CAPTURING THE ACTION (or, photos that make me smile)

From the archives…….a random selection.

A Silver Gull stepping straight out of the photo frame?  I was making some images of it standing on the sea wall when it suddenly turned and came straight towards me.   I made a Birthday card for my nature-loving niece out of this shot many years ago.  I think it was Picasa 3 editing software I used to make the picture frame.  Is that software still around?  I didn’t look for it when I changed from an old Windows desktop to a new Apple Mac Pro in 2012.

I had the camera on continuous shooting for the following images and I keep these images for a laugh.  I mean to say….bird photography can be highly entertaining and there’s nothing like a good belly laugh to brighten up your day.

These Silver Gulls below were lining up for the take-off and when the last Gull’s turn came up, it froze and looked down as though to say….”I can’t do it”

I had the seagull (below) all in focus when it suddenly raised it’s wings and gave a little jump in the air and landed again.  If I hadn’t had the camera setting on continuous shooting, I would have missed it.

Another shot I had lined up in focus and then all of a sudden, the Silver Gull started splashing as though it wanted to deliberately spoil my shot.  When I put the camera down, the bird stopped splashing.  I had to laugh.  Of course, it was mere co-incidence it started splashing and then stopped.  It’s the timing that amuses me.

I was so intent on photographing a Mute Swan in the Japanese Garden at Melbourne Zoo,

MUTE SWAN (Cygnus olor)

that I didn’t realise there was another shot (of a Gull) straight in front of me until the last minute.

But my favourite shot of the’ one that got away’ is the image below.

Then there are the bird shots I captured when I got too close to the bird and it turned and headed straight for me.

Emu in the open walk-through Kangaroo/Wallaby area.
Emus are large birds and getting face to face with one is no fun.  I’ve read they can turn nasty and attack anything that they feel threatened by.

I was on my knees, bending very low. photographing a brood of Australian Wood ducklings in the Treasury Gardens on the eastern rim of Melbourne’s CBD, when all of a sudden the male (Father?) turned and came straight for me (despite me being about 10 times its size).

Parents will do anything to protect their offspring.

…..another close-up when I was photographing a Nankeen Night Heron in the paved outdoor cafe area of Melbourne Zoo.  The Heron suddenly turned and came straight towards where I was kneeling.

Perhaps its just as well I can’t kneel and bend low any more 😀

I would certainly not get away in time to avoid a bird confrontation these days 🙂

…..and more recently, not too far from home.

LITTLE PIED CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax varius) takes a toilet break – MARIBYRNONG RIVER

Yes, Bird Photography can be a lot of fun……………as well as challenging.

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I’M STILL HERE…….

I’m having a lovely break from blogging and photography at the moment.

Its surprising how many other things I’m getting done at home when the computer stays off for extended periods of the day.  The House Sparrows are back and while they don’t seem to be drinking from the bird bath, they alight on the balcony fence looking longingly around for some seed.  (I put some seed out and around the potted herbs and flowers one day last week).  I still check my emails and new blog posts from other folk though.

I’m still coughing and wheezing from the virus I came down with on Easter Friday, so some extra cat naps in the afternoons are mandatory at the moment.

………and there was a new Bird on the Block yesterday.

Sorry that I couldn’t get a better shot, but it was a long way off on the other side of the road and of course, trying to hold a heavy 150-500mm telephoto lens and not cough is very hard to do.  Hope you can see enough colour and shape from these 5 images I made before it flew away.

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Does anyone know what bird this is?

Some clues……

  • soft aqua blue like a budgerigar
  • size of a parrot or cockatoo
  • beak like a cockatoo or parrot
  • long tail like a lorikeet
  • NOT in my Australian Bird Guide book

PS  Jane from Janesmudgeegarden in New South Wales had the answer to my query – even the size fits what I guess it looked like over the road from my balcony.

The Quaker Parrot gets its name from the odd behavior of quaking and shaking. In reality this head bobbing and shaking behavior is quite normal.

Appearance

Blue Quaker Parrots sometimes called Blue Monk Parrots are actually a rare type of Quaker. Their blue color is not naturally occurring, and is a genetic mutation. They grow to be 12 inches long.

 

RED-TAILED BLACK COCKATOO (Calyptorhynchus banksii)

From the archives – 2012 – 2015

Australia has some spectacularly coloured Cockatoos and Parrots.

But this post is not about them.

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

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

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

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

PIED IMPERIAL PIGEON (Ducula bicolour)

From the archives – mainly 2015.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pied Imperial Pigeon (Ducula bicolor)

 

RADJAH SHELDUCK (Tadorna radjah)

From the archives – 2012, 13 & 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Zoo is open 365 days per year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUSTRALIAN SHELDUCK (Tadorna tadornoides)

From the archives – 2012 & 2013

Australian Shelduck

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

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

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

BLACK-NECKED STORK (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus)

From the archives – Mostly 2012

Black-necked Stork (Ephippiorhynshus asiaticus)

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

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

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

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

BLACK-NECKED STORK (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It did (and I missed the shot).

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

The male did the same.

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

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

And they had mostly been female.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Success!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

I am exceptionally lucky in this location.

IS IT? OR ISN’T IT?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think?

Is it?  Or isn’t it (a nest)?

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

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

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

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

I wonder what a heron’s nest looks like?

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

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

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

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

WHITE-FACED HERON (Egretta novaehollandiae) – Maribyrnong River

PACIFIC GULL (Larus pacificus) – Port Melbourne Beach

From the archives – 2nd June 2013.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The whole image below will be wiped out – literally.

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the Archives……..

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

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

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii)

 

FINALLY………….SOME BETTER SHOTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hence me using a DSLR on the Day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then the birds flew away and my friends arrived.

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

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

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

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

MIDDAY VISITORS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FIRST FLIGHT???????

Oh my goodness!

I was beside myself with excitement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It opened its eyes and looked straight at me.

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

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

Brain Fog.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phew!

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

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

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

From the Archives – 12th December 2012

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

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

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

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

This image was made on the day that there were 30-35 Rainbow Lorikeets on the one bush.

Further down the same path, but next to the large Ornamental Lake there was another bush right next to the asphalt path and I photographed 3-4 more Rainbow Lorikeets up close – not in the least disturbed by my proximity.  As it was very bright sunlight, I just had to wait until the birds climbed under the bush to avoid over-exposed shots.

LUCKY SHOT!

I’d just made my morning coffee, sat down at my desk and opened my email when I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye.

A tiny female Splendid Fairy-wren (Malurus splendent) had landed on the netting covering my tomato plants.  This time I had the DSLR set on Aperture Priority and Auto ISO and was well prepared with the telephoto zoomed out to approximately what I would want for a bird on my balcony.

So it was lens cap off as fast as lightening and action……..

I think it must be a young bird, as not only has it downy soft feathers and small frame, but it crashed into my bedroom window twice before flying away to the other side of the road.  An experienced adult would know not to fly into a window.  (and since its been raining heavily, I imagine most of the windows have dusty spots on them).

I’ve woken up to perfect weather and scarcely a breath of wind.

Let’s hope I get out the front door today.

Yesterday, the power went off and I waited and waited (to make breakfast) and finally ended up having a cold shower and staying home.   All I could do for some time was read a book, as I didn’t know when the power would come back on.  Even though I have a kettle on my modern gas stovetop, it turned out one needs power to spark the gas ignition.  And I didn’t have a box of matches as I’d given all of them to my brother years ago.

So………where will I go today?  Out with the camera OR to the market to get some much-needed food for the Christmas week?

A WINDLESS DAY (or nearly windless day), IN MELBOURNE IS NOT TO BE ‘SNEEZED AT’.

FRECKLED DUCK (Stictonetta naevosa) – The Great Aviary, Melbourne Zoo

Freckled Duck (Stictonetta naevosa)

The Freckled Duck has to be one of the most drab and ordinary waterfowl around and to be honest, one that I’ve photographed a few times but hesitant to share online.

But I guess birds can’t all have dazzling plumage merely to make them interesting or Photogenic.

Freckled Duck (Stictonetta naevosa)

I did read somewhere or other that it is rarely seen in the wild, but I suspect that’s more to do with their ability to blend into their surroundings as much as reduced numbers.  Apparently, it is often mistaken for other breeds and shot by hunters during the duck-shooting season here in Australia.

It’s beak is characteristically wedge-shaped, slightly upturned at the tip and the male becomes bright red over the base when breeding.

But I was glad I’d photographed it in the end as its fanned tail helped me identify a Musk Duck down at St Kilda beach one day (which looks very nondescript and similar).

Freckled Duck (Stictonetta naevosa)

 

 

PATIENCE

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

Kazuaki Tanahashi

I have an extraordinary amount of patience.

I can spend hours sitting at my desk, staring at the bird bath or surrounding trees.  Far more time than I can possibly stand still outdoors on a nature walk.

But, I can only hold my breathe (and heavy telephoto lens) for so long.

This morning, I’ve been staring at the tree in front of my balcony for quite some time waiting for the birds to visit.  Yesterday the House Sparrows visited the bird bath most of the day as I kept filling it with chilled water from the fridge.

The sparrows seemed to stay longer and take more drinks of water when I do this on a hot day.  I think they really do appreciate the cooler water (but that could be my imagination).  The little female House Sparrow below certainly did, although as soon as I put the DSLR down to ease the ache in my shoulders and neck, it flew away – no doubt startled by the sudden movement.

This tree (below) is thick with foliage, but I’m determined to catch a photo of a bird in the midst, especially now that the tiny flowers are starting to open.

I saw a wren drop down to a branch and it bounced up and down as though on a trampoline.  No chance of a shot through that dirty window either.

I slowly rose up from my desk chair (regretting my choice of a bright blue rather noticable shirt today).   I managed to pick up the DSLR & long lens and move sideways inch by inch to the open sliding door.

The wren moved up to the top of the tree.

This would be about 10 feet from my standing position.

I silently sent it a little message for it to look up and stop hiding…..

I sent another message for it to stand still (as there was almost no breeze on this hot, humid overcast day).

…..and then, success.

I silently thanked the little female Splendid Fairy-wren as it flew away.

By the way, the flowers you can see in the image above, are the first to open on this particular young Eucalyptus, so in the days to come, I might get many more avian visitors looking for some nectar.

The bees will certainly be in the area.

Midday and time to close all the windows and sliding door and turn the air-conditioning on – little rivulets of perspiration are pouring down my forehead and nose and my glasses are slipping off  🙂

ROSE-CROWNED FRUIT-DOVE (Ptilinopus regina) – MELBOURNE ZOO

We have several beautiful Doves and Pigeons in Australia, but I’ve only seen 6-7 in the wild.

Back in 2014, I photographed one that normally lives in the northern warmer states in woodland, forest and scrubby parkland with fruit-bearing trees and shrubs, and its a beauty.  Initially I saw it in the humidity of the Butterfly House at Melbourne Zoo, but it was not until many zoo visits later that I saw it in its own large enclosure and found out its name.

The Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove is medium-sized and spectacularly coloured.  The female is slightly less so, but they do have a loud distinctive cooing sound.  I wish I could see one in the wild because although we have large, well landscaped enclosures at Melbourne Zoo, it’s not really the same thing.  Actually, we have many wild birds, large and small, that are wild in the Zoo, no doubt attracted to the regular feeding times.

COMMON STARLING – juvenile – (Sturnus vulgaris)

Soon after I posted the mystery bird image yesterday and we concluded it was a Grey Shrike-thrush, another new bird landed on my balcony rail.

UPDATE (12th Nov) – It appears that this is a juvenile Common Starling.

Very similar to the Grey Shrike-Thrush but plainer and more brown (depending on the white balance of my camera of course).  I managed to get 2 clear shots with the Sony ‘mirrorless’ and quickly dropped the camera and picked up the heavy Canon DSLR & 150-500mm lens, but couldn’t hold it as steady and the 2 images I shot, before it flew off,  weren’t as sharply focused (below).

As the bird stayed such a short time, no more shots were to be had and neither new bird was seen again yesterday.  As with many once-off bird shots, there is no time to compose or get the ideal angle or even, camera setting.

 

GREY SHRIKE-THRUSH (Colluricincla harmonica)

In regards to the new bird mentioned in the previous post, John from Paolsoren, mentioned a Grey Shrike-thrush as a possibility.

I think he may be right and its just that I can’t see the true colour of my mystery avian visitor due to the bright sunlight on my balcony.

Here’s the only image I’ve got of that particular Shrike-Thrush (made over near Dights Falls in Abbotsford) where I lived prior to this current apartment.

The image above was sharp enough to crop it down to……

…….and here’s yesterday’s image again….

What bird is that?

A new bird,  (to me), landed on my balcony rail about an hour ago and this time……….I managed to get a quick shot (before it flew away) – obviously a good bird spotting day to stay at home in this lovely warm Spring sunshine.

I’ve pored over my Bird Guide book and a pdf of local birds trying to identify it.

It was facing into the bright sunlight coming from the upper western sky, so the head and neck were slightly over-exposed (which I tried to remedy with increasing the mid-tones in editing).

From this angle, the long beak looked straight (which suggests its not a honeyeater, which has a curved beak).  Otherwise it looks a bit like a faded version of a Brown Honeyeater in my Guide book which is normally found in western, northern and north-eastern Australia.

Any Bird-lovers out there in Melbourne who could ID it and let me know in the comments section would be greatly appreciated.  Keep in mind that the straight beak could merely be the angle of the shot.  I can’t see any neck markings or eye details so that makes identification hard.  It was about the size of a starling or honeyeater, greyish with olive? wing feathers.

Thrill of the Year

I’d just sat down at my desk with my morning coffee to read my emails when………. I was surprised to see a Red Wattlebird (Anthochaere carunculata) land on the old trolley table I use for potting on my balcony.  It landed on the right hand curved handle in the lower right edge of image below.

FOR THE BENEFIT OF NEW FOLLOWERS…..My desk sits in front of my apartment floor-to-ceiling windows.  I like watching the House Sparrows land on my balcony or drink from my bird bath, let alone keep an eye on my flowers and herbs growing in pots.  It’s like sitting in a garden every day when I’m at home.  I’d only brought the blue trolley indoors yesterday to wash all the shelves and remove the spider webs and dead leaves that had accumulated over Winter. I also have trees growing in front of my balcony and on the other side of the road.

My west-facing balcony is in shadow in the mornings up until midday, or early afternoon, depending on the season. Regular followers can see how tall my tomato plants are in the top left of the image. You might also notice my pink daisy and blue Bacopa (centre of image) are STILL flowering (since I planted them in November 2016). This means they’re been in flower every day for 370 days.  I had to prune the daisy right back to half its size though.  It had some broken branches from the fierce winds that roar down my road and over my balcony railing.

This was about 2 feet from the back of my computer screen.  I’ve never seen one around the apartments in my road before, let alone land on my balcony.

And I’m sure you know what I’m going to say…….

I put my cameras away last night after I arrived home from a dental appointment in Melbourne’s CBD.

I missed the Shot of the Year this morning!

But, I certainly got the Thrill of the Year 🙂

A Red Wattlebird has distinctive reddish/pink ‘wattles’, (or earrings I like to call them), and yellow belly, whereas a Little Wattlebird is plain.

Here’s an image I took in June last year when I lived on the north-east side of Melbourne to show you which bird I’m talking about.

They’re quite a large bird compared to my regular visiting House Sparrows.

Needless to say, I’ve just got my camera out of its bag and put it back on my desk and set it on Shutter Priority (just in case the Wattlebird comes back) 🙂

Here’s another shot, (with a branch in the way, so not considered a ‘good’ shot), taken in Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve behind my apartment block.

When I started this blog and named it Living in Nature,  it was because, by sheer good luck, my last 3 apartment rentals have had balconies to grow herbs and flowers and I’ve lived next to the Royal Botanic Gardens to the south-east of Melbourne city, the Yarra River walking trails  to the north-east, or now, next to Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve and 400 hectares of parkland along the nearby Maribyrnong River.

If you’ve got to live in a city or urban area, I must be one of the luckiest people around.

Affordable rental properties are extremely hard to find in Melbourne and the inner suburbs.

WHITE-FACED HERON (Egretta novaehollandiae) – Newells Paddock Nature Reserve & Conservation Area

Although I didn’t have my long 150-500mm lens on my nature walk in Newells Paddock Nature Reserve last week, a White-Faced Heron stepped from behind a small seedling protective plastic ‘tent’ very close to me as I walked along the high path overlooking the main pond area.  The rise in the path is next to the fenced-off verge near the train line.

I love watching these Herons and often see one near my home (next to Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve).  I’ve even managed to photograph one of these beautiful soft blue/grey herons with a lizard (or goanna) in its mouth twice. Once next to the river 10 minutes walk from my apartment and once down at Jawbone Arboretum, Nature reserve and Marine Sanctuary in Williamstown.

White -Faced Heron at Jawbone Arboretum, Williamstown

Last Thursday, I managed to very, very slowly step towards this heron until I was about 15 feet away before the bird flew off as a runner came up the path behind me and frightened it.

The Heron watched me out of the corner of its eye as I moved closer to it, but seemed relatively passive and calm until the noise and movement of the runner (on her regular exercise route).

Here’s a better shot of this bird which I made when I lived on the north-east side of Melbourne next to the Yarra River (below).  Sometimes an overcast day with plenty of light is better than a sunny day for bird photography.

….and fishing in Pipemakers Park pond late one afternoon (about 10 mins walk from my current home).

and down on the Maribyrnong River (below).

….and even……in The Great Aviary at Melbourne Zoo some years ago (below)

Before I saw these soft blue/grey herons in the western suburbs, Nankeen Night Herons with their soft grey/blue caps and salmon pink feathers used to be my favourite and most often observed Heron.

Of course there are other herons in Australia, including the Pied Heron (below).

But the White-faced Heron is fast becoming my favourite on this side of Melbourne.

I must say Herons are a lot easier to photograph as they’re out in the open (compared to smaller native birds in the tree tops these days).

Hence the numerous images in my photo library 🙂

AUSTRALASIAN GREBE (Tachybaptus novaehollandiae)

I often see Grebes in the centre of the Maribyrnong River near my home.  I might add, this river is fairly wide so I need the birds to swim over to my side of the river to be easily identified.

Unfortunately, even with my 150-500mm lens I can never get close enough to really make them large within a photo frame to share online, but I still photograph them as I love the challenge of trying to get them in focus in a hand-held shot with this heavy lens.

2 days ago, I spotted an Australasian Grebe in the pond near Pipemakers Park, whereas the Grebes in the centre of the river have been Hoary-headed Grebes (Poliocephalus poliocephalus).  There is also the Great Crested Grebe but I’ve never seen one of these.

I might have done better if I’d had a tripod for the shot below as the bird was fairly stationary enjoying the late afternoon sunshine for quite some time before it dived underwater.

Note: I had the same problem when I lived and photographed these small, dumpy-looking birds in/near the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne.  

This is the best shot I’ve made showing the bird’s feather colouring (so far)

I still live in hope that one day I’ll get a close-up.  In the meantime here’s a small selection of my attempts so far in my western suburb of Maribyrnong.

These Grebes, (and there 3 different ones in Australia that I know of), are one example of how hard Bird Photography can be, as the small birds dive frequently and I’ve ended up with more images of rippling water and no bird, than many other species I’ve photographed over the years.

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RED-RUMPED PARROT (Psephotus haematonotus) – male – Pipemakers Park

I was so busy observing a couple of these male parrots yesterday, hoping they would hop out into the sun (that moment when the sun reflects in a bird’s eye making a good photo), I didn’t realise several birds were gradually working their way towards my back.

Over the years, I have learned to move very slowly and wear black, or very dark, colours when out on a bird Photography field trip, so as I turned (to walk up to the Pipemakers Park historic garden), I was able to catch a couple of males from about 7-8 feet away.

I never did catch a shot of this species with the spot of sunlight on their eye yesterday.

For the first time ever, the males were on their own, grazing in the flat newly mown field between Pipemakers Park and Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve.  I’ve only ever seen couples grazing – with the plainer olive-coloured female being a little harder to see in this location.  They were only grazing in the deep shade of some Eucalyptus trees so I’ve lightened these images so you can see them a bit better.

I naturally assume the females were at home sitting on nests?

…..and for those new to my Nature Blog, here’s a couple of old images made when I lived on the north-eastern side of Melbourne in Abbotsford (next to the Yarra River).

Different light and different camera as you can see. I seem to remember they were grazing in the sun on this particular day, not shade.

Female RED-RUMPED PARROT
male RED-RUMPED PARROT

…..and the first time I ever saw these lovely Parrots was in the Royal Botanic Gardens in 2012 – in the shade of a few old trees on the western side of the large Ornamental Lake.

Red-rumped Parrot (Psephotus haematonotus)

There are actually 5-6 Australian Parrots that are fairly similar in feather colour, but this Red-rumped variety have a lovely warbling song – unusual for parrots.

GOOD MORNING LITTLE SPARROW

I love the way the sparrows stop by each day to quench their thirst via my blue water bowl.  Occasionally I take this down, wash it out and put some bird seed in it.  For the first 5-6 months since I moved to this area, the female sparrows wouldn’t come near the dish, but now they do.

I made the photo of a male House Sparrow (above) yesterday as I’ve already packed my cameras for today’s walk and photography outing.

I had the good fortune to be actually looking out the window as the tiniest bird I’ve ever seen flew around my balcony garden and landed briefly on the rim of my pink daisy pot. I’ve never seen it before and it was possibly a juvenile finch or tiny wren of some kind.  It flew very fast and I have to admit it didn’t stay still long enough to even see if it had a long tail like the Splendid Fairy-wrens that frequent the area.  I put my hand down to unzip my camera bag (sitting on the floor) and when I looked up it was gone.

Hopefully it will return for a closer inspection.

 

PACIFIC BLACK DUCK (Anas superciliosa)

My favourite shot of a Pacific Black Duck made at Ringwood Lake in the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne. A favourite, probably due to the natural background as much as the duck itself.

Apart from the beautiful pale salmon-pink Nankeen Night Heron, Pacific Black Ducks are the most photographed wild bird in my photo library.

These ducks are seen in all the public parks and nature reserves around Melbourne (and probably much further afield – which I can’t reach via public transport).  Here’s a selection of some of my favourite images – most are hand-held shots, not from a tripod.

THE ELUSIVE WHITE-PLUMED HONEYEATER (Lichenostomus penicillatus)

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.

Part of Pipemaker’s Park garden ruins back in Autumn which reflects the time of afternoon I visit the area.
It looks more like this in winter and quite stark and more sombre.

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).

If you look carefully in the centre of the frame you can just barely see the bird as it’s the same colour as most of the surrounding leaves.

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.

SULPHUR-CRESTED COCKATOO (Cacatua galerita)

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.

SACRED KINGFISHER (Todiramphus sanctus)

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.

Sacred Kingfisher

SATIN BOWERBIRD (Ptilonorhynchus violaceus) – female

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.

Satin Bowerbird – female (Ptilonorhynchus violaceus)
Satin Bowerbird – female

MAJOR MITCHELL’S COCKATOO (Cacatua leadbeateri)

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).

pink Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo & male Eclectus Parrot
Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo and female Eclectus Parrot

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?

BLUE-FACED HONEYEATER (Entomyzon cyanotis)

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.

This is one of my favourite bird shots from all the zoo visits I made over the years. I think part of it was the angle of the shot and secondly, I like the blue in the background complementing the honeyeater’s blue head.  As an artist (well, water-colour painter, potter & several other artistic skills, I like the overall colours & composition as much as the subject in photography).
These two honeyeaters landed right in front of me after the aviary staff had put some mealy worms on the wooden post for them at feeding time.
I was too slow zooming out on this shot so the bird’s tail got chopped off, but It was still a treat to be so close to this bird. Most of the feeding trays are close to the boardwalk in the Aviary, so if you’re there at the right time, you can observe the birds closely (and get some nice close-up shots).

PIED IMPERIAL PIGEON (Ducula bicolor)

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.

Pied Imperial Pigeon – this one looks like a rather obese older bird.

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.

 

AUSTRALIAN PELICAN (Pelicans conspicillatus)

From the archives….

Haven’t been doing much photography in the last week, but we’ve had a couple of great sunny days for walking and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the invigorating fresh cool winds.  Rain forecast for the coming week and weekend, so it’s back to the archives for some images to share.

RED-RUMPED PARROT (Psephotus haematonotus)

Here’s some more examples of the small birds that graze in the low-lying Frogs Hollow field.

So you can see them better, here’s some images I made when I was living on the north-east side of Melbourne next to the Yarra River.

The lovely males are easy to spot.
The plain females are not so easy to see as they blend in with the grass. Since they always seem to graze in pairs, it’s the males that I spot first.
This image of a female is probably the best shot I’ve made so far.

DARTER (Anhinga melanogaster)

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.

AUSTRALIAN WOOD DUCK (Chenonetta jubata)

……………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).

Young teenage female at Maribyrnong Wetlands about 30 mins walk from where I currently live in the Western Suburbs.

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.

PIED (or LITTLE PIED) CORMORANTS?

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.

AUSTRALIAN WOOD DUCK (Chenonetta jubata)

AUSTRALIAN WOOD DUCKS (Chenonetta jubata) – male in the foreground with the brown head and female (with the stripe above and below the eye) in the background.

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.

 But for the time being, at least its great outdoor walking weather for me.

MASKED LAPWING (Vanellus miles) – Maribyrnong Wetlands

…….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.