Now I’m into reviewing 2012 (and have given the rest of 2011 a miss) in my archives, there is a bit more variety in photography subjects.
I’d gone to Melbourne Zoo on 21 February 2012 (having already to take out a membership on an earlier visit). Entry for a pensioner as I was, meant paying the concession rate of about $19(?) a visit back in those days. Membership per annum was about $70+ for all 3 of Melbourne’s zoos, so it would only take 3-4 visits a year to make membership worth the money. If you’re a tourist visiting Melbourne and planning on seeing all 3 zoos (which includes Healesville Sanctuary in the country and Werribee Park Open Range Zoo in the western suburbs) and have children, defintely take out a year’s membership. It’s much cheaper than visiting all 3 zoos on a day pass.
As it turned out, I had so much fun photographing the animals, birds, insects and reptiles, I ended up visiting over 100 times over 3 years – (I counted the dates of each photo folder to work that total out).
Furthermore, the beautiful Temperate Rainforest landscaping was so cool and refreshing, I would often go 3 times in the one week mid-Summer. I guess the enormous Great Aviary really confirmed my newly found love of Bird Photography also.
This main zoo in North Melbourne is small enough to cover in one day, but large enough to make all the newer enclosures, including the walk through ones, interesting.
The Butterfly House with its humid artificially controlled atmosphere became the first port of call when I entered via the large entrance on the main road. The back entrance/exit was used from then on as it had a tram stop (& train stop) close to the gate.
While we’re on the subject of Kookaburras, (see previous post), I thought to share my not-so-good shots of the Blue-Winged Kookaburra (Dacelo leachii).
The bird is clear enough, but I didn’t make a good job of erasing the cage wire in the foreground.
After hundreds of hours of practice over about 3 years, I became quite good at photographing birds through fine cage wire at the Zoo – so that the wire disappears completely – but not so with the images in this post. And this bird’s cage wire had large gaps between each strand, so I have no excuse.
But I’m still going to share so you can see the difference between the 2 Kookaburras.
The Blue-Winged Kookaburra is only found in the far north, or north-west, of Australia so I can’t bring you any images made in the wild, only at the Zoo.
This bird is slightly smaller than the Laughing Kookaburra and has lots of blue on the wings. The rump and tail are a lovely azure blue in the male and the tail is chestnut barred black in the female.
This one is noisy, and has a poorly formed cacophony of harsh cackles and screeches.
Here’s the photo of the Laughing Kookaburra in the previous post which was located in the same size cage next door for comparison.
By the way, if you’re new to bird photography, there’s nothing I can recommend more that practicing photographing birds at your local zoo (if you live in a city like I do).
You learn very quickly how to hold a camera very, very still in order to get one DSLR focal point through tiny 1/4″ (yes, quarter of an inch) cage wire AND you learn exactly how far the subject must be from the cage wall in order to make the wire lines disappear.
Here’s a good example……a Crimson Rosella, well maybe its got slightly different feather pattern and no blue cheeks, but we’ll call it a Crimson Rosella, photographed behind very fine cage wire.
THE BIRD IS CLINGING TO THE WIRE AND TOO CLOSE.
2. THE BIRD IS FURTHER BACK BUT STILL A BIT TOO CLOSE TO THE WIRE AND I PROBABLY DIDN’T HOLD THE DSLR STILL ENOUGH.
3. THE BIRD IS JUST THE RIGHT DISTANCE AWAY FROM THE CAGE WALL and I MANAGED TO HOLD THE DSLR (with its 9 focal points changed to 1 focal point) VERY STILL. Sometimes you get a haze of funny lines in the background, but it is possible to make the cage wire disappear.
Or better still……..
4. PHOTOGRAPH IT IN THE WILD, LIKE I DID (for the first time ever in my western suburb), BEHIND MY APARTMENT BUILDING WHERE THERE IS A LARGE TREE ON THE EDGE OF FROGS HOLLOW NATURE RESERVE. Image made on the 24th October, this year. I’ve cropped the image and lightened the shadows to make the bird more visible. I was so surprised and excited to see this colourful Rosella near my home I admit I had trouble keeping the camera still and I didn’t have a long telephoto lens at the time.
NOTE: I started going to the zoo in 2012 and over about 3 years of annual membership, I went there about 100 times (going by the dates in my photo library). You only have to visit a minimum of 3 times per year to make Annual Membership worth paying for.
Sometimes I’d go 3 times a week in Melbourne’s hot summers as the temperate rainforest landscaping was so shady and exceptionally cool.
Melbourne’s main Zoo, located in North Melbourne (and easily accessible by tram from the city centre), is open 365 days per year, although from time to time, they do close certain exhibits for maintenance. Sometimes I’d go specifically to do nothing else but practice bird photography in The Great Aviary (where you can walk around on the long boardwalk which criss-crosses the enormous space and get quite close to some of the birds, especially at feeding times).
I might add, on overcast cool days, many of the birds were roosting on branches at the top of the enormous Aviary where it was warmer and quite hard to see, so I’d choose a sunny day if I was visiting in Winter if you’re a Tourist. Secondly, if you specifically want to see the Great Aviary, phone the zoo beforehand and ensure its not closed (on your chosen day) for maintenance.
When I first bought a camera in May 2010 and took up Photography as a hobby, I felt a bit like a fraud sharing images on my Nature Blog from the Zoo’s Great Aviary (located at Melbourne’s main Zoo in North Melbourne). We have 3 zoos, the other 2 are much further away from the city centre in the nearby countryside.
A nature photographer should be sharing images from the wild I thought.
But then I asked myself the question…..why do I blog? What is this blog about? (and I think these are questions you need to ask yourself when you first start blogging on the internet).
The answer was pretty easy. This particular blog is about my Photography hobby and specifically about Nature Photography.
It’s about the nature that surrounds where I live and where I go for walks. Initially, it was about flowers, trees and occasionally insects, but then came birds, beaches, lakes, rivers, parks, gardens and nature reserves.
It’s not about The Wild or Wilderness regions of Australia.
It’s about my own urban ‘backyard’ and its immediate surrounding areas.
It’s about sharing nature through my eyes. The small details are what appeals to me, so you won’t see very much in the way of landscapes or seascapes on this blog. Without a car these days, I can’t get to the unique blue/grey/green-toned mountainous regions which are truly breath-taking in Australia and as diverse as the deserts, rich tropical rainforests, temperate or unique coastal regions.
Australia is one country you should put on your Bucket List I might add.
(e.g.” The Great Ocean Road, on the southern coast in my state of Victoria, is one of the most spectacular drives in the world, stretching 243 kilometers from Torquay to Allansford, just 10 minutes from Warrnambool. It was built by returning soldiers from WW1 between the years of 1919 to 1932 and is the world’s biggest War Memorial”).
…..back to the bird featured in this post……
The Blue-faced Honeyeater (Entomyzon cyanosis), found in the northern and eastern states, is not really found as far south as Melbourne to my knowledge, so I’m happy to share these images from the Zoo’s Great Aviary.
This Honeyeater is a large one and distinctly easy to spot due to the bright to dark blue face and cheeks. It has a prominent white eye (amidst black crown and nape) with prominent black bib and white moustachial streaks joining the white breast. Its back and longish white-tipped tail are a striking golden olive-green. Found in open woodland or any areas with trees in the wild and certainly easy to see up close in the Zoo’s Great Aviary, especially at feeding time.
So I’ve stopped feeling guilty about photographing Australian Birds in enclosed areas to share online, particularly as some of my favourite images in my 2 photo libraries were made at the Zoo.
When I cleared out my whole nature blog and started afresh, my main aim was to set up a better index in the sidebar for both birds and plants (as well as the intermittent news on my apartment balcony garden), but inevitably I’ll also end up with the more dull and less interesting Australian birds.
This Apostlebird (Struthidea cinerea), photographed in Melbourne Zoo’s great aviary, is one of them.
The best way to describe this bird, usually found in more inner regions of eastern Australia, is DULL.
Body dull, lead-grey with a darker eye patch and dark brown wings. Tail long and black, wedge-shaped. Beak, dark grey, robust and almost triangular. Legs short, giving an awkward almost horizontal posture, with the tip of its long tail on the ground.
It flies low, with frequent glides. When feeding it hops, walks and runs actively and is often aggressive.
Not usually seen as far south as Melbourne where I live, but to be honest, I don’t think I could identify it in flight in the wild anyway, as its so similar to many other dark-coloured Australian birds, so was pleased to photograph it standing on a nearby branch at the Zoo.
This white swan is huge and distinctive and you can never miss it on the rare times you might see one in Australia. It’s an introduced bird and now quite scarce, being only found in the wild in the vicinity of Perth in Western Australia. Various people say they’ve seen them in public gardens, or lakes, in my state of Victoria, but I’ll bet they’ve been captured elsewhere and let free in the vicinity, not really a wild bird.
I photographed this lovely specimen swimming around the pond in The Japanese Garden at Melbourne Zoo and found it quite challenging to get some definition in those white feathers which appeared overexposed in the bright sunlight, so had to tweak the mid-tones back and forth in post processing (which I rarely do much of).
They’re normally silent, but do occasionally hiss or grunt – can’t say I’ve ever heard them utter a sound.
The Cattle Egret (Ardea ibis) is large compared to other native birds, but is actually the smallest of the Egrets, and unmistakable in its breeding plumage with long yellow or ginger plumes on its head, neck , back and throat.
It’s frequently found feeding among grazing animals which is probably where the name came from (I presume).
The breeding adult is white, often rather scruffy, with yellowish beak and legs. Cattle Egrets are found in most coastal regions of Australia, not necessarily close to water, although it breeds in trees over water.
These photos were made in Melbourne Zoo’s Great Aviary and the images below gives you some idea of how large this space is.
While Melbourne Zoo, located to the north of the city and easily accessible via tram from William Street, is open 365 days of the year, there is the odd occasion when the Aviary is closed for maintenance, so if you’re visiting to specifically visit the Great Aviary, it might be worth a phone call before you leave home/hotel.
Another hint: Don’t go during the school holidays in Melbourne, as young children have a habit of running down the boardwalk and squealing excitedly, which kind of…… spoils the experience a wee bit…..well it does for me. Not that I have anything against young children enjoying themselves, but I really do think, for the enjoyment of other visitors, parents might try to discourage loud boisterous behaviour in this particular area. There are signs at the Aviary entrance requesting that children don’t run anyway.
I could easily spend 2 hours in the Great Aviary and have done so many, many times over the years.
GREVILLEA is a diverse genus of about 360 species of evergreen flowering plants, native to rainforest and more open habitats in Australia. I believe this variety, which I photographed at Melbourne Zoo, is called GREVILLEA‘Moonlight’ and is one of the most popular (as it flowers all year round). The flower is gorgeous and very attractive to birds, honeyeaters in particular.
I managed to capture a LITTLE WATTLEBIRD(Anthochaera chrysoptera), a large, slim, rather dull Honeyeater, on one of the Zoo bushes, not far from the back entrance/exit.
GREVILLEA ‘Moonlight’ is tough and adaptable and great as a feature plant, but also makes an effective informal screen or hedge.