SPRING

The weather is gorgeous today – cool, overcast, but filled with the sound of birdsong and the sun has just come out from behind the clouds as I type this post.

One of the upsides of this pandemic is that there have been fewer cars on the road and the sound of the birds is absolutely glorious at this time of year.

There are so many different cheeps and chirps in my area.   The best sound can often be a flock of ducks flying low over the apartment buildings in the mornings.   It more often occurs on a Sunday and I wonder if they know it’s the weekend and we are all sleeping in late.

Sometimes, it’s the sound of the Superb fair-wrens as they fly across my road and onto my balcony fence or nearby tree.

I can now hear a Spotted Turtle-dove calling(but can’t see it).

Perhaps you might enjoy hearing this YouTube of Australian bird sounds.  I hear a mixture of these sounds every morning and afternoon now that Spring is here.   All the more enchanting as I live in an urban area about 11kms from the centre of Melbourne.

I can definitely hear New Holland Honeyeaters today.

I can’t help but wonder what the birds think of this minimal human sound and reduction in polluting car fumes.   We don’t have much pollution in Melbourne and surrounding suburbs but the air quality is definitely improved since we’re all in Lockdown.

In the last month, I’ve been trying to make more effort to walk home from the local pharmacy/medical centre instead of catching taxis all the time.    My hip OA pain has improved somewhat so maybe the long months of rest and then return to warmer weather are having a positive effect.

There is this overwhelming desire for fresh air and the sights outside the 4 walls of my lounge room.   I’m sure many Melburnians are feeling the same.  I admit that mask-wearing, which fogs up my glasses, has been a deterrent for outdoor walking too.   Makes me wish I still wore contact lenses.  Some days, I get the bend on the plastic bar across the top of the mask bent just right on top of my nose and other days, no matter how I arrange the mask my glasses continually fog up and photography is impossible.  I’m sure all you spectacle wearers know what I mean.

At the top of my steep road, there’s a residential garden with some lovely roses in full bloom and I made the effort to ‘stop and smell the roses’ last week.

I could only reach about 4 roses blooms by leaning over the residential brick fence and was disappointed to find they didn’t have any perfume.   Obviously, I couldn’t get around the other side of the bushes to find the best angle for photography but still managed to get a couple of shots.

Hopefully, I’ll get outdoors again soon and capture some more.

I’ve made a couple of small forays into the Blogosphere, but am still keeping off the computer mouse as much as possible…… in general.  At least I can type a few sentences now without my shoulders hurting so much.

But, like most Melburnians, I am looking forward to better times in the near future.

A (very) SHORT WALK

Towards the end of last week the weather fined up considerably – definite signs of spring were everywhere from the lush green Barley grass (below), ripe from heavy rain earlier in the week, to tiny buds on bushes.

BARLEY GRASS (Hordeum leporinum)

I was determined to get some sun and fresh air.   I’ve been indoors for most of this year and let’s face it, there’s only ‘x’ amount of things you can do when you live in a tiny studio apartment and don’t have the eyesight for reading much or the desire to spend time on the computer.    I’ve watched so many series on TV I can tell you what happens with my eyes closed   😀

The image (below), made last year, gives new followers a sense of how close my apartment building is to that patch of trees in the background which denotes Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve (and Wetlands)…….actually – a man-made area in an attempt to re-vegetate up and down the Maribyrnong River.

Here’s a little history from Wikipedia for those interested in the local history.   If you’re not interested, just jump to the next image in this post.

The river was initially named Saltwater River[7] by early settlers, due to the tidal nature of its lower reaches. The name Maribyrnong however, is derived from either mirring-gnay-bir-nong which in Woiwurrung, the language of the local Wurundjeri people, is said to mean “I can hear a ringtail possum”[7] or “saltwater river”[8] (Gunung or Gunnung is Woiwurrung for river,[9] as seen in the names of other watercourses in the area, such as; Koonung Creek and Birrarung).

Marriburnong is an alternate spelling listed on a map dated from 1840.[8]

The inner western and north-western suburbs of Melbourne are located in the vicinity of the Maribyrnong River and the river has given its name to the suburb of Maribyrnong and the local government area, the City of Maribyrnong.

The Maribyrnong River valley has been home for the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation for up to 40,000 years. Human remains dated at least 15,000–years–old have been found along the river, with much older signs of human habitation also present.

The first Europeans to explore along the river were the party led by Charles Grimes, Deputy Surveyor-General of New South Wales, in February 1803. John Batman is likely to have explored up the river in early 1835. With the establishment of the colony of Melbourne later that year, sheep runs were soon established by Edmund Davis Fergusson and Michael Solomon in the Avondale and Sunshine areas. On Solomon’s sheep station the ford now near the west end of Canning Street in Avondale Heights soon became known as Solomon’s Ford. This was the lowest crossing on the Saltwater (Maribyrnong) River, and the furthest inland point of tidal influence. Batman is believed to have crossed the river at this point probably in the well worn steps of Aboriginals. It was for many years the only way from Melbourne to Geelong and land west.

During the second half of the 19th century much of Melbourne’s industry was located along the river, and the water became very degraded. With the closure of many industries since the 1960s and 1970s, much river front land has opened up to parkland and highly sought after residential estates.

The tiny dead-end road curves to the right after my building carpark entrance and steeply descends to the lowest apartment building in this relatively new housing estate (built around 2013 I think).

It was close to 4.00pm before I exited my ‘back gate’ on Friday.

THIS IMAGE WITH THE BLOWN-OUT BRIGHT SKY SHOWS HOW MUCH THESE 2 BUSHES HAVE GROWN IN THE LAST COUPLE OF MONTHS.

I didn’t have to walk far to find signs of Birdlife.   I heard a constant stream of tweeting and ‘tjit’ and ‘tzeert’and up popped a New Holland Honeyeater in the white-flowering Tree Lucerne (or Tagasaste).

Fortunately the honeyeater and bush were in shade and the background filled with lots of sunlight.

Very soon after, another honeyeater popped up to join it, but as they were moving fairly fast over the enormous bush, I could only get a photo of the first one.

I stood and watched them both for several minutes and then was distracted by a couple of male Superb Fairy-wrens on the concrete kerb gutter.

The one on the left (below) was in full breeding colours and the one on the right was flecked with sky-blue on its head and breast.   These fairy-wrens, once you have familiarized yourself with their accelerating ‘trill’, (perhaps a bit like the sound of a squeaking mouse), is one sound you can’t miss once heard.

I always know the difference between fairy-wrens and house sparrows on my balcony while I’m lying in bed in the morning.

The Tree Lucerne and Gorse bushes had grown enormously since I last stepped out the back door about 2 months ago.  They are both classified as weeds in my Field Guide to Weeds in Australia.

I walked around the curve in the road and stepped up on the pebble pathway leading past the lowest apartment building and stopped to look over the last of the mulched formal landscaping and spotted another fairy-wren a bit closer.

It was standing right next to a lovely white-flowering gum.   I couldn’t identify which variety of gum it was due to several similar varieties on Google images.   I spent half the weekend trying to find its name.

Behind it was a particularly attractive red-flowering eucalyptus.

I looked over to the nature reserve and then zoomed in on the bare-limbed tree on the right-hand side of the image below.

I couldn’t see any splashes of bright red which might signify another Crimson Rosella which I’d seen same time last year.   The images below are from 2019.

I might add this is the only time I’ve seen a Crimson Rosella in my immediate surroundings in the 4 years I’ve lived here, but I’m forever hopeful of seeing another one some time in the future.

I walked over to the low-lying field where 2 large puddles of water must have filled up with recent winter rain.   That’s the most water I’ve ever seen in the nearest ‘puddle’.

I walked forward about 20 feet anticipating a very slow walk down to the river (some 7-8 minutes brisk walk to the river).   I then stood quite still for some time peering through the long telephoto lens at the chain wire fence marking the start of the nature reserve on the left.

I have often seen Red-browed finches in the area….. on the ground….. or on the fence (in the past).

But the fence was empty last Friday and I continued on.

I walked another 20 feet and scanned the ‘puddle’ on my right.  (note: I suspect this raised pathway to the river is to gain access in the event of the river flooding the surrounding area.   I read somewhere that a little further downriver it flooded in 2014).

I spotted a pair of Chestnut Teal ducks diving underwater for some tasty tidbits on the puddle floor.  The water surface was flecked with some sort of pondweed.   At first, I wasn’t sure they were Chestnut Teals as the constant stream of water washing over their heads darkened the bright green head of the male to more of a brown colour.

I eventually captured the pair below as they swam to the other side of the puddle and the male’s green head was a bit more visible.

These ducks nearly always travel in pairs and this was the only way I could identify them as the female in the image above – with the red eye and pale neck – looked a lot like a Grey Teal.

It’s easy to mix up the two species.

After a short while, they finished their meal and clambered up onto the grass and settled down for an afternoon nap.

I was having a bit of trouble holding the heavy long 150-500mm lens steady as my shoulder was not quite over the injury of the previous week, so I hope you’ll excuse the lack of sharp focus.

To be honest, in that brilliant sunlight it was pretty hard to see through the viewfinder so I just tried to focus on the head/neck area as best I could.

Next minute I spotted a White-faced Heron.

I’ve only ever seen one Heron (and one Egret) in this location beside the river, so one might assume it’s the only one living here.

I spent ages trying to get the heron’s eye in focus, but the bird kept moving around, constantly dipping its head in the water searching for something to eat.

Up, down, up, down, step forward, up, down, another step forward, and then turning it’s back to me – it was on the constant move.   So much fun to watch and even more fun trying to get the eye/head in focus as it moved.

I was wishing it would stop and pose for a while like this one below in 2016 on the north-east side of Melbourne down by the Yarra River drying its feathers.

WHITE-FACED HERON (Egretta novaehollandiae)

or this one in 2017 near my local pond….

WHITE-FACED HERON (Egretta novaehollandiae) – Maribyrnong River

I’m rather fond of Herons – White-faced or Nankeen Night Herons in particular (which are supposed to also call this area home).   I’ve only seen Nankeen Night herons in the Royal Botanic Gardens or Melbourne Zoo though.   I’ve never seen one of these pinkish/terracotta-coloured herons in this area.

Some Nankeen Night Herons from my archives to show you their beautiful Salmon pink cloak of feathers and grey cap (with 2 white feathers erupting from the back of their neck).

……and back to the local White-faced heron from last Friday below.

Finally, I gave up watching and since my hip was already painful, decided to walk back up the slope and home.  Having some new photos to share for a change made me eager to get indoors and download them.

It wasn’t that late, but my side of the river and the steep hill on which the housing estate was built had already cast long shadows on the fields, nature reserve and eastern side of the apartment buildings.

When the sun dips behind the hill, it grows dark very quickly.

It wasn’t quite the golden hour, but the grass, still damp in some places from the previous night’s rain, seemed to reflect the light in such a way as to make any photography hard.

Sometimes I prefer a cloudy sky for photography, so the highlights are not blown out in the glare of the Australian sun.

On Friday, I walked back indoors via the front entrance of the building so I could pick up my mail from the ground floor postboxes.

This was the ‘allowed’ 1 hour of exercise outdoors with a mask on in Melbourne’s current Lockdown – only 73 new COVID cases and 8 deaths in the last 24 hours – very promising that we will end the lockdown in a couple of weeks and start opening up the stores and businesses again.   My shopping list is getting longer by the day from light globes, to herb seedlings to clothes and a new desk chair.   I also need a few cooking items for my tiny galley kitchen also.   I don’t like shopping online.   I like to look and try on before I buy.

I didn’t walk more than about 100-150 feet but it was such a  joy to feel the hot sun on my face and the wind in my hair on Friday.

…..and although I didn’t take a photo last Friday, the various low-growing bushes of Shrubby Bindweed were visible next to the path and steps, so I’ve included a photo taken last year to end this post.

SHRUBBY BINDWEED, SILVER BINDWEED (Convolvulus cneorum ??)

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

There is a point at which everything becomes simple
and there is no longer any question of choice,
because all you have staked will be lost if you look back.
Life’s point of no return.

Dag Hammarskjold

Sorry, I’ve neglected my nature blog for a couple of weeks, but I’ve been very busy offline (furniture repairs and restoration) and hunting for a new (ground floor) apartment.  This post is for Linda (who was looking for a few pink water lilies recently).

Enjoy……..

 

THE FOXES

yand Well, after saying I don’t often share fellow bloggers websites, here’s another link today.

Tin Man Lee is one of my favourite nature photographers and although he doesn’t post very often – (maybe only every couple of months, or is it every 3 months?) – he is well worth following if you love nature photography.

Check out the stunning fox images he posted last night.   They’re absolutely gorgeous.

If you enjoy his nature photography, he is well worth following and as he posts rarely – usually after a photography trip – your inbox doesn’t get overwhelmed with too many posts/emails.

Absolutely gorgeous Spring day outdoors today and not a cloud to spoil the rich blue sky.

Anyway, I’ve got 3 lovely Spring days this week according to the weather forecast, so time to get outdoors today and get those lettuces, rocket and beans planted.

But I WILL have to go back to the plant nursery first and get some more potting soil  😀

(PS. p.m. yes, I DID get to the plant nursery and bought the potting soil so all’s well with Vicki’s garden and the new seedlings). 

Did I mention, I’m going to try growing beans this year?

I’ve got the 3 new tomato plant varieties in their pots and staked, more mint & parsley, 8 beetroot seedlings (as I love their tiny leaves in a salad), Japanese salade greens, baby spinach (and some more large spinach to plant) so that’s a good start.  I haven’t taken any good photos of the balcony garden recently, so here’s a selection from Spring/Summer 2017 (to whet your appetites if you live in an apartment with a sunny balcony).

Note: I don’t have many flowers at the moment as I’m gradually giving over space to growing more herbs and leafy green veggies.

 

 

SOME MISCELLANEOUS SHOTS FROM early 2011

This week’s goal is to file 2011 images (and re-create their respective folders with names).  If you’ve read the last few posts you will know I have a new computer and have had trouble importing my Photo Library (and lost my whole image filing system).

With a very cold wet windy weather forecast for this week, I should make great headway stuck indoors (again 😀 ).

I came across these images (above) made in first few weeks in 2011.  I’d been using a small Canon ‘point and shoot‘ camera since taking up Photography as a hobby in May 2010 and became totally addicted to the art of Photography.

In December 2010 I bought my first Canon DSLR and 100mm macro lens intending to do flower photography, but soon found the brisk winds in Melbourne made it difficult, so I did lots of research and ended up buying a 18-200mm lens a couple of months later (and borrowed my SIL’s 55-250mm lens for a month also).

I experimented a lot.

After using full Auto for most of 2010, I never used Auto with the Canon DSLR.  I dove straight into Manual mode (although I had to use Auto Focus with such poor eyesight).  I had no idea about the ‘exposure triangle’ and how to use Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO, but somehow I ended up with fairly good exposure all the same.

I’d also dug a ‘big hole’ in my $3000 photography budget.  A small $6000 inheritance is well and truly gone today – 2019.

Photography is not a cheap hobby.

To this day, I still think the 18-200mm lens is the perfect all round general lens (especially if you’re new to Photography and can only afford one lens).  Both 18-200mm lenses I bought for my Canon DSLR in 2011 and my Sony a6000 in 2015 have died and I have other lenses now.

 

I also became addicted to shallow DOF (Depth of Field or Bokeh or background blur).  

????? An Acacia (wattle) of some kind ?????

…..and started photographing leaves, seeds and tree bark.

The images in this post are a random collection of whatever I saw on my afternoon walks in the nearby Royal Botanic Gardens, (where I used to work opposite for 16 1/2 years so knew the area well).

I walked to wherever I could get to via public transport at that time.

Even Melbourne Zoo – but that’s another Story……..

 

INSECTS ON FLOWERS

When I lived (and worked) next to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, it was a sure bet that on buying a camera after I had to take early retirement, my main photography subject was going to be flowers.

(Bird photography came some time later).

I think I’d walked in, around, or through the gardens on the way to work something like 8,000-10,000 times and that is no exaggeration.

The Royal Botanic Gardens was my home-away-from-home OR, as I called it, My Backyard and I learned more about flowers in the first 5 years of photography than I had ever learned in my whole adult life.

I rarely notice small insects on flowers, being very short-sighted (and back to wearing thick glasses after some 40 years  of wearing contact lenses doesn’t help).  My ‘walkabout’ glasses  are ‘distance‘ glasses.  But I notice on cruising through my archives that I do actually have quite a number of flower images with insects on them.

Here’s a variety of both – large and small.  I guess you can easily tell which insects were the main focus of the image and which insects were just lucky additions to the main flower subject.  There are a couple of images which were made elsewhere, but that’s not important.

I won’t take the time to look up the insect names as that would take all day and I’d never get the post done 🙂 but most of the flower names should be correct.  Please don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments section if I’ve got one wrong.

Enjoy…..