BIRD PHOTOGRAPHY

Some of you non-bird photographers probably think it’s quite easy to photograph birds on my balcony.

After all, I am using a 150-500mm lens mostly……and the birds are about 5-15 feet away (the closer shots are made with the Sony a6000 and it’s 55-210mm ‘kit’ lens).

I can assure you it’s not.

Some days, I seem to manage ok, other days its near on impossible as the birds face the wrong way, or walk on the pot rim behind the plant.   There’s a definite skill to getting the one focal point through the plant foliage and onto the bird’s eye OR moving the camera slightly to stop it autofocusing on the dusty rain droplets on the glass windows.

A sharply focused eye is what usually makes for a good bird photo.  The eye is where the viewer’s eye goes straight to (even if the rest of the bird is ‘soft’ in focus).

2 days ago, the Japanese Maple only had faint knobs where the leaf buds were starting to show.

Example below:

Today, the leaf buds are starting to open.

The Canon & 150-500mm lens was too long so I went back to get the Sony a6000 out of its soft pouch and went out to the balcony fence to get the following shot.

I spent some time trying to get the buds in focus on the main tree but the autofocus kept weaving in and out on various small branches.

Then I noticed some small branches which were easier for the autofocus to catch.   This branch was in front of the stairwell/lift wall where the corrugated surface bounces the hot sun onto my balcony garden.


…..and while too far away for this lens, I saw a New Holland Honeyeater sitting on the other Japanese Maple in front of the building’s entrance.   I knew if I went back indoors to change cameras it would have flown away before I could get the shot.  It was lovely to catch sight of a different species of bird now I’m more housebound with this ‘dodgey’ hip and knee etc.

Here are some images (again 😀 ) of the New Holland Honeyeater taken in 2017 just to remind you of what it looks like.

Apart from a crow (or House Raven ?)  landing on my balcony fence for a few seconds last week, I haven’t seen much in the way of the 6-7 bird species that frequent this area this year so far.   I certainly hear the caw-caw of the crows more since the construction workers have been here.

When I went out yesterday I noticed an awful lot of rubbish on the construction site – perhaps the crows/ravens are coming for a rummage around the rubbish?

Hmmmmmmmm…………….

If you’ve followed my nature blog for a while, you’ll know there is a new apartment building being constructed across the road from my apartment.

THE EUCALYPTUS SAPLING ON THE RIGHT-HAND SIDE OF THE FRAME WAS LEVEL WITH MY BALCONY FENCE WHEN I MOVED HERE IN OCTOBER 2016. NOW, IT’S GROWN ABOUT 5 FEET HIGHER. WOULDN’T IT BE NICE IF IT GREW MORE TO THE LEFT AND HID THE GROUND FLOOR OF THE NEW CONSTRUCTION ALTOGETHER?

Yesterday and this morning, the workers were making such a loud noise I could barely think.   In fact I figured that’s why I had so many House Sparrows visiting my balcony garden yesterday.   They could barely hear each other tweet!

They were making an even louder noise (than the construction workers), which sounded just like the birds were arguing.  They might have been fed up with the noise next to their ‘hedge’ homes (in the middle of the photo frame).

The construction is only up to the second floor and they’ve been at it (with a 6 month break in the middle) for nearly a year.   At the rate they’re going, it will take them another year before they finish the whole apartment building.

Already my sunsets have been cut dramatically when I’m watching from my desk in front of the lounge windows.   Probably enough to close down my Sunrise, Sunset blog.

But this morning, I realised the sun would disappear below the roofline of the finished builiding much earlier in the afternoon and my west-facing balcony would fall into shadow much, much earlier.

Perhaps I need to rethink my Spring seedlings purchases?  I won’t receive as much sun this coming Summer.

On a lighter note, this little female Superb Fairy-wren has been missing for a couple of days, but made a quick ‘pit-stop’ just now to check out the grazing potential.

What a joy it is to see her again.

 

WATTLE (Acacia)

Commonly known as WATTLE, Acacia is the largest genus of vascular plants in Australia. Australia’s national floral emblem is Acacia pycnantha, the Golden Wattle.

Wattle Day is celebrated on the 1st of September each year.

I never knew Acacia flowers also come in pink, (Sunshine Wattle – Acacia terminalis), until I moved to this western suburb of Melbourne and found a bush next to the Maribyrnong River walking trail, near my current home.

…….and when I lived next to the Yarra River on the north-east side of Melbourne in Abbotsford, the river was lined with Wattle Plants and made for a beatiful walk at this time of the year.   I don’t know what all the different varieties are called, just that if I get too close, I start sneezing.   These bushes are not an allergy-sufferers best friend.

GREVILLEAS

In the previous post, my Magnolia photos were right next to some Grevillea images in my Photo Library.

I don’t think I’ve seen any of these Australian evergreen plants in my western suburb, but I do have some lovely shots of them from past home locations.

Grevillias are a diverse and variable range of Australian plants, from large, upright trees to scrambling ground covers.  The majority are medium shrubs with flowers resembling spiders and often appear in long toothbrush-like clusters.

Here’s the 4 images (below).  They were found in a small island of native plants in the middle of a suburban road.   They were such a surprising sight and were no doubt planted by an environmentally aware local council.

They attract birds in great numbers, but I imagine they’d be too big to grow in a pot on my balcony????

THE MAGNOLIAS ARE IN BLOOM

Coming home in a taxi yesterday, I noticed a number of residential gardens with massive Magnolia trees in Bloom.

There are literally hundreds of stunning flowers on the trees at the moment.

While I  can’t find my favourite shot of them in my archives, I did find this image showing the buds, from 3rd March, 2011……… of a different variety.

Made with my old, (now traded in), Canon 100mm f2.8 macro lens.

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I finally remembered that shot I wanted was around mid 2015 when I lived on the north-eastern side of Melbourne, so it actually was easy to find after all.   My short-term memory always has a ‘hiccup’ before it goes to the right part of my memory bank  😀

Here ’tis……from the 26th August, 2015. …..made with my Sony a6000 & 18-200mm lens.

…….and the close-up…..

If I go to the local Plant Nursery during the next week or so to buy seedlings and potting soil, I will try to walk home past the magnificent tree and get a ‘newer’ image.

There’s a cacophony of House Sparrows outside my lounge window at the moment.   Don’t know what they’re twittering about, but it’s obviously some sort of argument, not the usual sweet sound.

I’ve had so many Sparrows on my bare-limbed Japanese Maple in the last couple of days that I couldn’t resist trying to get a shot of some of them this morning from where I’m sitting at my desk.

It’s not always easy to Autofocus when the lounge windows have dirty rain droplets on them.  I have to keep moving the camera slightly to one side to stop it autofocusing on the dusty windows and focus  on the actual bird(s).

Finally managed one shot (below).

You can see the Maple buds on the branches and you’ll also notice that this area is still in shade, with the sunlight shining on the other side of the road (which gives the image the bright light in the background).

In the latter part of the day, the other side of the road falls into shade (with my balcony in sunlight in the golden hour) 🙂

VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE – Pink Lillies

My God-daughter brought me some lovely pink lilies when she and her Mother came for lunch on Wednesday.   It was such a thrill to see her as I couldn’t go to her wedding in Spain in May of this year.

The buds were all closed, but with the warmth of the wall heater, they have quickly opened and brought a welcome array of Spring colour into my home.

I started off with my Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 lens on an ISO of 800  which was what I’d been using the day before with the birds on my dark shady balcony.   I did have a bit of trouble getting enough light onto the flowers with a hand-held shot, so the aperture was left on f2.8.

Note: I don’t why this lens exif data keeps showing Canon 17-55mm lens, but it’s definitely a Sigma 17-50mm lens.   I love this lens for getting a little closer to flowers.

Then got out my old Canon 50mm f1.4 lens which I hadn’t used in ages.   I was trying to focus on the stamens and still keep the aperture on f1.4 to get a narrow DOF (Depth of Field).

I don’t know what variety of lily these are and Mr Google images had more than one description of this pink lily so we’ll just call it Pink Lily.

I probably would have done better to put the camera on a tripod and use the remote shutter release cable so I could step back and let more of the light source in but was happy enough with the 2 differing shots.

Enjoy!………

HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus)

Sometimes I wonder if I grow herbs for myself, or for the birds.

The House Sparrows, (and Fairy-wrens), are particularly fond of  Mint, especially the young leaves.

(excuse the soft focus in some of the images below, but sometimes it’s hard to keep up with the fast-moving little birds as they jump from pot to pot in search of tasty titbits.  Other times, after a long ‘photoshoot’  my arms ache and I find it hard to hold the heavy long telephoto lens still enough).

I’d clean the lounge windows for some clearer shots too, but the forecast is for rain this afternoon so no point cleaning them today.

IT’S COMING……….

Spring is clearly on the horizon.

Check out the tiny buds on the Japanese Maple in front of my balcony.  They’ve actually been there about 2 weeks……..waiting, waiting (and more waiting).

It’ll be like New Year Firework displays when they do open.

It’s almost like they’re on Standby at the moment………waiting for Mother Nature to ignite  their little ‘buds’ and throw a colourful Spring party.

The water-logged soil in the plastic pots in my apartment balcony garden is warming up too.

The Cherry Blossom trees near the carpark of the local supermarket have more than buds.   Some of those trees have very tiny flowers on them already (I noticed last week).

One of the Broccoli ‘Bambino’ seedlings I bought last Autumn, and took nearly the whole Winter to start growing, is DEFINITELY a cabbage of some sort (not a Broccoli).  I mentioned this in another post.   I also mentioned this incorrect plant labelling to the sales staff at the local plant nursery last week.

I wonder if I can cut off the outer leaves right now and cook them (like I do Spinach and Kale)?

I think the Superb Fairy-wren in the shots below is ‘a new kid on the block’.   It was late afternoon and overcast when I made the 2 photos.

Or maybe the soft downy feathers being ruffled in the strong wind, just make it look like a juvenile and different to my ‘regulars’.

The other seedling is obviously a real Broccoli (below).

All my herbs and my blueberry bush now have either new leaves and branches, or 3-4″ growth on their current branch tips.

What a joy Spring is.

The Blueberry bush I had bought last year and pruned back at the end of Summer is looking very healthy despite the fact that it’s ‘pot-bound’.

I’ll have to buy a larger pot next outing.

I took out the soil PH test kit I’d bought last year and finally read the instructions.  Actually I think I bought this small soil testing kit 18 months ago and never opened the box.  LOL

I discovered, of the 4 pots of soil I tested over last Weekend, 2 were very acidic and 2 were far too alkaline (for best herb growing conditions).   Of course I’ll have to test all the herb pots now.  Since prices on the bottles of soil conditioners at the local plant nursery almost equalled the cost of 3-4 large bags of organic potting soil, I have decided to replace the soil  in many pots and buy some replacement fresh seedlings.

Starting over again is always fun.

My Oregano, Lemon Thyme and perennial Basil were looking rather sad anyway, so instead of giving them another ‘haircut’, or prune, which certainly would have rejuvenated them, they and their soil were thrown out.  I’ll buy some new plants and being early Spring in a couple of weeks, I can bet they’ll be bursting with new growth within days.

I’ll water in some liquid fertiliser for a few hardy herbs that I’m keeping and hope that will suffice.

Young tomato plants had just arrived at the local Plant nursery  last Thursday, but it’s still a bit too cold to be buying young Tomato plants and settling them into new homes (aka pots) and I’ll wait another 2 weeks before I make my veggie seedling purchases I think.

Bunnings Hardware Warehouse plant nursery
Plenty of herb and veggie seedlings to choose from.

Well, that’s what I’m telling you blog followers.   I think you and I both know I can’t wait to buy new seedlings for my Spring garden and I’ll be lucky to wait just one week to make my next visit to the local plant nursery (let alone two weeks when Spring will really be here)   😀

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On the computer front……..

Last Thursday I got fed up with running out of internet allowance, so I did some research and decided to stick with my current internet service provider and sign up to a 50GB ‘casual’ internet plan (since my old 15GB wasn’t enough for the new 27″ iMac).   I only had to pay out $22.38 to end the contract early (before the 30th August, 2019, end date).

The previous weekend, 2 days after the start of my new billing month and next internet allowance, I used up 85% of the whole month’s allowance in 2 days (playing with the old laptop computer) and mostly had to stay off the computer for several days.

Things had taken a sudden turn for the worse due to my computer play and I started rationing my online time.

Still have problems with my Photo section on the new iMac but hopefully that will disappear when Apple release the next new software update in Spring.   I know many Apple users don’t have the same problems as me.

The GOOD NEWS is……. it finally occurred to me that I have many of my old ‘lost’ images in the WordPress ‘Media Library’ (that I lost in the Apple photo libraries as part of my computer crash and ongoing problems etc).

 

Duh!  Now, why didn’t I think of that before?

 

I tried to export my WordPress Media libraries back to my Computer twice on Monday……….. through the option on the WordPress dashboard, but the ‘export’ kept crashing.   Too big a file I assume.   So I’ll have to put my problem solving hat on again and see if I can work out a way to transfer the WordPress media library back to my Apple computer library a few images at a time.

I don’t mind if I end up with 2 copies of a few images.

I think the option on the Dashboard was ‘copy All Media Library’, so maybe I can’t use this method.   It all sounded so incredibly simple.

Any suggestions gratefully received.

Unfortunately, they (the WordPress Media Library) are all re-sized to a smaller size for uploading on my blog page, so I won’t be able to recover their original size (I presume).

I think this will be the only way I can re-gain some of my good ‘lost’ images.

Apparently there’s a plug-in that can do this,  but reading the instructions was too much for my Brain Fog to cope with on Monday.   My brain was occupied with shopping and cooking for an overseas guest yesterday.

I’ll read the WordPress Dashboard again this coming weekend.

Anyway, with outdoor Spring gardening work to be done and a host of other non-computer tasks this coming week, I’ve been too busy to upload a new post this past week.

 

SUPERB FAIRY-WREN (Malurus cyaneus) – MALE

Last week I mentioned being able to distinguish 3 Superb Fairy-wrens now.

One of which was the male with the eclipse (non-breeding) feather pattern and colouring.   If  you  look  at  the  face  and  the  breast  below (31st  July),  you’ll  see  what  I  mean. Those tufts of white/fawn/greyish colour are quite noticeable, almost like a moustache and clipped beard or ‘beard’ of one feather.

2 days ago, either this male has gone into full breeding plumage, OR it’s a different bird.

See below.

Not an especially good photo but you can see the clear back, cap & cheek pale blue colour.

Yesterday, after I’d arrived home from my morning errand, the sun was out and I decided to spend some time in my balcony garden preparing for Spring planting.  After re-arranging my potted plants and cleaning up all the winter leaf litter in the corners (and tipping out a few totally pot-bound withered plants and depleted soil), I came indoors to turn the computer on and out of the corner of my eye saw what appeared to be 6-7 wrens in the garden.

It was almost like a party.

Obviously stirring up all the soil and pruning back some herbs to 1″stubble, must have opened up some tasty food for my avian friends.

I noticed that male in full breeding plumage was back again but could see no signs of the fluffy feathers between the blue, SO I think it is my one and only male……. ready to breed.

In one week, he’s ‘changed his clothes’ and put on his best head and chest colours to ‘attract the ladies’.

The sun was a bit too bright, but I managed to get a couple of shots in reasonable focus to share.

This second shot is a bit clearer, but the brilliant sunlight, reflecting off the rain clouds, spoilt the shot a bit and over-exposed the breast feathers.

After all that physical work and heavy pot moving, my right elbow and lower back is extremely sore this morning and it hurts to type, so a couple of days rest is required methinks.

Spring is only 3 weeks away now, so my list for new plant seedlings is getting longer by the day, but I only have room for ‘x’ number of pots and only have the time and energy to carry ‘x’ number of heavy watering cans once the seedlings are planted, so I’ll have to ‘prune’ down my Seedling Shopping List a bit.

After all the weeks of watching and waiting for last year’s experiment in growing Capsicums and ending up with only 6-7 fruit and broken branches from the nightly possum (?) visits, I think I’ll concentrate on tomatoes, baby spinach, more parsley (English curly & Italian flatleaf) and some fast-growing leafy greens – they seem to grow the best on this hot west-facing balcony garden of mine.

Some images from the last 2 Summers below………

I found 3 Harlequin bugs over-wintering in the Lemon Thyme yesterday, so I REALLY must find a solution to their infestation this year.

A SENSE OF PLACE

For the new followers benefit, I ‘copied’ a Real Estate Agent’s photos off the internet, but unfortunately can’t give credit to the Photographer as there was no name mentioned.

It is not my deliberate intention to steal someone’s photo per se, but I can’t get the same view with any of my cameras.   I’d say this photo was made about 2 years ago going by the height of the trees in front of my balcony.   As I live on the road side of the building, my apartment is in shade up until about 1.30 – 2.00pm (and then the sun rises over the building and hits my balcony as the sun sinks in the west) – cool mornings even on the very hottest summer day.   But an extraordinary amount of sun up to about 9.00pm (daylight savings time in mid summer).

This hot sun enables me to grow vegetables on my balcony as well as herbs.

BUT the offside of the location and building placement means the wind gusts are sometimes gale force blowing between the buildings in the cooler weather.

It’s a bit like a wind tunnel.

IN THIS SHOT YOU CAN SEE THE SKYSCRAPERS, OR OFFICE TOWERS/APARTMENTS OF MELBOURNE CITY IN THE DISTANCE ABOUT 10 kilometres away.

There are 5 apartment blocks or rows of townhouse in my housing estate.   My suburb and river valley, first explored in 1803 (before Melbourne was built around 1835), was once natural bushland and a lush hunting ground for the Australian Aboriginal people before white settlement.  I live on a hill that was used to quarry bluestone, on which most of Melbourne’s early buildings were made from.

Much of the residential area you see in these photos has been built in the last 20-30 years (on the upper right hand side of the frame).   Even though you can’t see it, the river valley has very steep sides and my building is built halfway up a steep hill – well above the old flood line of the river.

Looking for images for this post, I suddenly realise just how many images from the last 3 years I lost in my computer crash at Easter.  It’s quite odd how some photos were able to be transferred by me from the old Mac Pro laptop to my new desktop, and other photos taken on the same day, came up with a message that their format was incompatible (with the new Apple  iMac desktop).

I said at the time that losing 3000-4000 images really didn’t matter – they were only photos.   But…….why did I have to lose some of my best bird shots.

Anyway, the river is about 6-7 minutes walk from my ‘back gate’ and that large clump of trees on the upper left side of the image below, is part of Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve.  You can faintly see a pond, but this is not accessible due to the thick undergrowth and 8 foot high water reeds surrounding it.

On the upper right of the frame are more scattered trees which line an artificial watercourse, or canal, which joins the river.   There is another pond which IS accessible and where I photograph many birds (near the upper right hand corner of the above image).

In fact there are about 5 naturally landscaped ponds in the area.

If you’ve read the previous post, you will know the Developers are half-way through construction of a new apartment building opposite my apartment.

BUT to my dismay, that large field on the lower left (in the image above), which is enormous & very steep and only has about 1/4 of the field showing in the cropped image above, has now got a planning application lodged with the local council to build a whole new apartment and housing estate (on it)……..approximately 250 houses and apartment dwellings I gather.

If I lived on the eastern side of my building, overlooking the nature reserve and river, my view (from another real estate agent’s website) would look something like the shot below.

This side of the building faces east and gets the sunrise.   It also has owls and kestrels and other larger birds landing on the balcony fences according to my neighbours.   I’ve never seen an owl myself.   And if I’ve seen a kestrel high in the sky, I wouldn’t have known what it looked like.

While there wouldn’t be any loss of the actual  council land, nature reserves and green belt which goes up and down the river (far out into the bay on the other side of the city), I really worry about the impact, more urban housing, car noise, new access roads and general residential noise would have on the bird life and many of the indigenous flora and fauna.

Sorry to say I’ve lost some of my favourite bird shots, but the selection below gives you an idea of the potential birds and nature reserve which might feel the impact of 2-3 years of construction noise and extra residential noise a new housing estate next to mine might entail.

The estate agent’s images don’t really show the current landscape very well.

My images below certainly do 🙂

Since I moved to the area in October 2016, you can well understand how lucky I felt to live in such a unique urban environment – half in the suburbs and half in the country – (well, sort-of half in the country).   I didn’t choose the location for it’s nature reserve.   I chose it because it’s hard to get affordable rental properties in Melbourne at the best of times (and my apartment application won over many other applicants).