PRACTICE, PRACTICE AND MORE PRACTICE

Even when I’m not doing any photography for my blog, I practice from my desk chair most mornings after reading my emails.

To catch a bird on my balcony in my current apartment is getting easier as time goes by, but that doesn’t mean I always get the eye in sharp focus (which is what makes a good bird photo), or the light is good on any given day.

I make hundreds and hundreds of blurred shots.  Some are downright funny.  Others are just plain awful, but I persevere.

When I get a good shot…….of even the most common bird on my balcony……I feel a real sense of achievement.

Sometimes I get lucky, but in general, the only way to improve your bird photography is practice, practice and more practice.  The faster and smaller the moving bird, the more challenging it becomes.

I spent a bit more time practicing on House Sparrows yesterday. (I finally got all the household chores up to date and a couple of other indoor projects finished 🙂  Hurray!).

It was a good day and the light just right, and despite sharing dozens of House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) images before, here’s some more.

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RED-TAILED BLACK COCKATOO (Calyptorhynchus banksii)

From the archives – 2012 – 2015

Australia has some spectacularly coloured Cockatoos and Parrots.

But this post is not about them.

It’s about a dark Cockatoo of a rather dull colour, but none the less interesting.  The speckled yellow dots are of the female by the way.  The male is sooty black but with red panels at the base of its tail.  The females also have a strikingly white beak.  It looks a bit of a dirty dull colour in the above image, but that might be the light on the day of shooting.

The Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii) is large  and very common inland and to the north of the country.  I’ve only seen it in The Great Aviary at Melbourne Zoo, but it still fascinates me when you view it front-on as, to put it impolitely, it looks like a hagged old crone with no teeth from fairy stories.  (Did I mention I have vivid imagination?).

Very territorial and often gregarious, it issues a metallic trumpeting ‘kreee’ sound.

Here’s a few more images I’ve made over several zoo visits…..made with different cameras and lenses.

PIED IMPERIAL PIGEON (Ducula bicolour)

From the archives – mainly 2015.

The Pied Imperial Pigeon, (Ducula bicolour), is not an Australian bird species but I’ve got so many images from the Zoo’s Great Aviary, that I figure it deserves a mention on my Nature Blog.

Is this an old(er) fat female who’s just been to the hairdresser for a trendy cut OR a young obese male with premature balding?

It’s a relatively large, plump, (as you’ll see in the second photo above), pied species of pigeon and normally found in forest, woodland, scrub and now – some of the mangroves in the far north of Australia, especially the Gulf of Carpentaria.

In the dry season these pigeons fly back to South East Asia – Thailand,  Indonesia, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea.

One of my images shows one of the pigeons tipped over a tree branch and you can see the black bars under the tail, so I’ve included that shot in this post (below lower left).

They are migratory coastal birds and that’s one of the reasons why they’re now found in northern Australia in the wet season, when the monsoon rains result in an abundance of forest fruits like the bright orange fruit of the Carpentaria Palm.

Feel free to do a Google search if you want to know more about them.  Mr Google told me the above as I didn’t know much about them, except that I had some good close-ups.

I love this bird, but then, I love any bird that stands still (for me to photograph)  😀

As is often the case, there seems to be different names for this bird, including different scientific names.

Pied Imperial Pigeon (Ducula bicolor)

 

RADJAH SHELDUCK (Tadorna radjah)

From the archives – 2012, 13 & 2015

The other Australian shelduck is called the Radjah Shelduck (Tadorna rajah) and personally, I like it’s feather pattern/colour more than the Australian Shelduck in the previous post.  I notice the name on the image below is slightly different to the other images in my archives, but no matter.

Radjah Shelduck (Tadorna radjah rufitergum)
In this image I’m standing on the raised boardwalk about 15 feet over the large pond near the rainforest end.

It has beautiful rich dark brown back feathers whose colour intensity changes with the sunlight (or shade).  It has a comparatively long neck and smaller head (than the Australian Shelduck).  Very pale pink legs and feet carry its, mostly, white body, although its white underwing does have a broad green speculum on the inner half.

While my earlier images of this bird weren’t that good, one of my last photography outings to Melbourne Zoo’s Great Aviary in 2015 scored some better shots.  The Shelduck was standing on the boardwalk fence about 5 feet away from where I was standing on the swaying section of the boardwalk bridge.

I do remember having trouble taking advantage of the close proximity of the bird, as young children kept screaming and running over the moveable section next to me (despite the signs at the entrance asking children not to run or shout), sending me swaying with the heavy DSLR.

Then the bird flew over my head and stood on the other side of me (but still close).  It turned a bit away from me though.  Not so much of a side view.

By the way, don’t dismiss Zoo photography if you’re new to Photography.  If you’re like me, don’t have a car, or the health, to get outdoors to the country or mountains, a Zoo is a great place to practice holding your camera still (for hand-held shots), and in the case of Melbourne Zoo’s Great Aviary, a very enjoyable way to spend an afternoon – I used to love it.

Note: we have 3 zoos in Melbourne – the others being Healesville Sanctuary in the country (where my youngest niece is a volunteer), and Werribee Park’s Open Range Zoo to the south of my suburb.  I can get a train to Werribee easily enough, but not sure about the Open Range Zoo area – maybe there are some shuttle buses from the train station?  I believe there is a shuttle bus that leaves from the National Gallery of Victoria at around 9.30am for a full day trip.  I think the bus costs Aus$35 for a full day trip (which might also include the historic Werribee Park Mansion next door).  The Rose Gardens are extensive, but I’ve only see them after a storm ……..once…….and the roses were slightly deficient in petals and colour 😦

By the way, I did get caught out once when I went to the Zoo specifically to spend the whole afternoon in the Aviary on a hot summer’s day and it was closed for maintenance.

For those who have just started following my nature blog, here’s a series of images of the Aviary interior so you can see how large it is.  It has 3 zones – one end being rainforest (where the swaying high-up bridge is and the stream starts from a tiny pool and waterfall), and the other end temperate rainforest around a large pond.  There’s several feeding stations close to the raised boardwalk along your pathway and around 4.00pm (?) you can get some great close-ups of the avian inhabitants at those seed bowls.

If you’re visiting Melbourne with your family and would like to see all 3 Zoos, paying for a full membership would probably be cheaper than a family ‘day pass’ to each zoo.  Do check out their website (and if the Great Aviary on is your ‘must see’ list, phone ahead to ensure it is not closed on the day).

The Zoo is open 365 days per year.

While much of the zoo has been re-landscaped and new enclosures built, I’m pretty sure that they won’t have changed the Aviary since I visited 3 years ago.  They have excellent breeding programs and exchange animals with other zoos around the world to ensure rare breeds do not die out to extinction.

(and the baby lemurs and monkeys are sooooo cute).

In winter, if it’s cold, many of the birds are high up near the roof trying to get some sun and it can be hard to see them, although sometimes you get lucky if you have a long lens and a sunny winter day – examples of a White-faced Heron below.

If you’d like some more images from the Zoo, let me know in the comments section.  It might be timely to delve more into the flower section of my archives.

Today, Wednesday and Thursday look promising for outdoor photography excursions, but my pain levels don’t allow me much walking these days.

Otherwise, ‘From the archives’ will continue on this blog for the time being.  I hope long-time followers are enjoying the ‘repeats’ or ‘re-views’.

AUSTRALIAN SHELDUCK (Tadorna tadornoides)

From the archives – 2012 & 2013

Australian Shelduck

We have 2 Shelducks, (that I know of), in Australia and both are easy to identify being large, almost goose-like, in size.    The Australian Shelduck (Tadorna tadornoides) has distinctive chestnut and blackish plumage with the head and neck dark green – in fact, the head looks black to me.  The female has white patches around the eye, with the male’s head being all black and I’ve always found it hard to photograph the male with the eye showing.

The images in this post were made in the Japanese Garden at Melbourne Zoo and I’ve usually been lucky enough to see these Shelducks in the shade of a weeping cherry (?) and quite close to the walking path for photography purposes.  The path winds through the beautifully landscaped garden with square tile ‘stepping stones’ over a stream.  There’s a bamboo cane low fence along the path to keep visitors off the grass, but you can still see several bird species up close, especially the shelducks, who like the shady tree in summer.

Note: this area is not enclosed, or the birds in cages, but I notice they’ve all got leg tags.  There are various bird species that wander around the zoo and I presume they love the free food on offer.  The finches are in cages or enclosures quite apart from the many other open areas (beside The Great Aviary).

BLACK-NECKED STORK (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus)

From the archives – Mostly 2012

Black-necked Stork (Ephippiorhynshus asiaticus)

This stork is enormous at 130cm  (just over 4 feet) and you can never mistake the identification.  Its wings, neck and head seem to change colour depending on the sunlight.  It has very long legs and it wasn’t until I saw this stork on the land that I had any sense of just how long those reddish coloured feet were.

The neck is a gorgeous iridescent purple and I would love to see it in the wild, but have to be content with my view of these birds in The Great Aviary at Melbourne Zoo.  Twice I’ve seen a pair in an amazing dance/mating/fight, (or whatever it was), at the Zoo.

Now that……………………..is truly a magnificent sight.

I’ve got dozens of photos of this Stork, although many are not very sharp in focus.  I made them mostly in the first year or two of owning a DSLR and didn’t know much about Shutter speed and Aperture at that stage.  I should have had both settings much higher, although bright sunlight tends to make the white feathers over-exposed anyway.  I should have adjusted the white balance also.  Of course I could also have shot all those early images on full AUTO 😀

BLACK-NECKED STORK (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus)

RIBBON BUSH (Hypoestes aristata)

From the archives – 19th May, 2013

Believe it or not, I remember where I photographed 99% of my old photos.  This one was made about 8 feet from the old Gorilla enclosure at Melbourne Zoo.  Not sure if this lovely flower is still there (all these years later), but you can see why it is called Ribbon Bush by that lovely curling petal on the top right.

SUPERB or SPLENDID FAIRY-WREN (Malurus cyanerus OR Malurus splendens) – male?

I was glued to the computer screen reading Steve McCurry’s latest blog post this morning when I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye.

It had been raining overnight and the forecast had said a 60% chance of further rain, (albeit in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne – I currently live in the west), so I had my floor-to-ceiling glass lounge sliding door closed (to my balcony garden).

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I slowly turned to the left and saw a tiny Fairy-wren hop all around my potted garden and then sit on the bamboo cane of my Sugar pea climbing frame.

%$@&!! (I said to myself).

I had re-arranged my bookcases yesterday and put all my cameras away, in the camera bag or soft pouches, in the bedroom.  At the last minute, late last night (before going to bed),  I brought the bags out of the bedroom and put them back next to my desk chair, but didn’t take the long telephoto out of its zip-carrying case as I hadn’t seen any birds up close for about 10-14 days (?).  I assumed my ‘at home‘ bird photography had finished for the season and I’d actually have to go for a walk to get any bird shots.

When I saw the 1st wren, I very slowly bent to one side and unzipped the bag with my left hand and lifted the heavy DSLR and long telephoto lens out and prayed the wren wouldn’t move.

It did (and I missed the shot).

Next thing a female Splendid Fairy-wren jumped down on to the ground and ate a Cabbage-moth Caterpillar as it slowly crawled its way blindly across the paving tiles looking for, or sensing, some greenery.  Then the wren flew up to the edge of the Capsicum plant and then proceeded to inspect every other space in and around the potted plants and herbs.

The male did the same.

“Well done, you dear little wren” I said to myself.  The ‘pillars’ had decimated my garden in the last couple of weeks and the Harlequin Bugs had sucked most of the leaf colour out of some plant leaves.

I was beside myself with excitement as, while I often see these tiny wrens across the road, or on the walking path down to the nearby Maribyrnong River, I’d only seen them up close on my balcony about 3 times in the last 18 months.

And they had mostly been female.

I did get a fairly decent shot of a female in a tree once.

And I did see a male last November sitting on an empty plant container.

With the sliding door closed, the window frames and reflections of my lounge chair muddled the scene.

%$@&!! (I said again).

I couldn’t hold the heavy lens steady in my lethargic half-awake state.

Although set on Shutter-priority, the shutter speed was far too slow for the deep shade of the pots under the overcast sky and a fast-moving tiny wren.  When I say fast-moving, I mean hopping every couple of seconds.

I slowly lowered the camera so as not to cause a sudden movement and changed the camera settings, but the deep shade due to the closely arranged pots and overcast sky, did nothing to improve my confidence in capturing any photos of the wrens.

I also changed the setting from single shot to continuous shooting.  That was the best my brain could manage in its morning state.   

I tried a 3rd shot and managed to get the tiny male(?) in focus.

Success!

But what species was it?  It certainly didn’t have the blue head of a male Splendid Fairy-wren (Malurus splendens).  I looked up my Australian Bird Guide Book, but it only showed the male in its bright all-over-blue breeding colours.  My wren was very tiny and looked very young.  It had a few flecks of pale blue on its head.

Could it be a Superb Fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus)?

I am not a morning person (for those new to my nature blog)  🙂

Maybe I’d been calling all the male wrens I’d photographed, Splendid (Fairy-wrens), when they were Superb (Fairy-wrens).  Google images were no help as there were many called Superb Fairy-wrens when they didn’t have the dark chest of that species. Google Images can be a great help finding bird or flower names, but many amateur photographers fail to notice the tiny differences between some species and there are many incorrect ID’s.  In fact, I’d picked up a totally incorrect bird name in the Australian Photography magazine last year.  I think the editors hadn’t checked the photographer’s ID and caption.  The Bird name was not even remotely close to the bird species – totally different feather colour, beak and body shape/size.

Here’s another image of a male wren I’d photographed near Dight’s Falls on the north-eastern side of Melbourne.

Well, whatever the species, this morning I saw a male and female wren in my garden and that put a warm glow in my ‘photography’ heart and a smile on my face (and stopped me swearing at the Auto Spellcheck).

I noticed through a gap in the Japanese Maple in front of my balcony a tiny wren on the other side of the road (centre of the frame below), but my 150-500mm lens doesn’t reach that far, especially with a hand-held shot, so you’ll have to use your imagination.

And for those new to my nature blog and there have been quite a few recently – thank you for following – here is the scene from my desk where I sit and read/answer my emails and do any photo reviewing or ‘tweaking’ in the morning natural light.  I usually photograph in the direction of the left hand side of my balcony as that’s where you can see the tall trees and hedges on the other side of the road.

If I look straight ahead you can see there a vacant block on the cliff face where they are going to build another apartment block in the near future (to my dismay).

 

So while I live in a newish housing estate built about half way up a steep hill, my 1st floor apartment just happens to be opposite a gap in the 3 large buildings and townhouses where the developers have planted rows of trees and 2 different hedging plants.  That greenery plus my balcony herb, flower and (sometimes) vegetable garden makes it a very green space indeed.

I am exceptionally lucky in this location.

PHILIP ISLAND HIBISCUS (Hibiscus insularis) – Royal Botanic Gardens

From the archives – 30th May, 2014

……and straight from Wikipedia for this description – purely and simply because I never knew this Hibiscus was so rare until I read about it on Wikipedia – hope this information is still accurate.  I know of at least 2 large bushes in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne and one of the rare plants in which I know the Botanical name off by heart, but never knew the Common name.   Both of the large bushes are in deep shade most of the day.

The Philip Island Hibiscus (Hibiscus insularis) is a species of hibiscus that is endemic to Phillip Island, a small island to the south of Norfolk Island. The entire natural extent of this species is just two small clumps, and each clump apparently consists of multiple separate stems of a single genotype. It has been propagated and planted more widely on Phillip Island, but only vegetatively which does not increase the genetic diversity. Seedlings apparently have not been observed in the wild. It produces greenish-yellow flowers that fade to mauve through most of the year. Horticultural use of the Philip Island Hibiscus has greatly increased the number of plants (though not in its natural environment) but as it is usually propagated by cuttings the number of genotypes is still extremely small. This species is listed as Critically Endangered under Australian federal environment legislation.

THE ROSE GARDEN – Royal Botanic Gardens – Part 1

From the archives – mainly 2011 & 2012

 

The Rose Garden in the RBG in Melbourne is located near one of the south-eastern gates at the top of a very steep hill.  There’s usually flowers in bloom through much of the year as they have climbing varieties up beautifully shaped rusty cones as well as lower-growing horizontal spreading varieties.

The Rose Garden in Winter – Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

It’s quite a windy exposed area so can be hard to get sharply focused images though. Up until I moved to this western suburb along the Maribyrnong River 18 months ago, I used to think the southern side of the Gardens was the windiest area in Melbourne.  Since it was near the street where I walked to work, I walked past many times, but it was not until I bought a camera and took up Photography in ‘retirement’ that I really gave them a second look.

Since they like sun and need about 5 hours sunlight to grow well, the location of the Rose Garden is just about perfect.

I have to say I know nothing about Roses, but they do well with soft feathery Lamb’s Ears, Catmint and Geraniums that provide a nice contrast to their bare base and have minimal watering needs similar to Roses.  Penstemons also make a nice contrast at the Rose’s base.

SEA ONION (Urginea maritime) – Royal Botanic Gardens

From the archives – 2nd February, 2015.

The images below were made with 2 lenses.   #1 and #2 with a Canon 50mm f1.4 and #3 with a Canon 18-200mm f3.5 – 5.6.   These images were some of the last photos I made when I lived 5 minutes walk from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne.  Since I worked next to the RBG for some 16 1/2 years before I had to take early retirement, these gardens were my ‘back yard‘ and I used to walk in, or around, the 38 hectare site daily – sometimes 3 times a day in good weather – no wonder my poor feet are quite literally, worn out 🙂

SEA ONION (Urginea maritima)
SEA ONION (Urginea maritima)
SEA ONION (Urginea maritima)

Many of the old large black plant/tree identification posts are still intact and easy to read/photograph, but I found the tiny new metal tags tied to many of the small plants pretty much impossible to read, so spent hours looking the names up in my RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) encyclopaedia – Garden Plants & Flowers in Australia by Ian Spence, or Stirling Macoboy’s What Shrub is That?  Both books were a valuable resource for Australian species when there were no identification tags visible.

When I first bought a camera and took up Photography in 2010, the flowers were still mostly English cottage plants, but with new landscaping and the Wetlands project, many  beds were changed to drought tolerant plants from Africa, South America or arid regions and it became much harder to identify them.  The Fitzroy and Treasury Gardens on the eastern perimeter of Melbourne’s CBD don’t have these identification tags, but are still very enjoyable to walk around.

The Royal Botanic Gardens have a great collection of grass species – mainly indigenous to Australia.

To this day I can remember exactly where I shot about 97% of my archival images, although I don’t know enough about plants to remember which season they were shot without looking at the meta data.  Much of my early bird photography was also done here in 2010 – 2015 (for those interested).

At the current time, the new Metro underground rail line through Melbourne (with 5 new stations in Melbourne itself) is still being built and the tram/bus routes have changed slightly in the RBG area so I haven’t attempted to go back for more flower photography.  This tunnel is supposed to be finished in 2025 so I’ve been exploring my (new) local area in the western suburbs, but I have to say 2-3 lots of public transport take a heck of a lot longer than a 5 minute walk.

Fortunately, I live next to parkland and/or nature reserve and not too far away from a couple of other nature reserves or man-made wetlands.

I no longer have quick access to the Bayside Beaches to the south of Melbourne without a car, although it is still possible to get bus, tram or trains – just takes too long when the transport stops at every stop, or suburb.  I don’t have the health/energy to make long day trips.

THERE’S A CATERPILLAR IN MY GARDEN……….

Post started a couple of weeks ago……

There’s a caterpillar in my garden

and I don’t know what to do.

Should I find a toxic pesticide

or hit it with my shoe?

*

When I saw it on the baby leaf,

I tried hard to grab & ‘quash it.

But the pesky little bugger (note: I don’t normally swear online, only in my garden)

dropped down in to a narrow slit.

*

Now I can’t find any sign

but know it’s in there hiding.

Should I stick around, for a while,

or pretend I’m not really minding.

I know the Cabbage Moth Caterpillar

is on my Tuscan Kale

‘Cause there’s holes and nibbled leaves

and the stalk is deathly pale.

*

If I accidentally ate the slimy squashy thing,

I guess I’d really never know.

‘Cause I chew each mouthful many times

as my Mamma taught me so.

*

I stop and ponder a minute more

but realise nothing matters.

Except to get that pesky ‘pillar off

before it gets much fatter.

*

Maybe I’ll just leave it for a while

and photograph another pest that’s easier to see.

The Harlequin bug on my plastic pot

is running wild and free.

I’d use a Herbal pesticide (we pronounce the ‘H’ in Australia, so it’s ‘a’ not ‘an’)

but can’t remember how to make it.

Maybe it’s on my DVD or in my Gardening Book?

Detergent? Garlic? Chilli? Shake it?

*

There’s a caterpillar in my garden,

but maybe now its gone.

Should I go out and have another look,

or forget it ever was?

*

I really can’t bear the thought,

of my one and only plant

of Tuscan Kale (Brassica oleracea sp.)

dis..a..pearing off the planet.

Tuscan Kale (and friends) BC………….Before Caterpillar

The label says it’s SuperFood

which I need as much as he.

Assuming that the ‘pillar

is a boy (and not a she).

*

Decision made, I go back outdoors

into the hot and blazing sun.

Can’t find a thing on any leaf

so the ‘pillar’s  on the run.

*

I come back indoors and shut the roller blind,

pretending I really don’t give a damn.

Fresh herbs for lunch, but definitely not the Kale,

Lunch is only Tomato…..Parsley….. Eggs & Ham.

PS.  Ok, so there was no ham in my omelette, but nothing else rhymed 🙂 🙂 🙂

***************************

It’s now 2 weeks later

and I really needs some hints.

The ‘pillar holes are everywhere

especially Basil, Sage and Mint.

*

The Bok Choi has a different bug

that leaves creepy crawly lines.

I’ve forgotten what that pest is called

just know that pest is mine.

*

Today’s luncheon omelette was made with

eggs, onion, herbs and Kale.

But be assured the Kale was bought

at last week’s Queen Vic. Market sale.

*

My easy grow Snow Pea seedlings

are finally climbing up.

With fine green threads around the frames

that I’ve made from Bamboo ‘stucks’.

(I never said I could spell).

*

My Italian and English Parsley

are among the very hardy Herbs,

that are free from creepy crawly critters

and don’t require rhyming words.

*

I better upload this WordPress post

before it gets too long

And followers go to sleep,

or break out in raucous song.

*

Perhaps I’ll ask Mr Google

what to use on all those pests.

And finally stop this tedious post

and put the matter to rest.

*

PS I almost forget to mention

my second crop of fruit.

Green Capsicum babes are growing

from the end of green-leafed shoots.

PPS  The Broccoli Patio Baby Bunching

is growing soft leafy greens.

It produces small sweet tasting delicate heads,

of veg. I’ve actually never seen.

PPPS.  I forgot to mention the flowering

of the Rosemarinus officinalis plant.

At least that is free from pests –

‘Pillars, bugs, slugs, worms and ants.

THE END (phew!)

 

 

Hope that keeps you amused until the next WordPress Post.

 

Looking for Autumn…………….

In the second half of my walk yesterday I spent a short time in Pipemaker’s Park.

I was looking for signs of Autumn colour, but Autumn had barely announced its coming and the sun kept going in and out behind the clouds, which means you can miss the colour of the vine leaves as they change from bright orange to dull brown.

The Dog Roses were lovely though.

The Olive tree was completely bare of fruit, but the massive fig tree had literally hundreds of immature fruit – shame I don’t like figs, as it would be a feast when they’re ripe.  I might add figs are very expensive to buy in the fruit/veg shop, market stalls or supermarkets here in Melbourne.  If someone were to pick them all off this tree and sell them to donate funds towards the park upkeep and restoration, it would be a very fine thing indeed.  The Park Ranger told me the ripening olives disappear almost overnight, so some local obviously takes the time to harvest, process and brine them.

Which reminds me that when I was small, our family would always have a large box of dried figs and glase fruits amongst our Christmas fare.   They were a real treat. Blackberries, which are quite expensive in the shops these days, were picked by the bucketful for free in the bushland near our home and we had bottled blackberries, blackberry jam and blackberry sponge puddings all through the year (as my Mother always bottled and made preserves, chutneys and sauces from the excess of our summer vegetable garden and fruit trees, AND the annual blackberry picking we did with another family near our home).

But back to Pipemakers Park………….

And just to give you an idea of what I was looking for, here’s a few images from Autumn 2017, including my favourite photo (which looks just as good in B & W I might add – good light and shade in the shot).  I think I was about 5-6 weeks too early yesterday.

Photo made about 4.00pm in the afternoon when the sun starts to sink behind the cliff face and car parking area at the top of the frame.

IS IT? OR ISN’T IT?

Yesterday was perfect walking weather with a lovely cool breeze so I walked “around the block”

No, I’m not talking about walking around a block of residential streets with houses and nasty smelly toxic car fumes on the main road.

I’m talking about a walk in Nature between my apartment building and the nearby river and parkland.

For those new to my nature blog, this is my route on the map below.

Various websites show this whole green belt along the river when it was open cleared fields and it’s really quite an achievement to have restored small pockets of the area back to what it might have been like when the area was first explored in 1803.  Today, in general, the area is mainly parkland with walking trails and extends a fair distance both up and down the river.    There’s a concrete, walking/cycling path next to the river for many miles in both directions.

Melbourne was a new town settled by white people around 1835 to give you a bit of a timeline.

This is the first time in months I’ve walked this route in full and I very soon regretted putting on my old leather walking shoes.  The tread has worn down and there were a couple of steep tiny inclines where my shoes slipped on the sandy  pathway near Pipemaker’s Park (top of the map).  My feet got sore very quickly without the thick padding too.   Time to throw this pair of walking shoes out methinks.

Of course I regretted not having my long ‘birding’ telephoto lens also, but that’s not what this post is about.  On the bottom of the map where the tiny 2nd pond looks like a reversed “C”, there is a small relatively secluded patch of grass and I came across what looked like a mock picnic fire – a pile of dry tree branches and straw and fluffy moulting of the water reed seed heads.

I smiled to myself thinking some idiot had attempted to make an illegal picnic fire, but then suddenly had the thought……………………. could it have been a large nest?

What do you think?

Is it?  Or isn’t it (a nest)?

The water reeds are about 7-8 foot high surrounding this little private space.

I went around the corner across a small rock strewn causeway to the other side of the pond and suddenly, a tremendous splashing erupted where I had obviously disturbed a large water bird and then I saw a White-faced Heron.

It flew up to a nearby tree and this is where I could have got a fantastic shot if I’d had the 150-500mm lens with me.  But you’ll have to make do with a silhouette captured with the Sony ‘mirrorless’ camera and 55-210mm lens facing into the sun.

I walked around the pond a bit further to try and get some foliage behind the bird’s outline but it was just too far away and I had to be content with the shot below.

I wonder what a heron’s nest looks like?

Is it too fanciful to suggest this pile of branches and dead grass is a large bird nest?  Could a large bird have dragged those dead limbs?

Or might some children have been playing around with the fallen dead branches, dry grass  and seed heads?

I pondered a while on this and with no other birds in sight walked on to Pipemaker’s Park.

PS.  Here’s a better shot of the White-faced Heron made 31st May, 2017 in the large stretch of water near the pond.  This lake-like stretch of water is about 15 feet from the small pond where one can often see the Heron fishing late in the afternoon.

WHITE-FACED HERON (Egretta novaehollandiae) – Maribyrnong River

PACIFIC GULL (Larus pacificus) – Port Melbourne Beach

From the archives – 2nd June 2013.

**************

Today has dawned lovely and cool with a scattering of fluffy clouds drifting across the soft blue sky and it’s strangely quiet for a Monday morning on the Bird ‘front’ (still).

The cliff face opposite my apartment building is humming with the faint sound of a bulldozer somewhere around – perhaps at the top?  Last Friday, I had a good look at the new wood paling fence on the main road which now sports an enormous billboard with a photo of the proposed new apartment building.

There’s no doubt they’re about to start construction work soon.

I have mixed feelings about all this (as I mentioned in a previous post).

Being more housebound in the last 18 months, my Room with a View and Balcony Garden plays a major role in keeping my spirits up and filling my indoor hours with a Green View.

I am thankful to have the Nature Reserve and parkland behind my building.

RED-BROWED FINCH on the fence line of Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve.

I tell myself each morning, over the last month or so, to remain positive – change is inevitable.  Self Talk can be helpful at times like this.

Life is impermanent and one should make the best of what is, not what was, or what might be (in the future).

Saturday night’s sunset (which will appear on my Sunset/Sunrise photo blog when I get around to reviewing the 40 odd images I made), shows what will disappear.  The new apartment building will start from the left of the image frame below.

The whole image below will be wiped out – literally.

Or, here is a broader view (and a later image of Saturday night’s sunset when the sky had changed to pinks and purples below).  The new apartment building will block approximately 5/8ths of the right hand side of the image below, starting from the left side of that bush in the middle of the silhouette.  Keep in mind that I am looking up a steep hill, not across a flat landscape.

Maybe I’ll have to change to Portrait sized images of the sunset (instead of Landscape sized images of the cloud colour 🙂 ).

There’s always a light at the end of a tunnel.  It’s all in the Mind and how you look at the world.

Time to have breakfast, dress and go outdoors for a walk.

After all, I am Living in Nature and that’s the only certainty in my urban environment.

AUSTRALIAN WHITE IBIS (Threskiornis molucca)

From the archives – 16th March, 2015

AUSTRALIAN WHITE IBIS (Threskiornis molucca) – Japanese Garden, Melbourne Zoo

……..and the only time I’ve seen these lovely white Ibis en masse was in a farmer’s field at Werribee (south-west of Melbourne).  It was a spectacular sight and I asked my SIL to stop the car so I could photograph them.

AUSTRALIAN WHITE IBIS – Farmer’s Field, Werribee – 6th February 2012

I think the black-winged Ibis in the upper left of the image must be Straw-necked Ibis (Threskiornis spinicollis), but they were too far away to be sure.  According to my Australian Bird Guide book, they have a black head and throat and metallic black back and wings.

Unfortunately, I’ve never been lucky enough to see them up close.

Perhaps they’re like the Glossy Ibis I’ve photographed at the Great Aviary at Melbourne Zoo which have a sort of iridescent effect in the sun and much darker looking in the shade.

GERALDTON WAX (Chamaelaucium) – Royal Botanic Gardens

From the archives – 2010 & 2012

These evergreen Australian plants are grown for their showy five-petalled flowers.  At least one species, Chamaelaucium uncinatum, is grown commercially for its cut flowers.

Personally, I’ve only ever seen the white or pink variety and were one of the first flowers I ever photographed when I bought a little Canon point & shoot camera and took up Photography as a hobby in May 2010.  There is also a red variety.

The first image was made by a Canon DSLR in 2012 and the last two by the little Canon P & S in 2010.

15th December 2012 – Canon DSLR & 18-200mm lens

6th August 2010 – Canon Powershot A3000 IS

2017 IN REVIEW

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”

 ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Some of my favourite images from 2017 – in no particular order or subject matter.  Some of them are good shots and others are just reminders of a particularly enjoyable Photography walk outdoors.

I’ve been too unwell to do much Photography lately, in fact not much better than last year, so enjoy this series until (hopefully) I’m back outdoors more.  At least the weather is mostly much cooler, although yesterday the winds were gale force around my area and too windy to water my balcony garden until quite late in the day.  The wind dries out my potted plants regardless of the moisture retaining mixture I’ve added to the potting soil, so watering each night is a necessity…….most of the year, surprisingly.

In fact, the weather has been too wild to go out much via public transport.  Of course if I owned a car, I’d go out for a drive or up the country regardless of the weather 🙂

I still have to catch a close-up shot of the white Royal Spoonbill water birds at Jawbone Conservation Reserve which I could only photograph from a distance (with the shorter telephoto lens I had with me) on my last visit.  So I’m looking for a nice cool afternoon, with minimal wind, to make the trip down to the coast.  It’s only a 2 bus trip, but these 2 particular bus routes don’t run as often as some of the others near my home, and not that much on the weekends either.

….and finally one last photo from the day I spent photographing this lovely Chinese Temple on the banks of the Maribyrnong River in the next suburb (to the south of my home location).

The HEAVENLY QUEEN TEMPLE is a temple to the Chinese sea-goddess Mazu, the deified form of the 10th-century Fujianese girl Lin Moniang, located in Footscray, a neighborhood of Maribyrnong in Melbourne, Australia.

PS If you see some funny spelling or typos, it’s that stupid AutoCorrect which drives me crazy as it keeps turning bird and flower names into common words.  I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time re-reading everything I type a zillion times.  I’m sure you all have the same problem so you know what I mean.

A RAINBOW LORIKEET DROPPED INTO MY GARDEN THIS EVENING……LITERALLY

I heard a loud bang and then…..a body dropped ‘out of the sky’.

I stepped outdoors through the open sliding door to see a (wild) Rainbow Lorikeet laying over my spinach seedlings.  I guess it must have been flying very fast when it hit the glass window, as previous birds flying into the windows at my last apartment were just stunned and soon recovered.

Always sad to see a dead bird, but even more so when it’s a beautiful wild Lorikeet.

 

 

**********

Just watching the International News on TV.

It’s snowing in Rome and London – supposed to get worse by the end of the week as a cold front from Siberia spreads over Europe & the U.K.

Looks very cold in the blizzard conditions in Rome I must say  😮

JAWBONE CONSERVATION RESERVE & MARINE SANCTUARY, WILLIAMSTOWN – Part 2

For details of yesterday’s Photography excursion to Jawbone Conservation Reserve, see Part 1 in the previous post.

A juvenile Silver Gull (identifiable by its dark beak, leg colour and brown flecks on its wings) stands waiting to greet me at the end of my walk.  An adult Silver Gull is mostly white with an orange beak.

Thank goodness I walked over to the Bus Stop and checked the timetable.  If I stayed until sunset, I would have had only 1 bus scheduled at around 9.00pm.  The other option would have been to find a house number and street sign and call a taxi.

The aim was to finish the rest of the trail right up to where it ends with a main road, check out where the birds were and do some bird photography.

Despite the severe wind gusts and rather mundane uninteresting nature of the walk over the 2 small islands at the northern end the lake system, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the white Royal Spoonbills and other distant birds.

More importantly, it was great to get outdoors in the sea air and walk that distance after months of being pretty much housebound and mostly taking taxis to get anywhere.

2017 wasn’t a good year health wise, but the Cardiologist’s report and increased medication earlier this week proved that (hopefully), I’m now able to do longer walks in Nature…….outside Melbourne’s stinking hot humid Summer days of course.

February is usually Melbourne’s hottest month, although the bush fire season can go way past Summer.

Living in Nature is one of the most healing balms I could imagine and if you’re a Melburnian and enjoy walking and bird watching, I can highly recommend this coastal walk near Williamstown beach.

Just check the wind speed factor before you leave home AND TAKE SOME BINOCULARS (to see the bird life).

JAWBONE CONSERVATION RESERVE & MARINE SANCTUARY, WILLIAMSTOWN – Part 1

I knew it (as soon as I arrived).

This image made about 5 years ago in the Royal Botanic Gardens gives you an idea of a long 150-500mm lens. Much smaller than many professional wildlife photographer’s lenses, but heavy all the same.

I should have taken my Canon DSLR and Sigma long ‘birding’ telephoto 150-500mm lens.

Yesterday’s excursion started off heavily delayed when my taxi didn’t turn up for the first half of my journey.  The second half was going to be via bus.  45-50 minutes later when a 2nd (or was it 3rd booking?) taxi finally arrived, I decided to just take a taxi all the way to my starting point at a residential side street in the coastal suburb of Williamstown (located on the western side of Port Phillip Bay).  I’d also planned to stay til sunset which didn’t happen, but that’s another story.

It was perfect weather (although luckily I had a short light jacket as I would have got severely wind-burnt on my arms with my sleeveless shirt).  As it was, the left side of my face and neck were  burnt (despite sunscreen).

I wanted to finish the final 25% segment of a coastal walk over a couple of islands I could see on the map.  I had been too unwell to contemplate this walk in the last 3 months and had to cancel my New Year’s Day walk with friends who were keen bushwalkers, cyclists and extremely fit.  (My friends and I still had a great long lunch at my home on New Year’s Day though – despite the cancelled walk.  Eating, drinking and talking are more my ‘cup of tea’ at this stage in my health journey).

Basically, this walk was over the 2 islands on the top left of the map to the black square box on the upper left.  Turned out to be a very short walk indeed, but against a strong onshore wind with little shelter on the low-lying salt bushes.

I ended up walking all the way back to the bus stop on the bottom right of this map – roughly 5 times the distance that I’d planned.

It only took me 2 hours (about 45 mins for you fit healthy folk I suppose).

(Hooray for increased Heart meds 4 days ago – I can clearly walk at more length again). 

The taxi driver must have thought I was mad, or more than a little eccentric to get a taxi to go for a walk.  But the fare wasn’t too bad for the 25 minute journey.  It might have taken me 1  1/2 hours depending on connection times for the 2-bus trip.  Both bus routes have a fairly irregular timetable, depending on the time of day, and at weekends, sometimes only 1 bus per hour, so you can imagine how I’d feel if I missed the 1st bus by 5 minutes and then missed the second  by a couple of minutes.

When I walked through a small finely mown area to the walking trail, I was hit by extremely gusty winds and knew it would be hard to stand still to do any bird photography with my lightweight Sony a6000 and 55-210mm lens.  I also had a Canon DSLR and Sigma 17-50mm lens for any interesting close-ups at ground level in my bag.

No wonder the trees grow heavily bent over in this particular area. I think I would be heavily bent to one side if I lived on this part of the coast 🙂I was also pleased to see that the whole area has been recently mowed so I didn’t have to worry about snakes.  This coastal area has little shade cover or trees, although there are board walks in some places to walk through the low-lying salt marsh scrub, low-lying pools and other salt tolerant native flora in the Arboretum area.

“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.”

I’ll do a longer post next upload with just images (no writing), but what I wanted to tell you about was the thrill of spotting 3 Royal Spoonbills in part of the large lake system near to a residential area.

I’d only ever seen these beautiful large white birds with their long spoon-shaped bills in the Great Aviary in Melbourne Zoo.  They have a distinctive feeding technique of sweeping their large bills back and forth through the water (which I’d seen at Melbourne Zoo, but not yesterday).

This cropped image is the best out of about 4 shots I attempted.  Sorry it’s not a good shot, but I had enough trouble standing upright in the strong wind and I am no light-weight.  Hard to be certain but I think the ducks with them might have been Grey Teals and the 2 ducks swimming out of the upper right are Pacific Black Ducks.

If only I had taken the long 150-500mm lens.  It’s heavy weight wouldn’t have wavered in the gusty winds at that end of the coastal path and would have made some marvellous close-ups.

I also saw a Great Egret, about 30-40 Black Swans, Pied Cormorants, Little Pied Cormorants, Black Cormorants (I think), Black-winged Stilts (never seen before), Australian Pelicans, Pacific Black Ducks, Chestnut Teals, Grey Teals, many finch-sized birds in the sky and more that I don’t know the name of, OR, were too far away to identify.

I’d also seen 2 White-faced Herons on my first 2 visits to the area, but not yesterday.

White-face Heron – Jawbone Conservation Reserve Arboretum – made 20th August 2017

The bird life was amazing (despite the long distance away as seen on the strip of land between the lake system and the ocean below).

Part 2 to follow.

Note: I’m way behind with blog reading, but I’ll catch up eventually.  Can’t waste good weather with nice cool winds on the computer – it’ll be back to heat wave conditions towards the end of next week according to the forecast and I’ll be indoors all day again.

ONE MORE VIEW……..

I just can’t decide which of the 69 images I made of last night’s sunset to put on my other blog, so here’s one of the best moments of the ever-changing colour.

One of the extraordinary sights was the occasional rain cloud moving from left of the frame to the right by the  high wind speed, every 2-3 minutes.  It was like a video clip on fast-forward.  It was interesting to see clouds move very quickly from left to right, but the sky colour moved from the top of the frame down to the horizon (behind the rain clouds).

My sunset photos nearly always include the same street lamps, tree and house lines in the silhouette, but that’s the best view of the sky from my apartment balcony.

 

A SUNSET’S NEVER OVER UNTIL THE SKY TURNS BLACK

Earlier this evening, 3 times I came back inside and put the lens cap on the camera, sat on my swivel desk chair to face the TV and 3 times I took it off and went back outdoors to capture some more colour.

Beginning to end lasted 31 minutes (well, from when I realised Melbourne was in for a spectacular sunset tonight and stepped outdoors on to my balcony with my DSLR).

I’ll look at the 69 images I shot tomorrow morning to decide what to share on my Sunrise/Sunset Blog, but in the meantime…….

This is the view from my lounge room on the second-last step indoors.

……and this is when I knew it was finally over.

Stay tuned if you follow my Sunrise, Sunset (and clouds that come in between) Blog.

SHEER BLISS………….

Sheer Bliss is a lovely cool day with lots of rain (so I don’t have to water my balcony garden).

Note:  the UV Index is extreme from 9.20am to 5.30pm (in the weather forecast below) though.

I woke several times during the night to the sound of rain softly falling, but my bedroom was still a little too warm for comfort.  Yesterday, I managed to get home from my appointment on the other side of the city just as a few drops of rain started to fall (and it rained the rest of the afternoon), but rivulets of perspiration were running dow my face from the humidity (as much as the heat).

Today is Sheer Bliss –  (I think I already told you that) 🙂

Some folk might even call the day ‘cold’.

The rest of the week is going to be in the low 20s C also.

From my archives 2nd August 2010

Forecast for the rest of Tuesday

Summary
Max 20
Morning rain.
Possible rainfall: 10 to 20 mm
Chance of any rain: 95%

Melbourne area

Cloudy morning. Very high (95%) chance of rain, contracting east and clearing during the morning. Slight (20%) chance of a shower during the afternoon and evening with partly cloudy conditions. Winds southerly 25 to 40 km/h.

Fire Danger – High

Sun protection recommended from 9:20 am to 5:30 pm, UV Index predicted to reach 12 [Extreme]

IF………….

If Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus, Computers must be from another Galaxy.

I have to relate this story, even though it’s nothing to do with Nature, because it’s so weird as to be classed as UNBELIEVABLE!  It’s a long post, so give it a miss if you wish, but there are a few bird shots at the end……so read on…. or scroll through to this morning’s avian visitors.

The story goes…………and long-time followers already know of my computer idiosyncracies.  This story is for the benefit of new followers.

After constantly running out of my old monthly 8 GB internet allowance last year, I rang my service provider back at the beginning of September and after some discussion, they said I was on an old plan and they now had a better one for me.

Nearly double the monthly allowance ie. 15GB…. and….. $10 less per month.

Sounds good to me” I said and instantly signed up.

Fast forward….. and constant hiccups with my internet connection dropping out, together with a few other software issues, forced me to take my Mac Pro to the local Apple Store around the end of October, who later set me up with a new Wi-Fi connection (not the connection address set up on my new internet plan by my service provider).  I don’t understand these things.  I gave the Apple ‘Genius’, (aka Nerd), the proper connection address, but he invented a new one.

Worked for a while.

More problems, but I managed to restore the connection over Christmas via my back up hard drive, when I didn’t have time to take my computer back to the Apple Store.  This meant my back-up hard drive had to be connected by a USB cable instead of operating remotely on the other side of the lounge room.  Seemed to work pretty well over Christmas and New Year, but I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT COMPUTER TECHNOLOGY.   I DON’T REMEMBER WHAT I ACTUALLY DID or, more importantly, WHY IT WORKED.

Then, I kept losing my connection continuously in the last week or two, so I figured it was time to go back to the Apple Store and get it fixed properly.   I find it easier to converse with Nerds face-to-face and  I’m a bit deaf in one ear to handle long phone conversations with Apple Support Staff from home.  Yesterday, I finally lucked out and couldn’t get on to the internet at all at one stage.  By that time my anxiety levels had reached new heights.  My Blood Pressure went into ‘meltdown’ mode.

Then my brother and his wife dropped in on the way home from their country day-trip and I had to solidity the meltdown and carry a normal conversation for an hour or so.

This morning I was woken by my ‘security doorbell’ buzzing.

Duh!

No one there.

I finally got up and made my usual morning coffee and turned the computer on.

MAGIC.

My computer is back to what it was on 1st September 2017 when I got a new Dongle and internet package.

I pulled the Apple ‘Time Machine’ back-up drive USB cable out and logged off.

I turned the computer back on again.

A MIRACLE!

The computer still connected to the correct Wi-Fi address from the 1st September 2017, as per my Service Provider set-up – not the Apple Store Connection address of the last 3 months.

So can anyone tell me what happened overnight?  Why did the Apple store Wi-Fi connection work for 3 months and today, it’s reverted to the Service Provider’s initial connection address all on its own?

Did the mysterious Doorbell ring this morning come from the Heavens to wake me up and tell me ‘they’d’ fixed my computer for me?

Let’s see how long this connection lasts, is my only answer.

*******************

In the meantime, this morning, (nearly midday actually), is one of those magical days when the birds are singing their heartiest songs and the wind has died down to a faint whisper.  The temperature was starting to climb before this weekend’s next HEATWAVE.

I listen carefully to decide which bird species is in the bush in front of my balcony.

Is it a finch…….a wren……..or a common old House Sparrow?  Bit hard to tell with the tree in full Summer Dress and some deep shadows.

The bird calls are very mixed this morning and I could hear a couple of new sounds.

My Nature’s ear and my Photographer’s eye were working in unison.

I picked up the DSLR and long lens beside me and carefully aimed through the foliage.  I couldn’t tell what it was as it had its back to me.

After I downloaded the shot all I got was a House Sparrow.

How ordinary I thought.

I kept listening very carefully as I typed this post.

Then I see the faint shape of a Honeyeater’s curved beak peak out from behind a thick bunch of leaves.

I had the camera ready and picked it up to zoom in and……..low and behold, it was a New Holland Honeyeater.  Haven’t see one for while.  I pressed the shutter button….. too late……. and missed the shot, but here’s a few images I made of this beautifully plumed honeyeater in Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve, (behind my apartment building), when I first moved to the area.  I had missed the shot as the shutter speed was far too low.  With both bright sunlight in the background and shade in the foreground I tried to gauge which settings might work for both light conditions.  Maybe I should have just changed the setting to Intelligent Auto 🙂

This is one time when my Foggy Brain could be a nuisance.

***********

I’ve got dressed and come out to check up on the computer connection again.  I switched the Mac Pro off.  Then on.  It was still connecting correctly.

Suddenly out of the corner of my eye I see a movement (and this is why you always have your desk and computer set up in front of a window, so that all corners of both eyes catch every movement happening outdoors, as well as the task of typing via your central gaze).

It was a female Splendid Fairy-wren.  I didn’t have time to see what the DSLR settings were.  I quickly pressed the shutter button and just caught this young female Wren within the frame.

The tiny bird quickly flew away (after finding no bird seed).

Lucky shot.

A glance to my upper right revealed a House Sparrow surveying the scene (from the divider which separates my balcony from the one next door).

Then, intent of disconnecting the USB cable from my DSLR to my laptop, I sensed a larger fluttering of wings and looked up to see a Spotted Turtle-dove land on the fence rail.

Then another.

You’ve never seen me move so fast.

Both Doves proceeded to inspect my whole balcony (including the empty plant trough attached to the balcony rail which I’d put some bird seed in last year.  It was now washed out and cleaned ready for Autumn planting.  I’d run out of potting soil, so it has remained empty for some months.

So now I’m left with a scattering of bird seed over half the balcony floor……which will attract every bird once the grapevine works its magic…….and tonight I’ll have a whole new load of bird poop to clean up.

I only cleaned all the tiles last week 😀

THE GOLDEN HOUR – MARIBYRNONG RIVER

I only had time for a very quick walk last night (and my absence meant the balcony garden didn’t get much of a watering).  Sometimes the watering chore becomes rather tedious when late afternoon/early evening is the best time for a walk.

Setting off from home at 7.45pm Daylight Savings Time meant that I captured the Golden Hour for the first half of my walk downriver.  In fact, it was like Peak Hour on the river walking/cycling/running track with many people waiting for the cooler end of the day to go out.

(Today has dawned much cooler which is just as well for my garden – might be good for another short walk tonight before the next heat wave hits Melbourne on Friday).

WAITING……….

If you learn to enjoy waiting, you don’t have to wait to enjoy.

Kazuaki Tanahashi

The Birdsong is back and I’ve sat enjoying the cool breeze wafting through my apartment via the open sliding door and louvre windows……watching the birds on the other side of my road.  

It’s a real stretch for my 150-500mm lens to capture a bird on the other side of the road, but the shot of the male Splendid Fairy-wren below was pretty good for a hand-held shot.

I could spend all day watching…..waiting…..observing Nature in all its beauty, but this morning I am eager to go to the Opticians to pick up my new glasses.  The ones I’ve worn for the last 10 days since the current pair broke in half, are just not good enough to read blogs or do much on the computer.

Staying at home from 10.30am -2.30pm while the Property Agents inspect all the apartments they manage can be a nuisance too,  as you never know when they’ll turn up in the 4 hours time slot, so I try to make that time a special occasion to see how many birds I can spot from my desk chair.

You know that old saying ‘a watched kettle never boils’. Well, I have a new version.  ‘A waited-for doorbell never rings’ 🙂

Of course I’ve already done my ‘garden’ round to see if the Capsicums are starting to change colour, but no, they’re still green and in recent weeks I’ve knocked two baby capsicums off already.  Their stem attachment must be very fragile.  This variety is supposed to change from green to purple to red in about 3 weeks after they mature, but I suspect the extremes in temperature and unseasonal storms and weather patterns have upset their growing cycle.

I was standing on the balcony watching the foliage through the telephoto lens when I spotted a dark shape in the Eucalyptus sapling to the right side of my balcony fence.

The wind, while not as gusty as the last couple of days, was still enough to toss the dark shape, branches and leaves around, so I took several photos trying to get the waving outline of the bird in focus.

 

And then……………………success!

It was a Grey Shrike-thrush and I was lucky enough to capture the bird’s head in reasonable focus before it flew away as I moved forward and tried to get a bit closer to the bush.

Waiting….. is a time for being still, focused and taking time to chill out and relax.

I am so lucky to have this time to myself to do what I love best – observing Nature and practising Photography.

Life is so good when we appreciate the simple things and the simple pleasures they bring into our lives.

THE DAY OF THE WIND

It’s after 4.00pm on a gorgeous blue sky cool day and all I can hear is the Wind (from  my desk chair).

It is buffeting the flimsy branches of the young Japanese Maple and Eucalyptus saplings in front of my apartment balcony in all directions.  At times it is whistling throughout the building and I’m wondering whether I should put the draft stoppers under my front door again (like I do in winter).

Where is the birdsong today?

Perhaps it is Resting in Silence.

The last couple of days the rain has fallen steadily , but softly, most of the waking hours.

It did pound down with menace for a short time yesterday afternoon and then just as suddenly as it started, it stopped, and all I could hear were the gentle droplets on my balcony fence rail.

I tried to catch some droplets of rain in a photo, but for some weird reason my camera wouldn’t autofocus and I had to be content with sitting and watching.  It was very soothing and peaceful just watching.

Almost like a meditation in nature (despite the humidity necessitating the  air-conditioner).

Today, it is cool and the breeze winding its way through my lounge louvre windows is refreshing and downright heavenly after the heat and humidity of recent days.

Methinks this little female House Sparrow (below) has had too much to eat.  It is looking decidedly fat! (but then I am no longer trim, taunt & terrific looking as in my youth, so I shouldn’t criticise I suppose).

Yesterday I had only one visitor to the blue bird bath swinging wildly in the wind.  The ceramic shallow dish was just like a small boat riding the waves of a storm at sea.  Perhaps the House Sparrows found the swinging bowl disconcerting.

This afternoon the bird bath is gently swaying and I’ve had 2 female House Sparrows drop in for several drinks to quench their thirst and then fly up to the balcony rail tap-tapping their beaks on the hard metal surface.  I presume they do this to sharpen their beaks or something.

But still no birdsong.

When the washing machine finishes its current cycle it will be a perfect time to go outdoors for a walk.  But at 20 degrees C (about 68F), it will definitely be a ‘short coat’ walk.  I’ve got 3 appointments (or deliveries) over the next 3 days, so best make the most of the cooler weather in today’s remaining hours.

Then it’s back to 39 degrees C (or 102F) on Thursday.  Quite weird, our summer in Melbourne,  so far.  Blistering heat one day and cool, verging on cold, the next.  But then the world news reveals freakish snow storms and mudslides taking lives in the Northern Hemisphere, so perhaps not unusual to find weird weather patterns in Melbourne, DownUnder, too.

MELBOURNE ZOO – The Mandrills

2011, 12, 13 & for a short time, 2014, Melbourne Zoo was one of my favourite Photography destinations.  Trying to get a single focal point through tiny 3/8″ (yes, 3/8″) wire in some of the cages proved to be the best way to practice holding my (then) new Canon DLSR & heavy lenses perfectly still in the early years of my Photography hobby.

Primates and Meerkats were my favoured subjects (until I moved on to bird photography) and I went to Melbourne’s main zoo in North Melbourne over 100 times.  The (mainly) temperate rainforest landscaping at that time,  proved to be heavenly on a hot summer’s day and sometimes I could go as often as 3 times a week to escape the blisteringly hot sun and  humidity in Melbourne mid-summer.   The single entrance fees were not cheap, but you only have to visit 3 times in any one year to make an annual membership worthwhile, so I certainly got my money’s worth going something like 40+ times in the first year alone.

In fact, (and this is no exaggeration), there was one Spider monkey who I visited so often, who eventually came to recognise me and would come bounding up to the glass near the top of the large enclosure and put his hand out to ‘touch’ mine through the glass.  I spent ages photographing and cultivating a unique relationship with it (and the Black-capped Capuchins).

But I also had some great opportunities for close-up shots in late November 2011 and January 2012 of the Mandrills.

I never seemed to see them up close in the following years.

Outside School Holidays was the best for photography, but I’m a pretty patient person and also enjoyed watching the delight on the faces of small children, noses pressed up to the glass, squealing with excitement.  There can be no better place to take children to create an understanding of animal behaviour and appreciating the great job zoos do in breeding and increasing nearly extinct or endangered species (as well as gaining a close-up view of Australia’s indigenous birds, reptiles, animals and insects).

Melbourne Zoo is so much fun, is not too large and has great interactive and walk-through enclosures to get up close to birds, insects and animals.  There are also private sessions to ‘Meet and Greet’ some of the animals with their Keepers.

 

THE WOMBAT – Melbourne Zoo

I mentioned in a reply to a commenter in the last post that Koalas are not actually bears.

The koala is an arboreal herbivorous marsupial native to Australia. It is the only extant representative of the family Phascolarctidae and its closest living relatives are the wombats.

So a few images of Wombats  from Melbourne Zoo seems to be worth posting.  I’ve seen many Wombat holes/homes in the wild or Australian bush, but never an animal (that I remember) but then I don’t go out much at night 🙂

From the Archives – 2011 and 2012

In a wombat burrow at Melbourne Zoo (lit by special lighting).  I was standing in pitch black in an underground tunnel when I took these shots, so its pretty hard not to bump into other zoo visitors when you walk though this  area.

…….and above ground

RED-TAILED BLACK-COCKATOO (Calyptorhynchus banksii) – The Great Aviary, Melbourne Zoo

From the Archives……..

We have some beautiful Lorikeets, Cockatoos, Corellas and Parrots in Australia.

I’ve seen several in the wild, but I’ve only seen the Red-Tailed Black-Cockatoo in the Great Aviary at Melbourne Zoo.  The small yellow spots on its head and white beak indicate it’s a female.

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii)

 

FINALLY………….SOME BETTER SHOTS

New Years Day’s feeding frenzy, when I put out some birdseed, yielded some better shots and a new visitor yesterday.

Spotted Turtle-dove (Streptopelia chinensis) dropped in for lunch.  I think this is only the second time I’ve seen this species on my balcony.  Quite clearly all the spilt bird seed was a big attraction.  Unbeknown to me, much had fallen in the empty planter box hanging over the side of the balcony rail.

(Note: long-time followers will remember the Spotted Turtle-doves not only visited my 3rd floor previous apartment on the north-east side of Melbourne, but several eventually became very tame and I could fill the bird-seed and water bowls 6″ away from where they stood on the fence.  One bird even hopped inside my open balcony door and inspected my lounge room, but upon stepping on my wool rug, it quite clearly didn’t like the surface and eventually flew back outdoors – Phew! Just as well too.  I’d hate to have to chase a dove around my lounge room trying to catch it and put it outdoors).

After a couple of quick shots, I thought yesterday’s Dove had flown away and went back to my computer work, but it was merely playing hide and seek.

This empty long planter box is awaiting a visit to the nearby Hardware/Plant Nursery Warehouse to get some more potting soil.  My brother gave me a Basil and Italian Parsley seedling together with a book & dvd on Gardening in a Small Space for Christmas and the poor little plants keep wilting in the hot sun, so a shopping expedition is sorely needed.

I am hoping there are no visitors today so that I can finally get out the front door to do some much needed fresh food & plant nursery shopping.

I think all the long-term Followers will agree – this is the best couple of weeks for avian visitors since I moved to the western suburbs of Melbourne 15 months ago.

BRIGHT IDEA (on New Year’s Day)……….MEDIOCRE RESULT

I had a bright idea on New Year’s Day.

I was expecting friends for lunch who are great bushwalkers, cyclists and outdoor Nature Lovers.  Initially, we were all going to complete the final part of my coastal walk at Jawbone Conservation Reserve in Williamstown on the north-west side of Port Phillip Bay and then have a picnic lunch.

Unfortunately my ankles were still too swollen and my breathing a little ragged which I have yet to see the doctor/cardiologist about, so I changed the arrangements to lunch at my home.

Around the time I was expecting my friends, I put a trickle of finch/budgerigar seed along the whole balcony fence rail in the hope of attracting all the bird life I’d been avidly watching last week.  It worked a little too soon, but I had the pleasure of observing a female House Sparrow feed her (very large) offspring.  I couldn’t see the offspring very well in the deep shade of the foliage of the tree next to my balcony.

Secondly, my windows, sliding door AND thick glass balcony fence were covered in dust from a recent rain shower, so it was really hard work trying to get a shot of the action in the deep shade.  I couldn’t quite see enough through all those layers of dirty glass.

But here’s the best out of about 100 shots (taken with the DSLR on continuous shooting).  I have a light touch with the DLSR and can actually take just one shot or press down and capture multiple shots on the continuous shooting setting, where if using the Sony a6000 “mirrorless’ on the continuous shooting setting at 11 fps, (frames per second), it’s too fast and I end up with at least 6-10 shots of the same scene.

Hence me using a DSLR on the Day.

I’ve done the best I can in increasing the exposure, increasing the contrast and reducing the shadows in post processing , so I hope you can see enough.  My eyesight in not good enough to find the best shot.  They all look a little fuzzy or soft in focus to me.

Here’s the ‘juvenile’ below,  (although it looks larger than it’s Mother to me)

And here’s the Mother back again for more seed.  The House Sparrow made many trips while I was watching, but my friends missed the whole show.

The bird seemed to be ‘chewing’ the seed up before placing it in the juvenile’s mouth.

Now you can pick which one is the clearest and best focus (below).

Remember it was very dark and I could only see a shadow through 3 panes of dirty glass, although occasionally the bird’s head or beak moved into the sunlight a bit.

Then the birds flew away and my friends arrived.

During the afternoon, the birds dropped down for a drink from the bird bath, but to me, that was a rather ordinary experience, where a bird feeding its young is a treat.

The result was both bird and wind brushed the seed off the balcony rail on to my potted plants and the sparrows spent the next 24 hours feeding on the soil of my potted plants or scattering the soil on to the ground (in their efforts to find more spilt bird seed).

I’ve already swept all the scattered soil up once this morning, but looks like a mess again.

As I type this post, I had to stop to photograph a Spotted Turtle-Dove who dropped in for a late lunch today. but if there are any decent shots in that series, you’ll have to wait til the next post.

MIDDAY VISITORS

No wonder I never get out the front door for a nature walk these days…….. (well, only one since 2nd November).

There’s too much happening on my balcony, (and it’s been either raining, or too hot, or my lower back/hip hurts too much, anyway).

Looks like I had the focal point on the bird on the right in this initial image. A bit later I managed to change the camera setting a wee bit.

This morning’s visitors, apart from the House Sparrows, were 2 Willy Wagtails (Rhipidura leucophrys).

 I’ve lightened the shadows in the above image so the eye and white eyebrows are easier to see. 

One fanned its tail out in a beautiful display but I missed that shot.

The nearest camera bag next to my desk chair contained the Sony a6000 ‘mirrorless’ with a 55-210mm lens attached and set on the Continuous Shooting setting.  I grabbed that very quickly.

Minutes later when I grabbed the DSLR & 150-500mm lens behind my chair, the Wagtails had flown away.

One appeared to have some white fibre in its beak so maybe it was nest-building nearby.

No time to compose the shot or change the focal point much (so no complaints about where the bird is located in the frame please).

Interesting to note that most of the birds I’ve seen in the last few days are slim and have relatively small heads and I suspect are youngsters or teenagers, perhaps?

The female House Sparrows are definitely young(er) and seem reluctant to come to the bird bath for a drink while the slightly larger male Sparrow is drinking from the ceramic dish.

PS I MAY NEVER LEAVE MY DESK AGAIN at this rate 😀

FIRST FLIGHT???????

Oh my goodness!

I was beside myself with excitement.

(I was just about to step into the shower when I heard furious tiny tweeting….over and over again.  It sounded frantic).

I went out to the lounge and looked out of the window to see one tiny chick on my balcony rail and another clinging for dear life on the young eucalyptus sapling at the other end of my balcony.   I’d been watching the gusty wind blow all the nearby young trees and hedges almost double for some time, earlier in the morning, (i.e. late in the morning as I get up late).

I filled the small plastic watering can full of water to fill up the nearly empty bird bath, which had dried up in today’s heat and slowly stepped over the door rail and up to the bird bath, (just below the tiny bird standing on the rail).

It didn’t move and had its eyes tightly shut, but was tweeting its little heart out.

Then after filling the shallow dish, I went and retrieved my DLSR & long lens to get some photos.  I’d put it away last night after leaving it out all week, primed and ready for bird balcony shots.

Then I realised the tiny chicks had the markings of New Holland Honeyeaters on their wings and with their eyes tightly shut hadn’t even seen me, but I wondered if they’d fallen out of a nest on the building somewhere?  Nope.  These birds probably had a nest on the other side of the road in those tightly leafed Cypress(?) trees.

MAYBE, IT WAS THEIR FIRST FLIGHT AWAY FROM THEIR NEST? (and they were frantically called for their Mama to come and get them as they’d lost their way home).

I slowly put my hand up to about 3″ away from the feet of the one on my balcony rail and whispered softly “are you awake?”

It opened its eyes and looked straight at me.

There was no fear, just curiosity.  My head was about a foot away from the tiny bird.

I slowly turned walked down 5-6 feet and tried to get some shots of the bird in the tree, but the wind gusts were too vigorous, so I went back inside to get my Sony a6000 with its 11 fps (frames per second) and tried again.  Of course I had both cameras on continuous shooting (so I’ve got a zillion shots) and the ISO on Auto, but for the life of me couldn’t remember what else I should do to capture the wildly waving branch in the frame.

Brain Fog.

I started to get nervous that the tiny bird would fall off the Eucalyptus sapling, but its tiny claws were obviously very strong.  Eventually it opened its eyes and stared at me (trying to reach the branch to still the movement).  I actually thought if I could reach it and coax it on to my hand I could gently put it down next to the other chick on the balcony.

They might have been siblings, or twins, or cousins, or…….even, potential lovers one day (yes, I have vivid imagination).

But no, ‘the bird in the bush‘ actually flew off down to the road about 2 ” away from the front tyre of a smoke alarm service vehicle with its engine running.

Oh no.  The car was probably going to pull out and squash the chick.

They may not look it by my photos, but these birds were TINY!

I dashed back into the lounge to get my mobile phone and I managed to see enough of the Company’s phone number on the side of the vehicle and phoned them.  After the usual “press 1 for service”, “press 2 for ………., “press 3 for ……” and so on up to “6 for reception”.

A cool middle-aged female voice answered and I explained I was standing on my balcony on the first floor at xyz address and could see a baby honeyeater 2″ away from the left front wheel of one of their Company’s service vehicles and could they patch me through to the driver OR, could they phone him and tell him not to move his vehicle or drive off.   Next minute the passenger got slowly out of the vehicle and I called out an explanation and that the chick had just gone under their vehicle where it was shady.  Driver & passenger, both in Company Uniform, got down on their hands and knees to look, but the bird then flew off.

Phew!

They said they’d double-check after they’d been inside to service a fire alarm.

I’ll bet that was the weirdest phone call that receptionist had ever received in her entire life 😀

EARLY MORNING VISITORS

I am not a morning person.

I need my sleep/rest, so when I sat down at my desk with my Italian Espresso coffee at 9.30am my eyes were still half-closed this morning.

That caffeine hit of the day is what keeps me going.  1-2 cups in the morning is about my limit or else I can’t get to sleep at night.  After a couple of hours yesterday with my younger brother in front of the computer identifying birds on his new website, I’d even had a third cup after Christmas lunch.

Being from his farm up the country, my brother’s avian species were completely different to my own regularly seen around Frogs Hollow.  Apart from many images of Willy Wagtails, most of his images were of colourful Rosellas and the vivid red and green Australian King Parrots he feeds regularly.

I couldn’t copy them , so some of my own images from my archives when I was up the country will have to suffice for this post.

Most of his images were made with his Phone from his tractor, not with his recently acquired DSLR and lenses.  When I asked why he didn’t take his camera outdoors, his reply was that when you go out to plough a field with a tractor, you have a phone in your pocket, not a DSLR & telephoto lens 😀

I smiled rather weakly at the Obvious.

My 91 year old Father was dozing in the armchair I’d placed in front of the open lounge doorway, so he could watch the House Sparrows drink their way through the chilled water I’d poured in the bird bath earlier in the morning.  He missed our photo sharing completely.  I think he was thoroughly enjoying the bird song as we’d had few cars driving up/down the road before Christmas lunch, but his regular afternoon nap couldn’t be missed – even on Christmas Day.

A short while ago the tiny Splendid Fairy-wrens flitted through the deep shade of the tree in front of my balcony.  They were mere shadows and yet I studied them as eagerly as if they’d been out on an open branch.   I couldn’t see if they were males or females.

Despite the distance to the other side of the road, I could easily identify the reddish heads of the European Goldfinches (Carduelis chloris) this morning. (and I wish the Auto Spellcheck would stop changing ‘chloris’ to ‘chlorine’ 🙂 )

The time when I get up, make coffee and sit down at my desk in front of the window is my favourite time of day.  The tiny avian visitors frequent my side of the road as its lovely and cool and the foliage is in deep shade making these small birds almost invisible to larger predators.

What is that damn tree anyway I thought to myself.  A Japanese maple?  It’s deciduous in winter and it sort of looks like a maple leaf (attached to its slender branches waving gently in the morning breeze).

I know ‘squat‘ about trees.

Give me a bird to identify any day.

To be honest, I only know about 100 Australian birds and in any one of my Brain Fog moments, this knowledge leaks out of the back of my brain in a silent stream, leaving a black hole, so some days I know ZERO.

I picked up the DSLR with the long 150-500mm lens (now) permanently sitting next to my desk on a low table…….well, for this week anyway.

Damn it, I said again.  The expensive long telephoto lens has broken.  It had toppled off the table yesterday when I turned my swivel desk chair around.  It was dark looking through the viewfinder and for the life of me I couldn’t work out why.  If I’d broken the $1000+ lens, then I’m not buying another one.  The Photography Fund is empty.

Wake up I said to myself, you haven’t taken the lens cap off!

Duh!

The bird which had just landed on the top branch waved around uncertainly for a moment or two, leaving me mystified as to why it appeared so small.  It looked vaguely like that Grey Shrike-thrush (Colluricincla harmonica), which a fellow blogger had identified for me only a few weeks ago.  But with the foreground in deep shade and the background (the other side of the road which gets the morning sun) bright, it was not an easy ID.  Besides all its feather were wet so the colouring was unclear.

Wake up I said for the umpteenth time.

Unlock the zoom and zoom the lens out, you idiot.

Ahhhhhhh!  Now I had the bird looking a reasonable size.

And yes, I do talk to myself a lot.  Keeps me sane in this uncertain world we live in.

In the absence of a clear ID, we’ll call it THE Grey Shrike-thrush.

It turned its head around to scratch an ‘itch’ on its back.

I managed one more shot and then it flew away.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw another movement and 3 male Splendid Fairy-wrens, with their vivid blue heads showing up quite clearly, came to the top of the young tree, but I was too late to capture them in the frame and they flew off just as quickly as they’d arrived.

Besides I was typing this post before I’d forget the reason for opening up my Nature blog first thing this morning, (instead of my gmail).

Did I tell you I’m not a morning person 😀

RAINBOW LORIKEET (Trichoglossus haematodus) – Location? EVERYWHERE YOU LOOK!

Rainbow Lorikeets are almost as common as Blackbirds.

They’re in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne Zoo’s Great Aviary, near the Yarra River walking trail, close by my current home (although I’ve never been able to get a good shot) AND would you believe I’ve even seen them in the city centre near small squares of trees, bushes and seating (for office workers to have lunch outdoors).  If you put out enough seed as one home owner did on a street I regularly walked down to my local medical centre, you get dozens of them.

They’re ‘as common as mud’ is a very apt description.

COCKS COMB CORAL TREE (Erythrina crista-galli) – ROYAL BOTANIC GARDENS, MELBOURNE

From the Archives – 12th December 2012

The Cocks Comb Coral Tree appears with slightly different names in my Plant Encyclopaedias, so if you know it by a different name, don’t be surprised.

Coral tree (Erythrina crista-galli)
Coral tree (Erythrina crista-galli)

I came across one particular plant down near Fern Gully in the centre of the Royal Botanic Gardens which was covered, (well, at least 30-35 birds), in Rainbow Lorikeets when the flowers were fully open in the Summer.

What a raucous noise they made.  It was such an amazing sight to see so much colour.