……AND THEN THERE WERE 3

I’ve been offline a lot lately, partly because I’ve been keeping a low profile with health issues getting in the way, but also because of my limited internet with the new computer (gobbling up my limited internet allowance). Hopefully that will change after the 30th August when my current internet plan ends and I seek out an affordable larger internet package.

I’ve also been spending more time observing the tiny Superb Fairy-wrens each morning on my balcony in the hope of recognising the individuals.

Like all tiny wrens, they rarely stand still.

I got the stepladder out on Thursday and FINALLY cleaned the full height of the exterior window surface (which usually bring on a few days of rain LOL) and yesterday, washed the interior surfaces of the floor-to-ceiling lounge windows.  I do this nearly every week in summer, but not much in winter when the fierce gusty wind drives the rain straight against my lounge windows.

Most of the bird images below were made earlier in the week, before I cleaned the windows.

While we’ve had less rain this past week, its still a bit too cold to leave the sliding glass door wide open during the day.  I’ve also been a little reluctant to leave the door open because a Superb Fairy-wren was about to hop indoors the other day.

I raced to the sliding door, which was open about 6 inches for some fresh air, and promptly shut it.

I might have been able to catch that New Holland Honeyeater who stepped inside (image on the left) and onto the window sill, but there’s no way I could catch the fast-moving little wrens if they came into my lounge room.

I’ve had up to 6-7 wrens grazing on the soil I’ve been turning over ready for my Spring herb/veggie planting and now………I can finally recognise 3 ‘regulars’. I never tire of watching them.

These 3 are my main visitors at the moment.

There’s that ever-present tiny female with her beautiful reddish-brown eye ring which I’m pretty sure is the same wren I’ve seen for many days now.  She doesn’t seem to have grown much.   She looks like a juvenile to me, but her orange eye-ring and orange beak are quite clear (so maybe not a juvenile, but an adult?).

I was reading some more about these regular avian visitors and it seems that the young males and young females can look very similar with their uniformly brown bodies and pale fawn underneath.   Their beaks may look more of a slate grey when young.

Sometimes the tail is more blue and a bit shorter – apparently this denotes a juvenile male.

Before reading up on them, I had thought the tails were all the same length.

The third easily recognisable fairy-wren is this adult male (below) with its distinctive eclipse, (or non-breeding), blue plumage.   The adult male changes its upper feathers to bright blue when breeding.

This image is pretty good considering the dirty rain droplets on the glass.
But they turn around so quickly I end up with dozens of shots of their rear ends.

It took me over a hundred shots to get these few images in reasonable focus over 2 seperate days.   I can’t claim these are my best bird shots since I took up photography in early 2010, but they’re pretty good having been made through dirty glass windows.

There’s no consideration of background or composition on my part when photographing these fairy-wrens in my balcony garden.   They move too fast.  I just try to get the bird in focus, before they fly, (or jump), to the next potted plant.   Most shots are soft in focus.

I’m pretty sure this is the same tiny juvenile male. All birds visit this trough of Mint as the leaves seems to be a bit tastier and it hasn’t grown much over the winter. In fact, I nearly threw this mint plant out in the rubbish as despite it’s many stems, it’s failed to produce enough decent green leaves for culinary use.
I moved this mint plant to the south end of the balcony in the hope the winter sun might give it a burst of growth – I think I can see more new green leaves (than tiny brownish ones) now.

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I haven’t given you a balcony garden update for a while as I haven’t been out to clean and tidy up the faded winter leaves or disappointing lack of growth in my winter leafy green veggies.  There’s clusters of spent herb leaves and many dead Japanese Maple leaves blown in from the young tree located in front of my balcony.

It’s completely leafless now, although I detect some faint little nobs on the spindly branches  which might denote potential Spring growth?

I really need to get out there and move the pots around and clean up.  I’ve discovered over many years of living in rental apartments, (which have a mandatory clause in the lease demanding ‘clean & tidy’ interior and exterior), that’s it better to clean the balcony tiles on a regular basis so the seepage stains from  the pots don’t build up to the stage where one has to use harsh chemicals to clean the large tiled surface.

In winter I have saucers under the pots, but in summer I remover the plastic saucers so they can drain more freely.   Herbs do not like wet soggy feet.

I’ve got 2 Tuscan kale (Tuscano Nero) but they have been slow to grow this winter and only started growing in the above image about 7-10 days ago.

A week ago, despite being only 2/3rds of the way through Winter here in Melbourne, the herbs, Tuscan kale and Broccoli (called Broccoli Bambino – a high yielding baby broccoli with a long harvest period), suddenly put on a growth spurt with many new leaves.

This broccoli seedling has lots of leaves, but no centre “10 cent sized floret” ??????

I’ve never grown this variety of miniature broccoli before and although it does take 12-14 weeks until harvest according to the plant label, it seems like months since I planted these 2 seedlings.  Despite the same plant label in both pots, the leaves on one plant look different to the other broccoli plant to me.

The plant label says to remove the first floret from the plant centre when it is the size of a ten cent piece along with the two leaves just below.   Side shoots will mature 6 weeks later. (see below). I did this on the plant below, but no sign of this early floret on the plant above.

In some ways the leaves of the plant above look a bit like outer cabbage leaves?

I have limited knowledge when it comes to vegetable gardening.

The Sorrel is still growing like wildfire (despite me continually chopping the leaves off).

This image was made in Summer, but it still looks like this in Autumn, Winter & Spring.

I should have just planted more baby spinach, instead of that Broccoli.

Image from my ‘Baby Bunting’ variety of spinach last year.

Now that leafy vegetable grows much faster and despite regular harvesting of the outer leaves, 4 small plants grew enough for many months.  I ate the last of that crop 3 months ago.

…..and my Asian climbing spinach (below) only provided a couple of meals before it went brown and seemed to get some kind of disease and died.

That pot is now empty.

It had looked so promising and tasted absolutely delicious – the texture almost like velvet.

ASIAN CLIMBING SPINACH

Oh well, better luck with some new varieties.

I must admit I get just as much fun trialling new veggie varieties for my balcony garden, buying seedlings and watching them grow (as eating them).

I have two other pots of Mint, (beside the long low trough which the wrens love grazing on), and they have been doing ‘just fine’.

The new Rosemary seedling I planted a few months ago, in which I have been cutting the tips off for cooking, has also suddenly started growing new leaves.

Has the soil suddenly got a bit warmer a month before Spring?  The day and night temperatures are still cold.   Being an amateur gardener and fairly new to vegetable growing, I can’t help but ask myself “why this sudden growth spurt”?

My herbs usually perk up closer to September.

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………and my eyes have been drawn to the construction site opposite too.  The construction crew have picked up the pace and are now working on a Saturday (as well as longer hours on weekdays), although they’re not on site today.   I’m used to the noise, but not the loud cursing which I’m sure they don’t realise drifts straight across to my building.

Still, they have a long way to go before finishing the 3 story apartment block on that very steep, weirdly-shaped site.

I took the photo (below) at dusk last night, hence the limited light and street lights being on.  As I live lower down on the hill you can only really see the ground floor of this new building, but it is against a 30 foot high cliff and the building will eventually be 3 stories high and completely block my view of the sunset colours.

Sigh!

This new building will completely block that blue sky/cloud you can see in the image below (if you can imagine triple the height of that ground level partly constructed apartment floor you can see in the image).   Due to the steep sloping hill, my 1st floor apartment is much lower than the new construction site.

I think I will have to close down my Sunrise, Sunset (& clouds that come in between) blog.

These wonderful sunsets from my balcony will no longer be visible.

At least I still get a small view of the sunset to the right of that apartment building (on the main road) for the time being.

BUT, there is a planning permit submitted to the local council to build a large housing/apartment estate on that enormous open field between the row of trees and my building.

Sigh!

(I seem to do a lot of sighing lately).

Life is impermanent.

Life is ever-changing, hour by hour, day by day and year by year, as I grow older.

BUT I will miss some of that wonderful view.   I can’t deny it now that the reality is sinking in.

 

24 thoughts on “……AND THEN THERE WERE 3

    1. That recognition comes from what is probably, too many hours looking out the window, Peggy. The fist sighting comes at about 10.30am just as I’m drinking my morning coffee and staring outdoors to see what’s happening across the road. Yes, it IS cool – many of the fairy-wrens look almost the same, but I am starting to even recognise slight weight gains and a more plumb breast shape.

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  1. I don’t know much about birds but I love looking at your photos of them. At our old house we had so many birds but now….

    Unless I take a walk to go look for them. The wrens are really cute. I love the name- “fairy wren “.

    True- life is impermanent….. still it’s a shame about the building that’s going up. I had that beautiful view at our old house and now..

    See- I sigh a lot too.

    But we make the best out of every situation. 👍

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    1. Yes, it’s important that we make the best of what we have, Connie. Be it health, finances, home, friends/family.

      But I think it most important to be aware of the tiny changes in our environment too. I watch the international news regularly so get to see the big picture of our planet, but love to see the small details too 🙂

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  2. Such a great post. Loved the pictures of the little wrens. They are so different then our wrens here in Arkansas U.S.A. You seem to have a green thumb from the look of the potted herbs and vegetables you featured. Seems so funny that Summer is in full swing here and you are enduring Winter. Oh, so sorry they are ruining your pictures of the sky with a large building. Change is often not so great.

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    1. I admit I AM rather sad to learn of the new application to build on the enormous sloping hill up the north end of my apartment block, PeggyJoan. It’s an enormous field and I originally thought it was nature reserve or crown land, but was told a Chinese consortium owned it and our building tenants/owners have been gathering signatures and presenting a feature in the local paper to register our protest at the loss of the natural environment.

      Even though I’ve only photographed about 15 birds species, there are supposed to be 101 bird species in the area and the summer nights are alive with the croaking of frogs and many cricket sounds in Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve behind my building.

      By the way, I have yet to actually see a frog as the water reeds are too high to get near the closest pond.

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      1. I think it is unrealistic to build buildings on slopes. They lose a lot of homes to mud slides doing that in California. The Chinese are buying a lot of land here in American and building huge buildings everywhere. I guess all us little, unimportant people can do is protest and try to stop things that destroy the environment. Such a shame you can’t get near the ponds to capture pictures of frogs and other small creatures. Capturing sunsets and sunrises is one of my favorite things to do – I am sorry your view of the sky is disappearing. Peggy

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    2. The steep slope opposite my building is, or was, mainly bluestone rocks – some absolutely enormous, so no danger of mudslides etc. The original quarries in this area were the source of the bluestone on which Melbourne’s early settlement buildings were built. (note: Melbourne’s early buildings are bluestone. Sydney’s are sandstone).

      The rock splitting went on for months as they excavated the cliff face for the new apartment block. The Government has really ‘cracked down’ on overseas consortiums buying up large swathes of Australia, but the reality is that Australia is a multi-cultural society (which I love).

      I shouldn’t complain too much as there are 400 hectares up and down the river of parkland and nature reserves so I do have that, but my apartment is on the road side of the building and like my previous apartment, the sunset colours are spectacular as I face almost west.

      If I lived on the other side of the river I would get a full view of the sunset regardless of nearby buildings and apartment blocks.

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    3. I don’t like enormous blocks of land being owned by overseas investors when there are something like 34,000 homeless in my state, Peggy. Unfortunately the new laws are only just coming through.

      Having witnessed so many homeless in my street photography and on the current affairs programs on TV, I wish the Government would pour more funds into some sort of very low cost housing as the suburbs around Melbourne expand.

      The poor are getting poorer and even middle class folk like myself are getting poorer. And of course the rich are getting richer.

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  3. It hurts to think of large apartments going up right next to the nature preserve. I love your wren pictures- I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one in the wild. I don’t think they live in the cold climate/high elevation of the Rocky Mountains. Hang in there!

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    1. I’m torn between hating more apartment buildings in such a beautiful area and being a ‘renter’ I understand the need for affordable housing for all the refugees and migrants that live on the west side of Melbourne. It’s incredibly hard to find affordable housing for many and the price of houses is probably 6-7 times that of the U.S.

      (I watch channel 94 a lot on TV which has daily serials on House Hunters, Building off the Grid (Montana and Alaska), House Hunting (when Americans or Canadians move to the U.K. Europe or Australia and their hunt for housing) etc and I’m constantly amazed at how cheap houses and condominiums are in the U.S. The food is very cheap compared to Australia also).

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      1. The price of housing in the US varies greatly depending upon where it is. But I have no doubt that it is lower than it is other places.

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    1. Thanks Tanja. Using the 150-500mm lens from indoors with my elbows resting on my desk brings these tiny birds right up close so you feel you can almost touch them. Sometimes they get too close and I’ve got to swap to the Sony with it’s 55-210 lens).

      In some of the images I share, the wrens are about 4 feet from my desk chair where I’m sitting. Also depends on how clean my lounge windows are 😀

      If I was outdoors down on the path leading to the river, I can only get about 18-20 feet close (to them). As I slowly step closer, the birds instantly fly away. It’s a unique experience that’s for sure.

      Of course, I occasionally get other birds on my balcony fence, but they are more rare and my camera is often in it’s soft pouch with the lens cap on when they visit. When Spring comes and my balcony has more sun, I’ll get even more birds visiting.

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  4. I never tire of your wrens, although I fully understand why you might not want one to come inside for a visit. At least the construction won’t disrupt your “wren routine” — at least, I can’t imagine that it would. You’re not the only one who’s going to be losing those sunsets. I’ve made the decision to downsize my apartment, which means an end to my wonderful views over the water to that wide, wide sky. I’ll not be making more specific plans until around November 1, so I don’t have a clue where I’ll land, but it will be in this same complex. It may be that I’ll be able to find a spot from which to photograph the sunsets — or it may be that I’ll be facing east, and will have a chance to photograph sunrises!
    The only thing that’s sure in this life is change, and I need to make some changes now before I’m forced to. Deciding to move apartment is far better than having a whole apartment block rise up, as you are. Sigh, indeed!

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    1. I’m sorry to hear you might lose your sunsets, Linda. They are one of the few things we can be sure of in this hectic modern techno. world we live in.

      I envy you in your job…..being outdoors and the smell of the sea, but you’re right in that sometimes we have to downsize or make changes that are better made sooner (rather than later).

      Sunrise can be just as good, or even better, than a sunset. I’ve only seen one in this current location. I go to bed too late and get up too late.

      (the Fairy-wrens don’t make enough noise to wake me like the Spotted Turtle Doves did in the previous apartment on the north-east side of the city).

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  5. I love seeing those little wrens. They are one of the cutest of all birds! Sure hate to see that you will lose your sunset views. The high price of progress! But your garden seems to be doing well. It’s hard for me to sit here in the heat of summer and realize that you are nearly through winter!

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    1. Only 3 more weeks to go til the end of winter here. I’ve been planning what new seedlings to buy already and my brother (hopefully) will add some heirloom varieties to my local plant nursery options.

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