THE MAGNOLIAS ARE IN BLOOM

Coming home in a taxi yesterday, I noticed a number of residential gardens with massive Magnolia trees in Bloom.

There are literally hundreds of stunning flowers on the trees at the moment.

While I  can’t find my favourite shot of them in my archives, I did find this image showing the buds, from 3rd March, 2011……… of a different variety.

Made with my old, (now traded in), Canon 100mm f2.8 macro lens.

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I finally remembered that shot I wanted was around mid 2015 when I lived on the north-eastern side of Melbourne, so it actually was easy to find after all.   My short-term memory always has a ‘hiccup’ before it goes to the right part of my memory bank  😀

Here ’tis……from the 26th August, 2015. …..made with my Sony a6000 & 18-200mm lens.

…….and the close-up…..

If I go to the local Plant Nursery during the next week or so to buy seedlings and potting soil, I will try to walk home past the magnificent tree and get a ‘newer’ image.

There’s a cacophony of House Sparrows outside my lounge window at the moment.   Don’t know what they’re twittering about, but it’s obviously some sort of argument, not the usual sweet sound.

I’ve had so many Sparrows on my bare-limbed Japanese Maple in the last couple of days that I couldn’t resist trying to get a shot of some of them this morning from where I’m sitting at my desk.

It’s not always easy to Autofocus when the lounge windows have dirty rain droplets on them.  I have to keep moving the camera slightly to one side to stop it autofocusing on the dusty windows and focus  on the actual bird(s).

Finally managed one shot (below).

You can see the Maple buds on the branches and you’ll also notice that this area is still in shade, with the sunlight shining on the other side of the road (which gives the image the bright light in the background).

In the latter part of the day, the other side of the road falls into shade (with my balcony in sunlight in the golden hour) 🙂

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……AND THEN THERE WERE 3

I’ve been offline a lot lately, partly because I’ve been keeping a low profile with health issues getting in the way, but also because of my limited internet with the new computer (gobbling up my limited internet allowance). Hopefully that will change after the 30th August when my current internet plan ends and I seek out an affordable larger internet package.

I’ve also been spending more time observing the tiny Superb Fairy-wrens each morning on my balcony in the hope of recognising the individuals.

Like all tiny wrens, they rarely stand still.

I got the stepladder out on Thursday and FINALLY cleaned the full height of the exterior window surface (which usually bring on a few days of rain LOL) and yesterday, washed the interior surfaces of the floor-to-ceiling lounge windows.  I do this nearly every week in summer, but not much in winter when the fierce gusty wind drives the rain straight against my lounge windows.

Most of the bird images below were made earlier in the week, before I cleaned the windows.

While we’ve had less rain this past week, its still a bit too cold to leave the sliding glass door wide open during the day.  I’ve also been a little reluctant to leave the door open because a Superb Fairy-wren was about to hop indoors the other day.

I raced to the sliding door, which was open about 6 inches for some fresh air, and promptly shut it.

I might have been able to catch that New Holland Honeyeater who stepped inside (image on the left) and onto the window sill, but there’s no way I could catch the fast-moving little wrens if they came into my lounge room.

I’ve had up to 6-7 wrens grazing on the soil I’ve been turning over ready for my Spring herb/veggie planting and now………I can finally recognise 3 ‘regulars’. I never tire of watching them.

These 3 are my main visitors at the moment.

There’s that ever-present tiny female with her beautiful reddish-brown eye ring which I’m pretty sure is the same wren I’ve seen for many days now.  She doesn’t seem to have grown much.   She looks like a juvenile to me, but her orange eye-ring and orange beak are quite clear (so maybe not a juvenile, but an adult?).

I was reading some more about these regular avian visitors and it seems that the young males and young females can look very similar with their uniformly brown bodies and pale fawn underneath.   Their beaks may look more of a slate grey when young.

Sometimes the tail is more blue and a bit shorter – apparently this denotes a juvenile male.

Before reading up on them, I had thought the tails were all the same length.

The third easily recognisable fairy-wren is this adult male (below) with its distinctive eclipse, (or non-breeding), blue plumage.   The adult male changes its upper feathers to bright blue when breeding.

This image is pretty good considering the dirty rain droplets on the glass.
But they turn around so quickly I end up with dozens of shots of their rear ends.

It took me over a hundred shots to get these few images in reasonable focus over 2 seperate days.   I can’t claim these are my best bird shots since I took up photography in early 2010, but they’re pretty good having been made through dirty glass windows.

There’s no consideration of background or composition on my part when photographing these fairy-wrens in my balcony garden.   They move too fast.  I just try to get the bird in focus, before they fly, (or jump), to the next potted plant.   Most shots are soft in focus.

I’m pretty sure this is the same tiny juvenile male. All birds visit this trough of Mint as the leaves seems to be a bit tastier and it hasn’t grown much over the winter. In fact, I nearly threw this mint plant out in the rubbish as despite it’s many stems, it’s failed to produce enough decent green leaves for culinary use.
I moved this mint plant to the south end of the balcony in the hope the winter sun might give it a burst of growth – I think I can see more new green leaves (than tiny brownish ones) now.

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I haven’t given you a balcony garden update for a while as I haven’t been out to clean and tidy up the faded winter leaves or disappointing lack of growth in my winter leafy green veggies.  There’s clusters of spent herb leaves and many dead Japanese Maple leaves blown in from the young tree located in front of my balcony.

It’s completely leafless now, although I detect some faint little nobs on the spindly branches  which might denote potential Spring growth?

I really need to get out there and move the pots around and clean up.  I’ve discovered over many years of living in rental apartments, (which have a mandatory clause in the lease demanding ‘clean & tidy’ interior and exterior), that’s it better to clean the balcony tiles on a regular basis so the seepage stains from  the pots don’t build up to the stage where one has to use harsh chemicals to clean the large tiled surface.

In winter I have saucers under the pots, but in summer I remover the plastic saucers so they can drain more freely.   Herbs do not like wet soggy feet.

I’ve got 2 Tuscan kale (Tuscano Nero) but they have been slow to grow this winter and only started growing in the above image about 7-10 days ago.

A week ago, despite being only 2/3rds of the way through Winter here in Melbourne, the herbs, Tuscan kale and Broccoli (called Broccoli Bambino – a high yielding baby broccoli with a long harvest period), suddenly put on a growth spurt with many new leaves.

This broccoli seedling has lots of leaves, but no centre “10 cent sized floret” ??????

I’ve never grown this variety of miniature broccoli before and although it does take 12-14 weeks until harvest according to the plant label, it seems like months since I planted these 2 seedlings.  Despite the same plant label in both pots, the leaves on one plant look different to the other broccoli plant to me.

The plant label says to remove the first floret from the plant centre when it is the size of a ten cent piece along with the two leaves just below.   Side shoots will mature 6 weeks later. (see below). I did this on the plant below, but no sign of this early floret on the plant above.

In some ways the leaves of the plant above look a bit like outer cabbage leaves?

I have limited knowledge when it comes to vegetable gardening.

The Sorrel is still growing like wildfire (despite me continually chopping the leaves off).

This image was made in Summer, but it still looks like this in Autumn, Winter & Spring.

I should have just planted more baby spinach, instead of that Broccoli.

Image from my ‘Baby Bunting’ variety of spinach last year.

Now that leafy vegetable grows much faster and despite regular harvesting of the outer leaves, 4 small plants grew enough for many months.  I ate the last of that crop 3 months ago.

…..and my Asian climbing spinach (below) only provided a couple of meals before it went brown and seemed to get some kind of disease and died.

That pot is now empty.

It had looked so promising and tasted absolutely delicious – the texture almost like velvet.

ASIAN CLIMBING SPINACH

Oh well, better luck with some new varieties.

I must admit I get just as much fun trialling new veggie varieties for my balcony garden, buying seedlings and watching them grow (as eating them).

I have two other pots of Mint, (beside the long low trough which the wrens love grazing on), and they have been doing ‘just fine’.

The new Rosemary seedling I planted a few months ago, in which I have been cutting the tips off for cooking, has also suddenly started growing new leaves.

Has the soil suddenly got a bit warmer a month before Spring?  The day and night temperatures are still cold.   Being an amateur gardener and fairly new to vegetable growing, I can’t help but ask myself “why this sudden growth spurt”?

My herbs usually perk up closer to September.

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………and my eyes have been drawn to the construction site opposite too.  The construction crew have picked up the pace and are now working on a Saturday (as well as longer hours on weekdays), although they’re not on site today.   I’m used to the noise, but not the loud cursing which I’m sure they don’t realise drifts straight across to my building.

Still, they have a long way to go before finishing the 3 story apartment block on that very steep, weirdly-shaped site.

I took the photo (below) at dusk last night, hence the limited light and street lights being on.  As I live lower down on the hill you can only really see the ground floor of this new building, but it is against a 30 foot high cliff and the building will eventually be 3 stories high and completely block my view of the sunset colours.

Sigh!

This new building will completely block that blue sky/cloud you can see in the image below (if you can imagine triple the height of that ground level partly constructed apartment floor you can see in the image).   Due to the steep sloping hill, my 1st floor apartment is much lower than the new construction site.

I think I will have to close down my Sunrise, Sunset (& clouds that come in between) blog.

These wonderful sunsets from my balcony will no longer be visible.

At least I still get a small view of the sunset to the right of that apartment building (on the main road) for the time being.

BUT, there is a planning permit submitted to the local council to build a large housing/apartment estate on that enormous open field between the row of trees and my building.

Sigh!

(I seem to do a lot of sighing lately).

Life is impermanent.

Life is ever-changing, hour by hour, day by day and year by year, as I grow older.

BUT I will miss some of that wonderful view.   I can’t deny it now that the reality is sinking in.

 

MARIBYRNONG WETLANDS POND

MARIBYRNONG WETLANDS POND WITH THE LARGE ISLAND AND TREES IN THE CENTRE – 31st May 2017

At the risk of getting too repetitious, my trip to the Maribyrnong Wetlands pond on Monday of this week revealed all the usual ducks and scenery, but I’m a great believer in ‘making hay while the sun shines’.

If it’s sunny in mid-winter, any outing is worth all that lovely fresh air and practice with photographing the local bird life.

THERE WERE SEVERAL PACIFIC BLACK DUCKS AND MOST SEEMED TO BE IN THE SHADE/PROTECTION OF THE WATER REEDS, 2 DUCKS SWAM IN MY DIRECTION (IN THE HOPE OF SOME FOOD PERHAPS?)

The bus from right outside my local shops and medical centre takes me straight down the steep river valley to a stop about 20 feet from the large pond next to the river walking path.

ONE (OF TWO) DUSKY MOORHENS SWAM BY SO FAST I NEARLY MISSED THE SHOT.

When I got off the bus on Monday, I was rather taken aback at the strength of the wind and was wishing I had my walking stick, (or even my shopping trolley), to anchor me to the ground (and I am no lightweight).   If it had been raining and I’d had an umbrella, no doubt the wind would have blown it inside out.

THIS IMAGE TAKEN ON THE RIVER SIDE OF THE POND SHOW THE WIND SENDING THE WATER REED LEAVES NEARLY HORIZONTAL.

There weren’t many birds visible on the water surface which was rather strange in many ways, as the local children’s playground is next door and I can well imagine families with young children ‘feeding the ducks’ at any time of the day (or season).

The wind gusts almost seemed gale-force at one stage (and bitterly cold despite the warm sun and blue sky), that I quite literally, photographed the ducks, walked around to the other side of the pond, where I nearly got blown over, back across the rocky causeway and across the road to catch the bus home again 😀

 

There’s some lovely succulents in the long broad garden strip next to the bus stop and being on a raised garden bed means I can photograph them without bending down low.

The bus wasn’t due for another 35 minutes according to the timetable on the lamp post, so I crossed back over the road and caught a bus heading the other way to the local Asian fresh food market to get some vegetables and fruit and then…………………home again 🙂

That must be about the quickest, shortest walk I’ve ever done 😀

Note: I’ve added a couple of images from 2018 & 2017 to show the area (one at the start of this post and one below that I shared not too long ago).   The trees and water reeds you see in the top half of the image below are actually on the island, so you’re only looking at the eastern side of the large pond.

In summer this portion of the pond you see below is nearly dried up and the ducks tend to go around to the road side of the pond to find some water to swim in.

Near one of the other ponds, shown in the map below, about 10 minutes walk from my home, you’re more likely to see the birds near the end of this post.

THE BROKEN LINE DENOTES MY OLD WALKING PATH (BEFORE MY HIP OSTEOARTHRITIS GOT TOO SEVERE TO WALK VERY FAR) AND THE UN-BROKEN LINE DENOTES THE BUS ROUTE I NOW TAKE TO VISIT THE MARIBYRNONG WETLANDS POND. AS YOU CAN SEE BY THE LETTER “H” (FOR HOME), I LIVE ON THE EDGE OF THE GREEN BELT (UP AND DOWN THE RIVER). I’VE LIVED NEXT TO RIVER, PARKLAND OR THE ROYAL BOTANIC GARDENS FOR OVER 30 YEARS – HOW LUCKY AM I.

The large expanse of lake-like water between the main river and the housing estates is often quite empty of bird life, but sometimes I get lucky (with the shots below).

WHITE-FACED HERON AT THE NEAREST POND ABOUT 10 MINUTES WALK FROM MY ‘BACK GATE’