JUST ANOTHER SUNSET IN MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA

To see some more of last night’s sunset, drop over to my other blog Sunrise, Sunset (and clouds that come in between).

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ROOM WITH A VIEW

I cannot stress enough how important a Room With a View (of Nature) is in my life.

On Tuesday, a blue male Splendid Fairy-wren landed on the top of the pink Polygala bush to the left of my large computer screen (top right of the image below).  There was no way I was going to move, as my DSLR and long 150-500mm lens was set up beside me (for photographing birds in the blue bird bath or the bush behind it) and the wrong focal length to capture the scene.

The wren was approximately 3 feet from my head.

You may well wonder how anyone can get such a thrill  in these repetitive encounters with ‘the local bird life’, but I do.

Except for when I didn’t water it for a couple of days and all the flowers dropped off, the blue Bacopa, (photographed this morning), has now bloomed continuously for about 436 days since the 4th November 2016. After giving it extra water, the flowers came back within a couple of days. Not joking. It went from green foliage to flowers in a really short time. The flowers now cover the round green plastic pot which I’ve placed on top of a tall terracotta-coloured plastic pot filled with soil, so I drench the plant with water which sinks from the top pot to the bottom one and if the plant is extra thirsty, it has two moist pots to draw from.

I watch the House Sparrows fly down for a refreshing mouthful of water a dozen times a day and never get tired of the same scene.  I’ve deliberately arranged my flowering plants to offer the very best view I can see (without moving my head while seated at my desk).

If you know anyone housebound, bed bound or in hospital for any length of time, do try to ensure they have some flowers, a flowering plant or a favourite book of their chosen hobby or interest, with pictures (?) to look at (assuming they can sit up or move).  Even a beautiful card reminding of your friendship with each other.  I’m not a fan of ‘Get Well‘ cards (but maybe that is because I rarely get better, I just acquire more chronic health conditions as the years go by 🙂  I know from my own hospital surgery stays that sometimes the most exciting aspect of any stay can simply be…….when’s the lunch or dinner trolley coming around?  I usually take my Mac Pro Laptop, recharge cord, my book of amusing short stories and a magazine or two anyway, so have plenty to read.

Seriously, being stuck indoors can be a long day for most  (normally active) people.

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Today dawned with another beautiful picture-perfect blue sky.

I opened the sliding door to my balcony to inspect the garden and was (unusually) hit with a blast of hot air.  Normally, the air, even from a forecast hot day, is cool in the shade of the morning until the sun comes over the building and settles across my outdoor scene.

I inspected the long row of Eucalyptus saplings along the front of this building.

No Grey Shrike-Thrushes, (or any other local avian visiter for that matter), to be seen.  The wind was probably too gusty to photograph one in the deep shade of the foliage anyway.

As you can see by this image, my trees and hedges are in shade and the other side of the road is in brilliant sunlight and totally over-exposed in images capturing the 2 extremes of light and shade.

The Eucalyptus to the right of my balcony has grown above the level of the balcony rail about 3 1/2  feet since I moved here 16 months ago.  I wonder how tall they really will grow (assuming I’ve identified the species correctly) – supposed to be 30 foot high I believe.

I notice every little detail (as well as the changing of the seasons).

When I alighted from the bus on the main road after my city dental appointment yesterday, I was touched by the scene of all the young Crepe Myrtles trees in full bloom.  They are nearly all a deep rich pinkish-red (except for the occasional pale pink one which must have had a wrong plant label when the local council planted them).

Can you imagine these young trees when they reach their full maturity, in flower, (shown in the right hand side of the image below).

The scene will be absolutely spectacular.

I didn’t take a close-up, as I was eager to get home and the strong wind would have made it hard to photograph a flower sprig anyway.

I did stop to take a photo of the Red-flowering Eucalyptus half-way down my steep little road though.

I saw a sudden movement while standing looking at the glorious array of bright red flowers.

I waited for the bird to show its face.  It must have been watching me (watching it) from the tree’s dark shady centre, as, when I slowly tried to edge around to capture a photo of it, (whatever it was), it flew off.

I must say its nice to have my new replacement glasses which I picked up late Tuesday.  Now I can see a bit better, I have no excuse for not to get back to putting my Mother’s family history research on to the computer (which will slow down my blogging again).

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I think if it’s still too hot to go out tomorrow, as forecast, this blog might have a Zoo archives review again.  Here’s a few Meekat images to tempt you.

WAITING……….

If you learn to enjoy waiting, you don’t have to wait to enjoy.

Kazuaki Tanahashi

The Birdsong is back and I’ve sat enjoying the cool breeze wafting through my apartment via the open sliding door and louvre windows……watching the birds on the other side of my road.  

It’s a real stretch for my 150-500mm lens to capture a bird on the other side of the road, but the shot of the male Splendid Fairy-wren below was pretty good for a hand-held shot.

I could spend all day watching…..waiting…..observing Nature in all its beauty, but this morning I am eager to go to the Opticians to pick up my new glasses.  The ones I’ve worn for the last 10 days since the current pair broke in half, are just not good enough to read blogs or do much on the computer.

Staying at home from 10.30am -2.30pm while the Property Agents inspect all the apartments they manage can be a nuisance too,  as you never know when they’ll turn up in the 4 hours time slot, so I try to make that time a special occasion to see how many birds I can spot from my desk chair.

You know that old saying ‘a watched kettle never boils’. Well, I have a new version.  ‘A waited-for doorbell never rings’ 🙂

Of course I’ve already done my ‘garden’ round to see if the Capsicums are starting to change colour, but no, they’re still green and in recent weeks I’ve knocked two baby capsicums off already.  Their stem attachment must be very fragile.  This variety is supposed to change from green to purple to red in about 3 weeks after they mature, but I suspect the extremes in temperature and unseasonal storms and weather patterns have upset their growing cycle.

I was standing on the balcony watching the foliage through the telephoto lens when I spotted a dark shape in the Eucalyptus sapling to the right side of my balcony fence.

The wind, while not as gusty as the last couple of days, was still enough to toss the dark shape, branches and leaves around, so I took several photos trying to get the waving outline of the bird in focus.

 

And then……………………success!

It was a Grey Shrike-thrush and I was lucky enough to capture the bird’s head in reasonable focus before it flew away as I moved forward and tried to get a bit closer to the bush.

Waiting….. is a time for being still, focused and taking time to chill out and relax.

I am so lucky to have this time to myself to do what I love best – observing Nature and practising Photography.

Life is so good when we appreciate the simple things and the simple pleasures they bring into our lives.

THE DAY OF THE WIND

It’s after 4.00pm on a gorgeous blue sky cool day and all I can hear is the Wind (from  my desk chair).

It is buffeting the flimsy branches of the young Japanese Maple and Eucalyptus saplings in front of my apartment balcony in all directions.  At times it is whistling throughout the building and I’m wondering whether I should put the draft stoppers under my front door again (like I do in winter).

Where is the birdsong today?

Perhaps it is Resting in Silence.

The last couple of days the rain has fallen steadily , but softly, most of the waking hours.

It did pound down with menace for a short time yesterday afternoon and then just as suddenly as it started, it stopped, and all I could hear were the gentle droplets on my balcony fence rail.

I tried to catch some droplets of rain in a photo, but for some weird reason my camera wouldn’t autofocus and I had to be content with sitting and watching.  It was very soothing and peaceful just watching.

Almost like a meditation in nature (despite the humidity necessitating the  air-conditioner).

Today, it is cool and the breeze winding its way through my lounge louvre windows is refreshing and downright heavenly after the heat and humidity of recent days.

Methinks this little female House Sparrow (below) has had too much to eat.  It is looking decidedly fat! (but then I am no longer trim, taunt & terrific looking as in my youth, so I shouldn’t criticise I suppose).

Yesterday I had only one visitor to the blue bird bath swinging wildly in the wind.  The ceramic shallow dish was just like a small boat riding the waves of a storm at sea.  Perhaps the House Sparrows found the swinging bowl disconcerting.

This afternoon the bird bath is gently swaying and I’ve had 2 female House Sparrows drop in for several drinks to quench their thirst and then fly up to the balcony rail tap-tapping their beaks on the hard metal surface.  I presume they do this to sharpen their beaks or something.

But still no birdsong.

When the washing machine finishes its current cycle it will be a perfect time to go outdoors for a walk.  But at 20 degrees C (about 68F), it will definitely be a ‘short coat’ walk.  I’ve got 3 appointments (or deliveries) over the next 3 days, so best make the most of the cooler weather in today’s remaining hours.

Then it’s back to 39 degrees C (or 102F) on Thursday.  Quite weird, our summer in Melbourne,  so far.  Blistering heat one day and cool, verging on cold, the next.  But then the world news reveals freakish snow storms and mudslides taking lives in the Northern Hemisphere, so perhaps not unusual to find weird weather patterns in Melbourne, DownUnder, too.

MELBOURNE ZOO – The Mandrills

2011, 12, 13 & for a short time, 2014, Melbourne Zoo was one of my favourite Photography destinations.  Trying to get a single focal point through tiny 3/8″ (yes, 3/8″) wire in some of the cages proved to be the best way to practice holding my (then) new Canon DLSR & heavy lenses perfectly still in the early years of my Photography hobby.

Primates and Meerkats were my favoured subjects (until I moved on to bird photography) and I went to Melbourne’s main zoo in North Melbourne over 100 times.  The (mainly) temperate rainforest landscaping at that time,  proved to be heavenly on a hot summer’s day and sometimes I could go as often as 3 times a week to escape the blisteringly hot sun and  humidity in Melbourne mid-summer.   The single entrance fees were not cheap, but you only have to visit 3 times in any one year to make an annual membership worthwhile, so I certainly got my money’s worth going something like 40+ times in the first year alone.

In fact, (and this is no exaggeration), there was one Spider monkey who I visited so often, who eventually came to recognise me and would come bounding up to the glass near the top of the large enclosure and put his hand out to ‘touch’ mine through the glass.  I spent ages photographing and cultivating a unique relationship with it (and the Black-capped Capuchins).

But I also had some great opportunities for close-up shots in late November 2011 and January 2012 of the Mandrills.

I never seemed to see them up close in the following years.

Outside School Holidays was the best for photography, but I’m a pretty patient person and also enjoyed watching the delight on the faces of small children, noses pressed up to the glass, squealing with excitement.  There can be no better place to take children to create an understanding of animal behaviour and appreciating the great job zoos do in breeding and increasing nearly extinct or endangered species (as well as gaining a close-up view of Australia’s indigenous birds, reptiles, animals and insects).

Melbourne Zoo is so much fun, is not too large and has great interactive and walk-through enclosures to get up close to birds, insects and animals.  There are also private sessions to ‘Meet and Greet’ some of the animals with their Keepers.

 

THE WOMBAT – Melbourne Zoo

I mentioned in a reply to a commenter in the last post that Koalas are not actually bears.

The koala is an arboreal herbivorous marsupial native to Australia. It is the only extant representative of the family Phascolarctidae and its closest living relatives are the wombats.

So a few images of Wombats  from Melbourne Zoo seems to be worth posting.  I’ve seen many Wombat holes/homes in the wild or Australian bush, but never an animal (that I remember) but then I don’t go out much at night 🙂

From the Archives – 2011 and 2012

In a wombat burrow at Melbourne Zoo (lit by special lighting).  I was standing in pitch black in an underground tunnel when I took these shots, so its pretty hard not to bump into other zoo visitors when you walk though this  area.

…….and above ground

A Break in Proceedings (and glasses)

My glasses snapped in half last Friday and I’m using a pair of glasses from about 5 years ago which give me a headache, or should I say make my constant headaches worse (as they seem to be a bit too small, of all things – maybe my head is getting too big 😀 ).

That, together with new BP meds prescribed on Friday (which are working like a miracle) and my continuing swollen ankles (which means I still can’t wear socks and lace-up walking shoes contribute to keeping me mostly indoors).

I’ve decided to reduce my blog reading to mainly the blogs with minimal writing and mostly photos, so please don’t be offended if I’ve stopped following you (and you’re a writer).

Besides, at 42C (about 108F) yesterday, it’s starting to feel like summer, so it’s indoors and  air-con for most of the afternoon and evening a few days each week.  Cool change overnight dropped the temps about 20 degrees, so hopefully the 140 odd bush, or grass, fires in my state are under better control this morning.  A lovely cool breeze coming in the window over my desk is making me think, it might be worth going for a short walk this afternoon, albeit in soft loafer shoes (not lace-up walking shoes).

My balcony garden survived surprisingly well yesterday, but I did give the potted plants a good soaking on Friday night (in anticipation of yesterday’s heat wave).

Hopefully my eye test and ordering new glasses on Tuesday won’t hold up my computer work for too long.

But then the network & gmail keeps dropping out so it’s back to the Apple Store Tech Support desk on Tuesday too.  Grrrr!   At least the Optician and the Apple Store are near each other in the nearby large shopping centre (or Mall as you call them in the U.S.).

Ok. now, since bad luck runs in 3s, have I had my run?

Hope so.

The photo (below) must be one of the luckiest shots I’ve ever made.  In October 2013, I could see a white blob high up in an enormous old tree in the Royal Botanic Gardens here in Melbourne.   It was made from a very long distance away and it was only a shaft of sunlight that highlighted the spot as the rest of the tree was in shade.  I took a lucky guess and aimed towards the top of the white blob and you can well imagine my surprise when I downloaded the afternoon’s shooting and discovered that it was a Laughing Kookaburra (Dacelo novaefuineae) in surprisingly good focus.

….and another series to keep you amused (below).  Most of these Koala shots were made in January of 2013 at Melbourne Zoo.

I’ve seen Koalas in the wild, but never on the ground before this particular zoo outing (below).  Another lucky…… right time, right place.

koala (Phascolarctos cinereus)
koala (Phascolarctos cinereus)
koala (Phascolarctos cinereus)
koala (Phascolarctos cinereus)
koala (Phascolarctos cinereus)
koala (Phascolarctos cinereus)
koala (Phascolarctos cinereus)
koala (Phascolarctos cinereus)
koala (Phascolarctos cinereus)

I’m a great believer in that all things in life happen for a reason.

Maybe a lesson to be learned.

Maybe a chance to be move on from a difficult relationship or situation.

Maybe the Photography Angel is looking over my shoulder on a particular day’s Nature Walk.

Maybe I need to stop procrastinating and JUST DO IT.

And maybe that visit to the Optician for an eye test I kept putting off since I moved 16 months ago should have been attended to earlier 🙂  That’s the trouble with moving house.  You have to find all new service providers.

……… and locations for Photography.

RED-TAILED BLACK-COCKATOO (Calyptorhynchus banksii) – The Great Aviary, Melbourne Zoo

From the Archives……..

We have some beautiful Lorikeets, Cockatoos, Corellas and Parrots in Australia.

I’ve seen several in the wild, but I’ve only seen the Red-Tailed Black-Cockatoo in the Great Aviary at Melbourne Zoo.  The small yellow spots on its head and white beak indicate it’s a female.

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii)

 

FINALLY………….SOME BETTER SHOTS

New Years Day’s feeding frenzy, when I put out some birdseed, yielded some better shots and a new visitor yesterday.

Spotted Turtle-dove (Streptopelia chinensis) dropped in for lunch.  I think this is only the second time I’ve seen this species on my balcony.  Quite clearly all the spilt bird seed was a big attraction.  Unbeknown to me, much had fallen in the empty planter box hanging over the side of the balcony rail.

(Note: long-time followers will remember the Spotted Turtle-doves not only visited my 3rd floor previous apartment on the north-east side of Melbourne, but several eventually became very tame and I could fill the bird-seed and water bowls 6″ away from where they stood on the fence.  One bird even hopped inside my open balcony door and inspected my lounge room, but upon stepping on my wool rug, it quite clearly didn’t like the surface and eventually flew back outdoors – Phew! Just as well too.  I’d hate to have to chase a dove around my lounge room trying to catch it and put it outdoors).

After a couple of quick shots, I thought yesterday’s Dove had flown away and went back to my computer work, but it was merely playing hide and seek.

This empty long planter box is awaiting a visit to the nearby Hardware/Plant Nursery Warehouse to get some more potting soil.  My brother gave me a Basil and Italian Parsley seedling together with a book & dvd on Gardening in a Small Space for Christmas and the poor little plants keep wilting in the hot sun, so a shopping expedition is sorely needed.

I am hoping there are no visitors today so that I can finally get out the front door to do some much needed fresh food & plant nursery shopping.

I think all the long-term Followers will agree – this is the best couple of weeks for avian visitors since I moved to the western suburbs of Melbourne 15 months ago.

BRIGHT IDEA (on New Year’s Day)……….MEDIOCRE RESULT

I had a bright idea on New Year’s Day.

I was expecting friends for lunch who are great bushwalkers, cyclists and outdoor Nature Lovers.  Initially, we were all going to complete the final part of my coastal walk at Jawbone Conservation Reserve in Williamstown on the north-west side of Port Phillip Bay and then have a picnic lunch.

Unfortunately my ankles were still too swollen and my breathing a little ragged which I have yet to see the doctor/cardiologist about, so I changed the arrangements to lunch at my home.

Around the time I was expecting my friends, I put a trickle of finch/budgerigar seed along the whole balcony fence rail in the hope of attracting all the bird life I’d been avidly watching last week.  It worked a little too soon, but I had the pleasure of observing a female House Sparrow feed her (very large) offspring.  I couldn’t see the offspring very well in the deep shade of the foliage of the tree next to my balcony.

Secondly, my windows, sliding door AND thick glass balcony fence were covered in dust from a recent rain shower, so it was really hard work trying to get a shot of the action in the deep shade.  I couldn’t quite see enough through all those layers of dirty glass.

But here’s the best out of about 100 shots (taken with the DSLR on continuous shooting).  I have a light touch with the DLSR and can actually take just one shot or press down and capture multiple shots on the continuous shooting setting, where if using the Sony a6000 “mirrorless’ on the continuous shooting setting at 11 fps, (frames per second), it’s too fast and I end up with at least 6-10 shots of the same scene.

Hence me using a DSLR on the Day.

I’ve done the best I can in increasing the exposure, increasing the contrast and reducing the shadows in post processing , so I hope you can see enough.  My eyesight in not good enough to find the best shot.  They all look a little fuzzy or soft in focus to me.

Here’s the ‘juvenile’ below,  (although it looks larger than it’s Mother to me)

And here’s the Mother back again for more seed.  The House Sparrow made many trips while I was watching, but my friends missed the whole show.

The bird seemed to be ‘chewing’ the seed up before placing it in the juvenile’s mouth.

Now you can pick which one is the clearest and best focus (below).

Remember it was very dark and I could only see a shadow through 3 panes of dirty glass, although occasionally the bird’s head or beak moved into the sunlight a bit.

Then the birds flew away and my friends arrived.

During the afternoon, the birds dropped down for a drink from the bird bath, but to me, that was a rather ordinary experience, where a bird feeding its young is a treat.

The result was both bird and wind brushed the seed off the balcony rail on to my potted plants and the sparrows spent the next 24 hours feeding on the soil of my potted plants or scattering the soil on to the ground (in their efforts to find more spilt bird seed).

I’ve already swept all the scattered soil up once this morning, but looks like a mess again.

As I type this post, I had to stop to photograph a Spotted Turtle-Dove who dropped in for a late lunch today. but if there are any decent shots in that series, you’ll have to wait til the next post.

MIDDAY VISITORS

No wonder I never get out the front door for a nature walk these days…….. (well, only one since 2nd November).

There’s too much happening on my balcony, (and it’s been either raining, or too hot, or my lower back/hip hurts too much, anyway).

Looks like I had the focal point on the bird on the right in this initial image. A bit later I managed to change the camera setting a wee bit.

This morning’s visitors, apart from the House Sparrows, were 2 Willy Wagtails (Rhipidura leucophrys).

 I’ve lightened the shadows in the above image so the eye and white eyebrows are easier to see. 

One fanned its tail out in a beautiful display but I missed that shot.

The nearest camera bag next to my desk chair contained the Sony a6000 ‘mirrorless’ with a 55-210mm lens attached and set on the Continuous Shooting setting.  I grabbed that very quickly.

Minutes later when I grabbed the DSLR & 150-500mm lens behind my chair, the Wagtails had flown away.

One appeared to have some white fibre in its beak so maybe it was nest-building nearby.

No time to compose the shot or change the focal point much (so no complaints about where the bird is located in the frame please).

Interesting to note that most of the birds I’ve seen in the last few days are slim and have relatively small heads and I suspect are youngsters or teenagers, perhaps?

The female House Sparrows are definitely young(er) and seem reluctant to come to the bird bath for a drink while the slightly larger male Sparrow is drinking from the ceramic dish.

PS I MAY NEVER LEAVE MY DESK AGAIN at this rate 😀

FIRST FLIGHT???????

Oh my goodness!

I was beside myself with excitement.

(I was just about to step into the shower when I heard furious tiny tweeting….over and over again.  It sounded frantic).

I went out to the lounge and looked out of the window to see one tiny chick on my balcony rail and another clinging for dear life on the young eucalyptus sapling at the other end of my balcony.   I’d been watching the gusty wind blow all the nearby young trees and hedges almost double for some time, earlier in the morning, (i.e. late in the morning as I get up late).

I filled the small plastic watering can full of water to fill up the nearly empty bird bath, which had dried up in today’s heat and slowly stepped over the door rail and up to the bird bath, (just below the tiny bird standing on the rail).

It didn’t move and had its eyes tightly shut, but was tweeting its little heart out.

Then after filling the shallow dish, I went and retrieved my DLSR & long lens to get some photos.  I’d put it away last night after leaving it out all week, primed and ready for bird balcony shots.

Then I realised the tiny chicks had the markings of New Holland Honeyeaters on their wings and with their eyes tightly shut hadn’t even seen me, but I wondered if they’d fallen out of a nest on the building somewhere?  Nope.  These birds probably had a nest on the other side of the road in those tightly leafed Cypress(?) trees.

MAYBE, IT WAS THEIR FIRST FLIGHT AWAY FROM THEIR NEST? (and they were frantically called for their Mama to come and get them as they’d lost their way home).

I slowly put my hand up to about 3″ away from the feet of the one on my balcony rail and whispered softly “are you awake?”

It opened its eyes and looked straight at me.

There was no fear, just curiosity.  My head was about a foot away from the tiny bird.

I slowly turned walked down 5-6 feet and tried to get some shots of the bird in the tree, but the wind gusts were too vigorous, so I went back inside to get my Sony a6000 with its 11 fps (frames per second) and tried again.  Of course I had both cameras on continuous shooting (so I’ve got a zillion shots) and the ISO on Auto, but for the life of me couldn’t remember what else I should do to capture the wildly waving branch in the frame.

Brain Fog.

I started to get nervous that the tiny bird would fall off the Eucalyptus sapling, but its tiny claws were obviously very strong.  Eventually it opened its eyes and stared at me (trying to reach the branch to still the movement).  I actually thought if I could reach it and coax it on to my hand I could gently put it down next to the other chick on the balcony.

They might have been siblings, or twins, or cousins, or…….even, potential lovers one day (yes, I have vivid imagination).

But no, ‘the bird in the bush‘ actually flew off down to the road about 2 ” away from the front tyre of a smoke alarm service vehicle with its engine running.

Oh no.  The car was probably going to pull out and squash the chick.

They may not look it by my photos, but these birds were TINY!

I dashed back into the lounge to get my mobile phone and I managed to see enough of the Company’s phone number on the side of the vehicle and phoned them.  After the usual “press 1 for service”, “press 2 for ………., “press 3 for ……” and so on up to “6 for reception”.

A cool middle-aged female voice answered and I explained I was standing on my balcony on the first floor at xyz address and could see a baby honeyeater 2″ away from the left front wheel of one of their Company’s service vehicles and could they patch me through to the driver OR, could they phone him and tell him not to move his vehicle or drive off.   Next minute the passenger got slowly out of the vehicle and I called out an explanation and that the chick had just gone under their vehicle where it was shady.  Driver & passenger, both in Company Uniform, got down on their hands and knees to look, but the bird then flew off.

Phew!

They said they’d double-check after they’d been inside to service a fire alarm.

I’ll bet that was the weirdest phone call that receptionist had ever received in her entire life 😀

EARLY MORNING VISITORS

I am not a morning person.

I need my sleep/rest, so when I sat down at my desk with my Italian Espresso coffee at 9.30am my eyes were still half-closed this morning.

That caffeine hit of the day is what keeps me going.  1-2 cups in the morning is about my limit or else I can’t get to sleep at night.  After a couple of hours yesterday with my younger brother in front of the computer identifying birds on his new website, I’d even had a third cup after Christmas lunch.

Being from his farm up the country, my brother’s avian species were completely different to my own regularly seen around Frogs Hollow.  Apart from many images of Willy Wagtails, most of his images were of colourful Rosellas and the vivid red and green Australian King Parrots he feeds regularly.

I couldn’t copy them , so some of my own images from my archives when I was up the country will have to suffice for this post.

Most of his images were made with his Phone from his tractor, not with his recently acquired DSLR and lenses.  When I asked why he didn’t take his camera outdoors, his reply was that when you go out to plough a field with a tractor, you have a phone in your pocket, not a DSLR & telephoto lens 😀

I smiled rather weakly at the Obvious.

My 91 year old Father was dozing in the armchair I’d placed in front of the open lounge doorway, so he could watch the House Sparrows drink their way through the chilled water I’d poured in the bird bath earlier in the morning.  He missed our photo sharing completely.  I think he was thoroughly enjoying the bird song as we’d had few cars driving up/down the road before Christmas lunch, but his regular afternoon nap couldn’t be missed – even on Christmas Day.

A short while ago the tiny Splendid Fairy-wrens flitted through the deep shade of the tree in front of my balcony.  They were mere shadows and yet I studied them as eagerly as if they’d been out on an open branch.   I couldn’t see if they were males or females.

Despite the distance to the other side of the road, I could easily identify the reddish heads of the European Goldfinches (Carduelis chloris) this morning. (and I wish the Auto Spellcheck would stop changing ‘chloris’ to ‘chlorine’ 🙂 )

The time when I get up, make coffee and sit down at my desk in front of the window is my favourite time of day.  The tiny avian visitors frequent my side of the road as its lovely and cool and the foliage is in deep shade making these small birds almost invisible to larger predators.

What is that damn tree anyway I thought to myself.  A Japanese maple?  It’s deciduous in winter and it sort of looks like a maple leaf (attached to its slender branches waving gently in the morning breeze).

I know ‘squat‘ about trees.

Give me a bird to identify any day.

To be honest, I only know about 100 Australian birds and in any one of my Brain Fog moments, this knowledge leaks out of the back of my brain in a silent stream, leaving a black hole, so some days I know ZERO.

I picked up the DSLR with the long 150-500mm lens (now) permanently sitting next to my desk on a low table…….well, for this week anyway.

Damn it, I said again.  The expensive long telephoto lens has broken.  It had toppled off the table yesterday when I turned my swivel desk chair around.  It was dark looking through the viewfinder and for the life of me I couldn’t work out why.  If I’d broken the $1000+ lens, then I’m not buying another one.  The Photography Fund is empty.

Wake up I said to myself, you haven’t taken the lens cap off!

Duh!

The bird which had just landed on the top branch waved around uncertainly for a moment or two, leaving me mystified as to why it appeared so small.  It looked vaguely like that Grey Shrike-thrush (Colluricincla harmonica), which a fellow blogger had identified for me only a few weeks ago.  But with the foreground in deep shade and the background (the other side of the road which gets the morning sun) bright, it was not an easy ID.  Besides all its feather were wet so the colouring was unclear.

Wake up I said for the umpteenth time.

Unlock the zoom and zoom the lens out, you idiot.

Ahhhhhhh!  Now I had the bird looking a reasonable size.

And yes, I do talk to myself a lot.  Keeps me sane in this uncertain world we live in.

In the absence of a clear ID, we’ll call it THE Grey Shrike-thrush.

It turned its head around to scratch an ‘itch’ on its back.

I managed one more shot and then it flew away.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw another movement and 3 male Splendid Fairy-wrens, with their vivid blue heads showing up quite clearly, came to the top of the young tree, but I was too late to capture them in the frame and they flew off just as quickly as they’d arrived.

Besides I was typing this post before I’d forget the reason for opening up my Nature blog first thing this morning, (instead of my gmail).

Did I tell you I’m not a morning person 😀

RAINBOW LORIKEET (Trichoglossus haematodus) – Location? EVERYWHERE YOU LOOK!

Rainbow Lorikeets are almost as common as Blackbirds.

They’re in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne Zoo’s Great Aviary, near the Yarra River walking trail, close by my current home (although I’ve never been able to get a good shot) AND would you believe I’ve even seen them in the city centre near small squares of trees, bushes and seating (for office workers to have lunch outdoors).  If you put out enough seed as one home owner did on a street I regularly walked down to my local medical centre, you get dozens of them.

They’re ‘as common as mud’ is a very apt description.

COCKS COMB CORAL TREE (Erythrina crista-galli) – ROYAL BOTANIC GARDENS, MELBOURNE

From the Archives – 12th December 2012

The Cocks Comb Coral Tree appears with slightly different names in my Plant Encyclopaedias, so if you know it by a different name, don’t be surprised.

Coral tree (Erythrina crista-galli)
Coral tree (Erythrina crista-galli)

I came across one particular plant down near Fern Gully in the centre of the Royal Botanic Gardens which was covered, (well, at least 30-35 birds), in Rainbow Lorikeets when the flowers were fully open in the Summer.

What a raucous noise they made.  It was such an amazing sight to see so much colour.

This image was made on the day that there were 30-35 Rainbow Lorikeets on the one bush.

Further down the same path, but next to the large Ornamental Lake there was another bush right next to the asphalt path and I photographed 3-4 more Rainbow Lorikeets up close – not in the least disturbed by my proximity.  As it was very bright sunlight, I just had to wait until the birds climbed under the bush to avoid over-exposed shots.

ILLAWARRA FLAME TREE (Brachychiton acerifolius) – ROYAL BOTANIC GARDENS, MELBOURNE

From the Archives – 15th December 2012

I just came across the Illawarra Flame Tree in my archives and realised that it would be in bloom at the moment and right through to the end of February (at least) since my last image had a February date on it).

 

LUCKY SHOT!

I’d just made my morning coffee, sat down at my desk and opened my email when I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye.

A tiny female Splendid Fairy-wren (Malurus splendent) had landed on the netting covering my tomato plants.  This time I had the DSLR set on Aperture Priority and Auto ISO and was well prepared with the telephoto zoomed out to approximately what I would want for a bird on my balcony.

So it was lens cap off as fast as lightening and action……..

I think it must be a young bird, as not only has it downy soft feathers and small frame, but it crashed into my bedroom window twice before flying away to the other side of the road.  An experienced adult would know not to fly into a window.  (and since its been raining heavily, I imagine most of the windows have dusty spots on them).

I’ve woken up to perfect weather and scarcely a breath of wind.

Let’s hope I get out the front door today.

Yesterday, the power went off and I waited and waited (to make breakfast) and finally ended up having a cold shower and staying home.   All I could do for some time was read a book, as I didn’t know when the power would come back on.  Even though I have a kettle on my modern gas stovetop, it turned out one needs power to spark the gas ignition.  And I didn’t have a box of matches as I’d given all of them to my brother years ago.

So………where will I go today?  Out with the camera OR to the market to get some much-needed food for the Christmas week?

A WINDLESS DAY (or nearly windless day), IN MELBOURNE IS NOT TO BE ‘SNEEZED AT’.

MAGICAL !

After last night’s storms, it was sheer magic to watch the sun go down tonight.  I couldn’t resist sharing these images on this Nature blog (as well as my Sunrise, Sunset & Clouds that come in-between blog).

It even lit up my lounge room and desk area (note: the tomatoes ripening on the end of the bookcase 🙂  I’ve eaten 4 so far, but they seem to be ripening at just the right rate for my lunch or dinner each day ).



CACTI & SUCCULENTS – GUILFOYLE’S VOLCANO – ROYAL BOTANIC GARDENS, MELBOURNE

The hot weather yesterday reminded me of the many visits I’ve made to the cacti & succulent area called Guilfoyle’s Volcano in the highest corner of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne.

5 minutes walk from door to door made it my main thoroughfare on the way to all the older sections of the Royal Botanic Gardens down by the large Ornamental Lake.  I say ‘down’ because there are some very steep hills in this 38 hectare site.

I wove my way up, down and all around the Royal Botanic Gardens some days and on others, frequented the areas where arbors and gazebos were available to shelter from the burning Summer sun OR rain showers and incessant wind in Winter.

Personally, I’m not keen on cacti and succulents, but after discovering how difficult flower photography was back in 2010 when I first took up the hobby, the solid unmoving mass of cacti was a draw card for the simple reason that they were easier to photograph (than the soft delicate English cottage plants waving in the constant wind in the area).

I had a dedicated 100mm Macro lens back then too.  I traded that in when I bought the Sony a6000 ‘mirrorless’ in early 2015, as I hadn’t used it much after I found new locations and subjects for photography.

Guilfoyle’s Volcano is not a real volcano, simply a water storage area atop a small hill at the highest end of the RBG.

Since I’ve returned all the Cacti & Succulent books and encyclopaedias to my SIL 2-3 years ago, it would take me too long to add names to these images by looking up each one on the internet, but if you’re interested, I’m sure Mr Google will supply them for you.

“Guilfoyle’s Volcano was built in 1876 and was used to store water for the Gardens. After lying idle for 60 years, it is now restored as part of a significant landscape development project called Working Wetlands. 

This spectacular and historic water reservoir has commanding views of the city, and its striking landscape design showcases low-water use plants. Boardwalks and viewing platforms give visitors the opportunity to explore this long-hidden, but remarkable, feature of Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens.

Guilfoyle’s Volcano is in the south-east corner of the Gardens, easily accessible via C Gate (enter via Anderson Street) and D Gate (enter via Birdwood Avenue).”

Actually 2-3 of these images from my archives are from the Arid Garden near ‘Guilfoyle’s Volcano’, but are still drought-tolerant and suit Melbourne’s hot summers.

Some of the images below you may have seen before, but as I’ve done little photography in 2017, there’s not many new images to share these days, so my archives will have to suffice.

AFTER THE STORM WAS OVER

It was hot, humid and downright unpleasant today – 37C (or 100F), hotter than yesterday……….. and when the cool change arrived at about 5.00pm, it was most welcome.

The TV news spoke of storms and gale force winds to the north of Melbourne, but I saw only a few large spots of rain on the balcony.

Then the sky went dark, the heavens opened and the heavy rain began.

After the storm was over, I was thankful not to have to water my garden 🙂

I made a closer inspection of the garden and was pleased to see a few new babies – capsicums I believe.

Maybe a few blueberries.

…..and I’ve already eaten 4 luscious red tomatoes off my plants.

FRECKLED DUCK (Stictonetta naevosa) – The Great Aviary, Melbourne Zoo

Freckled Duck (Stictonetta naevosa)

The Freckled Duck has to be one of the most drab and ordinary waterfowl around and to be honest, one that I’ve photographed a few times but hesitant to share online.

But I guess birds can’t all have dazzling plumage merely to make them interesting or Photogenic.

Freckled Duck (Stictonetta naevosa)

I did read somewhere or other that it is rarely seen in the wild, but I suspect that’s more to do with their ability to blend into their surroundings as much as reduced numbers.  Apparently, it is often mistaken for other breeds and shot by hunters during the duck-shooting season here in Australia.

It’s beak is characteristically wedge-shaped, slightly upturned at the tip and the male becomes bright red over the base when breeding.

But I was glad I’d photographed it in the end as its fanned tail helped me identify a Musk Duck down at St Kilda beach one day (which looks very nondescript and similar).

Freckled Duck (Stictonetta naevosa)

 

 

PATIENCE

If you learn to enjoy waiting, you don’t have to wait to enjoy.

Kazuaki Tanahashi

I have an extraordinary amount of patience.

I can spend hours sitting at my desk, staring at the bird bath or surrounding trees.  Far more time than I can possibly stand still outdoors on a nature walk.

But, I can only hold my breathe (and heavy telephoto lens) for so long.

This morning, I’ve been staring at the tree in front of my balcony for quite some time waiting for the birds to visit.  Yesterday the House Sparrows visited the bird bath most of the day as I kept filling it with chilled water from the fridge.

The sparrows seemed to stay longer and take more drinks of water when I do this on a hot day.  I think they really do appreciate the cooler water (but that could be my imagination).  The little female House Sparrow below certainly did, although as soon as I put the DSLR down to ease the ache in my shoulders and neck, it flew away – no doubt startled by the sudden movement.

This tree (below) is thick with foliage, but I’m determined to catch a photo of a bird in the midst, especially now that the tiny flowers are starting to open.

I saw a wren drop down to a branch and it bounced up and down as though on a trampoline.  No chance of a shot through that dirty window either.

I slowly rose up from my desk chair (regretting my choice of a bright blue rather noticable shirt today).   I managed to pick up the DSLR & long lens and move sideways inch by inch to the open sliding door.

The wren moved up to the top of the tree.

This would be about 10 feet from my standing position.

I silently sent it a little message for it to look up and stop hiding…..

I sent another message for it to stand still (as there was almost no breeze on this hot, humid overcast day).

…..and then, success.

I silently thanked the little female Splendid Fairy-wren as it flew away.

By the way, the flowers you can see in the image above, are the first to open on this particular young Eucalyptus, so in the days to come, I might get many more avian visitors looking for some nectar.

The bees will certainly be in the area.

Midday and time to close all the windows and sliding door and turn the air-conditioning on – little rivulets of perspiration are pouring down my forehead and nose and my glasses are slipping off  🙂

BUFF-BANDED RAIL (Gallirallus philippensis) – MELBOURNE ZOO

Having recently retrieved an old back-up file, I have loads more bird images in my archives and I was thinking last night that maybe I should share some more of them.

I’ve always re-shared my favourite images – usually herons – but perhaps you might enjoy some of the ‘not shared before‘ bird species.

The shots I consider pretty ordinary.

Not close enough to the bird, or the light was poor, or I could only get a shot of their rear end as they were in a tree over my head and ‘bottoms’ were all I could see.

I kept this image of the bottom of a Satin Bower Bird as I like the feather pattern, but seriously, one of these days I’m going to get bird poop on my camera lens or glasses.

The images I made some years ago of the Buff-banded Rail fall into this category.  I lightened the exposure of a few shots last night in pp and its a bit easier to see this bird within the frame.   I always thought I’d go back and re-shoot this species, but of course after 3 years zoo membership and about 100+ visits, I let my Zoo membership lapse, thinking to go on to photographing landscapes, or more street photography, (which hasn’t happened I might add, well not much anyway).

During many hot summer days I’d go to the zoo 3 times a week as the temperate rainforest landscaping of Melbourne’s main zoo, (we have 3 zoos), offered me much relief from the heat.  Sometimes I’d go and spent the whole afternoon in the Great Aviary until the loud speaker system indicated it was 15 minutes to closing time, then there was always a mad scramble to get to the back entrance/exit which linked with the city-bound tram line.

I rarely used the front entrance of the zoo.

So here’s some photos (as well as some of the Great Aviary so you know the area I’m talking about and can gain an appreciation of the massive size of this structure).  There’s a water course running through which ends up in a pond when many of the storks or other large birds do their mating dance.  I’ve been lucky enough to see several courtships.

This is about the best out of all the shots.  I lightened the exposure last night so you can see the colour and feather pattern a bit more easily.

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This is a series of Aviary shots I made over several visits and show how large it is.  The long space is broken up into 3 climate zones, although you can’t see much at the far end which is very thick rainforest.  Some images may look similar, but they have actually been made from opposite ends of the boardwalk.

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Some days you get lucky and other days the birds are high up near the roof basking in the winter sunshine leaving only a silhouette to shoot, OR hiding in the shadows of the long  boardwalk in the heat of Melbourne’s long humid summer.

Some birds, like the finches, are housed in smaller cages in another area of the zoo, although since it’s a couple of years since I’ve visited, they may have been re-housed in newer viewing areas constructed more recently.

One afternoon I went specifically to visit the Aviary and it was closed for renovation, so if you’re visiting Melbourne, always best to check their website or ring first if you want to visit a specific area.

Melbourne Zoo is open 365 days per year and one year, I even went on Christmas Day.  Best not to go during Melbourne’s school holidays though – the crowd makes it difficult to get close to many of the animal viewing windows or cages.  I’ve gone with young family members a couple of times, but to be honest I’d rather visit on my own so I can spend long periods practicing photography on the bird, animal or reptile exhibit I particularly like.

As to photography, well, Melbourne Zoo is where I learnt how to photograph through tiny wire, thick foliage and hold my first DSLR very, very still.  It’s a great photography learning experience.  You do need to change your DSLR focus points from the usual 9 to 1 to get through 1/4″ wire though.

You need to have the bird (or animal) a certain distance behind the wire and your own position a certain distance from the cage wire.  Maybe I need to go back to the zoo for a ‘refresher’ course, as some of my bird shots are a bit wobbly these days.  I can’t get shots between tiny cage wire with my Sony a6000 ‘mirrorless’ camera though, only my Canon DLSR.

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No doubt many of the zoo’s exhibits and some of the landscaping have changed since I was there a couple of years ago.

THE ‘TO DO’ LIST

Somewhere in my ‘to do’ list was……. go to the hardware/gardening centre (to get more shade cloth, longer bamboo stakes, more mint & parsley plants ……and so on.

This errand has now gone to the top of THE ‘TO DO’ LIST.

I inspected the tomato plants just now.  It’s lovely and cool while my balcony remains in shadow each morning and my favourite time of day to check out the garden and refill the bird bath.  I have got two tomatoes with sunburn – the one and only ripe one and another one which is still green.

Many leaves have been eaten by caterpillars, (but not the fruit), and many branches now broken in the strong gusty winds and storms Melbourne’s had.  And I am writing to the author of one of my herbals to tell them Sage & Rosemary plants DO NOT deter Cabbage Moth Caterpillars 😀

The bundles of larger tomatoes seem to hang on the lowest flimsiest branches.  It was only 2 days ago that I had one blushing tomato (besides the burnt red one) and now……………I’ve got about 8.

I only had some short bamboo stakes left over from last Summer and they were totally useless in our recent storms and gale force winds.

It’s amazing how quickly Tomatoes ripen once the first fruit changes colour.

I’ve just put the last couple of metres of shade cloth I had over the tomato fruit as best I could (in preparation for this afternoon’s sun).  I stapled it in a ‘droopy sun hat’ shape, but I really need about 4 metres and some much taller bamboo stakes to create a little ‘house’ for the plants and fruit until they all ripen.

So my ‘to do’ list has been re-arranged.  I’ll have to go out today.

Being extremely fair, I’ve never liked the hot summers in Melbourne anyway, and after a very brief attempt to get a bit of colour on my arms & legs in my twenties, I gave up and accepted that I would have snowy white skin for the rest of my life.

Me aged about 2 (?) with my snowy fair hair.

Even aged 19-20, I wore mascara  every day to coat my white eyelashes and lashings of make-up to cover my deathly pale face, so you can well imagine how quickly I get sunburnt now I’m old(er).

You’ve only got to look at the first sunburn in the summer after I took up photography as a hobby to appreciate my reticence about going outdoors in the summer.

50+ sunblock doesn’t do much for me.  I even take it outdoors on a walk and re-apply it after a couple of hours.

So just when you fellow Melburnians are thinking what a lovely sunny day for a walk, I am double-checking the actual temperature and timing of the highest UV rays.

My theory is that there’s a hole in the ozone layer over Melbourne (and we have the worst number/cases of skin cancer in the world anyway).  That ‘hole’ allows the very worst intensity of the sun’s rays to hit my apartment in the western suburbs of Melbourne.

The Ozone hole used to be over my old apartment next to the Royal Botanic Gardens for some 20+  years but when I moved house, the HOLE decided to follow me 😀

Did I mention Spring and Autumn are my favourite times of the year 🙂

ROSE-CROWNED FRUIT-DOVE (Ptilinopus regina) – MELBOURNE ZOO

We have several beautiful Doves and Pigeons in Australia, but I’ve only seen 6-7 in the wild.

Back in 2014, I photographed one that normally lives in the northern warmer states in woodland, forest and scrubby parkland with fruit-bearing trees and shrubs, and its a beauty.  Initially I saw it in the humidity of the Butterfly House at Melbourne Zoo, but it was not until many zoo visits later that I saw it in its own large enclosure and found out its name.

The Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove is medium-sized and spectacularly coloured.  The female is slightly less so, but they do have a loud distinctive cooing sound.  I wish I could see one in the wild because although we have large, well landscaped enclosures at Melbourne Zoo, it’s not really the same thing.  Actually, we have many wild birds, large and small, that are wild in the Zoo, no doubt attracted to the regular feeding times.

BIRD LIFE

It feels like eons since I’ve done any photography, but the reality is that I’ve been working my way through the ‘to do‘ list…….the chores that I’ve been meaning to do since I moved to the area 14 months ago, but have been procrastinating about every morning.

Yesterday I took a break and spent most of the afternoon watching the bird life in front of my apartment balcony.  I can spend quite literally, hours and hours, totally absorbed in the antics of the House Sparrows, European Goldfinches and Splendid Fairy-Wrens, let alone the birds whose names I don’t know.  They’ve been quite a few of the lovely blue male Splendid Fairy-wrens around recently.  Not so many of the females, although admittedly the plain light brown colour makes the females harder to spot.

This image below, made on the 10th November, is the only time they’ve landed on my balcony and close enough to photograph has been this male.

I watch them criss-cross my narrow road flitting from tree to tree and hedge to hedge.  Sometimes I hear the House Sparrows repetitiously tweeting for an hour or so  in the Eucalyptus sapling in front of my balcony, but now the tree is lush with young leaves I can’t see even a silhouette of any bird life among the swaying branches.

Not sure if the House Sparrow is calling to a mate or a juvenile calling for its breakfast.

I have noted that the most of the sparrows that drink from my bird-bath are quite young and slender in recent days, so I suspect they are mainly young adults or juveniles from this past Spring’s hatchlings.

This morning it was the fluid ‘tu-leep’, or drawn-out ‘Twee-eet’  of the European Goldfinches that caught my ear.  They have a very metallic, but attractive song, but with the strong wind today, I had little hope of catching them in a photo.

This was the best I could do this morning (with them bouncing up and down on the gusty wind-swept branches).


They weren’t interested in looking towards me where I am sitting at my desk.

Here’s a better shot of the European Goldfinch standing quite still from the 10th November.  It must have been one of those rare windless days in November for me to catch that shot.

I re-filled the bird bath with chilled water out of the fridge this morning in the hope of getting the birds to cool down with a splash around the bird bath in this 37c degree (about 100F) heat today.

I caught one very young female landing on my balcony fence, then do a strange tap-tapping on the metal with its beak and quickly fly away.  I’ve often seen this beak-tapping and not sure why they do it?  Is it to sharpen or blunt their little beaks?  It is to ‘gulp’ or help swallow food?  Is it a signal to other sparrows in the area?  I really should ask Mr Google one day.

I caught sight of a male House Sparrow landing on the fence a short time ago, but it didn’t even bother flying down to the bird bath.  I wondered if there were some larger avian predators around as my balcony remains in the shade until about 1-2.00pm on this west-facing side of the building and a good cool space to stand still for a rest.

They often do it.

Stand quite still…….. surveying the surrounding foliage and hedges, I mean.

But the sparrows, unlike the Spotted Turtle-doves around my previous apartment on the north-east side of Melbourne, just seem to have a quick drink and then fly away this morning.

I miss those Spotted Turtle-doves on the north-east side of Melbourne where I used to live.  I made friends with 2-3 doves and they’d let me slowly move up to about 6″ away from them to refill the seed bowl.  Here’s a re-cap of some of them (below).

ON THE FARM – COUNTRY VICTORIA

I’m all ‘blogged out’ at the moment (and with too many things on the ‘to do’ list), blogging and photography are taking a back seat and will do for some weeks.

So the images in this post are from my archives again, (with apologies to the long-time followers who’ve seen them all before).

 

 

SPRING & SUMMER (without the rain) in Melbourne

Normally, Spring and Summer in Melbourne is a great time of year to spend in the Royal Botanic Gardens.

I’m an expert on the subject having walked around its many paths something like 8-10,000 times over a 30 years period, but mainly since I lived and worked next to the Gardens for over 16 years and walked through, or around the 38 hectare site, 3 times per day (most of the year -even in the rain sometimes).

I’ve woken up to rain again this morning here in Frogs Hollow, but I thought you might like to see what people do on their weekend or public holidays when it’s not raining around this time of year in the RBG.

Actually, these images are from various times of the year to be honest.

These images are made with various cameras and lenses and exposures.

  1. Feeding the ducks

2. Snuggling up close with a couple of friends – I think this might have been in winter actually.

3. Watching the world go by with a friend or……. just….on your own.

4. Enjoying the shade on the Oak Lawn.

5. Reading the Sunday paper at the north-western lower end of the gardens.

6. This looks like winter, but the sun is still out down at the south-eastern end of the large Ornamental Lake.

7.  The Herb Garden – which used to be one of my favourite places to sit on a hot summer’s day, reading a book and taking in the wonderful perfume of all those different herbs.  The 3-4 seats are not shown in the image below, but 2 of them are in complete shade all day and with the constant breeze, can be very cool mid-summer.

8.  Sun-baking on a Sunday afternoon.

9.  Just taking in the view with a friend.

10.  Having a family picnic on Melbourne Cup Day (horse race on the first Tuesday in November each year, when we have a public holiday).  I was on a tram on Cup Day this year and heard a tourist say…..”Fancy having a public holiday to watch a horse race.”

11.  Snuggling up to a loved one.

12. Another public holiday picnic on the Oak Lawn.  This area is in very dark shade most days so it looks like I’ve lightened the exposure for this shot.

13.  Families enjoying the view from high up on the south-western hill overlooking the large Ornamental Lake on Cup Day in November.

14.  Lying on one of many jetties listening to the Bell Minors sing their distinctive song in this part of the Gardens.  4.30pm is the best time of day to walk through here and you’re sure to get some bird photos on the lower tree branches

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15. Late Sunday afternoon.

16.  ……and finally, one of the first images I shot of the Perennial Border ‘groomed’ to be at its best in early January of each year.

If you’re a tourist in Melbourne at the moment, I’m really sorry it’s been raining too much to go outdoors this past weekend.

WE NORMALLY DO HAVE SUNNY DAYS AT THIS TIME OF YEAR  🙂

RAIN, RAIN & MORE RAIN

NOTE: I started this post about 22 hours ago and then, drip, drip, drip, splat, splat, splat.  Water started coming from one of the ceiling downlights(?) right over my head.  I got such a ‘shock’ I had what some might term an anxiety attack, but those who know I have severe obstructive HCM would know my heart rate escalated into overdrive.  Chest pain and all the usual symptoms of stress, or over activity (beyond what my ‘old ticker’ can handle).

I raced for an old towel and large plastic bowl, flipped the nearby power switch off and pulled out the power board plug and removed every bit of computer equipment and cables to one side.

(A bit later, I remembered to move all my cameras to the back of the room).

I went downstairs to the foyer as I couldn’t remember the correct phone number, called the Body Corporate manager, (who called an electrician).  Si. told me to turn all the power off and wait for the electrician.

St. the electrician, phoned and arrived about an hour later.  He’d come from a country town I think.  In the meantime, I took my pm heart meds early (which keeps my heart beating evenly and slowly), a valium, slapped an emergency BP patch on the back of my hand and took some Bach Rescue Remedy (a homeopathic type shock or stress treatment), in that order.  I may have a  feeble ticker, but my Brain does still work……….. (most of the time).

I am so used to leading a simple, relatively stress-free, life in early retirement, I couldn’t even handle the potential “drowning’ of my computer & associated printers/scanner etc.

The electrician told me to leave all the power off and not turn on the ceilings lights for next 24 hours (assuming the rain would eventually stop anyway).  It would dry out and someone would contact me some time over the next week to assess the damage.  S. said how lucky I was that it was not worse as he’d been to one house where the lounge ceiling collapsed with the massive deluge of  water collecting over the central old-fashioned ceiling light.

Apparently, a few ceilings came down yesterday……… and several streets were flooded.

My main room ceiling has 7 recessed lights and I’d only replaced 6 globes in them when they all died a month or two ago.  The one that leaked was the one that hadn’t had the globe replaced by sheer co-incidence.

I ended up reading a few chapters of my favourite book by the light of a tiny camping lantern.  I’d originally bought this lantern as the power in this apartment block had gone off several times in the year I’d lived here, and I was fed up trying to clean my teeth and wash my face by the light of my mobile phone and a tiny torch.  Needless to say, since I bought the  bright USB charged lantern, the Body Corporate (building caretakers) had finally found an old-fashioned electrician who solved the continual black-outs and I’ve never had to use the little lantern.

……………until last night.

Anyway, the dripping lulled me to sleep……..eventually.  I had emptied the large plastic bowl before I went to bed and hoped it wouldn’t overflow during the night.

Back to last night’s post……

It started raining Thursday and hasn’t stopped (and it will rain for some days according to the recent news flash).

I stood close to the windows late yesterday (i.e. Friday) watching several flocks of birds flying overhead – an unusual occurrence in the one afternoon.  A row of Crows (or Ravens ?) were all sitting on the roof of the apartment building at the top of my hill, but by the time I got the camera out, there were only 2 left.

I wondered if all the birds flying was one of those things you read about when unusual extreme weather patterns are forecast?

The heavy rain never seemed to stop, but I wasn’t in the least concerned for myself as I live in a modern apartment block which probably had 101 building codes all in perfect order when constructed around 2013.

At least all the trees along my street are getting a good deep watering and I don’t have to water my own potted garden.

“Victorians have been warned to expect an “unprecedented” deluge today with severe thunderstorm and flood warnings across the region. A severe weather warning remains in place for heavy rainfall, thunderstorms and flash flooding in much of the state including Melbourne”.

“Up to 120mm could fall in the border town of Albury-Wodonga. There is a flood warning for Melbourne’s Yarra River with fears it could burst its banks”.

Storms brew over Australia’s east coast. Picture: Alex CoppelSource:News Corp Australia

Note: Photo credit Alex Coppel

Most Melburnians have spent the last couple of days holed up indoors.  I’ve been indoors for much longer – hot & humid to start the past week with the air-conditioning on full bore and now………….it’s been predicted that we’ll have more rain in the first 3 days of December that what is normal for the whole month (or even…….Summer season).

“(He) warns there will be massive flooding around the city”.

“If you wake up tomorrow and think this isn’t going to happen, you just have to wait a while,” W. said. “They didn’t think the Titanic would sink, but it did.”

Talk about drama in the Media 😀

I could help a little smile creeping across my face when I read it on the computer news.

I’d received 3 text messages already warning everyone about the wild weather and not to venture outdoors if they could possibly help it, (AND NOT TO GO NEAR FLOODED ROADS, CREEKS OR RIVERS).

I wondered if the low-lying field in Frogs Hollow would fill with water?

I couldn’t decide what flower images to share out of my archives, so you got none at all in the last day or so.

(don’t ask me what torrential non-stop rain has got to do with blog image decision-making) 🙂

I had so many photos uploaded trying to decide which one to post, that I couldn’t make any decision AT ALL !

Then I decided to just see what I could photograph between heavy rain pelting down 99% of the day yesterday and came up with a chive flower from my balcony potted herbs.

Of course I could always share another shot of my green tomatoes………

Or an image of the rain spots on my mini Polygala (which I’d moved to rest in front of my window).

I stood at the window and watched a sheet of water running down my road, but I couldn’t get a good picture of it.  My camera didn’t want to focus on the road.  It was more interested in focusing on the raindrops on the window.

I watched it for a while, but it drained adequately away down the new storm-water drains.

I do feel for some of the country towns which are already experiencing some flooding and some areas have had the most rainfall for the start of Summer (since records began in 1888).

Interestingly enough, I’ve always lived in the highest parts of Melbourne’s inner suburbs, but I have to say I’m now glad that the local council recently spent about 5 days constructing new storm water drains and cutting up my road, (which annoyed me with all the jackhammering etc).  I live halfway down a steep little hill and I’d wondered at the time about the jackhammering and the necessity for half-road closure at the time.  Actually, every time a car runs over the new grating located every 50 feet on the road, it’s so loud it sometimes floods out the noise of the tweeting from the young birds nearby.

I’m getting used to it now though.

I can’t open my large door or lounge windows as the rain comes in so here’s the best image I could capture earlier this evening (i.e. dusk last night).

It got dark pretty early tonight

…..I had to go to my bedroom window to check on the tomato, blueberry and capsicum plants – this window is tucked into a corner which gets almost no rain on the glass.

The plants didn’t look that wet to be honest.  I used a different camera which could handle the light better.

They looked ‘happy as larry’.

But to cheer us all up on the south-east coast of Australia, here’s a few flower images to brighten the skies (from my archives).

NOTE:   I was just about to hit the ‘preview’ button when the water started dripping on my head and keyboard last night and I immediately switched everything off hoping the autosave had worked.

It did.

(I missed the TV news tonight, but I don’t think we had any baby Titanics going under) 🙂

NYMPHAEA LAKE – Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

There’s some lovely examples of Crepe Myrtle trees in the Royal Botanic Gardens.  I photographed this one 16th March, 2012 next to Nymphaea Lake (the smaller of the 2 lakes in our Royal Botanic Gardens).

As the gardeners had placed a wooden bench under its shady branches in summer, it was a great place to sit and read (or watch the bird life) on a hot summer’s day.

At the height of its summer flowering, it would spread right over Nymphaea Lake and offer some deep shade for the ducks, (or even Cormorants, Black Swans, Pacific Black Ducks, Dusky Moorhens, Purple Swamphens or Chestnut Teals), who frequented the area.

Reflections of the Crepe Myrtle hanging over Nymphaea Lake.
Australian Wood Duck (female on L, male on R)

WATER LILY (Nymphaea)

Today, at 35 degrees, is far to hot for me outdoors in my current home as there is little shade along much of the Maribyrnong River near Frogs Hollow where I live.

The small lake was quite close to the south-eastern entrance of the Gardens and a brisk 5 minute walk to the Garden entrance gate (from my front door) and another 2-3 minutes to walk down to the Lake.

WATER LILY (Nymphaea)

Occasionally, I would even take my tripod over to this area to get some sharper focus on the Water Lily flowers.

It was a bit windy in this area, but then, its windy everywhere in Melbourne in my experience. I used to walk along the nearby path on the way to work back in my working days (BC = Before Camera) and on the southern side I would occasionally see what looked like a water-rat of some kind, sitting on some flattened leaves on its hind legs daintily nibbling some food it had foraged.

The first time I saw it, I was so enchanted and amazed, that I felt like I was in a Beatrix Potter storybook.  I’d never seen one of these little water creatures before (or since).

Eventually with the start of the Wetlands Project, many of the old reeds disappeared to be replaced by man-made islands and new reed beds.  In fact, with the success of the various Wetlands created in the Botanic Gardens, the bird life and turtles nesting have almost disappeared among the high water reeds and grassy banks.  Good for the bird life, but a shame for me as an enthusiastic new bird photographer.

The rocks on the southern edge of this small lake were the best places to find Dragonflies around February each year too.  In fact, the 3 images below are among my first attempts at photographing a Dragonfly.

ANGEL’S TRUMPET (Brugmansia) – Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

Angel’s Trumpet flowers have to be one of the hardest flowers to photograph.  I think its one of those species that you have to share several photos from different angles to appreciate their lush, tropical appearance.

They come from the Andes which explains their love of cool winters.  The flower sizes vary, but to say they’re 12-14″ long would be a good guess.

Best to try photographing them after the bud starts to open as they deteriorate quickly once fully mature and rain marks the petals, (so not after a recent rainfall).  Well, this is my experience of them anyway.  Most the trees grow in the shade or semi-shade in the RBG.

ANGEL’S TRUMPET (Brugmansia)

They come in several colours as my early images from 2010 & 2011 show.

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I figure since I’m stuck at home at the moment, I’ll share some of my very early images from when I lived next to the Royal Botanic Gardens from 2000-1015.  Some good, some not-so-good.

But always interesting to see the vast array of plant species among the 55,000 plants on this 38 hectare site.  Many of these images portray flowers that have now been replaced with more drought tolerant species.

AFRICAN BLUE LILY (Agapanthus) – Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

I’ve had great enjoyment from reviewing some of my very old images in recent days.  Some of them I can’t even remember taking 🙂

Most of the Agapanthus images below were made with my old 100mm Macro lens in the first 3 weeks of owning a DSLR back in Jan/Feb 2011.  I traded it in when I bought the Sony a6000 in early 2015 as I wasn’t using it much.

I didn’t have the slightest clue how to use a DSLR and macro lens in those days, but I do remember I didn’t have the camera set on Auto.  I’d already used the Auto setting on my little Canon a3000 point & shoot for 7 months, so I started using my first Canon DSLR on manual I think.  I do remember keeping the ISO on 800 all the time as it always seemed to handle the bright sun as well as the shade.  I think I let the camera choose the shutter speed.  I daresay I had the aperture on 2.8 also as I didn’t know what DOF (depth of field) was either.

I had absolutely no idea about the exposure triangle and the what ISO, shutter speed and aperture were all about.

These flowers looked so bright on the screen last night, I de-saturated the colour slightly, but I daresay the original colour was very bright at the time of shooting 6 years ago.

 

I THNK ‘GEORGE’ IS GEORGINA!

Last week I mentioned the incessant tweeting by George the House Sparrow on the young Eucalyptus next to my apartment balcony.

I shared the photo (below) at the time, as I can usually see the bird over the top of my computer screen…..(computer is black blur in the lower half of the image frame).  The crown colour of the bird does suggest a male.

This morning, I can’t see the bird but can hear tiny little tweets (as well as the incessant loud tweeting from an adult).

I do believe ‘George’, or the incessant sound, is from  Georgina AND her eggs have hatched overnight.

This image was made in early September (before I washed the outside of my windows).

I might have to put out some bird seed on the balcony as I did last year (below).

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Unfortunately the bush is thick with new growth and I can’t see a thing, but presume there’s a nest hidden in the foliage.  I wish I could share the little ones, but the foliage IS a complete screen.

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All tweeting has just stopped so I presume lunch (its 12.40pm) has just been served.

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On another subject, it truly is amazing what you can see if you look through the window long enough.   I spent quite some time watching this butterfly move from daisy to daisy drinking in pollen (I presume), yesterday.   This is the same daisy that I planted on 4th November last year and has flowered every day since.  I dead-head it regularly to encourage new flowers to form.  The flowers have faded from bright pink to a wishy-washy pale pink in the bright Spring sunlight, but they’re still going strong.  I’ve also had to cut several branches off as they broke in the strong winds we get in this area.

An early photo of that lovely pink daisy.

There’s never ‘nothing going on‘ in my road.  It’s a hive of activity with finches, wrens and sparrows crisscrossing the road from hedge to hedge.

I suspect most of the nests are on the thicker taller trees on the opposite side of the road, but my 150-500mm lens doesn’t quite reach far enough.

I’ve seen crows, ravens, blackbirds, magpie larks, ordinary magpies, grey shrike-thrushes and other birds, whose names I do not know, as well.

Two or three times on a Sunday morning, I’ve heard a flock of ducks quacking as they fly overhead too, but I was way too late to catch them with a camera.

Even the sky was worth watching for a while last night.  Low cloud cover was very dark, but in between each racing puff of dark grey cloud you could see the sun reflecting off higher cloud cover.  I watch the sun setting nearly every night, but I don’t think I’ve seen quite this effect before.

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WARATAH (Telopea) – Melbourne Zoo Landscaping

From the Archives – 15th October 2013.

Waratahs are evergreen shrubs or trees that are densely foliated and the large red flowers are among Australia’s best known wildflowers.

The one in this post was photographed at Melbourne Zoo near the enormous lion enclosure.

This particular enclosure is/was? massive, (might have changed since I was there a couple of years ago), and has a high fenced boardwalk going over the top, so no matter where the lions are (outdoors), you get a great view of them.

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I’ve even managed to photograph the animals through the tough chain wire fence.  If you do enough photography practice getting one focal point through tiny wire netting and cages, I can assure you it’s relatively easy.

WATER BUTTONS, BUTTONWEEDS (Cotula sp. aff. turbinata) – Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

From the archives 29th October 2013.

When I was last at Newell’s Paddock Nature Reserve and Conservation area in the western suburb of Footscray, I saw a tiny patch of Water Buttons next to the large pond.  My one shot was completely out of focus when I reviewed it at home, (although you may remember the ‘101’ pink Rounded Noon-flower images did turn out well).

So here’s an example of what they looked like (made from my time living next to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne).

They are so pretty when growing in a great mass.

Since I’ve retrieved an old file off my back-up disc which contains about 14,000 images, I’ve now got a larger selection to share when I’m house-bound and not outdoors walking and doing Photography.

HAVE I GOT A ‘GREEN THUMB’ ?

Perhaps not, but  I have got some green tomatoes on the 3 “Patio” Tomato plants on my west-facing apartment balcony.

I couldn’t count them all, but I figure I’ve got somewhere between 50 -60 fruit at the moment.

I just hope they don’t all ripen at once !  😮

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……and it looks like I’ve got some baby Capsicums too.  I’ve never grown Capsicums (red peppers) before, so I’m not quite sure what their babies look like.

It’s been hot, humid and sticky in Melbourne in the last couple of weeks, with more than a few thunderstorms threatening (depending on what suburb you live in), although I did miss the flooded streets in Melbourne one day last week.

I’ve been mostly housebound (hence no new photos).

The thunderstorm you have when you’re not having a Thunderstorm!

I’d just finished watering the potted plants on my balcony tonight when the skies suddenly got darker and a thunderstorm threatened the western suburbs (of Melbourne).

7.45pm 24th November 2017

7.48pm 24th November 2017

Five minutes later, the sky colour changed to mauve and plum colours.

7.53pm 24th November 2017

My windows got a few rain drops and the ground was damp, but that’s about all that happened earlier tonight.

Maybe it’ll rain overnight? 🙂

The cool change is coming Sunday I think.

A QUICK WALK……..THERE & BACK

Ominous clouds threatened the skies with a thunderstorm when I set off for a quick walk down to the river, a little way downstream, round the nearest pond and back home again late yesterday.

Am I the only person who takes 2 hours to do a 15-20 minute walk?

Despite the slight breeze it was still humid and muggy, made worse by my long trench coat (with hood).  I had to get the umbrella out a couple of times, but the rain only sprinkled a few drops onto my camera lens.  Enough to put it in its bag, only to bring it out again 2 minutes later.  I’d left my lens cloth at home too, so a handkerchief from my coat pocket had to suffice.

Poor light, but as usual I, took a hundred and one photos of nothing much in particular.