JUST ANOTHER SUNSET IN MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA

To see some more of last night’s sunset, drop over to my other blog Sunrise, Sunset (and clouds that come in between).

Advertisements

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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 !  😮

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

……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.

A couple of images (below) show all the landscaping and planting in the newer Conservation area near the train line made by either the local Council OR The Friends of Newells Paddock.

When complete, far into the future, this Nature Reserve will be an oasis amidst the inner western urban area of Melbourne.  Even now, its worth walking through.

This Conservation area will also join up with the whole 400+ hectares of green belt along the Maribyrnong River right up to where I live next to Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve and further on.

I love the way Melbourne and its suburbs are restoring the original wetlands and bush areas back to what it was before white settlement in the early 1800s in the many wastelands or empty residential blocks.

You may see lots of apartment building construction sites along the many rivers, but they are balanced with green spaces wherever possible.

I did photograph some of the grasses in the area and then (for the first time) walked up the raised area via the proper gravel path to see over the multitude of aqua/green plastic tents protecting newly planted young seedlings.

Normally I cut straight across the area near the pond to photograph the water birds.

The ominous looking clouds passed by quickly and the sun came out just as I exited the back entrance to the Reserve to walk along the river path.

After I walked out the back entrance, I used the Maribyrnong River walking/cycling path to get to Footscray Park and a multitude of Spring flowers, but that will be another post (when I get around to reviewing and choosing some images from the many I shot yesterday afternoon).

 

 

JAWBONE FLORA AND FAUNA RESERVE (and Marine Sanctuary) – WILLIAMSTOWN

Yesterday was one of those days when you’re not quite sure if its going to be bright/sunny, rain, storm or just plain…..windy (like it is 360 days of the year in Melbourne).

Actually, the wind wasn’t too bad at all.

I even captured an Australian Pelican in flight – a first for me.
A distant Australian Pelican spreads its wings

I set off around midday with only one Canon DSLR & short (17-50mm) lens for potential flower photography and my Sony ‘mirrorless’ and 55-210mm lens for some ‘close-up’ bird photography.

After seeing some of those gorgeous pink/mauve coloured flowers along the Maribyrnong River last week, I was sure to see a bed of these succulent flowers in the Flora reserve on yesterday’s walk (I thought).

The heavy long ‘birding’ telephoto 150-500mm lens stayed at home.

I had this idea of doing the full coastal walk from the bus stop near Williamstown beach (lower right hand corner of the map) right up to the Koroit Creek (upper left hand corner of the map), along the Lakes system on the coast.  I planned to walk right next to the lake bank wherever possible, maybe explore the Flora on the strip of land between the Lakes System and Port Phillip Bay and then cut down a side residential road to where I hoped to pick up a bus (#415) back to the regular bus route (#472) heading towards home.

The dotted line marks my route along yesterday’s walk. Not that far as the crow flies, but as I stop regularly to take photos, the walk lengthens in duration accordingly

As it turned out, overcast conditions and ominous cloud cover spread over the sky about 75% along the walk and I decided to call it quits for the day (and finish the coastal walk another time).  I’m thinking that now I know the #415 bus goes all the way along the main road (top of map), next visit I’ll start from the top left point, heading south-east down to Williamstown beach (and hot Fish-n-Chips afternoon tea) and  have the sun behind me for better images ……(I hope).

Two-thirds of the way along yesterday’s walk, when I wanted to cross over to the reserve area between the lakes and Port Phillip Bay, I was brought to an abrupt (and disappointing) halt due to a locked chain-wire gate and fencing.

So I ended up just walking along the lake bank (with most of the flora and bird-life out of range).

Here you can see 3 Pied (or Little Pied) Cormorants on rocks at the edge of the island in one of the lakes. Far into the distance you can see the industrial area of Altona.
This was the closest I got to bird life with a group of Silver Gulls washing their feathers on the lake bank.
As you can see from this image, I didn’t have a hope of capturing much of the bird life on the islands due to the distance (and no long telephoto lens).

Still, it was a very enjoyable afternoon and a fine break from putting my Mother’s 30 years of family history research on to the computer.

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

At the moment, I’m slowly working my way through transferring the whaling diary of my Great Great Grandfather’s brother (which is absolutely fascinating), on to the computer.  But its slow work as the Auto Spell-check keeps changing the words I’m typing into modern spelling OR, a completely un-related word, (when the auto spell-check can’t understand the old fashioned term).  I’ve only typed 6 pages (out of 57 foolscap-sized ones and set up a private Website for family so far) and can see I’ll have to re-read my typing many times to ensure I have captured  the original story with all its quirky expressions and old-fashioned manner of speech.

I’m sure you can appreciate how my new(ish) Hobby of transferring this work to computer is going to take some time over the next year.  Inserting maps, photos and images of the 1800s which my Mother collected will also add to the task.  One lever arch file 3″ thick with notes, research and typing will take me quite some time to transcribe.

But, I’m sure it will be worth it, when the whole family and extended family has the opportunity to read My Mother’s Story (which she spent 30 years researching and writing).

 

Another shade of Red

I passed this gorgeous red flowering bush near the end of my walk yesterday.

I haven’t got the slightest clue what it is, but I love the way the flower splits into feathery fronds.  It looks like an Australian native, but I’m only guessing, as many of the plants in the formal landscaping on the western side of the Maribyrnong River are native grasses, so I imagine that the flowering bushes are too.

If anyone knows what it is, please let me know in the comments section so I can update this post.

RED WATTLEBIRD (Anthochaera carunculata) – Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve

The image below was a lucky shot on yesterday’s walk.  Most of the birds I saw – cormorants, grebes, ducks and moorhens were too far away for my Sony ‘mirrorless’.  I didn’t take my long 150-500 lens with me as I was going to the Pharmacy and Supermarket (the long route).

I didn’t go in to Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve, but made the image (above) from the gravel path which goes from my apartment block down to the river.  With the sky overcast, there wasn’t that much light looking north-west and to he honest, I’m surprised the bird shot came out at all.

I am standing on the 6-7 foot high raised gravel path looking over the chain-wire fence into Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve in this shot (above).  As you can see by the sky and water colour, there was not a lot of light for photography.  Lovely cool wind and from time to time, the sun peeped from behind the cloud cover as though it was afraid to come out in full (to make my walk too hot).

I’ve missed some lovely sunny days recently as I had stayed home to start my new project – putting my Mother’s family history research onto the computer for family and extended family to read.  I’ve been meaning to start this project for about 3-4 years and finally………..got it going.  It’ll be a new hobby for the days I’m stuck at home through either, inclement weather, or, when my back pain levels keep me housebound.

Just got to take regular breaks at the moment, as continually hitting the space bar on my keyboard with my injured thumb inevitably makes it sore after a while.

Yesterday, it was not supposed to rain until evening, but I was chased by ominous looking cloud cover as I slowly walked down-river (towards the south?).

I saw lots of lovely pink flowers on the succulents that grow next to the rocky river banks in this area, so I’m keen to go back to Newells Paddock Nature Reserve (located further down-river) on the next sunny day to see if the whole pond surrounds are covered in pink flowers.

I can’t quite remember if the ground cover at Newells Paddock was the same succulent that is growing along my area of the Maribyrnong River though.

Here’s a repeat of the Newells Paddock Nature Reserve and Conservationa Area to remind you of which Nature Reserve I’m referring to.  All that bright green colour in the images below are spongy succulents  The whole half of the second- last image (with the dead tree trunk) is 2-3″ deep.  Wouldn’t it be a wonderful sight if it was all in flower 🙂

Rain most of today according to the forecast so it looks like a stay-at-home day.

RED-FLOWERING GUM (Corymbia ficifolia) – beside the Maribyrnong River

I’d barely walked past Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve on to the Maribyrnong river path when I spotted this Red-flowering Gum in the middle of a calf-high grass field this afternoon.  I believe its Corymbia ficifolia (originally called Eucalyptus ficifolia).

Feel free to correct me in the comments section if I’m wrong.  I know nothing about indigenous flora.

If it is this species, the one I saw was a baby at about 7-8 foot high, as it can grown up to 10 metres (or about 30+ feet).  It was gorgeous, even from some distance away when I made this first photo with my long 150-500mm lens.

With the same camera lens, I got a bit closer, but there were so many flowers, I couldn’t isolate one particular one.  I suppose I could have cut off some surrounding foliage, but that’s not my thing to do when walking in nature.

I prefer to see images of the real plant with no disturbance of its natural habitat if possible.

This red-flowering eucalypt is often used as a street plant in residential areas due to the profusion of flowers, but this specimen was definitely the most colourful I’d ever seen.

I stretched what is essentially a 30 minute walk to Maribyrnong Wetlands into a 2 hour stroll, (slower than snail pace), in the Spring sunshine.  But was glad of my light windproof jacket as the breeze was cool, despite the heat of the sun.

Some more images of that beautiful Wisteria in Pipemakers Park

I think this might be Wisteria ‘Caroline’ (Japanese Wisteria), but I am only guessing.

I had a dream the other night

When all was quiet and still

I dreamt of flowing masses

Wisteria on my window sill

Nature blessed my tranquil hours 

With curling, tangled vines

She sent the fragrant blossoms o’er

To fill the long dark hours.

Next morning I awoke refreshed

With lingering visions from the past

Of last week’s images photographed

From within Pipemakers Park.

AUSTRAL INDIGO (Indigofera australis) – Pipemakers Park, Maribyrnong

Success!

(well, sort of).

I’ve tried to photograph this gorgeous small pink native flower half a dozen times, but the fine straggly branches bend and sway in the slightest breeze.  I finally identified its correct name from a fellow blogger’s site the other week though.

Austral Indigo is a slender shrub of the Pea family found in all states of Australia, varying in size, habit and colour.  I’ve seen this flower in the north-western end of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne and it was obviously pruned and more compact than the straggly 3-4 bushes in Pipemakers Park near my home.  As its name suggests, the leaves can also be used as a dye.

I’ve tried high shutter speeds, high ISO (well, up to 800), apertures from 3.5 right up to 11.0, but being in mostly shade this is the best I can do so it seems.

NOTE: Bruising and swelling has gone down on my injured thumb, but the more I ‘cup’ or ‘curve’ it, the more it hurts, but at least I can use my homeopathic Arnica Cream more now it’s not in a ridiculous cast and swathed in bandages up to my elbow.  Seriously, the herb Arnica, is the best thing since ‘sliced bread’ when it comes to injuries, sprains, bruises etc.  It also helps with pain.  

The 2nd (more senior?) emergency physician I saw the other day said the cast was definitely ‘overkill’ and they took it off and re-Xrayed my thumb and all other digits.  As an aside, apparently I have quite a large bony ossicle on/near my second thumb joint right where I hold my cameras and this is now hurting more than the upper bone which was directly hit.   In turn my wrist is also ‘playing up.’  

Grrrrr! 

I can’t use scissors or computer mouse easily, but can type for about 20 mins and then it gets sore.  

So I’ll press on with blogging regardless…………….albeit at a much slower pace.  I seem to remember when I broke a small (non-weight bearing) bone in my elbow, the head of the fracture clinic at the local hospital said light use encourages blood flow and helps with healing in these small hairline fractures, (or something like that).

I think it’ll be some time before I can use my heavy long ‘birding’ 150-500mm lens, but I’ve been having a bit of trouble holding the weight before now anyway.  It doesn’t take much to set off a new series of pain locations for days/weeks/months, (or even years), when you have Fibromyalgia.

LADY BANKS’ ROSE (Rosa banksiae ‘lutea’ ) – PIPEMAKERS PARK

This vine-covered arbor was just stunning in Pipemakers Park.

UPDATE: Thanks to Susan in the comments section who kindly identified this beautiful climbing rose for me.  I’ve now updated the heading and my own photo library.

This vigorous climber also comes in white – Rosa banksiae ‘alba’.

TASK #1 – Balcony Garden

Spring never ceases to amaze me.

One day there are buds on the branches, then the tiny feathery fronds of foliage appear and next minute………………..a young tree full of leaves a couple of weeks later.

My little friend Mr House Sparrow and I looked over the scene today and agreed…..Spring really is the best time of the year.

I beckoned him to come down to look over the last couple of days of hard work I’d put in.  (Not really days per se, afternoons are about as much as I can manage when it comes to re-potting and bending over with a bad back).

A quick drink and then he turned around to see what he could see.
Mr House Sparrow agreed that the sore lower back I earned from my Spring gardening work on my apartment balcony was well worth the effort.  He surveyed my finished and re-configured garden late this afternoon.

Note: none of these plants need staking, but with our ongoing fierce winds in Melbourne in the past few months, I figure I may as well put the bamboo stakes in now and tie the trunks loosely just in case of another gale.

 

Spring! Spring! SPRING!!!!!

Yes, I thought the Title would get your attention.

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

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

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

I almost…….got……hot 🙂

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

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

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

BACK TO WINTER

After my lovely walk last Sunday, its been pretty much back to the gusty, cold winds and the overcast skies of Winter this week.  I had to go through the city centre on Tuesday to another medical appointment (via taxi this time), but generally, its been too cold (for me) to go outdoors.

My life is based on health and weather.  These 2 subjects shape my Photography Life.

This morning I scanned next week’s forecast and can see Sunday and Wednesday have good forecasts, with Tuesday and Thursday minimal rain, so looks like some more good walking/photography weather might, JUST MIGHT, be a possibility.

It’s the infinite possibilities that make each day in retirement a joy.  You just never know how a day is going to ‘pan out’.  I love the Freedom of (early) retirement and while I sometimes complain about a bad pain day, the reality is, at least I can do nothing on that day and take in a good DVD documentary or book or just watch the House Sparrows on my balcony fence. (or the %#$@! household chores), with a good cup of herbal tea by my side.

Even watching the rat on my side fence (or birdseed stand) in my old ground floor apartment next to the Royal Botanic Gardens had some entertainment value for me.

Of course there was Peter the Possum that kept me entertained around Midnight every night back in those days living on the south-east side of Melbourne and became the subject of many a Google Blog post back in 2010 when I first bought a small point and shoot camera.

Peter the Possum – a regular visitor to my side fence about 4 feet from my balcony.

In the meantime I’d like to share these amazing cloud formations from late last Sunday afternoon (after I arrived home).  While I don’t get the spectacular 180 degree views of the sky as I did in my previous apartment on the north-east side of Melbourne, I still sometimes get some interesting cloud cover.  I’ve learned to appreciate Nature in all it’s forms – good, bad and downright ugly and clouds that float by are a favourite subject of mine as they are never the same.

GOOD MORNING LITTLE SPARROW

I love the way the sparrows stop by each day to quench their thirst via my blue water bowl.  Occasionally I take this down, wash it out and put some bird seed in it.  For the first 5-6 months since I moved to this area, the female sparrows wouldn’t come near the dish, but now they do.

I made the photo of a male House Sparrow (above) yesterday as I’ve already packed my cameras for today’s walk and photography outing.

I had the good fortune to be actually looking out the window as the tiniest bird I’ve ever seen flew around my balcony garden and landed briefly on the rim of my pink daisy pot. I’ve never seen it before and it was possibly a juvenile finch or tiny wren of some kind.  It flew very fast and I have to admit it didn’t stay still long enough to even see if it had a long tail like the Splendid Fairy-wrens that frequent the area.  I put my hand down to unzip my camera bag (sitting on the floor) and when I looked up it was gone.

Hopefully it will return for a closer inspection.

 

A SIMPLE LIFE

For those of you who have followed this blog for some time, you will know I lead a simple life in retirement (from full-time office work).  I eat, sleep and do what most people would consider ‘a lazy life of nothing much in particular.’  The truth of the matter is that my life is filled with Mindful attention to every small detail, especially Nature.

From my desk each morning, I notice each new leaf or avian visitor to my apartment balcony garden.  I hear the many calls of nature from the variety of bird life in the area to the whistling and howling of the wind in the treetops (let alone down my steep laneway and through my balcony garden).

The occasional Magpie or Crow flies overhead scattering the House Sparrows, Honeyeaters and tiny Finches which call this area home.

A dog is barking endlessly up on the main street.  Being the weekend, I hear an occasional car in the background, but it’s the wind and bird life which is prominent.

Living next to Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve is a precious gift, let alone the nearby parkland and Maribyrnong River, which winds its way gently through the remaining suburbs out into Port Phillip Bay, with Melbourne city at its northern tip.

A lone aeroplane flies over my airspace heading towards Melbourne’s main airport which is located only a few miles away.  It’s not loud and intrusive, merely a faint back ground noise (if you choose to listen for its passing).

About 15 minutes ago, the wind dropped and there was not a leaf stirring.  The Sage has grown about 5 inches in the last 2 weeks.  It seems like yesterday it had died down to ragged brown remnants and looked almost dead.  The various Mint bushes, which I’d cut down to 1/2″ stubble at the beginning of winter have grown about 6″ in 7 days.

Seriously – the growth rate in the last 7-14 days is mind-blowing with all this rain and intermittent sunshine (struggling to gain a space in the sky).

The Cherry blossom trees may not have their full load of flowers on the main street, but they’re well on the way now.

My English parsley which I’d thinned out by half, has grown back it’s 50% haircut and is so lush and green that it begs to be cut and eaten at nearly every meal.

Image made through the rain yesterday from my warm lounge interior, hence the bookcase reflection. I don’t have a polarizing lens for my Sony a6000 (which would reduce this).

I think it timely to have some more images from my archives from around this time of Spring, over a period of several years……mainly when I lived on the south-eastern side of the city next to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne.

In between rain showers yesterday I went out to stake and tie up the Rosemary which the strong gusty, (read gale force), wind had almost split in half.

Did I tell you Melbourne has had very strong winds recently 🙂

………and it doesn’t take much to get me excited.

Tomorrow’s weather forecast is more than a little promising, but since the BOM (Bureau of Meteorology) is often wrong and Melbourne’s weather is predictably UNpredictable, dare I get my hopes up for a Nature Walk tomorrow.  I think I’ll double-check the walking/photography weather 1st thing before I set out.

Sunday 10 September

Summary
Min 6
Max 17
Partly cloudy.
Possible rainfall:    0 mm
Chance of any rain:    0%

Melbourne area

Partly cloudy. Light winds.

NEARLY HERE

Spring is nearly here and the Cherry Blossom trees on the small piece of parkland on the nearby main road gave me more than a mere hint of it’s coming last week.  This tiny avenue of Cherry Blossom trees will be really quite spectacular soon.

Their bare limbs are dotted with tiny pink buds with white petals peeping out.

There is a small oval of green grass that will become a grazing pasture for the Galahs soon too.  You may remember these images I made when I first moved to the western suburbs 11 months ago.  I’ve seen these colourful, (and very common), Galahs a few times now, but never in the vast numbers that I saw that 1st week after moving in early October 2016.

These 2 images were made with the old Sony 18-200mm lens that only felt like auto focusing intermittently (after its devastating fall in June 2015) and eventually got retired to its original box in the camera drawer.  I do miss it, but I kept getting blurred shots just when a new bird happened to fly by, and my usual patience got tested far too often and became more of a curse.

Weird day today.

Very chilly outdoors, but not a breath of wind at the moment.  How unusual to see all the leaves and flowers on my balcony potted herbs perfectly still.

It’s actually a bit creepy.  

Like the ‘calm before the storm’ and poor light for photography

I’m waiting for a good sunny day to go back to  Jawbone Conservation Reserve  in Williamstown on the western side of Port Phillip Bay – of which, Melbourne is located at the northern end.  I’ve found a bus route that goes right down to the car park by a small rocky outcrop between the ordinary sandy beach and the Conservation Area.  I caught the bus down there last Saturday and came back to my starting point without even getting off the bus.

I explained to the bus driver that I was just going for the ride to see where the bus went 🙂

There’s a crack in the sky at the top of the hill at the moment, but otherwise it looks very bleak outdoors indeed.

Will it, or won’t it (rain)?

I’ve been on the phone part of the morning and my internet service provider not only gave me a free ‘top-up’of internet allowance, but offered me a cheaper plan with 2 extra GBs.  We’ll see how 10GBs pans out (compared to the old 8GB plan which is no longer available – I was way past my 24 month plan and paying just month-to-month since it ended in March 2016).

WATTLE (Acacia)

Wattle (Acacia) is in bloom everywhere at the moment and while there are 1350 species world-wide, at least 1000 varieties are indigenous to Australia.  No wonder the Golden Wattle is Australia’s national flower.

There are also pale cream flowering  varieties like the one below which was located close to the pond in Pipemakers Park.

On the way to, and from, Pipemakers Park on Monday, I passed many trees and several varieties.  I left home after a morning of rain showers so it was still overcast walking along the river path (which meant I should have changed the White Balance on my camera, but completely forgot).  On the way home, I took the shortcut through the picnic area which leads directly to the western path (and then gravel access road), around Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve.

On the way home, the sun was out, but the nature reserve had pockets of deep shade which form as the sun goes down behind the hill (on which my apartment block is built). So while I had plenty of time, now that the shortest day of Winter is past, the light can fade very quickly after about 5.00pm.

I was reading up a little on Wattle as I’m embarrassed to say I know very little about it, except it makes many people sneeze and although I don’t usually get too close to the flowers, it can make my nose a bit itchy.  I was reading an article, some of which I’ve reprinted below, which indicated it can be eaten – I never knew that.  But then, I know a lot more about (mainly) English herbs, than indigenous plants in my own country, Australia.

All parts of various Acacia species have been or are used by people for one purpose or another.

The seeds from some specific Acacia species provide a valuable food source. Mostly the seeds are ground into a flour and cooked like damper although some are eaten raw or made into a porridge. The gum from some species is also edible.

Various extracts from the bark and the leaves or phyllodes have been and continue to be used by Australian Aborigines for a wide variety of medicinal purposes such as relieving toothache or colds or applying to wounds and burns. Green leafy branches of some species may be used to ‘smoke’ someone who is suffering from a general sickness.

The wood of various species has been used to make clubs, spears, boomerangs and shields. Some species, such as Acacia melanoxylon (Blackwood), are used to make fine furniture.

Tannin has been extracted from the bark of a number of species for use in tanning including Acacia dealbata (Silver Wattle), A. mearnsii (Black Wattle) and A. pycnantha (Golden Wattle).

Boomerang made from the wood of Acacia melanoxylon
A boomerang made
from the wood of
Acacia melanoxylon

Note: for those new to my Nature Blog, I currently live in a large modern apartment block cut into a hillside overlooking Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve and the Maribyrnong River in the western suburbs of Melbourne.  The building is located about 100 feet from the rim of the nature reserve and about 6-7 minutes walk to the river………if you’re a brisk walker…….I’m not.  

I also have a Black & White blog located here (which is mainly street photography and not used so often these days) and a Sunset/Sunrise blog located here (which is mainly about the sunsets from my previous 3rd floor apartment to the north-east side of Melbourne).  This sunrise/sunset/cloud formation blog is not going to last much longer as I don’t see the sunsets as much in this current hillside location, despite my apartment balcony facing west.

COMMON MALLOW? – FROGS HOLLOW NATURE RESERVE

I walked over to Pipemakers Park on Monday looking for Spring.

On the way down to the river path (for I was going the long way round via the river), I spied this glorious patch of colour on the fence between Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve and the river walking/cycling path.  A Mallow perhaps?  And while Frogs Hollow is still looking rather Wintery, this patch of colour looked so cheerful I was tempted to pluck a few cuttings off and plant them all the way along the fence.  But I know the Council in charge of the area are cutting out all non-indigenous trees, so I daresay they would not appreciate me spreading this non-indigenous flower.

Now that the weather is starting to improve a bit, I’ve been trying to get out for a walk more often.

I was rather shocked to find myself more breathless and fatigued than usual when down at Jawbone Conservation Reserve last Sunday.  That was the first time since I took up Photography 7 years ago that I actually felt really unfit.

SOMEWHERE NEW – JAWBONE CONSERVATION RESERVE

While its back to rain, very chilly weather and overcast Winter skies today, yesterday was a different matter entirely.

The weather was superb – sunny and almost windless.  I’d been looking at Jawbone Conservationa Reserve in Williamstown (about 8 kms down the western side of Port Phillip Bay from Melbourne city) on the internet for a few weeks trying to work out the best way to get there via public transport, but after getting up late (due to a restless night with hip and neck pain), I decided to just call a taxi – the height of extravagance for me.  Being a Sunday and with minimal traffic on the road, the taxi ride took about 25 minutes.  The Internet had said 23 minutes via car, so I knew it wasn’t that far from home.

Tram/bus, then train and about a 20 minutes walk to the area might have been 1 1/2 to 2 hours depending on connection times.  For the umpteenth time in the last 7 years I wished I still had a car and could drive.

I think my Taxi driver must have thought I was mad….. getting a taxi…..to go for a walk 🙂  But as always in the life of a chronic pain sufferer, you learn to let go of all your preconceived ideas of what seems rational or sensible.  You learn to concentrate of what you can do, not on what you can’t.   You learn to live your life Mindfully, living each day as it comes.

If its a bad pain day, you just call a taxi 🙂 (but my whole month’s taxi budget went in one day yesterday……….. and it was worth every cent).

Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve consists of an impressive 50 hectares of wetlands, open grasslands, a saltmarsh and a mangrove conservation area, providing an ideal haven for up to 120 bird species that frequent the area. Equipped with beautifully laid out boardwalks and bird hides, this reserve is a must for any budding naturalist or bird enthusiast.”

The Shot of the Day. Another White-face Heron.
I followed this second White-faced Heron for quite a while. I was only about 30 feet away away on the wire fenced walking path but I couldn’t see what was making it’s neck vibrate so much. It was rather weird to watch.
This may be hard to see, but the Heron moved so quickly and picked up a goanna to eat. I almost missed the shot.  Obviously the ‘vibrating’ neck action happened each time it swallowed a goanna or other tiny critter as it slid down its gullet.

Yesterday, I spent just a couple of hours exploring the small area of Jawbone Arboretum and for the first time in the last 7 years of my Photography Hobby I was so busy looking around me, I took few photos.  By the end of that time I was limping and struggling to hold my heavy telephoto lens so gave up and mostly used my main Canon DSLR with a 17-50mm lens.  I had all 3 cameras and lenses in a wheeled trolley (which I normally use for shopping), but which has become my constant companion this year.   It carries far more than I could carry over my shoulders and fragile spine.

And the 17-50mm lens was what was in my hand when I raised it high and shot my first focused image of birds flying in the sky.  I’ve never been able to capture birds in flight (except seagulls gliding slowly in to land).  I know it’s impossible to identify the birds as they were so far away, but I had to include this shot to prove I’d finally done it.  I missed at least half a dozen shots of flying birds, including a White-faced Heron flying towards me when I had the 150-500mm lens in my hands.  I just couldn’t hold that heavy lens steady yesterday.

I’ll go back in the summer when the days are longer and take more photos to share with you.  This whole 50 hectare site needs several hours and several visits to explore more thoroughly. 

Perhaps I will see some of the 120 bird species that are supposed to inhabit this area.  I only saw Herons, Ducks, Eurasian Coots, Black swans, Dusky Moorhens from a long distance away.  The small birds I saw yesterday were too far away to identify and photograph and I didn’t have the energy to walk every path in the Arboretum.

There’s Jawbone Marine Sanctuary on the seaward side if you’re a scuba diver or strong swimmer.

A NEW DEVELOPMENT…….

It’s Saturday in Melbourne and the rain/hail has cleared from the sky and the sun has come out.

The birds are tweeting in their very best voices to entice me outdoors.  I opened the balcony sliding door and stepped out into a puddle of water blanketing the tiles.

I wanted to check the sky and…… see if the small deciduous tree in front of my balcony had any new buds yet.

It did……..but very tiny and hard to see.

Then I spotted it.

A tiny nest about 3″ across.

I will have to rearrange the potted plants on my balcony so that the nest is visible from my desk chair.

I’ll keep you posted if there are any new residents.

I will be thrilled if I get new neighbours.

TOMORROW LOOKS PROMISING……….

Dare I get my hopes up that tomorrow will be a lovely day for Photography?

Will Melbourne’s weather forecast be right for a change?

Sunday 20 August

Summary
Min 4
Max 14
Partly cloudy.
Possible rainfall: 0 mm
Chance of any rain: 20%

Melbourne area

Partly cloudy. Areas of morning frost. Slight (20%) chance of a shower in the evening. Light winds.

 

Light winds is one of the descriptions I’m always looking for (in Photography).  Partly cloudy is far more interesting than a clear blue sky for Photography.

So where shall I go tomorrow?  (it feels like I’ve been pretty much indoors for the whole of Winter this year, partly the weather, but partly these #$@! severe headaches and neck pain – which are now permanent, but I’ve got plenty of prescription painkillers these days in the wake of all those MRIs I had.  They only show one new slipped disc in my neck, to match the 6 slipped discs in my lower back.  Methinks I may have to give up the heavy 150-500mm lens soon).

St Kilda Beach or Pier?

or somewhere local?

Newell’s Paddock Wetlands & Conservation Reserve?

Brighton Beach ?

It’s a long way off now that I’ve moved to the western suburbs, but actually only 2 buses, or a tram and a long bus trip?  But it’s Sunday tomorrow and the buses don’t run as often.

The Royal Botanic Gardens?

Queens Park, Moonee Ponds?  That’s only a tram ride to the end of the line and a 5 minute walk to the entrance.

Or shall I renew my Zoo Membership and go to the Great Aviary for some Bird Photography practice?  Despite lack of direct route via public transport, it IS only about 3-4 kms away as the crow flies.

Or shall I go somewhere new?

Guess!

PS.  It’s only 10.45am and the hail and heavy rain has just started (it’s Saturday morning as I type this post).

WILD & WINDY WEATHER

Image made from my apartment balcony a couple of weeks ago.

It’s been wild and windy weather in Melbourne and its surrounding suburbs on and off for several weeks now.

The laneway leading down the small steep hill to my apartment block acts a bit like a wind tunnel, so it seems to be more like gale force on my west-facing balcony.  Over the weekend and yesterday, I had to end up closing all my windows, (and door to the balcony), as the wind had blown in loose soil and bark mulch from my potted herbs.

Quite weird having to vacuum a layer of soil off my bedroom carpet near the window and clean all the bark off a chest of drawers (near that same window).  I only had the windows open about an inch (to give you some idea of the strength of the wind).  The lounge sliding door was only open about 1/2″  to let in some fresh air.  These modern apartment blocks leave a lot to be desired in terms of fresh air, especially when they’re as tiny as mine.  I’m missing my nature walks at the moment.  There have been some sunny afternoons but I’ve had commitments to keep me at home (like the washing machine repair man and the supermarket home delivery service).

When it rains, I have to shut the windows completely as they are the louvered kind and the rain comes straight in from the west.

Strangely enough. despite the weather bureau predictions, we seem to have had little rain.  Maybe the best of the rain has been in the eastern and southern suburbs, although the skies in the west, where I live, have been dark and ominous enough.   I guess it’s rained overnight as my balcony tiles were wet, but I’ve had to start hand watering the potted plants.  I have noticed the sage and lemon thyme, which I cut down low at the start of winter, has lots of lovely green leaves again, so the soil temperature must be warming up at least (now that Spring is not far off).

To me, nothing signifies climate change, (and how dry Melbourne’s winter has been this year), when I have to hand water my potted plants in the last month of Winter.

Perhaps we’ll have record-breaking Spring rains like we had in 2016?

The wind whistling through my apartment block sounds just like an Arctic Storm and I always wonder what makes such a loud sound in a modern building like this one.  Same thing happened in my previous modern apartment block.  And while there has been the occasional colour in the sky at dusk, no stunning sunset images to share with you either.

 

This morning, I suddenly noticed gaps in the plants I’m growing near the balcony rail to give some privacy – I’m quite close to the footpath and road, despite being on the first floor of this building.

I was shocked to see 2 of my heaviest pots blown over.  I assume the wind must have dried the soil out so much they’ve become lighter overnight?

I quickly righted them and scooped the spilt soil back in, but not much point sweeping all the other scattered bark mulch and soil ( with the wind so strong during the day).  I gave them a generous watering to make the pots heavier.

Roll on Spring and some windless days…………………..please 🙂

 

AUTUMN – The Dandenong Ranges (test run #2 with iMovie)

I’m like a toddler with a new toy – can’t leave iMovie alone now I’ve worked out how to use it over the weekend, but I really need to go out and shoot some new images/subject matter for Test Run #3.

Here’s test run #2……….made after I arrived home from some errands in the city centre this afternoon.

I was so engrossed in re-arranging some old images to try and fit the music I chose for this test run, I nearly forgot to cook dinner tonight 🙂

(I can’t work out why some images are static and some fade.  Hmmmmm.  Back to ‘the drawing board’.  I’ll work it out in the end.  This is another ‘hit’ or ‘miss’ effort as I can’t seem to alter the speed or change the transition of each image the way I would like.  Well, at least I’ve successfully passed the Beginner’s Class in iMovie). 

Enjoy……..and I recommend you switch to FULL SCREEN (located down in the bottom right hand corner of the slide show screen)

 

EVERY CLOUD HAS A SILVER LINING……

The sky went a bit dark and gloomy and then came the hail.

But that was 30 minutes ago.

I couldn’t help but be drawn out on to my apartment’s balcony to check out the new sky (but it was, and still is, very cold).

 

PS I think I’ve ‘losing the plot’ as we say in Australia.  I thought I posted this image last night and this morning, I found it still in draft form 🙂

SPRING SUNSET

From the archives – 21st September 2016

It’s been cold, extremely windy and VERY wintery weather in recent days………..just when I thought Winter was coming to an end and Spring might be soon appearing on the horizon.

But still…….not much in the way of real heavy soaking rain this past winter in Melbourne.

Maybe we’ll have record-breaking Spring rain like we had last year?

Who knows.

In the meantime, I’m in hibernation mode and my cameras are gathering dust.

THE ELUSIVE WHITE-PLUMED HONEYEATER (Lichenostomus penicillatus)

One of the most magical times of day around my area is between 3.30pm and 4.30pm in the afternoon.

Especially in winter when the sun reflects off the clouds like a spotlight.  My side of the river starts to fall into a deep mysterious shade quite early, due to the overlooking cliff-top or hill (depending on where you’re standing).

I plan my walks over to the nearby Pipemakers Park so that I walk home via the pond just as the sun starts to drop low in the winter sky.

Part of Pipemaker’s Park garden ruins back in Autumn which reflects the time of afternoon I visit the area.
It looks more like this in winter and quite stark and more sombre.

It can be hard to see anything much happening at the pond as the brilliant sunlight shines directly into your eyes and the scrubby undergrowth is too thick to walk around to the sides, or back of the pond.  I usually stand in the shade of a large tree and surreptitiously, very slowly, peep around the tree trunk to attempt a photo.  I usually take a photo with my right hand with my left hand shading my brow & eyes, so I can see.

A variety of birds take turns diving into the shiny, murky-looking water surface (throwing a shower of sparkling droplets into the air) and then fly back up to the tall water reeds (or a nearby tree), shaking their feathers very fast to discard the excess water weight.  They make this flight over and over continuously.

The splash they make as they hit the water looks like dozens of diamonds being thrown into the air.  It’s hard to describe this magical scene without some photos, but I’ve only managed to take 2-3 images showing the light, never the fast-flying small birds………until last Monday.

I stood enchanted for about 20 minutes watching what looked like a White-plumed Honeyeater.

I’ve just re-viewed Monday afternoon’s images and I think the photo below might be good enough for you to see it.  It’s a small plain honeyeater with underparts a pale olive-green.  The face is a bit more yellowish and it’s underparts a pale yellowish grey-buff, but the black-bordered long white neck-plume clinches the identification.   You can’t see the white-neck plume in this image very well, so you’ll just have to believe me when I have 100% identified this elusive bird, that I saw this particular day.

(note: they’re a common bird in the area, I just can’t manage to photograph them up in high trees).

If you look carefully in the centre of the frame you can just barely see the bird as it’s the same colour as most of the surrounding leaves.

I’ve cropped the image a wee bit in the next shot.

In the centre of the frame below you can see it backlit. It was moving fast so the bird is a wee bit blurred.

And this poorer shot below shows the bird flicking the droplets of water off.  Again, blurred, (or soft in focus), due to the speed of movement.  I can’t really raise the ISO over 800 on my cameras without getting too much ‘noise’ or grainyness in the image in this type of situation and it’s hard to catch the bird within the frame as it flies up and down from the water so quickly.

I could watch these tiny birds for hours, but the light disappears quickly (and suddenly) like a light globe being turned off behind the high western cliff-top, so not a place to be stuck in without a torch I guess.  I try to leave before this happens.  In Summer, the daylight hours are longer of course.

Capturing these small birds such as the White-plumed Honeyeater, the Red Wattlebird and Reed Warblers in flight, or hitting the water surface, is my current challenge and I’ve always enjoyed a challenge in bird photography (as much as in my working life).

Of course photographing the White-faced Heron in this pond is much easier as it often stands still.

SPOTTED TURTLE-DOVE (Streptopelia chinensis)

We’ve had some lovely sunshine in Melbourne last week and again this week (since the gale force winds over the past weekend), but I’ve had so many errands (and other commitments), I’ve had little chance to enjoy it.  Monday,  I walked home along the Maribyrnong River path as the sun got lower in the sky and turned much of the surrounding landscape into gold which is really a wonderful time of the afternoon for Photography.

I noticed a couple of Spotted Turtle-doves on a branch in Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve and (fortunately) had the long 150-500 lens with me.  Initially, they seemed to be half asleep but when I took aim through the viewfinder, one opened its eyes as though it sensed my presence.  Impossible from that distance away, so was probably just coincidence the Dove opened its eyes and stared straight at my camera lens at that moment.

The image below (at 4.15pm as I walked home on Monday) gives you an idea of the pleasant weather we’ve experienced.

Yesterday and today was almost picture-postcard perfect too.

Although in one way,  I’ll be glad if it does rain for the rest of the week as we surely need it in Melbourne at this stage of late Winter.  While my balcony tiles have been wet most mornings when I wake (suggesting overnight rain), my potted plants have needed regular watering by hand again!

We’re having a very dry winter here.

WINTER ROSE

From the Archives – 13th June 2017

I hate walking along the main road to the nearby Shopping Centre.  (In fact I usually catch a bus, tram or taxi).

It’s so boring.

The roads.

The cars.

The car exhaust fumes.

The traffic sounds.

So back in mid June I set myself a challenge to see how many flowers I could photograph in residential gardens, (or next to footpaths), along the walk.  It worked.  By the time I’d found the last flower on the journey, I had arrived.  And I didn’t even notice how long it took.  Here’s a couple of images I shot along the way.

………and I wasn’t bored one little bit 🙂

 

LAST LIGHT

The last rays of daylight touch the tips of the Rosemary plant on my apartment balcony.

Since I made this photo 3 days ago, several more branches of the plant are coming into flower.

So strange to see the flowers in mid-winter.  But since my pink daisy and blue Bacopa are still covered with flowers, one can only assume there must be some heat generating from the floor-to-ceiling glass windows in my apartment to create some sort of micro-climate?  The Sage, Lemon Thyme and Oregano have all died back for the winter as normal, but my English & Italian Parsley, Mint and Rosemary are still growing as though it is Spring.  I was reading an article the other day which suggested that Australia actually has 6 seasons and we’d be better off planning our gardens that way.  Personally, I think Melbourne has 365 seasons and the weather bureau forecast still can’t get their daily/weekly forecast right 🙂

Have been off the blogosphere and blog reading for several days this past week as I’m feeling all ‘blogged-out’ and except for half a dozen photos made of the sun going down, my camera is starting to gather dust again!

Still, I did read a whole book in that time which is most unusual for me as I find the eyestrain tiring and reading difficult these days.

 

IT’S ALL IN THE FRAMING……..

A friend said to me once, “where do you find all these nature reserves and natural bushland areas in the suburbs?”

I replied “it’s not just what you see in the image that makes these photos look like you’re out in the country.  It’s the details you leave out.  It’s about looking up maps and finding all the marked green belts or public parks, then going there and walking around the area.”

Driving in a car in the suburbs is usually about getting to your destination.

Walking around gives you the opportunity to really see  the natural elements along the way.

This portrait sized shot could be anywhere in the countryside.

I’m always looking for birds to photograph, but I’m also looking for my slice of nature (since I don’t have a car to drive to the country or mountains to enjoy the peace and tranquility).

But add in the road, houses and the bus stop into the frame and you realise you’re just in the inner western suburbs of Melbourne.

Living in Nature is all about what you can see and do outdoors, despite living in a town or city.

Living in Nature is not just about looking in any direction in a suburban setting.  It’s about seeing the individual details within your urban environment and taking time to hone in on the flora and fauna as individual subjects.  Being in nature can be easier than you think.  Even a weed or native grass species on a vacant suburban house plot has visual interest (if you open your eyes and really look at the small details).

A WINTER WALK – Random Shots

There was a brisk cold wind in the winter air yesterday, but the sun was glorious.  For the most part, the skies were clear and a vivid blue.

I headed towards Pipemakers Park to check out what the Tuesday morning Gardening group had done towards restoring the old turn-of-the-century garden ruins and bumped into my new acquaintance, Steve, as he was heading for the car park.  By the time we’d finished our conversation, picked up after our last encounter some weeks ago, the best of the light was almost gone and I never did make any images of the garden.

After a quick inspection of the flower beds, I headed down to the Pipemakers Park pond/lake as the sun was just about to disappear behind the high cliff top.  I was facing straight in to the sun and had to keep the camera pointed downwards in order to see or capture anything in the brilliant glare. Birds kept flying down to splash in the water (for food or a drink?) and then fly up to the stronger water reeds.  I caught a few splashes with my camera, but not the birds who made them, so that lot of images went straight into the trash bin.

I headed over and around the perimeter of Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve to go home and noticed Andy the Grass-cutter must have been through in the last couple of days.  He’d got down from his tractor to chat only a week or so ago and mentioned he hadn’t seen me around.  I assured him I’d been out with my camera several times but had to avoid the Nature Reserve having turned my ankle in a hidden hole in the calf-high grass.  He said he would cut the path more often (as he had done through the summer months for me).

It almost felt like summer with the warm rays upon my back and I spied a couple of Spotted Turtle-doves basking in the sun.  All the dried water reeds you see in the image below hide another large pond.

They must have sensed my movement as I swung the heavy long telephoto lens up to capture the scene and one flew up to the top of the tree trunk sculpture that can be seen in all 5 of the local ponds (or lakes)…..how big does a pond have to be before it becomes a lake I asked myself?

The sun sparkled on some of the undergrowth nearby, but I was so glad Andy had cut the grass very short in the pathway – so much easier to see the ruts and little rises in the natural surface of the pond surrounds.

 

The Banksia bush next to the path at this point had lots of flowers on it.  There are over 200 Banksia species in Australia and many of the plants won’t open their fruits until they are burnt, hence the role of bush fires lit by the indigenous Aboriginal people of Australia for thousands of years before white men settled here.

The sun was getting low by this time, so I headed along the short gravel path for home.  One minute it can be the bright glare of the golden hour and next minute, deep shade so dark it’s almost impossible to see where you’re walking, so best to make haste at this time on short winter days.

Just before I walked up to my ‘back gate’ (through the apartment block car park entrance), I turned around to look at Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve and once again, gave a sigh of appreciation at how lucky I was to end up with another home in such a beautiful location.

Then I spotted a large newly sawn tree stump on the edge of the Reserve which must have been cut down late last week.

But more importantly, I saw a very clear wide path into the Nature Reserve, probably made by the council in their task of removing all non-indigenous trees in the area.

But it was 4.20pm, too late and I had far too much heavy camera gear with me to explore where this western rim path went, this late in the day.  Today, the forecast is for rain or showers most of the day and half the coming week so I’ll look forward to exploring the new path another sunny day.   You can’t tell by the photo below, but that thick grass either side of the mown tractor path is about 8-9′ high and was quite impenetrable for someone like me.