IN THE PINK – Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

From the archives.

It’s been a while since I’ve taken any flower photos (except the flowers in my potted balcony garden), but there’s always plenty in my archives to fill the gap.

Most of the images below were made in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne and I believe many of the Common and Botanical names are on the images (which helps if you’re a garden lover).  If you see an incorrect name, I would appreciate you letting me know in the comments section.

They were made with a variety of lenses from a 100mm f2.8 macro, to 50mm f1.4 to a borrowed 55-250mm (which takes a really sharp shot I notice) ……to my old favourite 18-200mm lens.

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WE LOVE OUR GARDENS IN MELBOURNE

From the archives…….

Melbourne is known as the Garden capital (city) of Australia and while I don’t usually go out of my way to photograph people and families enjoying the Royal Botanic Gardens, people inevitably appear in my images at various times.  Especially Sundays and Public Holidays when the sun is out, the day is warm and picnic baskets (or rugs) beckon their owners outdoors.

This is a cropped portion of a larger image, but by sheer luck I was able to capture the outline of the girl’s face with the sun reflecting off the white pages of her book. The shot wouldn’t have been half as interesting without it.

I don’t think I’ve shared many of these images before, but they do reflect our love of Public Gardens as a time to read or bask in Solitude, or share with others on social occasions.

 

WHAT HAPPENED TO AUTUMN?………………

Forecast for the rest of Thursday

Summary
Max 13
Showers.
Possible rainfall: 3 to 8 mm
Chance of any rain: 90%

Melbourne area

Cloudy. Very high (90%) chance of showers. The chance of a thunderstorm. Possible hail. Winds west to northwesterly 20 to 30 km/h tending west to southwesterly during the day.

Sun protection not recommended, UV Index predicted to reach 2 [Low]

 

 

POPPY (Papaver) – Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

From the archives – 9th & 22nd November 2010

Another kind of Poppy.   I’m pretty sure these images were made in The Herb Garden, RBG – my favourite location in the whole of the Royal Botanic Gardens and frequented during Melbourne’s long, hot summers with its cool shady seating and fragrant patches of my favourite herbs.

I haven’t been back since I moved from the area about 3 years ago and now, with the constant road construction and tram diversions on the western perimeter due to the new underground rail link, unlikely to re-visit any time in the near future.

Once again, these images were made with a little Canon point & shoot camera, not the Canon DLSR which I acquitted a month later.

Made 9th November, 2010

and later on the 22nd November, 2010…….

CALIFORNIA POPPY (Eschscholzia) – Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

From the archives – 9th November 2010.

I was digging through my archives a short while ago and came across these lovely images made using my first camera purchased in 2010 when I took up Photography as a hobby.  It was a Canon Powershot A3000 IS point & shoot and I was reminded that you don’t have to have expensive camera gear to take a decent photo.

LOOKS LIKE I GOT IT WRONG….

Well, looks like I got it wrong, folks.

The newly revealed left side of the apartment building at the top of the hill is not due West at all.

I thought the removal of the large mobile showroom and sales office, selling off the plan apartments (due to be built opposite mine) would be a revelation of stunning colour at sunset.

NOTE: Melbourne has gorgeous sunsets in Autumn.

Due West (and the dying sun) are definitely on the right hand side of the building (not the left).  The last 2-3 nights, the sun has reflected off the rain clouds with such brilliance, it’s  almost impossible to look in that direction.  It has reflected on the left hand side of my lounge window and into the apartment interior in such a way I’ve had to pull the block-out blinds down early.  It was probably a situation where experts warn about looking directly at the sun – it certainly blew my vision for about 5 minutes after I looked away and gave me quite a scare.

To give you an example, here’s a few images made to try & capture it.   I’ve inserted these images on this Nature Blog as they’re not really colourful enough to go on my Sunset, Sunrise Blog.  The sun was even brighter than my images, but I tried to capture the scene with the intelligent auto setting of my lightweight Sony a6000.  Normally this setting takes 3-4 images when there are extremes in contrast and automatically brackets them together giving surprising, and usually perfect, exposure straight out of the camera.

YUCCA

I’m thoroughly enjoying my break from daily/weekly blogging at the moment, but I have to admit the cameras are ‘gathering dust’ (not really gathering dust as I usually keep them in my camera bag or soft pouches when not in use).

There’s a narrow strip of landscaped area at the top of my steep narrow road where I walk through to catch public transport.

Among the lovely succulents and grasses there are a couple of Yucca plants and I made some photos back on the 28th March and forgot to share them.  One plant was in the shade…..

……and the other…..just caught the late afternoon sun.

Yucca is probably best known as a house plant here, but it does make a spectacular architectural plant for the garden.

Yuccas include around 40 evergreen shrubs and trees, all of which come from hot, dry deserts and plains.  Their sword-like leaves are produced in shades of mid-to dark green or blue-green.  A few have cream or yellow edges.

Towering spikes of bell-shaped, usually white flowers rise above the leaves Summer and Autumn, making a dramatic focal point in a garden or pot.

SWEET BASIL (Ocimum basilicum)

While I’ve had Sweet Basil growing on and off many times in the last 35 years, I’ve always used all the leaves in cooking before it flowers.

My 2 current plants were decimated by caterpillars this past summer and I was all set to throw them in the rubbish bin, but decided to cut all the damaged leaves off (about 97% of the plants) and amazingly, they have recovered and I now have 2 flower heads.

This is the first time in my life, I’ve actually seen Basil flowers outside one of my Herb books.

SWEET BASIL (note: the white smears behind the flower are bird poop on the corrugated wall – I should have moved around a bit to avoid capturing the white smear behind the white flower)

I think I’ve mentioned in a prior post that my balcony garden seems to have a sort of micro-climate (despite the frequent strong, or gale-force, winds that race down my steep short road).

I’ve grown many plants that haven’t survived in other balcony gardens in previous apartments.

BUT……………this past summer has been the worst ever for pests.  It seems as though the bugs and caterpillars like the micro-climate too 😀  This is the first time I’ve ever had dozens of Harlequin Bugs on my herbs and flowers.

Normally it’s the Caterpillars that leave their mark.

For a good example, count how many ‘pillars I picked off plants (in my first balcony garden when I lived near the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne).

This was just one morning’s 20 minute search.

PELARGONIUM ‘Survivor’

I’ve been trying to make a good photo of this Pelargonium flower for months.

The flowers are gorgeous.

A sort of hot pink – almost reddish in some light.  The plant nursery identification tag just says PELARGONIUM Survivor.

Finally captured it 2 nights ago when the Autumn dusk was starting to descend over my apartment balcony and the sun had dipped behind the hill.  If you’re a flower photographer you’ll know how hard it can be to capture the details of some brightly coloured flowers in full sun.  Whether under, or over-exposed, my editing skills have never been able to ‘fix it’.  

Best to leave the dark background and slightly under-expose the shot.

The ‘Survivor’ series resists poor weather, extreme heat and tolerates drought.  These bushy plants have big flowers and mine is just recovering from over-watering or heavy rainfall.  To be honest, I suspect now Autumn is here, I won’t have to water it at all.

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.

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.

 

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).

RIBBON BUSH (Hypoestes aristata)

From the archives – 19th May, 2013

Believe it or not, I remember where I photographed 99% of my old photos.  This one was made about 8 feet from the old Gorilla enclosure at Melbourne Zoo.  Not sure if this lovely flower is still there (all these years later), but you can see why it is called Ribbon Bush by that lovely curling petal on the top right.

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.

THERE’S A CATERPILLAR IN MY GARDEN……….

Post started a couple of weeks ago……

There’s a caterpillar in my garden

and I don’t know what to do.

Should I find a toxic pesticide

or hit it with my shoe?

*

When I saw it on the baby leaf,

I tried hard to grab & ‘quash it.

But the pesky little bugger (note: I don’t normally swear online, only in my garden)

dropped down in to a narrow slit.

*

Now I can’t find any sign

but know it’s in there hiding.

Should I stick around, for a while,

or pretend I’m not really minding.

I know the Cabbage Moth Caterpillar

is on my Tuscan Kale

‘Cause there’s holes and nibbled leaves

and the stalk is deathly pale.

*

If I accidentally ate the slimy squashy thing,

I guess I’d really never know.

‘Cause I chew each mouthful many times

as my Mamma taught me so.

*

I stop and ponder a minute more

but realise nothing matters.

Except to get that pesky ‘pillar off

before it gets much fatter.

*

Maybe I’ll just leave it for a while

and photograph another pest that’s easier to see.

The Harlequin bug on my plastic pot

is running wild and free.

I’d use a Herbal pesticide (we pronounce the ‘H’ in Australia, so it’s ‘a’ not ‘an’)

but can’t remember how to make it.

Maybe it’s on my DVD or in my Gardening Book?

Detergent? Garlic? Chilli? Shake it?

*

There’s a caterpillar in my garden,

but maybe now its gone.

Should I go out and have another look,

or forget it ever was?

*

I really can’t bear the thought,

of my one and only plant

of Tuscan Kale (Brassica oleracea sp.)

dis..a..pearing off the planet.

Tuscan Kale (and friends) BC………….Before Caterpillar

The label says it’s SuperFood

which I need as much as he.

Assuming that the ‘pillar

is a boy (and not a she).

*

Decision made, I go back outdoors

into the hot and blazing sun.

Can’t find a thing on any leaf

so the ‘pillar’s  on the run.

*

I come back indoors and shut the roller blind,

pretending I really don’t give a damn.

Fresh herbs for lunch, but definitely not the Kale,

Lunch is only Tomato…..Parsley….. Eggs & Ham.

PS.  Ok, so there was no ham in my omelette, but nothing else rhymed 🙂 🙂 🙂

***************************

It’s now 2 weeks later

and I really needs some hints.

The ‘pillar holes are everywhere

especially Basil, Sage and Mint.

*

The Bok Choi has a different bug

that leaves creepy crawly lines.

I’ve forgotten what that pest is called

just know that pest is mine.

*

Today’s luncheon omelette was made with

eggs, onion, herbs and Kale.

But be assured the Kale was bought

at last week’s Queen Vic. Market sale.

*

My easy grow Snow Pea seedlings

are finally climbing up.

With fine green threads around the frames

that I’ve made from Bamboo ‘stucks’.

(I never said I could spell).

*

My Italian and English Parsley

are among the very hardy Herbs,

that are free from creepy crawly critters

and don’t require rhyming words.

*

I better upload this WordPress post

before it gets too long

And followers go to sleep,

or break out in raucous song.

*

Perhaps I’ll ask Mr Google

what to use on all those pests.

And finally stop this tedious post

and put the matter to rest.

*

PS I almost forget to mention

my second crop of fruit.

Green Capsicum babes are growing

from the end of green-leafed shoots.

PPS  The Broccoli Patio Baby Bunching

is growing soft leafy greens.

It produces small sweet tasting delicate heads,

of veg. I’ve actually never seen.

PPPS.  I forgot to mention the flowering

of the Rosemarinus officinalis plant.

At least that is free from pests –

‘Pillars, bugs, slugs, worms and ants.

THE END (phew!)

 

 

Hope that keeps you amused until the next WordPress Post.

 

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.

GERALDTON WAX (Chamaelaucium) – Royal Botanic Gardens

From the archives – 2010 & 2012

These evergreen Australian plants are grown for their showy five-petalled flowers.  At least one species, Chamaelaucium uncinatum, is grown commercially for its cut flowers.

Personally, I’ve only ever seen the white or pink variety and were one of the first flowers I ever photographed when I bought a little Canon point & shoot camera and took up Photography as a hobby in May 2010.  There is also a red variety.

The first image was made by a Canon DSLR in 2012 and the last two by the little Canon P & S in 2010.

15th December 2012 – Canon DSLR & 18-200mm lens

6th August 2010 – Canon Powershot A3000 IS

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.

A RAINBOW LORIKEET DROPPED INTO MY GARDEN THIS EVENING……LITERALLY

I heard a loud bang and then…..a body dropped ‘out of the sky’.

I stepped outdoors through the open sliding door to see a (wild) Rainbow Lorikeet laying over my spinach seedlings.  I guess it must have been flying very fast when it hit the glass window, as previous birds flying into the windows at my last apartment were just stunned and soon recovered.

Always sad to see a dead bird, but even more so when it’s a beautiful wild Lorikeet.

 

 

**********

Just watching the International News on TV.

It’s snowing in Rome and London – supposed to get worse by the end of the week as a cold front from Siberia spreads over Europe & the U.K.

Looks very cold in the blizzard conditions in Rome I must say  😮

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.

ONE MORE VIEW……..

I just can’t decide which of the 69 images I made of last night’s sunset to put on my other blog, so here’s one of the best moments of the ever-changing colour.

One of the extraordinary sights was the occasional rain cloud moving from left of the frame to the right by the  high wind speed, every 2-3 minutes.  It was like a video clip on fast-forward.  It was interesting to see clouds move very quickly from left to right, but the sky colour moved from the top of the frame down to the horizon (behind the rain clouds).

My sunset photos nearly always include the same street lamps, tree and house lines in the silhouette, but that’s the best view of the sky from my apartment balcony.

 

A SUNSET’S NEVER OVER UNTIL THE SKY TURNS BLACK

Earlier this evening, 3 times I came back inside and put the lens cap on the camera, sat on my swivel desk chair to face the TV and 3 times I took it off and went back outdoors to capture some more colour.

Beginning to end lasted 31 minutes (well, from when I realised Melbourne was in for a spectacular sunset tonight and stepped outdoors on to my balcony with my DSLR).

I’ll look at the 69 images I shot tomorrow morning to decide what to share on my Sunrise/Sunset Blog, but in the meantime…….

This is the view from my lounge room on the second-last step indoors.

……and this is when I knew it was finally over.

Stay tuned if you follow my Sunrise, Sunset (and clouds that come in between) Blog.

SHEER BLISS………….

Sheer Bliss is a lovely cool day with lots of rain (so I don’t have to water my balcony garden).

Note:  the UV Index is extreme from 9.20am to 5.30pm (in the weather forecast below) though.

I woke several times during the night to the sound of rain softly falling, but my bedroom was still a little too warm for comfort.  Yesterday, I managed to get home from my appointment on the other side of the city just as a few drops of rain started to fall (and it rained the rest of the afternoon), but rivulets of perspiration were running dow my face from the humidity (as much as the heat).

Today is Sheer Bliss –  (I think I already told you that) 🙂

Some folk might even call the day ‘cold’.

The rest of the week is going to be in the low 20s C also.

From my archives 2nd August 2010

Forecast for the rest of Tuesday

Summary
Max 20
Morning rain.
Possible rainfall: 10 to 20 mm
Chance of any rain: 95%

Melbourne area

Cloudy morning. Very high (95%) chance of rain, contracting east and clearing during the morning. Slight (20%) chance of a shower during the afternoon and evening with partly cloudy conditions. Winds southerly 25 to 40 km/h.

Fire Danger – High

Sun protection recommended from 9:20 am to 5:30 pm, UV Index predicted to reach 12 [Extreme]

IF………….

If Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus, Computers must be from another Galaxy.

I have to relate this story, even though it’s nothing to do with Nature, because it’s so weird as to be classed as UNBELIEVABLE!  It’s a long post, so give it a miss if you wish, but there are a few bird shots at the end……so read on…. or scroll through to this morning’s avian visitors.

The story goes…………and long-time followers already know of my computer idiosyncracies.  This story is for the benefit of new followers.

After constantly running out of my old monthly 8 GB internet allowance last year, I rang my service provider back at the beginning of September and after some discussion, they said I was on an old plan and they now had a better one for me.

Nearly double the monthly allowance ie. 15GB…. and….. $10 less per month.

Sounds good to me” I said and instantly signed up.

Fast forward….. and constant hiccups with my internet connection dropping out, together with a few other software issues, forced me to take my Mac Pro to the local Apple Store around the end of October, who later set me up with a new Wi-Fi connection (not the connection address set up on my new internet plan by my service provider).  I don’t understand these things.  I gave the Apple ‘Genius’, (aka Nerd), the proper connection address, but he invented a new one.

Worked for a while.

More problems, but I managed to restore the connection over Christmas via my back up hard drive, when I didn’t have time to take my computer back to the Apple Store.  This meant my back-up hard drive had to be connected by a USB cable instead of operating remotely on the other side of the lounge room.  Seemed to work pretty well over Christmas and New Year, but I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT COMPUTER TECHNOLOGY.   I DON’T REMEMBER WHAT I ACTUALLY DID or, more importantly, WHY IT WORKED.

Then, I kept losing my connection continuously in the last week or two, so I figured it was time to go back to the Apple Store and get it fixed properly.   I find it easier to converse with Nerds face-to-face and  I’m a bit deaf in one ear to handle long phone conversations with Apple Support Staff from home.  Yesterday, I finally lucked out and couldn’t get on to the internet at all at one stage.  By that time my anxiety levels had reached new heights.  My Blood Pressure went into ‘meltdown’ mode.

Then my brother and his wife dropped in on the way home from their country day-trip and I had to solidity the meltdown and carry a normal conversation for an hour or so.

This morning I was woken by my ‘security doorbell’ buzzing.

Duh!

No one there.

I finally got up and made my usual morning coffee and turned the computer on.

MAGIC.

My computer is back to what it was on 1st September 2017 when I got a new Dongle and internet package.

I pulled the Apple ‘Time Machine’ back-up drive USB cable out and logged off.

I turned the computer back on again.

A MIRACLE!

The computer still connected to the correct Wi-Fi address from the 1st September 2017, as per my Service Provider set-up – not the Apple Store Connection address of the last 3 months.

So can anyone tell me what happened overnight?  Why did the Apple store Wi-Fi connection work for 3 months and today, it’s reverted to the Service Provider’s initial connection address all on its own?

Did the mysterious Doorbell ring this morning come from the Heavens to wake me up and tell me ‘they’d’ fixed my computer for me?

Let’s see how long this connection lasts, is my only answer.

*******************

In the meantime, this morning, (nearly midday actually), is one of those magical days when the birds are singing their heartiest songs and the wind has died down to a faint whisper.  The temperature was starting to climb before this weekend’s next HEATWAVE.

I listen carefully to decide which bird species is in the bush in front of my balcony.

Is it a finch…….a wren……..or a common old House Sparrow?  Bit hard to tell with the tree in full Summer Dress and some deep shadows.

The bird calls are very mixed this morning and I could hear a couple of new sounds.

My Nature’s ear and my Photographer’s eye were working in unison.

I picked up the DSLR and long lens beside me and carefully aimed through the foliage.  I couldn’t tell what it was as it had its back to me.

After I downloaded the shot all I got was a House Sparrow.

How ordinary I thought.

I kept listening very carefully as I typed this post.

Then I see the faint shape of a Honeyeater’s curved beak peak out from behind a thick bunch of leaves.

I had the camera ready and picked it up to zoom in and……..low and behold, it was a New Holland Honeyeater.  Haven’t see one for while.  I pressed the shutter button….. too late……. and missed the shot, but here’s a few images I made of this beautifully plumed honeyeater in Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve, (behind my apartment building), when I first moved to the area.  I had missed the shot as the shutter speed was far too low.  With both bright sunlight in the background and shade in the foreground I tried to gauge which settings might work for both light conditions.  Maybe I should have just changed the setting to Intelligent Auto 🙂

This is one time when my Foggy Brain could be a nuisance.

***********

I’ve got dressed and come out to check up on the computer connection again.  I switched the Mac Pro off.  Then on.  It was still connecting correctly.

Suddenly out of the corner of my eye I see a movement (and this is why you always have your desk and computer set up in front of a window, so that all corners of both eyes catch every movement happening outdoors, as well as the task of typing via your central gaze).

It was a female Splendid Fairy-wren.  I didn’t have time to see what the DSLR settings were.  I quickly pressed the shutter button and just caught this young female Wren within the frame.

The tiny bird quickly flew away (after finding no bird seed).

Lucky shot.

A glance to my upper right revealed a House Sparrow surveying the scene (from the divider which separates my balcony from the one next door).

Then, intent of disconnecting the USB cable from my DSLR to my laptop, I sensed a larger fluttering of wings and looked up to see a Spotted Turtle-dove land on the fence rail.

Then another.

You’ve never seen me move so fast.

Both Doves proceeded to inspect my whole balcony (including the empty plant trough attached to the balcony rail which I’d put some bird seed in last year.  It was now washed out and cleaned ready for Autumn planting.  I’d run out of potting soil, so it has remained empty for some months.

So now I’m left with a scattering of bird seed over half the balcony floor……which will attract every bird once the grapevine works its magic…….and tonight I’ll have a whole new load of bird poop to clean up.

I only cleaned all the tiles last week 😀

THE GOLDEN HOUR – MARIBYRNONG RIVER

I only had time for a very quick walk last night (and my absence meant the balcony garden didn’t get much of a watering).  Sometimes the watering chore becomes rather tedious when late afternoon/early evening is the best time for a walk.

Setting off from home at 7.45pm Daylight Savings Time meant that I captured the Golden Hour for the first half of my walk downriver.  In fact, it was like Peak Hour on the river walking/cycling/running track with many people waiting for the cooler end of the day to go out.

(Today has dawned much cooler which is just as well for my garden – might be good for another short walk tonight before the next heat wave hits Melbourne on Friday).

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.

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 😀

ILLAWARRA FLAME TREE (Brachychiton acerifolius) – ROYAL BOTANIC GARDENS, MELBOURNE

From the Archives – 15th December 2012

I just came across the Illawarra Flame Tree in my archives and realised that it would be in bloom at the moment and right through to the end of February (at least) since my last image had a February date on it).

 

AFTER THE STORM WAS OVER

It was hot, humid and downright unpleasant today – 37C (or 100F), hotter than yesterday……….. and when the cool change arrived at about 5.00pm, it was most welcome.

The TV news spoke of storms and gale force winds to the north of Melbourne, but I saw only a few large spots of rain on the balcony.

Then the sky went dark, the heavens opened and the heavy rain began.

After the storm was over, I was thankful not to have to water my garden 🙂

I made a closer inspection of the garden and was pleased to see a few new babies – capsicums I believe.

Maybe a few blueberries.

…..and I’ve already eaten 4 luscious red tomatoes off my plants.

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.

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).

SPRING & SUMMER (without the rain) in Melbourne

Normally, Spring and Summer in Melbourne is a great time of year to spend in the Royal Botanic Gardens.

I’m an expert on the subject having walked around its many paths something like 8-10,000 times over a 30 years period, but mainly since I lived and worked next to the Gardens for over 16 years and walked through, or around the 38 hectare site, 3 times per day (most of the year -even in the rain sometimes).

I’ve woken up to rain again this morning here in Frogs Hollow, but I thought you might like to see what people do on their weekend or public holidays when it’s not raining around this time of year in the RBG.

Actually, these images are from various times of the year to be honest.

These images are made with various cameras and lenses and exposures.

  1. Feeding the ducks

2. Snuggling up close with a couple of friends – I think this might have been in winter actually.

3. Watching the world go by with a friend or……. just….on your own.

4. Enjoying the shade on the Oak Lawn.

5. Reading the Sunday paper at the north-western lower end of the gardens.

6. This looks like winter, but the sun is still out down at the south-eastern end of the large Ornamental Lake.

7.  The Herb Garden – which used to be one of my favourite places to sit on a hot summer’s day, reading a book and taking in the wonderful perfume of all those different herbs.  The 3-4 seats are not shown in the image below, but 2 of them are in complete shade all day and with the constant breeze, can be very cool mid-summer.

8.  Sun-baking on a Sunday afternoon.

9.  Just taking in the view with a friend.

10.  Having a family picnic on Melbourne Cup Day (horse race on the first Tuesday in November each year, when we have a public holiday).  I was on a tram on Cup Day this year and heard a tourist say…..”Fancy having a public holiday to watch a horse race.”

11.  Snuggling up to a loved one.

12. Another public holiday picnic on the Oak Lawn.  This area is in very dark shade most days so it looks like I’ve lightened the exposure for this shot.

13.  Families enjoying the view from high up on the south-western hill overlooking the large Ornamental Lake on Cup Day in November.

14.  Lying on one of many jetties listening to the Bell Minors sing their distinctive song in this part of the Gardens.  4.30pm is the best time of day to walk through here and you’re sure to get some bird photos on the lower tree branches

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15. Late Sunday afternoon.

16.  ……and finally, one of the first images I shot of the Perennial Border ‘groomed’ to be at its best in early January of each year.

If you’re a tourist in Melbourne at the moment, I’m really sorry it’s been raining too much to go outdoors this past weekend.

WE NORMALLY DO HAVE SUNNY DAYS AT THIS TIME OF YEAR  🙂

NYMPHAEA LAKE – Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

There’s some lovely examples of Crepe Myrtle trees in the Royal Botanic Gardens.  I photographed this one 16th March, 2012 next to Nymphaea Lake (the smaller of the 2 lakes in our Royal Botanic Gardens).

As the gardeners had placed a wooden bench under its shady branches in summer, it was a great place to sit and read (or watch the bird life) on a hot summer’s day.

At the height of its summer flowering, it would spread right over Nymphaea Lake and offer some deep shade for the ducks, (or even Cormorants, Black Swans, Pacific Black Ducks, Dusky Moorhens, Purple Swamphens or Chestnut Teals), who frequented the area.

Reflections of the Crepe Myrtle hanging over Nymphaea Lake.
Australian Wood Duck (female on L, male on R)

WATER LILY (Nymphaea)

Today, at 35 degrees, is far to hot for me outdoors in my current home as there is little shade along much of the Maribyrnong River near Frogs Hollow where I live.

The small lake was quite close to the south-eastern entrance of the Gardens and a brisk 5 minute walk to the Garden entrance gate (from my front door) and another 2-3 minutes to walk down to the Lake.

WATER LILY (Nymphaea)

Occasionally, I would even take my tripod over to this area to get some sharper focus on the Water Lily flowers.

It was a bit windy in this area, but then, its windy everywhere in Melbourne in my experience. I used to walk along the nearby path on the way to work back in my working days (BC = Before Camera) and on the southern side I would occasionally see what looked like a water-rat of some kind, sitting on some flattened leaves on its hind legs daintily nibbling some food it had foraged.

The first time I saw it, I was so enchanted and amazed, that I felt like I was in a Beatrix Potter storybook.  I’d never seen one of these little water creatures before (or since).

Eventually with the start of the Wetlands Project, many of the old reeds disappeared to be replaced by man-made islands and new reed beds.  In fact, with the success of the various Wetlands created in the Botanic Gardens, the bird life and turtles nesting have almost disappeared among the high water reeds and grassy banks.  Good for the bird life, but a shame for me as an enthusiastic new bird photographer.

The rocks on the southern edge of this small lake were the best places to find Dragonflies around February each year too.  In fact, the 3 images below are among my first attempts at photographing a Dragonfly.

WARATAH (Telopea) – Melbourne Zoo Landscaping

From the Archives – 15th October 2013.

Waratahs are evergreen shrubs or trees that are densely foliated and the large red flowers are among Australia’s best known wildflowers.

The one in this post was photographed at Melbourne Zoo near the enormous lion enclosure.

This particular enclosure is/was? massive, (might have changed since I was there a couple of years ago), and has a high fenced boardwalk going over the top, so no matter where the lions are (outdoors), you get a great view of them.

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I’ve even managed to photograph the animals through the tough chain wire fence.  If you do enough photography practice getting one focal point through tiny wire netting and cages, I can assure you it’s relatively easy.

HAVE I GOT A ‘GREEN THUMB’ ?

Perhaps not, but  I have got some green tomatoes on the 3 “Patio” Tomato plants on my west-facing apartment balcony.

I couldn’t count them all, but I figure I’ve got somewhere between 50 -60 fruit at the moment.

I just hope they don’t all ripen at once !  😮

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……and it looks like I’ve got some baby Capsicums too.  I’ve never grown Capsicums (red peppers) before, so I’m not quite sure what their babies look like.

It’s been hot, humid and sticky in Melbourne in the last couple of weeks, with more than a few thunderstorms threatening (depending on what suburb you live in), although I did miss the flooded streets in Melbourne one day last week.

I’ve been mostly housebound (hence no new photos).

The thunderstorm you have when you’re not having a Thunderstorm!

I’d just finished watering the potted plants on my balcony tonight when the skies suddenly got darker and a thunderstorm threatened the western suburbs (of Melbourne).

7.45pm 24th November 2017

7.48pm 24th November 2017

Five minutes later, the sky colour changed to mauve and plum colours.

7.53pm 24th November 2017

My windows got a few rain drops and the ground was damp, but that’s about all that happened earlier tonight.

Maybe it’ll rain overnight? 🙂

The cool change is coming Sunday I think.

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.

 

Spring in Footscray Park

The second half of my walk last week, (after Newells Paddock Nature Reserve and the pink Rounded Noon-flowers), was through part of Footscray Park.  I walked from the back riverside entrance uphill to the front entrance in order to catch a bus home.

Wikipedia says……..Footscray Park is one of the largest and most intact examples of an Edwardian park in Australia. The 15-hectare park is located on the south bank of the Maribyrnong River in Footscrayin Victoria. It is classified as a heritage place on the Victorian Heritage Register for its aesthetic, horticultural and social significance to the State of Victoria and was the first gardens to be placed on the register. The park is noted for its botanical collection, ornamental ponds and garden structures.

The display of Peruvian Lilies near the front entrance was quite striking.

Last week there were many flowers that had wilted, (Rhododendrons in particular), OR were still in bud, so another visit is needed I think.  Next weekend, and maybe the following weekend, should be about right.  Many of the flowers need some more time to mature.  We’ve had strong winds and a few harsh storms so maybe that why the fragile Rhododendron flowers looked so forlorn.  I saw a pale soft pink one and a bright pink one that had survived.

There were only 2 very young Canna lily flowers just starting to open last week.

The colourful display of Alstroemeria, or Peruvian lilies, near the front gates seemed to last much longer.  They flower from Spring through Summer to Autumn.  I’ve never been there in Winter so I don’t know if they flower then. Being low ground cover, they would have survived the wind and storms far better too.

I had the use of a Sony 35mm f1.8 prime lens for a couple of weeks last Autumn and to be honest, I felt my flower images were far better at that time.  Perhaps it was the overcast skies in Autumn.  Bright summer sun is usually unkind to most red, yellow or white flower petals.

I always say it’s the Photographer than makes the images, but when it comes to flower photography, good light (preferably slightly overcast in Australia as our Summer sun is too bright when I go for my nature walks early afternoon) AND a good sharp prime lens makes a big difference (as you can see in the older images below).

In general I prefer to get up close and just capture a few flowers within the frame, instead of a whole bush, but occasionally, photographing the leaves and whole bush can make identification easier.  In these days of digital photography it’s probably better to make a 7-8 images of each flower from all angles and chose a favourite image to share on reviewing the day’s shooting.

There’s a lovely small pond down in the lower part of Footscray Park surrounded by thick shrubs, near the Maribyrnong River, which certainly needs many more visits to try and work out how to photograph it.  I didn’t visit it last week as I was heading for the bus stop via the Park, not spending the whole afternoon in the Park.

It’s hard to access with the surrounding foliage blocking some of the pond bank when I first saw it last Autumn.

I couldn’t get close enough to the water lilies at the time so used my long telephoto 150-500 lens to get a close up of a water lily flower.  I didn’t have a tripod on the day either.  It would be interesting to see if there are any pink water lilies in this small pond or just pale lemon (as seen below).

More images from Newells Paddock Nature Reserve

As I’d planned on photographing flowers yesterday, I didn’t take my heavy long telephoto lens to do any bird photography…….and consequently missed out on some great bird shots.

The following image of a New Holland Honeyeater would have been quite a good shot if I’d had the 150-500 lens with me.