AUSTRALIAN RAVEN (Corvus coronoides)

I’ve finally unpacked everything and got 97% of my possessions back in place after my apartment move on Monday this week.

(I seem to have more possessions than 2 weeks ago ¬†ūüėÄ ¬† but that’s impossible, merely that I’ve done a bit of re-arranging in this move to try and eradicate so much bending and/or twisting in daily activities for my degenerative spinal condition and right hip OA).

Anyway, this means I’ve found my photographic field guide¬†Birds of Australia¬†by Jim Flegg. ¬†

By the way, if you live in Australia and are interested in Bird Photography, I can highly recommend this relatively small, (well, about 8″ & 6″), book to help you identify any Australian Birds you’re keen to put ‘name to face.’

Most of the images in this guide are very clear in both colour and bird shape, sometimes the eye colour being the only thing to help you identify between 2 or 3 similar birds. ¬† Jim Flegg has inserted a small map of Australia with shaded blue areas of where the bird species is usually found for each one and a very concise description of the bird, the differences between male and female, its call and whether it’s common or rare etc.

AUSTRALIAN RAVEN (Corvus coronoides)

I believe the couple of photos I made of a large black bird last week in the local children’s playground have now been identified correctly, (although please let me know in the comments section if you believe I’ve got the name wrong).

There are 6 species of Raven or Crow in Australia, with the 3 Currawongs adding to an easy-to-mistake identification.

First I cast aside any bird photo that didn’t fall into my state of Victoria, then dismissed the ones with dark eyes and carefully read the description to reveal the name¬†Australian Raven¬†(Corvus coronoides).

I think Jim’s description finally clinched it.

47-56cm Large, familiar, and the largest Australia Crow.  Entirely glossy black, with an oily sheen in sunlight.  Throat feathers of adult bushy and bristly, especially during calling, when body is characteristically held horizontal.  (yes, this description definitely looked like the bird on the right side of my photo).  Eye white in adult.   Beak long, strong and black, with slightly convex ridge to upper mandible.

Immature duller with brown eye.  Mated pairs characteristically sedentary, roaming flocks of non-breeders small, not cohesive as in very similar Little Raven.

And so on………

This identification was a hard one for me as I’m not good at judging bird size from any distance and 8 (out of the 9) birds in the book have white eyes.

101 SILVER GULLS

Last week I got up close & personal with lots of Seagulls.  Not quite 101, but there were lots of them.

I love watching seagulls.

I make no excuse for buying several lots of hot fish n chips down next to the pier to warm up in the brisk winter wind and then, when the excess got cold, threw them to the many gulls on the sand to bring them closer to my camera lens.

There’s something about the smell of the sea air and the screech of gulls that makes for a holiday atmosphere (despite the virus restrictions).

On the first short walk of the week, the sun continued to tease me.   One minute coming out and warming the temperature up to quite a comfortable level and then, next minute, going behind the clouds and the temperature dropping suddenly to a distinct chill.

I CAUGHT THE EYE OF THIS GULL STANDING PERFECTLY STILL ON THE PIER FENCE.
IT FLEW DOWN TO THE OLD SEA WALL AND STOOD FACING THE OTHER WAY AND I SILENTLY SEND A MESSAGE ASKING IT TO TURN AROUND AND POSE.
IT HALF TURNED AS THOUGH TO SAY “ARE YOU TALKING TO ME?”
I SILENTLY ASKED THE BIRD TO STAND UP A BIT STRAIGHTER AND IT DID!
BUT THE GULL WASN’T OVERLY KEEN ON STANDING STILL FOR LONG. THE SUN WAS NOT VERY BRIGHT AT THIS TIME OF THE AFTERNOON.
IT PAUSED ONCE OR TWICE STARING OFF INTO THE DISTANCE WHILE ITS COMPANIONS STEADILY WALKED ALONG THE SEA WALL.
ANOTHER SEAGULL STOOD ON THE RAIN-POCKED SAND AND ASKED FOR A PHOTO SO I OBLIGED.
THEN IT TOO FLEW UP TO THE SEA WALL AND PONDERED ITS NEXT STEP. ¬†CAN YOU SEE THE TINY BIT OF BROWN ON ITS WING FEATHERS? THAT’S THE LAST OF ITS JUVENILE BROWN WING FEATHERS SOON TO DISAPPEAR.
A ROCK PIGEON FLEW UP ONTO THE WALL AND PROMPTLY CHASED IT AWAY, ACTUALLY, TOWARDS MY CAMERA.
THEN THEY BOTH TURNED AND STEADILY WALKED AFTER THEIR AVIAN COMPANIONS.
LOOKS LIKE THE OTHER GULLS ARE WAITING FOR THESE 2 TO CATCH UP WITH THEM.
THEN THEY ALL FLEW AWAY LEAVING THE OLD BARE WALL QUIET (UNTIL I THREW SOME MORE COLD CHIPS TOWARDS THE DISTANT BIRDS).

The sun had gone behind the clouds so I decided to head for home – only 5 minutes walk away.

Gosh, it must be truly lovely to live near the beach in the summer when there is no waiting for the sun to shine and the screech of gulls is joined by the shrieks and laughter of children and their families.

I wonder what the summer of 2020/2021 will bring this year (in times of so much uncertainty DownUnder)?

QUOTE OF THE WEEK (and some more of last week’s story)

it is a serious thing
just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in the broken world

Mary Oliver

You’re probably thinking I’ve gone on holiday, but no, here I am, back in my old apartment next to the Maribyrnong River and Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve.

Yesterday, this tiny female House Sparrow (above) reminded me of how lucky we are in Australia and how lucky I am to be content with the simple things in life.

2 apartment moves in 10 days was not easy for someone like me with a  heart condition, severe pain and other chronic health issues.   But I did it and it now seems like a distant dream (except for the packaging littering my lounge floor Рthe removalist company picked up the empty boxes yesterday).

My move to a south-western beachside suburb of Melbourne was a complete disaster healthwise and amidst a complete lockdown of suburban Melbourne due to a large cluster of COVID cases in several high-rise apartment blocks, I did some phoning and emailing and was lucky enough to just be able to move back into my old apartment block.

I had to move out of the new beachside ground floor apartment as quickly as possible.

 

Out of focus, but I like the shot anyway

It would have been almost impossible (without a car) and the current lockdown conditions to look elsewhere anyway.

I was welcomed back ‘with open arms’ by both the property agent and the landlord.¬† When I moved back in on Monday of this week, different tenants/friends I saw were so thrilled I was back. ¬†Seems my occasional chats in this building had endeared me to more than one person. ¬† I never realised how much I would be missed when ¬†I moved out which was a big surprise. ¬†A heart-warming spot in the day on Monday amidst the busyness of the removalists going back and forth making the pile of boxes higher and higher in my tiny studio-style modern apartment.

The first evening in my new seaside apartment, amidst a mound of boxes, I sat at my desk with 2 heaters on high, a coat…….and a woollen blanket around my knees. ¬† I have never, ever experienced such mind and body numbingly cold interior conditions.

Even waking up on the Swiss-Austrian border in 1976 with my tent covered in snow was ‘a walk in the park’¬†compared to the icy chill that pervaded my bones right to the core that first night (and the subsequent nights last week).

The musty smell in the 2 carpeted bedrooms, which the property agent had said would disappear once the long-empty apartment was thoroughly aired, made breathing difficult at night (for me). ¬† I have MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity)¬†among my long list of chronic health conditions and am allergic to mould (and damp?). ¬†I suspect the carpets, having been steam cleaned weeks before, had not dried properly in the midst of Melbourne’s cold winter nights.

I had opened all 3 doors and the rusty, stiff window chains the best I could, but the smell never really left in the whole 8 days I was there.

I need fresh air to be truly alive. ¬† I need to feel like I’m Living in Nature now I’m more housebound.

By the second night, my heartbeat seemed weak and erratic. ¬†(I also have intermittent SVT – Supraventricular Tachycardia – which can be a weird sensation when the heart starts beating very fast. ¬† It was diagnosed in 2007 & again in 2009, but seemed to resolve itself without drugs or a procedure to ‘zap’ the faulty electrical function in the heart muscle.

It reared its head last October when I was admitted to the Cardiology ward for 6 days with a mild heart attack, but again resolved itself naturally.   The fluttering sensation in my chest feels a little weird, but not as scary as a serious ongoing dramatically fast heartbeat experienced by some sufferers which requires treatment.

The tap water, of which I normally drink quite a lot, tasted disgusting and a faint chemical smell wafted to my overly sensitive nose each time I filled the water glass.   The lighting in the apartment, which I had expected to be fixed before my move-in, was obviously going to be a problem (even when it was fixed).

I need light.

I need warmth to help cushion my chronic pain and other symptoms.

There were other issues with the seaside apartment of course. ¬† I don’t make hasty decisions in retirement, especially not decisions that cost $$$. ¬† Last week was the most expensive ‘holiday‘ I’ve ever taken ¬† ūüėÄ ¬† My bank account is still grumbling to itself every time I check the balance each morning.

Besides, I missed the birdsong which I wake to every morning here.   And,  I would have got obscenely fat on the wonderful hot fish n chips in which I indulged last week.

Why does hot fish n chips taste much better down the seaside?

I go with the flow and live my life Mindfully each day. ¬† Enjoying the simple things and ‘stopping to smell the roses’, if not every day, then certainly each week at some time or other.

But my health comes first (in retirement). ¬† I can’t afford to get chilled in Winter (or over-heated in Summer) with a serious heart condition, which was upgraded from mild to severe last October.

So I’m now back online with 101 seagull images to share – well not quite 101, but I did take a lot of photos of them in the 3 wonderful short walks I did last week. ¬† They had to be short walks due to pain levels, but they were definitely ‘sweet’.

Oh, it was glorious to live beside the sea.   The smell of the sea air outdoors was a heady balm to my senses.   The screeching of the seagulls as they dived in when I threw my rapidly cooling chips in the air was really a delight. Twice, they even lined up on the old weathered pier edging waiting to pounce each time I lifted my arm.

But now I’m back home. ¬† There are still all the issues that made me leave this riverside multi-story building, but I’ll just have to overcome them and make this tiny apartment ‘work’.

The beachside apartment never felt like home.   It felt like an empty freezing cold concrete shell to me (that just happened to reside in a fantastic location near the sea and 3 nature reserves).   Anyway, at least I now know how to get there in the summer via a (long?) 2-bus trip if I wish to.

I have some ongoing health issues to investigate, but I’ll be back online more regularly soon.

I’ll leave you with some wonderful images of a mural that was visible down a tiny side lane in the main shopping area. ¬† I only had one camera over my shoulder – the Sony a6000 with its 55-210mm kit lens, so couldn’t fit the whole mural into the one shot.

 

THE PERFECT DAY (for photography)

It’s been raining on/off for a few days and today has dawned into the perfect photography day. ¬† (I might add the herbs and tomato plants in my Balcony Garden have got some new healthy leaves too).

Blue sky with a smattering of soft cloud cover and soft light. ¬† There’s barely a whisper of a breeze and I’m thinking I wish I still lived near the beach. ¬† If you’re Australian or have visited Australia for a holiday, you’ll know what I mean by the perfect day. ¬† Our sunlight in summer is harsh. ¬† Nothing like the soft light in central Europe or the U.K. in summer.

(I’ve never been to the U.S. or Canada so I can’t comment about their sunlight and I can’t remember what the light was like when I travelled for a short holiday in central Asia).

Reminds me of the perfect day down at St Kilda Beach & boat marina back on the 23rd August, 2015. ¬† This was a day I made lots of photos as the Winter light was so soft and I knew I’d get some ‘keepers’ (i.e. photos you keep and don’t delete).

One of my favourite images of all time. I love the way each person, couple or group is enjoying the day – each on their own – but all in the scene together.
I don’t think I’ve ever shared this shot before. It’s an old clock tower on the other side of the road. There is actually the main road behind this tower where the trams arrive from the city centre and the multi lane road leads on down to the rest of the bayside suburbs and beaches on Port Phillip Bay – the bay on which Melbourne is built at the northern end.
St Kilda is famous for its old bathing pavilion. There’s now a modern indoor swimming pool and some cafes and larger restaurants in the enormous building. This tower is just a small section of the building.

Regular followers will remember I’ve shared some of these images before, but this is (nearly) the whole series I took that day, so there may be some images you’ve never seen.

You can see I experimented with taking shots with minimal sky (emphasizing the foreground) and then the same scene with maximal sky (emphasizing the clouds and sky colour). ¬† Since I can rarely see in the LCD screen on the back of the camera, I usually have to wait until I get home and download the day’s shooting on the large 27″ screen to see what looks good and what doesn’t.

I never ever knew where to put the horizon in the images until I read a photography book that said you can put it anywhere in the frame you like, depending on whether you want to highlight the foreground, background or sky.   The Winter light in Melbourne is nearly always soft due to the cloud cover.

It was probably the last day I visited this bayside beach which lies so close to Melbourne city.   I could still get there via about 3 connecting buses/trams and a walk, but it would take ages and too expensive to just catch a taxi there and back.

I wish there were apartments I could afford back on that south-eastern side of Melbourne because while I can’t get out and about much for a nature walk these days, ¬†I could still visit these old photography haunts (Royal Botanic Gardens, St Kilda Beach, Brighton Beach, Melbourne Zoo, Port Melbourne Beach) easily if I had a car and could still drive.

So far, February, which is usually our hottest Summer month, has been relatively mild and the weather has included intermittent rain showers (and even heavy rainfalls) to help the firefighters still fighting the numerous large bushfires still burning (which will probably take months to burn themselves out).

Looking at next week’s weather forecast there is some rain still to come.

Looks like all the prayers for Australia from around the world are working.   Sad about the floods on the north-eastern coast where many places have had more rain in one day than in the usual whole summer month though.

But farmers are filled with joy after a 3-year drought in which there was no stock food even in the middle of Winter. ¬†The creeks (small rivers) and rivers had dried up, so I’m hoping they’re back running again.

A CHANGE IS AS GOOD AS A HOLIDAY

I figure its time for a change of subject matter as the sky is flawless with not a cloud in sight and I’m stuck at home listening to the construction crew across the road belting out nail gun ‘bullets’ at lightning-fast speed. ¬† The sound is getting a wee bit tedious and boring today, but far too sunny to close the sliding door out to the balcony.

I’ve had a constant stream of House Sparrows dropping in for a drink at my birdbath¬†on such a warm afternoon, but none staying long enough for a real¬†photoshoot.

Well…….maybe one or two……many of the avian visitors are slim and quite small so I can’t help but wonder if they’re this Spring’s House Sparrow offspring. ¬†The stripe behind the eye denotes a female, but as far as I can see all the young sparrows have this stripe. ¬† Makes me wonder at what stage¬†House Sparrows reach puberty and turn into little boy sparrows with their rust-coloured caps.

 

Time to raid the archives for some uplifting images of times past…..back to 2013…… down at Brighton Beach with its iconic colourful bathing boxes (in both Summer & Winter excursions). ¬† You don’t need me to point out which of the following was made in Summer and which images were made in Winter.

Enjoy the excursion, whatever the weather.

PACIFIC GULL (Larus pacificus)

Before I took up Photography as a hobby in 2010, a seagull was a seagull.

I never knew there 6-7 Gulls in Australia and certainly had never heard of a Pacific Gull (Larus pacificus).

 These gulls are large and have a very distinctive large yellow beak with a red tip.  When I first saw the juvenile brown gull, I thought it was a different species. The juveniles keep their grey-brown feathers and assume their adult plumage over 3-4 years.

The adults have bright yellow legs while the juveniles have more a dark pinkish grey leg colour. ¬†They’re widespread and common, but rarely far from the sea.

I’m glad I managed to capture photos of the Pacific Gull¬†(Larus pacificus)together with the common Silver Gull (Larus novaehollandiae),¬†so you can see the size comparison.

They’re quite common down at Port Melbourne beach at low tide where they search the tide line and seaweed for food, but I’ve also photographed them at St Kilda beach, the closest southern bay side beach to Melbourne City.

CRESTED TERN (Sterna bergii)

Now I live in the western suburbs of Melbourne, I’m not close to the bayside beaches to the south of Melbourne City – only a small western port beach (and that takes some time to get to¬†via 2 buses which run infrequently – miss one bus connection and you have to wait 40 minutes for the next bus).

I’ve spent a lot of time down the beach having fun photographing Silver and Pacific Gulls in the past.

In fact Silver Gulls frequent my current riverside home location too.

I love watching Seagulls in any shape or form.

They’re almost as much fun as watching the House Sparrows and Super Fairy-wrens on my apartment balcony.

While I’ve ¬†never visited coastal regions famous for their bird life since I took up Photography as a hobby in 2010, I did occasionally see a couple of Terns, (some of which are known more for their marshland habitat), down at the local beach.

WHISKERED TERN (Chlidonias hybridus)

I think this tern is the Crested Tern (Sterna bergii) now that I re-read my Australian Bird Guide book this morning.  Originally I thought it was a Whiskered Tern (Chilidonias hybrids).

But if you think I might have identified it incorrectly, please leave me a message in the comments section.  I only have these 2 photos.

There are several Terns that look very similar in Australia, but the Lesser Crested Tern¬†(Sterna bengalensis) which is a better match, (according to the Bird Guide book), with its long slender orange beak and black legs isn’t found this far south.

On the other hand the bird in the image above has a beak that looks more orange and the bird below has a yellow beak. Maybe it’s just the light. ¬† Or maybe, they are 2 different terns ūüôā

I think the flecked wing pattern below merely indicates it is a  juvenile (as is the case in juvenile Silver Gulls).

Bird identification is not as easy as you might think in Australia, what with cross-breeding (or hybrids) a possibility too.   It always pays to get photos from as many angles as possible in Bird Photography.

There are 18 Terns described in my Photographic Field Cuide – Birds in Australia by Jim Flegg.

This is an excellent Field Guide by the way and I can highly recommend it.