SUPERB FAIRY-WRENS (Malurus cyaneus)

They say Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining, but my day, which revolves around my computer in the mornings, seems to have been one long thunderstorm of niggling, annoying ‘flashes of lightening’.

A couple of weeks ago I vowed I wasn’t going to upload another post that didn’t have new photos or positive affirmations of some kind.

Well, I haven’t got any new good photos or positive things to say about my (new) iMac so I thought I’d better upload something…..well…..anything,  to let you know I’m still here.

The only joy in my day has been observing the avian visitors to my balcony garden and even they have been few and far between and hard to photograph on the dark wintery days in the poor light.

Note: Having just typed that sentence, the clouds have now cleared and the sun has put in a cheerful appearance LOL

The weather has been very cold, wet and filled with gusty strong winds in recent days, so even my potted garden has been neglected.  The wind-blown dead Maple leaves are starting to collect up against the balcony fence making for good spider habitats.

My new baby Broccolini and Tuscan Kale seedlings have been very slow to mature.   At the rate they’re growing, Winter will be over before I see the fruit of my plantings.   At least my Blueberry has had lots of flowers.   So that’s a ‘positive’.

I suspect most of the Fairy-Wrens are hunkering down in the thick green hedges (3) across the road.   The workmen on the apartment building construction crew next to the hedges  have even been working through the rain and on Saturdays, but I doubt they’ll finish before the end of this year.

I wonder if they’ve got room to put in some new green landscaping.   Now THAT, would be a bonus 🙂

If my photo library screens didn’t keep freezing (resulting in me having to log off to reboot the computer) so many times each morning, I would have had my new photo library finished by now.

But it’s not.

Having to re-log onto WordPress every time I want to type a comment on my  favourite blogs and other ‘hiccups’ have made blog reading less fun than it used to be too.   So if you haven’t seen me around your blog much, I DO still read your posts, just too weary to think of a suitable comment, or unable to press the LIKE button due to some glitch.   At the moment there are 14 WordPress blogs I can’t LIKE (or COMMENT) on.

So I’m thinking I’ll go into hibernation mode for the rest of Winter in the hope that Apple release the next software update in a few months time which might work miracles and ‘set my computer free’  

I figure if I stay off the computer most of the time, then I can at least get some other tasks done on the TO DO list.

Since most of the images (above) were shot through dirty dusty windows, here’s a better shot of the female Superb Fairy-wren from the 10th April (below) to remind you of what they look like on a sunny day through the open sliding door.

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NEW HOLLAND HONEYEATER (Phylidonyris novaehollandiae)

I’d just turned on my computer and settled down to my morning coffee and Sunday morning scrambled eggs on toast, when I spotted a new bird out on the Japanese Maple in front of my balcony.  I could only see the outline on the bare-limbed young tree through several layers of dirty glass, but had a fair idea of what it might be due to the shape alone.

(Yes, I eat breakfast at my desk, always prepared for early morning avian sightings).

Unfortunately it flew away before I could drop the fork and pick up the camera with the long 150-500mm lens and turn it on.  I’d set up the 2 cameras (Canon DSLR and Sony ‘mirrorless’) last night with Shutter Priority and cleaned the lenses having ‘wasted’ half the day following the Superb Fairy-wrens around my balcony garden yesterday afternoon.

Thick fog surrounded my apartment building and the construction site over the road so it was an exceptionally chilly Winter morning.

Tomorrow is supposed to be colder and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear on the News that the low-laying hills surrounding the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne had got a thin dusting of snow.  My younger brother, who lives on the other side of these hills up in the country, is at a much higher altitude than me and would be sure to email me some photos if this weather phenomenon did occur.

I braved the full force of the chill and flung open my sliding glass door to my balcony, took the lens caps off both cameras and got prepared for the wait.

I’d been about to reply to overnight blog comments, but completely ignored the computer screen and sat watching for the slightest movement outdoors signally bird activity, instead.

I slowly lifted the piece of toast piled high with creamy eggs and a heavy covering of chopped English Parsley and started to open my mouth, when……..

…….all of a sudden, I got such a fright, (or, should I say….thrill 🙂 ), when a bird flew in the open doorway and nearly into my armchair by the window about 4 feet from my desk chair.

The bird crashed around indoors frantically trying to find the open doorway and freedom again.

$&#!  How could I catch it.  No way with my hands that’s for sure.

I’d caught a Spotted Turtle-Dove in my hands and released it when it got stuck under the glass balcony fence in my previous apartment, but those Doves were relatively calm since I’d been feeding them every day for months.  Towards the end of that tenancy, I could go out to the balcony fence and fill the seed and water bowls with the Doves sitting about 12-15 inches away from my hands (if I moved very, very slowly).

I’d also caught a tiny Fairy-wren in my hands when it got stuck between a flower pot and the glass fence in my current apartment and released it into the air only a year or so ago.

But this was a New Holland Honeyeater – wild, not used to close human proximity, and frantic, desperate for escape.  It was flying and crashing fiercely into the dusty lounge windows and flying so fast I thought it might hurt itself.

There was nothing I could think off on the spur of the moment, so I picked up the DSLR with the long 150-500mm.

$&#! I said again.

“Zoom back out, you idiot,” I said to myself.

I was too close.

I’d left the 150-500mm zoomed ready for Birds on my Balcony as approximate camera settings save time when these fast-moving birds land on the garden or balcony fence.

So I put the camera back on the desk and picked up the Sony a6000 with the shorter telephoto lens and blow me down if the lens didn’t jam.

I frantically pushed the shutter button, willing it to release, but the camera wouldn’t work.

I softly said a different expletive (as though a different swear word might magically unlock the ‘mirrorless’ camera 😀 ).

I rarely swear now I’m a little old(er) lady with greyish hair…… (as though my age and appearance might somehow preclude me from the uttering of such language).

Gosh, I only used to swear when I hurt myself, or the computer acted up in my working life,  but I admit to more than a few expletives since I’d bought my new iMac on the 3rd May this year.  You’ll understand if you’ve read my previous few posts.  This is meant to be a nature blog, not the saga of my current computer/internet issues.

Anyway, back to the story……

I picked up the Canon DSLR again and zoomed back out and managed to fire off a few shots, before the bird suddenly found the open doorway and flew away.

I had no idea if I’d got the Honeyeater in focus as the area was relatively dark at floor level this time of morning, (while the west-facing lounge room and balcony was in full shade on this frigid cold Sunday morning).

I quickly transferred the photos to the new 27″ iMac and carefully reviewed the multiple shots (as both cameras were set on continuous shooting).

I found 4 images that were good enough to share.

Here ’tis…………. (and not a word about my lousy internet troubles).

Do the long-term followers remember when I found 2 tiny New Holland Honeyeater chicks in December 2017 – one on my balcony fence and one on the Eucalyptus sapling between my balcony and the road?

Now, that……..really was a thrill, especially when I went out to attempt a photo of the chick on the fence railing from about 12 inches away and it opened its eyes and stared straight at my camera lens without the slightest fear at all.

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

(and thanks to all those followers who’ve offered suggestions about my computer and internet problems – I’ll follow some of them up).

I’ve finally discovered the best way to deal with these pesky computer/internet issues.

Stop thinking about them and stop writing about them  😀

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A rare shot made in deep shade, which when lightened in post processing, revealed a NEW HOLLAND HONEYEATER (Phylidonyris novaehollandiae) – FROGS HOLLOW NATURE RESERVE (behind my apartment building) –  17th December 2017

 

EURASIAN TREE SPARROW (Passer montanus)

I had one of those Ahhhhhh moments yesterday.

I’d put some bird seed in the large pot plant saucer I’d bought to use as a bird bath (but no bird ever drank or splashed around in it), so occasionally I fill it with bird seed to entice the avian species to my balcony garden.

Of course, they make a terrible mess splitting the seeds from the husk and use the balcony floor and fence rail as a ‘public convenience’ and it takes me a couple of hours to sweep, wash & clean it all up.   I have just swept and tidied up awaiting a wash later this afternoon.  Regular balcony cleaning is mandatory, as, otherwise, my shoes collect the sticky bird droppings or seed husks and get carted indoors on the pale carpet (despite the door mat to wipe my shoes on).

I’ve always accepted the slight variations in feather patterns of the House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) as a normal avian thing.

But yesterday I realised I had a different Sparrow species visiting – the Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus).  

There are actually 2 different sparrows species found in the south-east of the country, according to my Australian Bird Guide Book.  

Now, I’m not going to go back through the old posts to see if I’ve mixed the identification up, but I am going to convey the difference in this post.

THIS SHOT IS A PARTICULARLY GOOD ONE OF THE WHITE CHEEK PATCH WITHE THE BLACK SPOT IN THE CENTRE (of the Eurasian Tree Sparrow).

The sexes of the Eurasian Tree Sparrow are unlike the House Sparrows in that the male and female have similar plumage. The male and female of the House Sparrows are very different.  

The crown and nape of the Eurasian Tree Sparrows are a rich brown, with characteristic white cheek patch with a black central spot.  The forehead and bib are black with the rest of the underparts a pale grey-buff.  Back and wings are a richly mottled chestnut.

I don’t know how I haven’t noticed before now, or maybe I just never had Eurasian Tree Sparrows visiting before yesterday?  Who knows.

The flight feathers and notched tail are dark brown.  I tried to get a photo of the tail showing the notch, but the birds wouldn’t pose at the right angle for me.

I’m not sure which species this bird is. Perhaps it’s a juvenile House Sparrow as it clearly doesn’t have the white cheek patch of the Eurasian Tree Sparrow.  This shot has a faded look as it was made through the glass window.

THIS IS CLEARLY a Female HOUSE SPARROW showing the stripe running from the eye (and made through the opened sliding door, hence much clearer, or sharper, in focus).

The image below shows a male House Sparrow feeding 2 females (definitely NOT a Eurasian Tree Sparrow).

The weather is absolutely gorgeous at the moment.  Sunny blue skies with a lovely cool breeze over recent days or overcast skies and cool temperatures (today).  We’ve even had a bit of decent rainfall.

This is my kind of weather and definitely a favourite season (besides Spring).

The reality is that every season has its merits, but Autumn and Spring always seem to be pretty special here in Melbourne, Australia.  The intermittent cloud cover makes for some lovely sunsets in Autumn.

THEY’RE BAAAAAACK!

The Superb Fairy-Wrens are back this week.

In larger than usual numbers too.

I never seem to get tired of watching these Wrens.  They keep me entertained for hours and  when they’re visiting, I never seem to get any household chores or cooking done.

Female SUPERB FAIRY-WREN – THIS IS ONE OF THE BEST SHOTS I’VE TAKEN FOR QUITE SOME TIME. 

I counted 6 in my balcony garden the other day, but as I’ve mentioned before, they move so quickly, some days they’re impossible to photograph with the heavy long 150-500mm lens and DLSR.

Male SUPERB FAIRY-WREN.

All this week I can hear the wrens cheeping in the Japanese Maple growing next to my balcony fence and they are becoming more common than the House Sparrows 🙂   I don’t remember seeing any of these tiny wrens drinking from the bird bath though – only the Sparrows.

There’s been far less sound from the jack-hammer-like ‘rock splitter’ coming from the construction site over the road this week.  On Tuesday, the construction crew seemed to be pouring concrete most of the morning and were almost………. as ‘quiet as mice’. 😀

When I go out to pick up my new glasses which have arrived in-store, I’ll have a look at the top of the cliff and see  how progress is going on the site.

On another note, all, or at least most, of the Harlequin bugs and Cabbage Moth Caterpillars seem to have left the area. I didn’t get so many this past Summer.   I have pruned all the herbs of their ‘nibbled’ leaves for the umpteenth time and the new growth is starting to flesh out the bushes.  I feel as though I can finally leave the pest control hutch off the smaller plants and they can get some more sun.  After the previous year’s devastation of every single leaf on nearly every potted plant, I think the purchase of this pest control netted ‘hutch’ was well worth the money.

But I do have to be vigilant though.  I picked a whole lot of mint to use in cooking last Sunday and was just about to start chopping when I saw one leaf looked a bit curly.  I turned it over and what did I see – a lot of fine spun fibres and a caterpillar waiting to turn into a butterfly.

Phew!

I wonder what fresh caterpillar might taste like 😀

 

SUPERB FAIRY-WREN (Malurus cyaneus) – Female

Silence is Golden 🙂

I don’t know who said that, but after the taxi dropped me home at 9.30am this morning, (after an overnight stay away), I couldn’t help but be struck by the silence.

It’s Saturday here in Melbourne and the usual weekend shoppers, zooming up my short steep road in their cars, were completely absent.

No walkers, joggers, cyclists or runners.

No mothers pushing prams or pushers up the steep footpath.

The unique sound of what I thought might be Currawongs filled the background.  (I have yet to share a photo of an Australian Currawong – I have a couple, but they’re not very good).

The wind had dropped and the forecast showers were absent.  It was sooooooo quiet, almost like the end of the earth, and I couldn’t help but be overjoyed at the absence of human sound.  If you’ve read my previous post you’ll know what I’m talking about.

I caught the lift upstairs to my apartment and after dropping my overnight bag on the floor, flung the sliding door open on to the balcony to let air into the stuffy room.

I heard tweets, chattering, birdsong and then a gentle whisper as a slight breeze sprung up.

The Fairy Wrens were back.

The birdsong was reminiscent of the lovely country sounds I first heard when I moved to the area in October, 2016.

SORRY ABOUT THE LOUSY SHOT, BUT I COULDN’T WAIT for a better one at that moment (in case the bird flew away quickly as they are want to do when I don’t have a camera handy)

Then one female Superb Fairy-wren dropped from the balcony fence down to the potted herbs and jumped from pot to pot and over to the bird/pest control netted hutch looking for seeds or some other tasty morsel.  She walked over the fine netting and I frantically looked for the camera case as I’d put all the cameras away yesterday and stored them in a different place (other than under my desk or beside my desk chair).

Then I spotted a male Superb Fairy-Wren scrambling around the pots under the bird control netted hutch.

So much for bird control 😀

I went out to lift the netting so it could get away as it seemed to have forgotten its entry point, then grabbed the plastic watering jug to give some of the potted plants a drink.  I hadn’t watered them before I left home late yesterday morning as it was supposed to rain this morning.

When I came back outdoors with the full watering pot, I heard frantic cheeping and a very frightened little wren.

It had jumped off the Marigold pot and got caught between the line of plastic pots and the glass fence.  It could obviously see the male wren on the Japanese Maple enjoying the sunshine through the glass, but couldn’t work out how to get through this clear (aka dirty) glass fence barrier.

I think this might have been the first time I had seen a distressed Fairy-wren outdoors at my current home.  I pulled all the plastic pots out so there was more room, but for some reason the tiny bird couldn’t work out what to do.

You hopeless little thing I thought to myself and very slowly bent down and tried to carefully catch it in my cupped hands.  This frightened it all the more.

I stood right back and silently waited.

Nope, it just could not work out why it couldn’t  ‘walk through glass’ 😀

Human intervention was obviously needed before the frantic little bird keeled over in exhaustion.

Finally,  I managed to catch the distressed little wren and slowly bring it up to the fence rail and release it.

It quickly flew to the male on the Maple tree and then the couple flew off to the other side of the road where they could rest in the thick hedge in the warm Autumn sunshine.

I feel like I’m in Heaven with the absence of construction workers and machinery noise.

Photo of a Male SUPERB FAIRY-WREN from the 26th March.

The gentle warmth of the sun was so pleasant after the long hot Summer, that I couldn’t help but think…..Thank God for Silence.

………..and the distant caw-caw of the local Ravens and the chatter of the nearby House Sparrows spread the beautiful sound of Autumn.

It’s only after incessant jarring noise (of the construction workers all week) that you truly appreciate the Silence in this unique apartment location.

I was back to my positive happy self and all was well with the world…..or at least my world.

 

……and so I asked Mr Google who had first said this phrase.

What’s the origin of the phrase ‘Silence is golden’?

As with many proverbs, the origin of this phrase is obscured by the mists of time. There are reports of versions of it dating back to Ancient Egypt. The first example of it in English is from the poet Thomas Carlyle, who translated the phrase from German in Sartor Resartus, 1831, in which a character expounds at length on the virtues of silence:

That fuller version – ‘speech is silver; silence is golden’, is still sometimes used, although the shorter form is now more common.

TAWNY FROGMOUTH (Podargus strigoides)

I’ve only seen a Frogmouth in the wild once.

When I saw this couple for the first time, I looked for them continually in the 20 months I lived in the inner north-east suburb of Abbotsford from 2015-2016.

Eventually, after the local Council? or Environment Agency?, who looked after the river and nature reserve on the other side of the river, went through clearing winter debris and rubbish from the river banks and water, I never saw them again.

I was surprised to read Frogmouths are not Owls and being rather ignorant of most Australian birds before I took up photography, was rather thrilled to see them high up on the cliff face below my apartment area.

HERE, THE ORIGINAL IMAGE HAS BEEN LIGHTENED CONSIDERABLY. I ALSO GAVE THE IMAGE A SMALL CROP ON ALL SIDES TO MAKE THE BIRDS APPEAR A LITTLE LARGER WITHIN THE FRAME.

I spent some time in the following days (after discovery), trying to photograph them and this image is about the best out of the series I took.  I was looking up at about a 90 degree angle and had the lens virtually resting on top of my glasses.  Certainly not the best bird image I’ve ever shot, but who’s complaining when you live in an urban area, (or inner suburb of a capital city) and bird life can be scarce in some locations, or seasons of the year.

This species of Australian Frogmouth is a large, strangely big-headed, well-camouflaged, nightjar-like bird with a tuft of bristles on its forehead.  I’ve lightened the image considerably in post processing, as the birds were in deep shade in the thick of the tree’s foliage.

The Frogmouth’s large beak opens to an enormous gape. and it usually perches upright and motionless like a broken branch, so can be hard to spot during the daytime.  The bird has a strange, rather persist ‘oom-oom-oom….’ sound and is active at dusk and after.

This is #45 from my archives of the 100+ bird species I have photographed over the last 8 years or so.  I think I have shared most of the better/best images, but I’ll continue to post some of the other 60 or so species photographed if I can find some decent shots.

SILVEREYE (Zosterops lateralis chloronotus)

Back to the archives………22nd February, 2011

I don’t think I’ve shared this image of a Silvereye before.  It’s the only photo of this bird I’ve got and I had to over-edit it to make the bird more visible.

SILVEREYE

Made just after I bought my first Canon DSLR camera and probably taken in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, as, at that time, I lived 5 minutes walk from the south-eastern gate.

The plumage varies considerably depending on whether it’s habitat is western Australia or down the south-eastern side of the country.  The plumage of the bird in the photo belongs to  the western race and yet I live in a south-eastern state.  Despite its variable colouring, it is still readily identifiable as Australia’s only small grey and olive-green bird with a bold white eye-ring.

When the berries were ripe on the enormous tree outside my lounge window (of the apartment I lived in at that time), there’d be literally dozens of these cute birds feeding and hopping from branch to branch.  I was never able to capture them in a photo due to the deep, dark foliage and the fact I was facing into the sun (from my vantage point on the building’s side path).

It took me a couple of years before I was able to identify these birds due to the deep shade of the tree.

Here’s a cropped version of the image, so you can see the bird a wee bit better.

SILVEREYE 

 

SUPERB FAIRY-WREN (Malurus cyaneus) – juvenile

I was just replying to a commenter that I hadn’t seen a Superb Fairy-wren for weeks and hoped they hadn’t found a new home when all of a sudden, 2 juveniles – a male and a female – landed on the balcony fence.

I just caught a movement over the top of my computer screen (so now new followers know why I have my desk in front of the lounge windows).

Sorry to say, I caught the bookcase reflection in the glass door…….. (and I really must clean the lounge windows).

The female flew away before I had a chance to take the lens cap off my (newly) repaired 150-500mm lens and aim.

So I clumsily followed the young male as it wandered through the herbs and eventually managed to capture a couple of shots of its back before it, too, flew away.

Juvenile male SUPERB FAIRY-WREN flying around the Lemon Verbena (right) and Perennial Basil (left).

It’s many weeks since I’ve seen these cute, fast-moving little wrens.  It’s so rare for them to stand still and pose for a shot.

EURASIAN COOT (Fulica atra)

Eurasian Coots are ‘common as mud’ in Australia.

You can usually find them in large fresh water lakes, reservoirs and floods, but they can also congregate near swamps, sewage farms and occasionally…….sheltered seas.

Their large dumpy bodies, with sooty black wings and tail, are quite distinctive with only a rich brown eye to relieve the overall body colour.

This poor Coot (below) was stuck on a rock trying to dislodge a piece of fishing line from its beak and gullet near the edge of the river on the north-east side of Melbourne.  Eventually a couple of other walkers and I managed to catch the bird and remove the plastic line and it swam happily on its way, but it was hard to catch I must say.

Nether the walkers, nor I, had a smart phone with internet access, so we couldn’t ring for the local Wildlife Rescue service to come and relieve the Coot of its irritating plastic line.  It does make me cross when I come across birds in distress, due to the thoughtless acts of fishermen and campers.

The bird’s beak and frontal shield is white, so in general, you can’t mistake the identification.

It dives frequently and has a distinctive metallic ‘kyok’ and other twanging sounds.

One day I came across a nest right next to the bank of the Ornamental Lake in the Royal Botanic Gardens and was lucky enough to catch a couple of chicks take their first swim.

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PACIFIC GULL (Larus pacificus)

Before I took up Photography as a hobby in 2010, a seagull was a seagull.

I never knew there 6-7 Gulls in Australia and certainly had never heard of a Pacific Gull (Larus pacificus).

 These gulls are large and have a very distinctive large yellow beak with a red tip.  When I first saw the juvenile brown gull, I thought it was a different species. The juveniles keep their grey-brown feathers and assume their adult plumage over 3-4 years.

The adults have bright yellow legs while the juveniles have more a dark pinkish grey leg colour.  They’re widespread and common, but rarely far from the sea.

I’m glad I managed to capture photos of the Pacific Gull (Larus pacificus)together with the common Silver Gull (Larus novaehollandiae), so you can see the size comparison.

They’re quite common down at Port Melbourne beach at low tide where they search the tide line and seaweed for food, but I’ve also photographed them at St Kilda beach, the closest southern bay side beach to Melbourne City.

NANKEEN NIGHT HERON (Nycticorax caledonicus)

The first time I saw a Nankeen Night Heron (Nycticorax caledonicus) on the bank of the Ornamental Lake in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, I nearly passed out with excitement.

NANKEEN NIGHT HERON photographed from my special secret hiding place down a rarely used path in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne.

I’d never seen one before.

A juvenile NANKEEN NIGHT HERON – Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

I thought I was looking at a very rare bird, but of course I later saw it was very common in the RBG, Melbourne Zoo and even, my current home location (just haven’t seen it here yet).

Perhaps not very well focused, but this long-distance shot of the dead tree where the NANKEEN NIGHT HERONS bask in the late Winter sun in the Royal Botanic Gardens gives you an idea of how many there were that day.
A further distant shot of the upright part of that dead tree. Sometimes you’d see as many as 25-30 Nankeen Nigh Herons on its upper branches.

It’s a large, but comparatively dumpy, large-headed heron.  It’s beak is large, deep and black.  This heron has yellowish legs.  The plumage is a distinctive dark cinnamon above with dark crown and white drooping crest in breeding season.  The underparts are buff shading to white.

The juvenile is also distinctive with dark brown above and plentiful bold white spots.  (It’s called the Rufous Night Heron on some web sites).

I think it is my favourite bird of all I’ve photographed (since I took up Photography as a hobby in 2010).

I managed to get some great shots up-close in the outdoor restaurant area at Melbourne Zoo’s Japanese Garden entrance.

It even beats my second favourite – the White-faced Heron.

Since I can’t get outdoors for a walk today, despite the superb cool weather  and fluffy white clouds scattered across the vivid blue Summer sky, I decided to share some images from my archives.

Hope you enjoyed them 🙂

THIRST

“You don’t know what thirst is until you drink for the first time.”

Carlos Ruiz Zafón

I caught this little House Sparrow looking longingly at the bottom of the Bird Bath and realised I had forgotten to fill the small ceramic dish on Wednesday morning.

I was wishing I had my long 150-500mm lens back from the repairers, as a close-up would have been interesting to view the bird’s expression.

The Camera repair department rang that afternoon to say my lens had returned to their shelf and was ready to pick up.  I nearly fell off my desk chair in surprise.  It was only last Friday that I had signed off for Sigma to go ahead and repair it!

Anyway, today is lovely and cool and wouldn’t you know it – a bad night in pain and no amount of prescription analgesics has helped, so I have to stay home today.

Maybe tomorrow ?………………… 😥

BIRDS AND THE HEAT (part II)

THE BIRD BATH IS IN DEEP SHADE ALL MORNING AND UP TO EARLY AFTERNOON AS THE SUN MOVES OVER THE BUILDING

I took some more photos of the poor little sparrow who was feeling the heat yesterday.  He hopped over to the cool side of the bird bath, but was ‘gular fluttering’ (i.e. avian panting) with his throat heavily.

…….. and a cropped version so you can see him better (note: this is through a dirty glass window hence the spots and lack of clarity).

Another shot as he stands on the shady side of the bird bath.

……with a cropped version.

and then to the edge and he flew away.  (Note: I am really missing my broken 150-500mm lens as it would have bought you the birds up close and probably in good focus as I can rest my elbows on my desk to make the shot).

The cool change didn’t come until much later in the day, but it was very welcome and made for some lovely storm clouds (high winds and thunderstorms even blew the roof off one house I heard on the TV news last night).

Normally I have cloud and sunset shots on my other blog, but I can’t decide which shots to share, so here’s a few of the 50-60 images I made at dusk and sunset.

(I have an addiction to cloud formations and sky colours as seen from my desk chair or apartment balcony – they are always different, unless the sky is completely clear).

Cool today & tomorrow and back to heat wave over the weekend 🙂

Roll on Autumn………….please.

BIRDS AND THE HEAT

I think I’ve already mentioned Melbourne has had a heat wave recently.

Last Thursday it was forecast to be 38C, but ended up being 42.3C (about 108F) and Friday’s forecast of 44C ended up as 45.2 (about 115F).

Yesterday it was 33C, today 37C, and then we’ve got a cool change this afternoon, cool for a couple of days, then back to heat wave conditions for the coming weekend…..back up to 37C.

Phew!

I keep refilling the bird bath (constantly) as it evaporates during the hottest part of the day on my apartment balcony.  Even with ice blocks dropped in to cool the water temperature down, I saw few House Sparrows last Friday.  One I did notice, eventually sought shade under my ‘potting table ‘, but as that old wheeled tv trolley is metal, eventually it gave up and flew away.

I don’t know where the Superb Fairy-Wrens have been.  Probably somewhere in deep shade in Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve behind my apartment building.  I think I’ve seen only one blue-headed male in the last 7-10 days.

My balcony is in shade all morning up until about 2.30pm and surprisingly cool, so this is when I do any gardening tasks, or even, indoor chores.  But once the sun moves over my 6 storey building and hits the balcony floor tiles, it gets stinking hot and like a sauna indoors (where I usually sit at my desk in front of the lounge window).  I think the floor-to-ceiling windows attract and absorb the heat.  While I have air-conditioning, I still feel the heat dreadfully.

I envy those people who love the heat and can go outdoors whatever the weather.

Usually its February that is the hottest month in Melbourne, but with Global Warming, Melbourne’s weather is now predictably UN-PREDICTABLE at any time of the year.  I hope this February, 2019 is not going to be hotter than January.

Yesterday, the House Sparrows constantly visited the bird bath all morning.  I don’t think I’d be exaggerating to say 30 or 40 birds dropped by for a drink.   Yesterday was one of the few times, I have seen pairs of sparrows visit the bird bath.  At one stage there were 2 young females that looked like twins 😀

In the afternoon, the bird bath’s painted ceramic edge, that lies in the sun, seems to get very hot.  I observed one Sparrow land on the sunny side and immediately jump over to the small section of ceramic that lay in the shade.

I could almost hear the bird call out ‘too hot, too hot’.  The Sparrow featured in this post jumped down to the sunny tiled area and promptly moved over to the shade (which I’ve lightened in post processing so you can see the bird more clearly).

Most of these birds are juveniles with their slim bodies and ‘young’ faces.  I assume they’re this years crop of hatchlings.

I’ve observed that many of them had their mouths wide open and I began to get more concerned, so this morning I did a little reading up on their ‘hot day habits‘.

Apparently, a bird’s body temperature is higher than humans, so it’s doubly important for them to cool off in a hurry.  Some bird species resort to ‘gular fluttering’. The bird will open its mouth and ‘flutter’ its neck muscles, promoting heat loss (think of it as the avian version of panting).

Some birds also open up their wings on a hot day, allowing air to circulate across their bodies and sweep away excess heat and if you look carefully at the images in this post, you can see them lift their wings away from their bodies.

Birds are efficient about water and water loss, but even so, they need to replenish their fluids regularly on a hot day.

Whether you live in the country, mountains, town or city, consider setting up one or more bird baths, preferably well above ground level to avoid attacks by feral animals.  Of course you can’t do much about larger birds of prey attacking smaller birds.

The water level shouldn’t be too high – only about an inch deep – and replenish or change the water regularly every couple of days, as stagnant water can play host to algae and mosquito larvae.

IN THIS PHOTO YOU CAN SEE THE SPARROW’S FEATHERS FLUFFED OUT.

Mosquitos are present in very high numbers this summer in Melbourne according to the TV news.  After last summer’s spider and mosquito plague around my area and numerous bites, I now have to close all windows tightly at night in summer.  I don’t know whether this is made worse by the fact I live next to a nature reserve and several parks with water canal and many large ponds in the area.  I suppose the large expanse of water in the river and wetlands only add to the mosquito breeding grounds.

I live slightly to the left of the centre of this map – right next to the green-shaded area.

Or more accurately seen in the following map of my regular walking route I used to follow when I wanted a ‘short’ walk.  Of course a ‘short walk’ for me takes hours as I keep stopping to look up, down and all around for bird and other photo subjects.

Apparently, Gobal Warming is already affecting bird populations with some birds laying their eggs 10+ days earlier and other have shifted their home ranges further north with migration patterns, in general, altering to accommodate the changes in climate.

Birds may be adapting, but me, well I feel as though Melbourne’s Spring is more like Summer and Summer is more like an ‘OVEN’!

September, 2018, Melbourne had the driest September on record (since Temperature records began in the 1800s), so I think we have to accept that the temperatures, in general, are higher than a hundred years ago (and increasing every year now).

BLACK-NECKED STORK (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus)

BLACK-NECKED STORK (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus)

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).

BLACK-NECKED STORK (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus)

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 🙂

 

COCKS COMB CORAL TREE (Erythrina crista-galli)

I decided to end my blogging and blog reading holiday a couple of days ago and get back into the swing of Blogging and sharing my nature photos again.

My brain was turning to ‘mush’ while on holiday from the computer.  Being mainly housebound for most of 2018 only added to my intermittent Brain Fog, Short-term memory problems and Cognitive Dysfunction.   I was putting a lot of it down to the Auto Spell-check in the latter part of 2018, but the truth is…… my fingers don’t always type what my brain tells them to. 

(if you read some weird sentence on one of my 3 blogs, don’t hesitate to point it out to me using the comments section.  Spell-check and proof-reading don’t always catch the errors).

This is not a sign of ageing, merely some of the Symptoms of Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME)  that seems to send my normal brain function awry.  The fact that my Mindful living practice was put out of sync with some complicated family issues only added to the mix.  Hopefully these family issues have now been resolved.

I came across my Cocks Comb Coral Tree (Erythrina crust-galli) folder while meandering through my old iPhoto Library in the last couple of days.  While not an Australian native tree/flower, the tree is striking due to its unusual bark.  The difference between its Summer canopy of lush green leaves and many brightly coloured flowers and non-flowering bare tree trunk and branches, is really quite extraordinary.

There is one large very old tree near the Herbarium and one smaller tree near the William Tell Rest house.

These are located in the southern end of Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens.

The colourful Australian Rainbow Lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus) love it’s nectar, and in one particular small tree next to a walking path in the RBG, can be found close enough to observe and photograph.

Cockspur coral tree is just one of its many common names, and is a deciduous shrub or tree from South America. It has been commonly grown in Australia as an ornamental plant, and has become invasive along waterways in coastal NSW north of Sydney.

LITTLE PIED CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax melanoleucos)

LITTLE PIED CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax melanoleucos) enjoying the early afternoon winter sun on the Maribyrnong River.

The Little Pied Cormorant (Phalacrocorax melanoleucos) is the smallest Australian Cormorant.  It’s a miniature duller version of the Pied Cormorant (Phalacrocorax varies), but the adult lacks the large coloured facial skin patches.

The white face extends above the eye.

Tufted crest of black feathers on the forehead appear in the early breeding season.  It lacks the black thigh patch of the two larger pied species with the immature having brown upper parts merging into off-white underparts, with a blackish thigh stripe.

Habitat: Almost any water, inland or coastal, fresh, salt or brackish, of any sort.  It is very widespread indeed and I’ve seen this bird with its wings outspread drying its feathers in the public gardens like the Royal Botanic Gardens to the south-east of Melbourne where I used to live, the Treasury Gardens on the eastern rim of Melbourne’s CBD (central business district), as well as down the local bayside beaches that I’ve visited via public transport since I took up Photography as a hobby in 2010.

GREAT CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax carbo)

One of my goals for this year, (and I don’t have many), is to be able to identify birds which look very similar.

To me, a Cormorant is a Cormorant.

Pied Cormorant (Phalacrocorax varius) looks the same to me as a Little Pied Cormorant (Phalacrocorax melanoleucos) for example.

It was only on re-viewing my Cormorant photo folder last night that I realised the Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) is actually very easy to identify and I really just hadn’t made enough effort to read up on Australia’s largest cormorant in my Bird Guide Book.

These birds are large.

Very large.

The adult is iridescent black, with bare yellow facial skin and throat path.  In the breeding season, a white chin and thigh patches develop.  The immature bird is dark brown.   It’s facial skin colours, even from a great distance away, when you can’t determine the bird’s actual size, make it quite distinct from the Little Black Cormorant (Phalacrocorax sulcirostris).  

I really don’t know why I kept getting them mixed up.

Australia has 5 cormorants and a couple of them are regular inhabitants of my local river (behind my apartment building).

The images above were made back in August 2012 at Melbourne Zoo.  These birds aren’t in any form of enclosure, but probably come to the island and enormous lagoon area near the Orangutan enclosure, at around 4.00pm, to partake of the daily feeding of the Australian Pelicans in the area.

If you’re visiting Melbourne, or even just a local, it’s a good idea to check out the various feeding times around the Zoo to get some great close-up views of the various birds & animals etc.

Melbourne Zoo is open 365 days of the year.

WHITE-FACED HERON (Egretta novaehollandiae)

I was out of bed early today as I have to go into the city (of Melbourne) for an appointment.

While I won’t have time for any Street Photography for my B & W Blog, I do want to fit in a few other errands while there (hip pain permitting).  I’m not looking forward to it as the Christmas shopping crowds will be horrendous.

11th JANUARY 2018 – POST CHRISTMAS CROWDS (and still within the summer school holidays in Australia).

Dare I say……I am not a people person at the best of times, let alone in Melbourne’s CBD (Central Business District) the week before Christmas.  I only go into the city centre for the very rare appointment these days as I can’t stand the cloying perfumes and body products people wear, OR the smell of cigarettes………..let alone the crowds and noise.

Sometimes I think I’m allergic to the human race, not just the city centre 😀

To cut a long story short, because I was up a couple of hours early and sitting at my desk drinking my morning coffee, by sheer chance I happened to look up through the lounge window at the fence between the main road footpath and the cliff face (above my computer screen).

I was astonished to see what looked like a Heron standing on the fence (and wouldn’t you know it, I didn’t have the cameras out of their ‘sleeping bags’).

I twisted around in my desk chair and reached for the long telephoto lens & DSLR case, whipped out the camera and tried to steady it, but I was too excited and couldn’t hold the camera still.  I managed to fire off one shot as the Heron lifted off and flew away.

Fortunately, that DSLR and long 150-500mm lens is always set on Shutter Priority (and I wouldn’t have had time to look at, or change, the camera settings anyway).

Unfortunately, the shutter speed was only 1/100 (left over from last night’s playing around photographing House Sparrows at various camera settings) – not fast enough, although I might have scored a good shot if I had more time to check the DSLR settings AND if I’d been standing on my balcony and could have watched the bird flying to the north (not chopped off by my computer, lounge room blinds etc).

A heron standing on a residential fence really was a rare sight and so you will believe me, here’s the shot:

While I’m not good as shooting moving objects, especially birds in flight,  I have occasionally achieved a few good bird-in-flight shots by sheer luck over recent times.

Here’s some more images taken over the last couple of years of the White-faced Heron (Egretta novaehollandiae), at various locations around Melbourne, so new followers know which bird I’m talking about.

……..and at Melbourne Zoo’s Great Aviary (below)

THIS MIGHT HAVE BEEN MID-WINTER WHEN MOST OF THE LARGE BIRDS ARE AT THE TOP OF THE ENORMOUS WALK-THROUGH AVIARY. PROBABLY ABOUT 30-40 FEET ABOVE THE BOARDWALK.
A RATHER WET AND BEDRAGGLED WHITE-FACE HERON SITTING ON A BRANCH – LEVEL WITH THE VISITOR BOARDWALK.

The image (below) is probably the first good shot I ever made of this Heron (along the Yarra River in Abbotsford – an inner suburb north-east of Melbourne city).

WHITE-FACED HERON (Egretta novaehollandiae)

……and down at Jawbone Conservation Reserve in the western coastal suburb of Williamstown.

……..and just in case I manage to get down to the coastal path in Jawbone Conservation Reserve this Summer (before my hip replacement surgery booked in February), here’s a sample of what I hope to see again.

Has to be a cool day though.  I’m not fond of Melbourne’s Summer heat & humidity and this coastal walk has almost no trees or shelter from the scorching Summer sun.

It’s actually only about 25 minutes drive from my home, but without a car, it can be a long 2 bus trip (if I just miss the first bus and have to wait 40 minutes for the next one OR just miss the connecting 2nd bus which also runs on an irregular basis.  Time it right on a weekday and the trip might be about 45-60 minutes?? via public transport).  I could catch a 3rd bus to the other end of this walking trail and walk from north-west to south-east.