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