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).

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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.