COMPUTER PROBLEMS

For those followers who tried to read the last post, I deleted it.

To cut a long story short, (or make a short story long 😀 , as I’m not known for being concise), I finally decided to update my 2012 Apple Mac Pro laptop computer software from El Capitan to Mojave last Sunday and it almost wiped out my computer’s remaining storage.  I’ve got about 3% left.

The day before, Saturday, I copied my old iphoto library (containing 895 folders of birds, flowers, landscapes, street photography etc), to a spare hard drive (just in case), and when I tried to import them back to my laptop, I lost all the photo folders and I now have all images in just one folder.

Thousands of archival images in date order……in ONE folder!  No Library.

I’ve also lost about 6,000 images, (and I’ll tell you the story so those of you who are technology-challenged like me, might learn from my mistake).  Well, I think it’s my mistake.

As the computer slowly imported the images off the spare hard drive back on to my laptop, it kept asking me if I wanted to delete ‘copies’.

I said ‘yes’.  I knew I had copies on that old spare 2T hard drive.

I think the problem arose in that, I didn’t realise my cameras, which number each image, reaches 9,999, then rolls over and starts the newer images with 0001, 0002, 0003 & so on again, might have identified all images with the same image number as ‘copies’.

I didn’t realize how many images in my archives actually had the same image number.

So, in telling the computer to delete images which were supposedly ‘copies’, I think I’ve deleted original photos by mistake.  And because I empty my trash each day.  I’ve emptied the Trash too.

So what to do?

Just move on and accept my new reality.  I’m not going to even think of recovering the last daily back-up, because I know it will have too much on it and the 2012 laptop, with its limited storage, will crash.

I’ve learned to accept, adapt and move on with a lot with serious chronic health problems and pain over the last 37 years.  It’s a philosophy that works with computers, dropping favourite antique dishes, moving house twice in the last 5 years, downsizing 3 times during that time and many other aspects of my life.

Fortunately my current photo library from El Capitan, with its 6899 images, is still there.

This is comprised of about 3-4 years of photography plus a few nice bird/flower shots I’d managed to transfer from the old iPhoto library, one at a time, over recent years.   You can’t combine old and new photo libraries from different software on the Mac in one task, but you can transfer 3-4 images at a time, so occasionally, I did  🙂

My computer is running so slowly, I’m having trouble opening emails, typing comments on blogs I follow etc.  This may end up meaning I just pressing the LIKE button to let you know I have read your latest post, instead of typing a comment (for the blogs I follow).

It may mean….. just pressing the LIKE button when you make comments on my blog.

Sometimes replying when you’re a fast typist and the computer is going at a snail pace, is downright annoying/frustrating.

We’ll see how I go in the coming weeks with a slow running laptop computer.

I notice there are a few more editing tools in the (new) Mojave‘s photo editing software.

The tools, words and sliders are much smaller in size and it seems squashed up with no spaces between each tool on the right hand-side of the editing screen, and being on a black background is extremely difficult for me to read (with my short-sightedness and astigmatism), so editing any new photos might also be a problem in the future.

I rarely do much photo editing anyway, but I do like to tweak my images occasionally (especially if my shots weren’t as good as I would like straight out of the camera).   I’m not particularly interesting in photo editing to be honest.  I like images with integrity, natural colours, natural scenes, not over-saturated, over-edited distortions of the ‘truth’.

I think I probably need a new computer, but since this is not possible at the current time, I need to give some serious thought on how to proceed with my current computer speed and one-size-fits-all photo library.

And while I have reduced my computer time substantially over the last 12-15 months, my time online has been hit hard by Sunday’s software upgrade.

Coming to you from The Room With a View……’til next post   🙂

Room With a View – 8.00pm DST – The Golden Hour, 20th December 2017

PS  It’s as quiet as a mouse outdoors.  The Construction Developers must have given their workmen an extra day off for Easter.  Just loving the sound of Silence…..and the birdsong.

 

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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.

SILVEREYE (Zosterops lateralis chloronotus)

Back to the archives………22nd February, 2011

I don’t think I’ve shared this image of a Silvereye before.  It’s the only photo of this bird I’ve got and I had to over-edit it to make the bird more visible.

SILVEREYE

Made just after I bought my first Canon DSLR camera and probably taken in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, as, at that time, I lived 5 minutes walk from the south-eastern gate.

The plumage varies considerably depending on whether it’s habitat is western Australia or down the south-eastern side of the country.  The plumage of the bird in the photo belongs to  the western race and yet I live in a south-eastern state.  Despite its variable colouring, it is still readily identifiable as Australia’s only small grey and olive-green bird with a bold white eye-ring.

When the berries were ripe on the enormous tree outside my lounge window (of the apartment I lived in at that time), there’d be literally dozens of these cute birds feeding and hopping from branch to branch.  I was never able to capture them in a photo due to the deep, dark foliage and the fact I was facing into the sun (from my vantage point on the building’s side path).

It took me a couple of years before I was able to identify these birds due to the deep shade of the tree.

Here’s a cropped version of the image, so you can see the bird a wee bit better.

SILVEREYE 

 

THE LOCAL POND

Recently, what with being more housebound and the stinking hot weather for most of the Summer, and even……now…..early Autumn, I’ve been feeling all blogged out.

Just when I feel like giving up blogging altogether, I see something new and get invigorated, uplifted and inspired all over again.

Last Saturday’s walk down to the local pond was one such day.

I walked down the short steep bit of road from my ‘back gate’ (aka the roller door entrance to the 1st level of car parking under my apartment building is what I call my ‘back gate’).

 

NO BIRDS TO BE SEEN ON THE POND AT ALL.   NOTE: THIS IS THE POND WHERE I SHOT MY HEADER and FOOTER IMAGES   BRIGHT SKY IS COMPLETELY OVER-EXPOSED FROM THIS ANGLE.

 

THEN I SPOTTED SOME MOVEMENT IN A TREE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE POND, lifted the 150-500mm lens and spotted a NOISY MINER (Manorina melanocephala)

All it took was the sighting of 2 Australian White Ibises (Threskiornis molucca)….or should I say ‘Ibis’ for plural?

  

I’ve never seen an Australian White Ibis around my local pond or river before.  I must say it was a real thrill.  While the birds were some distance away, it was almost the highlight of the whole Summer.

ROYAL SPOONBILL (Platalea regia)

(Actually the highlight was photographing the Royal Spoonbills down at Jawbone Conservation and Nature Reserve – left – on the 10th January, breaking a $1000+ camera lens and my wrist in a fall).  

GROUNDSEL (Senecio vulgaris L.)

My world is very small in enforced retirement.

I notice the smallest change in every leaf, insect and wind gust on my balcony.  Fortunately, I’ve always been drawn to the small details in life and in doing so, can usually appreciate the simple things that most people take for granted.

Last Saturday, it looked quite pleasant outdoors (although) 5 minutes into the walk through the ‘back gate’ and down the rest of my road to where a stony/asphalt path leads to 2 steps and then a gravel path, it turned out to be more than warm.

My 20 minute walk turned into 2 hours.  But I never can walk fast with a camera in hand.  I’m always stopping to look around.

In general, residential areas and open fields are looking so pale and parched this past Summer, you could be forgiven for thinking Mother Nature had sprayed the landscape with diluted bleach.

Unless, the grass is near a water source, it is so crisp and crunchy underfoot and the earth so hard, you almost feel as though you’re in a foreign county nearer the equator.  (ok, I’m exaggerating, but seriously, the grass is bone dry).

PURPLE SWAMPHEN (Porphyrio porphyrio) pecking at dry grass in a shady patch of a nearby tree.
PURPLE SWAMPHENs (Porphyrio porphyrio) might be finding a few more insects where the grass is a bit greener next to the Frogs Hollow water course surrounded by dry 7-8 foot high reeds.  I can’t get closer to these Swamphens than this (no matter how stealthily and cautiously I step).  The birds seem to sense me before they even see me

Australia does have hot Summers and cold Winters and being such a large continent, a wide variety of weather zones from temperate in the south and most coastal areas, to desert in the centre, to tropical rainforests in the north.  But in general, down south here in Melbourne and its surrounds, in the south-eastern state of Victoria, the weather/seasons are called Temperate.

I generally have to stay indoors on hot days and this past summer, I’ve been waiting for the Summer’s blistering heat and gusty winds to ‘settle down’ to Temperate!

I WALKED OVER THE CRUNCHY DRY GRASS TO WHERE THE CYCLING/WALKING PATH IS NEXT TO THE MARIBYRNONG RIVER (in the background).

Last Saturday I was taken aback at the dryness and lower-than-usual water level in the nearby ponds, river and lake-like expanse of water between the main river and the local housing estates in this river valley.

We’ve had a sprinkling of rain showers, but we need serious RAIN.  We need hours/days of heavy soaking rain which reaches deep down beyond the roots of even the largest old trees.  Every time there is a quick rain shower, the earth sends up a feeble few stalks of green which dry to a crisp within a day or two at the moment.

I noticed the 2 rocky low ’causeways’, which link where the ponds fill up and overflow into the large water catchment area, are dried up.

The pond in the current Header and Footer in my Nature Blog (which I change from time to time), has minimal water and even the water reeds and Bullrushes are crisping up to pale gold in the heat, as you can see in the Pacific Black Duck images below.

And they’ve got their roots in the water!

Even so, I did catch sight of a few birds last weekend, but it was definitely a thrill to see the 2 Australian White Ibis.

The Crested Pigeon with its beautiful markings, pale pink body and head crest are always easy to spot.  They’re usually on the ground.

CRESTED PIGEON (Ocyphaps lophotes)

……..and for those new to my Nature Blog, the images below are what are usually seen in the cooler months. Green, blue and birds galore.

But instead we get the images below on the walk home.  Dry grass and lacklustre scenes.

COASTAL CUSHION BUSH (Leucophyta brownii)

Found it!

I thought the bush in the previous post looked a bit like one of the Coastal Saltbushes I’d seen down at the Jawbone Coastal Conservation and Nature Reserve and I was right.

I found the name of my mystery local bush with the right words in a search of Google Images late last night.  It’s halfway down the pdf. here

Then of course, I was able to type the correct name into my Google search and read more about it at Victorian Resources online

I thought it looked a very drought-hardy plant even in the flat open windy area near my local river, so looking up Coastal Saltbush wasn’t too far wrong.  It brought me to a Coastal plant website.  In fact, after putting the right words, in the right order, in my Google search I found the name in something like 5 minutes.  Just goes to show how appropriate wording in your search can be vital in identifying local flora and fauna quickly.

I’ve often spent, quite literally years, searching for names and given up, then one day decided to try again with different wording for Mr Google and I’ve come up trumps in 5 minutes.

It’s all very well to bookmark an Australian Plant directory online (OR even look up my own 2 plant encyclopaedias), but narrowing  your plant search  down with carefully chosen words can be a great time saver.

Now I’ve found it, I can name the photo and put together a short post on last Saturday’s walk and bird life.

WHAT PLANT IS THAT?

It’s been a busy week so haven’t had a chance to upload the (rather lacklustre) images from last Saturday’s walk down to the local pond.

The grass is so dry and the ground so parched, I hope to goodness there is no broken glass, or anything else around, which might start a grass fire in the large field on one side of my home, or the nature reserve.  Andy the Grass-cutter keeps all the open areas mown very short in summer, but even so, I think a fire on the ground would spread quickly at the current time.

IMAGE MADE AT THE START OF SUMMER IN NOVEMBER 2018

I’ve been totally frustrated in trying to identify this grey low-growing ground cover in the small landscaped area between the large lake-like expanse of water and the Maribyrnong River.  I first photographed it when moving to the area 2 1/2 years ago, but its identification has mystified me ever since.

Does any Aussie who follows my nature blog have any ideas?

I’m thinking it’s probably an Australian native as the local Parks (and Council?) have spent the last couple of years removing all non-indigenous trees in Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve and the surrounding parkland and I would think they planted this low-growing grey ground cover for its drought tolerant hardiness.

Maybe it reminds an overseas follower of some species in their own drought-hardy area.

It almost looks like a coastal saltbush but I’ve done a quick scan of photos with Mr Google Images with that description.  I tried Googling ‘grey ground cover Australian native’ or included the word drought-tolerant etc.

The map below gives you a sense of the area I live in.  I’m surrounded on (most of) 2 sides by open field, nature reserve or parkland.  In fact I read that there’s 400+ hectares of parkland up and down the Maribyrnong River.

Last Saturday, I did only the lower half of the walk indicated by the broken line on this old map (from my photo library in 2017).

“H” is home.

It was hotter than expected and within 5 minutes I was over-heated and despite a bottle of chilled water, I was wishing I was home in air-conditioned comfort and my right hip/knee/ankle told me in no uncertain terms it didn’t want to go for a walk anyway.

 

ZUCCHINI ‘BLACK JACK’ (Cucurbita spp.)

At the risk of boring some of you, I had to take some more photos of my Zucchini ‘babies’.

Trying to part the large leaves with one hand and hold the camera up close was quite a challenge yesterday.

MY LARGEST ZUCCHINI AT ABOUT 4″ long X 5.8″ thick.

I’ve changed the ‘picture style’ setting on my DSLR back to Standard, which is why the close-ups taken with my DSLR and Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 lens are rather pale (but more like their natural colour).

The images made with my Sony a6000 ‘mirrorless’ camera,, (while seated at my desk chair) at the end of this post, are made with the camera on Vivid picture style and are much brighter.

Of course the sun and light at the time of shooting also influences the overall image.

HARLEQUIN BUGS ON LAST YEAR’S CAPSICUM PLANT.

I now have SIX zucchini babies and this morning when I turned on my computer and sat down I noticed a couple of Harlequin bugs sitting on the flower/fruit (one close to the centre of the image below).  The zucchini on the right seems to have quite a curve in its growth pattern (below).  Perhaps it couldn’t get through the tangle of leaves and stems?  Since I’ve never grown zucchini before I can only guess.

Harlequin bugs are the pest that decimated my crops of nearly every single leaf last Summer. They even outshone the Cabbage Moth Caterpillars with their voracious appetites.  So far, they haven’t sucked the sap out of any Zucchini leaves, but as I type this post, I’m anxiously watching one Harlequin bug sitting on one of my smallest zucchinis.

Hmmmmmm!

Am I supposed to cut off some of these large leaves?  Or is the curved zucchini merely growing crookedly because the plants are growing in such a small pot and it’s ‘stunted’?  I’m also wondering if the zucchini will grow to a decent size at all?

If you’re a vegetable gardener, please let me know in the comments section.  Otherwise I’ll ask Mr Google later in the day when the household chores are done.

……..and here are the shots made a few days ago with the Sony a6000 on ‘vivid’ picture style (below).

As most of the longtime followers know I’m an amateur photographer first and a gardener second. but you have to admit there’s something really intriguing/fascinating when you look at  vegetable plant details up this close.  It’s almost like there’s a whole miniature world to visit and admire.

Actually Spring onions are one of the best vegetables to observe.  Mine usually grow about 2-3 inches every day.  I’ve just pulled the last one out to make room for another herb seedling friends gave me.

I went for a short walk (15 minutes for normal people, 2 hours for me) down to the nearest pond on Saturday, so when I’ve got time to review the afternoon’s photos and put together a post,  I have some bird images to share.

I have to admit that the pain in my right hip was so severe (despite an extra dose of painkillers), I vowed to never go for a nature walk again after I got home.  Sometimes I think nature walks will be permanently off the agenda now that my total hip replacement surgery has had to be cancelled and I’m limping around like a little old lady.  Other times, I think …..just one more tiny walk and I’ll happily retire from nature photography (and I push the pain limits), but I suspect I’m doing more damage to my hip by walking.  It’s a ‘wear and tear’ injury osteoarthritis, so the Orthopaedic surgeon said, not an ‘old age’ degenerative problem.

THE LOWER STEP (not far from my back gate) WHERE I CAN SEE OVER to FROGS HOLLOW NATURE RESERVE – about 100 feet away.
STANDING ON THE STEEP SAND PATH LOOKING BACK TOWARDS THE 2 STEPS AND THE PATH LEADING UP TO MY ‘BACK GATE’.  Did I tell you it’s very, very, very steep…..the path and my road.

I sat on the lower step down where the path leading to/past Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve starts, for a while after my short walk.  At that minute, 3 Superb Fairy-wrens came to the dried out remains of  an old withered wild Fennel(?) bush and kept me entertained for another 30-40 minutes.  Just goes to show, you don’t have to go far to catch a glimpse of the local bird life in my area.

These wrens were so preoccupied with eating the dried up seeds they didn’t notice me sitting on the step about 7-8 feet away.

It’s all a matter of opening your eyes and truly seeing the small details around you when you live in an urban area.

I think I will grow Zucchini as a permanent part of my balcony garden.  The flowers are so interesting the way they open and close .  Some are gnarled and knotted (the females with the fruit).  Others, (the males), are picture postcard perfect with their golden petals splayed out in a beautiful umbrella shape.

PHEW!

PHEW!

Well, I think I can safely say…….Summer is finally over in Melbourne, Australia.

No it’s not.

Yes, it is.

No it’s not…… and so on.

Every time I (and my Balcony Garden) heave a sigh of relief at the cool morning breeze wafting over the area, the sun starts heating up again.

This morning, it’s blissfully cool sitting at my desk in the morning shade (as the hot western sun hasn’t crept over my apartment building yet).  I’ve been more attentive to the thirsty plants and especially attentive to the daily task of looking for those pesky little Cabbage Moth Caterpillars and Harlequin bugs.

I HAVE noticed the Kale and baby Spinach grow much, much slower under the pest ‘cage’.

Obviously the netting diffuses the hot sun quite a lot.

I found one large plump caterpillar on a half-eaten leaf of one baby Tuscan Kale plant under the new ‘pest net’ a couple of days ago and sighed one of those frustrating sounds yet again.

How in the hell can those pesky Cabbage Moth Butterflies have got under the pest net and laid more eggs?

I’m beginning to wonder if ‘pest eggs’ are in the potting soil I bought from the local Plant Nursery Warehouse a couple of weeks ago.  I still haven’t potted up all the seedlings my friends brought me several weeks ago and a few yellowed and died.

I have the tiny Curry Plant (Helichrysum angustifolium) abovesitting on my desk (still in its seedling pot) with one (of two) Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilica) and my French Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) in the hope that keeping them indoors will escape the ravenous appetites of the pests.

PEACE LILY with its MANY NEW LEAVES

On the bookcase near the opposite side of the sliding door is the other Sweet Basil, one small pot of Mint (Mentha spicata) and the Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum).

THIS PHOTO WAS TAKEN A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO. THE TARRAGON, ONE OF THE BASIL AND THE CURRY PLANT ARE NOW SITTING NEXT TO MY COMPUTER.

I bought the Peace Lily about 2 months ago to clear and detoxify the air in the lounge.  It grew so fast, I had to re-pot it in a larger pot 2 weeks after purchase.  Now it’s growing so fast – about 3-4 leaves EVERY day – I need a larger pot again!

It’s staggering how fast most plants grow either indoors in this light-filled modern apartment, OR in my west-facing balcony garden.

Just goes to show what a lot of light and some TLC will do 🙂

Sure, I’ve had quite a few failures (incl. 2 baby zucchini above), in the blistering heat of our recent ‘record-breaking’ Summer, or attack by Harlequin bugs and Caterpillars, but on the whole, my gardening efforts since I moved to this western suburb of Melbourne 2 1/2 years ago, have been mind-boggling.

Now it’s cooler and I’ve moved the Zucchini to in front of the window near my desk so I can watch it growing, I now have 4 new zucchini babies. In fact, one of those babies, is growing about 1 cm (1/2″) EVERY day at the moment!

THIS IS THE PICTURE ABOVE MY COMPUTER SCREEN EACH DAY

I am not exaggerating.  At this rate I should have a zucchini to cut in about 7-10 days.

I looked Zucchini up in the new Organic Gardening book my brother gave me at Christmas and apparently the flowering stems with fruit are the females and the long thin stems (and no fruit) the male flowers!  I still can’t quite believe these vegetables have grown in such a shallow small trough.  Quite the opposite to what my new gardening book says.  I’ve never grown zucchini in my potted garden before.

I planted the Climbing Spinach (Basella alba ruba) seeds a few weeks ago and 6 out of the 10 seeds have sprouted.  The other 4 seeds must have been ‘duds’.  Can’t wait for it to start climbing the trellis I made out of 4 bamboo garden stakes tied together at the top.

So far, no half-eaten leaves.

Hopefully the caterpillars will leave this pot alone as I have no netting to put over it.

This photo of the climbing spinach was made 2 weeks ago.

The weather is gorgeous today and barely a breath of wind.

Blue sky and sunshine with a couple of overnight rain showers have been blessed by cooler breezes in the last week.

I’m still having to water every night at dusk, but that’s a ‘given’ when you have a garden made of potted plants.  The strong gusty wind in this area dries out every pot almost every day.

I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t even had time to try making Dolmades (stuffed vine leaves) after my brother kindly bottled some leaves from his farm (for me).  They look a bit ‘fiddly’, but I’m determined to give it a try.

My Balcony Garden is in a state of constant change as something dies, or is eaten by the pests, OR I decide to try growing a different plant/vegetable.

Life is just one big experiment at the moment, but at least with the cooler weather I can find some Joy in my Day (instead of wilting in the heat).  My apartment has air-conditioning, but once the hot sun hits the floor-to-ceiling windows, my desk area still gets very hot in the mid-to-late afternoons in Summer.

SUPERB FAIRY-WREN (Malurus cyaneus) – juvenile

I was just replying to a commenter that I hadn’t seen a Superb Fairy-wren for weeks and hoped they hadn’t found a new home when all of a sudden, 2 juveniles – a male and a female – landed on the balcony fence.

I just caught a movement over the top of my computer screen (so now new followers know why I have my desk in front of the lounge windows).

Sorry to say, I caught the bookcase reflection in the glass door…….. (and I really must clean the lounge windows).

The female flew away before I had a chance to take the lens cap off my (newly) repaired 150-500mm lens and aim.

So I clumsily followed the young male as it wandered through the herbs and eventually managed to capture a couple of shots of its back before it, too, flew away.

Juvenile male SUPERB FAIRY-WREN flying around the Lemon Verbena (right) and Perennial Basil (left).

It’s many weeks since I’ve seen these cute, fast-moving little wrens.  It’s so rare for them to stand still and pose for a shot.

EURASIAN COOT (Fulica atra)

Eurasian Coots are ‘common as mud’ in Australia.

You can usually find them in large fresh water lakes, reservoirs and floods, but they can also congregate near swamps, sewage farms and occasionally…….sheltered seas.

Their large dumpy bodies, with sooty black wings and tail, are quite distinctive with only a rich brown eye to relieve the overall body colour.

This poor Coot (below) was stuck on a rock trying to dislodge a piece of fishing line from its beak and gullet near the edge of the river on the north-east side of Melbourne.  Eventually a couple of other walkers and I managed to catch the bird and remove the plastic line and it swam happily on its way, but it was hard to catch I must say.

Nether the walkers, nor I, had a smart phone with internet access, so we couldn’t ring for the local Wildlife Rescue service to come and relieve the Coot of its irritating plastic line.  It does make me cross when I come across birds in distress, due to the thoughtless acts of fishermen and campers.

The bird’s beak and frontal shield is white, so in general, you can’t mistake the identification.

It dives frequently and has a distinctive metallic ‘kyok’ and other twanging sounds.

One day I came across a nest right next to the bank of the Ornamental Lake in the Royal Botanic Gardens and was lucky enough to catch a couple of chicks take their first swim.

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SCENTED GERANIUM ‘Candy Dancer’ (Pelargonium ‘Candy Dancer’)

This scented Geranium is a small, compact shrub growing approximately 70cm (27 inches) wide and 70cm high.  It’s so easy to grow and has a lovely fragrance and is drought and heat tolerant, so perfect for our Australian climate.

Pelargonium ‘Candy Dancer’

The images in this post come from The Herb Garden in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne (as you can see from the brick paved path in the background), but I’ve certainly seen it in many residential gardens also.

Pelargonium ‘Candy Dancer’

ZUCCHINI ‘Black Jack’ (Cucurbita spp.)

My 2 baby Zucchini died.

They never stood a chance in the last few days of Summer heat and while I moved them to the right hand side of my balcony, which goes into shade earlier in the afternoon, their sad yellow pallor spoke volumes in my attempt to nurture them to fruition.

This morning, it’s cool, overcast and looking promising for some cooler temperatures in the coming week, so I moved the trough over to where I can see the plants over my computer screen, for, on this morning’s inspection, 2 Harlequin bugs had landed on their large gently scalloped leaves and looked very much like they had found a new home.

Hopefully, closer scrutiny throughout the day time I am home will lead to some new fruit and NO Harlequin bugs (which decimated my leafy crops last Summer 2017/18).

For those new to my nature blog, this is how close I can move a plant if I want to look at it regularly without leaving my desk chair.

By the way, excuse the dirty windows in these images, but the overnight rain a few days ago brought with it an astonishing amount of dust and while I’ve dusted indoors, I haven’t had a chance to clean the lounge windows yet.

Keep your fingers crossed the current new flowers bear some fruit.

……and on a sadder note, I’ve only seen a couple of House Sparrows visiting my garden in the last week – hope this doesn’t mean the avian visitors have moved on to greener pastures. 

While the excavator on the building site across the road does make a lot of noise in the mornings, I was hoping the bird bath hanging from the balcony fence and a large ring of bird seed tied to the top of the fence would lure them back…..especially the Superb Fairy-wrens (shown below).

(it might be back to the archives for some bird images to share……..).