……AND THEN THERE WERE 3

I’ve been offline a lot lately, partly because I’ve been keeping a low profile with health issues getting in the way, but also because of my limited internet with the new computer (gobbling up my limited internet allowance). Hopefully that will change after the 30th August when my current internet plan ends and I seek out an affordable larger internet package.

I’ve also been spending more time observing the tiny Superb Fairy-wrens each morning on my balcony in the hope of recognising the individuals.

Like all tiny wrens, they rarely stand still.

I got the stepladder out on Thursday and FINALLY cleaned the full height of the exterior window surface (which usually bring on a few days of rain LOL) and yesterday, washed the interior surfaces of the floor-to-ceiling lounge windows.  I do this nearly every week in summer, but not much in winter when the fierce gusty wind drives the rain straight against my lounge windows.

Most of the bird images below were made earlier in the week, before I cleaned the windows.

While we’ve had less rain this past week, its still a bit too cold to leave the sliding glass door wide open during the day.  I’ve also been a little reluctant to leave the door open because a Superb Fairy-wren was about to hop indoors the other day.

I raced to the sliding door, which was open about 6 inches for some fresh air, and promptly shut it.

I might have been able to catch that New Holland Honeyeater who stepped inside (image on the left) and onto the window sill, but there’s no way I could catch the fast-moving little wrens if they came into my lounge room.

I’ve had up to 6-7 wrens grazing on the soil I’ve been turning over ready for my Spring herb/veggie planting and now………I can finally recognise 3 ‘regulars’. I never tire of watching them.

These 3 are my main visitors at the moment.

There’s that ever-present tiny female with her beautiful reddish-brown eye ring which I’m pretty sure is the same wren I’ve seen for many days now.  She doesn’t seem to have grown much.   She looks like a juvenile to me, but her orange eye-ring and orange beak are quite clear (so maybe not a juvenile, but an adult?).

I was reading some more about these regular avian visitors and it seems that the young males and young females can look very similar with their uniformly brown bodies and pale fawn underneath.   Their beaks may look more of a slate grey when young.

Sometimes the tail is more blue and a bit shorter – apparently this denotes a juvenile male.

Before reading up on them, I had thought the tails were all the same length.

The third easily recognisable fairy-wren is this adult male (below) with its distinctive eclipse, (or non-breeding), blue plumage.   The adult male changes its upper feathers to bright blue when breeding.

This image is pretty good considering the dirty rain droplets on the glass.
But they turn around so quickly I end up with dozens of shots of their rear ends.

It took me over a hundred shots to get these few images in reasonable focus over 2 seperate days.   I can’t claim these are my best bird shots since I took up photography in early 2010, but they’re pretty good having been made through dirty glass windows.

There’s no consideration of background or composition on my part when photographing these fairy-wrens in my balcony garden.   They move too fast.  I just try to get the bird in focus, before they fly, (or jump), to the next potted plant.   Most shots are soft in focus.

I’m pretty sure this is the same tiny juvenile male. All birds visit this trough of Mint as the leaves seems to be a bit tastier and it hasn’t grown much over the winter. In fact, I nearly threw this mint plant out in the rubbish as despite it’s many stems, it’s failed to produce enough decent green leaves for culinary use.
I moved this mint plant to the south end of the balcony in the hope the winter sun might give it a burst of growth – I think I can see more new green leaves (than tiny brownish ones) now.

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I haven’t given you a balcony garden update for a while as I haven’t been out to clean and tidy up the faded winter leaves or disappointing lack of growth in my winter leafy green veggies.  There’s clusters of spent herb leaves and many dead Japanese Maple leaves blown in from the young tree located in front of my balcony.

It’s completely leafless now, although I detect some faint little nobs on the spindly branches  which might denote potential Spring growth?

I really need to get out there and move the pots around and clean up.  I’ve discovered over many years of living in rental apartments, (which have a mandatory clause in the lease demanding ‘clean & tidy’ interior and exterior), that’s it better to clean the balcony tiles on a regular basis so the seepage stains from  the pots don’t build up to the stage where one has to use harsh chemicals to clean the large tiled surface.

In winter I have saucers under the pots, but in summer I remover the plastic saucers so they can drain more freely.   Herbs do not like wet soggy feet.

I’ve got 2 Tuscan kale (Tuscano Nero) but they have been slow to grow this winter and only started growing in the above image about 7-10 days ago.

A week ago, despite being only 2/3rds of the way through Winter here in Melbourne, the herbs, Tuscan kale and Broccoli (called Broccoli Bambino – a high yielding baby broccoli with a long harvest period), suddenly put on a growth spurt with many new leaves.

This broccoli seedling has lots of leaves, but no centre “10 cent sized floret” ??????

I’ve never grown this variety of miniature broccoli before and although it does take 12-14 weeks until harvest according to the plant label, it seems like months since I planted these 2 seedlings.  Despite the same plant label in both pots, the leaves on one plant look different to the other broccoli plant to me.

The plant label says to remove the first floret from the plant centre when it is the size of a ten cent piece along with the two leaves just below.   Side shoots will mature 6 weeks later. (see below). I did this on the plant below, but no sign of this early floret on the plant above.

In some ways the leaves of the plant above look a bit like outer cabbage leaves?

I have limited knowledge when it comes to vegetable gardening.

The Sorrel is still growing like wildfire (despite me continually chopping the leaves off).

This image was made in Summer, but it still looks like this in Autumn, Winter & Spring.

I should have just planted more baby spinach, instead of that Broccoli.

Image from my ‘Baby Bunting’ variety of spinach last year.

Now that leafy vegetable grows much faster and despite regular harvesting of the outer leaves, 4 small plants grew enough for many months.  I ate the last of that crop 3 months ago.

…..and my Asian climbing spinach (below) only provided a couple of meals before it went brown and seemed to get some kind of disease and died.

That pot is now empty.

It had looked so promising and tasted absolutely delicious – the texture almost like velvet.

ASIAN CLIMBING SPINACH

Oh well, better luck with some new varieties.

I must admit I get just as much fun trialling new veggie varieties for my balcony garden, buying seedlings and watching them grow (as eating them).

I have two other pots of Mint, (beside the long low trough which the wrens love grazing on), and they have been doing ‘just fine’.

The new Rosemary seedling I planted a few months ago, in which I have been cutting the tips off for cooking, has also suddenly started growing new leaves.

Has the soil suddenly got a bit warmer a month before Spring?  The day and night temperatures are still cold.   Being an amateur gardener and fairly new to vegetable growing, I can’t help but ask myself “why this sudden growth spurt”?

My herbs usually perk up closer to September.

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………and my eyes have been drawn to the construction site opposite too.  The construction crew have picked up the pace and are now working on a Saturday (as well as longer hours on weekdays), although they’re not on site today.   I’m used to the noise, but not the loud cursing which I’m sure they don’t realise drifts straight across to my building.

Still, they have a long way to go before finishing the 3 story apartment block on that very steep, weirdly-shaped site.

I took the photo (below) at dusk last night, hence the limited light and street lights being on.  As I live lower down on the hill you can only really see the ground floor of this new building, but it is against a 30 foot high cliff and the building will eventually be 3 stories high and completely block my view of the sunset colours.

Sigh!

This new building will completely block that blue sky/cloud you can see in the image below (if you can imagine triple the height of that ground level partly constructed apartment floor you can see in the image).   Due to the steep sloping hill, my 1st floor apartment is much lower than the new construction site.

I think I will have to close down my Sunrise, Sunset (& clouds that come in between) blog.

These wonderful sunsets from my balcony will no longer be visible.

At least I still get a small view of the sunset to the right of that apartment building (on the main road) for the time being.

BUT, there is a planning permit submitted to the local council to build a large housing/apartment estate on that enormous open field between the row of trees and my building.

Sigh!

(I seem to do a lot of sighing lately).

Life is impermanent.

Life is ever-changing, hour by hour, day by day and year by year, as I grow older.

BUT I will miss some of that wonderful view.   I can’t deny it now that the reality is sinking in.

 

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GALAH (Cacatua roseicapilia)

This year, every time I think about giving up Photography (due to deteriorating health, eyesight and being more housebound), I have a great hour or two outdoors and manage to capture some new images to share.

Yesterday was one such day.

I walked extra slowly to the local medical centre for my appointment and passed the small park, (which is merely a grassy area about the size of a soccer field), under brilliant blue winter skies and a smattering of fluffy white clouds rushing across the blue expanse.   The wind was actually very fierce indeed.

While brilliant warm early afternoon sunshine makes for a lovely walk for some folk in mid-winter, it is not necessarily great for the amateur photographer.   It’s almost impossible for me to see well through the viewfinder in that bright glare, but I did have my lightweight Sony ‘mirrorless’ camera in a bag over my shoulder ‘just in case‘ anyway.

Depending on the weather after my appointment, I had thought about catching a bus down to the river and a walk around the Maribyrnong Wetlands pond.  The bus stop is about 20 feet from the pond so it is one of the few wetlands, or nature reserves, really close to public transport (and my home).

To my delight, (and I had allowed a whole hour to do the 10 minute walk 😀 ), I spied 12-15 Galahs grazing on my side of the stretch of grass.   Last time I’d seen them in mid June, I didn’t have a camera with me.

 

This time I stood still for a while and gradually crept up to where they had their heads down, greedily pecking away at the low rich green grass surface.

Every time one of the richly coloured pink and grey birds lifted their head and casually glanced my way, I stood stock-still as a tree trunk.

I’m good at that.

I TRIED TO GET A SHOT OF THE FLOCK AS 2 MORE LANDED, BUT MISSED THE SHOT AND CHOPPED THEIR LANDING OFF IN THE UPPER LEFT OF THE IMAGE. DID I TELL YOU THE LIGHT WAS BRILLIANT AND I COULDN’T SEE THROUGH THE VIEWFINDER VERY WELL?

Then I’d take another step or two and stand perfectly still again. I eventually managed to get to about 10 feet away from their grazing patch.

Great flocks of Galahs are very common in the countryside in Australia and found even far inland where there are vast plains and low-lying scrub or desert.

ALL OF A SUDDEN, AND WITHOUT ANY WARNING THEY ALL TOOK OFF AND OF COURSE I MISSED THAT SHOT TOO.

They’re a large and very distinctive cockatoo with back and tail pale grey with darker wingtips, neck and underparts a striking pale pink.   In some light, it’s more a bright pink as you can see in my images.

The immature birds have a greyer breast.

Gregarious, often noisey and usually feeding territorially, their voice is a distinctive high-pitched ‘chee chee’ screech.

I think they’re beautiful and being an urban dweller in a suburb west of Melbourne city, I rarely see them in my area, just in that one spot on a small field of grass.   I love to watch them down on the ground or flying round in ever increasing circles looking for another patch to graze on when disturbed.

They may be common as mud in the countryside, but to me, they’re a Treat!

THE FLOCK LANDED ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FIELD AND I DECIDED TO JUST KEEP WALKING AS MY APPOINTMENT TIME HAD NEARLY ARRIVED AND I WOULD BE LATE IF I DETOURED FURTHER.

I’ll have to do another post (of the water birds at the pond) later as I have to go out for another appointment today, this time via taxi, but as it’s sunny at the moment (despite the forecast rain), I might just take the camera outdoors again……….‘just in case’ 🙂

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.