GREVILLEA ‘LITTLE DRUMMER BOY’ (Grevillea lanigera)

GREVILLEA ‘LITTLE DRUMMER BOY’ (Grevillea lanigera) – 28th August, 2010 – Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

GREVILLEA ‘LITTLE DRUMMER BOY’ (Grevillea lanigera), or WOOLLY GREVILLEA, is one of my favourite early flower images made in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne.

…..and one of the most ‘stolen’ of my flower images.  I just found another 2 websites who have used this image without my permission.

Perhaps I should be flattered.

But why can’t people do me the curtesy of at least asking if they may use one of my images.

I’ve got about 7-8 images used by professional bodies (with my permission) or even a young street photographer who asked if  he could use one of my B & W images as the header on his website, (which surprised me as I’d have thought he would want to use one of his own, but he was just starting a website and has probably substituted one of his own by now).  I’m happy to share if people ask, but I do like to be asked first.

I do like people to at least credit me as the photographer too.

Anyway, this lovely woolly low-growing Grevillea is a great ground-cover endemic to the eastern coast of Australia.  It’s one of the ‘spider’ flowered Grevilleas.  It flowers in Winter and Spring and has really soft grey-green foliage.  It may be 8 1/2 years since I took this image with my first little Canon point & shoot – my first camera when I took up Photography as a hobby – but surprisingly, despite my novice status, I still think it’s one of the best flower photos I’ve made which shows great detail.

There are something like 350 Grevilleas which grow in every part of Australia, but I’ve only photographed about 5 different varieties.  The other 4 varieties I’ve got in my Grevillea folder are of the ‘toothbrush’ flowered Grevilleas.  The honeyeaters love their nectar.

They’re pretty drought-hardy and benefit from a light prune after flowering.

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It’s back………

My Sigma 150 – 500mm lens is back……………….from the camera repair department.

Just thought I’d share my delight with you.

Of course, I’m still in a state of shock at the repair bill of this much-loved telephoto lens (including the new UV filter which I always buy for my lenses to protect them).

But I’m so glad to have a long telephoto ‘birding’ lens again.

Now……….where are all the birds who normally visit my balcony during the day.  Wouldn’t you know it, not a bird in sight! 😀

I might just have to walk down to the local pond today to test it out.  Of course I did test it in the repair department, but that’s not the same thing as testing it on a real live distant bird.

TREE or SHRUBBY GERMANDER (Teucrium fruticans)

Shrubby  Germander (Teucrium fruticans), also known as Tree germander is a bushy, evergreen shrub with oval to lance-shaped, grey-green leaves, to 3/4″ long, with white-woolly underneath.

It’s native to the western and central areas of the Mediterraneun, not Australia, but I find it a lovely plant and almost wish I had one in my balcony garden, although it does like a bit of shelter and I fear it would quickly go downhill in my windy home location.  But with all the successes I’ve had in my small west-facing garden, you never know – it might just grow beautifully 🙂

The whorls of pale blue/mauve flowers are very pretty (even if they don’t have the brilliant colour of some of the flowers in my previous post).

They make an excellent hedge, and do best in moist, well-drained soil and full sun.  They make a nice clipped low hedge in a herb garden and may be cut to within 2″ of ground level in the Spring to maintain a nice compact growth habit.

The images in this post were not made in the Royal Botanic Gardens, (surprise, surprise), but against a wall in the riverside walking path near the Collingwood Children’s Garden in the inner Melbourne north-east suburb of Abbotsford,  where I lived briefly before moving to the western suburb where I currently reside.

FLOWER PHOTOGRAPHY

While I love my current home location, I can’t deny that it’s not as ‘colourful‘ as when I lived next to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne (up to May 2015).

I was also a short bus ride away from some of Melbourne’s other main public gardens and The Conservatory (in the Fitzroy Gardens) at that time.

After walking the Royal Botanic Garden’s many paths for over 25 years, it really was fun to capture some of the beautiful flowers through the seasons when I bought a DSLR in late December 2010.

While I do have a relatively small Edwardian public park a bus ride away at the current time (images above), somehow it’s not the same as the diverse range of flowers, grasses and old trees of the RBG (Royal Botanic Gardens) which was first planted in 1846.   Quite a few of those old trees were uprooted or severely damaged in a storm in 2009, but other 150+ year old trees, sourced from many countries around the world, remain a backdrop to some of the RBG’s beautiful paths and avenues.

One of the main drawcards to the RBG is the wide variety of formal garden beds, informal planting of native plants as well as a rich variety of grasses and trees.  It’s variety is constantly being updated and replanted to maintain a lovely array of foliage as well as flowers.

Melbourne is known as the Garden capital city of Australia and its many public parks and gardens are a living testament to the wisdom of some of the early settlers in the area who made the effort to surround the first white settlement with gardens.

While recent years have seem much re-landscaping from English cottage garden plants to more drought-hardy natives, South African and South American plants, some of the 55,000 plants are bound to be in flower in any season.

The Treasury Gardens and Fitzroy Gardens on the eastern perimeter of Melbourne’s CBD (Central Business District) together with many National Trust Properties make for a wealth of photo subjects to entertain and enchant the Garden Lovers among you.

So to cheer up those living in the northern hemisphere, which is still under storms and/or snow/wintery chill, here’s a colourful array of some of my early flower images – mostly made between 2010 and 2013 (combined with a few butterfly images from the Butterfly House at Melbourne’s main zoo in North Melbourne).

NOTE: As always, if you see a misspelt name, blame the Auto Spellcheck which keeps changing my typing OR if you see an incorrect name, please don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments section.  There are 3-4 flowers which have several common names, but I’ve only listed one to save space.

 

WATER BUTTONS, BUTTONWEED (Cotula coronophifolia)

Water Buttons are a native of South Africa, but naturalised in all Australian states and New Zealand.

These hairless, low-growing, perennial herbs flower in Winter and Spring and grow on a range of soils from sandy loam to clay, but are restricted to wet soils that are periodically flooded according to Mr Google.

They generally exist in moderately saline, waterlogged soils and may form large mats over shallow water,  but the images in this post were made in Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens.

Not sure that the patch of plants was in water-logged soil in the RBG, but they were flowering profusely all the same.

I could have chosen to photograph just one flower, but then you wouldn’t get a sense of how gorgeous they are en masse.  Their button-like flowers tend to turn throughout the day and follow the sunlight as you can see in my images.

I’ve seen them in the soggy field around the pond in the nearby Newells Paddock Conservation and Nature Reserve about 2 miles from my current home.

I tried to get down low to photograph them in Newells Paddock when I first visited this amazing restored area a couple of years ago, but I wobbled too much as I was trying not to get wet socks through a hole in my old walking shoes.  The ground was covered in low-lying water under the succulents and grass floor beneath my feet, so the images below just really give you a sense of the surroundings in that paddock (field).  Hope to get back there soon to photograph more of the bird life.  You can get a sense of the bird life here

Or, you can keep following my nature blog waiting for me to photograph them.  Not sure I can get around all the ponds and fields as the water is hidden underfoot for the most part, and I don’t have any gumboots (rubber boots).  I tend to stick to gravel or asphalt paths for walking these days as I’m a bit accident-prone (as you will know if you’ve followed my blog for a long time 😀 )

It’s been raining solidly for a couple of hours this morning and is blissfully cool, so I definitely won’t have to water my balcony garden this evening.

I glanced at the coming week’s weather forecast on the internet this morning, (as I do every morning), and it looks like cooler weather next week.

Dare I hope for a walk outdoors soon?

Is the stretch of heat waves Melbourne’s endured through January, finally finished?

Will there be enough rain to put the bushfires out?

NANKEEN NIGHT HERON (Nycticorax caledonicus)

The first time I saw a Nankeen Night Heron (Nycticorax caledonicus) on the bank of the Ornamental Lake in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, I nearly passed out with excitement.

NANKEEN NIGHT HERON photographed from my special secret hiding place down a rarely used path in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne.

I’d never seen one before.

A juvenile NANKEEN NIGHT HERON – Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

I thought I was looking at a very rare bird, but of course I later saw it was very common in the RBG, Melbourne Zoo and even, my current home location (just haven’t seen it here yet).

Perhaps not very well focused, but this long-distance shot of the dead tree where the NANKEEN NIGHT HERONS bask in the late Winter sun in the Royal Botanic Gardens gives you an idea of how many there were that day.
A further distant shot of the upright part of that dead tree. Sometimes you’d see as many as 25-30 Nankeen Nigh Herons on its upper branches.

It’s a large, but comparatively dumpy, large-headed heron.  It’s beak is large, deep and black.  This heron has yellowish legs.  The plumage is a distinctive dark cinnamon above with dark crown and white drooping crest in breeding season.  The underparts are buff shading to white.

The juvenile is also distinctive with dark brown above and plentiful bold white spots.  (It’s called the Rufous Night Heron on some web sites).

I think it is my favourite bird of all I’ve photographed (since I took up Photography as a hobby in 2010).

I managed to get some great shots up-close in the outdoor restaurant area at Melbourne Zoo’s Japanese Garden entrance.

It even beats my second favourite – the White-faced Heron.

Since I can’t get outdoors for a walk today, despite the superb cool weather  and fluffy white clouds scattered across the vivid blue Summer sky, I decided to share some images from my archives.

Hope you enjoyed them 🙂

THIRST

“You don’t know what thirst is until you drink for the first time.”

Carlos Ruiz Zafón

I caught this little House Sparrow looking longingly at the bottom of the Bird Bath and realised I had forgotten to fill the small ceramic dish on Wednesday morning.

I was wishing I had my long 150-500mm lens back from the repairers, as a close-up would have been interesting to view the bird’s expression.

The Camera repair department rang that afternoon to say my lens had returned to their shelf and was ready to pick up.  I nearly fell off my desk chair in surprise.  It was only last Friday that I had signed off for Sigma to go ahead and repair it!

Anyway, today is lovely and cool and wouldn’t you know it – a bad night in pain and no amount of prescription analgesics has helped, so I have to stay home today.

Maybe tomorrow ?………………… 😥

GOOD NEWS & BAD NEWS

I was going to throw the Sigma 150-500 mm lens out after my fall and Shattered lens a couple of weeks ago as it was totally useless and I couldn’t afford a replacement at around Aust$1400 now I’m not working – (actually some suppliers seem to quote $1600+).  I don’t think Sigma make the 150-500 mm lens any more, the new version is 150-600 mm.

The Good News in regard to my broken long telephoto ‘birding‘ lens is that it CAN be repaired (and IS being repaired as I speak).  That repair comes with a 90 day warranty.

Initially, I thought it was just the UV filter I have on all my lens to protect them. I took the broken filter off and turned the camera upside down and the glass fell out of the lens barrel.

Had to go into the city for an appointment and decided to take the lens to my camera shop hire/repair department and have a chat to the technician on duty.  He inspected it and said the barrel and remaining glass was in excellent condition and it would be a shame not to, “at least get it assessed”.  Another technician joined in the conversation and agreed.

So I paid out the $70 inspection fee and the hire/repair department sent it off to Sigma, (or wherever they send Sigma lenses).

The Good News was that it could be repaired – new ‘glass & recalibration etc’ – but was going to cost $760 (actually I guessed it would be $600-$700 at least, so I wasn’t far wrong).

I couldn’t afford that so I said just return the broken lens to me.

Of course that afternoon I saw some potential great Bird shots (just like I’d been seeing for some days prior to that).  I’ve missed that lens dreadfully since it broke.

I uhmmmmm and ahhhhhed.  The next day I emailed them and said go ahead and fix it!

Mind you I’ll have to reduce the food budget for the next 2-3 months, but, what else do I do but Photography (I thought to myself).  I don’t drink, smoke, go on holidays, buy clothes, socialize, go out partying, play sport or anything that normal healthy working folk do.

Sometimes in life you have to grit your teeth, make some concessions for the things you value in your life and do what makes you Happy.

Basically losing this lens was like losing my whole lifestyle. I might almost call it mandatory to my Lifestyle enjoyment, (but that would be a gross exaggeration I suppose). I’m no longer living near any gardens to do my much in the way of flower photography any more.  I don’t have a car, or the health, to travel out to the countryside or mountains (let alone interstate or overseas like I did in my youth).  It wasn’t just about my one and only hobby.  It was about losing something that had brought me so much joy and a constant distraction from daily pain and other health symptoms.  It was an important part of my health ‘treatment’.  This long lens gave me challenges or goals (in photographing birds).

The BAD NEWS is – it’s still hot in Melbourne and despite a heavy downpour from a thunderstorm last night which saved me having to water my potted plants, today has dawned hot and humid again.

With any luck, by the time the long ‘birding’ lens is repaired, the weather might have cooled down enough for a walk outdoors?

I mean to say, just how many ‘House Sparrow sitting on the Bird Bath’ shots can you really share online without boring your long-time followers to death.

(That’s a rhetorical question by the way) 😀

 

BIRDS AND THE HEAT (part II)

THE BIRD BATH IS IN DEEP SHADE ALL MORNING AND UP TO EARLY AFTERNOON AS THE SUN MOVES OVER THE BUILDING

I took some more photos of the poor little sparrow who was feeling the heat yesterday.  He hopped over to the cool side of the bird bath, but was ‘gular fluttering’ (i.e. avian panting) with his throat heavily.

…….. and a cropped version so you can see him better (note: this is through a dirty glass window hence the spots and lack of clarity).

Another shot as he stands on the shady side of the bird bath.

……with a cropped version.

and then to the edge and he flew away.  (Note: I am really missing my broken 150-500mm lens as it would have bought you the birds up close and probably in good focus as I can rest my elbows on my desk to make the shot).

The cool change didn’t come until much later in the day, but it was very welcome and made for some lovely storm clouds (high winds and thunderstorms even blew the roof off one house I heard on the TV news last night).

Normally I have cloud and sunset shots on my other blog, but I can’t decide which shots to share, so here’s a few of the 50-60 images I made at dusk and sunset.

(I have an addiction to cloud formations and sky colours as seen from my desk chair or apartment balcony – they are always different, unless the sky is completely clear).

Cool today & tomorrow and back to heat wave over the weekend 🙂

Roll on Autumn………….please.

BIRDS AND THE HEAT

I think I’ve already mentioned Melbourne has had a heat wave recently.

Last Thursday it was forecast to be 38C, but ended up being 42.3C (about 108F) and Friday’s forecast of 44C ended up as 45.2 (about 115F).

Yesterday it was 33C, today 37C, and then we’ve got a cool change this afternoon, cool for a couple of days, then back to heat wave conditions for the coming weekend…..back up to 37C.

Phew!

I keep refilling the bird bath (constantly) as it evaporates during the hottest part of the day on my apartment balcony.  Even with ice blocks dropped in to cool the water temperature down, I saw few House Sparrows last Friday.  One I did notice, eventually sought shade under my ‘potting table ‘, but as that old wheeled tv trolley is metal, eventually it gave up and flew away.

I don’t know where the Superb Fairy-Wrens have been.  Probably somewhere in deep shade in Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve behind my apartment building.  I think I’ve seen only one blue-headed male in the last 7-10 days.

My balcony is in shade all morning up until about 2.30pm and surprisingly cool, so this is when I do any gardening tasks, or even, indoor chores.  But once the sun moves over my 6 storey building and hits the balcony floor tiles, it gets stinking hot and like a sauna indoors (where I usually sit at my desk in front of the lounge window).  I think the floor-to-ceiling windows attract and absorb the heat.  While I have air-conditioning, I still feel the heat dreadfully.

I envy those people who love the heat and can go outdoors whatever the weather.

Usually its February that is the hottest month in Melbourne, but with Global Warming, Melbourne’s weather is now predictably UN-PREDICTABLE at any time of the year.  I hope this February, 2019 is not going to be hotter than January.

Yesterday, the House Sparrows constantly visited the bird bath all morning.  I don’t think I’d be exaggerating to say 30 or 40 birds dropped by for a drink.   Yesterday was one of the few times, I have seen pairs of sparrows visit the bird bath.  At one stage there were 2 young females that looked like twins 😀

In the afternoon, the bird bath’s painted ceramic edge, that lies in the sun, seems to get very hot.  I observed one Sparrow land on the sunny side and immediately jump over to the small section of ceramic that lay in the shade.

I could almost hear the bird call out ‘too hot, too hot’.  The Sparrow featured in this post jumped down to the sunny tiled area and promptly moved over to the shade (which I’ve lightened in post processing so you can see the bird more clearly).

Most of these birds are juveniles with their slim bodies and ‘young’ faces.  I assume they’re this years crop of hatchlings.

I’ve observed that many of them had their mouths wide open and I began to get more concerned, so this morning I did a little reading up on their ‘hot day habits‘.

Apparently, a bird’s body temperature is higher than humans, so it’s doubly important for them to cool off in a hurry.  Some bird species resort to ‘gular fluttering’. The bird will open its mouth and ‘flutter’ its neck muscles, promoting heat loss (think of it as the avian version of panting).

Some birds also open up their wings on a hot day, allowing air to circulate across their bodies and sweep away excess heat and if you look carefully at the images in this post, you can see them lift their wings away from their bodies.

Birds are efficient about water and water loss, but even so, they need to replenish their fluids regularly on a hot day.

Whether you live in the country, mountains, town or city, consider setting up one or more bird baths, preferably well above ground level to avoid attacks by feral animals.  Of course you can’t do much about larger birds of prey attacking smaller birds.

The water level shouldn’t be too high – only about an inch deep – and replenish or change the water regularly every couple of days, as stagnant water can play host to algae and mosquito larvae.

IN THIS PHOTO YOU CAN SEE THE SPARROW’S FEATHERS FLUFFED OUT.

Mosquitos are present in very high numbers this summer in Melbourne according to the TV news.  After last summer’s spider and mosquito plague around my area and numerous bites, I now have to close all windows tightly at night in summer.  I don’t know whether this is made worse by the fact I live next to a nature reserve and several parks with water canal and many large ponds in the area.  I suppose the large expanse of water in the river and wetlands only add to the mosquito breeding grounds.

I live slightly to the left of the centre of this map – right next to the green-shaded area.

Or more accurately seen in the following map of my regular walking route I used to follow when I wanted a ‘short’ walk.  Of course a ‘short walk’ for me takes hours as I keep stopping to look up, down and all around for bird and other photo subjects.

Apparently, Gobal Warming is already affecting bird populations with some birds laying their eggs 10+ days earlier and other have shifted their home ranges further north with migration patterns, in general, altering to accommodate the changes in climate.

Birds may be adapting, but me, well I feel as though Melbourne’s Spring is more like Summer and Summer is more like an ‘OVEN’!

September, 2018, Melbourne had the driest September on record (since Temperature records began in the 1800s), so I think we have to accept that the temperatures, in general, are higher than a hundred years ago (and increasing every year now).

Birds, birds & more Birds – Jawbone Flora & Fauna Conservation Reserve, Williamstown

After walking the restored Paisley-Challis Wetlands a couple of weeks ago (see previous post), I kept walking along the asphalt path (through the start of Jawbone Flora & Fauna Conservation Reserve) which winds its way over 2 islands in the middle of the lake system near the residential area (shown by the continuous line in the map below).

It then extends through the grassed area between the residential housing and the restored salt marsh and lakes, right down to a car park (and Bus Stop to take me on the first stage of my journey home).

Initially, I was only going to look for the Royal Spoonbills (Platalea regia), first sighted back in February, 2018.  I wanted a better photo than the one I took with my shorter telephoto lens.

Royal Spoonbills – 1st February, 2018

Disappointingly, there weren’t standing in the shallow water near a mound of water reeds where I I’d seen them last year, so I walked a little further and finally spied them, partially obscured by the tall grass right next to me, which were way too high to get a clear shot, so I kept walking,

…….and finally spied them in a better location.

Further away than I’d hoped, but on this day, I had my longer 150-500mm lens.  No tripod, but there were several fences along the way on which I hoped to steady the heavy long lens.

So, finally, here’s the shot.

ROYAL SPOONBILL (Platalea regia)

I was happy.  These water birds weren’t as close as I would have liked, but the image was certainly ‘good enough’

As my hip/back pain was relatively low on this day I decided to keep walking.

Despite my wire shopping trolley front wheels (containing all 3 camera and lenses) catching on a piece of broken old footpath, flipping over, taking me with it and shattering the filter and glass of my long 150-500mm telephoto lens, I had a lovely long walk and was thrilled to see (literally) hundreds of Black Swans, 2 types of Cormorants, numerous Australian Pelicans and other water birds.  There’s still a painful lump on my shin today, but my fractured wrist seems much improved.

For me, it was a superb afternoon’s walk and well worth the journey to this western side of Port Phillip Bay (on which Melbourne was first settled and built around 1835).

Here’s a rather blurred shot below – I only took one shot and must have not held the camera steady.  It does give you some idea of the number of wild birds at low tide on the distant foreshore.  As well as the huge number of Black Swans with their elegant long necks and red beaks, a fellow photographer I met, showed me his images of Cape Barren Geese which had over-wintered in the area, Black-winged Stilts and a host of other water birds whose names escape me now.

I’d never heard of most of the birds the other photographer reeled off, much less seen them.

I did manage to get some shots of the swans and cormorants closer to the walking path though.

I must visit again…….. checking the tide levels first, in an effort to reach this area so I can walk over the sand.  Of course, next visit might mean the scores of birds have left the area 🙂

I was amazed, thrilled and just……soooooo excited to witness such an enormous number.   I had to be content to finish my walk, talking images along the way with my Sony a6000 and 55-210 lens, or my Canon DLSR and 17-50mm lens.


BTW As I had to go through the city last Monday, I stopped in at the city camera store repair department and after a lengthy discussion with 2 of the Technicians, decided to spend the $88 inspection fee and have my long telephoto lens sent off to Sigma (or wherever they send it) and get a quote for what it might cost to put new glass in the lens……….assuming it can be done.  It was actually only the top 2 layers of glass that fell out and were damaged (together with the UV filter).  The technicians said the lens barrel and remaining glass was in excellent condition and it would be a pity not to at least send it off for an assessment (and possible quote).  Sigma don’t make this 150-500 lens any more, only the newer one of 150-600mm which is about $1600 – way over any $$$ that I could afford at the moment.

Here’s a few more images (below) which show the area and some of the bird life.  I had to be content with staying on the asphalt walking path as I had my old wheeled wire shopping trolley with all my gear, water bottle, lunch, backpack etc.  Not something that I could take over rough ground, rocks or sand, but handy to use as a sort of ‘walking stick’ with my (now) constant hip pain, something I’ll just have to get used to, now my total hip replacement surgery, booked for the 22nd February, has had to be cancelled due to ‘pre-existing’ conditions.

Hope you enjoy my walk……

After a couple of really stinking hot humid days in Melbourne, (Thursday topped out at 42.3C and Friday 45.2C, which is about 115F), I’ve got new herb seedlings to plant and a host of Balcony Garden chores to keep me amused for a couple of days.

So what’s on my 2019 ‘bucket list’?

Nor much.

I like to live my life Mindfully in enforced retirement, just concentrating on the current day and taking time to ‘Smell the Roses’.  The cool change came through Melbourne late yesterday afternoon, so the constant birdsong is ringing in my ears this morning and my tiny blue ceramic bird bath is  a constant source of bird life, mainly the House Sparrows and occasionally,  Superb Fairy-wrens, as they go about their day.

 

I’ve better go outdoors and fill up the water.  It’s nearly evaporated again.

THE LAST FEW HUNDRED YARDS – Paisley-Challis Wetlands, Williamstown

It’s been a couple of weeks since I made the trip down to Williamstown’s coastal walking path to try and capture another photo of the Royal Spoonbills (Platalea regia) in the Jawbone Flora and Fauna Conservation Reserve – that shot will come in the next post.

I’ve been a little slow in posting some images of that walk partly due to a sore wrist (hairline fracture so it’s in a splint), but more importantly because I wanted to read up on the area known as the Paisley-Challis Wetlands.

The restoration of this area of wetlands/saltmarsh is a resounding success and to be honest, I wish I’d made many more photos of the low-lying plants close-up.

Maybe next visit.

This post is about the last few hundred yards of walking path which I last looked over, but did not walk, on 1st February, 2018 –  shown by the broken line in the top left-hand corner of the map.  Or you could say, ‘the start‘ of the walking path I suppose.  It’s accessible by bus or car (or if you want to do a longer walk back to Williamstown Beach – via train – far right-hand side of the image).

This post was also delayed due to the fact that most people might find this area fairly ‘ordinary’ to view from my images and since my blog is about photography, I wondered if followers might find my images rather mundane.

I hesitated to include it on my nature blog.

But its the very ordinary nature of this last few hundred yards that make it extraordinary.

You can read more about Saltmarsh and its importance to the local flora and fauna in this excellent article here.

While the article was written by the New South Wales (state to the north of my state of Victoria) Department of Primary Industries, it was instrumental in my understanding of Saltmarsh areas. 

The restoration was started in 2003 and the information board, at the Maddox Road end, provides the image which shows what a marvellous feat of renewal this project was (courtesy of Hobsons Bay City Council).  I felt you can better appreciate what appears to be low-lying scrubby landscape  by seeing the ‘before’ image – slightly blurred as it is.

NOTE: As always, if you think my plant identification is incorrect in this post, please let me know in the comment section so I can update the name.

So here’s an overview of this small area  which covers approximately 5 acres.  I found it interesting and well worth the trip, but reading the background of these Wetlands on the internet brings the story to life.

R.I.P. – Sigma 150 – 500/5.6 – 6.3 APO DG OS and Promaster 86mm UV Digital Filter

THE GOOD NEWS…….yesterday was perfect weather….cool, light wind, overcast (clearing to sunny) and was the day I finally ended up going back to the Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve to try and get a decent photo of the Royal Spoonbills (Platalea regia) in the middle of one of the lakes..

“Once a highly degraded site, Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve has been transformed into an ecological haven and a place of beauty for the whole community. Stretching from the Westgate Bridge to Williamstown, Altona and down to the Cheethams Wetlands and Point Cook, the park consists of open grasslands, wetlands, a saltmarsh and mangrove conservation area, Wader Beach and the Kororoit Creek.

The Bay trail, popular with cyclists and walkers, runs through the north of the park.”

THE BAD NEWS……I…..ehrrr…..had a slight accident and killed the long telephoto ‘birding’ lens.  Initially, I thought it was just the $139.95 UV filter.

I took the UV filter off and turned the camera/lens upside down to look through the viewfinder and all the glass fell out of the lens barrel and on to the asphalt walking path.  (in hindsight, now why didn’t I turn it upside down over the grass)?

Not even worth taking it to the repair department in the city – even if the glass could be replaced it would probably cost hundreds of dollars (or half the price of a new lens or more).

THE GOOD NEWS……Yes, I got the shot!  

Not close-up, but good enough (and many more before the accident – these will come next week when I’ve reviewed the images and my wrist is less sore.  It’s just in a splint at the moment as I didn’t want a plaster slab on it for a week restricting everything I do).  I can type ok.

In the meantime, this morning the swelling on my knee has gone down, but very painful so maybe I should have had that X-rayed (as well as my hand).  Funny, how the worst of the pain comes out the next day.

THE BAD NEWS……by the time I picked up the pieces, finished the walk, sore in more than a few spots……..$1141.45 had gone down the plughole (as they say)……in taxi, lens, UV filter, bus……later that night, taxi, hospital E.R, taxi home.

THE GOOD NEWS……only a hairline fracture in my (X-rayed) wrist……..but my knee hurts like hell this morning…..lets hope it gets better with rest.

THE BAD NEWS…..I can’t afford a new lens & filter (at the moment), so this may be an end to any close-up bird shots in the future.

I didn’t even shed a tear over the loss of my beloved ‘birding’ lens – all I thought was ‘another one bites the dust’, kept walking and shooting with the other 2 lenses I had with me.

THE GOOD NEWS.….It was a glorious day and there were hundreds, if not thousands of birds to be seen.  I had a lovely chat to another photographer who told me some of the names of the other birds and showed me his photos taken further along the foreshore – (it was low tide).

Another couple of photographers (on bicycles) stopped to chat and tell me more about the whole Marine Sanctuary and Nature Reserve.

So, I’d say it was a good day 🙂

BLACK-NECKED STORK (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus)

BLACK-NECKED STORK (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus)

The Black-necked Stork (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus) is huge, often known as Jabiru.

The adult is unmistakable, with white body contrasting black flight feathers, back and tail, and iridescent purplish neck and head.  The black beak is massive.  The legs are long and bright red, although the colour seems to vary in my old photo folder.   Seems to be more of an orange colour, but I suppose that is the Auto White Balance setting I used back in the day I shot these photos.   A couple of the images in this post seem to be on a warmer White Balance Setting (as you’ll notice).

BLACK-NECKED STORK (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus)

Eyes are dark in the male and yellow in the female.  The immature bird is brown above paling to whitish below, beak and legs grey.  Apparently the voice has deep booms with the beak clappering and to be honest, I can’t remember this sound from my many Zoo visits, (where the images below were made in the enormous Great Aviary).

I’ve never seen it in the wild, with it being found predominantly in the far north, or far north-eastern, areas of Australia.  But in re-booting my nature blog and starting a proper bird index of the 101 (errr……probably more like 110) bird species I’ve photographed in parks, nature reserves, Royal Botanic Gardens and Melbourne Zoo, its forms part of the list.

I think I’m up to about 40 birds I’ve shared and listed in the right-hand column of this page, so there are quite a few more species to share from my archives in future posts.

I found it a little difficult to find a really sharply focused image in my old iPhoto folder this morning, so I’ve uploaded an array of images hoping that some of them will be clear enough to see some of the feather colours and details.

Twice I’ve seen what I presume is a mating display (?) or aggressive display (?) between 2 of these stunning birds, but not being familiar with the movie/video features of my camera didn’t know how to capture it.

It was well worth seeing 🙂

 

COCKS COMB CORAL TREE (Erythrina crista-galli)

I decided to end my blogging and blog reading holiday a couple of days ago and get back into the swing of Blogging and sharing my nature photos again.

My brain was turning to ‘mush’ while on holiday from the computer.  Being mainly housebound for most of 2018 only added to my intermittent Brain Fog, Short-term memory problems and Cognitive Dysfunction.   I was putting a lot of it down to the Auto Spell-check in the latter part of 2018, but the truth is…… my fingers don’t always type what my brain tells them to. 

(if you read some weird sentence on one of my 3 blogs, don’t hesitate to point it out to me using the comments section.  Spell-check and proof-reading don’t always catch the errors).

This is not a sign of ageing, merely some of the Symptoms of Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME)  that seems to send my normal brain function awry.  The fact that my Mindful living practice was put out of sync with some complicated family issues only added to the mix.  Hopefully these family issues have now been resolved.

I came across my Cocks Comb Coral Tree (Erythrina crust-galli) folder while meandering through my old iPhoto Library in the last couple of days.  While not an Australian native tree/flower, the tree is striking due to its unusual bark.  The difference between its Summer canopy of lush green leaves and many brightly coloured flowers and non-flowering bare tree trunk and branches, is really quite extraordinary.

There is one large very old tree near the Herbarium and one smaller tree near the William Tell Rest house.

These are located in the southern end of Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens.

The colourful Australian Rainbow Lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus) love it’s nectar, and in one particular small tree next to a walking path in the RBG, can be found close enough to observe and photograph.

Cockspur coral tree is just one of its many common names, and is a deciduous shrub or tree from South America. It has been commonly grown in Australia as an ornamental plant, and has become invasive along waterways in coastal NSW north of Sydney.

LITTLE PIED CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax melanoleucos)

LITTLE PIED CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax melanoleucos) enjoying the early afternoon winter sun on the Maribyrnong River.

The Little Pied Cormorant (Phalacrocorax melanoleucos) is the smallest Australian Cormorant.  It’s a miniature duller version of the Pied Cormorant (Phalacrocorax varies), but the adult lacks the large coloured facial skin patches.

The white face extends above the eye.

Tufted crest of black feathers on the forehead appear in the early breeding season.  It lacks the black thigh patch of the two larger pied species with the immature having brown upper parts merging into off-white underparts, with a blackish thigh stripe.

Habitat: Almost any water, inland or coastal, fresh, salt or brackish, of any sort.  It is very widespread indeed and I’ve seen this bird with its wings outspread drying its feathers in the public gardens like the Royal Botanic Gardens to the south-east of Melbourne where I used to live, the Treasury Gardens on the eastern rim of Melbourne’s CBD (central business district), as well as down the local bayside beaches that I’ve visited via public transport since I took up Photography as a hobby in 2010.

GREAT CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax carbo)

One of my goals for this year, (and I don’t have many), is to be able to identify birds which look very similar.

To me, a Cormorant is a Cormorant.

Pied Cormorant (Phalacrocorax varius) looks the same to me as a Little Pied Cormorant (Phalacrocorax melanoleucos) for example.

It was only on re-viewing my Cormorant photo folder last night that I realised the Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) is actually very easy to identify and I really just hadn’t made enough effort to read up on Australia’s largest cormorant in my Bird Guide Book.

These birds are large.

Very large.

The adult is iridescent black, with bare yellow facial skin and throat path.  In the breeding season, a white chin and thigh patches develop.  The immature bird is dark brown.   It’s facial skin colours, even from a great distance away, when you can’t determine the bird’s actual size, make it quite distinct from the Little Black Cormorant (Phalacrocorax sulcirostris).  

I really don’t know why I kept getting them mixed up.

Australia has 5 cormorants and a couple of them are regular inhabitants of my local river (behind my apartment building).

The images above were made back in August 2012 at Melbourne Zoo.  These birds aren’t in any form of enclosure, but probably come to the island and enormous lagoon area near the Orangutan enclosure, at around 4.00pm, to partake of the daily feeding of the Australian Pelicans in the area.

If you’re visiting Melbourne, or even just a local, it’s a good idea to check out the various feeding times around the Zoo to get some great close-up views of the various birds & animals etc.

Melbourne Zoo is open 365 days of the year.

WHITE-FACED HERON (Egretta novaehollandiae)

I was out of bed early today as I have to go into the city (of Melbourne) for an appointment.

While I won’t have time for any Street Photography for my B & W Blog, I do want to fit in a few other errands while there (hip pain permitting).  I’m not looking forward to it as the Christmas shopping crowds will be horrendous.

11th JANUARY 2018 – POST CHRISTMAS CROWDS (and still within the summer school holidays in Australia).

Dare I say……I am not a people person at the best of times, let alone in Melbourne’s CBD (Central Business District) the week before Christmas.  I only go into the city centre for the very rare appointment these days as I can’t stand the cloying perfumes and body products people wear, OR the smell of cigarettes………..let alone the crowds and noise.

Sometimes I think I’m allergic to the human race, not just the city centre 😀

To cut a long story short, because I was up a couple of hours early and sitting at my desk drinking my morning coffee, by sheer chance I happened to look up through the lounge window at the fence between the main road footpath and the cliff face (above my computer screen).

I was astonished to see what looked like a Heron standing on the fence (and wouldn’t you know it, I didn’t have the cameras out of their ‘sleeping bags’).

I twisted around in my desk chair and reached for the long telephoto lens & DSLR case, whipped out the camera and tried to steady it, but I was too excited and couldn’t hold the camera still.  I managed to fire off one shot as the Heron lifted off and flew away.

Fortunately, that DSLR and long 150-500mm lens is always set on Shutter Priority (and I wouldn’t have had time to look at, or change, the camera settings anyway).

Unfortunately, the shutter speed was only 1/100 (left over from last night’s playing around photographing House Sparrows at various camera settings) – not fast enough, although I might have scored a good shot if I had more time to check the DSLR settings AND if I’d been standing on my balcony and could have watched the bird flying to the north (not chopped off by my computer, lounge room blinds etc).

A heron standing on a residential fence really was a rare sight and so you will believe me, here’s the shot:

While I’m not good as shooting moving objects, especially birds in flight,  I have occasionally achieved a few good bird-in-flight shots by sheer luck over recent times.

Here’s some more images taken over the last couple of years of the White-faced Heron (Egretta novaehollandiae), at various locations around Melbourne, so new followers know which bird I’m talking about.

……..and at Melbourne Zoo’s Great Aviary (below)

THIS MIGHT HAVE BEEN MID-WINTER WHEN MOST OF THE LARGE BIRDS ARE AT THE TOP OF THE ENORMOUS WALK-THROUGH AVIARY. PROBABLY ABOUT 30-40 FEET ABOVE THE BOARDWALK.
A RATHER WET AND BEDRAGGLED WHITE-FACE HERON SITTING ON A BRANCH – LEVEL WITH THE VISITOR BOARDWALK.

The image (below) is probably the first good shot I ever made of this Heron (along the Yarra River in Abbotsford – an inner suburb north-east of Melbourne city).

WHITE-FACED HERON (Egretta novaehollandiae)

……and down at Jawbone Conservation Reserve in the western coastal suburb of Williamstown.

……..and just in case I manage to get down to the coastal path in Jawbone Conservation Reserve this Summer (before my hip replacement surgery booked in February), here’s a sample of what I hope to see again.

Has to be a cool day though.  I’m not fond of Melbourne’s Summer heat & humidity and this coastal walk has almost no trees or shelter from the scorching Summer sun.

It’s actually only about 25 minutes drive from my home, but without a car, it can be a long 2 bus trip (if I just miss the first bus and have to wait 40 minutes for the next one OR just miss the connecting 2nd bus which also runs on an irregular basis.  Time it right on a weekday and the trip might be about 45-60 minutes?? via public transport).  I could catch a 3rd bus to the other end of this walking trail and walk from north-west to south-east.

 

VERBENA or SHRUB VERBENA (Lantana)

I, finally, have to be honest.

The reason I haven’t shared many flower images from my archives recently is that I can’t decide which ones to post.

I have too many photos………still……..after deleting thousands a couple of years ago.

THIS IMAGE LOOKS A LITTLE SOFT IN FOCUS (TO ME).

I look in each of my old iPhoto flower folders, all named and identified with their common and botanical names at the top, and then, at the images and think……that’s not very good.  Or, that’s not in focus.  Or even, that’s too dark and needs the contrast or shadows reduced (or something).

The 2 images below had such a dark background, they almost looked black.  I lightened the backgrounds this morning.

I’m my own worst critic.

In recent times, on reviewing many of those early archival images, they ALL seem terribly dark.  Must have been something to do with the lounge room where I had my desk and computer, which, while lovely and cool in the summer, fell in to deep shade for all but 2-3 hours in the middle of the day.

I must have altered the exposure on the computer images to fit what seemed right in the dim night-light when I did the reviewing.

I lived 2 streets away from the Royal Botanic Gardens up to May 2015 and that dark living space must have influenced my photo editing to some degree.  I’ve mainly done a little cropping or ‘tweaking’ the exposure, contrast, sharpness and colour saturation (until I set up a Custom Picture Style in-camera).

In Winter, the room was even darker.

NOTE: I do even less editing these days.  I usually just press the AutoCorrect button in the El Capitan photo editing section of my Mac Pro – Exposure AutoCorrect, Sharpness AutoCorrect and the Autocorrect button for Definition.  Sometimes I reduce the colour saturation a wee bit as my Custom Picture Style on my 2 DSLRs can make colours too bright depending on the light of the day and season.

Melbourne (and the rest of Australia probably) has very bright harsh sunlight in the warmer months.  Something to do with the hole in the Ozone layer over the country I suspect.

I never get up early enough to catch the soft early morning light.

I’ve tried a few of the different Picture Styles on the Sony a6000 e.g. Autumn Leaves, but don’t like their over-saturated colours much.

I LEFT THE BACKGROUND DARK FOR THESE WHITE LANTANA FLOWERS.

On the other hand, maybe I discovered very early on in my flower photography that most flower blooms had better definition if a little under-exposed with a dark background.

Either way, I now live in a light, bright space with floor-to-ceiling windows and a relatively large, hot, sunny west-facing balcony.

I can now get a better sense of exposure on my large computer screen.

But, dare I say…….. I’m always hot these days  😀  (after living in what my friends used to call ‘freezing’ cold).

WHEN THE WEATHER GETS ROUGH & THE GOING GETS TOUGH…………..TAKE A PHOTO OR TWO

Yesterday, Melbourne had the equivalent of the whole month of December’s rain………..all  in one day.  I woke in the early hours of Wednesday morning to the heavy patter of rain drops on a plastic bag I’d left on my apartment balcony and the sound didn’t seem to let up all day.

The rain was far too heavy to go out and rearrange the plastic bag (full of pots I’d emptied over recent weeks).

It was almost like mid-winter.

Today was not much better and there was flash flooding in Melbourne city and the inner suburbs.

Roads and lane ways were virtual little streams and I’m sure most shoppers and office workers would have done better to take shoes and socks off to walk across the flooded roads.

On the TV news tonight,  rivers of water swept down long flights of stairs to the underground rail stations and I’m sure Christmas shoppers would have had a rather soggy trip home.

I’ve had a very busy week with family and health issues and trying to do a lot of organising of things I don’t normally have to deal with, so I didn’t get around to scanning my flower archives for some images to share.  I thought we’d had enough on the subject of birds on my Nature Blog, but when I sat down mid-afternoon for a rest, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the most extraordinary sight.

It had been raining so heavily, the top of the balcony fence was literally covered in one long gigantic puddle.  

Next thing……up flew a juvenile female Superb Fairy-wren and with a hop, skip and jump proceeded to dance along the fence rail like a small child in rubber boots jumping in puddles for the first time and skipping in sheer delight.  Every 3rd or 4th step she would scoop up a drink with her beak, splash and kick up her feet  to make a larger splash.

To say she was dancing would definitely be the best description.

Then the tiny Fairy-wren would turn, look around and ‘skip’ back along the fence.

Back and forth she went over and over, and of course, as is always the case with me,  the cameras were put away as I was doing some Spring-cleaning and didn’t want to trip over camera gear on the floor.

Grrrrr!

The Canon DSLR and long telephoto lens case was the closest to where I was sitting, so I pulled the case to me and whipped out the long heavy lens (fortunately with the camera still set on Shutter Priority for bird photography) to try and capture some of the action (mostly unsuccessfully).

Still, I did manage to capture a few shots.

The Sony a6000 with its fast 11 fps (frames per second) on continuous shooting mode would have been far better.

Next minute a juvenile (?) male flew down behind her, looked left and right as though to check no one was looking, then briefly mounting the poor little female, had his way (ehrrr……unsuccessfully as far as I could see), jumped off and flew away.

It was so quick I nearly missed it.

The fluffy down-wrapped young female looked one way down the fence, then the other as though to say “that was fun, but it was so quick, I nearly missed it too 😀  ”

Then with another hop, skip, jump & splash, she flew off across the road.

Anyway, here’s the few shots I managed to get, with the fourth one being out of focus (except for the wet feathers), but I’m sure you can imagine the scene.

A few days ago, I was surprised to see the Fairy-wrens walking all over my net-covered blueberry bush, pecking here and there through the cotton threads, at what I assumed were young shoots, as I’m sure I ate all the ripe berries when I lifted the net and checked the bush each morning.

NOTE: Most of these images were made though dirty windows.  Where the birds are sharper in focus, no doubt that would have been when the sliding door was open and I was able to photograph the birds direct,  and where the images were less sharp, the photos would have been made through the glass window/door.

Enjoy……….

…..and I REALLY will get around to choosing some flower images, but you know what its like when Life gets Busy.

The Blog(s) suffer first.

I THINK THIS MIGHT ALSO BE A JUVENILE OR YOUNG CHICK – HER FEATHERS LOOK VERY SOFT AND DOWNY AND HER BEAK AND HEAD LOOKS QUITE SMALL.