PACIFIC GULL (Larus pacificus)

Before I took up Photography as a hobby in 2010, a seagull was a seagull.

I never knew there 6-7 Gulls in Australia and certainly had never heard of a Pacific Gull (Larus pacificus).

 These gulls are large and have a very distinctive large yellow beak with a red tip.  When I first saw the juvenile brown gull, I thought it was a different species. The juveniles keep their grey-brown feathers and assume their adult plumage over 3-4 years.

The adults have bright yellow legs while the juveniles have more a dark pinkish grey leg colour.  They’re widespread and common, but rarely far from the sea.

I’m glad I managed to capture photos of the Pacific Gull (Larus pacificus)together with the common Silver Gull (Larus novaehollandiae), so you can see the size comparison.

They’re quite common down at Port Melbourne beach at low tide where they search the tide line and seaweed for food, but I’ve also photographed them at St Kilda beach, the closest southern bay side beach to Melbourne City.

GLADIOLUS (Gladiolus cardinalis)

You don’t seem to see Gladiolus in many residential gardens in Australia these days, but they were a great favourite of my Mother in our quarter acre first home block.  My Mother had a massive garden, both ornamental in the steep slope in front of our house, as well as the vegetable gardens and fruit trees in the rear yard.

There are around 260 species with thousands of cultivars and most originated in South Africa.

They should have a sunny situation protected from wind with a well-drained soil, but will tolerate periods of dryness once they’re established.

The funnel-shaped floors open from the bottom of the stem upwards and come in shades of white, red, pink, yellow, orange and some bicolour.

These images of the gorgeous GLADIOLUS (Gladiolus cardinals), a hybrid, come to you from our Royal Botanic Gardens here in Melbourne, but I daresay are easy enough to find in any local plant nursery or online supplier if you want them in your ‘Aussie’ garden.

GREVILLEA ‘LITTLE DRUMMER BOY’ (Grevillea lanigera)

GREVILLEA ‘LITTLE DRUMMER BOY’ (Grevillea lanigera) – 28th August, 2010 – Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

GREVILLEA ‘LITTLE DRUMMER BOY’ (Grevillea lanigera), or WOOLLY GREVILLEA, is one of my favourite early flower images made in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne.

…..and one of the most ‘stolen’ of my flower images.  I just found another 2 websites who have used this image without my permission.

Perhaps I should be flattered.

But why can’t people do me the curtesy of at least asking if they may use one of my images.

I’ve got about 7-8 images used by professional bodies (with my permission) or even a young street photographer who asked if  he could use one of my B & W images as the header on his website, (which surprised me as I’d have thought he would want to use one of his own, but he was just starting a website and has probably substituted one of his own by now).  I’m happy to share if people ask, but I do like to be asked first.

I do like people to at least credit me as the photographer too.

Anyway, this lovely woolly low-growing Grevillea is a great ground-cover endemic to the eastern coast of Australia.  It’s one of the ‘spider’ flowered Grevilleas.  It flowers in Winter and Spring and has really soft grey-green foliage.  It may be 8 1/2 years since I took this image with my first little Canon point & shoot – my first camera when I took up Photography as a hobby – but surprisingly, despite my novice status, I still think it’s one of the best flower photos I’ve made which shows great detail.

There are something like 350 Grevilleas which grow in every part of Australia, but I’ve only photographed about 5 different varieties.  The other 4 varieties I’ve got in my Grevillea folder are of the ‘toothbrush’ flowered Grevilleas.  The honeyeaters love their nectar.

They’re pretty drought-hardy and benefit from a light prune after flowering.

It’s back………

My Sigma 150 – 500mm lens is back……………….from the camera repair department.

Just thought I’d share my delight with you.

Of course, I’m still in a state of shock at the repair bill of this much-loved telephoto lens (including the new UV filter which I always buy for my lenses to protect them).

But I’m so glad to have a long telephoto ‘birding’ lens again.

Now……….where are all the birds who normally visit my balcony during the day.  Wouldn’t you know it, not a bird in sight! 😀

I might just have to walk down to the local pond today to test it out.  Of course I did test it in the repair department, but that’s not the same thing as testing it on a real live distant bird.

TREE or SHRUBBY GERMANDER (Teucrium fruticans)

Shrubby  Germander (Teucrium fruticans), also known as Tree germander is a bushy, evergreen shrub with oval to lance-shaped, grey-green leaves, to 3/4″ long, with white-woolly underneath.

It’s native to the western and central areas of the Mediterraneun, not Australia, but I find it a lovely plant and almost wish I had one in my balcony garden, although it does like a bit of shelter and I fear it would quickly go downhill in my windy home location.  But with all the successes I’ve had in my small west-facing garden, you never know – it might just grow beautifully 🙂

The whorls of pale blue/mauve flowers are very pretty (even if they don’t have the brilliant colour of some of the flowers in my previous post).

They make an excellent hedge, and do best in moist, well-drained soil and full sun.  They make a nice clipped low hedge in a herb garden and may be cut to within 2″ of ground level in the Spring to maintain a nice compact growth habit.

The images in this post were not made in the Royal Botanic Gardens, (surprise, surprise), but against a wall in the riverside walking path near the Collingwood Children’s Garden in the inner Melbourne north-east suburb of Abbotsford,  where I lived briefly before moving to the western suburb where I currently reside.

FLOWER PHOTOGRAPHY

While I love my current home location, I can’t deny that it’s not as ‘colourful‘ as when I lived next to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne (up to May 2015).

I was also a short bus ride away from some of Melbourne’s other main public gardens and The Conservatory (in the Fitzroy Gardens) at that time.

After walking the Royal Botanic Garden’s many paths for over 25 years, it really was fun to capture some of the beautiful flowers through the seasons when I bought a DSLR in late December 2010.

While I do have a relatively small Edwardian public park a bus ride away at the current time (images above), somehow it’s not the same as the diverse range of flowers, grasses and old trees of the RBG (Royal Botanic Gardens) which was first planted in 1846.   Quite a few of those old trees were uprooted or severely damaged in a storm in 2009, but other 150+ year old trees, sourced from many countries around the world, remain a backdrop to some of the RBG’s beautiful paths and avenues.

One of the main drawcards to the RBG is the wide variety of formal garden beds, informal planting of native plants as well as a rich variety of grasses and trees.  It’s variety is constantly being updated and replanted to maintain a lovely array of foliage as well as flowers.

Melbourne is known as the Garden capital city of Australia and its many public parks and gardens are a living testament to the wisdom of some of the early settlers in the area who made the effort to surround the first white settlement with gardens.

While recent years have seem much re-landscaping from English cottage garden plants to more drought-hardy natives, South African and South American plants, some of the 55,000 plants are bound to be in flower in any season.

The Treasury Gardens and Fitzroy Gardens on the eastern perimeter of Melbourne’s CBD (Central Business District) together with many National Trust Properties make for a wealth of photo subjects to entertain and enchant the Garden Lovers among you.

So to cheer up those living in the northern hemisphere, which is still under storms and/or snow/wintery chill, here’s a colourful array of some of my early flower images – mostly made between 2010 and 2013 (combined with a few butterfly images from the Butterfly House at Melbourne’s main zoo in North Melbourne).

NOTE: As always, if you see a misspelt name, blame the Auto Spellcheck which keeps changing my typing OR if you see an incorrect name, please don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments section.  There are 3-4 flowers which have several common names, but I’ve only listed one to save space.

 

WATER BUTTONS, BUTTONWEED (Cotula coronophifolia)

Water Buttons are a native of South Africa, but naturalised in all Australian states and New Zealand.

These hairless, low-growing, perennial herbs flower in Winter and Spring and grow on a range of soils from sandy loam to clay, but are restricted to wet soils that are periodically flooded according to Mr Google.

They generally exist in moderately saline, waterlogged soils and may form large mats over shallow water,  but the images in this post were made in Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens.

Not sure that the patch of plants was in water-logged soil in the RBG, but they were flowering profusely all the same.

I could have chosen to photograph just one flower, but then you wouldn’t get a sense of how gorgeous they are en masse.  Their button-like flowers tend to turn throughout the day and follow the sunlight as you can see in my images.

I’ve seen them in the soggy field around the pond in the nearby Newells Paddock Conservation and Nature Reserve about 2 miles from my current home.

I tried to get down low to photograph them in Newells Paddock when I first visited this amazing restored area a couple of years ago, but I wobbled too much as I was trying not to get wet socks through a hole in my old walking shoes.  The ground was covered in low-lying water under the succulents and grass floor beneath my feet, so the images below just really give you a sense of the surroundings in that paddock (field).  Hope to get back there soon to photograph more of the bird life.  You can get a sense of the bird life here

Or, you can keep following my nature blog waiting for me to photograph them.  Not sure I can get around all the ponds and fields as the water is hidden underfoot for the most part, and I don’t have any gumboots (rubber boots).  I tend to stick to gravel or asphalt paths for walking these days as I’m a bit accident-prone (as you will know if you’ve followed my blog for a long time 😀 )

It’s been raining solidly for a couple of hours this morning and is blissfully cool, so I definitely won’t have to water my balcony garden this evening.

I glanced at the coming week’s weather forecast on the internet this morning, (as I do every morning), and it looks like cooler weather next week.

Dare I hope for a walk outdoors soon?

Is the stretch of heat waves Melbourne’s endured through January, finally finished?

Will there be enough rain to put the bushfires out?

NANKEEN NIGHT HERON (Nycticorax caledonicus)

The first time I saw a Nankeen Night Heron (Nycticorax caledonicus) on the bank of the Ornamental Lake in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, I nearly passed out with excitement.

NANKEEN NIGHT HERON photographed from my special secret hiding place down a rarely used path in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne.

I’d never seen one before.

A juvenile NANKEEN NIGHT HERON – Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

I thought I was looking at a very rare bird, but of course I later saw it was very common in the RBG, Melbourne Zoo and even, my current home location (just haven’t seen it here yet).

Perhaps not very well focused, but this long-distance shot of the dead tree where the NANKEEN NIGHT HERONS bask in the late Winter sun in the Royal Botanic Gardens gives you an idea of how many there were that day.
A further distant shot of the upright part of that dead tree. Sometimes you’d see as many as 25-30 Nankeen Nigh Herons on its upper branches.

It’s a large, but comparatively dumpy, large-headed heron.  It’s beak is large, deep and black.  This heron has yellowish legs.  The plumage is a distinctive dark cinnamon above with dark crown and white drooping crest in breeding season.  The underparts are buff shading to white.

The juvenile is also distinctive with dark brown above and plentiful bold white spots.  (It’s called the Rufous Night Heron on some web sites).

I think it is my favourite bird of all I’ve photographed (since I took up Photography as a hobby in 2010).

I managed to get some great shots up-close in the outdoor restaurant area at Melbourne Zoo’s Japanese Garden entrance.

It even beats my second favourite – the White-faced Heron.

Since I can’t get outdoors for a walk today, despite the superb cool weather  and fluffy white clouds scattered across the vivid blue Summer sky, I decided to share some images from my archives.

Hope you enjoyed them 🙂

THIRST

“You don’t know what thirst is until you drink for the first time.”

Carlos Ruiz Zafón

I caught this little House Sparrow looking longingly at the bottom of the Bird Bath and realised I had forgotten to fill the small ceramic dish on Wednesday morning.

I was wishing I had my long 150-500mm lens back from the repairers, as a close-up would have been interesting to view the bird’s expression.

The Camera repair department rang that afternoon to say my lens had returned to their shelf and was ready to pick up.  I nearly fell off my desk chair in surprise.  It was only last Friday that I had signed off for Sigma to go ahead and repair it!

Anyway, today is lovely and cool and wouldn’t you know it – a bad night in pain and no amount of prescription analgesics has helped, so I have to stay home today.

Maybe tomorrow ?………………… 😥

GOOD NEWS & BAD NEWS

I was going to throw the Sigma 150-500 mm lens out after my fall and Shattered lens a couple of weeks ago as it was totally useless and I couldn’t afford a replacement at around Aust$1400 now I’m not working – (actually some suppliers seem to quote $1600+).  I don’t think Sigma make the 150-500 mm lens any more, the new version is 150-600 mm.

The Good News in regard to my broken long telephoto ‘birding‘ lens is that it CAN be repaired (and IS being repaired as I speak).  That repair comes with a 90 day warranty.

Initially, I thought it was just the UV filter I have on all my lens to protect them. I took the broken filter off and turned the camera upside down and the glass fell out of the lens barrel.

Had to go into the city for an appointment and decided to take the lens to my camera shop hire/repair department and have a chat to the technician on duty.  He inspected it and said the barrel and remaining glass was in excellent condition and it would be a shame not to, “at least get it assessed”.  Another technician joined in the conversation and agreed.

So I paid out the $70 inspection fee and the hire/repair department sent it off to Sigma, (or wherever they send Sigma lenses).

The Good News was that it could be repaired – new ‘glass & recalibration etc’ – but was going to cost $760 (actually I guessed it would be $600-$700 at least, so I wasn’t far wrong).

I couldn’t afford that so I said just return the broken lens to me.

Of course that afternoon I saw some potential great Bird shots (just like I’d been seeing for some days prior to that).  I’ve missed that lens dreadfully since it broke.

I uhmmmmm and ahhhhhed.  The next day I emailed them and said go ahead and fix it!

Mind you I’ll have to reduce the food budget for the next 2-3 months, but, what else do I do but Photography (I thought to myself).  I don’t drink, smoke, go on holidays, buy clothes, socialize, go out partying, play sport or anything that normal healthy working folk do.

Sometimes in life you have to grit your teeth, make some concessions for the things you value in your life and do what makes you Happy.

Basically losing this lens was like losing my whole lifestyle. I might almost call it mandatory to my Lifestyle enjoyment, (but that would be a gross exaggeration I suppose). I’m no longer living near any gardens to do my much in the way of flower photography any more.  I don’t have a car, or the health, to travel out to the countryside or mountains (let alone interstate or overseas like I did in my youth).  It wasn’t just about my one and only hobby.  It was about losing something that had brought me so much joy and a constant distraction from daily pain and other health symptoms.  It was an important part of my health ‘treatment’.  This long lens gave me challenges or goals (in photographing birds).

The BAD NEWS is – it’s still hot in Melbourne and despite a heavy downpour from a thunderstorm last night which saved me having to water my potted plants, today has dawned hot and humid again.

With any luck, by the time the long ‘birding’ lens is repaired, the weather might have cooled down enough for a walk outdoors?

I mean to say, just how many ‘House Sparrow sitting on the Bird Bath’ shots can you really share online without boring your long-time followers to death.

(That’s a rhetorical question by the way) 😀