The Grey Fantail I watched erratically flitting from branch to branch yesterday is gone this morning.
For once in my life, I’m glad to see the absence of a bird as I was so worried about it yesterday. The Fantail’s body was about the size of a small chicken egg to give you an idea of how tiny it was. Similar in size to the baby Fairy-wrens I photograph in my Balcony Garden (below).
Last week I mentioned being able to distinguish 3 Superb Fairy-wrens now.
One of which was the male with the eclipse (non-breeding) feather pattern and colouring. If you look at the face and the breast below (31st July), you’ll see what I mean. Those tufts of white/fawn/greyish colour are quite noticeable, almost like a moustache and clipped beard or ‘beard’ of one feather.
2 days ago, either this male has gone into full breeding plumage, OR it’s a different bird.
Yesterday, after I’d arrived home from my morning errand, the sun was out and I decided to spend some time in my balcony garden preparing for Spring planting. After re-arranging my potted plants and cleaning up all the winter leaf litter in the corners (and tipping out a few totally pot-bound withered plants and depleted soil), I came indoors to turn the computer on and out of the corner of my eye saw what appeared to be 6-7 wrens in the garden.
It was almost like a party.
Obviously stirring up all the soil and pruning back some herbs to 1″stubble, must have opened up some tasty food for my avian friends.
I noticed that male in full breeding plumage was back again but could see no signs of the fluffy feathers between the blue, SO I think it is my one and only male……. ready to breed.
In one week, he’s ‘changed his clothes’ and put on his best head and chest colours to ‘attract the ladies’.
The sun was a bit too bright, but I managed to get a couple of shots in reasonable focus to share.
This second shot is a bit clearer, but the brilliant sunlight, reflecting off the rain clouds, spoilt the shot a bit and over-exposed the breast feathers.
After all that physical work and heavy pot moving, my right elbow and lower back is extremely sore this morning and it hurts to type, so a couple of days rest is required methinks.
Spring is only 3 weeks away now, so my list for new plant seedlings is getting longer by the day, but I only have room for ‘x’ number of pots and only have the time and energy to carry ‘x’ number of heavy watering cans once the seedlings are planted, so I’ll have to ‘prune’ down my Seedling Shopping List a bit.
After all the weeks of watching and waiting for last year’s experiment in growing Capsicums and ending up with only 6-7 fruit and broken branches from the nightly possum (?) visits, I think I’ll concentrate on tomatoes, baby spinach, more parsley (English curly & Italian flatleaf) and some fast-growing leafy greens – they seem to grow the best on this hot west-facing balcony garden of mine.
Some images from the last 2 Summers below………
Bunnings Hardware Warehouse plant nursery
Plenty of herb and veggie seedlings to choose from.
I’ve tried so many different species, but ultimately have to replant each Spring.
Last year’s acquisition of a net to deter the bugs and birds from my new seedlings.
Now you can see how close my desk is to my garden.
Female Superb Fairy-wren after snacking on my spinach.
I need enough plants to make a salad each day in Summer.
female SUPERB FAIRY-WREN snacking on my Blueberry Bush
THIS IMAGE WAS MADE WHILST SITTING IN MY DESK CHAIR – the perfect viewing point to keep an eye on my bush.
The first few blueberries
Lettuces or not? Hmmmmmm.
Lettuces were successful, but they looked too good to eat.
The 2 parsley plants on the fence rail pot thrived despite the wren’s grazing.
Chives or not? Another hmmmmmmm
Sorrel is virtually indestructible
Always good to see the wrens having fun in the rain.
Last year’s zucchini experiment started off well, but eventually failed – not enough room I suspect
The result of the previous apartment’s balcony was better for some of these leafy greens.
I found 3 Harlequin bugs over-wintering in the Lemon Thyme yesterday, so I REALLYmust find a solution to their infestation this year.
I’ve been offline a lot lately, partly because I’ve been keeping a low profile with health issues getting in the way, but also because of my limited internet with the new computer (gobbling up my limited internet allowance). Hopefully that will change after the 30th August when my current internet plan ends and I seek out an affordable larger internet package.
I’ve also been spending more time observing the tiny Superb Fairy-wrens each morning on my balcony in the hope of recognising the individuals.
Like all tiny wrens, they rarely stand still.
I got the stepladder out on Thursday and FINALLY cleaned the full height of the exterior window surface (which usually bring on a few days of rain LOL) and yesterday, washed the interior surfaces of the floor-to-ceiling lounge windows. I do this nearly every week in summer, but not much in winter when the fierce gusty wind drives the rain straight against my lounge windows.
Most of the bird images below were made earlier in the week, before I cleaned the windows.
While we’ve had less rain this past week, its still a bit too cold to leave the sliding glass door wide open during the day. I’ve also been a little reluctant to leave the door open because a Superb Fairy-wren was about to hop indoors the other day.
I raced to the sliding door, which was open about 6 inches for some fresh air, and promptly shut it.
I might have been able to catch that New Holland Honeyeater who stepped inside (image on the left) and onto the window sill, but there’s no way I could catch the fast-moving little wrens if they came into my lounge room.
I’ve had up to 6-7 wrens grazing on the soil I’ve been turning over ready for my Spring herb/veggie planting and now………I can finally recognise 3 ‘regulars’. I never tire of watching them.
These 3 are my main visitors at the moment.
There’s that ever-present tiny female with her beautiful reddish-brown eye ring which I’m pretty sure is the same wren I’ve seen for many days now. She doesn’t seem to have grown much. She looks like a juvenile to me, but her orange eye-ring and orange beak are quite clear (so maybe not a juvenile, but an adult?).
I was reading some more about these regular avian visitors and it seems that the young males and young females can look very similar with their uniformly brown bodies and pale fawn underneath. Their beaks may look more of a slate grey when young.
Sometimes the tail is more blue and a bit shorter – apparently this denotes a juvenile male.
Before reading up on them, I had thought the tails were all the same length.
One second the male stands still……..
…….and the next second, it’s gone
They love Mint leaves, and if you know the size of a mint leaf, you will understand how tiny these juveniles are.
The third easily recognisable fairy-wren is this adult male (below) with its distinctive eclipse, (or non-breeding), blue plumage. The adult male changes its upper feathers to bright blue when breeding.
It took me over a hundred shots to get these few images in reasonable focus over 2 seperate days. I can’t claim these are my best bird shots since I took up photography in early 2010, but they’re pretty good having been made through dirty glass windows.
There’s no consideration of background or composition on my part when photographing these fairy-wrens in my balcony garden. They move too fast. I just try to get the bird in focus, before they fly, (or jump), to the next potted plant. Most shots are soft in focus.
I haven’t given you a balcony garden update for a while as I haven’t been out to clean and tidy up the faded winter leaves or disappointing lack of growth in my winter leafy green veggies. There’s clusters of spent herb leaves and many dead Japanese Maple leaves blown in from the young tree located in front of my balcony.
It’s completely leafless now, although I detect some faint little nobs on the spindly branches which might denote potential Spring growth?
I really need to get out there and move the pots around and clean up. I’ve discovered over many years of living in rental apartments, (which have a mandatory clause in the lease demanding ‘clean & tidy’ interior and exterior), that’s it better to clean the balcony tiles on a regular basis so the seepage stains from the pots don’t build up to the stage where one has to use harsh chemicals to clean the large tiled surface.
In winter I have saucers under the pots, but in summer I remover the plastic saucers so they can drain more freely. Herbs do not like wet soggy feet.
A week ago, despite being only 2/3rds of the way through Winter here in Melbourne, the herbs, Tuscan kale and Broccoli (called BroccoliBambino – a high yielding baby broccoli with a long harvest period), suddenly put on a growth spurt with many new leaves.
I’ve never grown this variety of miniature broccoli before and although it does take 12-14 weeks until harvest according to the plant label, it seems like months since I planted these 2 seedlings. Despite the same plant label in both pots, the leaves on one plant look different to the other broccoli plant to me.
The plant label says to remove the first floret from the plant centre when it is the size of a ten cent piece along with the two leaves just below. Side shoots will mature 6 weeks later. (see below). I did this on the plant below, but no sign of this early floret on the plant above.
In some ways the leaves of the plant above look a bit like outer cabbage leaves?
I have limited knowledge when it comes to vegetable gardening.
The Sorrel is still growing like wildfire (despite me continually chopping the leaves off).
I should have just planted more baby spinach, instead of that Broccoli.
Now that leafy vegetable grows much faster and despite regular harvesting of the outer leaves, 4 small plants grew enough for many months. I ate the last of that crop 3 months ago.
…..and my Asian climbing spinach (below) only provided a couple of meals before it went brown and seemed to get some kind of disease and died.
That pot is now empty.
It had looked so promising and tasted absolutely delicious – the texture almost like velvet.
Oh well, better luck with some new varieties.
I must admit I get just as much fun trialling new veggie varieties for my balcony garden, buying seedlings and watching them grow (as eating them).
I have two other pots of Mint, (beside the long low trough which the wrens love grazing on), and they have been doing ‘just fine’.
The new Rosemary seedling I planted a few months ago, in which I have been cutting the tips off for cooking, has also suddenly started growing new leaves.
Has the soil suddenly got a bit warmer a month before Spring? The day and night temperatures are still cold. Being an amateur gardener and fairly new to vegetable growing, I can’t help but ask myself “why this sudden growth spurt”?
My herbs usually perk up closer to September.
………and my eyes have been drawn to the construction site opposite too. The construction crew have picked up the pace and are now working on a Saturday (as well as longer hours on weekdays), although they’re not on site today. I’m used to the noise, but not the loud cursing which I’m sure they don’t realise drifts straight across to my building.
Still, they have a long way to go before finishing the 3 story apartment block on that very steep, weirdly-shaped site.
I took the photo (below) at dusk last night, hence the limited light and street lights being on. As I live lower down on the hill you can only really see the ground floor of this new building, but it is against a 30 foot high cliff and the building will eventually be 3 stories high and completely block my view of the sunset colours.
This new building will completely block that blue sky/cloud you can see in the image below (if you can imagine triple the height of that ground level partly constructed apartment floor you can see in the image). Due to the steep sloping hill, my 1st floor apartment is much lower than the new construction site.
They say Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining, but my day, which revolves around my computer in the mornings, seems to have been one long thunderstorm of niggling, annoying ‘flashes of lightening’.
A couple of weeks ago I vowed I wasn’t going to upload another post that didn’t have new photos or positive affirmations of some kind.
Well, I haven’t got any new good photos or positive things to say about my (new) iMac so I thought I’d better upload something…..well…..anything, to let you know I’m still here.
The only joy in my day has been observing the avian visitors to my balcony garden and even they have been few and far between and hard to photograph on the dark wintery days in the poor light.
Note: Having just typed that sentence, the clouds have now cleared and the sun has put in a cheerful appearance LOL
The weather has been very cold, wet and filled with gusty strong winds in recent days, so even my potted garden has been neglected. The wind-blown dead Maple leaves are starting to collect up against the balcony fence making for good spider habitats.
My new baby Broccolini and Tuscan Kale seedlings have been very slow to mature. At the rate they’re growing, Winter will be over before I see the fruit of my plantings. At least my Blueberry has had lots of flowers. So that’s a ‘positive’.
I suspect most of the Fairy-Wrens are hunkering down in the thick green hedges (3) across the road. The workmen on the apartment building construction crew next to the hedges have even been working through the rain and on Saturdays, but I doubt they’ll finish before the end of this year.
I wonder if they’ve got room to put in some new green landscaping. Now THAT, would be a bonus 🙂
If my photo library screens didn’t keep freezing (resulting in me having to log off to reboot the computer) so many times each morning, I would have had my new photo library finished by now.
But it’s not.
Having to re-log onto WordPress every time I want to type a comment on my favourite blogs and other ‘hiccups’ have made blog reading less fun than it used to be too. So if you haven’t seen me around your blog much, I DO still read your posts, just too weary to think of a suitable comment, or unable to press the LIKE button due to some glitch. At the moment there are 14 WordPress blogs I can’t LIKE (or COMMENT) on.
So I’m thinking I’ll go into hibernation mode for the rest of Winter in the hope that Apple release the next software update in a few months time which might work miracles and ‘set my computer free’
I figure if I stay off the computer most of the time, then I can at least get some other tasks done on the TO DO list.
Since most of the images (above) were shot through dirty dusty windows, here’s a better shot of the female Superb Fairy-wren from the 10th April (below) to remind you of what they look like on a sunny day through the open sliding door.
I never seem to get tired of watching these Wrens. They keep me entertained for hours and when they’re visiting, I never seem to get any household chores or cooking done.
I counted 6 in my balcony garden the other day, but as I’ve mentioned before, they move so quickly, some days they’re impossible to photograph with the heavy long 150-500mm lens and DLSR.
All this week I can hear the wrens cheeping in the Japanese Maple growing next to my balcony fence and they are becoming more common than the House Sparrows 🙂 I don’t remember seeing any of these tiny wrens drinking from the bird bath though – only the Sparrows.
There’s been far less sound from the jack-hammer-like ‘rock splitter’ coming from the construction site over the road this week. On Tuesday, the construction crew seemed to be pouring concrete most of the morning and were almost………. as ‘quiet as mice’. 😀
When I go out to pick up my new glasses which have arrived in-store, I’ll have a look at the top of the cliff and see how progress is going on the site.
On another note, all, or at least most, of the Harlequin bugs and Cabbage Moth Caterpillars seem to have left the area. I didn’t get so many this past Summer. I have pruned all the herbs of their ‘nibbled’ leaves for the umpteenth time and the new growth is starting to flesh out the bushes. I feel as though I can finally leave the pest control hutch off the smaller plants and they can get some more sun. After the previous year’s devastation of every single leaf on nearly every potted plant, I think the purchase of this pest control netted ‘hutch’ was well worth the money.
But I do have to be vigilant though. I picked a whole lot of mint to use in cooking last Sunday and was just about to start chopping when I saw one leaf looked a bit curly. I turned it over and what did I see – a lot of fine spun fibres and a caterpillar waiting to turn into a butterfly.
I wonder what fresh caterpillar might taste like 😀