SUPERB FAIRY-WREN (Malurus cyaneus) – female

 

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ODDS & SODS…….

I’ve been trying to stay off the computer in the interests of Health & Happiness.  I discovered how much better my chronic 20 month-old headache is for starters.

Sorry folks, but even blog reading and commenting is severely rationed.

I’ve also been trying to do some Odds & Sods e.g. sorting out old linen and kitchen wares for the charity shop.  Culling a few more books.

The remaining task of downsizing my heavy potted plants and pot-bound ones between bright sunny afternoons and rainy cold afternoons is still in progress.

Due to lack of growth, I pulled all the Spinach plants out of the big heavy veggie trough and ate them (below in the white plastic bowl).

Still can’t work out why it didn’t grow.  I think I’ll go back to Perpetual ‘cut & pick’ and Baby Leaf varieties.  They were brilliant (image on the right).

But since the Baby Leaf was in a heavy tall pot, (and don’t ask me why I didn’t put it in a small pot), I’ve eaten all that, instead of just cutting off outer leaves.  So I’ve only got Kale, mint and parsley to eat at the moment.  Even the Parsley is going to seed and might have to be replaced.

I still haven’t got back to the row of Cherry Blossoms in the nearby small park to photograph, so you get the best shot out of a couple of weeks ago.  The image below was actually from a small row of trees in front of a new apartment block.

The Gum nuts off the Red-flowering Eucalyptus near the top of my steep little road are in abundance and I can’t wait for the flowers to appear in a 3-4 months.

There are certainly lots of new shoots on the other side of the bush, but the holes and dilapidated state of their leaves continue to indicate some sort of pest or disease.

…….and for once, I wish the Developers and Construction workers would come back to the site on the other side of my road, because I’m fed up with the blown-down fences and eyesore of the half-finished excavation.  I think 26th June was the last sighting.

Well, that’s my lot for the week 🙂

Time to turn the computer off early…….. and get on with it.

PS After a week of lovely weather, its back to cold and rain with intermittent sun breaks  😀

PPS.

….and yes, I could look through my enormous photo library and find a nice selection of images to share and write about, but my photo libraries are a mess (still) and I’d end up on the computer for the afternoon and get nothing done away from my desk.

PPPS.

….and it’s probably a timely reminder, (again), for all Aussies to start wearing the highest SPF sun-block (mine is 50+), a good hat and long-sleeved shirt and try to avoid the central part of the day.

Winter or Overcast days do not protect you from the UV rays, neither does a suntan you big strong beefy men.

Two weeks ago I had one suspicious spot removed from my upper left arm which turned out to be a Basel cell carcinoma (the slow-growing skin cancer, but still the potential to spread externally and internally)  – stitches out tomorrow.   I’ve got another one to be removed from my right upper arm tomorrow.

Then a full body and scalp check at a Skin Cancer Clinic in about 4 weeks time.

Gee, they sure remove large pieces of flesh with these biopsies.  But what’s a few stitches and scars if it stops the spread.

Neither site has seen sun for about 30+ years, but my lower forearms DID get seriously sunburnt in the first 2-3 summers of my Photography hobby (despite sunblock) – 2011, 2012 & 2013.

Pleeeeeease heed my warnings.

 

THE ENEMY HAS LANDED…………

I was admiring the lovely streaks of rust-coloured bark in the Eucalypt(?) trees at the top of my road yesterday when I suddenly spied some movement.

I realised the enemy, HARLEQUIN BUGS (Dindymus versicolor), were in the start of mating season and if I wanted to have any semblance of a Spring Garden I’d really have to take more serious  action this year and stop admiring their colourful backs.

THE BUSH OUTSIDE MY FRONT ENTRANCE 3 DAYS AGO.

Not only did they eat just about every leaf in my balcony garden, they even ate every single Sage leaf – all 100 to 120 or more.  The pungent leaves of Sage are meant to deter pests, not attract them.  Sage was the only one of my herbs to not recover this past winter and I’ve thrown it out.  I’ve also thrown the enormous Rosemary bush out.  It was potbound and had been cut in half twice with the gusty winds, so I’ve decided to replace it with a more prostrate variety.  Rosemary flowers were also on the Harlequin Bugs dinner menu to my surprise.

These bugs must be very hardy indeed.

Kate at Achievable Gardens had some good advice.

I’ve already posted this shot of my Pink Argyranthemum last week, but it was more the interest in photographing a small insect with my 17-50mm lens, than acknowledgement of the savage pest onslaught to come in the near future.

Today and tomorrow are going to be superb Spring days so I’ll be taking the opportunity to plan something new.  A couple of weeks ago I found the heavier potted plants TOO heavy for my fragile back and hip pain, so a redesign is necessary (and if I’m honest, keeps me amused).

I’m just getting over another virus (the 2nd this year) at the moment, so I don’t feel up to going too far afield.  I don’t normally catch flu type viruses and this year has been highly unusual.  But then I rarely mix with the Homo Sapiens in the area, preferring Flora and Fauna for company, so it was probably last Tuesday’s lengthy foray in the nearby Shopping centre, with its 500+ stores, that caused me to come in contact with Human bugs.

 Or maybe I’m just getting old. 😯

I often wish I lived in the country with just four-legged friends for Company………. maybe in my next life 🙂

 

SHOT OF THE DAY

Yesterday was very windy (just as the other 360+ days of the year are around my outer western suburban apartment 🙂 ).

But my Shot of the Day shows there’s never time for a ‘make-up and hair session‘ before the day’s bird photography session.   So with feathers flying this way and that, here was the shot.  Can’t remember if it was through the glass window I’d washed the day before, OR simply, right angle, right time of day with no reflections or marks on the glass.

Probably the latter.

SUPERB FAIR-WREN (female)

I’d spent most of the afternoon in my balcony garden the day before and soon discovered all the larger pots are now too heavy for me to move around.  I suspected many were pot-bound and in one rather ground-breaking, (and somewhat sad), moment, made the decision to dismantle and ditch all large potted plants (including the 3 now-empty) pots  meant for this summer’s tomato crop.

Not sure that the next size pots I have are deep enough for a tomato plant (as shown in last summer’s tomato crop below).  You all know how excited I was in anticipation of another bumper tomato crop.

When I cut off all the tall Rosemary branches into small pieces and tipped out the plant/soil, I was shocked to discover just how pot-bound it was.

I couldn’t see any shred of soil left, only a basket weave of tightly woven roots in the shape of an elongated square.  I should have photographed it as, you gardeners out there would never have believed your eyes.

I didn’t.

I’ve never seen such a pot-bound plant……even on my favourite TV gardening show Gardening Australia where presenters have shown how to re-pot a plant that is pot bound.

If you’ve followed my balcony gardening efforts through recent years, you will appreciate what a hard decision this was.  But the recent heart scare and short stay in hospital re-inforced my thought process.  I have to be more sensible in lifting weight with (inherited) Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy.

Anyway, back to the garden…….

When that gorgeous Nemesia (above) is finished that large pot will be emptied.  Well, its supposed to be an annual, but with my micro-climate, it may bloom for some time yet.

I’ll keep the white Alyssum and Kale pots until the flowers/vegetable are finished and then empty those, although I hope to get some decent potting soil out of the lower half of those pots, being more recently planted and much more shallow-rooted.

I’ve already eaten all the baby leafed Spinach which I’d kept going for many many months, only plucking off the outer leaves each time I harvested a handful of leafy greens for lunch.

And, I’ve got a brilliant idea for those 6 large square pots.  They will be washed, dried and turned upside down to place the smaller pots on.  That will make 6 small pots easier to water and much easier to check for pests without having to bend over.

There’s always something good to come out of something less than desirable in my life.

There are always options.

You just have to be creative and imagine other possibilities when faced with less favourable decisions which have to be made.

Yesterday I had the thrill of the year when both a male Superb Fairy-wren in full breeding plumage and a female flew down to the garden at the same time.  I was so excited I couldn’t hold the heavy camera & 150-500mm lens still enough.  But apart from that bad camera shake, the clean windows didn’t offer any clear shot anyway.  But I’m still going to share the shots so you can get some idea of the adult blue feathered male and the plainer female together.

Since I’ve scattered birdseed in between many of the herb and spinach plants yesterday, hopefully I’ll get another photo opportunity when the sliding door is open on a warmer day.

Funnily enough, I’d been planning on going out and still had my jacket on.

I decided not to go out, but finish the article I was typing earlier and an hour and a half later, when the sun was lower in the sky, I got lucky and a tiny male Fairy-wren chick landed on the Sorrel pot which was further up the balcony space, closer to my desk.

If you look carefully in the second image below, or zoom in, you can see a faint pale blue tinge to the feathers.  This tiny wren was definitely a baby boy.

How strange that many of the birds visited this particular pot during the day, as I had no bird seed scattered around it and Sorrel (Rumex sanguineus) leaves, like the Mizuma ‘Red’ (Brassica rapa var nipposinica) up near the lettuces, are a bit peppery, or have a sharp tangy acidic flavour.

Anyway, I’ve put some bird seed around the Sorrel plant and moved it to a position where I hope there is no glass reflection this morning.  The House Sparrows have found it, now for the Fairy-wrens.

I’ve had several Superb Fairy-wrens and House Sparrows visiting already this morning, and at one stage, 5-6 birds at once.  For a change, I just sat at my desk watching all the birds visit every herb, flower and vegetable pot in turn and didn’t attempt any more photos.  Anyway, I think a trip to the archives is necessary as we’ve had enough balcony bird shots in recent weeks.

Today, the winds are even more gusty and storms forecast, but doesn’t it always rain when you’ve washed the outside of the windows 😀

Maybe that’s a tip I should share with other apartment dwellers trying to have a small Balcony Garden.

Wash your windows and balcony door – once a week at least.

PS I forgot to mention…….the Harlequin Bugs are back in town.

 

 

CAUGHT YOU…..

Well, not quite.

I’d been watching the House Sparrows wandering around my garden looking for birdseed or young green shoots to eat this morning.  Occasionally, I sprinkle some seed in the Spinach long trough or around some of the white Alyssum plants.

This morning I became aware they actually eat the parsley leaves on the balcony fence plant(s) too.  But a reflection on the (now-closed) sliding door prevents a clear image of that bird.

I caught one House Sparrow diving into the Blueberry bush, but by the time I picked up the camera it had moved and all I captured was a grey blur (shown in the centre bottom of the frame below).

THE GREY BLUE OF A HOUSE SPARROW CAN BE SEEN AT THE CENTRE BOTTOM OF THE FRAME IF YOU ZOOM IN A LITTLE. As you can see, the bush is loaded with flowers.

I’d raised the flower-covered Blueberry bush up higher on top an upturned empty pot to try and capture some more light.  This also enables me to see better at which stage I need to get the bird netting out to cover it.

Last night I was reading up on growing Blueberry bushes and it seems you’re supposed to pull off the flowers for the first 2-3 years to encourage thicker growth and deeper roots – neither of which I want, as it’s only in an 8″ pot and I don’t want any larger, heavier pots in my balcony garden after my recent heart scare and 4 days in hospital.

There were 3 Sparrows visiting me this morning and it seemed that they, like the Fairy Wrens, are quite partial to nibbling a bit of the young seedling leaves I’d planted about 3 weeks ago indoors.  The plants, while initially liking the warm room, eventually called out for some fresh air and I had to put them outside.

THIS IS ABOUT 95% OF MY CURRENT BALCONY PLANTS AND YOU CAN SEE A COUPLE OF TERRACOTTA-COLOURED PLASTIC POTS AGAINST THE CORRUGATED SURFACE OF THE FAR WALL READY FOR TOMATO PLANTS.

At this stage of the season, only about 65% of my balcony gets much sun in the afternoon.

Later, probably in about 6 weeks or so, most of my balcony receives the hot sun as it creeps across my apartment building and heads for the west.  No matter how hot the day in mid-to-late summer, even over 40 degrees C, my balcony lies in deep cool shade up until about 1.30-2.30pm and is blissfully cool.  When the sun hits my floor-to-ceiling windows, it is very hot outdoors and like a sauna indoors.

Down come the block-out blinds and on goes the air-conditioning.  Unfortunately this means while there’s cool air indoors, the blast from the air-conditioning outlet on the north-western end of the balcony, projects a strong blast of hot air all afternoon and I need to keep most of the plans to the south-western end and/or all other plants on the edges so the hot air goes down the centre of the 20 foot space and dissipates into the air.

Needless to say, I had a bumper tomato crop last summer from the 3 plants against the wall and I’m keen to repeat the process.

Not sure whether I can get the same Tomato variety from my nearby branch of Bunnings Hardware warehouse (hope the linked photos work ok, they weren’t the best, but at least they showed the size of the store and plant nursery outdoors) and Plant Nursery, but after my medical appointment today, I can catch a tram direct to the store and make some enquiries when I get another bag of potting soil and a couple of other things.

Thankfully, the larger bag of potting soil fits exactly into my shopping trolley.  Not sure I’m up for the walk home, so taxi it might be again, but I do want to get some tomatoes in before too long.

I’ve now rearranged some of the plant pots so that the Rosemary is next to the Louvre bedroom windows (on the off-chance what I’d read about Rosemary repelling mosquitoes and spiders is effective).  The bedroom window is to the left of the Rosemary outside the frame of this image below.  This window provides the light in my bedroom, but I only sleep there so who cares if its good light or bad light.

I’ve still got the scars from last summer’s mozzie and spider  bites and one bite, from goodness knows what species, has turned nasty, so after some antibiotic ointment which made it worse, I’ve reverted to my good old-fashioned Lavender, German Chamomile essential oils mixed with some Vitamin E cream and it seems to be slightly better.  If it doesn’t get better, some minor surgery at the local medical centre is on the cards as its been hanging around for too many months now and I don’t know what caused the bite – can’t be the little spiders and I fear it might have been the large black spider whose body I found next to my bed pillow one summer morning.

That was about 6 months ago.

Spiders are not to be trifled with in Australia as we have several deadly ones as well as a few flesh-eating species.  Neither of which I would expect to see in my bedroom, but I do sweep the dead leaves and all the cobwebs off the windows fairly regularly – just in case.

I’ve also moved the Mint, Lemon-Thyme and Nemesia to the same small 3 foot square corner off the main balcony to keep the Rosemary company.  I’d never used this 3 foot space before as the rain doesn’t reach it and I have to remember to water the pots regularly – even in winter.

THE NEMESIA, AFTER A DIFFICULT BEGINNING WHEN I THOUGHT THE STRONG WIND WOULD BREAK ITS FLIMSY BRANCHES, IS NOW STRONG AND FLOWERING EXTREMELY WELL, BUT THE COLOUR IS MERELY A STOPGAP UNTIL I GET A PERENNIAL OR ANOTHER VEGETABLE TO TRY OUT.

In recent days I also managed to catch a few images of one of the House Sparrows in the young Eucalyptus tree.  I’ve heard so many rustlings and cheeps and tweets, I was sure there were a few young birds in the tree.

The 3 images below are about the best out of 6 made, but do keep in mind that if they look a little faded, it’s merely the dirty window through which they were shot (from my desk chair.  I’ve deepened the contrast and reduced the dark shadows in post processing to enable you to see the bird a bit better.

It’s dark in the depths of that tree.

It’s grown about 3 feet since I moved here 2 years ago.  I can remember a time in the early months when I was waiting for its branches to reach the height of the balcony rails, and then, it started growing steadily and is now 3 foot higher than the balcony fence.

If this growth keeps up it will eventually block part of the new Apartment Construction Development starting across my tiny road.

For those who read my early post of the development, I haven’t seen any more machinery or work for about 5-6 weeks I think. Or maybe more.   Perhaps they’re waiting for the warmer weather and the soil on the cliff face to dry out OR, like many construction sites, Developers move various machinery and workmen around from site to site.

These 2 images were taken while sitting at my desk, so in the first shot you’ll be able to see that that young Eucalyptus sapling in the lower right of the frame will eventually hide half the development as it grows.

Just found some images – it was 26th June that the construction workers were last here.  You’ll notice in the 2nd shot, that there are some big rocks to crack and break before moving.

Now….THAT…..WILL BE A VERY NOISY WEEK WHEN THAT HAPPENS.   I don’t mind the sound of the excavator early in the morning, but the rock cracker attachment is deafening and I might be forced to temporarily take a folding chair and sit down near the back step leading to the path near the nature reserve for a couple of hours each day.

That is not as bad as it sounds, as the view is quite refreshing.

I’m enjoyed the peace in the mornings, which are now back to being filled with birdsong on the sunny afternoons.

Funny, what little changes you notice in such a small area when you’re often housebound.

Note: I’ve just come back from my kitchen and sat down to see a tiny Superb Fairy-wren visiting.  The Sony camera was the closest to my hand, but since the bird was initially right in front of my desk, it was hard to capture an image of it. (see centre of shot below).

Apologies for the lousy shot, but if I’d stood up from my chair, it would have seen me and flown away.

I did manage another image when it moving over to the new seedling trays, but these wrens move very fast and I’m a better bird photographer with the Canon DLSR using one central focal point (than the Sony ‘mirrorless which was still against my eye as I followed the tiny wren around).  I’d also closed the balcony sliding door as it was getting too cold, so you get reflections on the image.

Surprising how good a shot you can get sitting on the ottoman pulled up close to the window and with elbows resting on one’s knees.  I have a much steadier hand and no camera shake for a hand-held shot.

I’M QUITE MYSTIFIED AS TO WHY THE LITTLE SPINACH SEEDLING ON THE LEFT HAND SIDE OF THIS IMAGE IS NOT GROWING. THE OTHER 7 ARE DOING PRETTY WELL SO FAR.
CATCHING THAT DROPLET OF RAIN WATER ON THE PAK CHOY WOULD BE HARD FOR ME WITHOUT THE STEADINESS OF RESTING MY ELBOWS ON MY KNEES. THERE’S NOT REALLY ENOUGH ROOM TO MOVE A TRIPOD AROUND MY TINY LOUNGE SPACE INDOORS.

THAT’S ALL FROM THE ROOM WITH A VIEW and MY BALCONY GARDEN for this week.