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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PRACTICE, PRACTICE AND MORE PRACTICE

Even when I’m not doing any photography for my blog, I practice from my desk chair most mornings after reading my emails.

To catch a bird on my balcony in my current apartment is getting easier as time goes by, but that doesn’t mean I always get the eye in sharp focus (which is what makes a good bird photo), or the light is good on any given day.

I make hundreds and hundreds of blurred shots.  Some are downright funny.  Others are just plain awful, but I persevere.

When I get a good shot…….of even the most common bird on my balcony……I feel a real sense of achievement.

Sometimes I get lucky, but in general, the only way to improve your bird photography is practice, practice and more practice.  The faster and smaller the moving bird, the more challenging it becomes.

I spent a bit more time practicing on House Sparrows yesterday. (I finally got all the household chores up to date and a couple of other indoor projects finished 🙂  Hurray!).

It was a good day and the light just right, and despite sharing dozens of House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) images before, here’s some more.

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.

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.

AUSTRALIAN WHITE IBIS (Threskiornis molucca)

From the archives – 16th March, 2015

AUSTRALIAN WHITE IBIS (Threskiornis molucca) – Japanese Garden, Melbourne Zoo

……..and the only time I’ve seen these lovely white Ibis en masse was in a farmer’s field at Werribee (south-west of Melbourne).  It was a spectacular sight and I asked my SIL to stop the car so I could photograph them.

AUSTRALIAN WHITE IBIS – Farmer’s Field, Werribee – 6th February 2012

I think the black-winged Ibis in the upper left of the image must be Straw-necked Ibis (Threskiornis spinicollis), but they were too far away to be sure.  According to my Australian Bird Guide book, they have a black head and throat and metallic black back and wings.

Unfortunately, I’ve never been lucky enough to see them up close.

Perhaps they’re like the Glossy Ibis I’ve photographed at the Great Aviary at Melbourne Zoo which have a sort of iridescent effect in the sun and much darker looking in the shade.

2017 IN REVIEW

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”

 ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Some of my favourite images from 2017 – in no particular order or subject matter.  Some of them are good shots and others are just reminders of a particularly enjoyable Photography walk outdoors.

I’ve been too unwell to do much Photography lately, in fact not much better than last year, so enjoy this series until (hopefully) I’m back outdoors more.  At least the weather is mostly much cooler, although yesterday the winds were gale force around my area and too windy to water my balcony garden until quite late in the day.  The wind dries out my potted plants regardless of the moisture retaining mixture I’ve added to the potting soil, so watering each night is a necessity…….most of the year, surprisingly.

In fact, the weather has been too wild to go out much via public transport.  Of course if I owned a car, I’d go out for a drive or up the country regardless of the weather 🙂

I still have to catch a close-up shot of the white Royal Spoonbill water birds at Jawbone Conservation Reserve which I could only photograph from a distance (with the shorter telephoto lens I had with me) on my last visit.  So I’m looking for a nice cool afternoon, with minimal wind, to make the trip down to the coast.  It’s only a 2 bus trip, but these 2 particular bus routes don’t run as often as some of the others near my home, and not that much on the weekends either.

….and finally one last photo from the day I spent photographing this lovely Chinese Temple on the banks of the Maribyrnong River in the next suburb (to the south of my home location).

The HEAVENLY QUEEN TEMPLE is a temple to the Chinese sea-goddess Mazu, the deified form of the 10th-century Fujianese girl Lin Moniang, located in Footscray, a neighborhood of Maribyrnong in Melbourne, Australia.

PS If you see some funny spelling or typos, it’s that stupid AutoCorrect which drives me crazy as it keeps turning bird and flower names into common words.  I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time re-reading everything I type a zillion times.  I’m sure you all have the same problem so you know what I mean.

JAWBONE CONSERVATION RESERVE & MARINE SANCTUARY, WILLIAMSTOWN – Part 2

For details of yesterday’s Photography excursion to Jawbone Conservation Reserve, see Part 1 in the previous post.

A juvenile Silver Gull (identifiable by its dark beak, leg colour and brown flecks on its wings) stands waiting to greet me at the end of my walk.  An adult Silver Gull is mostly white with an orange beak.

Thank goodness I walked over to the Bus Stop and checked the timetable.  If I stayed until sunset, I would have had only 1 bus scheduled at around 9.00pm.  The other option would have been to find a house number and street sign and call a taxi.

The aim was to finish the rest of the trail right up to where it ends with a main road, check out where the birds were and do some bird photography.

Despite the severe wind gusts and rather mundane uninteresting nature of the walk over the 2 small islands at the northern end the lake system, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the white Royal Spoonbills and other distant birds.

More importantly, it was great to get outdoors in the sea air and walk that distance after months of being pretty much housebound and mostly taking taxis to get anywhere.

2017 wasn’t a good year health wise, but the Cardiologist’s report and increased medication earlier this week proved that (hopefully), I’m now able to do longer walks in Nature…….outside Melbourne’s stinking hot humid Summer days of course.

February is usually Melbourne’s hottest month, although the bush fire season can go way past Summer.

Living in Nature is one of the most healing balms I could imagine and if you’re a Melburnian and enjoy walking and bird watching, I can highly recommend this coastal walk near Williamstown beach.

Just check the wind speed factor before you leave home AND TAKE SOME BINOCULARS (to see the bird life).

JAWBONE CONSERVATION RESERVE & MARINE SANCTUARY, WILLIAMSTOWN – Part 1

I knew it (as soon as I arrived).

This image made about 5 years ago in the Royal Botanic Gardens gives you an idea of a long 150-500mm lens. Much smaller than many professional wildlife photographer’s lenses, but heavy all the same.

I should have taken my Canon DSLR and Sigma long ‘birding’ telephoto 150-500mm lens.

Yesterday’s excursion started off heavily delayed when my taxi didn’t turn up for the first half of my journey.  The second half was going to be via bus.  45-50 minutes later when a 2nd (or was it 3rd booking?) taxi finally arrived, I decided to just take a taxi all the way to my starting point at a residential side street in the coastal suburb of Williamstown (located on the western side of Port Phillip Bay).  I’d also planned to stay til sunset which didn’t happen, but that’s another story.

It was perfect weather (although luckily I had a short light jacket as I would have got severely wind-burnt on my arms with my sleeveless shirt).  As it was, the left side of my face and neck were  burnt (despite sunscreen).

I wanted to finish the final 25% segment of a coastal walk over a couple of islands I could see on the map.  I had been too unwell to contemplate this walk in the last 3 months and had to cancel my New Year’s Day walk with friends who were keen bushwalkers, cyclists and extremely fit.  (My friends and I still had a great long lunch at my home on New Year’s Day though – despite the cancelled walk.  Eating, drinking and talking are more my ‘cup of tea’ at this stage in my health journey).

Basically, this walk was over the 2 islands on the top left of the map to the black square box on the upper left.  Turned out to be a very short walk indeed, but against a strong onshore wind with little shelter on the low-lying salt bushes.

I ended up walking all the way back to the bus stop on the bottom right of this map – roughly 5 times the distance that I’d planned.

It only took me 2 hours (about 45 mins for you fit healthy folk I suppose).

(Hooray for increased Heart meds 4 days ago – I can clearly walk at more length again). 

The taxi driver must have thought I was mad, or more than a little eccentric to get a taxi to go for a walk.  But the fare wasn’t too bad for the 25 minute journey.  It might have taken me 1  1/2 hours depending on connection times for the 2-bus trip.  Both bus routes have a fairly irregular timetable, depending on the time of day, and at weekends, sometimes only 1 bus per hour, so you can imagine how I’d feel if I missed the 1st bus by 5 minutes and then missed the second  by a couple of minutes.

When I walked through a small finely mown area to the walking trail, I was hit by extremely gusty winds and knew it would be hard to stand still to do any bird photography with my lightweight Sony a6000 and 55-210mm lens.  I also had a Canon DSLR and Sigma 17-50mm lens for any interesting close-ups at ground level in my bag.

No wonder the trees grow heavily bent over in this particular area. I think I would be heavily bent to one side if I lived on this part of the coast 🙂I was also pleased to see that the whole area has been recently mowed so I didn’t have to worry about snakes.  This coastal area has little shade cover or trees, although there are board walks in some places to walk through the low-lying salt marsh scrub, low-lying pools and other salt tolerant native flora in the Arboretum area.

“Once a highly degraded site, Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve has been transformed into an ecological haven and a place of beauty for the whole community. Stretching from the Westgate Bridge to Williamstown, Altona and down to the Cheethams Wetlands and Point Cook, the park consists of open grasslands, wetlands, a saltmarsh and mangrove conservation area, Wader Beach and the Kororoit Creek.”

I’ll do a longer post next upload with just images (no writing), but what I wanted to tell you about was the thrill of spotting 3 Royal Spoonbills in part of the large lake system near to a residential area.

I’d only ever seen these beautiful large white birds with their long spoon-shaped bills in the Great Aviary in Melbourne Zoo.  They have a distinctive feeding technique of sweeping their large bills back and forth through the water (which I’d seen at Melbourne Zoo, but not yesterday).

This cropped image is the best out of about 4 shots I attempted.  Sorry it’s not a good shot, but I had enough trouble standing upright in the strong wind and I am no light-weight.  Hard to be certain but I think the ducks with them might have been Grey Teals and the 2 ducks swimming out of the upper right are Pacific Black Ducks.

If only I had taken the long 150-500mm lens.  It’s heavy weight wouldn’t have wavered in the gusty winds at that end of the coastal path and would have made some marvellous close-ups.

I also saw a Great Egret, about 30-40 Black Swans, Pied Cormorants, Little Pied Cormorants, Black Cormorants (I think), Black-winged Stilts (never seen before), Australian Pelicans, Pacific Black Ducks, Chestnut Teals, Grey Teals, many finch-sized birds in the sky and more that I don’t know the name of, OR, were too far away to identify.

I’d also seen 2 White-faced Herons on my first 2 visits to the area, but not yesterday.

White-face Heron – Jawbone Conservation Reserve Arboretum – made 20th August 2017

The bird life was amazing (despite the long distance away as seen on the strip of land between the lake system and the ocean below).

Part 2 to follow.

Note: I’m way behind with blog reading, but I’ll catch up eventually.  Can’t waste good weather with nice cool winds on the computer – it’ll be back to heat wave conditions towards the end of next week according to the forecast and I’ll be indoors all day again.

WAITING……….

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

Kazuaki Tanahashi

The Birdsong is back and I’ve sat enjoying the cool breeze wafting through my apartment via the open sliding door and louvre windows……watching the birds on the other side of my road.  

It’s a real stretch for my 150-500mm lens to capture a bird on the other side of the road, but the shot of the male Splendid Fairy-wren below was pretty good for a hand-held shot.

I could spend all day watching…..waiting…..observing Nature in all its beauty, but this morning I am eager to go to the Opticians to pick up my new glasses.  The ones I’ve worn for the last 10 days since the current pair broke in half, are just not good enough to read blogs or do much on the computer.

Staying at home from 10.30am -2.30pm while the Property Agents inspect all the apartments they manage can be a nuisance too,  as you never know when they’ll turn up in the 4 hours time slot, so I try to make that time a special occasion to see how many birds I can spot from my desk chair.

You know that old saying ‘a watched kettle never boils’. Well, I have a new version.  ‘A waited-for doorbell never rings’ 🙂

Of course I’ve already done my ‘garden’ round to see if the Capsicums are starting to change colour, but no, they’re still green and in recent weeks I’ve knocked two baby capsicums off already.  Their stem attachment must be very fragile.  This variety is supposed to change from green to purple to red in about 3 weeks after they mature, but I suspect the extremes in temperature and unseasonal storms and weather patterns have upset their growing cycle.

I was standing on the balcony watching the foliage through the telephoto lens when I spotted a dark shape in the Eucalyptus sapling to the right side of my balcony fence.

The wind, while not as gusty as the last couple of days, was still enough to toss the dark shape, branches and leaves around, so I took several photos trying to get the waving outline of the bird in focus.

 

And then……………………success!

It was a Grey Shrike-thrush and I was lucky enough to capture the bird’s head in reasonable focus before it flew away as I moved forward and tried to get a bit closer to the bush.

Waiting….. is a time for being still, focused and taking time to chill out and relax.

I am so lucky to have this time to myself to do what I love best – observing Nature and practising Photography.

Life is so good when we appreciate the simple things and the simple pleasures they bring into our lives.

THE DAY OF THE WIND

It’s after 4.00pm on a gorgeous blue sky cool day and all I can hear is the Wind (from  my desk chair).

It is buffeting the flimsy branches of the young Japanese Maple and Eucalyptus saplings in front of my apartment balcony in all directions.  At times it is whistling throughout the building and I’m wondering whether I should put the draft stoppers under my front door again (like I do in winter).

Where is the birdsong today?

Perhaps it is Resting in Silence.

The last couple of days the rain has fallen steadily , but softly, most of the waking hours.

It did pound down with menace for a short time yesterday afternoon and then just as suddenly as it started, it stopped, and all I could hear were the gentle droplets on my balcony fence rail.

I tried to catch some droplets of rain in a photo, but for some weird reason my camera wouldn’t autofocus and I had to be content with sitting and watching.  It was very soothing and peaceful just watching.

Almost like a meditation in nature (despite the humidity necessitating the  air-conditioner).

Today, it is cool and the breeze winding its way through my lounge louvre windows is refreshing and downright heavenly after the heat and humidity of recent days.

Methinks this little female House Sparrow (below) has had too much to eat.  It is looking decidedly fat! (but then I am no longer trim, taunt & terrific looking as in my youth, so I shouldn’t criticise I suppose).

Yesterday I had only one visitor to the blue bird bath swinging wildly in the wind.  The ceramic shallow dish was just like a small boat riding the waves of a storm at sea.  Perhaps the House Sparrows found the swinging bowl disconcerting.

This afternoon the bird bath is gently swaying and I’ve had 2 female House Sparrows drop in for several drinks to quench their thirst and then fly up to the balcony rail tap-tapping their beaks on the hard metal surface.  I presume they do this to sharpen their beaks or something.

But still no birdsong.

When the washing machine finishes its current cycle it will be a perfect time to go outdoors for a walk.  But at 20 degrees C (about 68F), it will definitely be a ‘short coat’ walk.  I’ve got 3 appointments (or deliveries) over the next 3 days, so best make the most of the cooler weather in today’s remaining hours.

Then it’s back to 39 degrees C (or 102F) on Thursday.  Quite weird, our summer in Melbourne,  so far.  Blistering heat one day and cool, verging on cold, the next.  But then the world news reveals freakish snow storms and mudslides taking lives in the Northern Hemisphere, so perhaps not unusual to find weird weather patterns in Melbourne, DownUnder, too.

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 😀

EARLY MORNING VISITORS

I am not a morning person.

I need my sleep/rest, so when I sat down at my desk with my Italian Espresso coffee at 9.30am my eyes were still half-closed this morning.

That caffeine hit of the day is what keeps me going.  1-2 cups in the morning is about my limit or else I can’t get to sleep at night.  After a couple of hours yesterday with my younger brother in front of the computer identifying birds on his new website, I’d even had a third cup after Christmas lunch.

Being from his farm up the country, my brother’s avian species were completely different to my own regularly seen around Frogs Hollow.  Apart from many images of Willy Wagtails, most of his images were of colourful Rosellas and the vivid red and green Australian King Parrots he feeds regularly.

I couldn’t copy them , so some of my own images from my archives when I was up the country will have to suffice for this post.

Most of his images were made with his Phone from his tractor, not with his recently acquired DSLR and lenses.  When I asked why he didn’t take his camera outdoors, his reply was that when you go out to plough a field with a tractor, you have a phone in your pocket, not a DSLR & telephoto lens 😀

I smiled rather weakly at the Obvious.

My 91 year old Father was dozing in the armchair I’d placed in front of the open lounge doorway, so he could watch the House Sparrows drink their way through the chilled water I’d poured in the bird bath earlier in the morning.  He missed our photo sharing completely.  I think he was thoroughly enjoying the bird song as we’d had few cars driving up/down the road before Christmas lunch, but his regular afternoon nap couldn’t be missed – even on Christmas Day.

A short while ago the tiny Splendid Fairy-wrens flitted through the deep shade of the tree in front of my balcony.  They were mere shadows and yet I studied them as eagerly as if they’d been out on an open branch.   I couldn’t see if they were males or females.

Despite the distance to the other side of the road, I could easily identify the reddish heads of the European Goldfinches (Carduelis chloris) this morning. (and I wish the Auto Spellcheck would stop changing ‘chloris’ to ‘chlorine’ 🙂 )

The time when I get up, make coffee and sit down at my desk in front of the window is my favourite time of day.  The tiny avian visitors frequent my side of the road as its lovely and cool and the foliage is in deep shade making these small birds almost invisible to larger predators.

What is that damn tree anyway I thought to myself.  A Japanese maple?  It’s deciduous in winter and it sort of looks like a maple leaf (attached to its slender branches waving gently in the morning breeze).

I know ‘squat‘ about trees.

Give me a bird to identify any day.

To be honest, I only know about 100 Australian birds and in any one of my Brain Fog moments, this knowledge leaks out of the back of my brain in a silent stream, leaving a black hole, so some days I know ZERO.

I picked up the DSLR with the long 150-500mm lens (now) permanently sitting next to my desk on a low table…….well, for this week anyway.

Damn it, I said again.  The expensive long telephoto lens has broken.  It had toppled off the table yesterday when I turned my swivel desk chair around.  It was dark looking through the viewfinder and for the life of me I couldn’t work out why.  If I’d broken the $1000+ lens, then I’m not buying another one.  The Photography Fund is empty.

Wake up I said to myself, you haven’t taken the lens cap off!

Duh!

The bird which had just landed on the top branch waved around uncertainly for a moment or two, leaving me mystified as to why it appeared so small.  It looked vaguely like that Grey Shrike-thrush (Colluricincla harmonica), which a fellow blogger had identified for me only a few weeks ago.  But with the foreground in deep shade and the background (the other side of the road which gets the morning sun) bright, it was not an easy ID.  Besides all its feather were wet so the colouring was unclear.

Wake up I said for the umpteenth time.

Unlock the zoom and zoom the lens out, you idiot.

Ahhhhhhh!  Now I had the bird looking a reasonable size.

And yes, I do talk to myself a lot.  Keeps me sane in this uncertain world we live in.

In the absence of a clear ID, we’ll call it THE Grey Shrike-thrush.

It turned its head around to scratch an ‘itch’ on its back.

I managed one more shot and then it flew away.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw another movement and 3 male Splendid Fairy-wrens, with their vivid blue heads showing up quite clearly, came to the top of the young tree, but I was too late to capture them in the frame and they flew off just as quickly as they’d arrived.

Besides I was typing this post before I’d forget the reason for opening up my Nature blog first thing this morning, (instead of my gmail).

Did I tell you I’m not a morning person 😀

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  🙂

BUFF-BANDED RAIL (Gallirallus philippensis) – MELBOURNE ZOO

Having recently retrieved an old back-up file, I have loads more bird images in my archives and I was thinking last night that maybe I should share some more of them.

I’ve always re-shared my favourite images – usually herons – but perhaps you might enjoy some of the ‘not shared before‘ bird species.

The shots I consider pretty ordinary.

Not close enough to the bird, or the light was poor, or I could only get a shot of their rear end as they were in a tree over my head and ‘bottoms’ were all I could see.

I kept this image of the bottom of a Satin Bower Bird as I like the feather pattern, but seriously, one of these days I’m going to get bird poop on my camera lens or glasses.

The images I made some years ago of the Buff-banded Rail fall into this category.  I lightened the exposure of a few shots last night in pp and its a bit easier to see this bird within the frame.   I always thought I’d go back and re-shoot this species, but of course after 3 years zoo membership and about 100+ visits, I let my Zoo membership lapse, thinking to go on to photographing landscapes, or more street photography, (which hasn’t happened I might add, well not much anyway).

During many hot summer days I’d go to the zoo 3 times a week as the temperate rainforest landscaping of Melbourne’s main zoo, (we have 3 zoos), offered me much relief from the heat.  Sometimes I’d go and spent the whole afternoon in the Great Aviary until the loud speaker system indicated it was 15 minutes to closing time, then there was always a mad scramble to get to the back entrance/exit which linked with the city-bound tram line.

I rarely used the front entrance of the zoo.

So here’s some photos (as well as some of the Great Aviary so you know the area I’m talking about and can gain an appreciation of the massive size of this structure).  There’s a water course running through which ends up in a pond when many of the storks or other large birds do their mating dance.  I’ve been lucky enough to see several courtships.

This is about the best out of all the shots.  I lightened the exposure last night so you can see the colour and feather pattern a bit more easily.

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This is a series of Aviary shots I made over several visits and show how large it is.  The long space is broken up into 3 climate zones, although you can’t see much at the far end which is very thick rainforest.  Some images may look similar, but they have actually been made from opposite ends of the boardwalk.

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Some days you get lucky and other days the birds are high up near the roof basking in the winter sunshine leaving only a silhouette to shoot, OR hiding in the shadows of the long  boardwalk in the heat of Melbourne’s long humid summer.

Some birds, like the finches, are housed in smaller cages in another area of the zoo, although since it’s a couple of years since I’ve visited, they may have been re-housed in newer viewing areas constructed more recently.

One afternoon I went specifically to visit the Aviary and it was closed for renovation, so if you’re visiting Melbourne, always best to check their website or ring first if you want to visit a specific area.

Melbourne Zoo is open 365 days per year and one year, I even went on Christmas Day.  Best not to go during Melbourne’s school holidays though – the crowd makes it difficult to get close to many of the animal viewing windows or cages.  I’ve gone with young family members a couple of times, but to be honest I’d rather visit on my own so I can spend long periods practicing photography on the bird, animal or reptile exhibit I particularly like.

As to photography, well, Melbourne Zoo is where I learnt how to photograph through tiny wire, thick foliage and hold my first DSLR very, very still.  It’s a great photography learning experience.  You do need to change your DSLR focus points from the usual 9 to 1 to get through 1/4″ wire though.

You need to have the bird (or animal) a certain distance behind the wire and your own position a certain distance from the cage wire.  Maybe I need to go back to the zoo for a ‘refresher’ course, as some of my bird shots are a bit wobbly these days.  I can’t get shots between tiny cage wire with my Sony a6000 ‘mirrorless’ camera though, only my Canon DLSR.

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No doubt many of the zoo’s exhibits and some of the landscaping have changed since I was there a couple of years ago.

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.

BIRD LIFE

It feels like eons since I’ve done any photography, but the reality is that I’ve been working my way through the ‘to do‘ list…….the chores that I’ve been meaning to do since I moved to the area 14 months ago, but have been procrastinating about every morning.

Yesterday I took a break and spent most of the afternoon watching the bird life in front of my apartment balcony.  I can spend quite literally, hours and hours, totally absorbed in the antics of the House Sparrows, European Goldfinches and Splendid Fairy-Wrens, let alone the birds whose names I don’t know.  They’ve been quite a few of the lovely blue male Splendid Fairy-wrens around recently.  Not so many of the females, although admittedly the plain light brown colour makes the females harder to spot.

This image below, made on the 10th November, is the only time they’ve landed on my balcony and close enough to photograph has been this male.

I watch them criss-cross my narrow road flitting from tree to tree and hedge to hedge.  Sometimes I hear the House Sparrows repetitiously tweeting for an hour or so  in the Eucalyptus sapling in front of my balcony, but now the tree is lush with young leaves I can’t see even a silhouette of any bird life among the swaying branches.

Not sure if the House Sparrow is calling to a mate or a juvenile calling for its breakfast.

I have noted that the most of the sparrows that drink from my bird-bath are quite young and slender in recent days, so I suspect they are mainly young adults or juveniles from this past Spring’s hatchlings.

This morning it was the fluid ‘tu-leep’, or drawn-out ‘Twee-eet’  of the European Goldfinches that caught my ear.  They have a very metallic, but attractive song, but with the strong wind today, I had little hope of catching them in a photo.

This was the best I could do this morning (with them bouncing up and down on the gusty wind-swept branches).


They weren’t interested in looking towards me where I am sitting at my desk.

Here’s a better shot of the European Goldfinch standing quite still from the 10th November.  It must have been one of those rare windless days in November for me to catch that shot.

I re-filled the bird bath with chilled water out of the fridge this morning in the hope of getting the birds to cool down with a splash around the bird bath in this 37c degree (about 100F) heat today.

I caught one very young female landing on my balcony fence, then do a strange tap-tapping on the metal with its beak and quickly fly away.  I’ve often seen this beak-tapping and not sure why they do it?  Is it to sharpen or blunt their little beaks?  It is to ‘gulp’ or help swallow food?  Is it a signal to other sparrows in the area?  I really should ask Mr Google one day.

I caught sight of a male House Sparrow landing on the fence a short time ago, but it didn’t even bother flying down to the bird bath.  I wondered if there were some larger avian predators around as my balcony remains in the shade until about 1-2.00pm on this west-facing side of the building and a good cool space to stand still for a rest.

They often do it.

Stand quite still…….. surveying the surrounding foliage and hedges, I mean.

But the sparrows, unlike the Spotted Turtle-doves around my previous apartment on the north-east side of Melbourne, just seem to have a quick drink and then fly away this morning.

I miss those Spotted Turtle-doves on the north-east side of Melbourne where I used to live.  I made friends with 2-3 doves and they’d let me slowly move up to about 6″ away from them to refill the seed bowl.  Here’s a re-cap of some of them (below).

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 🙂

MARIBYRNONG WETLANDS

“When you live in the moment, you are always on time” 

Dave Rauschkolb

Plenty of bird life and water in the Maribyrnong Wetlands yesterday – mainly seagulls enjoying a bath and a good feather wash.

A couple of Pacific Black Ducks and what I think was a young Grey Teal paddled in and out of the water reeds too.

I have a bit of trouble identifying Grey Teals from female Chestnut Teals from a distance, but my Bird Guide says the Grey Teals have lighter neck feathers and a slate grey beak, compared to the female Chestnut Teals, (which are also slightly larger).  I did see a male Chestnut Teal with its glossy green head and russet brown chest feathers, but it was too far away to photograph.

This particular section of water dries up completely by the end of the summer, whereas the pond on the other side of the island has plenty of water all through the hot months.

The best way to time my walk is so that I end up at the deep Maribyrnong Wetlands Pond (or Bunyap Park pond – name varies on the signposts) at the golden hour – it really is a pretty place to watch the bird life with the dying sun reflecting off the water as you can see by the images below which I made back in June.

The Ducks below are Khaki Campbell Ducks.

Had to believe this is all on a causeway of land connected to an ordinary residential road with a row of townhouses on the other side.  The images below were made in Winter.

If one looks to the right of the images above (not shown), one can see the residential area (below) and in the centre of the frame, the bus stop where I usually catch a bus most of the way home so I can stop at the local pharmacy.  I’d much rather walk the long way along the scenic river path, than the short 10 minute walk to the shops along the busy, mostly boring main road.

(Probably full of petrol fumes and traffic noise too).

Even when I had a car pre November 2003, I always took the long scenic route going anywhere in my daily life.

Now, with no car, I still follow the same routine.

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.

Spring! Spring! SPRING!!!!!

Yes, I thought the Title would get your attention.

Today was a perfect Spring day and after my last feeble walking effort down in Williamstown and Jawbone Arboretum, and exhaustion later that evening, I decided to stick close to home base.   I made do with a mini walk outdoors and thought I’d see how I felt.  I’m a little embarrassed to say that at the present time, I actually feel UNFIT! (note the capital letters 🙂 )………..for the first time in years.  I always have to walk slowly, but I used to walk for 3-5 hours a few years ago.  Now I seem to be restricted to short walks of 1-2 hours only.

So a quick walk around the perimeter of Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve, across a grass-covered area where the Red-rumped Parrots and Splendid Fairy-wrens graze, and then, Pipemakers Park.

The sun was glorious and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute outdoors.  In fact I only came home from the Historic garden ruins early (10 min brisk walk if one takes the short cut), because my water bottle was empty and my hands filthy from pulling a few weeds in one of the outer garden beds.  I only had my lightweight Sony a6000 camera and 55-210 lens, no gardening tools or hand wipes.

I almost…….got……hot 🙂

And wouldn’t you know it – I saw so many birds.  The variety of bird song was amazing, so I guess the avian life made the best of the Spring day also.  I did see some Red-browed Finches, but without a long telephoto lens, I just had to restrict myself to photographing flowers for the most, (or trying to – it was still a wee bit windy and I take better flower shots with my Canon DSLR to be honest).

The Tuesday morning gardening group have done a massive amount of work, but there’s still a lot more to be done.  After a chat with an old acquaintance from previous walks in the area and a few quick flower shots, I couldn’t resist pulling a few weeds……..which grew into quite a sizeable pile.  I didn’t have my hand gardening tools, or a rubbish bag, so left the weed pile for the Park Ranger and Tuesday Morning Volunteer Gardening group to dispose of.  I took a few more shots and then came home as I was so thirsty (and no matter how much you squeeze an empty drink bottle, it’s impossible to produce a single drop 🙂 )

NOTE: I could have looked up all these flower names in my Plant Encyclopaedias but I decided a guess would do for tonight.  Gone are the days living near the Royal Botanic Gardens when I wouldn’t dare upload a flower image without an accurate identification – Common & Botanical name.

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.

 

HOUSE SPARROWS (or how to waste 6 hours on a Sunday morning)

The temperature plummeted again today down to 12C (about 53F) and I woke up to rain, light hail and a brisk wind.  Light snow was forecast down to 600 metres so that would probably mean the low-lying range of hills overlooking the eastern suburbs of Melbourne might have white caps today.

Not a Sunday to go outdoors, so I made breakfast and sat down at my desk to read my emails.

I also plugged the Sony a6000 into the computer via the USB to re-charge it.

I’d filled an enormous plastic pot saucer with bird seed yesterday, but it was almost flooded over the rim and the House Sparrows sat on the rim looking hungrily at the seed faintly visible through the 2″ deep water.  

When a break in the light rain came, I stepped out in my PJ’s and tipped the worst of the water out and shivered more than a wee bit (before stepping back into my lounge), closing the sliding door and turning the wall heater on.

Then I preceded to waste 6 hours watching the Sparrows.  I did see one New Holland Honeyeater alight on the bare-limbed sapling where the bird’s nest had been, but it flew away before I could un-plug the USB cable, take the lens cap off and aim.  My other cameras and lenses were on the other side of the room and I didn’t want to miss too much of the action retrieving them, cleaning the lens and setting one/them up.

Since I had the Sony a6000 ‘mirrorless’ on continuous shooting which is 11 fps (frame per second), then I had the lengthy job of going through about 100 images which looked pretty much the same.  I don’t know who was fighting the most – the boys (dark head, grey cap) or the girls (plain), but it was highly entertaining.  There was one series of completely blurred shots too.  The autofocus must have been ‘on the blink’  🙂  (do you use that term in other countries when something doesn’t work? Or is that an Aussie phrase?).

Doesn’t take much to entertain me on a Sunday morning 🙂

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Now, I really, really, really should get dressed as the clock just struck 2.00pm.

And with only 7% of my 8GB monthly internet allowance left this morning, I’ll better get on the phone tomorrow and see if I’ve got one more FREE ‘top-up’ of internet allowance left this year.  I knew I had at least one FREE ‘top-up’ per annum, but quite by chance when I was chatting to my service provider last month, I discovered they, (TELSTRA), actually give me 3 FREEBIES per annum.

Keep your fingers crossed there’s 1 left, other wise I’ll be offline until the 9th September when my next billing month starts.

(and I’m afraid I can’t make any more iMovies as that’s what wasted my limited monthly internet allowance this month).

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.

AWWWW……THE BIRD’S NEST HAS DISAPPEARED

I was thrilled to report a bird’s nest in the tree next to my apartment balcony on Saturday the 19th.

I was out on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday so didn’t actually check it on those days.

Yesterday, Wednesday, it rained most of the day.  In fact at once stage, the rain was bouncing off the ground so heavily, it almost looked like hail and the temperature dropped considerably.

So I didn’t check the nest yesterday either.  When I saw a bird in the tree this morning and retrieved my camera off the kitchen bench and came back, the bird was gone and that’s when I realised………so was the nest.

I went outdoors to double-check the ground at the base of the tree and all around.  Definitely gone.

How disappointing.

I was so looking forward to having new avian neighbours.

I saw plenty of bird life on my walk along the western side of the Maribyrnong River on Tuesday, but too far away to photograph.  I rarely walk on that side of the river as the surrounding landscaping between the townhouses and river is a little more formal  (than the two long islands in the middle of the river where I usually walk, as shown on the map at left).

I was intending to do the walk to the Maribyrnong Wetlands pond every day this week (with a bus up the 2 steep hills and along the main road home, shown on the left), but yesterday was too wet to go outdoors at all.

After Sunday’s rather slow and fatiguing walk at the Jawbone Conservation Reserve in Williamstown, I figure I need to get my fitness level back up again after much of this past Winter confined indoors.

For the first time in the last 7 years of nature walks and Photography, I genuinely felt unfit last Sunday.  I may have to walk very slowly due to my (inherited) heart condition of Obstructive HCM and Fibromyalgia/CFS, but I usually warm up slowly for the first 10 minutes of a walk and end up covering a fair bit of ground, stopping to look around for birds or other nature subjects (which gives me a breather to bring my heart rate back down) every now & then.

Only the Pacific Black Ducks on the Maribyrnong Wetlands pond were close enough to get a decent shot with the Sony a6000 on Tuesday.  Until the weather improves again, I’ll only be carrying this smaller, lighter ‘mirrorless’ camera on my walks.  It’s easier to carry in a waterproof bag, than all my Canon DSLR gear.