The wind has been more than a little gusty in my area over the last 5-6 days. In fact, the Spring winds have been downright ferocious and threatened to blow my garden away.
Check out the background in the image below. Can you see the Japanese Maple branches and foliage are near horizontal? At one stage, the Maple’s branches seemed to bend over in half and almost touched the ground. I had grave fears for the tree’s well-being, but it seemed to bend and sway with the elasticity that most young saplings have.
I’ve stood at the lounge window each morning in hope of seeing more Spring shoots on my Herbs and Veggies, but they have made little headway in the last week (for this time of the year) and slowed right down in their growth.
Not enough sun I fear.
No Superb Fairy-wrens in sight and just a few very tiny House Sparrows. To the casual observer, they are just faded-looking females, but on the ground here, I can see their tiny frames and washed-out looking head feathers denote very young juveniles. They are almost as small as the adult Superb Fairy-wrens.
The 2 sparrows I photographed last week stayed on the balcony fence for some time, seemingly motionless. Last night, it was not until I reviewed the 4 photos I’d taken that I realized their tiny claws were hanging onto the frame that holds the blue ceramic birdbath in place (so they didn’t get blown away?).
The bird that stood on the fence bar itself didn’t stay long.
I made 4 very similar photos and can’t tell which is the best out of them, so thought to post all of them.
Today, the wind has finally dropped and I can see by this morning’s weather forecast I have 4 clear, rainless days to do something outdoors.
Perhaps prune the herbs to start encouraging them to flesh out into more robust bushes perhaps? Doesn’t sound much, but at least it’s better than lying in the hospital hooked up to a heart monitor 24/7. Those 6 days in the hospital were the most boring I’ve experienced in many years. I don’t survive too well when I’m out of green surroundings and don’t have a Room With a View.
Sometimes I wonder if I grow herbs for myself, or for the birds.
The House Sparrows, (and Fairy-wrens), are particularly fond of Mint, especially the young leaves.
(excuse the soft focus in some of the images below, but sometimes it’s hard to keep up with the fast-moving little birds as they jump from pot to pot in search of tasty titbits. Other times, after a long ‘photoshoot’ my arms ache and I find it hard to hold the heavy long telephoto lens still enough).
I’d clean the lounge windows for some clearer shots too, but the forecast is for rain this afternoon so no point cleaning them today.
The dying Autumn leaves have mostly drifted down to the ground now and the Japanese Maple in front of my apartment balcony is revealing the tiny birds – House Sparrows and Superb Fairy-wrens that visit me each day.
They bring so much joy into my day now that I’m more housebound.
I put some seed on the balcony fence rail to tempt them this morning and was quickly rewarded by a number of House Sparrows peck-pecking and spitting out the husks. The bag of canary seed I’m using up, isn’t much use to the tiny Fairy-wrens though.
One of my veggie troughs is almost bare and I ran a stick through its surface to allow more of the Winter rain to soak into the roots of the last baby Spinach plant in that container and to my surprise, the Fairy-wrens seem to find something tasty to graze on. I can’t see what they’re eating, but they do seem to enjoy whatever it is.
SUPERB FAIRY-WREN (female)
SUPERB FAIRY-WREN (male)
SUPERB FAIRY-WREN (female)
I’ve resolved 3 problems on my new iMac, including the main one whereby my gmail and web browsing sites keep opening to a window I don’t want. I might add this particular issue should have been easily resolved by the AppleCare Helpdesk who screen-shared with me last week. Hmmmmm……….
The saga continues with the new computer gobbling up my limited internet allowance each month so I am continuing to keep off the internet for the most part. Today, I’m making an exception, although I continue to monitor my internet data usage each morning to keep within my limits this month. It cost an extra $40 last month and I fail to see why as I was mainly working offline on my Photo Library.
On Saturday I went to Apple Store with some photos I’d taken of my issues to explain my problems more fully and I was fortunate to have an exceptionally good staff member who gave me some answers, although I do await the home visit of a technician in the coming week (?) who has been booked by AppleCare Helpdesk over the phone.
While the Apple Store staff member did say photos take up more internet due to the exceptionally high resolution screen of the 2019 27″ iMac, I really can’t believe they take 2 1/2 months worth of extra internet each month.
I also went to the Telstra (my internet service provider) store in the same shopping centre and sought some advice on what affordable larger internet packages I might sign up with. Unfortunately my current contract doesn’t end until the 30th August, 2019, so other than paying extra $$$ for every GB I go over my limit for the next couple of months, I can’t do much about that. I will continue to reserve my internet use to mostly banking, checking emails and bill paying online with the occasional visit to a few blogs I follow.
I had a quick look at a few blogs I follow in WordPress this morning, but can’t press the LIKE button on some sites. This is an old problem I had years ago and I can’t remember how I fixed it. I also have to keep logging on to WordPress each day……and 500px……and National Geographic Shot of the Day (which I occasionally submit images to).
I have to admit this new computer is testing my patience, but with brilliant winter sun and glorious blue skies filling my view out my lounge window, methinks I should turn off that pesky computer and attempt a walk to the local pond.
I’d put some bird seed in the large pot plant saucer I’d bought to use as a bird bath (but no bird ever drank or splashed around in it), so occasionally I fill it with bird seed to entice the avian species to my balcony garden.
Of course, they make a terrible mess splitting the seeds from the husk and use the balcony floor and fence rail as a ‘public convenience’ and it takes me a couple of hours to sweep, wash & clean it all up. I have just swept and tidied up awaiting a wash later this afternoon. Regular balcony cleaning is mandatory, as, otherwise, my shoes collect the sticky bird droppings or seed husks and get carted indoors on the pale carpet (despite the door mat to wipe my shoes on).
I’ve always accepted the slight variations in feather patterns of the House Sparrows(Passer domesticus) as a normal avian thing.
But yesterday I realised I had a different Sparrow species visiting – the Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus).
There are actually 2 different sparrows species found in the south-east of the country, according to my Australian Bird Guide Book.
Now, I’m not going to go back through the old posts to see if I’ve mixed the identification up, but I am going to convey the difference in this post.
The sexes of the Eurasian Tree Sparrow are unlike the House Sparrows in that the male and female have similar plumage. The male and female of the House Sparrows are very different.
The crown and nape of the Eurasian Tree Sparrows are a rich brown, with characteristic white cheek patch with a black central spot. The forehead and bib are black with the rest of the underparts a pale grey-buff. Back and wings are a richly mottled chestnut.
I don’t know how I haven’t noticed before now, or maybe I just never had Eurasian Tree Sparrows visiting before yesterday? Who knows.
The flight feathers and notched tail are dark brown. I tried to get a photo of the tail showing the notch, but the birds wouldn’t pose at the right angle for me.
THIS IS CLEARLY a Female HOUSE SPARROW showing the stripe running from the eye (and made through the opened sliding door, hence much clearer, or sharper, in focus).
The image below shows a male House Sparrow feeding 2 females (definitely NOT a Eurasian Tree Sparrow).
The weather is absolutely gorgeous at the moment. Sunny blue skies with a lovely cool breeze over recent days or overcast skies and cool temperatures (today). We’ve even had a bit of decent rainfall.
This is my kind of weather and definitely a favourite season (besides Spring).
The reality is that every season has its merits, but Autumn and Spring always seem to be pretty special here in Melbourne, Australia. The intermittent cloud cover makes for some lovely sunsets in Autumn.
“You don’t know what thirst is until you drink for the first time.”
Carlos Ruiz Zafón
I caught this little House Sparrow looking longingly at the bottom of the Bird Bath and realised I had forgotten to fill the small ceramic dish on Wednesday morning.
I was wishing I had my long 150-500mm lens back from the repairers, as a close-up would have been interesting to view the bird’s expression.
The Camera repair department rang that afternoon to say my lens had returned to their shelf and was ready to pick up. I nearly fell off my desk chair in surprise. It was only last Friday that I had signed off for Sigma to go ahead and repair it!
Anyway, today is lovely and cool and wouldn’t you know it – a bad night in pain and no amount of prescription analgesics has helped, so I have to stay home today.
I think I’ve already mentioned Melbourne has had a heat wave recently.
Last Thursday it was forecast to be 38C, but ended up being 42.3C (about 108F) and Friday’s forecast of 44C ended up as 45.2 (about 115F).
Yesterday it was 33C, today 37C, and then we’ve got a cool change this afternoon, cool for a couple of days, then back to heat wave conditions for the coming weekend…..back up to 37C.
I keep refilling the bird bath (constantly) as it evaporates during the hottest part of the day on my apartment balcony. Even with ice blocks dropped in to cool the water temperature down, I saw few House Sparrows last Friday. One I did notice, eventually sought shade under my ‘potting table ‘, but as that old wheeled tv trolley is metal, eventually it gave up and flew away.
I don’t know where the Superb Fairy-Wrens have been. Probably somewhere in deep shade in Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve behind my apartment building. I think I’ve seen only one blue-headed male in the last 7-10 days.
My balcony is in shade all morning up until about 2.30pm and surprisingly cool, so this is when I do any gardening tasks, or even, indoor chores. But once the sun moves over my 6 storey building and hits the balcony floor tiles, it gets stinking hot and like a sauna indoors (where I usually sit at my desk in front of the lounge window). I think the floor-to-ceiling windows attract and absorb the heat. While I have air-conditioning, I still feel the heat dreadfully.
I envy those people who love the heat and can go outdoors whatever the weather.
Usually its February that is the hottest month in Melbourne, but with Global Warming, Melbourne’s weather is now predictably UN-PREDICTABLE at any time of the year. I hope this February, 2019 is not going to be hotter than January.
Yesterday, the House Sparrows constantly visited the bird bath all morning. I don’t think I’d be exaggerating to say 30 or 40 birds dropped by for a drink. Yesterday was one of the few times, I have seen pairs of sparrows visit the bird bath. At one stage there were 2 young females that looked like twins 😀
In the afternoon, the bird bath’s painted ceramic edge, that lies in the sun, seems to get very hot. I observed one Sparrow land on the sunny side and immediately jump over to the small section of ceramic that lay in the shade.
I could almost hear the bird call out ‘too hot, too hot’. The Sparrow featured in this post jumped down to the sunny tiled area and promptly moved over to the shade (which I’ve lightened in post processing so you can see the bird more clearly).
Most of these birds are juveniles with their slim bodies and ‘young’ faces. I assume they’re this years crop of hatchlings.
I’ve observed that many of them had their mouths wide open and I began to get more concerned, so this morning I did a little reading up on their ‘hot day habits‘.
Apparently, a bird’s body temperature is higher than humans, so it’s doubly important for them to cool off in a hurry. Some bird species resort to ‘gular fluttering’. The bird will open its mouth and ‘flutter’ its neck muscles, promoting heat loss (think of it as the avian version of panting).
Some birds also open up their wings on a hot day, allowing air to circulate across their bodies and sweep away excess heat and if you look carefully at the images in this post, you can see them lift their wings away from their bodies.
Birds are efficient about water and water loss, but even so, they need to replenish their fluids regularly on a hot day.
Whether you live in the country, mountains, town or city, consider setting up one or more bird baths, preferably well above ground level to avoid attacks by feral animals. Of course you can’t do much about larger birds of prey attacking smaller birds.
The water level shouldn’t be too high – only about an inch deep – and replenish or change the water regularly every couple of days, as stagnant water can play host to algae and mosquito larvae.
Mosquitos are present in very high numbers this summer in Melbourne according to the TV news. After last summer’s spider and mosquito plague around my area and numerous bites, I now have to close all windows tightly at night in summer. I don’t know whether this is made worse by the fact I live next to a nature reserve and several parks with water canal and many large ponds in the area. I suppose the large expanse of water in the river and wetlands only add to the mosquito breeding grounds.
I live slightly to the left of the centre of this map – right next to the green-shaded area.
Or more accurately seen in the following map of my regular walking route I used to follow when I wanted a ‘short’ walk. Of course a ‘short walk’ for me takes hours as I keep stopping to look up, down and all around for bird and other photo subjects.
Apparently, Gobal Warming is already affecting bird populations with some birds laying their eggs 10+ days earlier and other have shifted their home ranges further north with migration patterns, in general, altering to accommodate the changes in climate.
Birds may be adapting, but me, well I feel as though Melbourne’s Spring is more like Summer and Summer is more like an ‘OVEN’!
September, 2018, Melbourne had the driest September on record (since Temperature records began in the 1800s), so I think we have to accept that the temperatures, in general, are higher than a hundred years ago (and increasing every year now).
One of the advantages of taking photos of the local bird-life from my apartment lounge, is the ability to rest my elbows on my desk to make hand-held shots. If I’ve got fair light and a fast enough shutter speed, (or the continuous shooting setting), its possible to also capture birds on the move.
Sometimes I can capture those quick little seed peckers – other times not.
Today’s post is about the female House Sparrow from a week ago. I had already broken the bright blue ceramic bird bath in my over-zealous balcony cleaning and the House Sparrows had seemed bewildered at the lack of a reliable water source in my lovely balcony Herb, Flower and Vegetable garden.
Australia actually has 2 Sparrows – the House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) and the Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus). Very similar, except the Eurasian Tree Sparrow is only found in a small area and has distinctive white cheek patches with a black central spot (among other differing feather colours and markings). I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Eurasian one to be honest.
The House Sparrow is quite small; male with a distinctive grey crown, black face and bib. The Chestnut-brown stripe over the eye links to a brown nape. The back and wings are richly mottled chestnut, black and white and rump grey-buff. Underparts greyish white.
The female and immature have a buff stripe over the eye as shown in this post and are much paler. They’re easy to identify.
Unlike the Spotted Turtle-doves on my previous apartment balcony to the north-east of inner Melbourne, I have yet to really see any distinguishing marks or tell Sparrows apart.
Some of the ‘boys’ are a little aggressive and territorial, but I guess the females might be also if they had a nest nearby.