A (very) SHORT WALK

Towards the end of last week the weather fined up considerably – definite signs of spring were everywhere from the lush green Barley grass (below), ripe from heavy rain earlier in the week, to tiny buds on bushes.

BARLEY GRASS (Hordeum leporinum)

I was determined to get some sun and fresh air.   I’ve been indoors for most of this year and let’s face it, there’s only ‘x’ amount of things you can do when you live in a tiny studio apartment and don’t have the eyesight for reading much or the desire to spend time on the computer.    I’ve watched so many series on TV I can tell you what happens with my eyes closed   😀

The image (below), made last year, gives new followers a sense of how close my apartment building is to that patch of trees in the background which denotes Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve (and Wetlands)…….actually – a man-made area in an attempt to re-vegetate up and down the Maribyrnong River.

Here’s a little history from Wikipedia for those interested in the local history.   If you’re not interested, just jump to the next image in this post.

The river was initially named Saltwater River[7] by early settlers, due to the tidal nature of its lower reaches. The name Maribyrnong however, is derived from either mirring-gnay-bir-nong which in Woiwurrung, the language of the local Wurundjeri people, is said to mean “I can hear a ringtail possum”[7] or “saltwater river”[8] (Gunung or Gunnung is Woiwurrung for river,[9] as seen in the names of other watercourses in the area, such as; Koonung Creek and Birrarung).

Marriburnong is an alternate spelling listed on a map dated from 1840.[8]

The inner western and north-western suburbs of Melbourne are located in the vicinity of the Maribyrnong River and the river has given its name to the suburb of Maribyrnong and the local government area, the City of Maribyrnong.

The Maribyrnong River valley has been home for the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation for up to 40,000 years. Human remains dated at least 15,000–years–old have been found along the river, with much older signs of human habitation also present.

The first Europeans to explore along the river were the party led by Charles Grimes, Deputy Surveyor-General of New South Wales, in February 1803. John Batman is likely to have explored up the river in early 1835. With the establishment of the colony of Melbourne later that year, sheep runs were soon established by Edmund Davis Fergusson and Michael Solomon in the Avondale and Sunshine areas. On Solomon’s sheep station the ford now near the west end of Canning Street in Avondale Heights soon became known as Solomon’s Ford. This was the lowest crossing on the Saltwater (Maribyrnong) River, and the furthest inland point of tidal influence. Batman is believed to have crossed the river at this point probably in the well worn steps of Aboriginals. It was for many years the only way from Melbourne to Geelong and land west.

During the second half of the 19th century much of Melbourne’s industry was located along the river, and the water became very degraded. With the closure of many industries since the 1960s and 1970s, much river front land has opened up to parkland and highly sought after residential estates.

The tiny dead-end road curves to the right after my building carpark entrance and steeply descends to the lowest apartment building in this relatively new housing estate (built around 2013 I think).

It was close to 4.00pm before I exited my ‘back gate’ on Friday.

THIS IMAGE WITH THE BLOWN-OUT BRIGHT SKY SHOWS HOW MUCH THESE 2 BUSHES HAVE GROWN IN THE LAST COUPLE OF MONTHS.

I didn’t have to walk far to find signs of Birdlife.   I heard a constant stream of tweeting and ‘tjit’ and ‘tzeert’and up popped a New Holland Honeyeater in the white-flowering Tree Lucerne (or Tagasaste).

Fortunately the honeyeater and bush were in shade and the background filled with lots of sunlight.

Very soon after, another honeyeater popped up to join it, but as they were moving fairly fast over the enormous bush, I could only get a photo of the first one.

I stood and watched them both for several minutes and then was distracted by a couple of male Superb Fairy-wrens on the concrete kerb gutter.

The one on the left (below) was in full breeding colours and the one on the right was flecked with sky-blue on its head and breast.   These fairy-wrens, once you have familiarized yourself with their accelerating ‘trill’, (perhaps a bit like the sound of a squeaking mouse), is one sound you can’t miss once heard.

I always know the difference between fairy-wrens and house sparrows on my balcony while I’m lying in bed in the morning.

The Tree Lucerne and Gorse bushes had grown enormously since I last stepped out the back door about 2 months ago.  They are both classified as weeds in my Field Guide to Weeds in Australia.

I walked around the curve in the road and stepped up on the pebble pathway leading past the lowest apartment building and stopped to look over the last of the mulched formal landscaping and spotted another fairy-wren a bit closer.

It was standing right next to a lovely white-flowering gum.   I couldn’t identify which variety of gum it was due to several similar varieties on Google images.   I spent half the weekend trying to find its name.

Behind it was a particularly attractive red-flowering eucalyptus.

I looked over to the nature reserve and then zoomed in on the bare-limbed tree on the right-hand side of the image below.

I couldn’t see any splashes of bright red which might signify another Crimson Rosella which I’d seen same time last year.   The images below are from 2019.

I might add this is the only time I’ve seen a Crimson Rosella in my immediate surroundings in the 4 years I’ve lived here, but I’m forever hopeful of seeing another one some time in the future.

I walked over to the low-lying field where 2 large puddles of water must have filled up with recent winter rain.   That’s the most water I’ve ever seen in the nearest ‘puddle’.

I walked forward about 20 feet anticipating a very slow walk down to the river (some 7-8 minutes brisk walk to the river).   I then stood quite still for some time peering through the long telephoto lens at the chain wire fence marking the start of the nature reserve on the left.

I have often seen Red-browed finches in the area….. on the ground….. or on the fence (in the past).

But the fence was empty last Friday and I continued on.

I walked another 20 feet and scanned the ‘puddle’ on my right.  (note: I suspect this raised pathway to the river is to gain access in the event of the river flooding the surrounding area.   I read somewhere that a little further downriver it flooded in 2014).

I spotted a pair of Chestnut Teal ducks diving underwater for some tasty tidbits on the puddle floor.  The water surface was flecked with some sort of pondweed.   At first, I wasn’t sure they were Chestnut Teals as the constant stream of water washing over their heads darkened the bright green head of the male to more of a brown colour.

I eventually captured the pair below as they swam to the other side of the puddle and the male’s green head was a bit more visible.

These ducks nearly always travel in pairs and this was the only way I could identify them as the female in the image above – with the red eye and pale neck – looked a lot like a Grey Teal.

It’s easy to mix up the two species.

After a short while, they finished their meal and clambered up onto the grass and settled down for an afternoon nap.

I was having a bit of trouble holding the heavy long 150-500mm lens steady as my shoulder was not quite over the injury of the previous week, so I hope you’ll excuse the lack of sharp focus.

To be honest, in that brilliant sunlight it was pretty hard to see through the viewfinder so I just tried to focus on the head/neck area as best I could.

Next minute I spotted a White-faced Heron.

I’ve only ever seen one Heron (and one Egret) in this location beside the river, so one might assume it’s the only one living here.

I spent ages trying to get the heron’s eye in focus, but the bird kept moving around, constantly dipping its head in the water searching for something to eat.

Up, down, up, down, step forward, up, down, another step forward, and then turning it’s back to me – it was on the constant move.   So much fun to watch and even more fun trying to get the eye/head in focus as it moved.

I was wishing it would stop and pose for a while like this one below in 2016 on the north-east side of Melbourne down by the Yarra River drying its feathers.

WHITE-FACED HERON (Egretta novaehollandiae)

or this one in 2017 near my local pond….

WHITE-FACED HERON (Egretta novaehollandiae) – Maribyrnong River

I’m rather fond of Herons – White-faced or Nankeen Night Herons in particular (which are supposed to also call this area home).   I’ve only seen Nankeen Night herons in the Royal Botanic Gardens or Melbourne Zoo though.   I’ve never seen one of these pinkish/terracotta-coloured herons in this area.

Some Nankeen Night Herons from my archives to show you their beautiful Salmon pink cloak of feathers and grey cap (with 2 white feathers erupting from the back of their neck).

……and back to the local White-faced heron from last Friday below.

Finally, I gave up watching and since my hip was already painful, decided to walk back up the slope and home.  Having some new photos to share for a change made me eager to get indoors and download them.

It wasn’t that late, but my side of the river and the steep hill on which the housing estate was built had already cast long shadows on the fields, nature reserve and eastern side of the apartment buildings.

When the sun dips behind the hill, it grows dark very quickly.

It wasn’t quite the golden hour, but the grass, still damp in some places from the previous night’s rain, seemed to reflect the light in such a way as to make any photography hard.

Sometimes I prefer a cloudy sky for photography, so the highlights are not blown out in the glare of the Australian sun.

On Friday, I walked back indoors via the front entrance of the building so I could pick up my mail from the ground floor postboxes.

This was the ‘allowed’ 1 hour of exercise outdoors with a mask on in Melbourne’s current Lockdown – only 73 new COVID cases and 8 deaths in the last 24 hours – very promising that we will end the lockdown in a couple of weeks and start opening up the stores and businesses again.   My shopping list is getting longer by the day from light globes, to herb seedlings to clothes and a new desk chair.   I also need a few cooking items for my tiny galley kitchen also.   I don’t like shopping online.   I like to look and try on before I buy.

I didn’t walk more than about 100-150 feet but it was such a  joy to feel the hot sun on my face and the wind in my hair on Friday.

…..and although I didn’t take a photo last Friday, the various low-growing bushes of Shrubby Bindweed were visible next to the path and steps, so I’ve included a photo taken last year to end this post.

SHRUBBY BINDWEED, SILVER BINDWEED (Convolvulus cneorum ??)

20 thoughts on “A (very) SHORT WALK

    1. Even just standing outdoors with the warmth of the sun on my head was wonderful, Gary. While I’m lucky to have a lounge room with a view, it’s still not the same as being outdoors in the fresh air.

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      1. There was one some months ago, Tanja, but it was normal rent, whereas my current one is 20% subsidised by the Govt. Now, of course, I’m better off with a recent inheritence from my Father, so I can easily afford ‘normal’ rent. I’ll keep looking.

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  1. No matter how short your walks, you always bring us some wonderful images from them.I thought the photos of the honeyeaters were especially nice, and honestly? I really liked the barley grass, too. That particular shade of early spring green makes me happy. All green is nice, of course but that’s special. The white-flowering gum reminded me of our autumn clematis. In another month or so, things may cool down enough for it to emerge.

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    1. Thank you, Linda. There was an enormous number of House Sparrow(?) sounds in the hedge next to the lowest apartment building, but I couldn’t see any to photograph. It seems the birds are all happy with the Spring weather too.
      I suppose I notice the sounds more than usual as there’s almost no traffic on my road (and probably the main road at the top of the cliff).
      I wish I could see through the thick foliage into the internal branches of my own eucalyptus tree.

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    1. Thanks Timo. Every time I’ve taken out my tripod in the past, I haven’t used it. Sheer laziness in setting it up on my part. Probably have the same problem with a monopod. I take all my gear and backpack out in my shopping trolley now as I can’t carry any weight. I tend to go for a walk and take photos along the way, not go somewhere specifically to shoot a particular bird or scene. The idea is to keep moving as much as possible (with my spinal & other health issues). I daresay other photographers are keen on getting the best shot and therefore stand still and set everything up.

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  2. There is nothing more important than getting out for a walk, especially these days. I think I figured out why I love autumn so much here in the northern hemisphere ~ the colors and the sign of the year winding down, but also because it is spring for you Down Under, which is always so magnificent 🙂 Great photos, Vicki.

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