ROOM WITH A VIEW

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

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

The wren was approximately 3 feet from my head.

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

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

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

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

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

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Today dawned with another beautiful picture-perfect blue sky.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The scene will be absolutely spectacular.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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WAITING……….

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

Kazuaki Tanahashi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

And then……………………success!

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

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

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

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

THE DAY OF THE WIND

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

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

Where is the birdsong today?

Perhaps it is Resting in Silence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But still no birdsong.

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

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

A Break in Proceedings (and glasses)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope so.

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe a lesson to be learned.

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

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

Maybe I need to stop procrastinating and JUST DO IT.

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

……… and locations for Photography.

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

From the Archives……..

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

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

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii)

 

FINALLY………….SOME BETTER SHOTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hence me using a DSLR on the Day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then the birds flew away and my friends arrived.

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

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

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

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

MIDDAY VISITORS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FIRST FLIGHT???????

Oh my goodness!

I was beside myself with excitement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It opened its eyes and looked straight at me.

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

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

Brain Fog.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phew!

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

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

EARLY MORNING VISITORS

I am not a morning person.

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

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

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

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

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

I smiled rather weakly at the Obvious.

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

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

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

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

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

I know ‘squat‘ about trees.

Give me a bird to identify any day.

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

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

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

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

Duh!

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

Wake up I said for the umpteenth time.

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

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

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

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

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

I managed one more shot and then it flew away.

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

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

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

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

Rainbow Lorikeets are almost as common as Blackbirds.

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

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

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

From the Archives – 12th December 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

LUCKY SHOT!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Freckled Duck (Stictonetta naevosa)

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

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

Freckled Duck (Stictonetta naevosa)

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

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

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

Freckled Duck (Stictonetta naevosa)

 

 

PATIENCE

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

Kazuaki Tanahashi

I have an extraordinary amount of patience.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The wren moved up to the top of the tree.

This would be about 10 feet from my standing position.

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

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

…..and then, success.

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

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

The bees will certainly be in the area.

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

BUFF-BANDED RAIL (Gallirallus philippensis) – MELBOURNE ZOO

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

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

The shots I consider pretty ordinary.

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

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

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

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

I rarely used the front entrance of the zoo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BIRD LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

They often do it.

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

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

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

ON THE FARM – COUNTRY VICTORIA

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

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

 

 

NYMPHAEA LAKE – Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

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

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

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

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

WATER LILY (Nymphaea)

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

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

WATER LILY (Nymphaea)

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

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

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

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

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

I THNK ‘GEORGE’ IS GEORGINA!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An early photo of that lovely pink daisy.

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

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

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

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

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

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A QUICK WALK……..THERE & BACK

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

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

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

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

Rain again today, but there still may be time for a ‘quick’ walk 🙂

COMMON STARLING – juvenile – (Sturnus vulgaris)

Soon after I posted the mystery bird image yesterday and we concluded it was a Grey Shrike-thrush, another new bird landed on my balcony rail.

UPDATE (12th Nov) – It appears that this is a juvenile Common Starling.

Very similar to the Grey Shrike-Thrush but plainer and more brown (depending on the white balance of my camera of course).  I managed to get 2 clear shots with the Sony ‘mirrorless’ and quickly dropped the camera and picked up the heavy Canon DSLR & 150-500mm lens, but couldn’t hold it as steady and the 2 images I shot, before it flew off,  weren’t as sharply focused (below).

As the bird stayed such a short time, no more shots were to be had and neither new bird was seen again yesterday.  As with many once-off bird shots, there is no time to compose or get the ideal angle or even, camera setting.

 

“Put a sock in it, George”

I love listening to the Birds singing.

I love to hear the Joy in their Hearts.

I love to see them drinking from my bird bath.

George, the House Sparrow, clearly visible above the blur of my computer screen.

But if George (the male House Sparrow), doesn’t put a sock in his mouth and stop his incessant tweeting this morning, I’m going to throw a sock at him.

(Just joking.  Now the intercom repairman has left, I’m going for a walk).

A young female House Sparrow – Georgina, perhaps?

Georgina, the female House Sparrow, after drinking from my water dish, flies over the balcony fence and drops down to the apartment below mine to peck at their succulents.

……as to George.

If he thinks I can’t see him hiding in the young Eucalyptus next to my balcony, he’s very much mistaken.

The images below are a good example of how changing the 9 focus points in my Canon DSLR to 1  point and carefully pointing it through the breeze-shifting foliage can photograph a bird on autofocus, where my Sony a6000 on the S (small) Flexible Spot can’t (do this).

When I was in the city centre on Wednesday, I had to drop in to the Camera Store to buy another rubber eyepiece for my Sony a6000 (which I lost last week).  I mentioned this ‘failing‘ to the Staff member and he was surprised that I couldn’t get a bird in focus with my Sony ‘mirrorless’ on S (small)- Flexible Spot through very thick foliage.  I explained to him that the Flexible Spot setting was a small square (not a dot like a DSLR) and the edge of the square kept autofocusing on the surrounding leaves, not the bird’s face.  He suggested I try manually focusing, but I explained that I can’t see enough with my thick glasses and had to rely on Autofocus for photography 🙂

I should have given the Sales Assistant (an expert photographer, as are all the Sales Assistants in Michaels Camera Store) an example.

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Some more daily happenings in my balcony potted garden……..

I’ve had babies……..from both my 3 tomato plants and my single blueberry bush.  Looks like Santa is bringing me home-grown tomatoes for Christmas and some home-grown blueberries to have for breakfast.  There are actually dozens of tiny thumb-nail sized tomatoes on the 3 plants – hope they don’t all ripen at once 🙂

My brother warned me last Summer about all the birds eating them, but I had no trouble from the Avian species at all.

A clump out of the many on the Blueberry bush.

After a Winter of toadstools growing in the potting soil and all the leaves going yellow with black spots (which I kept pulling off the plant), my pink geranium has lots of new leaves and a lovely display of fresh flowers.  If I didn’t know better, I’d say my Guardian, (read Gardening), Angel is looking over my balcony garden, as I’ve never really had a ‘green thumb’ per se, just followed the Water, Sun, Food …….and lots of TLC (Tender Loving Care) way of growing potted plants on an urban balcony.

The Blue Bacopa was looking a little ‘battle-weary’ from the strong winds so I put it back on the ground, instead of higher up, and the flowers have freshened up.  So it’s been in bloom 375 days in a row, now.  (so has the pink daisy).  I know I’ve mentioned the flower bloom longevity a few posts ago, but its true.  These couple of flowering plants have bloomed for the longest I’ve ever known any plant to.  A horticultural friend of my brother said she had never been able to grow a Becopa plant!

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PS.  Now I’m REALLY, REALLY excited (but now, will I ever get out the door for a walk?).

A male Splendid Fairy-Wren just visited my balcony garden.  I managed to grab my Sony a6000 and fire off 2 shots before it flew away.

 

GREY SHRIKE-THRUSH (Colluricincla harmonica)

In regards to the new bird mentioned in the previous post, John from Paolsoren, mentioned a Grey Shrike-thrush as a possibility.

I think he may be right and its just that I can’t see the true colour of my mystery avian visitor due to the bright sunlight on my balcony.

Here’s the only image I’ve got of that particular Shrike-Thrush (made over near Dights Falls in Abbotsford) where I lived prior to this current apartment.

The image above was sharp enough to crop it down to……

…….and here’s yesterday’s image again….

What bird is that?

A new bird,  (to me), landed on my balcony rail about an hour ago and this time……….I managed to get a quick shot (before it flew away) – obviously a good bird spotting day to stay at home in this lovely warm Spring sunshine.

I’ve pored over my Bird Guide book and a pdf of local birds trying to identify it.

It was facing into the bright sunlight coming from the upper western sky, so the head and neck were slightly over-exposed (which I tried to remedy with increasing the mid-tones in editing).

From this angle, the long beak looked straight (which suggests its not a honeyeater, which has a curved beak).  Otherwise it looks a bit like a faded version of a Brown Honeyeater in my Guide book which is normally found in western, northern and north-eastern Australia.

Any Bird-lovers out there in Melbourne who could ID it and let me know in the comments section would be greatly appreciated.  Keep in mind that the straight beak could merely be the angle of the shot.  I can’t see any neck markings or eye details so that makes identification hard.  It was about the size of a starling or honeyeater, greyish with olive? wing feathers.

Thrill of the Year

I’d just sat down at my desk with my morning coffee to read my emails when………. I was surprised to see a Red Wattlebird (Anthochaere carunculata) land on the old trolley table I use for potting on my balcony.  It landed on the right hand curved handle in the lower right edge of image below.

FOR THE BENEFIT OF NEW FOLLOWERS…..My desk sits in front of my apartment floor-to-ceiling windows.  I like watching the House Sparrows land on my balcony or drink from my bird bath, let alone keep an eye on my flowers and herbs growing in pots.  It’s like sitting in a garden every day when I’m at home.  I’d only brought the blue trolley indoors yesterday to wash all the shelves and remove the spider webs and dead leaves that had accumulated over Winter. I also have trees growing in front of my balcony and on the other side of the road.

My west-facing balcony is in shadow in the mornings up until midday, or early afternoon, depending on the season. Regular followers can see how tall my tomato plants are in the top left of the image. You might also notice my pink daisy and blue Bacopa (centre of image) are STILL flowering (since I planted them in November 2016). This means they’re been in flower every day for 370 days.  I had to prune the daisy right back to half its size though.  It had some broken branches from the fierce winds that roar down my road and over my balcony railing.

This was about 2 feet from the back of my computer screen.  I’ve never seen one around the apartments in my road before, let alone land on my balcony.

And I’m sure you know what I’m going to say…….

I put my cameras away last night after I arrived home from a dental appointment in Melbourne’s CBD.

I missed the Shot of the Year this morning!

But, I certainly got the Thrill of the Year 🙂

A Red Wattlebird has distinctive reddish/pink ‘wattles’, (or earrings I like to call them), and yellow belly, whereas a Little Wattlebird is plain.

Here’s an image I took in June last year when I lived on the north-east side of Melbourne to show you which bird I’m talking about.

They’re quite a large bird compared to my regular visiting House Sparrows.

Needless to say, I’ve just got my camera out of its bag and put it back on my desk and set it on Shutter Priority (just in case the Wattlebird comes back) 🙂

Here’s another shot, (with a branch in the way, so not considered a ‘good’ shot), taken in Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve behind my apartment block.

When I started this blog and named it Living in Nature,  it was because, by sheer good luck, my last 3 apartment rentals have had balconies to grow herbs and flowers and I’ve lived next to the Royal Botanic Gardens to the south-east of Melbourne city, the Yarra River walking trails  to the north-east, or now, next to Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve and 400 hectares of parkland along the nearby Maribyrnong River.

If you’ve got to live in a city or urban area, I must be one of the luckiest people around.

Affordable rental properties are extremely hard to find in Melbourne and the inner suburbs.

WHITE-FACED HERON (Egretta novaehollandiae) – Newells Paddock Nature Reserve & Conservation Area

Although I didn’t have my long 150-500mm lens on my nature walk in Newells Paddock Nature Reserve last week, a White-Faced Heron stepped from behind a small seedling protective plastic ‘tent’ very close to me as I walked along the high path overlooking the main pond area.  The rise in the path is next to the fenced-off verge near the train line.

I love watching these Herons and often see one near my home (next to Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve).  I’ve even managed to photograph one of these beautiful soft blue/grey herons with a lizard (or goanna) in its mouth twice. Once next to the river 10 minutes walk from my apartment and once down at Jawbone Arboretum, Nature reserve and Marine Sanctuary in Williamstown.

White -Faced Heron at Jawbone Arboretum, Williamstown

Last Thursday, I managed to very, very slowly step towards this heron until I was about 15 feet away before the bird flew off as a runner came up the path behind me and frightened it.

The Heron watched me out of the corner of its eye as I moved closer to it, but seemed relatively passive and calm until the noise and movement of the runner (on her regular exercise route).

Here’s a better shot of this bird which I made when I lived on the north-east side of Melbourne next to the Yarra River (below).  Sometimes an overcast day with plenty of light is better than a sunny day for bird photography.

….and fishing in Pipemakers Park pond late one afternoon (about 10 mins walk from my current home).

and down on the Maribyrnong River (below).

….and even……in The Great Aviary at Melbourne Zoo some years ago (below)

Before I saw these soft blue/grey herons in the western suburbs, Nankeen Night Herons with their soft grey/blue caps and salmon pink feathers used to be my favourite and most often observed Heron.

Of course there are other herons in Australia, including the Pied Heron (below).

But the White-faced Heron is fast becoming my favourite on this side of Melbourne.

I must say Herons are a lot easier to photograph as they’re out in the open (compared to smaller native birds in the tree tops these days).

Hence the numerous images in my photo library 🙂

JAWBONE FLORA AND FAUNA RESERVE (and Marine Sanctuary) – WILLIAMSTOWN

Yesterday was one of those days when you’re not quite sure if its going to be bright/sunny, rain, storm or just plain…..windy (like it is 360 days of the year in Melbourne).

Actually, the wind wasn’t too bad at all.

I even captured an Australian Pelican in flight – a first for me.
A distant Australian Pelican spreads its wings

I set off around midday with only one Canon DSLR & short (17-50mm) lens for potential flower photography and my Sony ‘mirrorless’ and 55-210mm lens for some ‘close-up’ bird photography.

After seeing some of those gorgeous pink/mauve coloured flowers along the Maribyrnong River last week, I was sure to see a bed of these succulent flowers in the Flora reserve on yesterday’s walk (I thought).

The heavy long ‘birding’ telephoto 150-500mm lens stayed at home.

I had this idea of doing the full coastal walk from the bus stop near Williamstown beach (lower right hand corner of the map) right up to the Koroit Creek (upper left hand corner of the map), along the Lakes system on the coast.  I planned to walk right next to the lake bank wherever possible, maybe explore the Flora on the strip of land between the Lakes System and Port Phillip Bay and then cut down a side residential road to where I hoped to pick up a bus (#415) back to the regular bus route (#472) heading towards home.

The dotted line marks my route along yesterday’s walk. Not that far as the crow flies, but as I stop regularly to take photos, the walk lengthens in duration accordingly

As it turned out, overcast conditions and ominous cloud cover spread over the sky about 75% along the walk and I decided to call it quits for the day (and finish the coastal walk another time).  I’m thinking that now I know the #415 bus goes all the way along the main road (top of map), next visit I’ll start from the top left point, heading south-east down to Williamstown beach (and hot Fish-n-Chips afternoon tea) and  have the sun behind me for better images ……(I hope).

Two-thirds of the way along yesterday’s walk, when I wanted to cross over to the reserve area between the lakes and Port Phillip Bay, I was brought to an abrupt (and disappointing) halt due to a locked chain-wire gate and fencing.

So I ended up just walking along the lake bank (with most of the flora and bird-life out of range).

Here you can see 3 Pied (or Little Pied) Cormorants on rocks at the edge of the island in one of the lakes. Far into the distance you can see the industrial area of Altona.
This was the closest I got to bird life with a group of Silver Gulls washing their feathers on the lake bank.
As you can see from this image, I didn’t have a hope of capturing much of the bird life on the islands due to the distance (and no long telephoto lens).

Still, it was a very enjoyable afternoon and a fine break from putting my Mother’s 30 years of family history research on to the computer.

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At the moment, I’m slowly working my way through transferring the whaling diary of my Great Great Grandfather’s brother (which is absolutely fascinating), on to the computer.  But its slow work as the Auto Spell-check keeps changing the words I’m typing into modern spelling OR, a completely un-related word, (when the auto spell-check can’t understand the old fashioned term).  I’ve only typed 6 pages (out of 57 foolscap-sized ones and set up a private Website for family so far) and can see I’ll have to re-read my typing many times to ensure I have captured  the original story with all its quirky expressions and old-fashioned manner of speech.

I’m sure you can appreciate how my new(ish) Hobby of transferring this work to computer is going to take some time over the next year.  Inserting maps, photos and images of the 1800s which my Mother collected will also add to the task.  One lever arch file 3″ thick with notes, research and typing will take me quite some time to transcribe.

But, I’m sure it will be worth it, when the whole family and extended family has the opportunity to read My Mother’s Story (which she spent 30 years researching and writing).

 

RED WATTLEBIRD (Anthochaera carunculata) – Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve

The image below was a lucky shot on yesterday’s walk.  Most of the birds I saw – cormorants, grebes, ducks and moorhens were too far away for my Sony ‘mirrorless’.  I didn’t take my long 150-500 lens with me as I was going to the Pharmacy and Supermarket (the long route).

I didn’t go in to Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve, but made the image (above) from the gravel path which goes from my apartment block down to the river.  With the sky overcast, there wasn’t that much light looking north-west and to he honest, I’m surprised the bird shot came out at all.

I am standing on the 6-7 foot high raised gravel path looking over the chain-wire fence into Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve in this shot (above).  As you can see by the sky and water colour, there was not a lot of light for photography.  Lovely cool wind and from time to time, the sun peeped from behind the cloud cover as though it was afraid to come out in full (to make my walk too hot).

I’ve missed some lovely sunny days recently as I had stayed home to start my new project – putting my Mother’s family history research onto the computer for family and extended family to read.  I’ve been meaning to start this project for about 3-4 years and finally………..got it going.  It’ll be a new hobby for the days I’m stuck at home through either, inclement weather, or, when my back pain levels keep me housebound.

Just got to take regular breaks at the moment, as continually hitting the space bar on my keyboard with my injured thumb inevitably makes it sore after a while.

Yesterday, it was not supposed to rain until evening, but I was chased by ominous looking cloud cover as I slowly walked down-river (towards the south?).

I saw lots of lovely pink flowers on the succulents that grow next to the rocky river banks in this area, so I’m keen to go back to Newells Paddock Nature Reserve (located further down-river) on the next sunny day to see if the whole pond surrounds are covered in pink flowers.

I can’t quite remember if the ground cover at Newells Paddock was the same succulent that is growing along my area of the Maribyrnong River though.

Here’s a repeat of the Newells Paddock Nature Reserve and Conservationa Area to remind you of which Nature Reserve I’m referring to.  All that bright green colour in the images below are spongy succulents  The whole half of the second- last image (with the dead tree trunk) is 2-3″ deep.  Wouldn’t it be a wonderful sight if it was all in flower 🙂

Rain most of today according to the forecast so it looks like a stay-at-home day.

Changing of the Seasons

Sometimes when I walk along the Maribyrnong River path, I think I’ll never find something new to photograph and share online.

At a glance one might think that there’s never anything much happening, (compared to the many other locations I photographed when living on the south-eastern side of Melbourne city 3 years ago).

Yesterday was hot, (as is today), but my walk revealed plenty of new sights with the changing of the Seasons.  It’s the small details that I seem to notice most.  So when you cast your eyes over some ordinary green space in a residential area, it’s worth walking slowly and looking down towards your feet every now and then.

While I can no longer bend down low, or kneel to photograph ground cover up close, I managed to do well enough by using a telephoto lens and standing a bit further back and zooming in close.

MARIBYRNONG WETLANDS

“When you live in the moment, you are always on time” 

Dave Rauschkolb

Plenty of bird life and water in the Maribyrnong Wetlands yesterday – mainly seagulls enjoying a bath and a good feather wash.

A couple of Pacific Black Ducks and what I think was a young Grey Teal paddled in and out of the water reeds too.

I have a bit of trouble identifying Grey Teals from female Chestnut Teals from a distance, but my Bird Guide says the Grey Teals have lighter neck feathers and a slate grey beak, compared to the female Chestnut Teals, (which are also slightly larger).  I did see a male Chestnut Teal with its glossy green head and russet brown chest feathers, but it was too far away to photograph.

This particular section of water dries up completely by the end of the summer, whereas the pond on the other side of the island has plenty of water all through the hot months.

The best way to time my walk is so that I end up at the deep Maribyrnong Wetlands Pond (or Bunyap Park pond – name varies on the signposts) at the golden hour – it really is a pretty place to watch the bird life with the dying sun reflecting off the water as you can see by the images below which I made back in June.

The Ducks below are Khaki Campbell Ducks.

Had to believe this is all on a causeway of land connected to an ordinary residential road with a row of townhouses on the other side.  The images below were made in Winter.

If one looks to the right of the images above (not shown), one can see the residential area (below) and in the centre of the frame, the bus stop where I usually catch a bus most of the way home so I can stop at the local pharmacy.  I’d much rather walk the long way along the scenic river path, than the short 10 minute walk to the shops along the busy, mostly boring main road.

(Probably full of petrol fumes and traffic noise too).

Even when I had a car pre November 2003, I always took the long scenic route going anywhere in my daily life.

Now, with no car, I still follow the same routine.

AUSTRALASIAN GREBE (Tachybaptus novaehollandiae)

I often see Grebes in the centre of the Maribyrnong River near my home.  I might add, this river is fairly wide so I need the birds to swim over to my side of the river to be easily identified.

Unfortunately, even with my 150-500mm lens I can never get close enough to really make them large within a photo frame to share online, but I still photograph them as I love the challenge of trying to get them in focus in a hand-held shot with this heavy lens.

2 days ago, I spotted an Australasian Grebe in the pond near Pipemakers Park, whereas the Grebes in the centre of the river have been Hoary-headed Grebes (Poliocephalus poliocephalus).  There is also the Great Crested Grebe but I’ve never seen one of these.

I might have done better if I’d had a tripod for the shot below as the bird was fairly stationary enjoying the late afternoon sunshine for quite some time before it dived underwater.

Note: I had the same problem when I lived and photographed these small, dumpy-looking birds in/near the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne.  

This is the best shot I’ve made showing the bird’s feather colouring (so far)

I still live in hope that one day I’ll get a close-up.  In the meantime here’s a small selection of my attempts so far in my western suburb of Maribyrnong.

These Grebes, (and there 3 different ones in Australia that I know of), are one example of how hard Bird Photography can be, as the small birds dive frequently and I’ve ended up with more images of rippling water and no bird, than many other species I’ve photographed over the years.

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RED-RUMPED PARROT (Psephotus haematonotus) – male – Pipemakers Park

I was so busy observing a couple of these male parrots yesterday, hoping they would hop out into the sun (that moment when the sun reflects in a bird’s eye making a good photo), I didn’t realise several birds were gradually working their way towards my back.

Over the years, I have learned to move very slowly and wear black, or very dark, colours when out on a bird Photography field trip, so as I turned (to walk up to the Pipemakers Park historic garden), I was able to catch a couple of males from about 7-8 feet away.

I never did catch a shot of this species with the spot of sunlight on their eye yesterday.

For the first time ever, the males were on their own, grazing in the flat newly mown field between Pipemakers Park and Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve.  I’ve only ever seen couples grazing – with the plainer olive-coloured female being a little harder to see in this location.  They were only grazing in the deep shade of some Eucalyptus trees so I’ve lightened these images so you can see them a bit better.

I naturally assume the females were at home sitting on nests?

…..and for those new to my Nature Blog, here’s a couple of old images made when I lived on the north-eastern side of Melbourne in Abbotsford (next to the Yarra River).

Different light and different camera as you can see. I seem to remember they were grazing in the sun on this particular day, not shade.

Female RED-RUMPED PARROT
male RED-RUMPED PARROT

…..and the first time I ever saw these lovely Parrots was in the Royal Botanic Gardens in 2012 – in the shade of a few old trees on the western side of the large Ornamental Lake.

Red-rumped Parrot (Psephotus haematonotus)

There are actually 5-6 Australian Parrots that are fairly similar in feather colour, but this Red-rumped variety have a lovely warbling song – unusual for parrots.

THERE’S A BIRD IN THERE – Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve

ORIGINAL IMAGE MADE OVER THE FENCE LINE ON THE EDGE OF FROGS HOLLOW NATURE RESERVE

I took a random shot of some movement in the deep shade of a tree in Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve on the way home this afternoon.  I’d been over to Pipemakers Park to do an hour of ‘lazy’ weeding in the ruined garden and was absolutely exhausted.  Note: Lazy weeding means standing up in front of a waist high concrete pipe which has weeds growing in it and where I don’t have to bend.

I’VE BEEN WORKING ON WEEDING THE WAIST-HIGH PIPES WHICH HAVE TREES GROWING FROM THE CENTRE shown on the far left and far right of this image’s frame.. 

Anyway, imagine my surprise when I cropped down the first image in this post by about 85% and lightened the shadows and found a New Holland Honeyeater (Phylidonyris novaehollandiae).  Not bad for a random shot where you can’t see the bird clearly.

Over at Pipemakers Park, the Tuesday morning volunteering Gardening Group have made some amazing progress with weeding, planting some hardy Lavenders and Salvias and mulching.  Unfortunately, I noticed a couple of small Lavender bushes and a succulent had been stolen from the Herb Garden area (in the centre of the image below).  What a shame.

But there’s still a lot to be done.

Spring! Spring! SPRING!!!!!

Yes, I thought the Title would get your attention.

Today was a perfect Spring day and after my last feeble walking effort down in Williamstown and Jawbone Arboretum, and exhaustion later that evening, I decided to stick close to home base.   I made do with a mini walk outdoors and thought I’d see how I felt.  I’m a little embarrassed to say that at the present time, I actually feel UNFIT! (note the capital letters 🙂 )………..for the first time in years.  I always have to walk slowly, but I used to walk for 3-5 hours a few years ago.  Now I seem to be restricted to short walks of 1-2 hours only.

So a quick walk around the perimeter of Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve, across a grass-covered area where the Red-rumped Parrots and Splendid Fairy-wrens graze, and then, Pipemakers Park.

The sun was glorious and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute outdoors.  In fact I only came home from the Historic garden ruins early (10 min brisk walk if one takes the short cut), because my water bottle was empty and my hands filthy from pulling a few weeds in one of the outer garden beds.  I only had my lightweight Sony a6000 camera and 55-210 lens, no gardening tools or hand wipes.

I almost…….got……hot 🙂

And wouldn’t you know it – I saw so many birds.  The variety of bird song was amazing, so I guess the avian life made the best of the Spring day also.  I did see some Red-browed Finches, but without a long telephoto lens, I just had to restrict myself to photographing flowers for the most, (or trying to – it was still a wee bit windy and I take better flower shots with my Canon DSLR to be honest).

The Tuesday morning gardening group have done a massive amount of work, but there’s still a lot more to be done.  After a chat with an old acquaintance from previous walks in the area and a few quick flower shots, I couldn’t resist pulling a few weeds……..which grew into quite a sizeable pile.  I didn’t have my hand gardening tools, or a rubbish bag, so left the weed pile for the Park Ranger and Tuesday Morning Volunteer Gardening group to dispose of.  I took a few more shots and then came home as I was so thirsty (and no matter how much you squeeze an empty drink bottle, it’s impossible to produce a single drop 🙂 )

NOTE: I could have looked up all these flower names in my Plant Encyclopaedias but I decided a guess would do for tonight.  Gone are the days living near the Royal Botanic Gardens when I wouldn’t dare upload a flower image without an accurate identification – Common & Botanical name.