A SENSE OF PLACE

For the new followers benefit, I ‘copied’ a Real Estate Agent’s photos off the internet, but unfortunately can’t give credit to the Photographer as there was no name mentioned.

It is not my deliberate intention to steal someone’s photo per se, but I can’t get the same view with any of my cameras.   I’d say this photo was made about 2 years ago going by the height of the trees in front of my balcony.   As I live on the road side of the building, my apartment is in shade up until about 1.30 – 2.00pm (and then the sun rises over the building and hits my balcony as the sun sinks in the west) – cool mornings even on the very hottest summer day.   But an extraordinary amount of sun up to about 9.00pm (daylight savings time in mid summer).

This hot sun enables me to grow vegetables on my balcony as well as herbs.

BUT the offside of the location and building placement means the wind gusts are sometimes gale force blowing between the buildings in the cooler weather.

It’s a bit like a wind tunnel.

IN THIS SHOT YOU CAN SEE THE SKYSCRAPERS, OR OFFICE TOWERS/APARTMENTS OF MELBOURNE CITY IN THE DISTANCE ABOUT 10 kilometres away.

There are 5 apartment blocks or rows of townhouse in my housing estate.   My suburb and river valley, first explored in 1803 (before Melbourne was built around 1835), was once natural bushland and a lush hunting ground for the Australian Aboriginal people before white settlement.  I live on a hill that was used to quarry bluestone, on which most of Melbourne’s early buildings were made from.

Much of the residential area you see in these photos has been built in the last 20-30 years (on the upper right hand side of the frame).   Even though you can’t see it, the river valley has very steep sides and my building is built halfway up a steep hill – well above the old flood line of the river.

Looking for images for this post, I suddenly realise just how many images from the last 3 years I lost in my computer crash at Easter.  It’s quite odd how some photos were able to be transferred by me from the old Mac Pro laptop to my new desktop, and other photos taken on the same day, came up with a message that their format was incompatible (with the new Apple  iMac desktop).

I said at the time that losing 3000-4000 images really didn’t matter – they were only photos.   But…….why did I have to lose some of my best bird shots.

Anyway, the river is about 6-7 minutes walk from my ‘back gate’ and that large clump of trees on the upper left side of the image below, is part of Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve.  You can faintly see a pond, but this is not accessible due to the thick undergrowth and 8 foot high water reeds surrounding it.

On the upper right of the frame are more scattered trees which line an artificial watercourse, or canal, which joins the river.   There is another pond which IS accessible and where I photograph many birds (near the upper right hand corner of the above image).

In fact there are about 5 naturally landscaped ponds in the area.

If you’ve read the previous post, you will know the Developers are half-way through construction of a new apartment building opposite my apartment.

BUT to my dismay, that large field on the lower left (in the image above), which is enormous & very steep and only has about 1/4 of the field showing in the cropped image above, has now got a planning application lodged with the local council to build a whole new apartment and housing estate (on it)……..approximately 250 houses and apartment dwellings I gather.

If I lived on the eastern side of my building, overlooking the nature reserve and river, my view (from another real estate agent’s website) would look something like the shot below.

This side of the building faces east and gets the sunrise.   It also has owls and kestrels and other larger birds landing on the balcony fences according to my neighbours.   I’ve never seen an owl myself.   And if I’ve seen a kestrel high in the sky, I wouldn’t have known what it looked like.

While there wouldn’t be any loss of the actual  council land, nature reserves and green belt which goes up and down the river (far out into the bay on the other side of the city), I really worry about the impact, more urban housing, car noise, new access roads and general residential noise would have on the bird life and many of the indigenous flora and fauna.

Sorry to say I’ve lost some of my favourite bird shots, but the selection below gives you an idea of the potential birds and nature reserve which might feel the impact of 2-3 years of construction noise and extra residential noise a new housing estate next to mine might entail.

The estate agent’s images don’t really show the current landscape very well.

My images below certainly do 🙂

Since I moved to the area in October 2016, you can well understand how lucky I felt to live in such a unique urban environment – half in the suburbs and half in the country – (well, sort-of half in the country).   I didn’t choose the location for it’s nature reserve.   I chose it because it’s hard to get affordable rental properties in Melbourne at the best of times (and my apartment application won over many other applicants).

THE LOCAL POND

Recently, what with being more housebound and the stinking hot weather for most of the Summer, and even……now…..early Autumn, I’ve been feeling all blogged out.

Just when I feel like giving up blogging altogether, I see something new and get invigorated, uplifted and inspired all over again.

Last Saturday’s walk down to the local pond was one such day.

I walked down the short steep bit of road from my ‘back gate’ (aka the roller door entrance to the 1st level of car parking under my apartment building is what I call my ‘back gate’).

 

NO BIRDS TO BE SEEN ON THE POND AT ALL.   NOTE: THIS IS THE POND WHERE I SHOT MY HEADER and FOOTER IMAGES   BRIGHT SKY IS COMPLETELY OVER-EXPOSED FROM THIS ANGLE.

 

THEN I SPOTTED SOME MOVEMENT IN A TREE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE POND, lifted the 150-500mm lens and spotted a NOISY MINER (Manorina melanocephala)

All it took was the sighting of 2 Australian White Ibises (Threskiornis molucca)….or should I say ‘Ibis’ for plural?

  

I’ve never seen an Australian White Ibis around my local pond or river before.  I must say it was a real thrill.  While the birds were some distance away, it was almost the highlight of the whole Summer.

ROYAL SPOONBILL (Platalea regia)

(Actually the highlight was photographing the Royal Spoonbills down at Jawbone Conservation and Nature Reserve – left – on the 10th January, breaking a $1000+ camera lens and my wrist in a fall).  

GROUNDSEL (Senecio vulgaris L.)

My world is very small in enforced retirement.

I notice the smallest change in every leaf, insect and wind gust on my balcony.  Fortunately, I’ve always been drawn to the small details in life and in doing so, can usually appreciate the simple things that most people take for granted.

Last Saturday, it looked quite pleasant outdoors (although) 5 minutes into the walk through the ‘back gate’ and down the rest of my road to where a stony/asphalt path leads to 2 steps and then a gravel path, it turned out to be more than warm.

My 20 minute walk turned into 2 hours.  But I never can walk fast with a camera in hand.  I’m always stopping to look around.

In general, residential areas and open fields are looking so pale and parched this past Summer, you could be forgiven for thinking Mother Nature had sprayed the landscape with diluted bleach.

Unless, the grass is near a water source, it is so crisp and crunchy underfoot and the earth so hard, you almost feel as though you’re in a foreign county nearer the equator.  (ok, I’m exaggerating, but seriously, the grass is bone dry).

PURPLE SWAMPHEN (Porphyrio porphyrio) pecking at dry grass in a shady patch of a nearby tree.
PURPLE SWAMPHENs (Porphyrio porphyrio) might be finding a few more insects where the grass is a bit greener next to the Frogs Hollow water course surrounded by dry 7-8 foot high reeds.  I can’t get closer to these Swamphens than this (no matter how stealthily and cautiously I step).  The birds seem to sense me before they even see me

Australia does have hot Summers and cold Winters and being such a large continent, a wide variety of weather zones from temperate in the south and most coastal areas, to desert in the centre, to tropical rainforests in the north.  But in general, down south here in Melbourne and its surrounds, in the south-eastern state of Victoria, the weather/seasons are called Temperate.

I generally have to stay indoors on hot days and this past summer, I’ve been waiting for the Summer’s blistering heat and gusty winds to ‘settle down’ to Temperate!

I WALKED OVER THE CRUNCHY DRY GRASS TO WHERE THE CYCLING/WALKING PATH IS NEXT TO THE MARIBYRNONG RIVER (in the background).

Last Saturday I was taken aback at the dryness and lower-than-usual water level in the nearby ponds, river and lake-like expanse of water between the main river and the local housing estates in this river valley.

We’ve had a sprinkling of rain showers, but we need serious RAIN.  We need hours/days of heavy soaking rain which reaches deep down beyond the roots of even the largest old trees.  Every time there is a quick rain shower, the earth sends up a feeble few stalks of green which dry to a crisp within a day or two at the moment.

I noticed the 2 rocky low ’causeways’, which link where the ponds fill up and overflow into the large water catchment area, are dried up.

The pond in the current Header and Footer in my Nature Blog (which I change from time to time), has minimal water and even the water reeds and Bullrushes are crisping up to pale gold in the heat, as you can see in the Pacific Black Duck images below.

And they’ve got their roots in the water!

Even so, I did catch sight of a few birds last weekend, but it was definitely a thrill to see the 2 Australian White Ibis.

The Crested Pigeon with its beautiful markings, pale pink body and head crest are always easy to spot.  They’re usually on the ground.

CRESTED PIGEON (Ocyphaps lophotes)

……..and for those new to my Nature Blog, the images below are what are usually seen in the cooler months. Green, blue and birds galore.

But instead we get the images below on the walk home.  Dry grass and lacklustre scenes.

COASTAL CUSHION BUSH (Leucophyta brownii)

Found it!

I thought the bush in the previous post looked a bit like one of the Coastal Saltbushes I’d seen down at the Jawbone Coastal Conservation and Nature Reserve and I was right.

I found the name of my mystery local bush with the right words in a search of Google Images late last night.  It’s halfway down the pdf. here

Then of course, I was able to type the correct name into my Google search and read more about it at Victorian Resources online

I thought it looked a very drought-hardy plant even in the flat open windy area near my local river, so looking up Coastal Saltbush wasn’t too far wrong.  It brought me to a Coastal plant website.  In fact, after putting the right words, in the right order, in my Google search I found the name in something like 5 minutes.  Just goes to show how appropriate wording in your search can be vital in identifying local flora and fauna quickly.

I’ve often spent, quite literally years, searching for names and given up, then one day decided to try again with different wording for Mr Google and I’ve come up trumps in 5 minutes.

It’s all very well to bookmark an Australian Plant directory online (OR even look up my own 2 plant encyclopaedias), but narrowing  your plant search  down with carefully chosen words can be a great time saver.

Now I’ve found it, I can name the photo and put together a short post on last Saturday’s walk and bird life.

WHAT PLANT IS THAT?

It’s been a busy week so haven’t had a chance to upload the (rather lacklustre) images from last Saturday’s walk down to the local pond.

The grass is so dry and the ground so parched, I hope to goodness there is no broken glass, or anything else around, which might start a grass fire in the large field on one side of my home, or the nature reserve.  Andy the Grass-cutter keeps all the open areas mown very short in summer, but even so, I think a fire on the ground would spread quickly at the current time.

IMAGE MADE AT THE START OF SUMMER IN NOVEMBER 2018

I’ve been totally frustrated in trying to identify this grey low-growing ground cover in the small landscaped area between the large lake-like expanse of water and the Maribyrnong River.  I first photographed it when moving to the area 2 1/2 years ago, but its identification has mystified me ever since.

Does any Aussie who follows my nature blog have any ideas?

I’m thinking it’s probably an Australian native as the local Parks (and Council?) have spent the last couple of years removing all non-indigenous trees in Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve and the surrounding parkland and I would think they planted this low-growing grey ground cover for its drought tolerant hardiness.

Maybe it reminds an overseas follower of some species in their own drought-hardy area.

It almost looks like a coastal saltbush but I’ve done a quick scan of photos with Mr Google Images with that description.  I tried Googling ‘grey ground cover Australian native’ or included the word drought-tolerant etc.

The map below gives you a sense of the area I live in.  I’m surrounded on (most of) 2 sides by open field, nature reserve or parkland.  In fact I read that there’s 400+ hectares of parkland up and down the Maribyrnong River.

Last Saturday, I did only the lower half of the walk indicated by the broken line on this old map (from my photo library in 2017).

“H” is home.

It was hotter than expected and within 5 minutes I was over-heated and despite a bottle of chilled water, I was wishing I was home in air-conditioned comfort and my right hip/knee/ankle told me in no uncertain terms it didn’t want to go for a walk anyway.

 

THIS TIME LAST YEAR

We changed to Daylight Savings Time (DST) early Sunday morning and I’ve woken to the most extraordinary sound of Birdsong I’ve ever heard in the 2 years since I moved to this area.  In fact, it’s the loudest sound of birds I think I have ever heard in an urban area (except for Melbourne Zoo’s great Aviary and other bird enclosures combined).

With only the occasional car driving up my steep little road and the distant sound of a plane as it lowers towards the airport some miles away in the north-west, I could almost…….. but not quite……… be in a shady country bushland oasis.

There are so many bird sounds I’ve never heard before.  Must be the summoning of a perfect Spring day arising over the next few hours.

I found a Youtube which has a louder version of what I’ve been listening to over the last hour or so.  The Youtube has a few more bird species than I can hear, but it’s not that far off.  Keep this youtube open in a different window while you watch the image series below.  I think I will bookmark this particular video as it’s a particularly good one and if I ever feel ‘down at heart’ at being housebound, I can turn it on in another window and listen to it when it’s cold and rainy (aka tomorrow) and there are no birds around at all.

I know most of you will never believe I can hear most of this from my desk chair in an apartment block in a new housing estate, but I swear if I knew how to capture the real sound, I would send it to you.   As the heat of the day starts to increase and the birds cling to the more shadier parts of the area or over at Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve, the sound almost disappears.

It resumes towards late afternoon (on a sunny day), but in a much more reduced variety of bird sounds.  I can now anticipate what Superb Fairy Wrens and House Sparrows will visit my balcony garden by the changing of cheeps, chirps and twittering in the thick Eucalyptus tree in front of my balcony.  I’m amazed that this tree has grown approximately 3 feet in 2 years i.e. it was level with the balcony fence when I moved in Oct 2016 and now………its 3 foot above the fence.

The Japanese Maple growing in front of my balcony is incredibly lush with thick foliage and higher branches this Spring also.

In the meantime, I have been bogged down with down-sizing my balcony garden to a more manageable watering chore for the summer.  Medical appointments, tests, cortisone injection in my hip and a worsening of pain has meant I’m still stuck close to home base for the most part.  Probably didn’t help with all the bending and twisting I did last week on the balcony, but it had to be done.  I was staggered at the number of plants that were pot-bound.  How they keep growing in such a state is a mystery to me (in my amateur gardener status).

I can walk home from the local medical centre (which is a 10 minute walk if I didn’t keep stopping in pain OR to take photos), but I know if the worse scenario arose, I could call a taxi to bring me the rest of the way home, or walk over to the main road and catch a tram a couple of stops to give my hip/leg/spine pain a break.

To be honest, I’m reluctant to walk down to the local pond or river, as I’d have to still walk all the way back home if the pain got too much – no way to call a taxi to a park, river or around the nature reserve of course.  I have done a lot of searching online re mobility scooters, but once again, they don’t necessarily go over rougher ground or parkland and that’s what I want (to get around to get back to nature photography).

Anyway, here’s a repeat of what I was photographing this time last year, both walking around Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve behind my apartment building, over at the old colonial garden at Pipemakers Park around 10 minutes walk  away, as well as the river and local pond – also 10-15 mins walk for those inclined to walk fast (not me).  Well, I discovered it was really only 10 minutes walk to Pipemakers Park when I walked home briskly at dusk late one afternoon and didn’t stop to admire my surroundings and take a zillion photos on the way.   I thought I was going to get caught outdoors in the dark, as this side of the Maribyrnong River falls into deep shade as soon as the Golden Hour is over.

On the other side of the River and atop the River Valley there can still be plenty of light while my immediate area can be very dark indeed if there is no moon that night.