THEY’RE BAAAAAACK!

The Superb Fairy-Wrens are back this week.

In larger than usual numbers too.

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.

Female SUPERB FAIRY-WREN – THIS IS ONE OF THE BEST SHOTS I’VE TAKEN FOR QUITE SOME TIME. 

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.

Male SUPERB FAIRY-WREN.

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.

Phew!

I wonder what fresh caterpillar might taste like 😀

 

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SUPERB FAIRY-WREN (Malurus cyaneus) – Female

Silence is Golden 🙂

I don’t know who said that, but after the taxi dropped me home at 9.30am this morning, (after an overnight stay away), I couldn’t help but be struck by the silence.

It’s Saturday here in Melbourne and the usual weekend shoppers, zooming up my short steep road in their cars, were completely absent.

No walkers, joggers, cyclists or runners.

No mothers pushing prams or pushers up the steep footpath.

The unique sound of what I thought might be Currawongs filled the background.  (I have yet to share a photo of an Australian Currawong – I have a couple, but they’re not very good).

The wind had dropped and the forecast showers were absent.  It was sooooooo quiet, almost like the end of the earth, and I couldn’t help but be overjoyed at the absence of human sound.  If you’ve read my previous post you’ll know what I’m talking about.

I caught the lift upstairs to my apartment and after dropping my overnight bag on the floor, flung the sliding door open on to the balcony to let air into the stuffy room.

I heard tweets, chattering, birdsong and then a gentle whisper as a slight breeze sprung up.

The Fairy Wrens were back.

The birdsong was reminiscent of the lovely country sounds I first heard when I moved to the area in October, 2016.

SORRY ABOUT THE LOUSY SHOT, BUT I COULDN’T WAIT for a better one at that moment (in case the bird flew away quickly as they are want to do when I don’t have a camera handy)

Then one female Superb Fairy-wren dropped from the balcony fence down to the potted herbs and jumped from pot to pot and over to the bird/pest control netted hutch looking for seeds or some other tasty morsel.  She walked over the fine netting and I frantically looked for the camera case as I’d put all the cameras away yesterday and stored them in a different place (other than under my desk or beside my desk chair).

Then I spotted a male Superb Fairy-Wren scrambling around the pots under the bird control netted hutch.

So much for bird control 😀

I went out to lift the netting so it could get away as it seemed to have forgotten its entry point, then grabbed the plastic watering jug to give some of the potted plants a drink.  I hadn’t watered them before I left home late yesterday morning as it was supposed to rain this morning.

When I came back outdoors with the full watering pot, I heard frantic cheeping and a very frightened little wren.

It had jumped off the Marigold pot and got caught between the line of plastic pots and the glass fence.  It could obviously see the male wren on the Japanese Maple enjoying the sunshine through the glass, but couldn’t work out how to get through this clear (aka dirty) glass fence barrier.

I think this might have been the first time I had seen a distressed Fairy-wren outdoors at my current home.  I pulled all the plastic pots out so there was more room, but for some reason the tiny bird couldn’t work out what to do.

You hopeless little thing I thought to myself and very slowly bent down and tried to carefully catch it in my cupped hands.  This frightened it all the more.

I stood right back and silently waited.

Nope, it just could not work out why it couldn’t  ‘walk through glass’ 😀

Human intervention was obviously needed before the frantic little bird keeled over in exhaustion.

Finally,  I managed to catch the distressed little wren and slowly bring it up to the fence rail and release it.

It quickly flew to the male on the Maple tree and then the couple flew off to the other side of the road where they could rest in the thick hedge in the warm Autumn sunshine.

I feel like I’m in Heaven with the absence of construction workers and machinery noise.

Photo of a Male SUPERB FAIRY-WREN from the 26th March.

The gentle warmth of the sun was so pleasant after the long hot Summer, that I couldn’t help but think…..Thank God for Silence.

………..and the distant caw-caw of the local Ravens and the chatter of the nearby House Sparrows spread the beautiful sound of Autumn.

It’s only after incessant jarring noise (of the construction workers all week) that you truly appreciate the Silence in this unique apartment location.

I was back to my positive happy self and all was well with the world…..or at least my world.

 

……and so I asked Mr Google who had first said this phrase.

What’s the origin of the phrase ‘Silence is golden’?

As with many proverbs, the origin of this phrase is obscured by the mists of time. There are reports of versions of it dating back to Ancient Egypt. The first example of it in English is from the poet Thomas Carlyle, who translated the phrase from German in Sartor Resartus, 1831, in which a character expounds at length on the virtues of silence:

That fuller version – ‘speech is silver; silence is golden’, is still sometimes used, although the shorter form is now more common.

SUPERB FAIRY-WREN (Malurus cyaneus) – juvenile

I was just replying to a commenter that I hadn’t seen a Superb Fairy-wren for weeks and hoped they hadn’t found a new home when all of a sudden, 2 juveniles – a male and a female – landed on the balcony fence.

I just caught a movement over the top of my computer screen (so now new followers know why I have my desk in front of the lounge windows).

Sorry to say, I caught the bookcase reflection in the glass door…….. (and I really must clean the lounge windows).

The female flew away before I had a chance to take the lens cap off my (newly) repaired 150-500mm lens and aim.

So I clumsily followed the young male as it wandered through the herbs and eventually managed to capture a couple of shots of its back before it, too, flew away.

Juvenile male SUPERB FAIRY-WREN flying around the Lemon Verbena (right) and Perennial Basil (left).

It’s many weeks since I’ve seen these cute, fast-moving little wrens.  It’s so rare for them to stand still and pose for a shot.

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 😀

A TYPICAL VISIT FROM THE FAIRY-WRENS

I made a point of getting out of bed early this morning with the intention of going out for some nature photography, but the sky appeared heavily overcast.

The light is low, so unless it fine’s up a little later in the morning, looks like the outing may not be worth while the taxi fare to get to one of my old photography haunts.  I’m not normally a morning person as I try to stay in bed asleep for however long my body tells me it needs rest (to recover from a disturbed night’s sleep which happens 365 days of the year).

To be honest,’overcast is good for bird photography.  It stops Australia’s brilliant sun glare bouncing off the bird’s wings and/or flares from the sun creeping through gaps in the tree foliage.

THIS SHOT WAS A LUCKY ONE IN THAT NORMALLY THE BRILLIANT SUN GLARE WOULD HAVE TOTALLY ‘WIPED OUT’ THE OUTLINE OF THE WREN, (not just those feathers on the right), BUT YOU CAN TELL IT WAS QUITE WINDY BY THE RUFFLED FEATHERS.

Bird photography using the DLSR and heavy long 150-500mm lens hand-held is not easy for me, but the long months of being pretty much housebound have given me ample opportunity to photograph the birds on my balcony with my left elbow anchored like a tripod on the armrests of my desk chair (or even have my elbows resting on my desk).

I’m gradually learning that the continuous shooting setting does not score me any more shots in focus (than the single shot setting) when it comes to photographing the fast- moving little Superb Fairy-wrens. Other slower-moving birds, or birds that stand still, are much easier for me to capture in focus.  Even the smaller juvenile House Sparrows are easier than the Fairy-wrens.

The only way to capture a bird in reasonable focus it to aim where I think they’re going pop up their little heads after each mouthful of food and then…….snap…..press the shutter button at the exact moment they’re upright (before they lower their head down to the food crop again).

I have about a 1/10th of a second in most cases.

I don’t have time to change the camera settings once the birds have flown on to the balcony and/or potted plants.  Setting the ISO on Auto to allow for both sunny perches and deep shade doesn’t work either.  It takes too long for the camera to assess the light conditions and set the ISO automatically.

The best chance of capturing a shot is to put the ISO on 800, (which is about the highest my cameras will go without getting too much noise in the image), and the shutter speed between 250-320 (for you amateur, or new bird photographers out there).  I haven’t tried setting the DSLR on full auto for bird photography.

I’ve just shared what camera settings seem to work best for the tiny fast-moving wrens in my particular light conditions.  They may not work for you.  Or, you may be a better bird photographer than me.  I also seem to get better shots in the mornings before the sun moves over my apartment building.  The sun, if its going to be a sunny day, doesn’t hit the balcony until about 2.30pm.

I’ve notice that the English curly parsley is about 3″ lower than the Flatleaf Italian Parsley, so for some reason, that seems to be the Wren’s favoured ‘salad’ meal and there’s one particular juvenile male that’s become a regular grazer.  You can see him in the parsley’s green feathery fronds below.

Both Parsley varieties used to be the same height, although I did catch a Harlequin bug crawling up and over the parsley yesterday, so that got despatched by flicking it off onto the ground below my balcony.  I can’t quite bring myself to kill pests, but can flick them quite some distance away quite happily.  I wondered if it was eating the English Parsley also.

So I took 17 shots at around 9.30am this morning and this is 16 of them (below) to show you how hard it is to get one focal point of the DSLR on to the bird’s-eye through the glass window or sliding door.  It’s a bit too chilly to open the door wide this morning, which I normally do first thing on a warm day.  I had quite a few emails to read this morning so was reading, eating my breakfast and keeping one eye out for any tiny movement when the birds visited.

It’s surprising how quickly your eyes become attuned to the slightest movement, even on a relatively windy day when the plants, bushes and trees are waving their foliage around quite wildly and you’d think I’d miss the ‘action’.

So it’s a matter of keeping one eye on the parsley, the other eye on the Nemesia flowers and your ‘third’ eye, or intuition, focused on the viewfinder of the camera.  🙂

Anyway, breakfast’s finished and I sense a slight change in the overcast sky, but the speed with which the clouds are moving across the horizon might indicate its a little windier than forecast.

NOTE: Last night I was cleaning my camera lens and filters (ready for today’s intended outing) when I sensed a rattling as I ran the cleaning cloth around the rim.  I couldn’t understand where the noise came from.  I put the UV filter back on the lens (which I always keep on to protect my expensive long lens) and got my little rubber dust blower out to finish off the task.  I’d missed a tiny bit of fluff on the actual lens so took the filter off again and low & behold, a slim shallow ‘ring’ fell off the camera.  Not sure, but I suspect its part of the $1000+ lens.  Its broken.  But the filter seemed to screw back on OK and the lens cap fitted securely.

So I am left with a slim (now obsolete) ring of some kind.

At the moment, I can’t afford to take it in the Repair Department for assessment, buy a new expensive long telephoto lens or a new 86mm Promaster UV filter, so keep your fingers crossed I can ‘limp’ along without the broken ring.

PERFECTION

What is really hard, and really amazing,
is giving up on being perfect
and beginning the work of becoming yourself.

~ Anna Quindlen 

We live in an imperfect world.

That is a universal truth, but I have to say my single green Lettuce Multileaf (Lactic sativa) is the closest thing to perfection I have ever seen.

It feels like fine velvet as I let its leaves slide through my fingers.  I keep checking all its leaves – there has to be about 30 – expecting the Cabbage Moth Caterpillars or the Harlequin Bugs to appear, but my little blue plastic butterfly ‘scarecrow’ is working its magic once again (up the end near the purple lettuce). I’ve seen 2-3 white-winged butterflies across the road, but none near my garden……so far.

I don’t think I’ve grown this particular lettuce before, preferring the continual cropping of other varieties which I can cut off the outer leaves as I need them.

There is not one single flaw in this perfect green gem and I can’t bear to harvest it.

I just want to look at it every morning. (alright, I am going ‘crackers’ in old age).  For those of you with large vegetable gardens and multiple crops, this might well be your morning and evening practice anyway – walking around, watching and waiting, inspecting and expecting!

It’s purple cousin on the other side of my Perennial Basil Mint (mentha x roundifolia) is a very close second in perfection, although it does not have as many leaves.

I’ve been snipping off the tips of my Perennial Basil to use in cooking so the poor wee plant doesn’t have much chance to grow very high, but certainly replaces my cuttings with 3-4 leaves if I leave it for a few days.

I’ll have to buy another Perennial Basil that’s for sure.

Even the Mizuma ‘Red’ (Brassica rapa var nipponsinica) – bottom right in image above – is finally starting to take off despite the Superb Fairy-wrens and House Sparrows nibbling its tiny shoots.

I’ve never grown this spicy little plant before either.

The Birds are taking it in turns to feast on the 2 Parsley plants in the trough hanging from my balcony fence and the plants are starting to go to seed, so some new Parsley plants are on the Shopping List.

Actually, I need quite a few more seedlings if I’m going to grow enough for a whole bowl of salad every evening this coming Summer, (as I did in the image below made from my previous apartment’s balcony garden).  That garden was facing south and got no direct sun, but a massive about of light.

MY WEST-FACING BALCONY IS TOO HOT TO SUPPLY MANY OF THESE HERBS AND LEAVES, BUT AS LONG AS I HAVE PARSLEY, MINT, SORREL, KALE AND A FEW LETTUCE LEAVES I’M USUALLY HAPPY.

My current balcony is west-facing and extremely hot in summer.

I use so much Parsley throughout the year, that I need a plentiful supply for my dinner plate (let alone my summer salads), but I’ll leave the dwindling Parsley leaves for the Birds to enjoy.  The image above shows the English Curley Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) half of the trough, next to a new Superb Fairy-wren visitor.

Looks pretty good from this angle last week, but I can assure you, it’s really going to seed in recent days.

The Italian Parsley (Petroselinum crispum neapolitanum)in the left half of the trough (not in image) is also going to seed.

The Oregano Hot & Spicey (Origanum sp.) seems to have larger leaves than ordinary Oregano, but that might just be a Spring surprise as I’ve never grown that variety of Oregano before either.

The Japanese Maple in front of my apartment balcony is now fully clothed in Spring foliage and the birds are starting to snack on the tiny shoots at the end of each branch, but with my garden supplying much of their needs, the Maple has been keeping a lot more young foliage this year.

SORRY ITS SUCH A LOUSY SHOT, BUT WHAT CAN ONE DO THROUGH TWO THICK PANES OF DIRTY GLASS

I’d share more of the birds on the tree except that shooting through 2 thick panes of dirty glass does ‘not a photograph make.’

I have washed the windows twice recently, but I notice overnight rain last night has returned my lounge windows to their usual smeary self and it’s too cold this morning to open the sliding door its full width.

I’m now starting to recognise the individual wrens – half are the adult males in full blue breeding plumage, then there’s the occasional adult female, as well as various juveniles with varying pale blue patches, or spots, on their backs.

I’ve never been able to recognise any House Sparrows (apart from male and female of course).

Being off the computer and not at my desk through most of the last week or so, means I have got more done of my ‘to do’ list in one week, (than in the last year)!

Seriously.

My headaches have improved a bit too.  When I say off the computer, I am still turning on the computer to check emails etc each morning, but then turn it off soon after and self-discipline is growing in leaps and bounds.

I never realised how much time I wasted sitting at my desk watching the birds – well, I did, but the last week has proven exactly how much LOL 😀

You’re probably getting a bit sick of the same bird photos but when you have 6-7 Fairy-wrens visiting at the one time –  morning (9.30am and roughly 10.30am) and afternoon (about 3.30-4.30pm or a bit later), I’m sure you’ll agree they are worth the time.  What I find interesting is how they visit in groups and then, the House Sparrows join the party.

It’s extraordinary how one minute the balcony garden is devoid of avian life and next minute I can have as many as 10 birds dropping by now that Spring is here.  Some of my images are terrible and completely blurred.   Others which are pretty good and I have shared.

This mosaic below gives you an inkling of how much fun it is to follow the wrens as they visit each and every plant on my balcony – half the time, I have not the slightest idea what they’re eating, but presume it is the youngest shoots.  Even the multi-coloured flowering Nemesia (Nemesia fruticans) gets a visit.  The birds seem to remember all the pots I put seed in a couple of weeks ago and still visit in hope of a second feed (?), but they also walk around the balcony tiles and the back of the potted plants hoping for some spilt seed.

The images below were made in about 15-20 minutes.   The one on the bird bath is obviously a juvenile.

When I’ve finished today’s paperwork and filing, I will finally be caught up with the ‘to do’ list.  Not that I’m a procrastinator per se, merely that I take my life in enforced retirement one day at a time.  Living Mindfully amidst a bountiful tiny garden in a Room With a View has to be one of the most rewarding and enjoyable pastimes if you have Chronic Illness and Pain.

Being housebound more and more as the months go by is not to say I don’t get frustrated and feeling a little down or depressed at times (when I’d rather be out on a nature walk taking photos), but all in all, being able to appreciate the small things in life is a blessing that I’ve gradually acquired.

I will eventually get back to sharing more images from my archives, but in the meantime, time to turn off the computer 😀

“If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.” 

Lao Tzu 

SIZE MATTERS……

I was just about to put another load of laundry in the washing machine when I felt compelled to go back to my desk, sit down and pick up the camera.

In doing so, I caught a female juvenile Superb Fairy-wren at the bird bath having a drink.

The is a first folks! 😀

I’ve never seen a Fairy-wren use the bird bath before (and as you now know, I do nothing all day but look out the window from my Room With a View LOL 😀 ).

When I downloaded it, I found a shot from yesterday of the baby boy and with a tape measure in hand, measured the pot so you could get a sense of how tiny these juveniles are. The plastic terracotta pot measured 6 1/4″ from base to rim, so now………you can appreciate their size and the full pot is not completely shown in the frame (below) either.

Is there a Bird Angel watching over me?

(I also noticed that the holes in the new bird dish, where the chains hook, are much lower in this one and with the gusty wind swinging it to and fro, the water is emptying much quicker than the old bird bath.  Perhaps it’s meant to be a seed bowl, not a water bowl).