I was so engrossed in a new Netflix serial this afternoon, I nearly missed them.
It was only by chance I glanced sideways and saw them.
They had done nothing to herald their visit today except leave extra large bird poop on my apartment balcony fence over the last week. Yesterday, I’d had enough and got an old shabby cloth and a bucket of hot soapy water to clean the balcony fence back to its dull, but clean, black finish.
This afternoon I grabbed the closest camera and tried to get all 3 birds in the frame but no such luck.
Actually, there were 4 of them. But they walked so fast I didn’t have to worry about light, focus, composition – just getting at least one of them in the frame.
Spotted Turtle-doves (Streptopelia chinensis)
Not a single sound did they make – just briskly walked around the empty balcony floor looking for a tasty bite to eat.
Then, one by one, they flew up to the balcony railing and promptly walked along the broad edge and out of sight (along the next-door neighbour’s fence rail).
It was only after they left that I looked down at my lightweight Sony a6000 to discover it was set on Aperture Priority instead of the usual Shutter Priority setting (where I normally leave it at the end of each day I use it).
No wonder the shutter speed had a definite lag in the action 🙂
The image below was my favourite in the short photoshoot. There’s something decidedly feminine about the head of this one.
It’s rare that I don’t take a photo (or two) every day.
As far as I’m concerned it really doesn’t matter if it’s a good shot or a not-so-good shot. Its all practice and practice is well worth the effort in Lockdown.
I love the image below. It was made yesterday when the sun cast a brilliant beam of light on my balcony fence rail and despite the ghostly band of white in the bottom half of the frame (which is actually where a louvred window overlaps the pane below), I think its the face and eye which appeals in this shot.
I’d sprinkled a long row of birdseed on the fence rail in the hope of attracting a few more birds to photograph. In general, it’s only the House Sparrows that like to snack on it, but I still get Superb Fairy-wrens flying down to the grey balcony floor tiles and wander around in the hope of something tasty to eat.
I followed one male Superb Fairy-wren around the Japanese Maple branches for a quite a while yesterday, but despite having washed the glass panes of the fence, couldn’t get a clear shot.
It’s still fun and entertaining.
Only 14 new COVID cases in Melbourne in the last 24 hours (and sadly 5 deaths – all in the aged care sector).
We’re well on the way to achieving the goal of 14 straight days of an average of <50 new daily cases in order to drop down a Stage in restrictions on Monday, September 28th.
Only 7 days, 7 hours, 40 minutes and 5 seconds to go – not that I’m counting mind you. 😀
Identifying birds around my home location are not always easy.
Especially when you’ve only got blurred shots and no, (or not much), head and beak visible.
Yesterday, I photographed a new bird in the Japanese Maple in front of my balcony fence. The windows, through which I was viewing the bird, were dirty so the autofocus kept zooming in and out – one minute on the bird and a couple of seconds later the dusty raindrops on the window (or green foliage blowing in the breeze).
In the shot below, you can see what looks like a grey or dark blue back, so it’s definitely not a Silvereye which is olive-green.
I was just about to delete the blurred shots this afternoon thinking it was just another Silvereye, when I realized the back of the bird was grey or bluish-grey……and the beak was dark and too long for a Silvereye.
The mystery deepened with the faint splodges of yellow on the bird’s back below. They were very faint.
I can see this bird’s outline fairly easy on my 27″ iMac, but if you have a small laptop or ipad, you probably can’t see anything much.
Then I managed to get the back half of the bird in better focus showing the rump as being pale whitish.
Then it moved almost upside-down showing more of white-greyish underparts.
I cropped the photo down so that only the bird showed.
I could see what looked like black bands on its neck (above).
The images were just too blurred.
With that downy-looking soft feathered rump, maybe it’s a chick or young bird?
I finally decided it was a young White-plumed Honeyeater (Lichenostomus penicillatus), a bird I’d seen last year but not close enough to get a sharply focused image.
The only image of a White-Plumed Honeyeater I could find just now is the one below – photographed from quite some distance away and the image cropped down a fair bit. It was made at the Jawbone Conservation Reserve and Marine Sanctuary in Williamstown on the nearest coastal area to my home. (I’ve been there 4 times since I moved to the western suburbs and am keen to go back in Summer……..one day……..when the lockdown is over perhaps).
But then I remembered the bird I photographed on my balcony fence in 2017. I thought it was a Grey Thrush-Shrike but a follower suggested something different (I can’t remember what he suggested).
Keep your fingers crossed the bird comes back another day so I can correctly identify it.
In the meantime, the first thing after breakfast this morning, I cleaned the exterior glass on my lounge windows.
Then I opened the sliding door wide open and set ALL 3 cameras beside my desk with the lens caps off.
I kept glancing up to the Japanese Maple and listened intently as the Superb Fairy-wrens chirped away to each other. I can do this for hours, but I was catching up on the latest TV news between each glance to the outdoors.
Finally at 2.20pm I saw it.
I tried in vain to get a clear shot – rather unsuccessfully – but here it is.
A female Superb Fairy-wren singing her little heart away to any male in the area.
It wasn’t a clear view, but it was in much better focus than yesterday’s efforts.
On a sadder note, another couple of branches on the Japanese Maple have died (see upper right in the image below).
Below, you can see where the dead branch from last year was cut off.
The Body Corporate who administer this apartment building called out a horticultural expert and he said that the heavy rains hadn’t drained away last year and this was what was killing it – water-logged due to insufficient drainage.
I noticed at the start of winter that not all the leaves dropped off in Autumn. I didn’t realize those dead leaves clung to a dead branch.
The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness.
Hopefully, when I look back on this strict lockdown in Melbourne, I’ll remember the little moments that kept me entertained and gave me something to write about in the absence of nature walks.
I’ve had a busy couple of weeks with medical appointments, scans, tests, ordering online and the hundred and one other tasks when you have chronic pain & illness and don’t have a car to get around.
The current lockdown, curfew and having to keep within a 5km radius of your home in Melbourne only adds to the difficulties when you don’t have a car and have to rely on taxis to go anywhere.
The one good piece of news is that at the end of the month ‘elective surgery’ is going to open up again in our hospitals. Despite a backlog of over 100,000 surgeries which have been on hold and will now take something like 6 months to clear, I have finally sourced a new orthopaedic surgeon and am cautiously optimistic that I might REALLY get to the stage of getting a hip replacement. Even so, I have to pass a medical since I have a severe (inherited) heart condition and multiple other severe health issues. Then there’s the……..well, I won’t bore you with the details, but daily life is getting to be really hard work – both physically and mentally – at the moment.
I’m totally fed up with this ever-increasing hip pain and I’ve watched so much TV or movies online that my eyes are getting ‘distinctly square’ (overseas followers might not know this expression from watching too much TV).
I live in one of the most picturesque urban areas in the western suburbs – including a nature reserve and river behind my apartment building (for the benefit of new followers), but without the ability to go for a lovely long walk, I’m restricted to indoors – mostly.
After I dismantled and re-homed most of my balcony garden a couple of months ago, I don’t get as many birds visiting my balcony. Long-term followers will know how much that garden and its avian visitors meant to me over the last 4 years, especially in Spring.
Some images of the old balcony garden below (for the new followers).
Apart from the stores and plant nursery being closed in the current 6 week lockdown in Melbourne, there’s no point setting up a new Spring garden with the potential of surgery and several weeks of recovery on the horizon.
It would cost a fair bit of money to start my garden all over again, although I’ve got all the plastic pots from last season and the plastic plant ID tags ready to purchase seedlings sometime in the future.
I have a list. Gosh, I have an enormous ‘to do/buy’ list if it comes to that.
Although I did have my DSLR and long telephoto lens out of its pouch, I haven’t been holding out much hope of some avian visitors in the deep, dark shade of the eucalyptus tree.
The incredible sound of many chirping birds in its depths was almost deafening this morning, but with so many leaves, pretty hard to catch a bird in focus within the frame, for it’s a nature photographer that I am in retirement – the Grey Fantail above, caught by the lens was in a very lucky series of shots.
But the Japanese Maple on the left-hand side of the fence is bursting with new growth and a powerhouse of young buds and leaves for the bird-life in the area. It’s also much less densely foliaged at the moment.
I was watching a YouTube online of some Willy Wagtails singing and a mother feeding it’s tiny offspring (which I’ll share next time I see a Willy Wagtail) when I noticed a flash of movement out of the corner of my eye.
I turned and saw the rear end of olive-green feathers and knew without a doubt I was looking at a new bird in my tree.
For ‘my’ tree it is as I am the tenant to benefit the most from its bird-attracting new foliage in Spring.
At first, I thought it might be a White-plumed Honeyeater which I’d seen a couple of times in past years, but there were more olive-green feathers on the bird (below) than a honeyeater. The photo below actually looks like the rear or back of a Bell Miner.
I watched as the bird jumped from branch to branch between the bright green young leaves.
The #$@%! autofocus on the telephoto lens wouldn’t focus.
I’m actually fairly good at getting one focal point between branches and foliage after practising so much in recent years, but for some weird reason, it wouldn’t autofocus today. My eyesight is too poor to use the manual focus ring on the DSLR/lens, but on autofocus, well, let’s just say I’ve had plenty of practice photographing the local birdlife.
I waited patiently for the bird to appear near the top of the tree where I’d have a clear view.
I knew that time would come as its the tiny new shoots that the birds like to graze on in Spring and those tiny leaves are in profusion at the top of the tree where the sun kisses the young branch tips.
Then the bird flew up to the top, turned so I could see its white eye-ring and I knew straight away it was a Silvereye (western race) which doesn’t have the blue feathers of the eastern race – Zosterops lateralis chloronotus to be exact.
This is the first time in 4 years since I moved to the area that I’ve seen a Silvereye.
So I’m thrilled to share this shot with you today, as I can see by the fine downy feathers and small beak, it’s a young chick………very young-looking in the following shot. I would say only days or a week old?
Every time I get a bit ‘down’ and dispirited in Lockdown, it’s the birds who uplift me with their presence and song.
I heard a slightly different bird call as I was reading my overnight emails this morning and turned to face the slight gap in the louvred windows on the right-hand side of my lounge room.
It was a Common Blackbird(Turdus merula) standing on my balcony fence.
On the rare times, I’ve seen a Blackbird in my (now depleted and re-homed) balcony garden in the past, it’s usually flown away before I could get my camera out.
This morning was different. The Blackbird actually stayed for a while, so I first picked up the Canon DSLR with the 150-500mm lens and took a couple of shots.
No good, there was a bright spot behind the left-hand side of the bird and I’d forgotten to change yesterday’s high ISO of 3200 back to 800 (it’s usual setting).
I quickly got the Sony a6000 out (with its ‘kit’ lens of 55-210mm). I was lucky enough to have the time to steady my arms and breathing and hold the camera very still and fire off 3 shots before the Blackbird flew awat,.
In the first shot, it turned its head at the same moment I pressed the shutter button, so it looks amusingly headless.
The next shot was OK…..if a little too far to the right of the composition.
The adult male blackbird is very distinctive: jet black with orange-yellow beak and eye-ring. The female and juvenile are dark brown, paler and rufous on the underparts and brownish-yellow beak. The female often shows a dark-bordered whitish throat.
Its calls sound like a ‘chink’ and ‘chack’: melodious, attractive fluting song.
Instantly, its sunny, chirpy disposition became mine and I was so thankful for its song.
Earlier this week, our State’s Premier announced an additional 2 weeks lockdown and curfew to that 6-week current one which was due to end next Sunday the 13th. He also announced that businesses – cafes and ordinary shops – wouldn’t re-open until the last week in October (I think) – my memory is more dysfunctional than usual at the moment.
So no shops open for quite some time yet. I’ve now got so many errands listed on my TO DO list. Most need to be done in-store, not online. Especially my hair-cut which is in the city. I can’t do that online 😀 I did cut it myself earlier this year, but with a shoulder injury at the moment, I can’t hold my hands/arms up high.
So there’s not much activity happening in Melbourne (and its suburbs) for quite some time yet and Stage 4 lockdown will continue.
Regional Victoria has had no new cases overnight so they look more likely to step down a Stage if that continues. They are currently on Stage 3 restrictions.
The Premier’s idea is that when we get down to single-digit new cases for a consistent period of 14 days, restrictions and curfew will be lifted……… (mostly). We’re hoping interstate borders will be re-opened in the coming month(s). Surprisingly, some of our fresh food comes from interstate, although I got all I ordered online this week, whereas most of the previous weeks orders were missing items.
Yesterday when I was cleaning out my desk drawers, (a task one does in ‘lockdown’), I spotted a movement out of the corner of my eye.
I looked up and thought I saw a bird in the eucalyptus tree beside my balcony fence. After collecting my DSLR and long 150-500mm lens out of its soft pouch on the floor, I slowly stood up and edged sideways towards the lounge balcony door.
Now, normally this movement on my part would scare any birds away, but with the foliage being thick and not much light, I felt the only way to get a shot was open the balcony door and have no glass between the bird and myself. I’d cleaned the exterior of my lounge windows only a week ago, but some rain, thick with yellow/orange dust, had re-soiled the windows mid-week.
The bird didn’t move much. Take note of its soft downy breast feathers (below). These and the size of the fantail suggested a very young bird, probably born in the last week or so. It also looked rather fat so I might suggest it was well-fed by its mother?
It was very small and I wondered if the faint white on its face denoted a tiny Willy Wagtail chick initially. Willy Wagtails have very distinct white ‘eyebrows’. I managed to get 2 shots before it flew away and when I downloaded them, I saw at once that it was a tiny Grey Fantail chick.
It was so cute and similar in size to the Superb Fairy-wrens who move with such speed around my balcony area.
Next minute I saw more movement so once again repeated the exercise……got up off my desk chair and slowly moved to the doorway which I’d left open.
I actually repeated this 6 times as the tiny chick flew over to the other side of the road to the tall trees and back to my tree again. It whipped around to the back of the tree and I watched for some time as it came back to the front-facing me. Over and over, several times.
It turned continuously as though it was showing off its new coat of feathers to its adoring public – aka ME!
I switched the ISO to the highest speed on my Canon DSLR – 3200. This high ISO creates a lot of noise, or graininess, in the background, but for a hand-held shot and a bird continuously on the move on that branch, it was the only way to get the bird in focus in such low light..
I walked indoors to get out the Sony a6000 ‘mirrowless’ with its fast 11 fps (frames per second) continuous shooting speed. The Sony has a top ISO of 6400 which was the only way I was going to get more shots of the fantail in the dim light. I only have one lens for this camera, but that would have to do.
With my eyesight, I can’t tell which of the following 2 shots is in focus, so I’ve given you both. With only the 55-210 kit lens for my Sony left now (the 18-200mm lens died in a fall 3 months after I bought the Sony in 2015). I traded some lenses to buy the Sony, partly because of its light weight with my declining spinal condition, but also because, at that time it was the fastest fps (frames per second) on the market.
So the 2 shots below were handheld with my left elbow resting on the doorframe to try and steady the camera. Hope you can see the bird right of centre.
I’m hoping to see this tiny new chick a few more times in the afternoons. I’m not sure why it flew back and forth betweeen the tall tree over the road and my eucalyptus tree so many times, but it kept me entertained for quite some time.
The first (and only) time I saw a Grey Fantail previously was in the Japanese Maple tree on the 19th September 2019.
That Fantail was fully grown (to my eyes) and continually flew up, down and all around the branches in the maple for 3 hours.
Here are a few of the 2019 shots. You’ll notice the new Spring growth on the bare-limbed winter tree.
GREY FANTAIL (Rhipidura fuliginosa)
GREY FANTAIL (Rhipidura fuliginosa)
GREY FANTAIL (Rhipidura fuliginosa)
Yesterday’s tiny bird sighting really made my day.
A friend who lives on the top floor of this building rang me on Friday to say there were new ducklings on the large puddle of water near Frogs Hollow and also 2 black swans further down the river on the pond.
Dare I hope for another walk and some more photos in this glorious Spring sunshine?
You’ll have to keep following my nature blog to find out 🙂
Spring is on the horizon and the tiny buds (and new leaves) on the Japanese Maple in front of my apartment balcony are always the first to herald it’s arrival.
It’s a gorgeous day outdoors (despite the forecast for rain this afternoon) and I yearn for a good long walk, but the old hip says “no”.
We are coming to the end of the 4th week in our 6-week lockdown in Melbourne and I for one will be glad when the 6 weeks are up. Hopefully, our state’s Premier will issue some lighter restrictions OR maybe going back to Stage 3 restrictions and a release from keeping within a 5km limit to home (to stop community spread) and a nightly curfew (8.00pm – 5.00 am) in an effort to curb younger folk partying.
We’ve had only 113 new COVID cases overnight (but sadly, still 23 deaths – 22 in aged care). This is down from 725(?) 7-8 weeks ago. Most of the deaths always seem to be in the aged care sector which saddens me greatly, especially as family and friend’s visits are restricted too. They range in age from 70s, 80s, 90s and 100). There has also been a 20-year-old male and a 30 yr old male – the young are not immune. To those of you who live in large countries with higher populations, these figures might not seem like much, but any premature death saddens me.
Our nightly curfew and strict lockdown is working but at what cost? I’ve seen ambulances and police outside my building twice in the last week and can’t help but wonder if there are any COVID cases in my 6 storey apartment building. I’m being doubly cautious after my own scare over the weekend (described in this post here).
I don’t usually wish my life away, but I can’t wait for Something to Happen.
Just a change in my days indoors. It’s been something like 18 months since I’ve mainly been housebound with this severe hip OA (and other pain conditions). I’ve done about 4-5 walks down to the local pond and one visit to the Maribyrnong Wetlands – via taxi. All aggravating the pain, but worth the effort (at the time) to capture a few photos and some fresh air.
Apartment building on the other side of the river – Maribyrnong Wetlands
Actually, mid last year, I had to call a taxi to take me to the nearest street post box to post some urgent mail) as it was too painful to walk up my road’s steep hill and the 2 blocks to the post box outside the Aldi store.
I then asked the taxi driver to take me down to the small pond near the river where there are a pair of Khaki Campbell ducks. I walked around the pond just once and then caught a bus home (from the bus stop right next to the pond).
Khakis were originally bred in England and are a combination of Mallards, Rouens and Runner ducks. They generally come in three colour varieties – khaki, dark and white. The drake (the boy) is usually mostly khaki coloured with a darker olive green head lacking the white ring of its Mallard ancestors. The duck (the girl) has the usual underwhelming colour scheme and is khaki (brown) all over.
They are prolific egg-layers and this pair must have escaped from someone’s back yard I think. They originated in the U.K. in the late 1800s so they must have been imported to Australia.
I suspect the small patch of white water Lillies on this pond are coming into bloom at the moment too.
The next 2 days are going to be clear and sunny so we’ll see what the pain levels are going to be like when I wake up in the morning before I predict my ability to walk outdoors in that glorious pre-Spring weather.
….and GLORIOUS IT IS AT THE MOMENT!
There are lots of other birds in my immediate vicinity and I long to join them, camera(s) in hand, on their daily excursions.
At the moment, all I can hear is birdsong from outside my lounge window. I suspect the thick foliage in the Eucalyptus tree next to the right end of my balcony is going to host some bird nests this year.
What fun that would be……if I could see them in the dense foliage that is. 2-3 times I’ve seen birds right in the middle, but I have to look hard (and for some time) to pick their dark bodies out in the gloom.
Here’s a sample of the Maribyrnong Wetlands area & pond below.
Apartment building on the other side of the river – Maribyrnong Wetlands
Pacific Black Duck
Pacific Black Ducks
Purple Swamphens next to my feet
(male) Chestnut Teal
Hoary Headed Grebe ?
MASKED LAPWING (Vanellus miles) with a Silver Gull in the background
The great expense of water which lies between the river and the residential area. I suppose you could call it a lake.
The other side of the island on the Maribyrnong Wetlands pond.
The rocky causeway between the lake and pond
Another (male) Chestnut Teal
Pacific Black Duck
Looks like a juvenile Grey Teal. The lighter neck colour is the clue. to differentiate between the female juvenile Chestnut Teal and a juvenile Grey Teal
(male) Red-rumped parrot
Looks like a Hoary-headed Grebe
(juvenile) Grey Teal – note the red eye and the pale neck
And the pond near my home……
and a bit further along the river heading for Newell’s Paddock Nature Reserve.
To be honest, I don’t miss people, shops, movies, library or even just the supermarket & Asian fresh food market near my home. I certainly don’t miss the dentist in the city centre. I do miss my city-based hairdresser at the moment though – my hair looks like an unruly floor mop.
I MISS THE BIRDS (and the opportunity for a nature walk and some photography).
More images from my archives to come. Hope you’re not all getting bored with the absence of new photos. Hope the newer followers are enjoying my photo archives. Long-time followers will have seen all these images before of course.
Another image shot at my local pond – only about 10 minutes walk.
I’m not sure I’ve shared images of the Glossy Ibis before, but here they are. They were made in the Great Aviary at Melbourne Zoo. I’ve seen Australian White Ibises in Nature Reserves or National Parks, but not these Glossy Ibises. But they’re out there. Depending on whether its shady or full sun on the day of the zoo visit, makes a great difference to the colour of these lovely iridescent-feathered birds.
Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus)
Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus)
Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus)
Sometimes they look to be more blue/green/grey and other times more a rich russet brown, although I’ve just been reading that the juveniles are more brown so that could account for some of the colour difference. I suspect I had my camera on AUTO ISO some days and CLOUDY ISO on other days which might account for the mix of cool or warm tones in the images in this post.
Ibises are found over most of Australia, particularly the northern states and eastern seaboard.
In flight they look very dark in colour and carry their heads and neck outstretched. The image above was the best I could get of one in the air.
This Ibis (below) looks like it just caught a meal from the surrounding landscape.
Most of these images were made from the 10-20 foot high boardwalk that runs through the Great Aviary.
Here are a few photos of The Great Aviary to give overseas folk a sense of how large this enclosure is at Melbourne’s main Zoo in North Melbourne. It is designed and landscaped to cover 3 climatic zones.
If and when, Australia ever opens it’s international borders to tourists and you’re visiting Melbourne, do make the effort to visit our main zoo (there are 3). The landscaping, animal, bird and reptile exhibits are worth a day trip to see them all, but after many visits, I often chose the Great Aviary a lovely place to practice some bird photography for the whole afternoon.
I did get caught out on one afternoon visit in that the Aviary was closed for maintenance, but then that can occur with other parts of the zoo also.
It’s usually open 365 days per year, but in our current 6-week lockdown in Melbourne, it’s closed at the moment.
I have a large folder of quotes which I read from time to time. Most of them are uplifting or inspirational and remind me to ‘keep on, keeping on.’ I keep adding to the file whenever I come across a new one (quote) I like.
Inside yourself or outside, you never have to change what you see, only the way you see it.
This quote (above) reminded me not to forget why I loved this image of an Australian Pelican at Melbourne Zoo – made on 1st August 2012 (below).
In hindsight, now, 8 years later, I can see the outline/detail of the bird’s feathers is soft in focus and these days it just wouldn’t be worth keeping (by today’s photography standards I have acquired).
But the reality is that I loved the reflection and colours in the foreground/background and it was one of the first Australian Pelican images I took, so I try not to be so critical, but keep my eyes open to why I love bird photography in general.
I keep it because it reminds me of how much fun I had/have doing bird photography and that joy is well worth keeping in my life today.
It’s also a reminder that we don’t have to be perfect in our various creative pursuits whether it be painting, pottery, drawing, craftworks etc. We just have to enjoy it in that very moment of creation and open our eyes to the pleasure in doing what we love.