From the archives
26th June 2012
….and I thought I had a bad hair day last Sunday when I cut my hair.
From the archives
26th June 2012
….and I thought I had a bad hair day last Sunday when I cut my hair.
This year, every time I think about giving up Photography (due to deteriorating health, eyesight and being more housebound), I have a great hour or two outdoors and manage to capture some new images to share.
Yesterday was one such day.
I walked extra slowly to the local medical centre for my appointment and passed the small park, (which is merely a grassy area about the size of a soccer field), under brilliant blue winter skies and a smattering of fluffy white clouds rushing across the blue expanse. The wind was actually very fierce indeed.
While brilliant warm early afternoon sunshine makes for a lovely walk for some folk in mid-winter, it is not necessarily great for the amateur photographer. It’s almost impossible for me to see well through the viewfinder in that bright glare, but I did have my lightweight Sony ‘mirrorless’ camera in a bag over my shoulder ‘just in case‘ anyway.
Depending on the weather after my appointment, I had thought about catching a bus down to the river and a walk around the Maribyrnong Wetlands pond. The bus stop is about 20 feet from the pond so it is one of the few wetlands, or nature reserves, really close to public transport (and my home).
To my delight, (and I had allowed a whole hour to do the 10 minute walk 😀 ), I spied 12-15 Galahs grazing on my side of the stretch of grass. Last time I’d seen them in mid June, I didn’t have a camera with me.
This time I stood still for a while and gradually crept up to where they had their heads down, greedily pecking away at the low rich green grass surface.
Every time one of the richly coloured pink and grey birds lifted their head and casually glanced my way, I stood stock-still as a tree trunk.
I’m good at that.
Then I’d take another step or two and stand perfectly still again. I eventually managed to get to about 10 feet away from their grazing patch.
Great flocks of Galahs are very common in the countryside in Australia and found even far inland where there are vast plains and low-lying scrub or desert.
They’re a large and very distinctive cockatoo with back and tail pale grey with darker wingtips, neck and underparts a striking pale pink. In some light, it’s more a bright pink as you can see in my images.
The immature birds have a greyer breast.
Gregarious, often noisey and usually feeding territorially, their voice is a distinctive high-pitched ‘chee chee’ screech.
I think they’re beautiful and being an urban dweller in a suburb west of Melbourne city, I rarely see them in my area, just in that one spot on a small field of grass. I love to watch them down on the ground or flying round in ever increasing circles looking for another patch to graze on when disturbed.
They may be common as mud in the countryside, but to me, they’re a Treat!
I’ll have to do another post (of the water birds at the pond) later as I have to go out for another appointment today, this time via taxi, but as it’s sunny at the moment (despite the forecast rain), I might just take the camera outdoors again……….‘just in case’ 🙂
The Black-necked Stork (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus) is huge, often known as Jabiru.
The adult is unmistakable, with white body contrasting black flight feathers, back and tail, and iridescent purplish neck and head. The black beak is massive. The legs are long and bright red, although the colour seems to vary in my old photo folder. Seems to be more of an orange colour, but I suppose that is the Auto White Balance setting I used back in the day I shot these photos. A couple of the images in this post seem to be on a warmer White Balance Setting (as you’ll notice).
Eyes are dark in the male and yellow in the female. The immature bird is brown above paling to whitish below, beak and legs grey. Apparently the voice has deep booms with the beak clappering and to be honest, I can’t remember this sound from my many Zoo visits, (where the images below were made in the enormous Great Aviary).
I’ve never seen it in the wild, with it being found predominantly in the far north, or far north-eastern, areas of Australia. But in re-booting my nature blog and starting a proper bird index of the 101 (errr……probably more like 110) bird species I’ve photographed in parks, nature reserves, Royal Botanic Gardens and Melbourne Zoo, its forms part of the list.
I think I’m up to about 40 birds I’ve shared and listed in the right-hand column of this page, so there are quite a few more species to share from my archives in future posts.
I found it a little difficult to find a really sharply focused image in my old iPhoto folder this morning, so I’ve uploaded an array of images hoping that some of them will be clear enough to see some of the feather colours and details.
Twice I’ve seen what I presume is a mating display (?) or aggressive display (?) between 2 of these stunning birds, but not being familiar with the movie/video features of my camera didn’t know how to capture it.
It was well worth seeing 🙂
I’ve never seen a Buff-banded Rail, (or any other Rail for that matter), in the wild, but viewing it in The Great Aviary at Melbourne Zoo reveals it might be hard to see in long grass anyway.
It looks similar (to me) to the Lewin’s Rail (Rallus pectorals) in my Photographic Field Guide Birds in Australia (by Jim Flegg), but the Lewin’s Rail seems to have a longer beak. I do so hope I’ve got the identification of the bird in this post, correct.
This bird is found locally in Newells Paddock Nature Reserve, only a bus/walk away from my home, so hopefully, when I get back to nature walks, I’ll have an opportunity to search for it.
In the meantime, here’s a few old images from the zoo made 4-5 years ago.
It’s a medium-large Rail with a distinctive white head (ehrrrrr…..in most of my shots it looks brown 🙂 ), stout sharp brownish beak, dark crowns, prominent white supercilious over chestnut cheeks, and grey throat.
It rarely flies and has long grey legs. These images were made from an overhead boardwalk in the Aviary which is about 15 feet above the ground, so most images were made from that angle/height.
This bird is mostly active at dusk and I’ve seen it only rarely on my many zoo visits in the past. I suspect this is partly due to its excellent camouflage (as much as my zoo visits were during early afternoon).
Found in many of the coastal areas of Australia, apparently it squeaks, clicks, croaks and has a raucous bray – not like my usual local bird life who bring sweet music to my ears regularly each day now, with the Superb Fairy-wren having the cutest song in the cooler mornings.
Of course we’re in to Summer in the Southern Hemisphere.
My days seem so busy with health matters in recent months, I haven’t had much time to devote to my blog(s) and Photography, but then I was trying to reduce my computer time anyway.
I’ve downsized my balcony garden (and not replaced my much-used herbs and other green veggies in anticipation of surgery and not being able to water the garden) – the garden was getting too big anyway. I’ll replant and redesign next Spring. I had to re-arrange several pieces of furniture in my tiny studio-style apartment yesterday and today, (to allow a tradesman with a ladder to measure & quote for window UV film next week), and a host of Spring cleaning tasks I don’t normally do.
I did a massive cleanup of the bird poop on my balcony which I had neglected. Had to rearrange some kitchen cupboard contents as it’s too painful to twist at the moment. We had a dust storm in Melbourne last week, and dust has got into the most surprising of places indoors, necessitating extra housework too.
Melbourne’s weather is predictably UN-predictable and who knows whether it will be hot or cold for Christmas/New Year.
Gosh, it might even snow as it did in August 1849, July 1882 and 1951, OR a tornado (like February 1918) or other freaks storms as in February 2005. I think the whole world’s weather patterns have been extreme to say the least.
In the meantime, it’s still mainly images from my archives that you’ll see on my nature blog.
Bird images are the easiest as they are well filed in my old iPhoto library. Flowers a little less so. But each time I view the old photo folders I do a tiny bit of culling, re-editing and re-filing, so it has been a useful exercise.
Australia has several Cockatoos, but my favourite has to be the Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo (Cacatua leadbeateri).
It’s not seen as far south as my state of Victoria, but Melbourne Zoo has a very handsome ‘Cockie’, so I’ve been fortunate enough to photograph it several times on my many zoo visits over the years.
It’s found in opens land, scrub, mallee and mulga and mainly in central areas of the country.
The body is a pale pink, with white wings, back and tail. It’s forehead is more reddish in colour with an upswept crest. When the crest is erect, (which I’ve never seen I must admit), it’s banded with yellow and pink.
If you’re an amateur bird photographer like me, it is likely that at some time you’ll want to invest in a long telephoto lens to capture photos of birds in the wild. Or even if you live in an urban environment (which I do), there’s always a lot of fun and more than a little challenge capturing birds in local parks, gardens and nature reserves.
I decided to buy a Sigma 150-500mm lens after reading lots of reviews and even trying out several long telephoto lenses, (several times), in the camera store over a period of 12 months. I even tried a Canon L series ‘professional’ quality lens to compare. No doubt the salesmen, with whom I had formed a good relationship over many visits, had their patience tested on some of those visits.
The Canon ‘L’ series was way out of my price range, but never hurts to try out the best.
Finally, I decided the Sigma lens was the best and most reasonably priced option I could afford (at that time). After a week of weird very noisy zooming in and out, I took it back and asked if it was supposed to make so much noise. It wasn’t and the camera store replaced the lens with another one on the spot. Apparently it was faulty (and not my hearing that was at fault 🙂 ).
It also fitted quite easily into the tiny ‘suitcase’ I’d bought on sale at a luggage store.
I have to say this lens was excellent value and despite the weight, I found I could often steady it against a post (or fence) deleting the need for a strong tripod. I’ve been using it a lot recently with my elbows resting on my desk (since I’ve been mainly housebound over recent months). It’s marvellous at shooting birds on my balcony up close.
Some days I can hold this lens steady when outdoors and sometimes not.
On the 21st December, 2016, not long after I moved to the western suburbs, I had a good day.
I’d set off to walk down to the nearby Maribyrnong River and then explore as to whether I could find a path into Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve, located 100 feet from my ‘back gate’.
I hadn’t got far when I spied a Red-browed Finch (Neochmia temporalis) on the chain wire fence between the gravel walking path and the nature reserve. I’d seen these birds before and knew what it was immediately.
I managed to get 3 fairly good photos – the light was excellent at the time – and while I’ve made dozens of images of these tiny finches in the past, these 3 remain the best I’ve captured so far.
They’re a very tiny bird.
Almost as small as the Fairy-wrens I’ve photographed on my balcony in recent months.
The crown and nape is a soft grey, the face rather paler, with a broad scarlet stripe extending from the deep red conical beak through the eye and above the ear-coverts. The back and wings are olive-green: rump scarlet, contrasting with the pointed black tail. The underparts are entirely pale grey.
The immature finch is duller and darker, lacking the eye-stripe.
It’s found on the whole eastern seaboard of Australia, primarily undergrowth at forest and woodland margins, grassy areas with scrub, farmland, gardens etc.
Generally fairly widespread and common. I usually see them late afternoon grazing on seed heads in the open grassy space between my apartment building and the nature reserve, but rarely get close enough to get a good shot. Or if I do, they move quickly, twisting and turning into what seems like a feeding frenzy sometimes.
The closest I’ve got to these tiny finches previously was ‘hiding’ behind some grass when I lived on the north-eastern side of Melbourne next to the Yarra River. I actually managed to get about 12-15 feet away from the group. It involved a lot of stealthy creeping forward inch by inch (like a tiger or cougar approaching its prey). I also wear black and rubber-soled walking shoes when I go outdoors, so that might help me get a bit closer without startling the bird life.
The image below was actually made with a 18-200mm telephoto lens. The beak, eye-stripe and tail look a darker red in this image, but that may have been just the light on the day.
I think I just spotted one on the hedge on the other side of my road (which is what made me think of doing a post featuring it).
The Bell Miner (Manorina melanophrys) is a medium-small, olive-green honeyeater and makes a high-pitched ‘ting’ sound closely resembling a bell (hence the nickname Bellbird).
I daresay most Australians even think its real name is Bellbird 🙂
Like the Australian Magpie, this tiny bird’s distinctive sound is evocative of the sounds of the Australian bush. You can’t miss it.
The image (below) was made above a small boardwalk weaving through a rustic area in a path (to the left of the iron-railing bridge above). Here, the branches are usually bare with the foliage growing at the top so you have a chance to spot these tiny honeyeaters.
The Melaleucas, or Paperbark, trees form a shady umbrella over a small boardwalk in the Royal Botanic Gardens in the upper right side of the image (below).
Around 4.30pm on a sunny day you are almost guaranteed to see Bell Miners hanging from Eucalyptus trees sucking the nectar (almost upside down) or swinging to & fro in the breeze in the very centre of a tree at the end of the bridge (first image in this post).
I just found this superb YouTube with many other bird sounds as well to give you a taste of what thick Australian bush often sounds like – made by Marc Anderson (north of Sydney).
Do take the time to listen to it as it’s a superb capture of the sound.
Some mornings, especially on a hot sunny day in Summer (on a Sunday), when there’s little road traffic noise in the background of my current home area, I get a small taste of Australian bird sounds. Unfortunately, I don’t get the sound of Kookaburras included, (as I did when I lived next to the Royal Botanic Gardens on the south-east side of Melbourne), but I do get the addition of Frogs croaking as I live next to Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve.
Here’s a little courtship I caught on camera in the RBG (and have shared before on one of my blogs).
Yes, I can usually recognise by one tree where I shot the bird or flower image.
When I cleared out my whole nature blog and started afresh, my main aim was to set up a better index in the sidebar for both birds and plants (as well as the intermittent news on my apartment balcony garden), but inevitably I’ll also end up with the more dull and less interesting Australian birds.
This Apostlebird (Struthidea cinerea), photographed in Melbourne Zoo’s great aviary, is one of them.
The best way to describe this bird, usually found in more inner regions of eastern Australia, is DULL.
Body dull, lead-grey with a darker eye patch and dark brown wings. Tail long and black, wedge-shaped. Beak, dark grey, robust and almost triangular. Legs short, giving an awkward almost horizontal posture, with the tip of its long tail on the ground.
It flies low, with frequent glides. When feeding it hops, walks and runs actively and is often aggressive.
Not usually seen as far south as Melbourne where I live, but to be honest, I don’t think I could identify it in flight in the wild anyway, as its so similar to many other dark-coloured Australian birds, so was pleased to photograph it standing on a nearby branch at the Zoo.
Medium-sized, mid-greyish honeyeater with distinctive head pattern consisting of pale greyish face, and black crown extending down through eye to link with a slim black moustachial streak.
You can’t miss the distinctively rich yellow beak and legs, but if they’re sitting on/in the olive-greyish-green foliage of a Eucalyptus tree, they become almost invisible. Luckily, I’ve been able to capture them out in the open as well as high up in trees. I was so busy chasing one bird some distance away on the south side of the city with the camera up to my eye, that I almost missed the Miner that landed on a fire hydrant right in front of me in the image below. I frantically had to zoom the telephoto lens back in without moving too much.
Their pale grey rump shows up distinctively in flight.
One day I hope they might land on my balcony as I’ve often seen them in the area between the back of my apartment block and the nearby Maribyrnong River. The following images being the best I’ve shot so far (down near the walking/cycling path next to the river).
They like open forest and woodland, but are often seen in the public parks and gardens in almost any suburban area also.