LAST LIGHT – QUOTE OF THE WEEK(end)

The best way to capture moments is to pay attention.  This is how we cultivate mindfulness.

Jon Kabat-Zinn

I only had a short telephoto lens on Friday, so couldn’t zoom in closer.

The city, ‘lit up in golden light’, is a spectacular sight from my western suburb on a clear winter day.

Next time I’ll try and carry my long telephoto lens in my shopping trolley instead of the lightest camera & lens……….depending on how much shopping I’m doing of course   🙂

*********

This out-of-focus shot of the city I made the same time last year gives you a sense of what Friday’s image might have been.   I was waiting at the local shopping centre bus stop and  couldn’t resist a shot even though I obviously failed to pay attention to the camera settings & got the tennis court fence in focus instead of the city centre.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK (again)

I have a large folder of quotes which I read from time to time.  Most of them are uplifting or inspirational and remind me to ‘keep on, keeping on.’   I keep adding to the file whenever I come across a new one (quote) I like.

Inside yourself or outside,
you never have to change what you see,
only the way you see it.

Thaddeus Golas

This quote (above) reminded me not to forget why I loved this image of an Australian Pelican at Melbourne Zoo – made on 1st August 2012 (below).

In hindsight, now, 8 years later, I can see the outline/detail of the bird’s feathers is soft in focus and these days it just wouldn’t be worth keeping (by today’s photography standards I have acquired).

But the reality is that I loved the reflection and colours in the foreground/background and it was one of the first Australian Pelican images  I took, so I try not to be so critical, but keep my eyes open to why I love bird photography in general.

I keep it because it reminds me of how much fun I had/have doing bird photography and that joy is well worth keeping in my life today.

It’s also a reminder that we don’t have to be perfect in our various creative pursuits whether it be painting, pottery, drawing, craftworks etc.   We just have to enjoy it in that very moment of creation and open our eyes to the pleasure in doing what we love.

NORFOLK ISLAND PINES (Araucaria heterophylla) – ALTONA

I fully intended to get back to posting daily since I returned to my old riverside apartment, but got caught up in lockdown restrictions and tedious emailing/phoning back and forth trying to organize food supplies and medical appointments, so am a bit slow off the mark (so to speak).  Seems some of our restrictions are tighter than earlier this year in Melbourne.

When I was living down at the beachside suburb of Altona for 8 days recently, I did 3 very short walks ‘around the block’ (taking in the shops, supermarket, pier, beach etc).   I admit the Fish n Chip shop(s) featured heavily on those walks.   After all, there’s no place to indulge in my love of hot Fish n Chips (and Calamari) than the rare times I’ve gone down to various beaches to do some photography in the last 10 years.

When I was a small child these hot, salty treats were wrapped up in recycled newspaper (which is now banned I might add – has to be clean, new butcher’s paper mostly, but cardboard takeaway boxes do feature at some beaches).   They rarely featured on the menu in our household when we were young as our diet mainly came from what my Mother grew in her large veggie garden.

Now, as an adult, I only buy them when down at the beach and they have to be really, really crisp and light and super fresh and piping hot.   (Nothing is worse than cold, soggy fish n chips – except to throw to the seagulls to entice them closer to my camera lens).

I usually ended up with 3 times as many hot chips than I could eat on those short walks though.  A few times the seagulls came so close to where I was standing at Altona Beach I thought they were going to ‘wrestle me to the ground’  (to steal the remaining chips).

I think that might have been the closest encounter I’ve ever had with Seagulls.

One of the lovely aspects of my short walks were the beautiful line of Norfolk Island Pines planted along the esplanade.

Historically, they were significant in demonstrating the improvements to the foreshore in the 1950s due to the popularity of the area in the postwar period.

The tall trees cast long shadows on the sand at certain times of the day and I, for one, love their attractive shape and foliage.  I was really taken with the efforts of the local council to plant further trees in more recent times to ‘fill the gaps’.

I couldn’t help but wonder exactly how far this row of pines extended.   They seemed to go on as far as the eye could see.

GALAH (Cacatua roseicapilla)

Back to the archives for today’s post.

I was looking/listening to bird calls on YouTube late last night and came across one that highlighted 10 of the most beautiful cockatoos in the world and was surprised to discover that 8 of them came from Australia.

It reminded me of the Galahs I have seen in my urban location.   They’re seen in huge flocks in the countryside from just about anywhere in Australia and I daresay country-living folk take them for granted, but for me, a sighting near my home is an absolute delight.

I’ve only seen them twice grazing on the grass in a small park between my home and the local shopping centre.

Fortunately, both times, I’ve had my small, lightweight Sony a6000 ‘mirrorless’ camera in my shopping trolley.

I saw about 20 in a small flock and couldn’t resist a few photos.   (my heavy long 150-500mm lens and DSLR is too large/heavy to take on shopping expeditions), but on this occasion, I managed to slowly creep quite close before one Galah saw me and the whole flock took off to the other side of the park.

I sill managed to get a fairly decent shot from that distance as they lined up in a row – obviously this is a cropped image below.

I shared these images last year, but in these restricted times when outings are at a minimum, no harm in sharing again for the new followers.

And the YouTube I was watching is below.   I found the video a bit long to be honest but watched it to the end anyway.

 

PIED CURRAWONG (Strepera graculina)

I mentioned the bird name Currawong a couple of posts previously when talking about the Australian Ravens I’d seen down in the seaside suburb of Altona 3 weeks ago.

I managed to find my (only) 2 photos of what I believe is a Pied Currawong (Strepera craculina) in my archives.  Now that I’ve found these images made in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne on 6th December 2013 I’ve given them a folder all of their own in my Archives so these images will be easy to find if I need them again.

Pied Currawong (Strepera graculina)

I imagine they were random shots of what I thought was a crow at the time and not particularly good, (as far as Bird photos go), but the second image does show the yellow eye more clearly.

It’s a large crow-like bell-magpie.  Generally black, with a heavy black beak.

Distinguished by contrasting white base and tip to tail. white under-tail coverts, and striking white patch in the wing particularly conspicuous in flight.   The eye is strikingly yellow and this should have alerted me to the fact that it wasn’t a crow at the time of shooting.

The immature is a duller grey-brown, with dark eye according to my Photographic Field Guide Birds of Australia by Jim Flegg.

They have a varied tunefully mellow whistle, plus harsh shrieks and variants of ‘currawock’ and ‘currawong’ and while they’re essentially a forest bird, they’ve adapted to well-treed farms, scrub and city parks and gardens.   I managed to find a very short YouTube of a Black Currawong call.

I’ve been listening to a cacophony of bird sounds outside my lounge windows this morning, broken by the sweet chirping of the Superb Fairy-wrens.   I wish I could see which bird(s) have made a home in the Eucalyptus tree next to my apartment balcony fence, but the foliage is too dense as you can see in the image I just made below.

20 minutes ago, the same(?) young female House Sparrow was sitting on the partition that divides my apartment balcony from the balcony next door (below).

This is an even harder shot due to the louvred set of windows on the right-hand side of my floor-to-ceiling windows in front of my desk.   It’s quite hard to hold the heavy long telephoto lens and DSLR pointing upwards right between the glass panes.   Fortunately, I opened all my windows and door wide open when I got up this morning to let fresh air in.     It’s much easier to hold the heavy lens horizontal with my elbows leaning on my desk when birds actually land on my balcony.

I much prefer images of the birds when they land on my balcony and are doing something interesting that I can photograph clearly from my desk chair.

I saw one Sparrow carrying a rather large bundle of nesting material yesterday.

*******

Melbourne, Australia, where I live in one of the outer north-western suburbs, is in strict lock-down for at least 6 weeks at the moment as we try to contain a large cluster of virus-outbreaks in the high-rise housing commission apartment blocks to the north of the city, but once the winter fog clears I’ll see if I can manage a quick walk outdoors as it’s going to be a beautiful sunny winter day today (and tomorrow).

Housing Commission, for overseas followers,  as described on Wikipedia:

The Housing Commission of Victoria (often shortened to Housing Commission, especially colloquially) was a Victorian State Government body responsible for public housing in Victoria, Australia. It was established in 1938, and was abolished in 1984.

The main activity of the Commission was the construction of tens of thousands of houses and flats in Melbourne and many country towns between the late 1940s and the early 70s, providing low rent housing for low-income families. The most visible legacy of the Commission is the 47 or so high-rise apartment towers in inner Melbourne, all built using the same precast concrete panel technology.

Those high-rise apartments are small and often house 2-3 families, or extended families in each flat, and have no balconies or Room With a View like I have.   I must admit if I didn’t have a green outlook, I would find it very difficult to sustain living long-term house-bound so I have great sympathy for the Housing Commission occupant’s current plight.

The State Government is hoping after the 6 weeks we can get back to our (new) ‘normal‘ i.e. staying home or working from home (if possible), limited daily outings for food and exercise, or caregiving/medical needs……….and limited cafes, hotels & social get-to-gether numbers.

It’s a very strict indoor lifestyle at the moment.

SNAKE VINE, CLIMBING GUINEA FLOWER, GOLDEN GUINEA VINE (Hibbertia scandent)

When I was down the coastal seaside town of Altona recently, I notice this yellow flower in many residential gardens.   Took me a while to identify it (and please let me know in the comments section if the name is incorrect of course).

I find I’m getting better and better at Googling flower names as the years go by.   Sometimes I find the name straight away.   Other times it can take half an hour, but all said and done, Mr Google is most helpful.

Most the leaves and flowers in residential gardens had little round holes and I couldn’t quite work out whether it was a plague of a certain pest or maybe, even, heavy rain?

Can rain (or hail) leave such marks/holes?

AUSTRALIAN RAVEN (Corvus coronoides)

I’ve finally unpacked everything and got 97% of my possessions back in place after my apartment move on Monday this week.

(I seem to have more possessions than 2 weeks ago  😀   but that’s impossible, merely that I’ve done a bit of re-arranging in this move to try and eradicate so much bending and/or twisting in daily activities for my degenerative spinal condition and right hip OA).

Anyway, this means I’ve found my photographic field guide Birds of Australia by Jim Flegg.  

By the way, if you live in Australia and are interested in Bird Photography, I can highly recommend this relatively small, (well, about 8″ & 6″), book to help you identify any Australian Birds you’re keen to put ‘name to face.’

Most of the images in this guide are very clear in both colour and bird shape, sometimes the eye colour being the only thing to help you identify between 2 or 3 similar birds.   Jim Flegg has inserted a small map of Australia with shaded blue areas of where the bird species is usually found for each one and a very concise description of the bird, the differences between male and female, its call and whether it’s common or rare etc.

AUSTRALIAN RAVEN (Corvus coronoides)

I believe the couple of photos I made of a large black bird last week in the local children’s playground have now been identified correctly, (although please let me know in the comments section if you believe I’ve got the name wrong).

There are 6 species of Raven or Crow in Australia, with the 3 Currawongs adding to an easy-to-mistake identification.

First I cast aside any bird photo that didn’t fall into my state of Victoria, then dismissed the ones with dark eyes and carefully read the description to reveal the name Australian Raven (Corvus coronoides).

I think Jim’s description finally clinched it.

47-56cm Large, familiar, and the largest Australia Crow.  Entirely glossy black, with an oily sheen in sunlight.  Throat feathers of adult bushy and bristly, especially during calling, when body is characteristically held horizontal.  (yes, this description definitely looked like the bird on the right side of my photo).  Eye white in adult.   Beak long, strong and black, with slightly convex ridge to upper mandible.

Immature duller with brown eye.  Mated pairs characteristically sedentary, roaming flocks of non-breeders small, not cohesive as in very similar Little Raven.

And so on………

This identification was a hard one for me as I’m not good at judging bird size from any distance and 8 (out of the 9) birds in the book have white eyes.

101 SILVER GULLS

Last week I got up close & personal with lots of Seagulls.  Not quite 101, but there were lots of them.

I love watching seagulls.

I make no excuse for buying several lots of hot fish n chips down next to the pier to warm up in the brisk winter wind and then, when the excess got cold, threw them to the many gulls on the sand to bring them closer to my camera lens.

There’s something about the smell of the sea air and the screech of gulls that makes for a holiday atmosphere (despite the virus restrictions).

On the first short walk of the week, the sun continued to tease me.   One minute coming out and warming the temperature up to quite a comfortable level and then, next minute, going behind the clouds and the temperature dropping suddenly to a distinct chill.

I CAUGHT THE EYE OF THIS GULL STANDING PERFECTLY STILL ON THE PIER FENCE.
IT FLEW DOWN TO THE OLD SEA WALL AND STOOD FACING THE OTHER WAY AND I SILENTLY SEND A MESSAGE ASKING IT TO TURN AROUND AND POSE.
IT HALF TURNED AS THOUGH TO SAY “ARE YOU TALKING TO ME?”
I SILENTLY ASKED THE BIRD TO STAND UP A BIT STRAIGHTER AND IT DID!
BUT THE GULL WASN’T OVERLY KEEN ON STANDING STILL FOR LONG. THE SUN WAS NOT VERY BRIGHT AT THIS TIME OF THE AFTERNOON.
IT PAUSED ONCE OR TWICE STARING OFF INTO THE DISTANCE WHILE ITS COMPANIONS STEADILY WALKED ALONG THE SEA WALL.
ANOTHER SEAGULL STOOD ON THE RAIN-POCKED SAND AND ASKED FOR A PHOTO SO I OBLIGED.
THEN IT TOO FLEW UP TO THE SEA WALL AND PONDERED ITS NEXT STEP.  CAN YOU SEE THE TINY BIT OF BROWN ON ITS WING FEATHERS? THAT’S THE LAST OF ITS JUVENILE BROWN WING FEATHERS SOON TO DISAPPEAR.
A ROCK PIGEON FLEW UP ONTO THE WALL AND PROMPTLY CHASED IT AWAY, ACTUALLY, TOWARDS MY CAMERA.
THEN THEY BOTH TURNED AND STEADILY WALKED AFTER THEIR AVIAN COMPANIONS.
LOOKS LIKE THE OTHER GULLS ARE WAITING FOR THESE 2 TO CATCH UP WITH THEM.
THEN THEY ALL FLEW AWAY LEAVING THE OLD BARE WALL QUIET (UNTIL I THREW SOME MORE COLD CHIPS TOWARDS THE DISTANT BIRDS).

The sun had gone behind the clouds so I decided to head for home – only 5 minutes walk away.

Gosh, it must be truly lovely to live near the beach in the summer when there is no waiting for the sun to shine and the screech of gulls is joined by the shrieks and laughter of children and their families.

I wonder what the summer of 2020/2021 will bring this year (in times of so much uncertainty DownUnder)?

QUOTE OF THE WEEK (and some more of last week’s story)

it is a serious thing
just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in the broken world

Mary Oliver

You’re probably thinking I’ve gone on holiday, but no, here I am, back in my old apartment next to the Maribyrnong River and Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve.

Yesterday, this tiny female House Sparrow (above) reminded me of how lucky we are in Australia and how lucky I am to be content with the simple things in life.

2 apartment moves in 10 days was not easy for someone like me with a  heart condition, severe pain and other chronic health issues.   But I did it and it now seems like a distant dream (except for the packaging littering my lounge floor – the removalist company picked up the empty boxes yesterday).

My move to a south-western beachside suburb of Melbourne was a complete disaster healthwise and amidst a complete lockdown of suburban Melbourne due to a large cluster of COVID cases in several high-rise apartment blocks, I did some phoning and emailing and was lucky enough to just be able to move back into my old apartment block.

I had to move out of the new beachside ground floor apartment as quickly as possible.

 

Out of focus, but I like the shot anyway

It would have been almost impossible (without a car) and the current lockdown conditions to look elsewhere anyway.

I was welcomed back ‘with open arms’ by both the property agent and the landlord.  When I moved back in on Monday of this week, different tenants/friends I saw were so thrilled I was back.  Seems my occasional chats in this building had endeared me to more than one person.   I never realised how much I would be missed when  I moved out which was a big surprise.  A heart-warming spot in the day on Monday amidst the busyness of the removalists going back and forth making the pile of boxes higher and higher in my tiny studio-style modern apartment.

The first evening in my new seaside apartment, amidst a mound of boxes, I sat at my desk with 2 heaters on high, a coat…….and a woollen blanket around my knees.   I have never, ever experienced such mind and body numbingly cold interior conditions.

Even waking up on the Swiss-Austrian border in 1976 with my tent covered in snow was ‘a walk in the park’ compared to the icy chill that pervaded my bones right to the core that first night (and the subsequent nights last week).

The musty smell in the 2 carpeted bedrooms, which the property agent had said would disappear once the long-empty apartment was thoroughly aired, made breathing difficult at night (for me).   I have MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity) among my long list of chronic health conditions and am allergic to mould (and damp?).  I suspect the carpets, having been steam cleaned weeks before, had not dried properly in the midst of Melbourne’s cold winter nights.

I had opened all 3 doors and the rusty, stiff window chains the best I could, but the smell never really left in the whole 8 days I was there.

I need fresh air to be truly alive.   I need to feel like I’m Living in Nature now I’m more housebound.

By the second night, my heartbeat seemed weak and erratic.  (I also have intermittent SVT – Supraventricular Tachycardia – which can be a weird sensation when the heart starts beating very fast.   It was diagnosed in 2007 & again in 2009, but seemed to resolve itself without drugs or a procedure to ‘zap’ the faulty electrical function in the heart muscle.

It reared its head last October when I was admitted to the Cardiology ward for 6 days with a mild heart attack, but again resolved itself naturally.   The fluttering sensation in my chest feels a little weird, but not as scary as a serious ongoing dramatically fast heartbeat experienced by some sufferers which requires treatment.

The tap water, of which I normally drink quite a lot, tasted disgusting and a faint chemical smell wafted to my overly sensitive nose each time I filled the water glass.   The lighting in the apartment, which I had expected to be fixed before my move-in, was obviously going to be a problem (even when it was fixed).

I need light.

I need warmth to help cushion my chronic pain and other symptoms.

There were other issues with the seaside apartment of course.   I don’t make hasty decisions in retirement, especially not decisions that cost $$$.   Last week was the most expensive ‘holiday‘ I’ve ever taken   😀   My bank account is still grumbling to itself every time I check the balance each morning.

Besides, I missed the birdsong which I wake to every morning here.   And,  I would have got obscenely fat on the wonderful hot fish n chips in which I indulged last week.

Why does hot fish n chips taste much better down the seaside?

I go with the flow and live my life Mindfully each day.   Enjoying the simple things and ‘stopping to smell the roses’, if not every day, then certainly each week at some time or other.

But my health comes first (in retirement).   I can’t afford to get chilled in Winter (or over-heated in Summer) with a serious heart condition, which was upgraded from mild to severe last October.

So I’m now back online with 101 seagull images to share – well not quite 101, but I did take a lot of photos of them in the 3 wonderful short walks I did last week.   They had to be short walks due to pain levels, but they were definitely ‘sweet’.

Oh, it was glorious to live beside the sea.   The smell of the sea air outdoors was a heady balm to my senses.   The screeching of the seagulls as they dived in when I threw my rapidly cooling chips in the air was really a delight. Twice, they even lined up on the old weathered pier edging waiting to pounce each time I lifted my arm.

But now I’m back home.   There are still all the issues that made me leave this riverside multi-story building, but I’ll just have to overcome them and make this tiny apartment ‘work’.

The beachside apartment never felt like home.   It felt like an empty freezing cold concrete shell to me (that just happened to reside in a fantastic location near the sea and 3 nature reserves).   Anyway, at least I now know how to get there in the summer via a (long?) 2-bus trip if I wish to.

I have some ongoing health issues to investigate, but I’ll be back online more regularly soon.

I’ll leave you with some wonderful images of a mural that was visible down a tiny side lane in the main shopping area.   I only had one camera over my shoulder – the Sony a6000 with its 55-210mm kit lens, so couldn’t fit the whole mural into the one shot.