that many of the new houses and apartment blocks are built on the slopes of the river valley, first explored in 1803 by the early settlers.  Remember that Melbourne, the world’s most liveable city for the 7th year in a row, was only built/settled in 1835 and is what I’d call a Very Young City indeed!

BLANKET FLOWER (Gallardia)

One of the main aspects I like about Photography is the option of different lenses, camera settings and styles capturing subjects and background in a variety of ways.  Being extremely short-sighted, I find close-ups and the small details interesting.

After all, I’m an amateur photographer first (and a gardener second).

Actually, I never considered myself a gardener at all until I rented a ground-floor apartment with a balcony near the Royal Botanic Gardens on the south-east side of the city.  It didn’t get much sun, but it was fun playing around with a potted plant or two, growing a few hardy shade-loving herbs and had a lovely (shaded) strip of garden down the side path and a slightly larger space in front of the main entrance of the apartment building.

These images of Blanket flowers are from the Perennial Border in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne.  Most were made in the early years of my Photography hobby.  If you’re new to flower Photography, do take the time to play around with angles, background and lighting conditions (or time of day).  It really does help you learn to ‘see’ and appreciate Photography as a creative art.

THIS IS ONE IMAGE I NEVER REALLY LIKED, BUT WHEN YOU’RE A NOVICE, YOU DO TEND TO KEEP SOME OF THE ‘DELETERS’ as well as the ‘KEEPERS’ (just to compare and look back on).

Just remember the more photos you take, the more time it takes to review them on your computer, (says she who took 605 photos in one afternoon in March 2012).  First (and only) professional ‘shoot’ I’ve ever done and my computer crashed a couple of days later and I lost the whole folder.  Fortunately, I’d saved 140+ to a disc (for some reason which I can’t remember now).  I didn’t know much about ‘back-ups’ in those days 🙂

BROKEN LENS

Yes, my Sigma 150-500mm lens has definitely lost its inner ring (which lies between the glass and the screw ‘threads’) as mentioned in yesterday’s post.  See the slim ring in the centre of the image below.  If you look at the inner screw threads of the UV filter on the right of the image, you will see a similar inner ring securely in place.

Since the Promaster UV filter still screws on securely and the lens cap still fits securely, I assume I can safely use the lens for the time being without unnecessary concern?

‘Camera Repair Shop’ will have to go on the ‘want list’ – my Photography Gear Budget is ZILCH these days.

If any Knowledgeable Nerd OR Camera Technician following my Nature blog thinks to the contrary, please let me know.  My own knowledge about these type of things is ZILCH 🙂

 

 

 

 

A TYPICAL VISIT FROM THE FAIRY-WRENS

I made a point of getting out of bed early this morning with the intention of going out for some nature photography, but the sky appeared heavily overcast.

The light is low, so unless it fine’s up a little later in the morning, looks like the outing may not be worth while the taxi fare to get to one of my old photography haunts.  I’m not normally a morning person as I try to stay in bed asleep for however long my body tells me it needs rest (to recover from a disturbed night’s sleep which happens 365 days of the year).

To be honest,’overcast is good for bird photography.  It stops Australia’s brilliant sun glare bouncing off the bird’s wings and/or flares from the sun creeping through gaps in the tree foliage.

THIS SHOT WAS A LUCKY ONE IN THAT NORMALLY THE BRILLIANT SUN GLARE WOULD HAVE TOTALLY ‘WIPED OUT’ THE OUTLINE OF THE WREN, (not just those feathers on the right), BUT YOU CAN TELL IT WAS QUITE WINDY BY THE RUFFLED FEATHERS.

Bird photography using the DLSR and heavy long 150-500mm lens hand-held is not easy for me, but the long months of being pretty much housebound have given me ample opportunity to photograph the birds on my balcony with my left elbow anchored like a tripod on the armrests of my desk chair (or even have my elbows resting on my desk).

I’m gradually learning that the continuous shooting setting does not score me any more shots in focus (than the single shot setting) when it comes to photographing the fast- moving little Superb Fairy-wrens. Other slower-moving birds, or birds that stand still, are much easier for me to capture in focus.  Even the smaller juvenile House Sparrows are easier than the Fairy-wrens.

The only way to capture a bird in reasonable focus it to aim where I think they’re going pop up their little heads after each mouthful of food and then…….snap…..press the shutter button at the exact moment they’re upright (before they lower their head down to the food crop again).

I have about a 1/10th of a second in most cases.

I don’t have time to change the camera settings once the birds have flown on to the balcony and/or potted plants.  Setting the ISO on Auto to allow for both sunny perches and deep shade doesn’t work either.  It takes too long for the camera to assess the light conditions and set the ISO automatically.

The best chance of capturing a shot is to put the ISO on 800, (which is about the highest my cameras will go without getting too much noise in the image), and the shutter speed between 250-320 (for you amateur, or new bird photographers out there).  I haven’t tried setting the DSLR on full auto for bird photography.

I’ve just shared what camera settings seem to work best for the tiny fast-moving wrens in my particular light conditions.  They may not work for you.  Or, you may be a better bird photographer than me.  I also seem to get better shots in the mornings before the sun moves over my apartment building.  The sun, if its going to be a sunny day, doesn’t hit the balcony until about 2.30pm.

I’ve notice that the English curly parsley is about 3″ lower than the Flatleaf Italian Parsley, so for some reason, that seems to be the Wren’s favoured ‘salad’ meal and there’s one particular juvenile male that’s become a regular grazer.  You can see him in the parsley’s green feathery fronds below.

Both Parsley varieties used to be the same height, although I did catch a Harlequin bug crawling up and over the parsley yesterday, so that got despatched by flicking it off onto the ground below my balcony.  I can’t quite bring myself to kill pests, but can flick them quite some distance away quite happily.  I wondered if it was eating the English Parsley also.

So I took 17 shots at around 9.30am this morning and this is 16 of them (below) to show you how hard it is to get one focal point of the DSLR on to the bird’s-eye through the glass window or sliding door.  It’s a bit too chilly to open the door wide this morning, which I normally do first thing on a warm day.  I had quite a few emails to read this morning so was reading, eating my breakfast and keeping one eye out for any tiny movement when the birds visited.

It’s surprising how quickly your eyes become attuned to the slightest movement, even on a relatively windy day when the plants, bushes and trees are waving their foliage around quite wildly and you’d think I’d miss the ‘action’.

So it’s a matter of keeping one eye on the parsley, the other eye on the Nemesia flowers and your ‘third’ eye, or intuition, focused on the viewfinder of the camera.  🙂

Anyway, breakfast’s finished and I sense a slight change in the overcast sky, but the speed with which the clouds are moving across the horizon might indicate its a little windier than forecast.

NOTE: Last night I was cleaning my camera lens and filters (ready for today’s intended outing) when I sensed a rattling as I ran the cleaning cloth around the rim.  I couldn’t understand where the noise came from.  I put the UV filter back on the lens (which I always keep on to protect my expensive long lens) and got my little rubber dust blower out to finish off the task.  I’d missed a tiny bit of fluff on the actual lens so took the filter off again and low & behold, a slim shallow ‘ring’ fell off the camera.  Not sure, but I suspect its part of the $1000+ lens.  Its broken.  But the filter seemed to screw back on OK and the lens cap fitted securely.

So I am left with a slim (now obsolete) ring of some kind.

At the moment, I can’t afford to take it in the Repair Department for assessment, buy a new expensive long telephoto lens or a new 86mm Promaster UV filter, so keep your fingers crossed I can ‘limp’ along without the broken ring.

WHAT PLANT IS THAT?

Now, I’m not going to chase through Google Images in search of this one, as it looked like something from another planet, but what is it?

Seen in a local residential garden near my home, it is obviously the new Spring shoots of some bush.  The bush was quite large at about 8-9 foot high and about 5 foot wide.

It was covered in a greyish-white with a tinge of red wine-coloured leaves.  For all I know it might be a really common plant and just looked unusual at this new shoot stage, which I’d never seen before.

PERFECTION

What is really hard, and really amazing,
is giving up on being perfect
and beginning the work of becoming yourself.

~ Anna Quindlen 

We live in an imperfect world.

That is a universal truth, but I have to say my single green Lettuce Multileaf (Lactic sativa) is the closest thing to perfection I have ever seen.

It feels like fine velvet as I let its leaves slide through my fingers.  I keep checking all its leaves – there has to be about 30 – expecting the Cabbage Moth Caterpillars or the Harlequin Bugs to appear, but my little blue plastic butterfly ‘scarecrow’ is working its magic once again (up the end near the purple lettuce). I’ve seen 2-3 white-winged butterflies across the road, but none near my garden……so far.

I don’t think I’ve grown this particular lettuce before, preferring the continual cropping of other varieties which I can cut off the outer leaves as I need them.

There is not one single flaw in this perfect green gem and I can’t bear to harvest it.

I just want to look at it every morning. (alright, I am going ‘crackers’ in old age).  For those of you with large vegetable gardens and multiple crops, this might well be your morning and evening practice anyway – walking around, watching and waiting, inspecting and expecting!

It’s purple cousin on the other side of my Perennial Basil Mint (mentha x roundifolia) is a very close second in perfection, although it does not have as many leaves.

I’ve been snipping off the tips of my Perennial Basil to use in cooking so the poor wee plant doesn’t have much chance to grow very high, but certainly replaces my cuttings with 3-4 leaves if I leave it for a few days.

I’ll have to buy another Perennial Basil that’s for sure.

Even the Mizuma ‘Red’ (Brassica rapa var nipponsinica) – bottom right in image above – is finally starting to take off despite the Superb Fairy-wrens and House Sparrows nibbling its tiny shoots.

I’ve never grown this spicy little plant before either.

The Birds are taking it in turns to feast on the 2 Parsley plants in the trough hanging from my balcony fence and the plants are starting to go to seed, so some new Parsley plants are on the Shopping List.

Actually, I need quite a few more seedlings if I’m going to grow enough for a whole bowl of salad every evening this coming Summer, (as I did in the image below made from my previous apartment’s balcony garden).  That garden was facing south and got no direct sun, but a massive about of light.

MY WEST-FACING BALCONY IS TOO HOT TO SUPPLY MANY OF THESE HERBS AND LEAVES, BUT AS LONG AS I HAVE PARSLEY, MINT, SORREL, KALE AND A FEW LETTUCE LEAVES I’M USUALLY HAPPY.

My current balcony is west-facing and extremely hot in summer.

I use so much Parsley throughout the year, that I need a plentiful supply for my dinner plate (let alone my summer salads), but I’ll leave the dwindling Parsley leaves for the Birds to enjoy.  The image above shows the English Curley Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) half of the trough, next to a new Superb Fairy-wren visitor.

Looks pretty good from this angle last week, but I can assure you, it’s really going to seed in recent days.

The Italian Parsley (Petroselinum crispum neapolitanum)in the left half of the trough (not in image) is also going to seed.

The Oregano Hot & Spicey (Origanum sp.) seems to have larger leaves than ordinary Oregano, but that might just be a Spring surprise as I’ve never grown that variety of Oregano before either.

The Japanese Maple in front of my apartment balcony is now fully clothed in Spring foliage and the birds are starting to snack on the tiny shoots at the end of each branch, but with my garden supplying much of their needs, the Maple has been keeping a lot more young foliage this year.

SORRY ITS SUCH A LOUSY SHOT, BUT WHAT CAN ONE DO THROUGH TWO THICK PANES OF DIRTY GLASS

I’d share more of the birds on the tree except that shooting through 2 thick panes of dirty glass does ‘not a photograph make.’

I have washed the windows twice recently, but I notice overnight rain last night has returned my lounge windows to their usual smeary self and it’s too cold this morning to open the sliding door its full width.

I’m now starting to recognise the individual wrens – half are the adult males in full blue breeding plumage, then there’s the occasional adult female, as well as various juveniles with varying pale blue patches, or spots, on their backs.

I’ve never been able to recognise any House Sparrows (apart from male and female of course).

Being off the computer and not at my desk through most of the last week or so, means I have got more done of my ‘to do’ list in one week, (than in the last year)!

Seriously.

My headaches have improved a bit too.  When I say off the computer, I am still turning on the computer to check emails etc each morning, but then turn it off soon after and self-discipline is growing in leaps and bounds.

I never realised how much time I wasted sitting at my desk watching the birds – well, I did, but the last week has proven exactly how much LOL 😀

You’re probably getting a bit sick of the same bird photos but when you have 6-7 Fairy-wrens visiting at the one time –  morning (9.30am and roughly 10.30am) and afternoon (about 3.30-4.30pm or a bit later), I’m sure you’ll agree they are worth the time.  What I find interesting is how they visit in groups and then, the House Sparrows join the party.

It’s extraordinary how one minute the balcony garden is devoid of avian life and next minute I can have as many as 10 birds dropping by now that Spring is here.  Some of my images are terrible and completely blurred.   Others which are pretty good and I have shared.

This mosaic below gives you an inkling of how much fun it is to follow the wrens as they visit each and every plant on my balcony – half the time, I have not the slightest idea what they’re eating, but presume it is the youngest shoots.  Even the multi-coloured flowering Nemesia (Nemesia fruticans) gets a visit.  The birds seem to remember all the pots I put seed in a couple of weeks ago and still visit in hope of a second feed (?), but they also walk around the balcony tiles and the back of the potted plants hoping for some spilt seed.

The images below were made in about 15-20 minutes.   The one on the bird bath is obviously a juvenile.

When I’ve finished today’s paperwork and filing, I will finally be caught up with the ‘to do’ list.  Not that I’m a procrastinator per se, merely that I take my life in enforced retirement one day at a time.  Living Mindfully amidst a bountiful tiny garden in a Room With a View has to be one of the most rewarding and enjoyable pastimes if you have Chronic Illness and Pain.

Being housebound more and more as the months go by is not to say I don’t get frustrated and feeling a little down or depressed at times (when I’d rather be out on a nature walk taking photos), but all in all, being able to appreciate the small things in life is a blessing that I’ve gradually acquired.

I will eventually get back to sharing more images from my archives, but in the meantime, time to turn off the computer 😀

“If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.” 

Lao Tzu