It’s rare that I don’t take a photo (or two) every day.
As far as I’m concerned it really doesn’t matter if it’s a good shot or a not-so-good shot. Its all practice and practice is well worth the effort in Lockdown.
I love the image below. It was made yesterday when the sun cast a brilliant beam of light on my balcony fence rail and despite the ghostly band of white in the bottom half of the frame (which is actually where a louvred window overlaps the pane below), I think its the face and eye which appeals in this shot.
I’d sprinkled a long row of birdseed on the fence rail in the hope of attracting a few more birds to photograph. In general, it’s only the House Sparrows that like to snack on it, but I still get Superb Fairy-wrens flying down to the grey balcony floor tiles and wander around in the hope of something tasty to eat.
I followed one male Superb Fairy-wren around the Japanese Maple branches for a quite a while yesterday, but despite having washed the glass panes of the fence, couldn’t get a clear shot.
It’s still fun and entertaining.
Only 14 new COVID cases in Melbourne in the last 24 hours (and sadly 5 deaths – all in the aged care sector).
We’re well on the way to achieving the goal of 14 straight days of an average of <50 new daily cases in order to drop down a Stage in restrictions on Monday, September 28th.
Only 7 days, 7 hours, 40 minutes and 5 seconds to go – not that I’m counting mind you. 😀
House Sparrows are as common as mud, but that doesn’t take away the pleasure of observing their habits and trying to photograph them from the comfort of my desk chair.
Sitting at my desk with intermittent glances out the lounge windows gives me a ‘birdseye view’.
I got fed up with my sore neck and headaches this week so put my new(ish) 27″ iMac back down on a box atop a low table behind my desk again this week and discovered that with the screen 5-6″ lower, I was able to observe the Sparrows (and sometimes the Superb Fairy-wrens) in the nearby Eucalyptus tree over the top of my iMac screen.
The fixed stand on the iMac (desktop) is one of the few daily and rather trivial annoyances that have entered my life since my crashed Mac Pro laptop and Dell high resolution 27″ screen left my life mid-May 2019.
The Dell screen could be moved up, down and even turned portrait size (as well as the usual landscape view). i could tilt it any old way. I had it connected to my 13″ Mac Pro on my desk and with the slight colour tone differences could correct any colour saturation that looked a wee bit off on either screen. The Mac Pro laptop had a slightly richer colour.
(note: in the series below the window was dirty from recent rains so the images are a bit faded).
A couple of days ago, a male House Sparrow seemed to be actually enjoying bouncing up and down on a small branch. For once I could clearly see through the thick foliage.
If I didn’t know better, I might suggest the bird was bouncing up and down on the branch in the brisk winter wind for the sheer fun of it.
Seriously. The bird stayed on the branch for quite some time.
Took me a while to focus over the top of my (lowered) computer screen and through the louvred window panes on that side of the room.
NOTE: I have reduced the shadows, increased the contrast and ‘black point’ in photo editing so you could see the bird more clearly, otherwise, the bird’s outline would have been almost invisible.
You will notice this male Sparrow has a beautiful soft thick grey winter coat of breast feathers and in the cold winter morning the bird has also fluffed up its feathers to retain some warmth.
Here’s example of a couple of Spotted Turtle-doves in Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve behind my apartment building in winter 2017 below. Note how they’ve fluffed up their winter coat in order to retain some warmth.
Back to the story……….
One other day this week, the sun came out and several sparrows came to play and splash around in my (temporary) birdbath.
Actually, it’s not temporary.
A large plastic plant saucer atop an even larger empty plant pot makes a wonderful birdbath. It’s higher up so I can take photos more clearly through the windows. Since the water is quite deep, I have put 2 small metal water bowls in the centre so the birds have a sturdy bowl rim to stand on and bend over when quenching their thirst.
The Avian species on my balcony needs some good ergonomics just as much as me with my desk chair height 😀
One day, when the stores open again, I might buy a real birdbath. The blue ceramic one has broken twice over the last few years necessitating 2 trips to the local Bunnings Hardware Warehouse with its attached plant nursery. It’s only 15 minutes walk away but closed for 6 weeks at the moment. I usually book a taxi to go there (and back home) as I always buy too much.
For the newer followers who have just joined me, this series (below) gives you an idea of where I buy my herb and veggie seedlings each Spring. Bunnings is the name of a larger Hardware warehouse chain of stores and they must have millions of products indoors, let alone the large outdoor plant nursery.
The House Sparrows play and splash around and make great entertainment value in this current ‘lockdown’ in Melbourne.
If you’re a bird photographer. Even an amateur like me. Don’t dismiss the fun in observing these common little birds that frequent our urban landscape in the absence of more exotic species.
I’ve taken so few photos in recent weeks, I actually leave my cameras packed away in their soft pouches most days.
I saw a grey Fantail land on my balcony fence this week and missed the shot due to having no camera ready and waiting.
Just to share what a Grey Fantail looks like, here are the images made last year when I spotted one in my Japanese Maple.
Last Thursday, I moved the long plant troughs around on the old table in front of my lounge window. I placed the one full of Rocket leaves to the right and the (now) empty one next to it on an angle with a few scattered bird seeds to entice the birds. I wanted a clear shot with no Rocket leaves in the way.
The House Sparrows turned up in pairs and triplets and I watch them for 20-30 minutes before slowly lifting my camera off my desk to take a photo.
I watched them (watching me, I presume) and thought to myself……if only birds could talk. Here’s the best shot through the lounge window. While not as well-focused as some others I took of the Fairy-wrens that day, this is the shot that I liked the best as they seem to be looking straight at me.
What do you think?
Can they see me?
Watching the birds on my balcony has to be the most relaxing pastime since I moved to this apartment 3 1/2 years ago.
There seems to be a hierarchy. There is one very bossy male House Sparrow, one with a white neck ruffle of feathers, one female with an all-white left foot. Another with a ‘bib’ of tiny black feathers and also, I’ve noticed one slim young female whose feathers are nearly all the same shade of a warm honey-coloured brown. I haven’t managed to get a shot of that slim female yet.
Here are some more shots made over the last couple of years……
It’s always interesting to see what was happening in my life at the same time in previous years.
This time last year……
I was trying to come to grips with the fact that the severe osteoarthritis in my R hip was going to be a permanent fixture and I could no longer go for long walks doing Nature Photography…….even on a good pain day. (other pre-existing conditions precluded total hip replacement surgery).
The tiny female Superb Fairy-wren made its presence more visible.
It even posed for a formal picture every now and then.
This EurasianTree Sparrow came to call and I suddenly realised that this was a different bird to the House Sparrows I saw regularly. I never saw it (or any other Eurasian Tree Sparrow) again.
The Asian Climbing Spinach seeds my brother gave me were making a promising start. (Note: they died after only a couple of harvests. Never found out why).
This male Superb Fairy-wren was a regular visitor.
These tiny female House Sparrows started to visit more often than the Brown-capped males.
The (male) Superb Fairy-wrens loved to visit the baby spinach crop.
But maybe the females looked the cutest.
I also accepted that there were more back views of these tiny wrens in my Photo Library (than front views).
Yesterday was hot (39C 102F) and today is even hotter (43C 112F), but hopefully, despite the heat tomorrow, the forecast thunderstorms will bring some heavy rain to the city/state.
It’ll be much cooler next week thank goodness. In the meantime, I am in Hibernation mode and keeping off the computer for the most.
I spent 2 1/2 -3 hours last Sunday cleaning up after the previous week’s dust storm and the repercussions on my back/hip/knee pain are still around, so despite a lovely afternoon with visitors for lunch on Wednesday (who I hadn’t seen for about 7 months), I’m keeping a very low profile indoors, just moving every 15-20 minutes so I don’t get too stiff.
I had to scrub every pebble in the large saucer I use for a birdbath last Sunday. In fact, where the dust had collected in the corners of my balcony, or under the potted plant saucers, I had to get the scrubbing brush out. The rest of the balcony I swept and then mopped 2-3 times which removed the loose dust. While you can’t see it in the image below, the pebbles were caked in algae and red/orange dust.
My friends were saying they hadn’t attacked the dust on their verandah or garden pond.
I guess they’re hoping the rain might do the job for them as they travel a lot and have very busy lives. They live in a southern bayside suburb and it seems they received as much dust as the city and my western suburb last week. I might add, a heavy rain shower didn’t clear the dust as expected – it only caked it on harder 😀
Still, the big clean-up is 97% done on my Balcony I’m happy to say, well, except for a few leaves still showing signs of red dust on the edges, as my friend’s son pointed out when he checked out my herb garden – the Sweet Basil and Tomato plants in particular.
By the way, most of the large tomatoes are still not ripening so I’ve cut them off and brought them indoors to sit on my desk and ripen that way (I hope 😀 ).
My friends were amazed at how well my Herb & Veggies were growing and I assured them it needed constant attention, especially this Summer 2019/2020 – watering each night, pruning unruly branches and keeping the whole lot neat and tidy. My balcony is relatively large for a modern apartment block, but small for the amount I grow on it, so pruning regularly is mandatory 😀
Actually, looking at it just now, 2.30pm Friday, nearly every plant is hanging its wilted leaves in exhaustion. I think I’ll have to water again at Dusk, despite tomorrow’s weather forecast for rain all day.
I think my new Sage seedling is going to die. It’s choked with dust on its leaves and while I’ve watered the tiny seedling several times, the dust continues to lie in the tiny leaf furrows, but the rocket and baby spinach seedlings in the long troughs next to it are ‘hanging on’ in the heat. In general, compared to 2017 when I had bumper crops, this year’s harvest has been mediocre at best.
The heat hasn’t helped. But it was probably the lack of Winter and Spring rain in 2019 that normally mark the start of the growing season that has played havoc for the farmers, residential urban gardeners, as much as my balcony area.
The poor birds have been wilting in the heat as much as me. (despite me having my air-con on as low a temp as it will go, each afternoon and evening indoors. (I can only guess at what my next inflated electricity bill will be).
After getting their thirst quenched in the freshly washed water bowls, they usually jump down to stand in the shade of the potted plants for a while. I put iceblocks in their water a couple of times yesterday and hopefully the re-filled ice cube tray is ready to dump some more iceblocks in the water bowls today.
It really is a hit or miss affair in trying to photograph the birds on my balcony.
Sometimes, the more I try to hold the heavy telephoto lens still, the more likely I am to wobble and miss the shot.
There must be hundreds of photos lying on my cutting-room floor (see below).
But when the birds DO stand still for a length of time, I’m rewarded with a better opportunity (below).
I had a very unusual experience last week. My older brother had sent me an email regarding our Father’s memorial service and I started feeling very sad again and couldn’t help tearing-up and having to grab a handkerchief.
All of a sudden a whole lot of House Sparrows came to visit and stood on the balcony fence railing (or Tomato bamboo stakes) in silence, looking this way and that. Not stopping for a drink as usual, just standing in silence as though to cheer me up.
They looked up, down and all around – even at each other, but not a drop to drink.
I was deeply touched by their appearance and after about 15-20 minutes when I’d regained my composure, they all flew away.
On another ‘bird’ matter, I’d noticed a larger than usual pile of bird poop on the balcony railing recently and wondered which bird had paid me a visit.
I hadn’t seen any other birds (besides the House Sparrows) for quite some time, despite several species visiting me last Summer…….even on very hot days last February.
Lo and behold a Spotted Turtle-dove landed on the fence and walked quickly along the railing as fast as it could go, then turned and dashed back again. I just had a thought, the metal fence is very hot. Maybe the metal was burning its feet (to account for the swift “power-walk“). Not having any cameras on my desk at the time, I scrambled to get the long telephoto lens out of it’s the overnight padded bag and quickly held it up to try and capture the sight. I only managed one shot before the Dove quickly turned, walked quickly down the rail a third, even faster time, and promptly flew away.
So it seems I have been receiving other avian visitors lately, just never when I’m sitting at my desk with the block-out blinds pulled up.
It was hot as a Sauna indoors and on the balcony garden at that time.
The last few nights at dusk have brought some soft pale pinks and mauves into the sky above the construction site across the road, but as I’ve said previously, this building is now blocking my beautiful sunsets almost completely.
I’m feeling a little claustrophobic these days now the various apartment levels are being completed and the construction building is towering over where I live 0n the lower side of the cliff face.
I might just have to move apartments again! LOL 😀 …..especially if the local Council allows the Consortium of Owners to build another 250 townhouses and apartment blocks next door on the large open field (left). They’ve submitted an application to Council, but many us, already living in the quiet green belt along the river, have protested. It’ll have considerable impact on the local indigenous flora and fauna and certainly impact Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve behind my apartment building. Here’s a reminder (below) of what it might impact.
FROGS HOLLOW NATURE RESERVE pond with yellow WATTLE in the foreground. Can’t get close to this pond due to high thick undergrowth and very high water reeds.
SPOTTED TURTLE-DOVE in Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve
WHITE-FACED HERON AND 2 PACIFIC BLACK DUCKS in my local pond
PACIFIC BLACK DUCK at my nearby river
GREAT EGRET hidden behind reeds in the local pond
PURPLE SWAMPHEN in the field behind my apartment building.
WALKING/CYCLING PATH NEAR THE RIVER
A female SUPERB FAIRY-WREN in the trees behind my building. The same fairy-wren that frequents my balcony garden.
GREY FANTAIL in the JAPANESE MAPLE in front of my balcony fence.
NEW HOLLAND HONEYEATER – Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve
PINK WATTLE (something I’d never seen before I moved to this area – I though all Wattle were yellow)
WHITE-FACED HERON in the local pond.
PART OF THE LARGE DRY EMPTY FIELD WHICH DEVELOPERS has submitted plans to the local council to build 250 townhouses and apartments on.
On another note, after sharing images of the Red Flowering Gum in a previous post, my younger brother sent me a iphone image of his own ‘orange’ variety of the same plant.
It’s a beauty.
Well folks, that all my news this week and remember……
To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow
I’m going back into Hibernation mode in the Heat and staying off the computer.
I believe in living Mindfully, taking pleasure in the simple things in life each day, but dare I say………………I hope Autumn comes soon 🙂
Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing.
The “to-do” list has been getting longer and longer in the last few months.
A couple of stays in hospital (including the heart attack early in October) and then my Father’s final weeks on this earth had been the start of a period lacking in energy.
The main task was to (finally) get around to moving the potted plants and sweeping up the remnants of Winter leaf litter and cobwebs on my Balcony Garden.
It was a real mess. As I leave the pots without plastic saucers during Winter to allow the excess rainwater to drain away, there was a mixture of dried leaves, dust, bird poop and even, the remains of the sawdust which had blown across the road from the construction site in the Gale force winds from a few weeks ago.
I don’t know whether it’s something to do with living next to a Nature Reserve and 400 hectares of green parkland up and down the Maribyrnong River (behind my apartment building), but there’s always lots of spider webs and other insects, including mosquitos, on this balcony and my bedroom and lounge windows.
I had so many mosquito bites overnight the first summer I lived here in 2016, I have been forced to close my bedroom window each night. I am very fair and it seems a tasty morsel for the mozzies and spiders.
I normally do this task regularly, about 7-8 times a year as a minimum, and don’t let it get out of hand, but my Spring cleaning plans had gone awry before Spring even began this year.
I was determined to get this done before the stinking hot day yesterday. At least some rain was forecast with the cool change last night, but the day……….that heat was stifling.
……and as soon as I started moving pots, the first thing I did was drop the blue ceramic birdbath on Saturday at dusk.
This was the second ceramic birdbath I’d dropped and I didn’t want to go to the Hardware and Plant Nursery for just one item so I had to do some quick thinking.
I then had to re-arrange the pots as I discovered some foliage was blocking my view of the birds from my desk chair where I sit.
I know long-time followers think I have a very tidy balcony garden, but the truth is that the potted plants are artfully arranged to give a clear view of the visiting birds for photography purposes.
Apart from a bit of Companion Planting, placing mutually agreeable plants with their best friends, the pots are arranged so there is a clear view from my desk.
I finally resolved the House Sparrows need for water by bringing out the old metal seed bowls from my previous apartment (which unfortunately don’t fit the top railing of the balcony fence in this current apartment).
I nestled one bowl in the soil of the tall square Mint pot which I knew the birds always visited for grazing – just visible near the rim of the back square pot above. (did I mention a couple of weeks ago I made the birds some Peppermint Herbal Tea for the birdbath on a particularly hot day and after an initial puzzled look on their little faces, they ‘dived’ right in and drank the cool herbal tea with gusto)?
The next bowl was hung off the rim of Tomato #3’s pot.
The third on the tiles under the shade of the Perennial Basil which would keep the water cool and allow them to rest in the shade after morning ablutions and a refreshing drink.
The final water source was the enormous grey plastic saucer I’d bought a couple of years ago in an attempt to reduce the seed spillage when the Sparrows were fighting over the grains. I’d filled it to the rim with fresh water on Sunday night and it was nearly empty yesterday morning so that goes to show how warm it had been overnight.
Oh, I almost forgot, a small green plastic saucer seemed to balance pretty securely on the old ceramic birdbath chains. (sorry, the shot of the bird was blurred below, but you get the picture).
I did about 3/4 of the task on Sunday at dusk when the heat of the day was over.
First washing with a mop & bucket and then, when the worst of the stains wouldn’t come off, I got down on my hands and knees with the scrubbing brush. This was downright exhausting which is why I only did about 3/4 of the task. Of course, then I had to get up again, not easy with a stiff back and so on.
For all the noise and inconvenience of the apartment building construction across the road, the height of the building DOES mean my balcony falls into shadow a couple of hours earlier on a hot day, so that’s a welcome change.
Yesterday, Monday, 44C (approx 112F) and gusty winds do not make for a happy day in my ‘diary’, although rain was forecast with the cool change last night so I took a chance and didn’t water the garden.
I was astonished to hear on the TV news last night that the smoke from the enormous bushfires on the south-east coast of my state had reached 14 miles high and created their own weather pattern which included dry lightning and thunderstorms. I’d never heard of this phenomena before.
At dusk last night, there was a distinctly rosy hue to the cloud cover which had crept across the sky, even though I’m nowhere near any bushfires in central Victoria at the moment.
Early fireworks had set off a grass fire behind a northern suburb of Melbourne and many people had to evacuate. Many country and coastal towns have cancelled tonight’s fireworks due to the danger, but Melbourne is still set for the greatest light show in my state (of Victoria, Australia). Surpassed only by Sydney’s light show.
Seems as though the only topic of conversation and news is Weather & Bushfires on everyone’s tongue at the moment, but can you blame them. Must be over 1000 homes lost so far and several deaths. This is the worst start to the Bushfire season Australia has ever had. (I notice on the overseas news last night that parts of the U.S. are under severe snow storms too).
In the meantime, lots of images of the poor little birds in the heat, gullering (bird’s form of panting like a dog in the heat) and desperately looking for some shade below.
When I washed all the bird poop off the balcony fence rail on Sunday, the metal was so hot I had to get thicker cloths to finish the task. It was as bad as a hot stove, so don’t know how the birds withstood the heat under their tiny feet and claws.
I DECIDED PUTTING THE BOWL ON THE METAL PLANT STAND WAS TOO HOT, SO LATER MOVED THIS BOWL
GOSH, THOSE TINY LITTLE FEET MUST BE CLAD IN HEAT-PROOF SHOES TO STAND ON THAT METAL RUNG
DOWN TO THE WATER BOWL IN THE SHADE
BUT EVEN THAT HOT SPACE HAD THIS SPARROW ‘GULLERING’
EVENTUALLY, THIS HOUSE SPARROW GOT OFF THE BOWL AND WENT TO STAND IN THE SHADE OF THE POT FOR QUITE SOME TIME
ANOTHER SPARROW LOOKS DOWN AT THE NEAR-EMPTY LARGE SAUCER AND WONDERS IF IT CAN REACH
MUCH EASIER TO DRINK FROM THE OLD SEED BOWL
THIS SPARROW SEEMED TO BE SAYING “I WONDER WHEN THAT HUMAN WILL COME AND FILL UP THE WATER AGAIN?”
Today, the House Sparrows, quite by chance, jumped into the water in the large grey plastic saucer and have been having the time of their lives, splashing and jumping around in delight (in the shallow depth).
I was just going to fill the large saucer up again and have now decided to leave it as is. Full of water, the saucer will be too deep for the small birds to play in.
The birds are having so much fun and I am filled with joy at the sight in the cool shade of morning. There’s been a cool change overnight and it’s about 15C degrees cooler than yesterday, so there’s a stream of Sparrows visiting my balcony to entertain me.
Its been a couple of weeks since I’ve seen any Superb Fairy-wrens (or any other bird for that matter). There was an enormous dollop of bird poop, too large for a sparrow, on the balcony fence this morning, so some other larger bird must have visited before I got up this morning.
Note: Apologies for the lousy focus and light (towards the end of this series below), but I dare not take my camera away from my eye to adjust the camera settings to Al Servo to catch the action better. Having said that, later today I’ll probably get some better shots now I’ve re-set the camera.
Anyway, must go and get changed and the camera settings ready for tonight. I can see the city of Melbourne and the local park fireworks in the distance and the first year I lived here, I got some surprising shots of the light show.
The wind has been more than a little gusty in my area over the last 5-6 days. In fact, the Spring winds have been downright ferocious and threatened to blow my garden away.
Check out the background in the image below. Can you see the Japanese Maple branches and foliage are near horizontal? At one stage, the Maple’s branches seemed to bend over in half and almost touched the ground. I had grave fears for the tree’s well-being, but it seemed to bend and sway with the elasticity that most young saplings have.
I’ve stood at the lounge window each morning in hope of seeing more Spring shoots on my Herbs and Veggies, but they have made little headway in the last week (for this time of the year) and slowed right down in their growth.
Not enough sun I fear.
No Superb Fairy-wrens in sight and just a few very tiny House Sparrows. To the casual observer, they are just faded-looking females, but on the ground here, I can see their tiny frames and washed-out looking head feathers denote very young juveniles. They are almost as small as the adult Superb Fairy-wrens.
The 2 sparrows I photographed last week stayed on the balcony fence for some time, seemingly motionless. Last night, it was not until I reviewed the 4 photos I’d taken that I realized their tiny claws were hanging onto the frame that holds the blue ceramic birdbath in place (so they didn’t get blown away?).
The bird that stood on the fence bar itself didn’t stay long.
I made 4 very similar photos and can’t tell which is the best out of them, so thought to post all of them.
Today, the wind has finally dropped and I can see by this morning’s weather forecast I have 4 clear, rainless days to do something outdoors.
Perhaps prune the herbs to start encouraging them to flesh out into more robust bushes perhaps? Doesn’t sound much, but at least it’s better than lying in the hospital hooked up to a heart monitor 24/7. Those 6 days in the hospital were the most boring I’ve experienced in many years. I don’t survive too well when I’m out of green surroundings and don’t have a Room With a View.