I think this is a juvenile Grey Teal, but for a while I thought it was a female Chestnut Teal. I used to see it often in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne.
Many moons ago, when I was more au fait with my computer, had more ‘grey matter’ in my brain and had Picasa editing software installed, I made 4 YouTubes from a range of early photos. I’d forgotten all about them until yesterday and thought to share one of them today. Amateurish they might be, but I seem to remember they were great fun to play around with. These were made when I had only one blog, Victoria A Photography (now deleted).
I split into 2 new blogs, A Black & White blog under my name Vicki A Alford – Photographer (which I don’t use often) and this current Nature blog you’re now reading, Living with Nature.
Living with Nature could have been titled A walk with my camera as that is what it is. Just images I make when out walking (for fresh air and exercise). These days I never go to a particular place to photograph a sunset. Any sunset shot is merely what I happen to see at the end of a walk, or from my apartment balcony. There’s a professional photographer called Vicki Alford in Melbourne, so I inserted the first letter of my middle name to differentiate between the 2 of us.
Back in those days, I dabbled in Food Photography as well.
Food Photography became rather expensive as I had to keep buying so many different ingredients for recipes (to photograph). There were many times when I ate the food/recipe before I’d decided on the final image to share, as it looked so yummy. It not only looked yummy, it was delicious as I used to be a good cook. This clip opens with the image which was a finalist in the Michaels Camera Store monthly contest – “Food” – a few years ago – Caponata Siciliana – a sweet/sour Bruschetta dish of which I am extraordinarily fond. I made about 50 images and then, dissatisfied with the results, ate the food. The next day I went out and bought all the ingredients again, made many more images and ended up choosing the shot below.
Michaels Camera Store in Melbourne is my ‘go to’ shop for anything Photographic and the assistants have been more than generous with their time and advice.
In fact, I spent months trying out all the long telephoto lenses, (including the Canon L series expensive lenses I couldn’t possibly afford), before I chose the Sigma 150-500mm f5.0-6.3 lens for my bird photography. Due to my poor memory, I used to visit the store regularly with queries, both technical and lens related. No question was EVER too trivial or silly for these highly knowledgeable sales assistants – all of whom are very experienced photographers themselves. I believe some of them are professional photographers who work in the store part-tome to supplement their income.
I visit less often now that I live further away from Melbourne’s city centre.
Hope you enjoy the variety of images in this clip……
From the archives
Many years ago, I used to use Picasa software to make collages or Birthday Cards. I no longer have this software and this morning I discovered its no longer available. The collage above is one of many I made in the early days of my Photography hobby.
From the archives – 13th October 2016
The washing machine broke down last weekend and it was the washing machine’s fault that I had to get up early this morning.
When the service centre booked me in for today’s service/repair visit I didn’t flinch or protest as the laundry was piling up and I don’t have many clothes these days.
But when the service/repair man rang last night to schedule a 7.30am time-slot on a forecast of a perfect sunny winter day, I shuddered. It was only when I was eating breakfast that I saw the golden light reflecting off the townhouse windows opposite my balcony that I realised I should have been outside the back gate photographing the sunrise. I was too late when I went downstairs and out the car park entrance. The sun had already risen and was doing it’s very best to put a golden spotlight on the landscape.
What a shame I don’t live on the eastern side of the building I thought. I would have seen the prospect of a sunrise before I’d even dressed for the day. I would probably have left the camera set up on a tripod with polished lens and settings just perfect for a sharply focused image from my lounge room window.
I looked more to the south and saw the sky had faded into buttermilk (from its brilliant golden hue). I forgot to check the Sony’s settings and just fired off a few shots regardless (as I was still half asleep). This resulted in several dirty spots left over from trying to photograph the sky on a recent rainy day. I had a bit of spot erasing to do before I could upload the images into this post. To be honest the silhouettes weren’t that sharp in focus either. I must have been shivering a bit while holding the camera in front of my glasses.
Far into the distance a solitary hot air balloon drifted across the winter sky (and I can now see I missed erasing the spots on the left hand side of this image 🙂 ).
It reminded me of the many dawn skies I had seen from the 3rd floor balcony of my previous apartment on the north-east side of Melbourne. Back then, it was the sound of Doves on my balcony fence rail that often woke me early in the morning and I chanced upon the sight of such beautiful dawns they took my breath away. Not only that, the hot air balloons hovered right overhead in that home location.
Here’s a few shots from the archives to refresh long-time follower’s memories.
I noticed this morning there were small birds everywhere on the trees in front of my current apartment balcony and despite chirping their very best, the sound would never have awoken me these days, as I haven’t woken at dawn in the 11 months I’ve now lived in this western suburb of Melbourne.
Shame about that as the recent foggy mornings would have cast a ghostly mist in Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve and over the Maribyrnong River just 5 minutes walk down the hill from my current back door and made for some lovely atmospheric images.
Needless to say, after the repair man had left for his next scheduled job, I started nodding off trying to download the images I hurriedly made earlier and eventually, decided to go back to bed as I’d had an unsettled night with only a few hours sleep.
I awoke at midday and after a quick lunch I’ve missed the best part of this Winter’s perfect day no. 3.
Time to set off on a walk in the nearby river path as it’s too late to go further afield (as I’d originally planned last night).
The sky went a bit dark and gloomy and then came the hail.
But that was 30 minutes ago.
I couldn’t help but be drawn out on to my apartment’s balcony to check out the new sky (but it was, and still is, very cold).
PS I think I’ve ‘losing the plot’ as we say in Australia. I thought I posted this image last night and this morning, I found it still in draft form 🙂
From the archives – 21st September 2016
It’s been cold, extremely windy and VERY wintery weather in recent days………..just when I thought Winter was coming to an end and Spring might be soon appearing on the horizon.
But still…….not much in the way of real heavy soaking rain this past winter in Melbourne.
Maybe we’ll have record-breaking Spring rain like we had last year?
In the meantime, I’m in hibernation mode and my cameras are gathering dust.
One of the most magical times of day around my area is between 3.30pm and 4.30pm in the afternoon.
Especially in winter when the sun reflects off the clouds like a spotlight. My side of the river starts to fall into a deep mysterious shade quite early, due to the overlooking cliff-top or hill (depending on where you’re standing).
I plan my walks over to the nearby Pipemakers Park so that I walk home via the pond just as the sun starts to drop low in the winter sky.
It can be hard to see anything much happening at the pond as the brilliant sunlight shines directly into your eyes and the scrubby undergrowth is too thick to walk around to the sides, or back of the pond. I usually stand in the shade of a large tree and surreptitiously, very slowly, peep around the tree trunk to attempt a photo. I usually take a photo with my right hand with my left hand shading my brow & eyes, so I can see.
A variety of birds take turns diving into the shiny, murky-looking water surface (throwing a shower of sparkling droplets into the air) and then fly back up to the tall water reeds (or a nearby tree), shaking their feathers very fast to discard the excess water weight. They make this flight over and over continuously.
The splash they make as they hit the water looks like dozens of diamonds being thrown into the air. It’s hard to describe this magical scene without some photos, but I’ve only managed to take 2-3 images showing the light, never the fast-flying small birds………until last Monday.
I stood enchanted for about 20 minutes watching what looked like a White-plumed Honeyeater.
I’ve just re-viewed Monday afternoon’s images and I think the photo below might be good enough for you to see it. It’s a small plain honeyeater with underparts a pale olive-green. The face is a bit more yellowish and it’s underparts a pale yellowish grey-buff, but the black-bordered long white neck-plume clinches the identification. You can’t see the white-neck plume in this image very well, so you’ll just have to believe me when I have 100% identified this elusive bird, that I saw this particular day.
(note: they’re a common bird in the area, I just can’t manage to photograph them up in high trees).
I’ve cropped the image a wee bit in the next shot.
In the centre of the frame below you can see it backlit. It was moving fast so the bird is a wee bit blurred.
And this poorer shot below shows the bird flicking the droplets of water off. Again, blurred, (or soft in focus), due to the speed of movement. I can’t really raise the ISO over 800 on my cameras without getting too much ‘noise’ or grainyness in the image in this type of situation and it’s hard to catch the bird within the frame as it flies up and down from the water so quickly.
I could watch these tiny birds for hours, but the light disappears quickly (and suddenly) like a light globe being turned off behind the high western cliff-top, so not a place to be stuck in without a torch I guess. I try to leave before this happens. In Summer, the daylight hours are longer of course.
Capturing these small birds such as the White-plumed Honeyeater, the Red Wattlebird and Reed Warblers in flight, or hitting the water surface, is my current challenge and I’ve always enjoyed a challenge in bird photography (as much as in my working life).
Of course photographing the White-faced Heron in this pond is much easier as it often stands still.
This week I noticed that the Purple Coral Pea is in bloom.
I had already spotted several low-growing bushes opposite my apartment block, but the local council has planted it in various locations between new apartment blocks at the top of my laneway’s steep hill.
I bent over and fired off a few shots on the walk home from the local chemist/pharmacy on Monday. As the bright sunlight was too harsh, I put my body between the flowers and the sun to create a shadow and the flowers showed up much better. I only had my Sony ‘mirrorless’ with the 55-210 lens in my shopping bag, but I’ll try and go back with my Canon DSLR and my new(ish) 17-50mm f2.8 lens which will take a much closer and better shot. I love that DSLR lens, but when I’m in a hurry, I usually grab my lightweight Sony ‘mirrorless’ a6000 on the way out the front door, not a heavy DSLR.
This lovely pea is a vigorous climber growing up to 20 feet so Wikipedia says, but I’ve only seen it growing low on the ground to about 20 inches high.
Wikipedia also says……
Hardenbergia violacea syn. H. monophylla is a species of flowering plant in the pea family Fabaceae, native to Australia from Queensland to Tasmania. It is known in Australia by the common names false sarsaparilla, purple coral pea, happy wanderer, native lilac and waraburra (which comes from the Kattang language). Elsewhere it is also called vine lilac or lilac vine.
It also comes in white, pink and other colours.
We’ve had some lovely sunshine in Melbourne last week and again this week (since the gale force winds over the past weekend), but I’ve had so many errands (and other commitments), I’ve had little chance to enjoy it. Monday, I walked home along the Maribyrnong River path as the sun got lower in the sky and turned much of the surrounding landscape into gold which is really a wonderful time of the afternoon for Photography.
I noticed a couple of Spotted Turtle-doves on a branch in Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve and (fortunately) had the long 150-500 lens with me. Initially, they seemed to be half asleep but when I took aim through the viewfinder, one opened its eyes as though it sensed my presence. Impossible from that distance away, so was probably just coincidence the Dove opened its eyes and stared straight at my camera lens at that moment.
The image below (at 4.15pm as I walked home on Monday) gives you an idea of the pleasant weather we’ve experienced.
Yesterday and today was almost picture-postcard perfect too.
Although in one way, I’ll be glad if it does rain for the rest of the week as we surely need it in Melbourne at this stage of late Winter. While my balcony tiles have been wet most mornings when I wake (suggesting overnight rain), my potted plants have needed regular watering by hand again!
We’re having a very dry winter here.
From the archives……..again! (I’m not doing much new photography at the moment).
I rarely photograph insects, partly because I don’t see them (being short-sighted and only having distance glasses) and partly because I’m so intent on birds or other larger subjects, I don’t look for them (insects). There’s certainly more than one image in my library where I was photographing a flower and didn’t even notice there was an insect on the flower until I downloaded the day’s shooting on to my large 27″ screen 🙂
It’s always fun to review them though. Most of the butterflies were shot in the Butterfly House at Melbourne Zoo in or around 2012.
The last image has an interesting story behind it.
It was made with my little Canon Point & Shoot in the early days of my Photography hobby in 2010. At the time, I thought it was rather good and submitted it to iStock Photos to see if they would take me on as a stock photographer, but of course in my naïvety, I didn’t realise how good you’ve have to be to be a stock photographer and I was rejected. Also they had too many flower images and that was my main subject in 2010.
The interesting fact was that I found another photo with the same insect and flower with almost the same composition on iStock Photos made by a Swedish(?) photographer. Now what are the odds of someone on the other side of the world shooting almost the same composition, insect & flower. I’ve seen many images made by different photographers in landscapes etc, but a subject this small………..amazing.
From the Archives – 13th June 2017
I hate walking along the main road to the nearby Shopping Centre. (In fact I usually catch a bus, tram or taxi).
It’s so boring.
The car exhaust fumes.
The traffic sounds.
So back in mid June I set myself a challenge to see how many flowers I could photograph in residential gardens, (or next to footpaths), along the walk. It worked. By the time I’d found the last flower on the journey, I had arrived. And I didn’t even notice how long it took. Here’s a couple of images I shot along the way.
………and I wasn’t bored one little bit 🙂
No new nature images to share this week, only a few photos I shot on Monday from the Princes Bridge (overlooking the Yarra River) on the southern perimeter of Melbourne and some shots from my archives.
I’ve had the good fortune to live in various locations near/next to a major river, parkland, nature reserve or the Royal Botanic Gardens for most of the time since I returned from a 2 year working holiday in the U.K & Europe in 1978/79. I’ve moved several times due to job changes or my rental property being sold and me having to move. In one case I shared a house with a work colleague and we had to move out due to demolition of the whole residential area to construct a new south-bound freeway.
For those interested, the map below gives you some idea of the many public parks and gardens in and around Melbourne’s inner suburbs, The grid of streets and lanes in the centre of this map shows where the Central Business District (CBD) and main shopping area in Melbourne. The Yarra River exiting the bay and running from the lower left of the frame, winds its way across the centre of the map and then north-east for many miles.
The Maribyrnong River (which is 5 mins walk from my current apartment) enters/exits the Yarra River mid left of the map frame and heads north-west of Melbourne (city).
As you can see, we are lucky to have many public parks and gardens in Melbourne and its surrounding inner suburbs as shown by the green patches on the map – the 38 hectare Royal Botanic Gardens (shown below) is just one of many gardens for locals and tourists alike.
Note: all the images below are from my archives as I haven’t been to the Royal Botanic Gardens to do any photography since I moved from the area in April/May 2015.
The last rays of daylight touch the tips of the Rosemary plant on my apartment balcony.
Since I made this photo 3 days ago, several more branches of the plant are coming into flower.
So strange to see the flowers in mid-winter. But since my pink daisy and blue Bacopa are still covered with flowers, one can only assume there must be some heat generating from the floor-to-ceiling glass windows in my apartment to create some sort of micro-climate? The Sage, Lemon Thyme and Oregano have all died back for the winter as normal, but my English & Italian Parsley, Mint and Rosemary are still growing as though it is Spring. I was reading an article the other day which suggested that Australia actually has 6 seasons and we’d be better off planning our gardens that way. Personally, I think Melbourne has 365 seasons and the weather bureau forecast still can’t get their daily/weekly forecast right 🙂
Have been off the blogosphere and blog reading for several days this past week as I’m feeling all ‘blogged-out’ and except for half a dozen photos made of the sun going down, my camera is starting to gather dust again!
Still, I did read a whole book in that time which is most unusual for me as I find the eyestrain tiring and reading difficult these days.
From the archives……..19th October 2012
This series comes to you from the Dandenong Ranges National Park – the range of hills overlooking the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. I have seen these Cockatoos in the Royal Botanic Gardens and down by the Yarra River also (running by the southern side of Melbourne city out into Port Phillip Bay) but they were always too far away to get a good shot.
They’re found on the northern, eastern and south-eastern areas of Australia and very common. Their white feathers make them easy to spot high up in the trees. One day I found a couple grazing on some grass seed about 4 feet away from my walking path along the Yarra River, but I didn’t have a camera at that time and they flew away quickly on sensing my presence.
From the archives……..19th May, 2013.
One of the advantages of bird photography in the Great Aviary at Melbourne Zoo is the ability to use the waist-high guard rail of the boardwalk as a tripod. I could never have got sharp focus of this Kingfisher with a hand-held shot using the heavy Sigma 150-500mm telephoto lens otherwise. On this particular occasion, the disadvantage is getting the cage wire in the background of the image.
The Sacred Kingfisher always chose this sunny spot to warm up (on a cold day), whereas some of my Zoo images show no cage wire at all. This beautiful bird is found all over Australia except for the arid centre of the country.
From the archives…..
In all the years I visited Melbourne Zoo’s Great Aviary, I never managed to get a decent shot of the male Satin Bowerbird. The 2 or 3 shots I did take were too soft in focus to be worthy of sharing and I deleted them only recently. The male is a rich glossy blue-black all over.
But the female……..well, I did score a couple of nice shots of that and in both images the eye is a gorgeous blue/purple not unlike the feather colour of the male (although my Australian Bird Guide book doesn’t mention this characteristic, so maybe it was the light on the day that gave the eye this colour). It’s a fairly common bird on the south-east coast of Australia, but I’ve only seen it at the Zoo.
From the archives……
I love the soft pink colour of the Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo and when it splays out all its crest feathers it is very handsome indeed (according to the image in my Australian Bird Guide). I’ve never seen it fan out its crest feathers myself though.
In Melbourne Zoo’s Great Aviary, this cockatoo is very friendly with the Eclectus Parrots (bright green male & red/blue female), so much so, that one of my images of the M/M Cockatoo ‘talking’ to the female Eclectus Parrot scored the back page of the March 2012 Zoo News magazine. I felt very flattered as I’d only been photographing birds at the zoo for a few months or so at the time – (for some strange reason the editor reversed the image).
I used to watch this Cockatoo and the Eclectus parrots for ages as they really do appear to be talking, or communicating, with each other.
NOTE: Today the weather forecast was for 90% rain and possible hail so I’m catching up with blogging and blog reading. It’s past midday and all I’ve seen is blue sky and sunshine (with some rather brisk wind blowing my balcony plants) so far. Where’s the rain & hail that made my planned ‘at home’ day I ask myself?
The Blue-faced Honeyeater is common in the north and north-east of Australia, but very scare in the south, so it was good to see these lovely birds in Melbourne Zoo’s Great Aviary.
From the archives…..
The Pied Imperial Pigeon actually comes from South-east Asia, but is now found in the north-east Australian state of Queensland. The images below are from the Great Aviary at Melbourne Zoo and I’ve included a few old images of the Great Aviary to give you some idea of what a great space this is. It’s enormous and covers 3 temperature zones with a water course running from the top Rainforest end down to a large pond in a dryer more temperate zone.
The boardwalk runs up to about 20 feet above the aviary floor, but on cold winter days, the birds are ‘indoors’ in sheltered spots and hard to see.
Spring, Autumn or a sunny Winter day are the best times to visit (when the birds are sun-baking in the trees (level with the boardwalk). A couple of times, I’ve been to the Zoo specifically to spend a couple of hours in the Great Aviary (only) and it’s been closed for maintenance.
I dropped my Zoo membership a couple of years ago as I’d been about 100 times in 3 years to practice (mainly) bird photography and really………just how many times can you photograph the same birds. Now that I’m living in a western suburb of Melbourne, I’m quite close to the main Melbourne Zoo (as the crow flies – about 3 miles or 6 kms). Shame there isn’t a direct route over the Maribyrnong River from where I live now.
Melbourne Zoo is a great location to spend a hot summer’s day as the landscaping around most of the exhibits is temperate rainforest.
A friend said to me once, “where do you find all these nature reserves and natural bushland areas in the suburbs?”
I replied “it’s not just what you see in the image that makes these photos look like you’re out in the country. It’s the details you leave out. It’s about looking up maps and finding all the marked green belts or public parks, then going there and walking around the area.”
Driving in a car in the suburbs is usually about getting to your destination.
Walking around gives you the opportunity to really see the natural elements along the way.
I’m always looking for birds to photograph, but I’m also looking for my slice of nature (since I don’t have a car to drive to the country or mountains to enjoy the peace and tranquility).
But add in the road, houses and the bus stop into the frame and you realise you’re just in the inner western suburbs of Melbourne.
Living in Nature is all about what you can see and do outdoors, despite living in a town or city.
Living in Nature is not just about looking in any direction in a suburban setting. It’s about seeing the individual details within your urban environment and taking time to hone in on the flora and fauna as individual subjects. Being in nature can be easier than you think. Even a weed or native grass species on a vacant suburban house plot has visual interest (if you open your eyes and really look at the small details).
I don’t often see Grebes and if I do, they’re always in the middle of a lake or river. I’m wondering if their food source is in deeper water?
They dive often, but I managed to get a couple of good shots of the Australasian Grebe (Tachybaptus novaehollandiae) in Frogs Hollow last October (just after I moved to Maribyrnong). The reddish-brown neck is the colour of a breeding grebe. This species is the smallest and dumpiest of the grebes found in Australia.
But the day I walked all the way down to Newells Paddock Nature Reserve (about 3.7kms) nearly 3 weeks ago, I saw about 7-8 Hoary-headed Grebes (Poliocephalus poliocephalus) along the river….mainly in the centre.
To be honest, I wouldn’t have recognised them as they were too far away, but an elderly man sitting on a bench told me what they were.
And the image below was cropped down to about 10% of its original size in an attempt to see it a bit closer up. This particular Hoary-headed Grebe was in the middle of the river.
So while I take many bird photos on my walks, it is rare that they’re close enough to fill the frame and share online these days. The White-faced Heron, Willy Wagtails and the various Cormorants are the exceptions I guess.
A neighbour told me she’d seen an owl on her balcony very early one morning, so perhaps I need to get up earlier 😳
I’ve photographed several small birds grazing on seed in recent weeks – mostly late on a sunny afternoon. I haven’t shared those images because the birds are generally too far away to see much feather detail OR they are poor shots with waving grass spoiling the image (the shots below are examples).
The images below were made with the Sigma 150-500mm lens fully zoomed out to 500mm and I was trying to get a focal point on their eye before they did the next ‘hop’. Not easy. Since I can’t see the eye, I have to just aim at the red part of the head which is quite clearly visible.
Here’s a photo of the field (to the right of the nature reserve as I face the river) that I’m talking about. The image was made last October so it’s still water-logged from the record-breaking Spring rains we had in 2016. I was standing on the gravel path on the lower left of the image below and the birds were in the field which is about 6 feet lower than the walking path. While the birds were only about 25-30 feet from my position, I guess I’d need a 700mm lens to get close enough to get a really good shot to share.
(NOTE: this will be my last long post for a long while 🙂 ).
Just before I came indoors at the end of last Sunday’s walk, I had turned around to survey the land between my apartment block and the river and had suddenly seen a very flat open path into the Nature Reserve.
At the late hour of 4.20pm, it was too late to venture in to explore, as the sun would dip below the top of the hill and place this area into deep shade, or semi-dark, early (on this mid-winter day).
Between rain showers on Monday I decided to walk down the slope and enter the mown pathway for a quick exploratory walk. I only had my heavy duty umbrella and lightweight Sony a6000 in my hands. A quick check of the rain radar online shortly beforehand had shown what looked like clear blue sky for an hour or so.
But it was very wet all around me.
The grass/reeds were still a good 7-8 foot high and mostly impenetrable either side of the path.
This area of high grass was where I’d had my first sighting of the European Goldfinch last October (in the 3 images below).
The non-indigenous tree with the fruit in the first Finch image above, has now been cut down as shown in the tree stump below.
I had also seen a Red Wattlebird in the thick tree cover on the eastern rim of the nature reserve (below) so I knew there were definitely birds to be seen (and photographed to share online) in the reserve.
I had also seen Red-browed Finches on the chain wire fence along the southern rim of the Nature Reserve last December (images below).
Back to Monday’s short walk………
After about 50 feet, the broad path made by the tractor/grasscutter came to an end and I found myself in a winding tunnel where I had walked through last summer. Some of the overhanging branches I had cut back with my secateurs had grown over again and the path became very slippery in the knee high grass. I was soaking wet up to my knees by this time and cursed not thinking to bring one of my Mother’s old walking sticks to poke around checking for hidden holes.
I eventually reached the lake edge (with about 2 feet of a rather prickly looking bush between my feet and the water).
This is where I’d walked last summer and where I felt it would be wonderful to have a cleared pathway and small wooden jetty, or lookout, for visitors to enjoy spotting water birds on the lake.
I had seen Little Pied Cormorants, Eurasian Coots and a Black Swan swimming around in the small patch of water I could see over the Nature Reserve chainwire fence many times before.
I felt sure nature lovers would enjoy this Nature Reserve if only the council made a path around the enormous patch of water and cleared some of high grass and water reeds. The Council wouldn’t have to clear too much for visitors (and me) to spend a couple of hours in these Wetlands and Nature Reserve. I’ve been told the Council have shelved this whole idea of a path due to lack of funds.
I was so disappointed and headed back towards home. There are about 4-5 apartment blocks and a row of townhouses built into the side of the hill and you can see how close we are to the Nature Reserve in the image below………approximately 100 feet (?).
The sun came out from behind the rain clouds and I decided to walk a short way along the western rim of the reserve.
The golden heads of Wild Radish were about thigh high and I got even more wet trying to find a path through to what looked like a slight gap in the trees, but eventually decided it was too risky for a fall or twisted ankle in the uneven, invisible ground beneath my feet.
Yesterday, my walk took me over to Pipemakers Park and the Tuesday morning garden volunteering group. The Park Ranger (I’d met in Newell’s Paddock Wetlands and Conservation area) had told me about this group and remembered me as soon as I walked up to where they were working. I met the small group of 5 volunteers and was shown around the ruins of the historic old pipe workers garden and where they had cleared all the paths, cut down the overgrown shrubs and started re-planting some of the herb garden in recent weeks.
Apparently, one third (roughly) will be indigenous plants from the past (before white colonists settled the area in the early 1800s), the central third will be a restoration of the pipe worker’s original herb garden between the mosaic paths…….and the other third will be planted with modern garden plants.
Now I know their plans for restoration and replanting, I can either join the Tuesday morning group (unlikely as I get up too late), join one of the volunteers who does more weeding on Friday afternoons OR just go over any time and do whatever I can to help. I’ve decided to give it a try and see if my lower back pain will allow me to stretch (and get some exercise too). I really do need a new hobby or something to do in the fresh air. I seem to photograph the same birds and scenes all the time on my recent walks and I need a new interest that is close to home.
I’ve had a 2 lots of lumbar spine surgery, so not sure how much I can do. In the past I’ve found weeding and gardening a good way to stretch my back and surprisingly, I always feel good after a couple of hours of light gardening. The photos below were made before the Volunteering group started the project. The Green Army had weeded the bluestone-edged Herb Garden though. The Green Army was an initiative by the Government to employ about 15,000 unemployed, or homeless (?) youth to do gardening and environmental restoration work around the country, but the Park Ranger was telling me, they only ended up with about 5,000 workers and some of the initiative has now been abandoned by the Government due to lack of funding.
Shame about that. The Green Army still exists, but much depleted.
(note: there are still groups of volunteers who maintain the many green spaces found throughout our suburbs and country towns, especially on the river flats first explored in the early 1800s before towns and cities were established in Australia).
There was a brisk cold wind in the winter air yesterday, but the sun was glorious. For the most part, the skies were clear and a vivid blue.
I headed towards Pipemakers Park to check out what the Tuesday morning Gardening group had done towards restoring the old turn-of-the-century garden ruins and bumped into my new acquaintance, Steve, as he was heading for the car park. By the time we’d finished our conversation, picked up after our last encounter some weeks ago, the best of the light was almost gone and I never did make any images of the garden.
After a quick inspection of the flower beds, I headed down to the Pipemakers Park pond/lake as the sun was just about to disappear behind the high cliff top. I was facing straight in to the sun and had to keep the camera pointed downwards in order to see or capture anything in the brilliant glare. Birds kept flying down to splash in the water (for food or a drink?) and then fly up to the stronger water reeds. I caught a few splashes with my camera, but not the birds who made them, so that lot of images went straight into the trash bin.
I headed over and around the perimeter of Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve to go home and noticed Andy the Grass-cutter must have been through in the last couple of days. He’d got down from his tractor to chat only a week or so ago and mentioned he hadn’t seen me around. I assured him I’d been out with my camera several times but had to avoid the Nature Reserve having turned my ankle in a hidden hole in the calf-high grass. He said he would cut the path more often (as he had done through the summer months for me).
It almost felt like summer with the warm rays upon my back and I spied a couple of Spotted Turtle-doves basking in the sun. All the dried water reeds you see in the image below hide another large pond.
They must have sensed my movement as I swung the heavy long telephoto lens up to capture the scene and one flew up to the top of the tree trunk sculpture that can be seen in all 5 of the local ponds (or lakes)…..how big does a pond have to be before it becomes a lake I asked myself?
The sun sparkled on some of the undergrowth nearby, but I was so glad Andy had cut the grass very short in the pathway – so much easier to see the ruts and little rises in the natural surface of the pond surrounds.
The Banksia bush next to the path at this point had lots of flowers on it. There are over 200 Banksia species in Australia and many of the plants won’t open their fruits until they are burnt, hence the role of bush fires lit by the indigenous Aboriginal people of Australia for thousands of years before white men settled here.
The sun was getting low by this time, so I headed along the short gravel path for home. One minute it can be the bright glare of the golden hour and next minute, deep shade so dark it’s almost impossible to see where you’re walking, so best to make haste at this time on short winter days.
Just before I walked up to my ‘back gate’ (through the apartment block car park entrance), I turned around to look at Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve and once again, gave a sigh of appreciation at how lucky I was to end up with another home in such a beautiful location.
Then I spotted a large newly sawn tree stump on the edge of the Reserve which must have been cut down late last week.
But more importantly, I saw a very clear wide path into the Nature Reserve, probably made by the council in their task of removing all non-indigenous trees in the area.
But it was 4.20pm, too late and I had far too much heavy camera gear with me to explore where this western rim path went, this late in the day. Today, the forecast is for rain or showers most of the day and half the coming week so I’ll look forward to exploring the new path another sunny day. You can’t tell by the photo below, but that thick grass either side of the mown tractor path is about 8-9′ high and was quite impenetrable for someone like me.
Sometimes I think I’ll never find something new to photograph around my local area and then, I take a random shot of nothing in particular and just love the result. I had my heavy long 150-500mm lens in my hand when I made this shot and can’t believe I managed to hold it still enough to capture the fine hairs of this dead thistle(?) from so far away.
I think I mentioned to a commenter/new follower recently that I had deleted most of the 4000 images I made when living in Abbotsford on the north-east side of Melbourne (including all the corresponding WordPress posts to make room on this blog and reduce my massive Photo Library on my Mac Pro laptop). I did keep all the sunrise/sunset images and about 30 other images of the walking trail to Dights Falls and the Collingwood Children’s farm (located next to the Yarra River).
BUT (silly me with the intermittent Brain Fog all us Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome sufferers have to live with), forgot that there are about 3300 images still in my WordPress Media Library.
So for the benefit of a new follower, Angus, who is now living in Abbotsford, here’s a few images from along the river and from my south-facing 3rd floor apartment balcony from May 2015 – October 2016.
I used to wash my floor-to-ceiling windows every week, ever in winter, so I could photograph the sky colours as they changed from dusk to sunset (and sometimes even dawn if I woke up early enough). Every night I could sit at my desk (placed to face the windows) and watch the sky change colour and then disappear into night.
……and while my current 1st floor apartment is located on the western side of a building half-way down a steep hill next to Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve in the western suburb of Maribyrnong, I can still see the occasional sunset high up on the hilltop.
From the archives………
In my efforts to reduce my photo library, I’ve come across several bird images that I don’t think I’ve ever shared before. Mainly because they didn’t have particularly sharp focus. This image of a Darter (Anhinga melanogaster) in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne is one of them. The image was made in July 2013 – Winter.
This cormorant-like bird was standing near an old wooden jetty on an island way out in the middle of the large Ornamental Lake in the Royal Botanic Gardens and I didn’t have a tripod at the time, so a hand-held shot with the heavy 150-500mm lens was the best I could do.
I went back many times over the following days with a tripod in the hopes of a better shot, but never ever saw the bird again.
It’s a very large bird with a long sinuous neck and very distinctive feather pattern.
With its wings outstretched in the image in my Australian Bird Guide Book, it looks so much like many of my Cormorant shots of birds drying their wings out. My Guide Book says it swims down low, often with only its snake-like head and neck out of the water and dives frequently, so I was pretty lucky to catch this Darter sitting quite still on a tree bough.
If you’ve enjoyed all my images of skies over Melbourne in recent years don’t forget to drop in to my other blog for a re-run from my archives here ……..Sunrise, Sunset & Cloud (that come in between).
……………From the Archives
The Australian Wood Duck (Chenonetta jubata), is one of the commonest ducks to be seen around Melbourne’s public parks and gardens and I seem to have photographed them more times than most other birds (except perhaps the Nankeen Night Heron and the Pacific Black Duck, that is).
Looks like a couple of clear sunny winter days coming up next weekend according to the weather forecast, (which is always wrong 🙂 ), so I hope to have some new images to share afterwards. I’ve been out and about in recent days with shopping, errands and/or appointments, but not doing photography. There was a time when I’d take a camera everywhere, but not so these days.
I see Cormorants everywhere along my stretch of the Maribyrnong River, but now I’m starting to look a little more closely.
When a fellow bird-lover informed me the Pied Cormorant (Phalacrocorax varius) has a hooked beak (and more orange coloured), I think I’m starting to see the differences between them. The Pied Cormorant is larger for sure, but when you’re photographing them from a fair distance away and there only one bird, size is a difficult concept for me.
I’m wondering if I’ve identified Little Pied Cormorants (Phalacrocorax melanoleucos) when they should be the larger species. (same issue with Little Black Cormorants and the larger Great Cormorants which are both black).
Some examples below. I think the 4th image is the only Little Pied Cormorant in this post. The other 4 images are the larger species.
I’ve been trying to get close enough to the small birds that feed on the low-lying field of Frogs Hollow on sunny afternoons, but either I haven’t got my 150-500mm lens with me on my walk OR they fly away before I can get close enough. Finally I decided to just share these images. I accept I will never get closer to get a really decent shot.
Mostly, in trying to photograph small wild birds, I am having trouble hand-holding the heavy lens as I follow the tiny birds as they continually hop around. A tripod would be of no use in this type of situation.
About a week and half ago, I managed to capture them in a bit better focus, together with a flock of red-browed Finches and Red-rumped Parrots. All together there must have been about 30 birds of the 3 species in the one area.
I think all the Fairy-wrens were females.
I have to say that I find trying to photograph tiny wild birds more than a bit of a challenge. I realise how lucky I was when I was living next to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne for 15 years. Most of the birds I photographed were used to humans and I could get quite close. Even the herons or cormorants on the large lake island usually stood still in the afternoon sun and I was able to use a tripod.
The following 2 shots were the closest I ever got to the wrens when living on the north-eastern side of Melbourne next to the Yarra River. They are males.
While the first month of winter – June – is nearly over, we’ve had surprisingly little rain so far in Melbourne. It’s been mainly light showers in the western suburbs (where I live) for this last week, but enough to stall my efforts to get outdoors for some walking and fresh air (and/or nature photography).
More frequent showers are forecast for the next few days though. I have to be honest and say that at least 2 days this week, I’ve spent most of the day watching my favourite Italian detective DVD series with the sound turned off, reading the subtitles only and a hot pack on the back of my neck. Seems to be the only thing that truly reduces this long-running severe headache. Earlier this week, I received a referral to a Neurologist who specialises in migraines, but when I got a quote for his initial consultation, I silently said “Ouch” and put the heat pack back on my neck. Gee, some of these specialists cost more than my food budget for 2 months. Maybe I’ll try some acupuncture, as at least that’s partly covered by my private health insurance. I’ve only just realised (in my foggy brain pain state) that the wonderful Chinese Doctor and Acupuncturist who I used to go to (in early 2010) is only a tram ride away. Now why didn’t I think of her 5 months ago, I ask myself. All I can say is that I’m forgetting lots of things these days.
My west-facing potted garden on my balcony is still thriving, despite the intermittent nature of Mother Nature’s rain drops. I gave all my herbs and flowers another massive haircut a week or so ago and the flowers have spread their colourful petals even more. Will this blue Bacopa and pink Argyranthemum ever stop flowering, I’m wondering? Herbs love a good prune regularly and although its winter, only the Sage, Oregano and Lemon Thyme have really died back for the season. My Rosemary, Mint, English and Italian flat-leaf parsley are surging ahead with the speed of a ‘Road-runner’.
For the first time, I’m growing Sorrel and Tuscan Kale. Both are looking rather lively, although the Tuscan Kale seems to be rather slow to start (for my dinner table). Apparently, Sorrel tastes a bit like Spinach, so I’m keen to give it a trial run in my limited balcony space.
NOTE: all the images in this post were made yesterday.
Even my Rosemary has got new blue flowers on one spike.
Rain today, so I’ve been indoors trying to catch up with some blog reading.
Sunsets don’t have to be spectacular. Sometimes you just sense the breeze whispering in the tree tops and the sound of birds chirping close by and relax into watching the sun go down.
I wasn’t going to share this photo of the Great Egret in the Wetlands because it was so far away and I was having trouble holding my heavy long telephoto lens still (after my long walk along the river path to get to the Wetlands). You can’t see much feather detail. But soon after this shot the Park Ranger came up to chat and I never ended up getting my tripod out of its bag. But the Park Ranger did mention another gate along the fence on the other side of the Wetlands, so I’ll check it out next visit as for the most part, I was looking into the sun trying to photograph birds on this downriver side of the Wetlands.
Not ideal at all.
On the way to Newell’s Paddock (via the river cycling/walking path) last Friday, I came across a pair of Australian Wood Ducks (Chenonetta jubata) dozing in the sun on a tiny jetty. I walked up behind them quite close and fully expected them to fly away, but they didn’t.
Both opened and closed their eyes from time to time to keep an eye on me.
Then I slowly walked up to about 3 feet behind them. They were one very tame couple.
Absolutely amazing and I felt really honoured to be allowed to observe them so closely.
By the way, the image below shows what superb weather Melbourne is having at the moment. Even Melbourne’s ever present wind has died down in recent days. The Park Ranger I was talking to in Newell’s Paddock Conservation and Wetlands Reserve was telling me we are going to have a very dry winter here in Melbourne. This does not bode well for the flora and fauna, either now or next Summer.
…….and Silver Gull in rear of course. This is only the 3rd (or 4th) time I’ve seen a Masked Lapwing in my life.
The masked lapwing (Vanellus miles), also known as the masked plover and often called the spur-winged plover or just plover in its native range, is a large, common and conspicuous bird native to Australia, particularly the northern and eastern parts of the continent, New Zealand and New Guinea. It spends most of its time on the ground searching for food such as insects and worms and has several distinctive calls. There are two subspecies; the southern novaehollandiae has distinctive black markings on the shoulder and side of the chest, and is sometimes recognized as a separate species, the black-shouldered lapwing (Vanellus novaehollandiae). These brown-black, white and yellow plovers are common in Australian fields and open land.
“It’s not my fault you pooped just when I pressed the shutter button 🙂 ” (says Vicki to herself).
NOTE: to fellow bloggers……my severe headaches (and neck pain) continues and my brain MRI last Thursday is showing some anomalies….. one issue being that insufficient oxygen is getting to my brain. Until I get further clarification, I’ll be spending more time offline and out walking in the fresh air. I’ve got plenty of photos to share so I’ll try to just upload one or two (with no, or minimal, writing).
Maybe I’ll just stick to one day a week to read the blogs I follow, so, dear followers, I haven’t dropped you, just need to stay off the computer more for the time being.
Besides the days are glorious at the moment…..blue sky, sunshine and crisp Winter air. Perfect for walking along the river.
My potted blueberry is flowering.
On re-reading the identification tag from the plant nursery tonight, apparently it produces red flowers during winter.
I’ve never grown a blueberry before, let alone in a pot on a west-facing balcony, and was surprised to see the flowers at this time of year.
Looks promising for a good crop next Spring/Summer.
Yesterday, like several other days recently, the weather has been superb for walking (when I actually get out the door that is).
Today dawned just the same.
Blue Sky and Sunshine all throughout the Day.
Barely a cloud in sight and a brisk chill in the air, (actually it went down to 4 degrees Celsius during the night in Melbourne – quite chilly).
Unfortunately my brain is not complying with my body these days, (literally), and I can never make up my mind where to go, so while I dither around, the clock moves on to mid-afternoon and then, with the shortest day in the southern hemisphere looming on the horizon, it is too late to set off. Sometimes I wonder if I’m getting early Dementia or something, but I’m hoping its just the severe headaches I’ve experienced in the last 4 months (for which I now have extra, extra strong prescription analgesics). I went through 5 months of severe headaches 7 years ago when I was still working full-time so I’m hoping its just another phase. I find I’m typing some weird sentences too. So if you’ve noticed some unusual spelling or funny sentences on my blog (or commenting on your blog), ignore it. They are not typos, they are brain hiccups 🙂
Yesterday I had to go to the local chemist/pharmacy and the hardware shop, but I couldn’t resist the call of the river and local bird life. Even the short 6-7 minute walk from my back door down to the river is a delight as the dew droplets sparkle in the shade of Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve next to the gravel pathway.
I saw so many birds in both the trees and on the pathway. No Willy Wagtails for a change, but certainly many of the common Spotted Turtle-doves, Magpies, Wrens, Noisy Miners, Crows, Blackbirds and a few feathered new friends whose names I don’t know. Can be hard to see the details as looking into the Sun towards the north over Frogs Hollow from this path makes mostly silhouettes. Someone has cut down several trees and laid them across part of the small area of grass between my ‘back gate’ and the gravel car-width pathway.
I was rather mystified initially, but after seeing all the Splendid Fairy Wrens hopping around, under and on the branches I wondered if the local council, (or whoever looks after this area), was deliberately creating a haven for insect and little critters or tiny birds? There were about a dozen wrens hopping around and I muttered to myself, regretting leaving the heavy long telephoto 150-500mm birding lens at home. I only had the Sony 55-210 lens and my short Canon 17-50mm ‘landscaping’ lens in my shopping trolley (leaving room for my shopping later in the afternoon), so couldn’t get a good shot of these tiny birds to share. These were 2-3 hopping along the gravel path too, but they moved quickly as I approached them, so no photos there either.
Or maybe they’re (the trees, not the birds) lying in wait for the landscaping ‘chipper’ truck to cart them away for mulch making.
It seemed like everyone was outdoors…….. walking, cycling, playing golf on the other side of the river, Canoeing/rowing/boating down the river, or whatever mode of transport kept them in the warmth of the sun, in my case…..legs of course. Not that much wind either. For a change, I can’t complain about Melbourne’s predictably unpredictable weather forecasts.
No ducks on the little ponds I passed, but there were many Little Pied Cormorants basking in the sun as I walked down the peninsular of land, over the tiny footbridge on to the island, then another footbridge back on to the long strip of land. My destination was the rocky causeway heralding Maribyrnong Wetlands (Bunyap Park or Edgewater Wetlands depending on which side of the grass and pond you’re on 🙂 ).
I can’t help a little smile creeping over my face at the 3 signs with different names, every time I walk around the pond (with its reed covered island in the middle).
Is there an invisible ‘fence line’ which divides the pond into 3 distinct wetlands?
Or, maybe it’s administered by 3 different local councils?
Whatever the case, I find the signage highly amusing each time I pass.
I cross this causeway or walk around the pond to get to the bus stop on the other side of the nearby road (faintly seen in the upper right of the image below). I might add there’s lots of water in this particular stretch of wetland, whereas it was almost completely dried up last Summer.
Then, having just missed a bus according to the timetable on the nearby post, I sat in the sun on a residential garden brick wall lapping up the sun’s warmth while waiting for the next mode of transport to appear. This particular bus route only runs 3 times over a 2 hour period, weekday or weekend, so there can be a long 40 minute wait at worst scenario – but yesterday I only had to sit for about 25 minutes. If I wasn’t going to the shops and hardware store, I would have walked back home again.
I’m lucky to have a tram and 2 different bus routes going down my nearby main road, but I love this particular bus route as it goes via the long scenic route, Footscray Gardens, a few streets away from Newells Paddock Wetlands and Nature Reserve, and then on to the next suburb (and a train station). I have yet to explore one of the trains that pass through this particular station up to the countryside in Central Victoria. It will mean getting up very early and close attention to the timetables for a whole day trip and getting back home methinks.
The Autumn leaves on the boardwalk outside the chemist shop reminded me of how much Autumn colour I’d missed capturing with my camera this year. I was stuck indoors (for the most). And since I’ve reduced my photo library down to a bare 2000+, there’s not much to share from my archives (that you haven’t already seen). To be honest, this lack of images to share, is also supposed to force me outdoors if I want to keep this my 3 WordPress Photo blogs going much longer.
The European Goldfinches, I mean.
I was just about to turn the computer off, when I heard the (now) familiar call of the European Goldfinch. I looked up from the keyboard and could see one on the tree in front of my apartment balcony fence (about 10 feet away from where I was sitting at my desk). I prayed for it to stand still while I swiveled around in my desk chair and pulled the long telephoto lens out of its carry bag, swiveled back to the window and aimed…….. (with the lens cap on LOL ). I sent a telegraphic message again “please don’t fly away yet” and took the lens cap off ……….and the damn camera wouldn’t autofocus. Did I tell you I dropped this heavy lens last Sunday? Well, I did and am still not 100% sure it is autofocusing as quickly as usual.
Anyway, eventually the Canon DSLR & long lens did autofocus (and I fired off a couple of shots before this sweet little bird, with its cheerful song, flew away).
I’m pretty sure it was a male from what I could see of the red facial markings and black cap.
I had no idea what setting the camera was on, but since I use it for bird photography 97% of the time, I was in luck with a relatively fast shutter speed and the camera was on Shutter Priority mode. And better still, the overnight rain had left minimal dirty water droplets on the lounge window to spoil the shot.
I’ve heard their song several times on sunny winter days recently, but never actually seen them until this morning.
I can hear a couple of them calling to each other now, but have no idea which bush they’re on.