# A PHOTO A DAY KEEPS THE DOCTOR AWAY – Day 40

NOT from the archives today.

I escaped the Lockup…..ehrr….I mean….. Lockdown….and managed a short walk as the Golden Hour approached in the latter part of this afternoon, so I have a series of images when I get around to reviewing them all.   So many walkers and cyclists on the river path it was like ‘peak hour’.

In the meantime, the golden hour was just starting to light up the landscape and I caught one shot down near the lake (or large expanse of water running parallel to the river).

Took me 2 hours to do a 20 minute walk, but I always walk slower than a tortoise when I’ve got a camera (or two).

THE LOCAL POND

THE TREE AREA IN THE BACKGROUND IS FROGS HOLLOW NATURE RESERVE – ABOUT 100 FEET FROM MY ‘BACK GATE’

Last Sunday, I ventured out for a walk to the local pond in the hope of seeing some birdlife to photograph.   This would have marked one of the few walks I’d done since I’d had a fall down at Jawbone Conservation Reserve on the 10th January this year, broke my $1000+ telephoto lens (and my left wrist – only minor).    I suggest new followers read the story via the link I have given above to get the background (as well as seeing one of my favourite nature reserves on the coast).

Last Sunday, I had to walk very slowly and stop every 15 feet for a ‘breather’, but my hip (and lower back)  pain was minimal so I was feeling quite optimistic.  By the time I reached the pond (about 7-8 minutes brisk walk for a normal healthy fit person), I have to admit I was feeling light-headed and exhausted.  A heart attack and 2 stays in hospital in the last 6 weeks had made me overly cautious recently, let alone the severe osteoarthritis in my R hip (a wear & tear problem, not an ‘old age’ problem).

mainly WILD OAT (Avena fatua L.)

But what dismayed and worried me the most was the obvious overly dry conditions on the ground, lack of birdlife and minimal bird calls in the area.

Gosh, it is only the end of Spring (I thought to myself).    The whole area between my apartment building and the river is usally ringing with the sound of bird calls.

It was only 20C (about 70F) degrees on Sunday.

The ground under my feet in the low-lying field was rock hard and dry as a bone.

I saw lots of Australian Magpies on the way to the pond and saw flashes of Bell Miners in the treetops on the way home but not much more.

A RATHER POOR PHOTO OF A BELL MINOR STRAIGHT OVER MY HEAD.

…..and here’s a couple of photos of a Bell Minor made on a different day last year to show you what they actually look like…..

When I arrived at the pond it was heavily shrouded in thick water rushes, some 7-8 feet high (as usual).

There is a particular spot where the rushes have a gap near the pond bank where I took these photos last year.

WHITE-FACED HERON in the local pond  – 2018
WHITE-FACED HERON & 2 PACIFIC BLACK DUCKS – 2018

The pond look lifeless last Sunday and I scanned the nearby tall reeds which were waving in the wind.

Then I spotted it.

A Great Egret, but oh so heavily shrouded in water reeds gently waving in the breeze.

 

I switched my long telephoto lens to a single focal point (out of 9)and tried to get it through the water reeds.   Every time I lined up a shot, another waving reed would spoil the composition.   Part of the reason I delayed uploading this post was because of my poor bird photography, but as every amateur bird photographer knows, some days you get lucky and other days not so lucky.

I cropped one shot after I downloaded it so you could get a better view.   I also increased the midtones in editing in an attempt to minimise the over-exposed white feathers (below), but this was the best I could do.

I had seen a Great Egret down at Newells Paddock Nature Reserve (downriver about 3 kms. ) and Jawbone Conservation Reserve (on the coast), but seeing one near home was a delightful surprise.

GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)

Later I walked around the pond a bit further and caught a shot of the head.

GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)
GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)

I apologise for the lousy shots, but some days, one just has to accept the conditions are less-than-perfect.

Besides, as an excuse, I have spent the last 9-10 months indoors, taking photos of House Sparrows and Superb Fairy-wrens with my elbows resting on my desk to act as a ‘tripod’ and had lost the knack of hand-holding a heavy telephoto lens.

I walked around to the southern side of a slightly smaller pond where I’d taken bird shots in previous years.

Not a bird in sight.

I crossed over the rocky causeway and scanned the large expanse of water which looks a bit like a lake (but isn’t).

The old photo above right to give you more of an idea of this area.   I live on the edge of a massive stretch of parkland, river, ponds and nature reserve up and down the Maribyrnong River, one of the major rivers leading down to Port Phillip Bay (on which Melbourne was settled in 1835).

No birds to be seen on the ‘lake’ last Sunday though.

My home location was actually explored by the first white settlers in 1803, so it’s a relatively ‘young’ area of parkland and residential estates (or urban areas).

But here’s a few shots of what I photographed in previous years in this area to make this post worth reading 😀

I may as well go home, I thought last Sunday.   It was getting a bit hot anyway, as there is little real shade in the area, just a few newish young trees for the most.

I walked over to the river and stood still for a while watching a small tourist boat chugging lazily upriver.

Even the golf course on the other side of the river looked dry and lifeless.

I crossed over to the low-lying field next to the canal and spotted a few Purple Swamphens pecking at the dry grass.   I couldn’t get any really decent shots so it seemed.  I wobbled a bit too much with the heavy lens and even heavier breathing.    I’ll have to ‘increase’ the arm & shoulder exercises to built some more muscle I thought to myself.

Spotted Turtle-dove standing on a fence post (below).

Then up close to the Grevillea which was in flower….time to go home…….no point wasting energy on one of my first walks in months.

NOTE: THIS POST HAS BEEN UPDATED TO INCLUDE A SHORT WALK BACK TO THE POND ON TUESDAY AROUND MIDDAY, WHEN I HOPED TO SEE THE GREAT EGRET AGAIN.  NO LUCK I’M AFRAID, ALTHOUGH I DID SEE A WHITE-FACED HERON FLYING OVERHEAD (but too far away for a photo).

The good thing was that my painful hip which had precluded outdoor nature walks in the last 8-9 months held up ok, so another short walk will be attempted at a later date.

I DO miss my Bird Photography and Nature Reserve walks these days.   I pretend I don’t, but you can’t just delete 7-8 years of nature photography ‘off the map’ and adjust to being more housebound without a tinge of sadness.

WHITE-PACED HERON over at the pond near PIPEMAKER’S PARK (about 10 minutes walk upriver).

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.

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.