APOLOGIES….

I’m way behind with Blog Reading and replying to some comments, so apologies to everyone concerned.

Sometimes, when life gets busy, you just have to accept your failings and move on……

Here’s a few quick shots of that male Superb Fairy-wren from Tuesday.  I think I had the sliding door open for the first 2 shots and the other 3 were through the dirty windows so they look a bit faded.  I don’t see these wrens  often now.  Maybe they’re nesting and got little ones to feed, or maybe, they’re fed up with finding no food in my much-reduced balcony garden?

So here’s a series of images so you can follow them around my garden like I do.  They’re such fun to watch.  It’s always a challenge to capture these fast-moving little wrens within the frame, but it’s always fun trying.

Anyway, Tuesday’s sighting was a rare one in recent weeks.  I think they visit me, take a stroll around the remaining potted plants and then drop down to the grey concrete tiles where they used to find scattered seed, then up to the fence railing, drop down to the apartment below mine, find nothing there and……………fly back to the hedge on the other side of the road.

That seems to be the routine.

I’m thinking that my Sony a6000 might need cleaning and servicing.  Yesterday’s shots at the pond in the Wetlands look a little odd.  Or maybe it was just the gusty winds that tried to blow me over and I wasn’t holding the camera still enough.  I’ve lost the rubber eyepiece for the 3rd time, and without it, my glasses are getting scratched too.

After visiting the local Pharmacy yesterday, despite ominous cloud cover, I walked over to the bus stop to check when the next bus would arrive heading down to the Maribyrnong/Edgewater/Bunyap park/wetlands (I wish they’d make up their minds out of the 3 names they’ve got on the signs around the pond).

One sign would be more than adequate.  I used to walk along the river path from home to visit this wetlands and pond, but of course, walking this far is out of the question at the moment.

A few rain drops fell but I decided to……….wait for the next post to tell you about it 😀

RED WATTLEBIRD (Anthochaera carunculata)

I’d just made my morning coffee and sat down at my desk in front of the floor-to-ceiling lounge windows to read my overnight emails, when I caught a sudden movement out of the corner of my eye.

I turned my head and picked up my Sony ‘mirrorless’ camera which I’d just removed from it’s ‘sleeping bag’, but my movement must have startled the bird through the window (which is very dirty from recent rains), and it flew away before I had a chance to take a shot.

I uttered a word not so polite for a little old(er) lady – $%@#! – missed the shot! 😀

It was a Red Wattlebird (Anthochaera carunculata) and while I’d seen these honeyeaters on the hedge over the road a few times in the last couple of months, this was the first time one had landed on my balcony fence rail.

Of course it may have visited my balcony garden one day when I was out, but since I’m pretty much housebound most days now, I am still aware of the avian visitors due to their distinctive calls, even if I don’t actually catch sight of them.

NOT REALLY A GOOD SHOT PER SE, BUT THIS IMAGE WAS MADE LATE ONE AFTERNOON IN FROGS HOLLOW NATURE RESERVE (LOCATED BEHIND MY CURRENT APARTMENT BUILDING)

Talk about thrill of the year.

I never cease to be amazed at the variety of birds which visit my balcony or the (3) hedges across the road.  Many of which make such brief visits I don’t have time to take the lens cap off one of my cameras and capture them in an image to share with you.  (Or maybe my cameras are still in their overnight sleeping bags and I haven’t set them up on my desk for the day).

Sometimes I feel as though I haven’t seen a bird all week, but that would be a lie as the House Sparrows visit the bird bath regularly nearly every day and I’m still getting the occasional sighting of a male Superb Fairy-wren with it lovely blue head and upper back. I photographed one only yesterday, but I won’t bore you with more shots of the Fairy-wrens as I’ve already shared so many.   Haven’t seen a female Superb Fairy-wren for several weeks, so they may be nest-sitting?

Anyway, I haven’t seen a Red Wattlebird this close-up for about 5 years (when one landed at my feet on the paving stones next to the pond in the Fitzroy Gardens in East Melbourne) below.

I’ve shared these images (in this post) from my archives before…….several times…….but I’ll share them again so you know what bird I’m talking about.

Once again I was reminded of how large this particular species of honeyeater is.  While you may think the grey-brown and white streaks of its head, nape and back and grey-brown rump are pretty ordinary,  its yellow belly and reddish-pink wattles, (or earrings as I like to call them), make this species stand out in the crowd.

The 2 images below were made from underneath a large tree next to the Yarra River in north-east Melbourne with a long lens about 3 years ago.

RED WATTLEBIRD (Anthochaera carunculata)
RED WATTLEBIRD (Anthochaera carunculata)

The Little Wattlebird (Anthochaera chrysoptera) has a very distinctive and raucous ‘cockay-cock’ ‘kwok’ ‘yekop’ sound,  once described as ‘fetch-the-gun’, is totally familiar to me now.  I’m not sure whether the Red Wattlebird has exactly the same sound or not, but once you hear a Wattlebird’s’s call and identify it, you’ll never forget it.

The image (below) was made in a residential garden in north-east Melbourne where I used to live next to the Yarra River (which runs to the south of Melbourne city and out into the bay).

Easy to see how they blend into the branches when the tree is bare of leaves in winter.

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By the way, for long-time followers, the recent right hip MRI I had done about 10 days ago and got the report from my GP on Monday revealed, advanced osteoarthritis, extensive loss of cartilage, a muscle tear, a hip labrum tear and some minor common hamstring tendonitis – not good news.

 (I thought my spine was bad enough and had seen my old Neurosurgeon in June and got a 2nd opinion from another Neurosurgeon only a few weeks ago.  It was actually the ‘second opinion’ neurosurgeon who suggested I have my right hip investigated).

I had a look at the MRI disc they give you at the Radiography Centre and thought my right hip looked like a craggy rock (compared to the MRI ‘slice’ showing both hips for comparison).  My left hip looks like an ordinary round ball and socket to me.  Not that I’m a radiographer, just saying that the difference was striking and I could see the hip labrum tear easily).  Labrum tears don’t always cause symptoms, but when they do, Mr Google says the only treatment is surgery – they do not heal on their own.

So, it’s been my HIP and torn tissues/muscles that have been keeping me pretty much housebound in recent times 😯

When you have 3 different pain/fatigue conditions for 38 years, it can be hard to discern between the regular chronic bad/severe pain and a new pain site (in case you wonder why I could put up with such severe pain for so long).

I have a referral to see an Orthopaedic Surgeon on the 7th December.

 

OLEANDER (Nerium)

The enormous Oleander (Nerium) was in full bloom (with a few spent dead heads) outside my local pharmacy yesterday and I stepped back & forth trying to work out how to get some images in the shady part of the bush.

First close-up was at an Aperture of f3.5 which I often use for flowers to get a blurred background.

Next  a shot taken at an aperture of f8.00 to get more in focus. (note: I couldn’t see on the LCD screen due to the bright light of the day, hence several shots, which I’d later keep, or delete, on seeing them on my large computer screen).

The harsh late afternoon sun made shots of other flowers on the walk to my medical appointment almost impossible to shoot.

Disappointingly, the enormous patch of Fairy Iris which I’d been hoping to photograph next to the small local park, was still at the bud stage, so no photos there.

I only scored images of the pink flowers and a Magpie sitting on a nearby tree. So glad I had 2 cameras and 2 lenses to choose from.

 

While it has lovely flowers and is extremely tough, the downside of these particular plants is that all parts are poisonous, so not a good plant to have in your garden if you have young children around.

While the leaves are generally green, I believe there are variegated leaf forms.

Flowers come in a range of colours and are sweetly scented, but I must admit I’ve never bothered to bend down and smell them (having allergies to some strongly-perfumed flowers).

The flowers appear late Spring until the end of Summer and are white, pink or crimson, with some double forms available.  Oleander is perfect for hot, dry gardens.

The only thing I find a wee bit annoying is that with the lovely flowers, there are often dead or dying blooms next to them, so it can be a bit hard too capture a fresh flower without its dead neighbour within the frame.

Doesn’t stop me trying though 🙂

BLUE-WINGED KOOKABURRA (Dacelo leachii)

While we’re on the subject of Kookaburras, (see previous post), I thought to share my not-so-good shots of the Blue-Winged Kookaburra (Dacelo leachii).  

The bird is clear enough, but I didn’t make a good job of erasing the cage wire in the foreground.

Blue-winged Kookaburra (Dacelo leachii)

After hundreds of hours of practice over about 3 years, I became quite good at photographing birds through fine cage wire at the Zoo – so that the wire disappears completely – but not so with the images in this post.  And this bird’s cage wire had large gaps between each strand, so I have no excuse.

But I’m still going to share so you can see the difference between the 2 Kookaburras.

Blue-winged Kookaburra (Dacelo leachii)

The Blue-Winged Kookaburra is only found in the far north, or north-west, of Australia so I can’t bring you any images made in the wild, only at the Zoo.

This bird is slightly smaller than the Laughing Kookaburra and has lots of blue on the wings.  The rump and tail are a lovely azure blue in the male and the tail is chestnut barred black in the female.

This one is noisy, and has a poorly formed cacophony of harsh cackles and screeches.

Blue-winged Kookaburra (Dacelo leachii)

Here’s the photo of the Laughing Kookaburra in the previous post which was located in the  same size cage next door for comparison.

The Kookaburra has its own enclosure at Melbourne Zoo and despite the cage wire between the bird and my camera, this shot turned out pretty well.

By the way, if you’re new to bird photography, there’s nothing I can recommend more that practicing photographing birds at your local zoo (if you live in a city like I do).  

You learn very quickly how to hold a camera very, very still in order to get one DSLR focal point through tiny 1/4″ (yes, quarter of an inch) cage wire AND you learn exactly how far the subject must be from the cage wall in order to make the wire lines disappear.

Seriously  🙂

Here’s a good example……a Crimson Rosella, well maybe its got slightly different feather pattern and no blue cheeks, but we’ll call it a Crimson Rosella, photographed behind very fine cage wire.

  1. THE BIRD IS CLINGING TO THE WIRE AND TOO CLOSE.

2.  THE BIRD IS FURTHER BACK BUT STILL A BIT TOO CLOSE TO THE WIRE AND I PROBABLY DIDN’T HOLD THE DSLR STILL ENOUGH.

3. THE BIRD IS JUST THE RIGHT DISTANCE AWAY FROM THE CAGE WALL and I MANAGED TO HOLD THE DSLR (with its 9 focal points changed to 1 focal point) VERY STILL. Sometimes you get a haze of funny lines in the background, but it is possible to make the cage wire disappear.

Or better still……..

4.  PHOTOGRAPH IT IN THE WILD, LIKE I DID (for the first time ever in my western suburb), BEHIND MY APARTMENT BUILDING WHERE THERE IS A LARGE TREE ON THE EDGE OF FROGS HOLLOW NATURE RESERVE.  Image made on the 24th October, this year.  I’ve cropped the image and lightened the shadows to make the bird more visible.  I was so surprised and excited to see this colourful Rosella near my home I admit I had trouble keeping the camera still and I didn’t have a long telephoto lens at the time.

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NOTE: I started going to the zoo in 2012 and over about 3 years of annual membership, I went there about 100 times (going by the dates in my photo library).  You only have to visit a minimum of 3 times per year to make Annual Membership worth paying for.

Sometimes I’d go 3 times a week in Melbourne’s hot summers as the temperate rainforest landscaping was so shady and exceptionally cool.

Melbourne’s main Zoo, located in North Melbourne (and easily accessible by tram from the city centre), is open 365 days per year, although from time to time, they do close certain exhibits for maintenance.  Sometimes I’d go specifically to do nothing else but practice bird photography in The Great Aviary (where you can walk around on the long boardwalk which criss-crosses the enormous space and get quite close to some of the birds, especially at feeding times).

I might add, on overcast cool days, many of the birds were roosting on branches at the top of the enormous Aviary where it was warmer and quite hard to see, so I’d choose a sunny day if I was visiting in Winter if you’re a Tourist.  Secondly, if you specifically want to see the Great Aviary, phone the zoo beforehand and ensure its not closed (on your chosen day) for maintenance.

LAUGHING KOOKABURRA (Davelo novaeguineae)

Australia’s Kookaburra needs no introduction to most people the world over, but it’s actually called the Laughing Kookaburra (Davelo novaeguineae) to differentiate the bird from the Blue-winged Kookaburra (Davelo leachii).  From what I’ve seen on the internet, I suspect some people confuse it with our Kingfishers.  They seem to include the word Kingfisher in the title just as much an error (to my knowledge) as calling a Koala a Koala Bear (which is not a bear at all).

The Kookaburra’s beak is fuller and not as pointed as a Kingfisher.

I used to see and hear them regularly in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne Zoo or prior to that, when I still had a car and went bush walking, up in the country.  I’ve only heard a Kookaburra once in all the 2 years since I moved to the western suburbs (and never actually seen one here,  despite living next to a nature reserve and some 400 hectares of green space up and down the Maribyrnong River).

The Kookaburra has its own enclosure at Melbourne Zoo and despite the cage wire between the bird and my camera, this shot turned out pretty well.

Famous for its raucous accelerating laugh, increasing in volume then fading, this youtube , despite the bird being indoors, is a little more accurate than some other YouTubes I’ve heard.

It’s a large bird, much like a Kingfisher in appearance, with a white crown, smudges and streaked brown, with distinctive dark patch through the eye.

Its back and wings are brown, with bluish feather-edges on the shoulders,   Its rump and tail chestnut with black bars.

It’s actually one of the first birds I photographed in the Royal Botanic Gardens when I took up photography, as it landed on a park bench and later, could be seen pulling up worms in the tan bark mulch on a garden bed.

But the shot below is one of my favourites for the simple reason, that the bird was about 50 feet high up an enormous tree some distance away and all I could see was a white blob lit by a bright ray of sunshine in the dark foliage.

I made a hand-held shot with my 150-500mm lens trying to guess where the head might be near the top of the white blob and was amazed to see, on downloading the image to my 27″ screen,  that I’d actually captured a Kookaburra and it was in relatively sharp focus.  I must have been holding the heavy telephoto lens very stead that day.

….and another shot of a Kookaburra in the wild (below) – Dandenong Ranges National Park – located in the low range of hills overlooking the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne.  It’s a bit far away to see much detail, but I was glad to photograph it in the wild, as opposed to my local urban area.

PERUVIAN TORCH CACTUS (Trichocereus peruvianus)

I received the Cacti & Succulent book I’d ordered in the mail the other day and I’m labouring my way through the photos trying to match some of my unidentified cacti images (made in Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens) with the book.

I was very disappointed to find that there are no Common Names mentioned.

How extraordinary I thought to myself.

Both my Australian Plant Encyclopaedias  and Weeds in Australia book list the Common Name first (with the Genus, species and family second).

All I can say is that at least it might give me some clues to narrow down my cacti identification without labouring through multiple websites.

In the meantime, my photos of the Peruvian Torch Cactus (Trichocereus peruvianus) were already identified from a name plaque at the base of the plant in the RBG.  Not only are the flowers stunning on this fast-growing columnar prickly cactus, but the flower buds are equally interesting.

I’ll leave you to look up more about this plant if you’re interested, as this blog is about Nature Photography, not Gardening or Botany per se.

Melbourne’s RBG (Royal Botanic Gardens) were only 5 minutes walk away from where I used to live and work on the south-east side of Melbourne’s main river for the benefit of those new to my nature blog.  So when I had to take ‘early retirement’ due to ill-health in 2010 and bought a camera and took up Photography as a hobby, it was initially my main source of photo subjects.  But I already knew the RBG intimately BC (Before Camera), as I walked in and around its many paths for something like 25 years.  When you live in a small apartment, who can complain about having no garden or backyard of your own, when a 38 hectare site with some 55,000 plant is on your ‘doorstep’.

TREE WARATAH (Alloxylon flammeum)

WARATAH

It’s probably timely to feature one of Australia’s most flamboyant trees (after the Protea in the previous post).

I hope I’ve got the identification correct as its slightly more fiery in colour than the red Waratah which is the national emblem of the state of New South Wales (above my state of Victoria).

WARATAH

Most Australian trees are quite modest in their flowering, but this particular one is truly spectacular and when in flower, at full-grown height of 18 meters,  must be a wonderful sight indeed.

This species originated in the Atherton Tablelands near Baldy Mountain Forest Reserve in Queensland.

Its scarlet-red, nectar-rich, bird-attracting flowers are abundant on the tree.

The images in this post come from Melbourne Zoo’s landscaping, just in front of the lion enclosure, not far from the Proteas featured in the previous post.

WARATAH

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(Interruption to this post to say I just saw a House Sparrow on my Blueberry bush which I’d placed on top of the air-conditioning outlet about 3 feet off the tiles of my balcony, right in direct view above my computer screen.  The bush is about 4′ in front of my direct view over the screen so I could keep an eye on it.  Unfortunately, I only had the 150-500mm lens on my desk with the lens cap off and the bird was too close to get in focus.

Looks like time to get the cotton netting out to protect all those lovely berries from the bird life that visit my balcony each day

All I can say is that I hope the still-green berry was tart and put the Sparrow off from having another snack).

PROTEA

Protea is both the botanical name and the English common name of a genus of South African flowering plants, sometimes called Sugarbushes in South Africa, but here in Australia, we just call them Proteas.

They dry exceptionally well and last for months as a cut flower (as long as you don’t put water in the vase which will make them rot and smell if you leave them long enough).  Sure, fill the vase with water if you only want them for a few weeks and don’t want the flowers to dry out.

While they’re not native to Australia, I have a lovely set of images, so this makes them worth sharing on my Nature Blog.

These 4 images were made quite by chance as I was walking towards the exit of Melbourne Zoo one day in 2013, (probably around mid to late afternoon), and surprisingly, I had my 150-500mm lens in my hand at the time.  I took 3 photos and then swapped to my 18-200mm lens to take another shot to include an un-opened bud in the background.

I’ve also photographed these long-lasting flowers in the Royal Botanic Gardens here in Melbourne, but those images were nowhere near as good (being shot on a more overcast day).

The Zoo images were on one day when ‘right time, right place’ applies, as it was late afternoon and the light was perfect for flower photography.

ECLECTUS PARROT (Eclectus roratus)

Eclectus Parrot – female

This large, unmistakable, short-tailed parrot is only found in the far northern tip of tropical Queensland (Solomon Islands, Sumba, New Guinea and the Moluccas).

Eclectus Parrot (Eclectus roratus) – male

It’s highly unusual in the parrot family for its extreme sexual dimorphism of the colours of  the plumage; the male having mostly bright emerald-green feathers and the female mostly bright red and purple/blue colour.

We have a couple in Melbourne Zoo’s Great Aviary and they are best friends with the lovely pink Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo featured in the previous post.  Here’s a repeat of those images……

They seem to all live in, or around, the same tree stump in the Great Aviary and at times seem to actually ‘talk’ to each other, OR groom each other’s necks.

It took me quite a few zoo visits before I realised they seem to share their food and what looks like……passing nuts to eat other, or eating the same nut together?  Hard to say exactly.

I imagine they would be very easy to see in even the most lush tropical tree foliage.

NOT A GOOD SHOT PER SE, BUT IT DOES SHOW A BIT OF THEIR UNDERWING COLOUR.

The juveniles are duller in colour and have a brownish beak.

MAJOR MITCHELL’S COCKATOO (Cacatua leadbeateri)

Australia has several Cockatoos, but my favourite has to be the Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo (Cacatua leadbeateri).  

It’s not seen as far south as my state of Victoria, but Melbourne Zoo has a very handsome ‘Cockie’, so I’ve been fortunate enough to photograph it several times on my many zoo visits over the years.

It’s found in opens land, scrub, mallee and mulga and mainly in central areas of the country.

The body is a pale pink, with white wings, back and tail.  It’s forehead is more reddish in colour  with an upswept crest.  When the crest is erect, (which I’ve never seen I must admit), it’s banded with yellow and pink.

Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo & male Eclectus Parrot

Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo with female Eclectus Parrot