IRIS – Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

From the archives – January 2011

Personally, I think Irises are one of the hardest flowers to photograph.  It took me many test shots in the Iris bed in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne before I achieved anything remotely satisfying to my eye.

With the old Iris bed being in an open area exposed to Melbourne’s almost constant windy weather, many of my images are not as sharp as I would like, but back in early 2011, I didn’t know anything about ISO, Aperture and Shutter speed.

This wonderful flower bed, with many different varieties and hybrids,  was dug up and re-lanscaped several years ago, so I am lucky to still have a few images from the old back-up disc I resurrected.

Some are good shots and some not-so-good, but the colours are amazing.

As I roam through my archives looking for flower images to share, time and time again, on re-checking which lens I was using, it turns out to be the 55-250mm (although I have got some nice images made with the Canon 100mm f2.8 macro of course), so I assume it must have been a good lens.  It was surprisingly sharp for a telephoto.

……..and a few more images – made with different lenses at various times over the years.

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IN THE PINK – Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

From the archives.

It’s been a while since I’ve taken any flower photos (except the flowers in my potted balcony garden), but there’s always plenty in my archives to fill the gap.

Most of the images below were made in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne and I believe many of the Common and Botanical names are on the images (which helps if you’re a garden lover).  If you see an incorrect name, I would appreciate you letting me know in the comments section.

They were made with a variety of lenses from a 100mm f2.8 macro, to 50mm f1.4 to a borrowed 55-250mm (which takes a really sharp shot I notice) ……to my old favourite 18-200mm lens.

WE LOVE OUR GARDENS IN MELBOURNE

From the archives…….

Melbourne is known as the Garden capital (city) of Australia and while I don’t usually go out of my way to photograph people and families enjoying the Royal Botanic Gardens, people inevitably appear in my images at various times.  Especially Sundays and Public Holidays when the sun is out, the day is warm and picnic baskets (or rugs) beckon their owners outdoors.

This is a cropped portion of a larger image, but by sheer luck I was able to capture the outline of the girl’s face with the sun reflecting off the white pages of her book. The shot wouldn’t have been half as interesting without it.

I don’t think I’ve shared many of these images before, but they do reflect our love of Public Gardens as a time to read or bask in Solitude, or share with others on social occasions.

 

JACARANDA (Jacaranda mimosifolia) – Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

From the archives – 21st December, 2013

I remember the very moment I finished my ice-cream while sitting in the shade of this Jacaranda tree.  It is located near the gift shop and restaurant  on the eastern side of the Ornamental Lake in the Royal Botanic Gardens.

It was a very hot summer day in 2013.

I popped the last of the crisp ice-cream cone into my mouth, crumpled the paper serviette, wiped my sticky fingers, threw the waste in the rubbish bin and looked up to admire the beautiful mauve colour of the Jacaranda flowers over my head. I got my camera out of its bag and captured the blossom in two shots.

On another visit I passed a different Jacaranda tree on the green lawn next to the RBG’s perennial border.

Jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosifiolia)

Funny how a  photo captures a moment in time which sparks a memory many years later.

By the way, this is the Perennial Border – planted to flower at the height of Summer in  mid January, although the image below was made in December 2010 (pre DSLR days).  You can see another Jacaranda tree to the left of the old house.  This building serves as a function centre.  I’ve made many photos of this colourful border over the years, but the image below, with the lady walking briskly past, remains a favourite.

 

FOREST LILY, SAND ONION, RED HOT POKER (Veltheimia bracteata), – Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

From the archives – 9th July, 2011

Note:  I seem to have 2 folders with very similar looking plants, but different names, so if I have identified this flower incorrectly and it should be one of the Kniphofia species, feel free to let me know in the comments section.  I have ‘Red Hot Poker’ typed in both folders of my old iPhoto library as one of the common names.  Admittedly, I am no horticulturist or even a gardener (when it comes to common garden flowers).  I am a little more knowledgeable about English Herbs (or was in the early 1990s).

WHAT HAPPENED TO AUTUMN?………………

Forecast for the rest of Thursday

Summary
Max 13
Showers.
Possible rainfall: 3 to 8 mm
Chance of any rain: 90%

Melbourne area

Cloudy. Very high (90%) chance of showers. The chance of a thunderstorm. Possible hail. Winds west to northwesterly 20 to 30 km/h tending west to southwesterly during the day.

Sun protection not recommended, UV Index predicted to reach 2 [Low]

 

 

POPPY (Papaver) – Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

From the archives – 9th & 22nd November 2010

Another kind of Poppy.   I’m pretty sure these images were made in The Herb Garden, RBG – my favourite location in the whole of the Royal Botanic Gardens and frequented during Melbourne’s long, hot summers with its cool shady seating and fragrant patches of my favourite herbs.

I haven’t been back since I moved from the area about 3 years ago and now, with the constant road construction and tram diversions on the western perimeter due to the new underground rail link, unlikely to re-visit any time in the near future.

Once again, these images were made with a little Canon point & shoot camera, not the Canon DLSR which I acquitted a month later.

Made 9th November, 2010

and later on the 22nd November, 2010…….

CALIFORNIAN TREE POPPY (Romneya coulteri) – Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

From the Archives – 12th December, 2012

One of the first flowers I ever photographed in the Royal Botanic Gardens was a Californian Tree Poppy on the 6th January, 2011.  Not an especially good photo so I’m posting a later image from 2012 (below).

The petals are feather light and very fragile, so not a good flower to photograph on a windy day, or even when there is a faint breeze for that matter.

There are many other types of poppy growing in the RBG so maybe it’s timely to post a few (if I can find them).  I have a combination of about 14,000 well archived images with folder titles from my old software and about 4000 images from the newer El Capitan software that are mainly still in their date made folders.  

MARBLE DAISY-BUSH (Olearia astrolabe) – Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

From the archives – 13th June, 2011

In the wild, Olearia astroloba is restricted to a small area (around 40 hectares) in the East Gippsland area of Victoria, near the Tambo Valley, called Marble Gully.

This is the origin of the common name ‘Marble Daisy Bush’.   The species is listed as rare, and in the wild consists of a single population of fewer than 1000 individuals.

CALIFORNIA POPPY (Eschscholzia) – Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

From the archives – 9th November 2010.

I was digging through my archives a short while ago and came across these lovely images made using my first camera purchased in 2010 when I took up Photography as a hobby.  It was a Canon Powershot A3000 IS point & shoot and I was reminded that you don’t have to have expensive camera gear to take a decent photo.

NATURE versus ARCHITECTURE versus MODERN TECHNOLOGY

When doing photography from my apartment balcony, I’ve always made great effort to avoid my building and surrounding apartment blocks and townhouses within the frame.

But that doesn’t mean I can always avoid them (or perhaps that I should avoid them ?).

I made some random images last Saturday night of the beautiful colour in the clouds at sunset, but haven’t had much of a chance to both download, or review them, until today due to my computer laptop problems.

While I review the sunset images for my Sunrise/Sunrise (and Clouds that come in Between) blog, here’s few random shots of the cloud colour……with buildings and……. street lights (which I can’t avoid in my road)  🙂

Today, I’ve got my cabling temporarily plugged directly into my laptop and a different solution to my Service Provider’s dongle which was broader than the previous (internet package) one from last year and has overlapped the USB and memory card slots either side of its connection since I acquired it early last September.

Today I have to keep pulling cables out when I want to download images or do any printing, but it is a small price to pay for the joy in having a computer that works super fast. Hopefully, yesterday’s Computer Technician home visit has finally resolved my intermittent computer problems.  Needless to say, I have my fingers crossed (if only in my mind), but I do have a 160 day ‘warranty’ on the work done, so that’s a blessing in itself.

I almost shed a tear last night in the joy of having this precious source of communication back to normal.  In fact, I probably will shed a tear when I manage to get to the shops to replace my faulty hardware AND everything on my desk is back to normal.  Only the chronically ill or housebound folk will completely understand what a fully operational computer is in the absence of a smart phone, iPad or other source of internet access.

We ICIs (Invisible Chronic Illness sufferers) need our computers.

Just about every aspect of my life seems to be run via a computer. Banking, bill paying, the day’s weather report, online supermarket shopping for home delivery (when my knee, hip or back hurts too much to even walk from the taxi rank through the shopping centre to the real supermarket) are just a few of the uses for me.  With family and friends either living too far away or simply doing lots of overseas and interstate travel and leading busy lives, email is my main source of communication and news.    I rarely use a phone at all.

I might not like this mandatory need for modern technology and I certainly have no interest in social media, but one has to be realistic in the face of health restrictions and physical limitations at this time in my Life and Health Journey.

This applies to many areas of my life.   Without a car, I can’t just walk to the shops to pick up some minor purchase or forgotten item on the shopping list.  Most people in Australia have cars due to the distance they travel each week/month/year and now that I’m retired I surely miss my old car which I sold in 2003.

At the current time I’m using taxis to get everywhere so try to do several errands in the one trip to justify use and save on cost.

I’m still hopeful of getting back to walking in Nature, but at least Living in Nature with a beautiful green space and bird life to observe straight in front of my desk is a blessing.

The sky is a rich blue and the weather superb today and I’ve seen and heard so many birds this morning.. One bird call I’ve never heard before and my curiosity is aroused.

What can it be, I ask myself.  I may be able to identify many common birds after 8 years of photography, but I’m not familiar with many bird calls.

I love the cool weather and clear skies that mark Autumn in Australia.

No birds have stayed on my balcony ledge long enough to photograph this morning, but still fun to watch.  So far, today’s avian visitors have been quite small so I presume they’re juveniles.

Here’s a few images from the past (of the birds that visit me).

Bird-watching in urban areas can be just as enjoyable as in the country or distant mountains..

LOOKS LIKE I GOT IT WRONG….

Well, looks like I got it wrong, folks.

The newly revealed left side of the apartment building at the top of the hill is not due West at all.

I thought the removal of the large mobile showroom and sales office, selling off the plan apartments (due to be built opposite mine) would be a revelation of stunning colour at sunset.

NOTE: Melbourne has gorgeous sunsets in Autumn.

Due West (and the dying sun) are definitely on the right hand side of the building (not the left).  The last 2-3 nights, the sun has reflected off the rain clouds with such brilliance, it’s  almost impossible to look in that direction.  It has reflected on the left hand side of my lounge window and into the apartment interior in such a way I’ve had to pull the block-out blinds down early.  It was probably a situation where experts warn about looking directly at the sun – it certainly blew my vision for about 5 minutes after I looked away and gave me quite a scare.

To give you an example, here’s a few images made to try & capture it.   I’ve inserted these images on this Nature Blog as they’re not really colourful enough to go on my Sunset, Sunrise Blog.  The sun was even brighter than my images, but I tried to capture the scene with the intelligent auto setting of my lightweight Sony a6000.  Normally this setting takes 3-4 images when there are extremes in contrast and automatically brackets them together giving surprising, and usually perfect, exposure straight out of the camera.

AUTUMN LIGHT

I love the late afternoon Autumn Light in Melbourne.  I was in the inner northern Suburb of Carlton on Tuesday and I had an hour to kill, so sat out in the sun near the local library, A large number of University students sat outdoors at long benches with Apple computers propped up side by side just like an outdoor classroom.

The sun was glorious, but cooled down suddenly when it dipped behind the tall buildings surrounding Melbourne University.

The Black & White version can be seen on my other blog here

AN OBSERVATION……… AND A WEE BIT OF TRIVIA……..AND A SUNSET (OR TWO)

Not nature related, but an interesting observation from my home location in the western suburbs of Melbourne.

Last week I shared some images of the removal of the mobile office/showroom at the top of the cliff in front of my balcony.

The new horizon outline at dusk is much changed and I’m eagerly awaiting the first really spectacular Autumn sunset to share online.

I’ve joined 2 (rather mundane) images below, which I happened to notice fitted together by chance.  The left-hand skyline image was always there, but the right-hand image, with the silhouette of the grass in the middle and the left of the building, were completely hidden.

That is……….the whole of the scene, top to bottom, left to right, in the photo below was invisible.

I think where you can see the silhouette of some grass in the middle of the lower part of the frame is due west and as soon as we get a decent sunset, I’ll share it.

In the meantime, I been enjoying the somewhat ordinary sight of planes descending on their approach to Melbourne’s 2 airports – Tullamarine (international and interstate) and Essendon (the old airport now used for small 2 engine or local country planes).

Today, the sky is completely overcast and no planes in sight.

So while we wait, here’s a selection of sunsets from Country Victoria from the archives.

……..and some more images from the archives – made as I walked home down an inner suburban laneway after an afternoon in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne.

The first part of the laneway runs east-to-west.

 

The second part of the laneway runs north-to-south.

Yes, Autumn in Melbourne, Australia, is a great time of the year.

YUCCA

I’m thoroughly enjoying my break from daily/weekly blogging at the moment, but I have to admit the cameras are ‘gathering dust’ (not really gathering dust as I usually keep them in my camera bag or soft pouches when not in use).

There’s a narrow strip of landscaped area at the top of my steep narrow road where I walk through to catch public transport.

Among the lovely succulents and grasses there are a couple of Yucca plants and I made some photos back on the 28th March and forgot to share them.  One plant was in the shade…..

……and the other…..just caught the late afternoon sun.

Yucca is probably best known as a house plant here, but it does make a spectacular architectural plant for the garden.

Yuccas include around 40 evergreen shrubs and trees, all of which come from hot, dry deserts and plains.  Their sword-like leaves are produced in shades of mid-to dark green or blue-green.  A few have cream or yellow edges.

Towering spikes of bell-shaped, usually white flowers rise above the leaves Summer and Autumn, making a dramatic focal point in a garden or pot.

SWEET BASIL (Ocimum basilicum)

While I’ve had Sweet Basil growing on and off many times in the last 35 years, I’ve always used all the leaves in cooking before it flowers.

My 2 current plants were decimated by caterpillars this past summer and I was all set to throw them in the rubbish bin, but decided to cut all the damaged leaves off (about 97% of the plants) and amazingly, they have recovered and I now have 2 flower heads.

This is the first time in my life, I’ve actually seen Basil flowers outside one of my Herb books.

SWEET BASIL (note: the white smears behind the flower are bird poop on the corrugated wall – I should have moved around a bit to avoid capturing the white smear behind the white flower)

I think I’ve mentioned in a prior post that my balcony garden seems to have a sort of micro-climate (despite the frequent strong, or gale-force, winds that race down my steep short road).

I’ve grown many plants that haven’t survived in other balcony gardens in previous apartments.

BUT……………this past summer has been the worst ever for pests.  It seems as though the bugs and caterpillars like the micro-climate too 😀  This is the first time I’ve ever had dozens of Harlequin Bugs on my herbs and flowers.

Normally it’s the Caterpillars that leave their mark.

For a good example, count how many ‘pillars I picked off plants (in my first balcony garden when I lived near the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne).

This was just one morning’s 20 minute search.

PELARGONIUM ‘Survivor’

I’ve been trying to make a good photo of this Pelargonium flower for months.

The flowers are gorgeous.

A sort of hot pink – almost reddish in some light.  The plant nursery identification tag just says PELARGONIUM Survivor.

Finally captured it 2 nights ago when the Autumn dusk was starting to descend over my apartment balcony and the sun had dipped behind the hill.  If you’re a flower photographer you’ll know how hard it can be to capture the details of some brightly coloured flowers in full sun.  Whether under, or over-exposed, my editing skills have never been able to ‘fix it’.  

Best to leave the dark background and slightly under-expose the shot.

The ‘Survivor’ series resists poor weather, extreme heat and tolerates drought.  These bushy plants have big flowers and mine is just recovering from over-watering or heavy rainfall.  To be honest, I suspect now Autumn is here, I won’t have to water it at all.

THE BEGINNING OF THE END ?

I awoke to the sound of chains rattling and metal clanging this morning.

When I rolled up the lounge block-out blinds I was greeted by thick fog and an enormous crane at the top of my hill.

Was this the beginning of the end (of my view) and the new apartment building construction was about to commence?  (I’ve asked this question many times in recent weeks since they put up temporary chain-wire fencing across the road).

Will the construction noise scare away all the birds visiting my balcony? (I’ve mentioned these thoughts before).

Only time will tell.

I’d cleaned and put my cameras away last night as I had been very busy (including some re-arranging of my balcony garden pots yesterday.  Not easy, as a couple of the pots were very heavy, so I had to drag them 😀 ).

NOTE: to wanna-be Gardeners with only a small balcony or courtyard.  Most of my larger pots have an upturned smaller pot in them to displace some soil and reduce the weight once the pots are filled and planted.  This still gives some of the deeper rooting plants some room to travel down the depth of the large pot.  It’s actually only when the pots have been recently watered that they start to get a little heavier.  If the soil is fairly dry, these large pots are not as heavy as they look (to move and turn).

By chance I spotted a little female Fairy-Wren when it alighted on my balcony earlier.  I managed a quick shot from my Sony a6000 ‘mirrorless’ which was set on Aperture Priority instead of Shutter Priority. This camera was the quickest to get out of its bag and remove the lens cap, but I didn’t have time to see what setting it was on.

Never mind the ‘soft’ focus, here it is………gosh, I love seeing these tiny wrens even if they do move quickly and fly away after a minute or so.  They’re a nice change to the regular House Sparrow visitors.

…..and here’s a slideshow of the morning’s action for anybody who’s interested.

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NOTE: I’ve been mostly housebound in recent weeks with a flu-type virus and severe sciatic/knee/leg pain which has made walking difficult.

I saw my temporary doctor on Monday to get the CT Scan results to be greeted with the words “Vicki, you really don’t want any more spinal surgery”.  (my long-term doctor retired mid-December and this temporary doctor actually finished up last Monday too), so now I have to find another Doctor who can refer me back to my Neurosurgeon (2008 & 2015 lumbar spine surgeries) for a second opinion.

CAPSICUM (CAPSICUM ANNUUM HYBRID)

If you’ve been following my nature blog for a while, you will know that I planted a red Capsicum (Capsicum annuum hybrid) for the first time in my west-facing balcony garden.

My younger brother had warned me they were a slow grower, but I persevered and waited and waited…………………and waited.

My idea was to have sufficient green salad and herb leaves (as shown on the right), or green leafy vegetables, to pick during the summer so I didn’t have to shop so often.  All other vegetables keep well enough in the fridge when properly stored so it doesn’t matter if I miss a weekly shopping expedition.    I did well with the Asian greens during Winter in my previous balcony garden (below) too.

Asian greens which lasted months on my previous apartment balcony as I only picked the outer leaves for dinner each night.

In fact I did extremely well with my garden, located to the north-east of Melbourne, which had no direct sun but plenty of light (below).

My second Capsicum crop here in the western suburbs started with 11 thumb-sized fruit only a few weeks ago and being the end of Summer, I wondered if they would grow at all.  I didn’t know they would produce more than one crop in the Summer, having never grown this vegetable before.  Two fell on the ground attached to a large branch, which I presumed the possums had jumped on and broken during the night.  That left only 6 fruit, from thumb-size to about 3″.

(Don’t know what happened to the missing 3).

I was surprised to see one turning partially purple earlier in the week and very quickly jumping to the red stage yesterday.

I lifted the leaves up with my left hand intending to make a one-handed shot with my right and was dismayed to see my Capsicum had ‘company‘ yesterday.

Hope they don’t eat it.  They can have the leaves.  I’m happy to share them.

(I’ve even had Harlequin Bugs in my lounge room and the little blighters have proved hard to catch and despatch outdoors, but somehow, I still can’t bear to kill them as they’re so attractive).

Only baby spinach, 1 Tuscan Kale and 2 kinds of parsley (English curly and Italian flat-leaf) are left now (besides the regular Rosemary, lemon Thyme, sweet Basil, Marigold herbs and other flowers).

The Sugar snap Peas only yielded one pea pod, LOL, with the Harlequin Bugs sucking the sap out of all the leaves of the 10 seedlings climbing up the bamboo frames.  Those plants got pulled out a week ago.

One pea pod doth not a meal make.

I have several empty pots now.

The Sage was completely decimated by bugs and I pruned it down to 1″ stubble.  Bitter sage leaves are supposed to be bug-resistant and was even recommended for growing as a deterrent.  It’s now got about 50-60 new baby leaves on it.  But Sage always dies back in Winter, so that will probably only last a couple of months.

I pulled the Bok Choy and baby Broccoli out as they were half-eaten (by the ‘pillars), and the meals I did have from them, were fairly bitter.

One Kale leaf and several baby spinach leaves are perfect for the occasional vegetable omelette in the meantime.

Next Spring I might invest in a covered raised garden kit for my low-growing veggies or invest in more blue butterfly scarecrows.

Or, maybe just have flowers 😀  (says she who just despatched another Harlequin bug crawling across her Canon Printer).  I think the bugs get in via one of the large Rosemary branches which is lying next to my open lounge louvred windows, although I do have the sliding door fully open on sunny days.


I’ve even found the odd Cabbage Moth caterpillar crawling across the carpet 😮

Between you and me, I’m getting tired of hand watering every night.  Especially as the time I usually water around 6.30-7.00pm (about 4-6 trips with the large watering jug from the kitchen sink tap) is the golden hour and might be better spent down the local river doing some photography.

After my initial enthusiasm with long hours of afternoon sun from the west, I’m gradually finding the temperatures too hot and the pests overwhelming.

I normally water my garden at the end of the day so it has the cooler night time to soak in to the soil.  In our hot Australian summer, watering in the morning or midday has the potential to burn the roots of plants.

It’s only 13 degrees C (about 56F) at the moment and pelting down with rain, so looks like no hand watering needed tonight 🙂

Tomorrow it’s going to rain and cool temps also.

Was it only 3-4 days ago it was 29C (about 85F) 😕

CAPTURING THE ACTION (or, photos that make me smile)

From the archives…….a random selection.

A Silver Gull stepping straight out of the photo frame?  I was making some images of it standing on the sea wall when it suddenly turned and came straight towards me.   I made a Birthday card for my nature-loving niece out of this shot many years ago.  I think it was Picasa 3 editing software I used to make the picture frame.  Is that software still around?  I didn’t look for it when I changed from an old Windows desktop to a new Apple Mac Pro in 2012.

I had the camera on continuous shooting for the following images and I keep these images for a laugh.  I mean to say….bird photography can be highly entertaining and there’s nothing like a good belly laugh to brighten up your day.

These Silver Gulls below were lining up for the take-off and when the last Gull’s turn came up, it froze and looked down as though to say….”I can’t do it”

I had the seagull (below) all in focus when it suddenly raised it’s wings and gave a little jump in the air and landed again.  If I hadn’t had the camera setting on continuous shooting, I would have missed it.

Another shot I had lined up in focus and then all of a sudden, the Silver Gull started splashing as though it wanted to deliberately spoil my shot.  When I put the camera down, the bird stopped splashing.  I had to laugh.  Of course, it was mere co-incidence it started splashing and then stopped.  It’s the timing that amuses me.

I was so intent on photographing a Mute Swan in the Japanese Garden at Melbourne Zoo,

MUTE SWAN (Cygnus olor)

that I didn’t realise there was another shot (of a Gull) straight in front of me until the last minute.

But my favourite shot of the’ one that got away’ is the image below.

Then there are the bird shots I captured when I got too close to the bird and it turned and headed straight for me.

Emu in the open walk-through Kangaroo/Wallaby area.
Emus are large birds and getting face to face with one is no fun.  I’ve read they can turn nasty and attack anything that they feel threatened by.

I was on my knees, bending very low. photographing a brood of Australian Wood ducklings in the Treasury Gardens on the eastern rim of Melbourne’s CBD, when all of a sudden the male (Father?) turned and came straight for me (despite me being about 10 times its size).

Parents will do anything to protect their offspring.

…..another close-up when I was photographing a Nankeen Night Heron in the paved outdoor cafe area of Melbourne Zoo.  The Heron suddenly turned and came straight towards where I was kneeling.

Perhaps its just as well I can’t kneel and bend low any more 😀

I would certainly not get away in time to avoid a bird confrontation these days 🙂

…..and more recently, not too far from home.

LITTLE PIED CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax varius) takes a toilet break – MARIBYRNONG RIVER

Yes, Bird Photography can be a lot of fun……………as well as challenging.

PRACTICE, PRACTICE AND MORE PRACTICE

Even when I’m not doing any photography for my blog, I practice from my desk chair most mornings after reading my emails.

To catch a bird on my balcony in my current apartment is getting easier as time goes by, but that doesn’t mean I always get the eye in sharp focus (which is what makes a good bird photo), or the light is good on any given day.

I make hundreds and hundreds of blurred shots.  Some are downright funny.  Others are just plain awful, but I persevere.

When I get a good shot…….of even the most common bird on my balcony……I feel a real sense of achievement.

Sometimes I get lucky, but in general, the only way to improve your bird photography is practice, practice and more practice.  The faster and smaller the moving bird, the more challenging it becomes.

I spent a bit more time practicing on House Sparrows yesterday. (I finally got all the household chores up to date and a couple of other indoor projects finished 🙂  Hurray!).

It was a good day and the light just right, and despite sharing dozens of House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) images before, here’s some more.

I’M STILL HERE…….

I’m having a lovely break from blogging and photography at the moment.

Its surprising how many other things I’m getting done at home when the computer stays off for extended periods of the day.  The House Sparrows are back and while they don’t seem to be drinking from the bird bath, they alight on the balcony fence looking longingly around for some seed.  (I put some seed out and around the potted herbs and flowers one day last week).  I still check my emails and new blog posts from other folk though.

I’m still coughing and wheezing from the virus I came down with on Easter Friday, so some extra cat naps in the afternoons are mandatory at the moment.

………and there was a new Bird on the Block yesterday.

Sorry that I couldn’t get a better shot, but it was a long way off on the other side of the road and of course, trying to hold a heavy 150-500mm telephoto lens and not cough is very hard to do.  Hope you can see enough colour and shape from these 5 images I made before it flew away.

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Does anyone know what bird this is?

Some clues……

  • soft aqua blue like a budgerigar
  • size of a parrot or cockatoo
  • beak like a cockatoo or parrot
  • long tail like a lorikeet
  • NOT in my Australian Bird Guide book

PS  Jane from Janesmudgeegarden in New South Wales had the answer to my query – even the size fits what I guess it looked like over the road from my balcony.

The Quaker Parrot gets its name from the odd behavior of quaking and shaking. In reality this head bobbing and shaking behavior is quite normal.

Appearance

Blue Quaker Parrots sometimes called Blue Monk Parrots are actually a rare type of Quaker. Their blue color is not naturally occurring, and is a genetic mutation. They grow to be 12 inches long.

 

RED-TAILED BLACK COCKATOO (Calyptorhynchus banksii)

From the archives – 2012 – 2015

Australia has some spectacularly coloured Cockatoos and Parrots.

But this post is not about them.

It’s about a dark Cockatoo of a rather dull colour, but none the less interesting.  The speckled yellow dots are of the female by the way.  The male is sooty black but with red panels at the base of its tail.  The females also have a strikingly white beak.  It looks a bit of a dirty dull colour in the above image, but that might be the light on the day of shooting.

The Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii) is large  and very common inland and to the north of the country.  I’ve only seen it in The Great Aviary at Melbourne Zoo, but it still fascinates me when you view it front-on as, to put it impolitely, it looks like a hagged old crone with no teeth from fairy stories.  (Did I mention I have vivid imagination?).

Very territorial and often gregarious, it issues a metallic trumpeting ‘kreee’ sound.

Here’s a few more images I’ve made over several zoo visits…..made with different cameras and lenses.

PIED IMPERIAL PIGEON (Ducula bicolour)

From the archives – mainly 2015.

The Pied Imperial Pigeon, (Ducula bicolour), is not an Australian bird species but I’ve got so many images from the Zoo’s Great Aviary, that I figure it deserves a mention on my Nature Blog.

Is this an old(er) fat female who’s just been to the hairdresser for a trendy cut OR a young obese male with premature balding?

It’s a relatively large, plump, (as you’ll see in the second photo above), pied species of pigeon and normally found in forest, woodland, scrub and now – some of the mangroves in the far north of Australia, especially the Gulf of Carpentaria.

In the dry season these pigeons fly back to South East Asia – Thailand,  Indonesia, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea.

One of my images shows one of the pigeons tipped over a tree branch and you can see the black bars under the tail, so I’ve included that shot in this post (below lower left).

They are migratory coastal birds and that’s one of the reasons why they’re now found in northern Australia in the wet season, when the monsoon rains result in an abundance of forest fruits like the bright orange fruit of the Carpentaria Palm.

Feel free to do a Google search if you want to know more about them.  Mr Google told me the above as I didn’t know much about them, except that I had some good close-ups.

I love this bird, but then, I love any bird that stands still (for me to photograph)  😀

As is often the case, there seems to be different names for this bird, including different scientific names.

Pied Imperial Pigeon (Ducula bicolor)

 

RADJAH SHELDUCK (Tadorna radjah)

From the archives – 2012, 13 & 2015

The other Australian shelduck is called the Radjah Shelduck (Tadorna rajah) and personally, I like it’s feather pattern/colour more than the Australian Shelduck in the previous post.  I notice the name on the image below is slightly different to the other images in my archives, but no matter.

Radjah Shelduck (Tadorna radjah rufitergum)
In this image I’m standing on the raised boardwalk about 15 feet over the large pond near the rainforest end.

It has beautiful rich dark brown back feathers whose colour intensity changes with the sunlight (or shade).  It has a comparatively long neck and smaller head (than the Australian Shelduck).  Very pale pink legs and feet carry its, mostly, white body, although its white underwing does have a broad green speculum on the inner half.

While my earlier images of this bird weren’t that good, one of my last photography outings to Melbourne Zoo’s Great Aviary in 2015 scored some better shots.  The Shelduck was standing on the boardwalk fence about 5 feet away from where I was standing on the swaying section of the boardwalk bridge.

I do remember having trouble taking advantage of the close proximity of the bird, as young children kept screaming and running over the moveable section next to me (despite the signs at the entrance asking children not to run or shout), sending me swaying with the heavy DSLR.

Then the bird flew over my head and stood on the other side of me (but still close).  It turned a bit away from me though.  Not so much of a side view.

By the way, don’t dismiss Zoo photography if you’re new to Photography.  If you’re like me, don’t have a car, or the health, to get outdoors to the country or mountains, a Zoo is a great place to practice holding your camera still (for hand-held shots), and in the case of Melbourne Zoo’s Great Aviary, a very enjoyable way to spend an afternoon – I used to love it.

Note: we have 3 zoos in Melbourne – the others being Healesville Sanctuary in the country (where my youngest niece is a volunteer), and Werribee Park’s Open Range Zoo to the south of my suburb.  I can get a train to Werribee easily enough, but not sure about the Open Range Zoo area – maybe there are some shuttle buses from the train station?  I believe there is a shuttle bus that leaves from the National Gallery of Victoria at around 9.30am for a full day trip.  I think the bus costs Aus$35 for a full day trip (which might also include the historic Werribee Park Mansion next door).  The Rose Gardens are extensive, but I’ve only see them after a storm ……..once…….and the roses were slightly deficient in petals and colour 😦

By the way, I did get caught out once when I went to the Zoo specifically to spend the whole afternoon in the Aviary on a hot summer’s day and it was closed for maintenance.

For those who have just started following my nature blog, here’s a series of images of the Aviary interior so you can see how large it is.  It has 3 zones – one end being rainforest (where the swaying high-up bridge is and the stream starts from a tiny pool and waterfall), and the other end temperate rainforest around a large pond.  There’s several feeding stations close to the raised boardwalk along your pathway and around 4.00pm (?) you can get some great close-ups of the avian inhabitants at those seed bowls.

If you’re visiting Melbourne with your family and would like to see all 3 Zoos, paying for a full membership would probably be cheaper than a family ‘day pass’ to each zoo.  Do check out their website (and if the Great Aviary on is your ‘must see’ list, phone ahead to ensure it is not closed on the day).

The Zoo is open 365 days per year.

While much of the zoo has been re-landscaped and new enclosures built, I’m pretty sure that they won’t have changed the Aviary since I visited 3 years ago.  They have excellent breeding programs and exchange animals with other zoos around the world to ensure rare breeds do not die out to extinction.

(and the baby lemurs and monkeys are sooooo cute).

In winter, if it’s cold, many of the birds are high up near the roof trying to get some sun and it can be hard to see them, although sometimes you get lucky if you have a long lens and a sunny winter day – examples of a White-faced Heron below.

If you’d like some more images from the Zoo, let me know in the comments section.  It might be timely to delve more into the flower section of my archives.

Today, Wednesday and Thursday look promising for outdoor photography excursions, but my pain levels don’t allow me much walking these days.

Otherwise, ‘From the archives’ will continue on this blog for the time being.  I hope long-time followers are enjoying the ‘repeats’ or ‘re-views’.

AUSTRALIAN SHELDUCK (Tadorna tadornoides)

From the archives – 2012 & 2013

Australian Shelduck

We have 2 Shelducks, (that I know of), in Australia and both are easy to identify being large, almost goose-like, in size.    The Australian Shelduck (Tadorna tadornoides) has distinctive chestnut and blackish plumage with the head and neck dark green – in fact, the head looks black to me.  The female has white patches around the eye, with the male’s head being all black and I’ve always found it hard to photograph the male with the eye showing.

The images in this post were made in the Japanese Garden at Melbourne Zoo and I’ve usually been lucky enough to see these Shelducks in the shade of a weeping cherry (?) and quite close to the walking path for photography purposes.  The path winds through the beautifully landscaped garden with square tile ‘stepping stones’ over a stream.  There’s a bamboo cane low fence along the path to keep visitors off the grass, but you can still see several bird species up close, especially the shelducks, who like the shady tree in summer.

Note: this area is not enclosed, or the birds in cages, but I notice they’ve all got leg tags.  There are various bird species that wander around the zoo and I presume they love the free food on offer.  The finches are in cages or enclosures quite apart from the many other open areas (beside The Great Aviary).

BLACK-NECKED STORK (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus)

From the archives – Mostly 2012

Black-necked Stork (Ephippiorhynshus asiaticus)

This stork is enormous at 130cm  (just over 4 feet) and you can never mistake the identification.  Its wings, neck and head seem to change colour depending on the sunlight.  It has very long legs and it wasn’t until I saw this stork on the land that I had any sense of just how long those reddish coloured feet were.

The neck is a gorgeous iridescent purple and I would love to see it in the wild, but have to be content with my view of these birds in The Great Aviary at Melbourne Zoo.  Twice I’ve seen a pair in an amazing dance/mating/fight, (or whatever it was), at the Zoo.

Now that……………………..is truly a magnificent sight.

I’ve got dozens of photos of this Stork, although many are not very sharp in focus.  I made them mostly in the first year or two of owning a DSLR and didn’t know much about Shutter speed and Aperture at that stage.  I should have had both settings much higher, although bright sunlight tends to make the white feathers over-exposed anyway.  I should have adjusted the white balance also.  Of course I could also have shot all those early images on full AUTO 😀

BLACK-NECKED STORK (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus)

RIBBON BUSH (Hypoestes aristata)

From the archives – 19th May, 2013

Believe it or not, I remember where I photographed 99% of my old photos.  This one was made about 8 feet from the old Gorilla enclosure at Melbourne Zoo.  Not sure if this lovely flower is still there (all these years later), but you can see why it is called Ribbon Bush by that lovely curling petal on the top right.

SUPERB or SPLENDID FAIRY-WREN (Malurus cyanerus OR Malurus splendens) – male?

I was glued to the computer screen reading Steve McCurry’s latest blog post this morning when I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye.

It had been raining overnight and the forecast had said a 60% chance of further rain, (albeit in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne – I currently live in the west), so I had my floor-to-ceiling glass lounge sliding door closed (to my balcony garden).

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I slowly turned to the left and saw a tiny Fairy-wren hop all around my potted garden and then sit on the bamboo cane of my Sugar pea climbing frame.

%$@&!! (I said to myself).

I had re-arranged my bookcases yesterday and put all my cameras away, in the camera bag or soft pouches, in the bedroom.  At the last minute, late last night (before going to bed),  I brought the bags out of the bedroom and put them back next to my desk chair, but didn’t take the long telephoto out of its zip-carrying case as I hadn’t seen any birds up close for about 10-14 days (?).  I assumed my ‘at home‘ bird photography had finished for the season and I’d actually have to go for a walk to get any bird shots.

When I saw the 1st wren, I very slowly bent to one side and unzipped the bag with my left hand and lifted the heavy DSLR and long telephoto lens out and prayed the wren wouldn’t move.

It did (and I missed the shot).

Next thing a female Splendid Fairy-wren jumped down on to the ground and ate a Cabbage-moth Caterpillar as it slowly crawled its way blindly across the paving tiles looking for, or sensing, some greenery.  Then the wren flew up to the edge of the Capsicum plant and then proceeded to inspect every other space in and around the potted plants and herbs.

The male did the same.

“Well done, you dear little wren” I said to myself.  The ‘pillars’ had decimated my garden in the last couple of weeks and the Harlequin Bugs had sucked most of the leaf colour out of some plant leaves.

I was beside myself with excitement as, while I often see these tiny wrens across the road, or on the walking path down to the nearby Maribyrnong River, I’d only seen them up close on my balcony about 3 times in the last 18 months.

And they had mostly been female.

I did get a fairly decent shot of a female in a tree once.

And I did see a male last November sitting on an empty plant container.

With the sliding door closed, the window frames and reflections of my lounge chair muddled the scene.

%$@&!! (I said again).

I couldn’t hold the heavy lens steady in my lethargic half-awake state.

Although set on Shutter-priority, the shutter speed was far too slow for the deep shade of the pots under the overcast sky and a fast-moving tiny wren.  When I say fast-moving, I mean hopping every couple of seconds.

I slowly lowered the camera so as not to cause a sudden movement and changed the camera settings, but the deep shade due to the closely arranged pots and overcast sky, did nothing to improve my confidence in capturing any photos of the wrens.

I also changed the setting from single shot to continuous shooting.  That was the best my brain could manage in its morning state.   

I tried a 3rd shot and managed to get the tiny male(?) in focus.

Success!

But what species was it?  It certainly didn’t have the blue head of a male Splendid Fairy-wren (Malurus splendens).  I looked up my Australian Bird Guide Book, but it only showed the male in its bright all-over-blue breeding colours.  My wren was very tiny and looked very young.  It had a few flecks of pale blue on its head.

Could it be a Superb Fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus)?

I am not a morning person (for those new to my nature blog)  🙂

Maybe I’d been calling all the male wrens I’d photographed, Splendid (Fairy-wrens), when they were Superb (Fairy-wrens).  Google images were no help as there were many called Superb Fairy-wrens when they didn’t have the dark chest of that species. Google Images can be a great help finding bird or flower names, but many amateur photographers fail to notice the tiny differences between some species and there are many incorrect ID’s.  In fact, I’d picked up a totally incorrect bird name in the Australian Photography magazine last year.  I think the editors hadn’t checked the photographer’s ID and caption.  The Bird name was not even remotely close to the bird species – totally different feather colour, beak and body shape/size.

Here’s another image of a male wren I’d photographed near Dight’s Falls on the north-eastern side of Melbourne.

Well, whatever the species, this morning I saw a male and female wren in my garden and that put a warm glow in my ‘photography’ heart and a smile on my face (and stopped me swearing at the Auto Spellcheck).

I noticed through a gap in the Japanese Maple in front of my balcony a tiny wren on the other side of the road (centre of the frame below), but my 150-500mm lens doesn’t reach that far, especially with a hand-held shot, so you’ll have to use your imagination.

And for those new to my nature blog and there have been quite a few recently – thank you for following – here is the scene from my desk where I sit and read/answer my emails and do any photo reviewing or ‘tweaking’ in the morning natural light.  I usually photograph in the direction of the left hand side of my balcony as that’s where you can see the tall trees and hedges on the other side of the road.

If I look straight ahead you can see there a vacant block on the cliff face where they are going to build another apartment block in the near future (to my dismay).

 

So while I live in a newish housing estate built about half way up a steep hill, my 1st floor apartment just happens to be opposite a gap in the 3 large buildings and townhouses where the developers have planted rows of trees and 2 different hedging plants.  That greenery plus my balcony herb, flower and (sometimes) vegetable garden makes it a very green space indeed.

I am exceptionally lucky in this location.

PHILIP ISLAND HIBISCUS (Hibiscus insularis) – Royal Botanic Gardens

From the archives – 30th May, 2014

……and straight from Wikipedia for this description – purely and simply because I never knew this Hibiscus was so rare until I read about it on Wikipedia – hope this information is still accurate.  I know of at least 2 large bushes in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne and one of the rare plants in which I know the Botanical name off by heart, but never knew the Common name.   Both of the large bushes are in deep shade most of the day.

The Philip Island Hibiscus (Hibiscus insularis) is a species of hibiscus that is endemic to Phillip Island, a small island to the south of Norfolk Island. The entire natural extent of this species is just two small clumps, and each clump apparently consists of multiple separate stems of a single genotype. It has been propagated and planted more widely on Phillip Island, but only vegetatively which does not increase the genetic diversity. Seedlings apparently have not been observed in the wild. It produces greenish-yellow flowers that fade to mauve through most of the year. Horticultural use of the Philip Island Hibiscus has greatly increased the number of plants (though not in its natural environment) but as it is usually propagated by cuttings the number of genotypes is still extremely small. This species is listed as Critically Endangered under Australian federal environment legislation.

THE ROSE GARDEN – Royal Botanic Gardens – Part 1

From the archives – mainly 2011 & 2012

 

The Rose Garden in the RBG in Melbourne is located near one of the south-eastern gates at the top of a very steep hill.  There’s usually flowers in bloom through much of the year as they have climbing varieties up beautifully shaped rusty cones as well as lower-growing horizontal spreading varieties.

The Rose Garden in Winter – Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

It’s quite a windy exposed area so can be hard to get sharply focused images though. Up until I moved to this western suburb along the Maribyrnong River 18 months ago, I used to think the southern side of the Gardens was the windiest area in Melbourne.  Since it was near the street where I walked to work, I walked past many times, but it was not until I bought a camera and took up Photography in ‘retirement’ that I really gave them a second look.

Since they like sun and need about 5 hours sunlight to grow well, the location of the Rose Garden is just about perfect.

I have to say I know nothing about Roses, but they do well with soft feathery Lamb’s Ears, Catmint and Geraniums that provide a nice contrast to their bare base and have minimal watering needs similar to Roses.  Penstemons also make a nice contrast at the Rose’s base.

SEA ONION (Urginea maritime) – Royal Botanic Gardens

From the archives – 2nd February, 2015.

The images below were made with 2 lenses.   #1 and #2 with a Canon 50mm f1.4 and #3 with a Canon 18-200mm f3.5 – 5.6.   These images were some of the last photos I made when I lived 5 minutes walk from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne.  Since I worked next to the RBG for some 16 1/2 years before I had to take early retirement, these gardens were my ‘back yard‘ and I used to walk in, or around, the 38 hectare site daily – sometimes 3 times a day in good weather – no wonder my poor feet are quite literally, worn out 🙂

SEA ONION (Urginea maritima)
SEA ONION (Urginea maritima)
SEA ONION (Urginea maritima)

Many of the old large black plant/tree identification posts are still intact and easy to read/photograph, but I found the tiny new metal tags tied to many of the small plants pretty much impossible to read, so spent hours looking the names up in my RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) encyclopaedia – Garden Plants & Flowers in Australia by Ian Spence, or Stirling Macoboy’s What Shrub is That?  Both books were a valuable resource for Australian species when there were no identification tags visible.

When I first bought a camera and took up Photography in 2010, the flowers were still mostly English cottage plants, but with new landscaping and the Wetlands project, many  beds were changed to drought tolerant plants from Africa, South America or arid regions and it became much harder to identify them.  The Fitzroy and Treasury Gardens on the eastern perimeter of Melbourne’s CBD don’t have these identification tags, but are still very enjoyable to walk around.

The Royal Botanic Gardens have a great collection of grass species – mainly indigenous to Australia.

To this day I can remember exactly where I shot about 97% of my archival images, although I don’t know enough about plants to remember which season they were shot without looking at the meta data.  Much of my early bird photography was also done here in 2010 – 2015 (for those interested).

At the current time, the new Metro underground rail line through Melbourne (with 5 new stations in Melbourne itself) is still being built and the tram/bus routes have changed slightly in the RBG area so I haven’t attempted to go back for more flower photography.  This tunnel is supposed to be finished in 2025 so I’ve been exploring my (new) local area in the western suburbs, but I have to say 2-3 lots of public transport take a heck of a lot longer than a 5 minute walk.

Fortunately, I live next to parkland and/or nature reserve and not too far away from a couple of other nature reserves or man-made wetlands.

I no longer have quick access to the Bayside Beaches to the south of Melbourne without a car, although it is still possible to get bus, tram or trains – just takes too long when the transport stops at every stop, or suburb.  I don’t have the health/energy to make long day trips.

THERE’S A CATERPILLAR IN MY GARDEN……….

Post started a couple of weeks ago……

There’s a caterpillar in my garden

and I don’t know what to do.

Should I find a toxic pesticide

or hit it with my shoe?

*

When I saw it on the baby leaf,

I tried hard to grab & ‘quash it.

But the pesky little bugger (note: I don’t normally swear online, only in my garden)

dropped down in to a narrow slit.

*

Now I can’t find any sign

but know it’s in there hiding.

Should I stick around, for a while,

or pretend I’m not really minding.

I know the Cabbage Moth Caterpillar

is on my Tuscan Kale

‘Cause there’s holes and nibbled leaves

and the stalk is deathly pale.

*

If I accidentally ate the slimy squashy thing,

I guess I’d really never know.

‘Cause I chew each mouthful many times

as my Mamma taught me so.

*

I stop and ponder a minute more

but realise nothing matters.

Except to get that pesky ‘pillar off

before it gets much fatter.

*

Maybe I’ll just leave it for a while

and photograph another pest that’s easier to see.

The Harlequin bug on my plastic pot

is running wild and free.

I’d use a Herbal pesticide (we pronounce the ‘H’ in Australia, so it’s ‘a’ not ‘an’)

but can’t remember how to make it.

Maybe it’s on my DVD or in my Gardening Book?

Detergent? Garlic? Chilli? Shake it?

*

There’s a caterpillar in my garden,

but maybe now its gone.

Should I go out and have another look,

or forget it ever was?

*

I really can’t bear the thought,

of my one and only plant

of Tuscan Kale (Brassica oleracea sp.)

dis..a..pearing off the planet.

Tuscan Kale (and friends) BC………….Before Caterpillar

The label says it’s SuperFood

which I need as much as he.

Assuming that the ‘pillar

is a boy (and not a she).

*

Decision made, I go back outdoors

into the hot and blazing sun.

Can’t find a thing on any leaf

so the ‘pillar’s  on the run.

*

I come back indoors and shut the roller blind,

pretending I really don’t give a damn.

Fresh herbs for lunch, but definitely not the Kale,

Lunch is only Tomato…..Parsley….. Eggs & Ham.

PS.  Ok, so there was no ham in my omelette, but nothing else rhymed 🙂 🙂 🙂

***************************

It’s now 2 weeks later

and I really needs some hints.

The ‘pillar holes are everywhere

especially Basil, Sage and Mint.

*

The Bok Choi has a different bug

that leaves creepy crawly lines.

I’ve forgotten what that pest is called

just know that pest is mine.

*

Today’s luncheon omelette was made with

eggs, onion, herbs and Kale.

But be assured the Kale was bought

at last week’s Queen Vic. Market sale.

*

My easy grow Snow Pea seedlings

are finally climbing up.

With fine green threads around the frames

that I’ve made from Bamboo ‘stucks’.

(I never said I could spell).

*

My Italian and English Parsley

are among the very hardy Herbs,

that are free from creepy crawly critters

and don’t require rhyming words.

*

I better upload this WordPress post

before it gets too long

And followers go to sleep,

or break out in raucous song.

*

Perhaps I’ll ask Mr Google

what to use on all those pests.

And finally stop this tedious post

and put the matter to rest.

*

PS I almost forget to mention

my second crop of fruit.

Green Capsicum babes are growing

from the end of green-leafed shoots.

PPS  The Broccoli Patio Baby Bunching

is growing soft leafy greens.

It produces small sweet tasting delicate heads,

of veg. I’ve actually never seen.

PPPS.  I forgot to mention the flowering

of the Rosemarinus officinalis plant.

At least that is free from pests –

‘Pillars, bugs, slugs, worms and ants.

THE END (phew!)

 

 

Hope that keeps you amused until the next WordPress Post.

 

Looking for Autumn…………….

In the second half of my walk yesterday I spent a short time in Pipemaker’s Park.

I was looking for signs of Autumn colour, but Autumn had barely announced its coming and the sun kept going in and out behind the clouds, which means you can miss the colour of the vine leaves as they change from bright orange to dull brown.

The Dog Roses were lovely though.

The Olive tree was completely bare of fruit, but the massive fig tree had literally hundreds of immature fruit – shame I don’t like figs, as it would be a feast when they’re ripe.  I might add figs are very expensive to buy in the fruit/veg shop, market stalls or supermarkets here in Melbourne.  If someone were to pick them all off this tree and sell them to donate funds towards the park upkeep and restoration, it would be a very fine thing indeed.  The Park Ranger told me the ripening olives disappear almost overnight, so some local obviously takes the time to harvest, process and brine them.

Which reminds me that when I was small, our family would always have a large box of dried figs and glase fruits amongst our Christmas fare.   They were a real treat. Blackberries, which are quite expensive in the shops these days, were picked by the bucketful for free in the bushland near our home and we had bottled blackberries, blackberry jam and blackberry sponge puddings all through the year (as my Mother always bottled and made preserves, chutneys and sauces from the excess of our summer vegetable garden and fruit trees, AND the annual blackberry picking we did with another family near our home).

But back to Pipemakers Park………….

And just to give you an idea of what I was looking for, here’s a few images from Autumn 2017, including my favourite photo (which looks just as good in B & W I might add – good light and shade in the shot).  I think I was about 5-6 weeks too early yesterday.

Photo made about 4.00pm in the afternoon when the sun starts to sink behind the cliff face and car parking area at the top of the frame.

IS IT? OR ISN’T IT?

Yesterday was perfect walking weather with a lovely cool breeze so I walked “around the block”

No, I’m not talking about walking around a block of residential streets with houses and nasty smelly toxic car fumes on the main road.

I’m talking about a walk in Nature between my apartment building and the nearby river and parkland.

For those new to my nature blog, this is my route on the map below.

Various websites show this whole green belt along the river when it was open cleared fields and it’s really quite an achievement to have restored small pockets of the area back to what it might have been like when the area was first explored in 1803.  Today, in general, the area is mainly parkland with walking trails and extends a fair distance both up and down the river.    There’s a concrete, walking/cycling path next to the river for many miles in both directions.

Melbourne was a new town settled by white people around 1835 to give you a bit of a timeline.

This is the first time in months I’ve walked this route in full and I very soon regretted putting on my old leather walking shoes.  The tread has worn down and there were a couple of steep tiny inclines where my shoes slipped on the sandy  pathway near Pipemaker’s Park (top of the map).  My feet got sore very quickly without the thick padding too.   Time to throw this pair of walking shoes out methinks.

Of course I regretted not having my long ‘birding’ telephoto lens also, but that’s not what this post is about.  On the bottom of the map where the tiny 2nd pond looks like a reversed “C”, there is a small relatively secluded patch of grass and I came across what looked like a mock picnic fire – a pile of dry tree branches and straw and fluffy moulting of the water reed seed heads.

I smiled to myself thinking some idiot had attempted to make an illegal picnic fire, but then suddenly had the thought……………………. could it have been a large nest?

What do you think?

Is it?  Or isn’t it (a nest)?

The water reeds are about 7-8 foot high surrounding this little private space.

I went around the corner across a small rock strewn causeway to the other side of the pond and suddenly, a tremendous splashing erupted where I had obviously disturbed a large water bird and then I saw a White-faced Heron.

It flew up to a nearby tree and this is where I could have got a fantastic shot if I’d had the 150-500mm lens with me.  But you’ll have to make do with a silhouette captured with the Sony ‘mirrorless’ camera and 55-210mm lens facing into the sun.

I walked around the pond a bit further to try and get some foliage behind the bird’s outline but it was just too far away and I had to be content with the shot below.

I wonder what a heron’s nest looks like?

Is it too fanciful to suggest this pile of branches and dead grass is a large bird nest?  Could a large bird have dragged those dead limbs?

Or might some children have been playing around with the fallen dead branches, dry grass  and seed heads?

I pondered a while on this and with no other birds in sight walked on to Pipemaker’s Park.

PS.  Here’s a better shot of the White-faced Heron made 31st May, 2017 in the large stretch of water near the pond.  This lake-like stretch of water is about 15 feet from the small pond where one can often see the Heron fishing late in the afternoon.

WHITE-FACED HERON (Egretta novaehollandiae) – Maribyrnong River

PACIFIC GULL (Larus pacificus) – Port Melbourne Beach

From the archives – 2nd June 2013.

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Today has dawned lovely and cool with a scattering of fluffy clouds drifting across the soft blue sky and it’s strangely quiet for a Monday morning on the Bird ‘front’ (still).

The cliff face opposite my apartment building is humming with the faint sound of a bulldozer somewhere around – perhaps at the top?  Last Friday, I had a good look at the new wood paling fence on the main road which now sports an enormous billboard with a photo of the proposed new apartment building.

There’s no doubt they’re about to start construction work soon.

I have mixed feelings about all this (as I mentioned in a previous post).

Being more housebound in the last 18 months, my Room with a View and Balcony Garden plays a major role in keeping my spirits up and filling my indoor hours with a Green View.

I am thankful to have the Nature Reserve and parkland behind my building.

RED-BROWED FINCH on the fence line of Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve.

I tell myself each morning, over the last month or so, to remain positive – change is inevitable.  Self Talk can be helpful at times like this.

Life is impermanent and one should make the best of what is, not what was, or what might be (in the future).

Saturday night’s sunset (which will appear on my Sunset/Sunrise photo blog when I get around to reviewing the 40 odd images I made), shows what will disappear.  The new apartment building will start from the left of the image frame below.

The whole image below will be wiped out – literally.

Or, here is a broader view (and a later image of Saturday night’s sunset when the sky had changed to pinks and purples below).  The new apartment building will block approximately 5/8ths of the right hand side of the image below, starting from the left side of that bush in the middle of the silhouette.  Keep in mind that I am looking up a steep hill, not across a flat landscape.

Maybe I’ll have to change to Portrait sized images of the sunset (instead of Landscape sized images of the cloud colour 🙂 ).

There’s always a light at the end of a tunnel.  It’s all in the Mind and how you look at the world.

Time to have breakfast, dress and go outdoors for a walk.

After all, I am Living in Nature and that’s the only certainty in my urban environment.

AUSTRALIAN WHITE IBIS (Threskiornis molucca)

From the archives – 16th March, 2015

AUSTRALIAN WHITE IBIS (Threskiornis molucca) – Japanese Garden, Melbourne Zoo

……..and the only time I’ve seen these lovely white Ibis en masse was in a farmer’s field at Werribee (south-west of Melbourne).  It was a spectacular sight and I asked my SIL to stop the car so I could photograph them.

AUSTRALIAN WHITE IBIS – Farmer’s Field, Werribee – 6th February 2012

I think the black-winged Ibis in the upper left of the image must be Straw-necked Ibis (Threskiornis spinicollis), but they were too far away to be sure.  According to my Australian Bird Guide book, they have a black head and throat and metallic black back and wings.

Unfortunately, I’ve never been lucky enough to see them up close.

Perhaps they’re like the Glossy Ibis I’ve photographed at the Great Aviary at Melbourne Zoo which have a sort of iridescent effect in the sun and much darker looking in the shade.

GERALDTON WAX (Chamaelaucium) – Royal Botanic Gardens

From the archives – 2010 & 2012

These evergreen Australian plants are grown for their showy five-petalled flowers.  At least one species, Chamaelaucium uncinatum, is grown commercially for its cut flowers.

Personally, I’ve only ever seen the white or pink variety and were one of the first flowers I ever photographed when I bought a little Canon point & shoot camera and took up Photography as a hobby in May 2010.  There is also a red variety.

The first image was made by a Canon DSLR in 2012 and the last two by the little Canon P & S in 2010.

15th December 2012 – Canon DSLR & 18-200mm lens

6th August 2010 – Canon Powershot A3000 IS

2017 IN REVIEW

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”

 ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Some of my favourite images from 2017 – in no particular order or subject matter.  Some of them are good shots and others are just reminders of a particularly enjoyable Photography walk outdoors.

I’ve been too unwell to do much Photography lately, in fact not much better than last year, so enjoy this series until (hopefully) I’m back outdoors more.  At least the weather is mostly much cooler, although yesterday the winds were gale force around my area and too windy to water my balcony garden until quite late in the day.  The wind dries out my potted plants regardless of the moisture retaining mixture I’ve added to the potting soil, so watering each night is a necessity…….most of the year, surprisingly.

In fact, the weather has been too wild to go out much via public transport.  Of course if I owned a car, I’d go out for a drive or up the country regardless of the weather 🙂

I still have to catch a close-up shot of the white Royal Spoonbill water birds at Jawbone Conservation Reserve which I could only photograph from a distance (with the shorter telephoto lens I had with me) on my last visit.  So I’m looking for a nice cool afternoon, with minimal wind, to make the trip down to the coast.  It’s only a 2 bus trip, but these 2 particular bus routes don’t run as often as some of the others near my home, and not that much on the weekends either.

….and finally one last photo from the day I spent photographing this lovely Chinese Temple on the banks of the Maribyrnong River in the next suburb (to the south of my home location).

The HEAVENLY QUEEN TEMPLE is a temple to the Chinese sea-goddess Mazu, the deified form of the 10th-century Fujianese girl Lin Moniang, located in Footscray, a neighborhood of Maribyrnong in Melbourne, Australia.

PS If you see some funny spelling or typos, it’s that stupid AutoCorrect which drives me crazy as it keeps turning bird and flower names into common words.  I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time re-reading everything I type a zillion times.  I’m sure you all have the same problem so you know what I mean.

A RAINBOW LORIKEET DROPPED INTO MY GARDEN THIS EVENING……LITERALLY

I heard a loud bang and then…..a body dropped ‘out of the sky’.

I stepped outdoors through the open sliding door to see a (wild) Rainbow Lorikeet laying over my spinach seedlings.  I guess it must have been flying very fast when it hit the glass window, as previous birds flying into the windows at my last apartment were just stunned and soon recovered.

Always sad to see a dead bird, but even more so when it’s a beautiful wild Lorikeet.

 

 

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Just watching the International News on TV.

It’s snowing in Rome and London – supposed to get worse by the end of the week as a cold front from Siberia spreads over Europe & the U.K.

Looks very cold in the blizzard conditions in Rome I must say  😮

JAWBONE CONSERVATION RESERVE & MARINE SANCTUARY, WILLIAMSTOWN – Part 2

For details of yesterday’s Photography excursion to Jawbone Conservation Reserve, see Part 1 in the previous post.

A juvenile Silver Gull (identifiable by its dark beak, leg colour and brown flecks on its wings) stands waiting to greet me at the end of my walk.  An adult Silver Gull is mostly white with an orange beak.

Thank goodness I walked over to the Bus Stop and checked the timetable.  If I stayed until sunset, I would have had only 1 bus scheduled at around 9.00pm.  The other option would have been to find a house number and street sign and call a taxi.

The aim was to finish the rest of the trail right up to where it ends with a main road, check out where the birds were and do some bird photography.

Despite the severe wind gusts and rather mundane uninteresting nature of the walk over the 2 small islands at the northern end the lake system, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the white Royal Spoonbills and other distant birds.

More importantly, it was great to get outdoors in the sea air and walk that distance after months of being pretty much housebound and mostly taking taxis to get anywhere.

2017 wasn’t a good year health wise, but the Cardiologist’s report and increased medication earlier this week proved that (hopefully), I’m now able to do longer walks in Nature…….outside Melbourne’s stinking hot humid Summer days of course.

February is usually Melbourne’s hottest month, although the bush fire season can go way past Summer.

Living in Nature is one of the most healing balms I could imagine and if you’re a Melburnian and enjoy walking and bird watching, I can highly recommend this coastal walk near Williamstown beach.

Just check the wind speed factor before you leave home AND TAKE SOME BINOCULARS (to see the bird life).

JAWBONE CONSERVATION RESERVE & MARINE SANCTUARY, WILLIAMSTOWN – Part 1

I knew it (as soon as I arrived).

This image made about 5 years ago in the Royal Botanic Gardens gives you an idea of a long 150-500mm lens. Much smaller than many professional wildlife photographer’s lenses, but heavy all the same.

I should have taken my Canon DSLR and Sigma long ‘birding’ telephoto 150-500mm lens.

Yesterday’s excursion started off heavily delayed when my taxi didn’t turn up for the first half of my journey.  The second half was going to be via bus.  45-50 minutes later when a 2nd (or was it 3rd booking?) taxi finally arrived, I decided to just take a taxi all the way to my starting point at a residential side street in the coastal suburb of Williamstown (located on the western side of Port Phillip Bay).  I’d also planned to stay til sunset which didn’t happen, but that’s another story.

It was perfect weather (although luckily I had a short light jacket as I would have got severely wind-burnt on my arms with my sleeveless shirt).  As it was, the left side of my face and neck were  burnt (despite sunscreen).

I wanted to finish the final 25% segment of a coastal walk over a couple of islands I could see on the map.  I had been too unwell to contemplate this walk in the last 3 months and had to cancel my New Year’s Day walk with friends who were keen bushwalkers, cyclists and extremely fit.  (My friends and I still had a great long lunch at my home on New Year’s Day though – despite the cancelled walk.  Eating, drinking and talking are more my ‘cup of tea’ at this stage in my health journey).

Basically, this walk was over the 2 islands on the top left of the map to the black square box on the upper left.  Turned out to be a very short walk indeed, but against a strong onshore wind with little shelter on the low-lying salt bushes.

I ended up walking all the way back to the bus stop on the bottom right of this map – roughly 5 times the distance that I’d planned.

It only took me 2 hours (about 45 mins for you fit healthy folk I suppose).

(Hooray for increased Heart meds 4 days ago – I can clearly walk at more length again). 

The taxi driver must have thought I was mad, or more than a little eccentric to get a taxi to go for a walk.  But the fare wasn’t too bad for the 25 minute journey.  It might have taken me 1  1/2 hours depending on connection times for the 2-bus trip.  Both bus routes have a fairly irregular timetable, depending on the time of day, and at weekends, sometimes only 1 bus per hour, so you can imagine how I’d feel if I missed the 1st bus by 5 minutes and then missed the second  by a couple of minutes.

When I walked through a small finely mown area to the walking trail, I was hit by extremely gusty winds and knew it would be hard to stand still to do any bird photography with my lightweight Sony a6000 and 55-210mm lens.  I also had a Canon DSLR and Sigma 17-50mm lens for any interesting close-ups at ground level in my bag.

No wonder the trees grow heavily bent over in this particular area. I think I would be heavily bent to one side if I lived on this part of the coast 🙂I was also pleased to see that the whole area has been recently mowed so I didn’t have to worry about snakes.  This coastal area has little shade cover or trees, although there are board walks in some places to walk through the low-lying salt marsh scrub, low-lying pools and other salt tolerant native flora in the Arboretum area.

“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.”

I’ll do a longer post next upload with just images (no writing), but what I wanted to tell you about was the thrill of spotting 3 Royal Spoonbills in part of the large lake system near to a residential area.

I’d only ever seen these beautiful large white birds with their long spoon-shaped bills in the Great Aviary in Melbourne Zoo.  They have a distinctive feeding technique of sweeping their large bills back and forth through the water (which I’d seen at Melbourne Zoo, but not yesterday).

This cropped image is the best out of about 4 shots I attempted.  Sorry it’s not a good shot, but I had enough trouble standing upright in the strong wind and I am no light-weight.  Hard to be certain but I think the ducks with them might have been Grey Teals and the 2 ducks swimming out of the upper right are Pacific Black Ducks.

If only I had taken the long 150-500mm lens.  It’s heavy weight wouldn’t have wavered in the gusty winds at that end of the coastal path and would have made some marvellous close-ups.

I also saw a Great Egret, about 30-40 Black Swans, Pied Cormorants, Little Pied Cormorants, Black Cormorants (I think), Black-winged Stilts (never seen before), Australian Pelicans, Pacific Black Ducks, Chestnut Teals, Grey Teals, many finch-sized birds in the sky and more that I don’t know the name of, OR, were too far away to identify.

I’d also seen 2 White-faced Herons on my first 2 visits to the area, but not yesterday.

White-face Heron – Jawbone Conservation Reserve Arboretum – made 20th August 2017

The bird life was amazing (despite the long distance away as seen on the strip of land between the lake system and the ocean below).

Part 2 to follow.

Note: I’m way behind with blog reading, but I’ll catch up eventually.  Can’t waste good weather with nice cool winds on the computer – it’ll be back to heat wave conditions towards the end of next week according to the forecast and I’ll be indoors all day again.