From the archives
Image made 2 years ago……almost to the day……at Maribyrnong Wetlands.
After walking the restored Paisley-Challis Wetlands a couple of weeks ago (see previous post), I kept walking along the asphalt path (through the start of Jawbone Flora & Fauna Conservation Reserve) which winds its way over 2 islands in the middle of the lake system near the residential area (shown by the continuous line in the map below).
It then extends through the grassed area between the residential housing and the restored salt marsh and lakes, right down to a car park (and Bus Stop to take me on the first stage of my journey home).
Initially, I was only going to look for the Royal Spoonbills (Platalea regia), first sighted back in February, 2018. I wanted a better photo than the one I took with my shorter telephoto lens.
Disappointingly, there weren’t standing in the shallow water near a mound of water reeds where I I’d seen them last year, so I walked a little further and finally spied them, partially obscured by the tall grass right next to me, which were way too high to get a clear shot, so I kept walking,
…….and finally spied them in a better location.
Further away than I’d hoped, but on this day, I had my longer 150-500mm lens. No tripod, but there were several fences along the way on which I hoped to steady the heavy long lens.
So, finally, here’s the shot.
I was happy. These water birds weren’t as close as I would have liked, but the image was certainly ‘good enough’
As my hip/back pain was relatively low on this day I decided to keep walking.
Despite my wire shopping trolley front wheels (containing all 3 camera and lenses) catching on a piece of broken old footpath, flipping over, taking me with it and shattering the filter and glass of my long 150-500mm telephoto lens, I had a lovely long walk and was thrilled to see (literally) hundreds of Black Swans, 2 types of Cormorants, numerous Australian Pelicans and other water birds. There’s still a painful lump on my shin today, but my fractured wrist seems much improved.
For me, it was a superb afternoon’s walk and well worth the journey to this western side of Port Phillip Bay (on which Melbourne was first settled and built around 1835).
Here’s a rather blurred shot below – I only took one shot and must have not held the camera steady. It does give you some idea of the number of wild birds at low tide on the distant foreshore. As well as the huge number of Black Swans with their elegant long necks and red beaks, a fellow photographer I met, showed me his images of Cape Barren Geese which had over-wintered in the area, Black-winged Stilts and a host of other water birds whose names escape me now.
I’d never heard of most of the birds the other photographer reeled off, much less seen them.
I did manage to get some shots of the swans and cormorants closer to the walking path though.
I must visit again…….. checking the tide levels first, in an effort to reach this area so I can walk over the sand. Of course, next visit might mean the scores of birds have left the area 🙂
I was amazed, thrilled and just……soooooo excited to witness such an enormous number. I had to be content to finish my walk, talking images along the way with my Sony a6000 and 55-210 lens, or my Canon DLSR and 17-50mm lens.
BTW As I had to go through the city last Monday, I stopped in at the city camera store repair department and after a lengthy discussion with 2 of the Technicians, decided to spend the $88 inspection fee and have my long telephoto lens sent off to Sigma (or wherever they send it) and get a quote for what it might cost to put new glass in the lens……….assuming it can be done. It was actually only the top 2 layers of glass that fell out and were damaged (together with the UV filter). The technicians said the lens barrel and remaining glass was in excellent condition and it would be a pity not to at least send it off for an assessment (and possible quote). Sigma don’t make this 150-500 lens any more, only the newer one of 150-600mm which is about $1600 – way over any $$$ that I could afford at the moment.
Here’s a few more images (below) which show the area and some of the bird life. I had to be content with staying on the asphalt walking path as I had my old wheeled wire shopping trolley with all my gear, water bottle, lunch, backpack etc. Not something that I could take over rough ground, rocks or sand, but handy to use as a sort of ‘walking stick’ with my (now) constant hip pain, something I’ll just have to get used to, now my total hip replacement surgery, booked for the 22nd February, has had to be cancelled due to ‘pre-existing’ conditions.
Hope you enjoy my walk……
After a couple of really stinking hot humid days in Melbourne, (Thursday topped out at 42.3C and Friday 45.2C, which is about 115F), I’ve got new herb seedlings to plant and a host of Balcony Garden chores to keep me amused for a couple of days.
So what’s on my 2019 ‘bucket list’?
I like to live my life Mindfully in enforced retirement, just concentrating on the current day and taking time to ‘Smell the Roses’. The cool change came through Melbourne late yesterday afternoon, so the constant birdsong is ringing in my ears this morning and my tiny blue ceramic bird bath is a constant source of bird life, mainly the House Sparrows and occasionally, Superb Fairy-wrens, as they go about their day.
I’ve better go outdoors and fill up the water. It’s nearly evaporated again.
It’s been a couple of weeks since I made the trip down to Williamstown’s coastal walking path to try and capture another photo of the Royal Spoonbills (Platalea regia) in the Jawbone Flora and Fauna Conservation Reserve – that shot will come in the next post.
I’ve been a little slow in posting some images of that walk partly due to a sore wrist (hairline fracture so it’s in a splint), but more importantly because I wanted to read up on the area known as the Paisley-Challis Wetlands.
The restoration of this area of wetlands/saltmarsh is a resounding success and to be honest, I wish I’d made many more photos of the low-lying plants close-up.
Maybe next visit.
This post is about the last few hundred yards of walking path which I last looked over, but did not walk, on 1st February, 2018 – shown by the broken line in the top left-hand corner of the map. Or you could say, ‘the start‘ of the walking path I suppose. It’s accessible by bus or car (or if you want to do a longer walk back to Williamstown Beach – via train – far right-hand side of the image).
This post was also delayed due to the fact that most people might find this area fairly ‘ordinary’ to view from my images and since my blog is about photography, I wondered if followers might find my images rather mundane.
I hesitated to include it on my nature blog.
You can read more about Saltmarsh and its importance to the local flora and fauna in this excellent article here.
While the article was written by the New South Wales (state to the north of my state of Victoria) Department of Primary Industries, it was instrumental in my understanding of Saltmarsh areas.
The restoration was started in 2003 and the information board, at the Maddox Road end, provides the image which shows what a marvellous feat of renewal this project was (courtesy of Hobsons Bay City Council). I felt you can better appreciate what appears to be low-lying scrubby landscape by seeing the ‘before’ image – slightly blurred as it is.
NOTE: As always, if you think my plant identification is incorrect in this post, please let me know in the comment section so I can update the name.
So here’s an overview of this small area which covers approximately 5 acres. I found it interesting and well worth the trip, but reading the background of these Wetlands on the internet brings the story to life.
THE GOOD NEWS…….yesterday was perfect weather….cool, light wind, overcast (clearing to sunny) and was the day I finally ended up going back to the Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve to try and get a decent photo of the Royal Spoonbills (Platalea regia) in the middle of one of the lakes..
“Once a highly degraded site, Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve has been transformed into an ecological haven and a place of beauty for the whole community. Stretching from the Westgate Bridge to Williamstown, Altona and down to the Cheethams Wetlands and Point Cook, the park consists of open grasslands, wetlands, a saltmarsh and mangrove conservation area, Wader Beach and the Kororoit Creek.
The Bay trail, popular with cyclists and walkers, runs through the north of the park.”
THE BAD NEWS……I…..ehrrr…..had a slight accident and killed the long telephoto ‘birding’ lens. Initially, I thought it was just the $139.95 UV filter.
I took the UV filter off and turned the camera/lens upside down to look through the viewfinder and all the glass fell out of the lens barrel and on to the asphalt walking path. (in hindsight, now why didn’t I turn it upside down over the grass)?
Not even worth taking it to the repair department in the city – even if the glass could be replaced it would probably cost hundreds of dollars (or half the price of a new lens or more).
THE GOOD NEWS……Yes, I got the shot!
Not close-up, but good enough (and many more before the accident – these will come next week when I’ve reviewed the images and my wrist is less sore. It’s just in a splint at the moment as I didn’t want a plaster slab on it for a week restricting everything I do). I can type ok.
In the meantime, this morning the swelling on my knee has gone down, but very painful so maybe I should have had that X-rayed (as well as my hand). Funny, how the worst of the pain comes out the next day.
THE BAD NEWS……by the time I picked up the pieces, finished the walk, sore in more than a few spots……..$1141.45 had gone down the plughole (as they say)……in taxi, lens, UV filter, bus……later that night, taxi, hospital E.R, taxi home.
THE GOOD NEWS……only a hairline fracture in my (X-rayed) wrist……..but my knee hurts like hell this morning…..lets hope it gets better with rest.
THE BAD NEWS…..I can’t afford a new lens & filter (at the moment), so this may be an end to any close-up bird shots in the future.
I didn’t even shed a tear over the loss of my beloved ‘birding’ lens – all I thought was ‘another one bites the dust’, kept walking and shooting with the other 2 lenses I had with me.
THE GOOD NEWS.….It was a glorious day and there were hundreds, if not thousands of birds to be seen. I had a lovely chat to another photographer who told me some of the names of the other birds and showed me his photos taken further along the foreshore – (it was low tide).
Another couple of photographers (on bicycles) stopped to chat and tell me more about the whole Marine Sanctuary and Nature Reserve.
So, I’d say it was a good day 🙂
It was late in the day (6.30pm DST) when I went outdoors for some fresh air yesterday.
I walked to the end of the row of townhouses and back to my front door with my Mother’s old walking stick. It had been one of those days when my back/hip/knee pain was absolutely excruciating and no amount of painkillers worked. Having successfully achieved this short ‘stroll’ I decided to walk down to the nearby Maribyrnong River and back home.
(note: photos below were made at various times over the last 2 years since I moved to the area, not yesterday).
My Sony a6000 ‘mirrorless’ with its one (and only) lens – the 55-210mm – was over my shoulder and I figured I’d probably not see any birds close enough to the walking path to do any bird photography and besides…….if I did, I would have needed my DSLR and long 150-500mm lens to capture them up close.
But what the heck – a walk with a camera is better than a walk without 🙂
Of course, as you can all imagine, I DID see a bird.
A new one I’d never seen before in this area.
Its stopped me in my tracks and I never did get to the river.
Despite the fast dwindling light, the bird’s brilliant red head stood out like a beacon in the pocket of dry grass next to Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve.
It was a Crimson Rosella (Platycercus elegans).
I’d seen this Rosella in the Dandenong Ranges National Park in the wild (and also at one of the bird feeding stations on my brother’s farm in the country), but NEVER in an urban area or near my current home, despite being a very common bird.
The Crimson Rosella is a large broad-tailed parrot, conspicuous and familiar in the east and southeast of the country. The adult is predominantly deep crimson, heavily mottled black on back, with blue throat/cheek patch, blue shoulder to the wing and blue-green tail.
The Southeast race (Platycercus flaveolus) is strikingly different with a golden-olive body, crimson forehead, breast and under tail.
Despite the cold wind which pierced my thin jacket and made me shiver, I managed to hold the camera quite still and captured 3-4 relatively well focused shots. The last 6-8 months practice of photographing those fast-moving tiny Fairy-wrens on my balcony…… paid off.
And here’s a cropped version of the image on the left. Sorry the grass is in the way, but you bird photographers know how it is. The best camera is the one you’ve got with you and while I could hope for a better shot on another day, this nature blog is about what I see on my walk (not what I hope to see in the future).
I carefully used my walking stick to balance as I gingerly side-stepped down a steep 4 foot embankment (in the hope of getting closer to the parrot).
I couldn’t get closer than about 20 feet, but once again my shot was good enough to crop to show you the back of the parrot as it turned in the dry grass.
(for the zillionth time I wish I had my Canon DSLR and could pin point the bird’s head with one focal point).
Then it must have sensed my stealthy approach and flew away to the tree on the corner of the nature reserve.
…and once again, here’s a cropped version.
Then it hopped down to a lower branch….
For those new to my nature blog, the corner of Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve, which is so overgrown and has no pathways through it, is approximately 100 feet from my ‘back gate’ (the entrance to my building’s basement car park). You can walk around the perimeter, but not through it. In fact the area close to my home has a pond surrounded by 6-7 foot high reeds and various species of waist-high densely woven grass. In the warmer weather the signs warning of snakes are not to be ignored.
Note: Australia has 9 out of 10 of the most poisonous snakes in the world.
Yesterday, just before dusk, the wind was bitterly cold and I probably should have gone outdoors earlier, but it was a last-minute decision. I certainly wasn’t prepared for the chilly wind on this late Spring afternoon.
Since the image above looks pretty ‘ordinary’ to most of us, (I only had one camera hooked to the back of my shopping trolley and couldn’t bend down low), I thought the newer followers might like to see the series of images I took last year.
If you live in Melbourne, Newells Paddock Conservation Reserve, next to the Maribyrnong River, is well worth visiting any time of the year. But when the Rounded Noon flowers are in bloom, a visit is almost mandatory. I don’t know whether our driest start to Spring on record, this year, might affect the timing of the display.
There’s a car park near the entrance of the general picnic area, but you need to walk from the car park (on the left side of the map above), through the tree area (image on the right) and out into the open pond area near the river, to see the Rounded Noon Flowers.
Here’s a few photos of the Conservation area near the river to give you an overview. Have a quick read of the history of the area – it will give you a sense of this amazing restoration project.
The images (above) were made on my first visit to the area and if it wasn’t for my current exacerbated back, hip and knee pain keeping me mostly housebound in the last 6-8 months, I’d be down at this Nature Reserve every other week. There’s just so much bird-life to see.
The whole colour scheme of the landscape changes in Autumn (above). It’s one of those places which is so damn close to where I currently live……and yet so far away when you can’t do much walking.
Last year I walked home from the Reserve once and I think it’s approximately 3.7 kilometres to my back door (via the river walking/cycling path).
….anyway back to the subject of this post….Rounded Noon Flowers.
You could never miss identifying an Australian Pelican (Pelecanus conspicillatus).
….and they’re found all over the country except inland to the west.
They have a short tail, very bulky-bodied appearance with a long neck and stout short legs. The head, neck and body are all-white.
The adult has a short rough crest. The wings are long and broad, white, with flight feathers producing a broad black trailing edge above and below.
The immature is dark brown and off-white. While the image below is a wee bit over-exposed, it’s the only photo I have of a young Pelican so it belongs in this post.
It soars frequently and is one of the very few birds I’ve ever captured in flight. They were probably standing still in the air held aloft by wind gusts LOL 😀
I suppose I am exaggerating as I have photographed the odd bird mid-flight, but its more through luck, than skill with the camera. Methinks not enough practice (when it’s so much easier to photograph birds that stand still for me).
The best photos I’ve got in my bird library were made at Melbourne Zoo, where, if you know the right winding path through some thickets below the tree-top Orangutan enclosure, you can get very close indeed.
It’s such a thrill to get up close to these magnificent birds.
I’ve photographed quite a few down at Brighton beach (a southern bayside beach from Melbourne City – accessible via public transport from the city), but now I live in the west, a little too far away from my present home location to re-visit at the present time.
The other images I’ve made were at Jawbone Conservation Reserve and Marine Sanctuary in the western bay suburb of Williamstown. I’ve been there via bus (and taxi 🙂 ) a few times now, but still haven’t got around to taking the heavy telephoto lens down there to capture the birds perched on the islands or marshland stretches. The first 3 images below were captured through a wooden hide, so if I’d had the long lens, I would have been able to capture them up close (as I did at Melbourne Zoo).
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.
It’s 9.30am Sunday and I just stepped out on to my apartment balcony to fill the bird bath.
“S%#@” I said to myself.
There’s bird poop everywhere.
I was so engaged at observing the multitude of birds in the flower, herb and veggie pots yesterday, I once again forgot the repercussions of feeding the hoards (of local bird life).
The hard white pellets were not just on my apartment balcony fence either.
(That’s their usual depository).
There were soft white mini puddles of the stuff on the slate-grey balcony floor tiles. I gingerly weaved my way across the 5′ space to the bright blue ceramic dish and filled it up with fresh water and surveyed the scene.
Do I wait in the hope that today’s rain will wash some of it away OR get right on to the task of getting it off with some hot soapy water before it dries too hard?
I think I’ll give The Rain a first shot at the task.
In the meantime, the Japanese Maple tree in front of my balcony is covered in tiny new leaves. The buds didn’t take long to sprout. The above photo is from last year, but it’s the same week in early Spring and is perfect for today’s post.
In Australia, we call the 1st of September the first day of Spring, not the true Spring equinox which occurs around the 20-23rd September.
This new growth usually brings the hoards of House Sparrows for breakfast and later in the day – about 3.30-4.00pm, depending on the warmth of the sun – the tiny little Fairy Wrens. The Sparrows seem to love the tender bright green tips on each branch.
With warmer temperatures forecast for this coming week, Spring is definitely making her mark on the landscape.
Yesterday’s images were lousy (of Birds on my Balcony).
I’d only taken about 4-5 and then given up. After spending the whole morning bird watching, Friday’s sore throat got much worse and I succumbed to a lazy afternoon of TV (with half an eye straying to the bird life as the chirping and tweeting rose and fell over the hours).
One good thing to come out of being housebound so much this year is that I’m getting lots of practice at photographing the fast-moving smaller birds in the area. …and with the potted plants 4-10 feet from my desk chair, who can resist the practice.
If you want to become a good photographer, practice, practice and more practice can never go astray.
Not all shots have been good, but the ones below, taken on Friday, are just fine and even the shape of the shadows on the corrugated wall in the background make an interesting addition to the scene. It’s a female Superb Fairy-wren in this case.
I notice in my photo archives on the 10th September 2017, I was down at Jawbone Marine Sanctuary and Conservation Reserve (stretching from the western suburb of Williamstown down Port Phillip Bay to Altona and beyond).
Will I ever get back down there to photograph the Royal Spoonbills with the long 150-500mm lens? I think the images below, made with the Sony ‘mirrorless’ camera and its (one and only) 55-210mm lens on the 1st February this year show promise of some great shots to be made from my Canon DLSR and longer lens. But I haven’t been well enough to go back in recent months.
Then there’s the Australia Pelicans and various Cormorants out on the rocks of the promontory, or long island separating the lakes system and the sea.
I think I need to take a tripod and choose a windless day and perhaps conserve my minimal energy and catch a taxi direct to the small lakes system, take a few images, have the obligatory Fish’n’Chips on the beach and come straight home again.
(I rarely go to the beach these days, and truly, its the only place to have piping hot REAL chips and perfectly battered fresh fish. Cafes and restaurants and shopping centres/malls are not the same as sitting in the fresh sea air with some spray from the rocks catching you unawares and the scent of the sea filling your nostrils).
Here’s a few images from last year to remind the regular followers of the scene (and give the new followers an idea of the potential). There are various segments of the long coastal walk and I’ve only explored part of one closest via public transport.
Here’s a map of the walk I’ve done so far since living in the Western suburbs, and while my knee, hip and lower back pain prevent a repeat of this small section, I can always ‘cheat’ and avoid the lengthy 2-bus trip (which winds its way through the suburbs picking up and dropping off passengers at each stop), by catching a taxi which only takes approx. 25 minutes and can drop me off at the top left of the map right next to the walking path and 2 islands where I first saw the Royal Spoonbills. The taxi can drop me about 20-50 feet from the spot I want.
I’ve visited the area several times now and want to do some bird photography, not walking.
I caught a taxi the very first time I went this part of the coast as I was a complete newcomer to this side of Melbourne and didn’t have the slightest clue which bus services went where, OR exactly where I was going.
This stretch of the coastal walk would probably be only a brisk 30 minute walk, but anyone who walks that fast is missing a beautiful piece of coastal reserve and conservation area and maybe should think seriously about getting a treadmill and blindfold to use in their garage for exercise purposes.
Here’s a few more images to lure you to the spot if you’re a local Melburnian.
My beach and coastal walks years ago were limited to the Bayside Beaches on the south side of Melbourne when I was living over that side of the city.
(Sorry about the long post, but once I started, my fingers ran away with the words and my long months of being pretty much housebound needed the visual outing).
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.
Is it only a year ago, I was still doing long nature walks and outdoor photography?
Life is impermanent and the most important thing is to accept, adapt and move on with the next stage of one’s life when things change.