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).

CRIMSON ROSELLA – race elegans (Platycercus elegans)

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….

AS YOU CAN SEE ITS JUST TOO FAR AWAY TO SEE MUCH DETAIL

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.

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.