NANKEEN NIGHT HERON (Nycticorax caledonicus)

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

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

I’d never seen one before.

A juvenile NANKEEN NIGHT HERON – Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope you enjoyed them 🙂

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THIRST

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

Carlos Ruiz Zafón

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

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

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

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

Maybe tomorrow ?………………… 😥

GOOD NEWS & BAD NEWS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

BIRDS AND THE HEAT

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

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

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

Phew!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BLACK-NECKED STORK (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus)

BLACK-NECKED STORK (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus)

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

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

BLACK-NECKED STORK (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus)

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

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

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

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

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

It was well worth seeing 🙂

 

COCKS COMB CORAL TREE (Erythrina crista-galli)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LITTLE PIED CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax melanoleucos)

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

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

The white face extends above the eye.

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

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

GREAT CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax carbo)

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

To me, a Cormorant is a Cormorant.

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

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

These birds are large.

Very large.

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

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

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

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

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

Melbourne Zoo is open 365 days of the year.

WHITE-FACED HERON (Egretta novaehollandiae)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHITE-FACED HERON (Egretta novaehollandiae)

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

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

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

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

 

BUFF-BANDED RAIL (Gallirallus philippensis)

I’ve never seen a Buff-banded Rail, (or any other Rail for that matter), in the wild, but viewing it in The Great Aviary at Melbourne Zoo reveals it might be hard to see in long grass anyway.

It looks similar (to me) to the Lewin’s Rail (Rallus pectorals) in my Photographic Field Guide Birds in Australia (by Jim Flegg), but the Lewin’s Rail seems to have a longer beak.  I do so hope I’ve got the identification of the bird in this post, correct.

This bird is found locally in Newells Paddock Nature Reserve, only a bus/walk away from my home, so hopefully, when I get back to nature walks, I’ll have an opportunity to search for it.

In the meantime, here’s a few old images from the zoo made 4-5 years ago.

Buff-Banded Rail (Gallirallus philippensis)

It’s a medium-large Rail with a distinctive white head (ehrrrrr…..in most of my shots it looks brown 🙂 ), stout sharp brownish beak, dark crowns, prominent white supercilious over chestnut cheeks, and grey throat.

It rarely flies and has long grey legs.  These images were made from an overhead boardwalk in the Aviary which is about 15 feet above the ground, so most images were made from that angle/height.

This bird is mostly active at dusk and I’ve seen it only rarely on my many zoo visits in the past.  I suspect this is partly due to its excellent camouflage (as much as my zoo visits were during early afternoon).

Found in many of the coastal areas of Australia, apparently it squeaks, clicks, croaks and has a raucous bray – not like my usual local bird life who bring sweet music to my ears regularly each day now, with the Superb Fairy-wren having the cutest song in the cooler mornings.

Of course we’re in to Summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

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

My days seem so busy with health matters in recent months, I haven’t had much time to devote to my blog(s) and Photography, but then I was trying to reduce my computer time anyway.

I’ve downsized my balcony garden (and not replaced my much-used herbs and other green veggies in anticipation of surgery and not being able to water the garden) – the garden was getting too big anyway.  I’ll replant and redesign next Spring. I had to re-arrange several pieces of furniture in my tiny studio-style apartment yesterday and today, (to allow a tradesman with a ladder to measure & quote for window UV film next week), and a host of Spring cleaning tasks I don’t normally do.

I did a massive cleanup of the bird poop on my balcony which I had neglected.  Had to rearrange some kitchen cupboard contents as it’s too painful to twist at the moment.  We had a dust storm in Melbourne  last week, and dust has got into the most surprising of places indoors, necessitating extra housework too.

Melbourne’s weather is predictably UN-predictable and who knows whether it will be hot or cold for Christmas/New Year.

Gosh, it might even snow as it did in August 1849, July 1882 and 1951, OR a tornado (like February 1918) or other freaks storms as in February 2005.  I think the whole world’s weather patterns have been extreme to say the least. 

In the meantime, it’s still mainly images from my archives that you’ll see on my nature blog.

Bird images are the easiest as they are well filed in my old iPhoto library.  Flowers a little less so.  But each time I view the old photo folders I do a tiny bit of culling, re-editing and re-filing, so it has been a useful exercise.

PURPLE SWAMPHEN (Porphyrio porphyrio)

In the 2 years I’ve lived in this western suburb of Melbourne, there are certainly many native birds which I’ve seen before……mainly the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, but also The Great Aviary at Melbourne Zoo and down at the local bayside beaches within public transport distance of the city centre.

The Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio) is one of them.

There are usually 4-5 Swamphens grazing on the low-lying field behind my apartment building.

Looking across the field to the walking path and Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve in the background.
Looking over the low-lying field on the right-hand side of the path leading down to the river – 2016

The field is about the size of a soccer field and is much lower than the path leading down to the river, so one imagines it might flood if the river burst its banks and flooded the area as it did in….

“Since 1871 there have been 27 recorded floods in the Maribyrnong area, with large floods occurring approximately every 10-20 years. The highest recorded flood affecting the Maribyrnong floodplain was in September 1906, and the next known highest was in May 1974″.

Not sure, but I seem to remember the area further along the river flooded in 2011 (but don’t quote me on that).

The 2 lakes, Nymphaea Lake and the large Ornamental Lake in the Royal Botanic Gardens are home to many Purple Swamphens and I was lucky enough to see one tiny chick struggling onto a floating island in the Botanic Gardens only a  few years ago.  I’ve made a number of images in the early years of my Photography hobby of these birds and you can usually get quite close to them in the RBG.

I can only get as close as about 20 feet in my own ‘backyard’.  They are not as used to humans in this area.

But the first time I saw one was a juvenile in April 2011.

Purple Swamphen (juvenile)
A purple Swamphen in a golden Wattle at Ringwood Lake in the outer eastern suburbs where I was born and grew up.

 

KHAKI CAMPBELL DUCK (Anas platyrhynchos domesticus)

Flowing on from the previous post of last Wednesday’s walk around the pond at Edgewater/Maribyrnong Wetlands, I thought to share a few more images of the pair of Khaki Campbell ducks that live in the area.

I have to be honest and say I’d never heard of these domestic ducks and it took me a while to put name to bird when I first saw them in January, 2017.  They have that heavy dabbling beak like our Northern, or Australasian, Shoveler.

They come in 3 colour varieties: khaki, dark and white.  They are a cross between Mallard, Rouen and Runner ducks.  The male (drake) Khaki Campbell is mostly khaki coloured with a darker head usually olive green.

They’re supposed to be gentle, passive and a very friendly breed when raised by hand and since spotting them, I often wonder where the local pair came from – pets, country farm or the wild (descended from some ducks bought out by some English migrants to the area in the 20th century.

After all they come from Gloucestershire in England.

APOLOGIES….

I’m way behind with Blog Reading and replying to some comments, so apologies to everyone concerned.

Sometimes, when life gets busy, you just have to accept your failings and move on……

Here’s a few quick shots of that male Superb Fairy-wren from Tuesday.  I think I had the sliding door open for the first 2 shots and the other 3 were through the dirty windows so they look a bit faded.  I don’t see these wrens  often now.  Maybe they’re nesting and got little ones to feed, or maybe, they’re fed up with finding no food in my much-reduced balcony garden?

So here’s a series of images so you can follow them around my garden like I do.  They’re such fun to watch.  It’s always a challenge to capture these fast-moving little wrens within the frame, but it’s always fun trying.

Anyway, Tuesday’s sighting was a rare one in recent weeks.  I think they visit me, take a stroll around the remaining potted plants and then drop down to the grey concrete tiles where they used to find scattered seed, then up to the fence railing, drop down to the apartment below mine, find nothing there and……………fly back to the hedge on the other side of the road.

That seems to be the routine.

I’m thinking that my Sony a6000 might need cleaning and servicing.  Yesterday’s shots at the pond in the Wetlands look a little odd.  Or maybe it was just the gusty winds that tried to blow me over and I wasn’t holding the camera still enough.  I’ve lost the rubber eyepiece for the 3rd time, and without it, my glasses are getting scratched too.

After visiting the local Pharmacy yesterday, despite ominous cloud cover, I walked over to the bus stop to check when the next bus would arrive heading down to the Maribyrnong/Edgewater/Bunyap park/wetlands (I wish they’d make up their minds out of the 3 names they’ve got on the signs around the pond).

One sign would be more than adequate.  I used to walk along the river path from home to visit this wetlands and pond, but of course, walking this far is out of the question at the moment.

A few rain drops fell but I decided to……….wait for the next post to tell you about it 😀

RED WATTLEBIRD (Anthochaera carunculata)

I’d just made my morning coffee and sat down at my desk in front of the floor-to-ceiling lounge windows to read my overnight emails, when I caught a sudden movement out of the corner of my eye.

I turned my head and picked up my Sony ‘mirrorless’ camera which I’d just removed from it’s ‘sleeping bag’, but my movement must have startled the bird through the window (which is very dirty from recent rains), and it flew away before I had a chance to take a shot.

I uttered a word not so polite for a little old(er) lady – $%@#! – missed the shot! 😀

It was a Red Wattlebird (Anthochaera carunculata) and while I’d seen these honeyeaters on the hedge over the road a few times in the last couple of months, this was the first time one had landed on my balcony fence rail.

Of course it may have visited my balcony garden one day when I was out, but since I’m pretty much housebound most days now, I am still aware of the avian visitors due to their distinctive calls, even if I don’t actually catch sight of them.

NOT REALLY A GOOD SHOT PER SE, BUT THIS IMAGE WAS MADE LATE ONE AFTERNOON IN FROGS HOLLOW NATURE RESERVE (LOCATED BEHIND MY CURRENT APARTMENT BUILDING)

Talk about thrill of the year.

I never cease to be amazed at the variety of birds which visit my balcony or the (3) hedges across the road.  Many of which make such brief visits I don’t have time to take the lens cap off one of my cameras and capture them in an image to share with you.  (Or maybe my cameras are still in their overnight sleeping bags and I haven’t set them up on my desk for the day).

Sometimes I feel as though I haven’t seen a bird all week, but that would be a lie as the House Sparrows visit the bird bath regularly nearly every day and I’m still getting the occasional sighting of a male Superb Fairy-wren with it lovely blue head and upper back. I photographed one only yesterday, but I won’t bore you with more shots of the Fairy-wrens as I’ve already shared so many.   Haven’t seen a female Superb Fairy-wren for several weeks, so they may be nest-sitting?

Anyway, I haven’t seen a Red Wattlebird this close-up for about 5 years (when one landed at my feet on the paving stones next to the pond in the Fitzroy Gardens in East Melbourne) below.

I’ve shared these images (in this post) from my archives before…….several times…….but I’ll share them again so you know what bird I’m talking about.

Once again I was reminded of how large this particular species of honeyeater is.  While you may think the grey-brown and white streaks of its head, nape and back and grey-brown rump are pretty ordinary,  its yellow belly and reddish-pink wattles, (or earrings as I like to call them), make this species stand out in the crowd.

The 2 images below were made from underneath a large tree next to the Yarra River in north-east Melbourne with a long lens about 3 years ago.

RED WATTLEBIRD (Anthochaera carunculata)
RED WATTLEBIRD (Anthochaera carunculata)

The Little Wattlebird (Anthochaera chrysoptera) has a very distinctive and raucous ‘cockay-cock’ ‘kwok’ ‘yekop’ sound,  once described as ‘fetch-the-gun’, is totally familiar to me now.  I’m not sure whether the Red Wattlebird has exactly the same sound or not, but once you hear a Wattlebird’s’s call and identify it, you’ll never forget it.

The image (below) was made in a residential garden in north-east Melbourne where I used to live next to the Yarra River (which runs to the south of Melbourne city and out into the bay).

Easy to see how they blend into the branches when the tree is bare of leaves in winter.

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By the way, for long-time followers, the recent right hip MRI I had done about 10 days ago and got the report from my GP on Monday revealed, advanced osteoarthritis, extensive loss of cartilage, a muscle tear, a hip labrum tear and some minor common hamstring tendonitis – not good news.

 (I thought my spine was bad enough and had seen my old Neurosurgeon in June and got a 2nd opinion from another Neurosurgeon only a few weeks ago.  It was actually the ‘second opinion’ neurosurgeon who suggested I have my right hip investigated).

I had a look at the MRI disc they give you at the Radiography Centre and thought my right hip looked like a craggy rock (compared to the MRI ‘slice’ showing both hips for comparison).  My left hip looks like an ordinary round ball and socket to me.  Not that I’m a radiographer, just saying that the difference was striking and I could see the hip labrum tear easily).  Labrum tears don’t always cause symptoms, but when they do, Mr Google says the only treatment is surgery – they do not heal on their own.

So, it’s been my HIP and torn tissues/muscles that have been keeping me pretty much housebound in recent times 😯

When you have 3 different pain/fatigue conditions for 38 years, it can be hard to discern between the regular chronic bad/severe pain and a new pain site (in case you wonder why I could put up with such severe pain for so long).

I have a referral to see an Orthopaedic Surgeon on the 7th December.

 

BLUE-WINGED KOOKABURRA (Dacelo leachii)

While we’re on the subject of Kookaburras, (see previous post), I thought to share my not-so-good shots of the Blue-Winged Kookaburra (Dacelo leachii).  

The bird is clear enough, but I didn’t make a good job of erasing the cage wire in the foreground.

Blue-winged Kookaburra (Dacelo leachii)

After hundreds of hours of practice over about 3 years, I became quite good at photographing birds through fine cage wire at the Zoo – so that the wire disappears completely – but not so with the images in this post.  And this bird’s cage wire had large gaps between each strand, so I have no excuse.

But I’m still going to share so you can see the difference between the 2 Kookaburras.

Blue-winged Kookaburra (Dacelo leachii)

The Blue-Winged Kookaburra is only found in the far north, or north-west, of Australia so I can’t bring you any images made in the wild, only at the Zoo.

This bird is slightly smaller than the Laughing Kookaburra and has lots of blue on the wings.  The rump and tail are a lovely azure blue in the male and the tail is chestnut barred black in the female.

This one is noisy, and has a poorly formed cacophony of harsh cackles and screeches.

Blue-winged Kookaburra (Dacelo leachii)

Here’s the photo of the Laughing Kookaburra in the previous post which was located in the  same size cage next door for comparison.

The Kookaburra has its own enclosure at Melbourne Zoo and despite the cage wire between the bird and my camera, this shot turned out pretty well.

By the way, if you’re new to bird photography, there’s nothing I can recommend more that practicing photographing birds at your local zoo (if you live in a city like I do).  

You learn very quickly how to hold a camera very, very still in order to get one DSLR focal point through tiny 1/4″ (yes, quarter of an inch) cage wire AND you learn exactly how far the subject must be from the cage wall in order to make the wire lines disappear.

Seriously  🙂

Here’s a good example……a Crimson Rosella, well maybe its got slightly different feather pattern and no blue cheeks, but we’ll call it a Crimson Rosella, photographed behind very fine cage wire.

  1. THE BIRD IS CLINGING TO THE WIRE AND TOO CLOSE.

2.  THE BIRD IS FURTHER BACK BUT STILL A BIT TOO CLOSE TO THE WIRE AND I PROBABLY DIDN’T HOLD THE DSLR STILL ENOUGH.

3. THE BIRD IS JUST THE RIGHT DISTANCE AWAY FROM THE CAGE WALL and I MANAGED TO HOLD THE DSLR (with its 9 focal points changed to 1 focal point) VERY STILL. Sometimes you get a haze of funny lines in the background, but it is possible to make the cage wire disappear.

Or better still……..

4.  PHOTOGRAPH IT IN THE WILD, LIKE I DID (for the first time ever in my western suburb), BEHIND MY APARTMENT BUILDING WHERE THERE IS A LARGE TREE ON THE EDGE OF FROGS HOLLOW NATURE RESERVE.  Image made on the 24th October, this year.  I’ve cropped the image and lightened the shadows to make the bird more visible.  I was so surprised and excited to see this colourful Rosella near my home I admit I had trouble keeping the camera still and I didn’t have a long telephoto lens at the time.

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NOTE: I started going to the zoo in 2012 and over about 3 years of annual membership, I went there about 100 times (going by the dates in my photo library).  You only have to visit a minimum of 3 times per year to make Annual Membership worth paying for.

Sometimes I’d go 3 times a week in Melbourne’s hot summers as the temperate rainforest landscaping was so shady and exceptionally cool.

Melbourne’s main Zoo, located in North Melbourne (and easily accessible by tram from the city centre), is open 365 days per year, although from time to time, they do close certain exhibits for maintenance.  Sometimes I’d go specifically to do nothing else but practice bird photography in The Great Aviary (where you can walk around on the long boardwalk which criss-crosses the enormous space and get quite close to some of the birds, especially at feeding times).

I might add, on overcast cool days, many of the birds were roosting on branches at the top of the enormous Aviary where it was warmer and quite hard to see, so I’d choose a sunny day if I was visiting in Winter if you’re a Tourist.  Secondly, if you specifically want to see the Great Aviary, phone the zoo beforehand and ensure its not closed (on your chosen day) for maintenance.

LAUGHING KOOKABURRA (Davelo novaeguineae)

Australia’s Kookaburra needs no introduction to most people the world over, but it’s actually called the Laughing Kookaburra (Davelo novaeguineae) to differentiate the bird from the Blue-winged Kookaburra (Davelo leachii).  From what I’ve seen on the internet, I suspect some people confuse it with our Kingfishers.  They seem to include the word Kingfisher in the title just as much an error (to my knowledge) as calling a Koala a Koala Bear (which is not a bear at all).

The Kookaburra’s beak is fuller and not as pointed as a Kingfisher.

I used to see and hear them regularly in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne Zoo or prior to that, when I still had a car and went bush walking, up in the country.  I’ve only heard a Kookaburra once in all the 2 years since I moved to the western suburbs (and never actually seen one here,  despite living next to a nature reserve and some 400 hectares of green space up and down the Maribyrnong River).

The Kookaburra has its own enclosure at Melbourne Zoo and despite the cage wire between the bird and my camera, this shot turned out pretty well.

Famous for its raucous accelerating laugh, increasing in volume then fading, this youtube , despite the bird being indoors, is a little more accurate than some other YouTubes I’ve heard.

It’s a large bird, much like a Kingfisher in appearance, with a white crown, smudges and streaked brown, with distinctive dark patch through the eye.

Its back and wings are brown, with bluish feather-edges on the shoulders,   Its rump and tail chestnut with black bars.

It’s actually one of the first birds I photographed in the Royal Botanic Gardens when I took up photography, as it landed on a park bench and later, could be seen pulling up worms in the tan bark mulch on a garden bed.

But the shot below is one of my favourites for the simple reason, that the bird was about 50 feet high up an enormous tree some distance away and all I could see was a white blob lit by a bright ray of sunshine in the dark foliage.

I made a hand-held shot with my 150-500mm lens trying to guess where the head might be near the top of the white blob and was amazed to see, on downloading the image to my 27″ screen,  that I’d actually captured a Kookaburra and it was in relatively sharp focus.  I must have been holding the heavy telephoto lens very stead that day.

….and another shot of a Kookaburra in the wild (below) – Dandenong Ranges National Park – located in the low range of hills overlooking the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne.  It’s a bit far away to see much detail, but I was glad to photograph it in the wild, as opposed to my local urban area.

ECLECTUS PARROT (Eclectus roratus)

Eclectus Parrot – female

This large, unmistakable, short-tailed parrot is only found in the far northern tip of tropical Queensland (Solomon Islands, Sumba, New Guinea and the Moluccas).

Eclectus Parrot (Eclectus roratus) – male

It’s highly unusual in the parrot family for its extreme sexual dimorphism of the colours of  the plumage; the male having mostly bright emerald-green feathers and the female mostly bright red and purple/blue colour.

We have a couple in Melbourne Zoo’s Great Aviary and they are best friends with the lovely pink Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo featured in the previous post.  Here’s a repeat of those images……

They seem to all live in, or around, the same tree stump in the Great Aviary and at times seem to actually ‘talk’ to each other, OR groom each other’s necks.

It took me quite a few zoo visits before I realised they seem to share their food and what looks like……passing nuts to eat other, or eating the same nut together?  Hard to say exactly.

I imagine they would be very easy to see in even the most lush tropical tree foliage.

NOT A GOOD SHOT PER SE, BUT IT DOES SHOW A BIT OF THEIR UNDERWING COLOUR.

The juveniles are duller in colour and have a brownish beak.

MAJOR MITCHELL’S COCKATOO (Cacatua leadbeateri)

Australia has several Cockatoos, but my favourite has to be the Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo (Cacatua leadbeateri).  

It’s not seen as far south as my state of Victoria, but Melbourne Zoo has a very handsome ‘Cockie’, so I’ve been fortunate enough to photograph it several times on my many zoo visits over the years.

It’s found in opens land, scrub, mallee and mulga and mainly in central areas of the country.

The body is a pale pink, with white wings, back and tail.  It’s forehead is more reddish in colour  with an upswept crest.  When the crest is erect, (which I’ve never seen I must admit), it’s banded with yellow and pink.

Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo & male Eclectus Parrot

Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo with female Eclectus Parrot

BLUE-FACED HONEYEATER (Entomyzon cyanotis)

When I first bought a camera in May 2010 and took up Photography as a hobby, I felt a bit like a fraud sharing images on my Nature Blog from the Zoo’s Great Aviary (located at Melbourne’s main Zoo in North Melbourne).  We have 3 zoos, the other 2 are much further away from the city centre in the nearby countryside.

Blue-faced Honeyeater (Entomyzon cyanotis),

A nature photographer should be sharing images from the wild I thought.

But then I asked myself the question…..why do I blog?  What is this blog about?  (and I think these are questions you need to ask yourself when you first start blogging on the internet).

The answer was pretty easy.  This particular blog is about my Photography hobby and specifically about Nature Photography.

It’s about the nature that surrounds where I live and where I go for walks.  Initially, it was about flowers, trees and occasionally insects, but then came birds, beaches, lakes, rivers, parks, gardens and nature reserves.

It’s not about The Wild or Wilderness regions of Australia.

It’s about my own urban ‘backyard’ and its immediate surrounding areas.  

It’s about sharing nature through my eyes.  The small details are what appeals to me, so you won’t see very much in the way of landscapes or seascapes on this blog.  Without a car these days, I can’t get to the unique blue/grey/green-toned mountainous regions which are truly breath-taking in Australia and as diverse as the deserts, rich tropical rainforests, temperate or unique coastal  regions.

Australia is one country you should put on your Bucket List I might add.

(e.g.” The Great Ocean Road, on the southern coast in my state of Victoria, is one of the most spectacular drives in the world, stretching 243 kilometers from Torquay to Allansford, just 10 minutes from Warrnambool.  It was built by returning soldiers from WW1 between the years of 1919 to 1932 and is the world’s biggest War Memorial”).

…..back to the bird featured in this post……

The Blue-faced Honeyeater (Entomyzon cyanosis), found in the northern and eastern states, is not really found as far south as Melbourne to my knowledge, so I’m happy to share these images from the Zoo’s Great Aviary.

Dinner of mealy worms in the Great Aviary

This Honeyeater is a large one and distinctly easy to spot due to the bright to dark blue face and cheeks.  It has a prominent white eye (amidst black crown and nape) with prominent black bib and white moustachial streaks joining the white breast.  Its back and longish white-tipped tail are a striking golden olive-green. Found in open woodland or any areas with trees in the wild and certainly easy to see up close in the Zoo’s Great Aviary, especially at feeding time.

So I’ve stopped feeling guilty about photographing Australian Birds in enclosed areas to share online, particularly as some of my favourite images in my 2 photo libraries were made at the Zoo.

SILVER GULL (Larus novaehollandiae)

Silver Gulls are a large seabird and the most familiar of Australian gulls.

THIS USED TO BE MY FAVOURITE PHOTO AS IT WAS ONE OF THE FIRST IMAGES I MADE OF A BIRD WITH SHARP FOCUS ON IT’S HEAD/EYE AREA.
ONE OF MY RARE IMAGES OF BIRDS FLYING………VERY, VERY SLOWLY AS THEY CAME IN TO LAND (WHICH IS HOW I GOT THE BIRDS IN FOCUS LOL).

THIS GULL WAS STANDING VERY FIRMLY IN THE SHALLOWS FACING THE STRONG WIND AND SEEMINGLY GLARING AT ME AS I SHOT THIS PHOTO.The adult has a white head, neck and body, pale grey wings with black primaries showing white tips at rest.

WHEN THE TIDE GOES OUT DOWN AT THE BEACH, SEAGULLS CAN BE SEEN ‘STIRRING’ THE SAND IN THE HOPE OF FINDING SOME TASTY MORSEL TO EAT.
IMAGE MADE AT BRIGHTON BEACH SOME TIME IN AUTUMN (GOING BY THE AUTUMN COLOURS OF THE LEAVES ON THE WET SAND).

The beak, eye-rings and legs are scarlet.

ONE OF MY FAVOURITE PHOTOS I’VE OFTEN SHARED ONLINE. THIS ONE WAS MADE AT PORT MELBOURNE BEACH WHEN I CAPTURED A LADY FEEDING THE GULLS ONE HOT SUMMER’S DAY.

Immature Silver Gulls are duller, with brown flecks on wings forming a conspicuous bar in flight.  Their beak is brownish and the legs blackish.

I see them everywhere, not just down at the beach.

On the old buildings at the Meat & Fish section of Queen Victoria Market in North Melbourne – waiting for the fish scraps to be thrown out at the end of market day…..

At Melbourne Zoo next to the pond in the Japanese Garden……

In the city square on the lawn area………

In my local area along the Maribyrnong River…….

You just never know when they’re going to take off……

or jump up and down at Port Melbourne beach…..

Or quietly sit down for a rest at St Kilda Beach (near South Melbourne) at dusk…..