LOOKING FOR AUTUMN – PART II

I usually share this same series of Autumn images, made back in May 2014, every year, as they’re such a lovely display of Autumn colour.

Most of these trees would be English or European trees planted back in the early settlement of the area.

The hills overlooking the eastern suburbs of Melbourne are called The Dandenong Ranges and include several National Parks, many local and wholesale plant nurseries, small and large spectacular residential gardens and homes.  Small and large market gardens, particularly berry farmers, are located in and on the other side of these hills.

Much of the area was milled for building materials in the 1930s, but still provides lush fern forests and protected national parks in the current day.

My younger brother took me to this tiny park on the way home from a stay in the country specifically so I could photograph the Autumn colour.

I have to be honest and say I’m not familiar with any Australian indigenous trees which change colour in Autumn, but I’m sure there must be some.

EURASIAN TREE SPARROW (Passer montanus)

I had one of those Ahhhhhh moments yesterday.

I’d put some bird seed in the large pot plant saucer I’d bought to use as a bird bath (but no bird ever drank or splashed around in it), so occasionally I fill it with bird seed to entice the avian species to my balcony garden.

Of course, they make a terrible mess splitting the seeds from the husk and use the balcony floor and fence rail as a ‘public convenience’ and it takes me a couple of hours to sweep, wash & clean it all up.   I have just swept and tidied up awaiting a wash later this afternoon.  Regular balcony cleaning is mandatory, as, otherwise, my shoes collect the sticky bird droppings or seed husks and get carted indoors on the pale carpet (despite the door mat to wipe my shoes on).

I’ve always accepted the slight variations in feather patterns of the House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) as a normal avian thing.

But yesterday I realised I had a different Sparrow species visiting – the Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus).  

There are actually 2 different sparrows species found in the south-east of the country, according to my Australian Bird Guide Book.  

Now, I’m not going to go back through the old posts to see if I’ve mixed the identification up, but I am going to convey the difference in this post.

THIS SHOT IS A PARTICULARLY GOOD ONE OF THE WHITE CHEEK PATCH WITHE THE BLACK SPOT IN THE CENTRE (of the Eurasian Tree Sparrow).

The sexes of the Eurasian Tree Sparrow are unlike the House Sparrows in that the male and female have similar plumage. The male and female of the House Sparrows are very different.  

The crown and nape of the Eurasian Tree Sparrows are a rich brown, with characteristic white cheek patch with a black central spot.  The forehead and bib are black with the rest of the underparts a pale grey-buff.  Back and wings are a richly mottled chestnut.

I don’t know how I haven’t noticed before now, or maybe I just never had Eurasian Tree Sparrows visiting before yesterday?  Who knows.

The flight feathers and notched tail are dark brown.  I tried to get a photo of the tail showing the notch, but the birds wouldn’t pose at the right angle for me.

I’m not sure which species this bird is. Perhaps it’s a juvenile House Sparrow as it clearly doesn’t have the white cheek patch of the Eurasian Tree Sparrow.  This shot has a faded look as it was made through the glass window.

THIS IS CLEARLY a Female HOUSE SPARROW showing the stripe running from the eye (and made through the opened sliding door, hence much clearer, or sharper, in focus).

The image below shows a male House Sparrow feeding 2 females (definitely NOT a Eurasian Tree Sparrow).

The weather is absolutely gorgeous at the moment.  Sunny blue skies with a lovely cool breeze over recent days or overcast skies and cool temperatures (today).  We’ve even had a bit of decent rainfall.

This is my kind of weather and definitely a favourite season (besides Spring).

The reality is that every season has its merits, but Autumn and Spring always seem to be pretty special here in Melbourne, Australia.  The intermittent cloud cover makes for some lovely sunsets in Autumn.

CALIFORNIA POPPY (Eschscholzia)

I don’t often put links to other websites on my nature blog, but if you’re a flower lover, you just have to swap over to Anne McKinnell ‘s blog to see her latest post.

My own Californian Poppy images look rather ordinary in comparison (below).

CALIFORNIA POPPY (Eschscholzia)

 

 

THEY’RE BAAAAAACK!

The Superb Fairy-Wrens are back this week.

In larger than usual numbers too.

I never seem to get tired of watching these Wrens.  They keep me entertained for hours and  when they’re visiting, I never seem to get any household chores or cooking done.

Female SUPERB FAIRY-WREN – THIS IS ONE OF THE BEST SHOTS I’VE TAKEN FOR QUITE SOME TIME. 

I counted 6 in my balcony garden the other day, but as I’ve mentioned before, they move so quickly, some days they’re impossible to photograph with the heavy long 150-500mm lens and DLSR.

Male SUPERB FAIRY-WREN.

All this week I can hear the wrens cheeping in the Japanese Maple growing next to my balcony fence and they are becoming more common than the House Sparrows 🙂   I don’t remember seeing any of these tiny wrens drinking from the bird bath though – only the Sparrows.

There’s been far less sound from the jack-hammer-like ‘rock splitter’ coming from the construction site over the road this week.  On Tuesday, the construction crew seemed to be pouring concrete most of the morning and were almost………. as ‘quiet as mice’. 😀

When I go out to pick up my new glasses which have arrived in-store, I’ll have a look at the top of the cliff and see  how progress is going on the site.

On another note, all, or at least most, of the Harlequin bugs and Cabbage Moth Caterpillars seem to have left the area. I didn’t get so many this past Summer.   I have pruned all the herbs of their ‘nibbled’ leaves for the umpteenth time and the new growth is starting to flesh out the bushes.  I feel as though I can finally leave the pest control hutch off the smaller plants and they can get some more sun.  After the previous year’s devastation of every single leaf on nearly every potted plant, I think the purchase of this pest control netted ‘hutch’ was well worth the money.

But I do have to be vigilant though.  I picked a whole lot of mint to use in cooking last Sunday and was just about to start chopping when I saw one leaf looked a bit curly.  I turned it over and what did I see – a lot of fine spun fibres and a caterpillar waiting to turn into a butterfly.

Phew!

I wonder what fresh caterpillar might taste like 😀

 

LOOKING FOR AUTUMN – PART I

I was ‘cruising’  through my archives last night looking for Autumn.

The image below, made in the nearby Pipemaker’s Park in Maribyrnong, is probably my all-time favourite image.

Made on the 13th April, 2017, mid-afternoon, it was one of those right time, right place images in which the brilliant Autumn afternoon sun back-lit some of the Autumn Leaves on this old arbor perfectly.

Colonial Garden, Pipemaker’s Park, Maribyrnong

I have literally hundreds of Autumn leaf images so here’s a select few.  I’ll include a few more in the next post.

SUPERB FAIRY-WREN (Malurus cyaneus) – Female

Silence is Golden 🙂

I don’t know who said that, but after the taxi dropped me home at 9.30am this morning, (after an overnight stay away), I couldn’t help but be struck by the silence.

It’s Saturday here in Melbourne and the usual weekend shoppers, zooming up my short steep road in their cars, were completely absent.

No walkers, joggers, cyclists or runners.

No mothers pushing prams or pushers up the steep footpath.

The unique sound of what I thought might be Currawongs filled the background.  (I have yet to share a photo of an Australian Currawong – I have a couple, but they’re not very good).

The wind had dropped and the forecast showers were absent.  It was sooooooo quiet, almost like the end of the earth, and I couldn’t help but be overjoyed at the absence of human sound.  If you’ve read my previous post you’ll know what I’m talking about.

I caught the lift upstairs to my apartment and after dropping my overnight bag on the floor, flung the sliding door open on to the balcony to let air into the stuffy room.

I heard tweets, chattering, birdsong and then a gentle whisper as a slight breeze sprung up.

The Fairy Wrens were back.

The birdsong was reminiscent of the lovely country sounds I first heard when I moved to the area in October, 2016.

SORRY ABOUT THE LOUSY SHOT, BUT I COULDN’T WAIT for a better one at that moment (in case the bird flew away quickly as they are want to do when I don’t have a camera handy)

Then one female Superb Fairy-wren dropped from the balcony fence down to the potted herbs and jumped from pot to pot and over to the bird/pest control netted hutch looking for seeds or some other tasty morsel.  She walked over the fine netting and I frantically looked for the camera case as I’d put all the cameras away yesterday and stored them in a different place (other than under my desk or beside my desk chair).

Then I spotted a male Superb Fairy-Wren scrambling around the pots under the bird control netted hutch.

So much for bird control 😀

I went out to lift the netting so it could get away as it seemed to have forgotten its entry point, then grabbed the plastic watering jug to give some of the potted plants a drink.  I hadn’t watered them before I left home late yesterday morning as it was supposed to rain this morning.

When I came back outdoors with the full watering pot, I heard frantic cheeping and a very frightened little wren.

It had jumped off the Marigold pot and got caught between the line of plastic pots and the glass fence.  It could obviously see the male wren on the Japanese Maple enjoying the sunshine through the glass, but couldn’t work out how to get through this clear (aka dirty) glass fence barrier.

I think this might have been the first time I had seen a distressed Fairy-wren outdoors at my current home.  I pulled all the plastic pots out so there was more room, but for some reason the tiny bird couldn’t work out what to do.

You hopeless little thing I thought to myself and very slowly bent down and tried to carefully catch it in my cupped hands.  This frightened it all the more.

I stood right back and silently waited.

Nope, it just could not work out why it couldn’t  ‘walk through glass’ 😀

Human intervention was obviously needed before the frantic little bird keeled over in exhaustion.

Finally,  I managed to catch the distressed little wren and slowly bring it up to the fence rail and release it.

It quickly flew to the male on the Maple tree and then the couple flew off to the other side of the road where they could rest in the thick hedge in the warm Autumn sunshine.

I feel like I’m in Heaven with the absence of construction workers and machinery noise.

Photo of a Male SUPERB FAIRY-WREN from the 26th March.

The gentle warmth of the sun was so pleasant after the long hot Summer, that I couldn’t help but think…..Thank God for Silence.

………..and the distant caw-caw of the local Ravens and the chatter of the nearby House Sparrows spread the beautiful sound of Autumn.

It’s only after incessant jarring noise (of the construction workers all week) that you truly appreciate the Silence in this unique apartment location.

I was back to my positive happy self and all was well with the world…..or at least my world.

 

……and so I asked Mr Google who had first said this phrase.

What’s the origin of the phrase ‘Silence is golden’?

As with many proverbs, the origin of this phrase is obscured by the mists of time. There are reports of versions of it dating back to Ancient Egypt. The first example of it in English is from the poet Thomas Carlyle, who translated the phrase from German in Sartor Resartus, 1831, in which a character expounds at length on the virtues of silence:

That fuller version – ‘speech is silver; silence is golden’, is still sometimes used, although the shorter form is now more common.

UGHHH!

I thought to post these House Swallow images from my archives today.  They were made mid November 2018.

I wish I could bury my head and ears in my ‘feathers’.

The Townhouse Construction site across the road is not only working overtime with the jackhammer-like attachment on their excavator til late in the afternoon on weekdays, they even worked last Saturday (to spoil my weekend bliss).

I suppose I’d better get used to it, but hopefully, the actual building construction will be less noisy than the excavation of the enormous bluestone rocks from the cliff face directly opposite my apartment.

When they were working at the top of the cliff, the sound seemed to float over the top of my building, but now, they seemed to have turned up the volume on the (orange excavator) rock-splitting task at the base of the cliff…..directly opposite my apartment balcony.

Oh well, I’m trying to think positive and just hope the actual building construction work might be a bit less noisy than the clearing & preparation.  I noticed when I went out this past Monday and Tuesday, there is a concrete ‘slab’ at the top and workmen are busy constructing a concrete block wall for the front of the building already.

How strange to build the apartment block at the same time as they are excavating. You can see the ‘wall’ at the top left quadrant of the 1st construction image above.

 

TAWNY FROGMOUTH (Podargus strigoides)

I’ve only seen a Frogmouth in the wild once.

When I saw this couple for the first time, I looked for them continually in the 20 months I lived in the inner north-east suburb of Abbotsford from 2015-2016.

Eventually, after the local Council? or Environment Agency?, who looked after the river and nature reserve on the other side of the river, went through clearing winter debris and rubbish from the river banks and water, I never saw them again.

I was surprised to read Frogmouths are not Owls and being rather ignorant of most Australian birds before I took up photography, was rather thrilled to see them high up on the cliff face below my apartment area.

HERE, THE ORIGINAL IMAGE HAS BEEN LIGHTENED CONSIDERABLY. I ALSO GAVE THE IMAGE A SMALL CROP ON ALL SIDES TO MAKE THE BIRDS APPEAR A LITTLE LARGER WITHIN THE FRAME.

I spent some time in the following days (after discovery), trying to photograph them and this image is about the best out of the series I took.  I was looking up at about a 90 degree angle and had the lens virtually resting on top of my glasses.  Certainly not the best bird image I’ve ever shot, but who’s complaining when you live in an urban area, (or inner suburb of a capital city) and bird life can be scarce in some locations, or seasons of the year.

This species of Australian Frogmouth is a large, strangely big-headed, well-camouflaged, nightjar-like bird with a tuft of bristles on its forehead.  I’ve lightened the image considerably in post processing, as the birds were in deep shade in the thick of the tree’s foliage.

The Frogmouth’s large beak opens to an enormous gape. and it usually perches upright and motionless like a broken branch, so can be hard to spot during the daytime.  The bird has a strange, rather persist ‘oom-oom-oom….’ sound and is active at dusk and after.

This is #45 from my archives of the 100+ bird species I have photographed over the last 8 years or so.  I think I have shared most of the better/best images, but I’ll continue to post some of the other 60 or so species photographed if I can find some decent shots.