SPRING

From the archives

22nd August 2017

Early Spring blossom

It’s that time of year when all the trees are sporting new growth.   I was looking through all the 1st September images in my photo library last night hoping to get one image from each of the 10 years since I took up photography,  but there didn’t seem to be many, so I decided to just share any images in this season from my archives.

The two images in this post are from a row of trees edging a children’s playground next to a large green oval where I photographed the pink and grey Galahs.

(I don’t see these Galahs in any other place in my area, just grazing on the grass seed in this one spot I might add)..

A SAD SIGHT IN THE BALCONY GARDEN

I’ve only just got up and the morning is nearly gone.   I seem to need more and more sleep these days and I’m all the better for it.   One of the most healthful and rejuvenating remedies for me is Sleep.   Deep restful restorative sleep.  Many people just don’t get enough of it.  Our bodies need sleep to rest, repair and replenish our vital organs.

I stood at the lounge room windows and surveyed the little garden earlier.   I didn’t water the potted plants last night in the hope that today’s forecast rain would suffice.

I could see my newly planted seedlings were starting to make great leaps in their young lives with the veggies promising hope for a good crop this Summer.   They look even better than last weeks images.

The French Beans look absolutely perfect in their growing cycle.

I say a little prayer each morning that the Cabbage Moth Caterpillars and Harlequin bugs don’t put in their annual appearance.

The Lemon Verbena, which I grow for the sheer pleasure of running my fingers through its lemon-scented leaves, has put on a massive growth spurt in the last week alone.   It got eaten by ‘you-know-who’ last Spring so I bought a new seedling this year.

IF the number of flowers on my Blueberry bush means fruit, it will be a sight for sore eyes indeed.

Have I mentioned this fact before?

Only a dozen times you might well reply LOL.

Last years crop gave me a small handful nearly every day for about 3-4 weeks.   (Just repeating this fact for the new followers).

Most of the plants that had wilted in my 6-day absence have bounced back with astonishing growth.

As usual, the Mint, which wilted badly, has put on a growth spurt with the deep watering I gave it on my return to home base, with each stem sprouting fresh young leaves in a matter of days. Note the new leaves in the image below.

I only lost one lettuce from the punnet of 8 young seedlings and it was looking like the ‘runt of the pack’ even before my absence.

Then I spotted it.

The sad sight of a motionless Spotted Turtle-dove (above), one of my favourite bird species, of which several had become quite tame in my previous 3rd-floor apartment on the north-east side of Melbourne (below).

The Spotted Turtle-doves used to wake me at dawn with their gentle cooing.

Sometimes, it seemed as though their sound would be all that louder if the water or seed bowls were empty.

I often had the feeling that they knew who I was and that I was their friend.

They spoke to me regularly with their gentle sounds and growing trust.   I have to admit I miss these lovely birds although I had seen one 2-3 times on my balcony fence on this western side of the city and sometimes in the nearby Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve perimeter (below).

2 SPOTTED TURTLE-DOVES ON THE EAST PERIMETER OF FROGS HOLLOW NATURE RESERVE (BEHIND MY APARTMENT BUILDING)

Life just isn’t the same when I don’t have a Room With a View.

I noticed the construction across the road has started it’s 4th floor this morning.   My photos at dusk each night are showing less and less of the sky as each storey unfolds on the construction site.

Oh well, that’s Life.

You win some, you lose some.

Our life on this earth is impermanent.   Nothing stays the same.

So saying, I’d better get on and select the Quote and Image of the Week. 🙂  I’m selecting a ‘gardening’ quote each Wednesday and one of my images to go with it.

THE SUN IS OUT, THE SKY IS BLUE……..

The sun is out

The sky is blue

Hardly a cloud in sight

To spoil the view………

 

………and the male Superb Fairy-wren is back again.

I haven’t seen a female Superb Fairy-wren for about 3 weeks, only what appears to be this one male Superb Fairy-wren in his best breeding coat of blue.

I wish we got the Spendid Fairy-wrens this far south in Australia, as their breeding colours are the most vivid blue and really outstanding.   Check out their blue coat in this image photographed by Mark Eatwell for example.

I spotted my Superb Fairy-wren and the Grey Fantail deep in the foliage of the Japanese Maple in front of my balcony on Thursday and silently begged the Fairy-wren to come up to the fence railing so I could photograph him.

He obliged very briefly and then turned around to face the road and let out the sweetest bird song I’ve heard in quite a while.   Hearing these magical sounds makes me all the more aware of what a wonderful location I live in and how lucky I am with my urban outlook.

Now the Maple is covered in its thick Spring cape, I think it unlikely I’ll be able to photograph much more from my desk.   It has grown about 2 feet in the 3 years I’ve lived here and it had much more dense foliage.

I’m missing the Fairy-wrens, but the House Sparrows have still kept up their morning and afternoon visits to the Bird Bath for a quick refreshment stop on their way to pastures new.

The Japanese Maple is now so thickly clothed in its Spring coat of leaves, that I haven’t a hope of getting any photos.   Still, sometimes I get a faint view.

…….even through three layers of dusty glass as in the image below.

THIS IMAGE HAS HAD THE CONTRAST AND SHADOWS OVER-EDITED TO SHOW UP THE SHAPE OF THE BIRD.

Long-time followers will remember I caught a female House Sparrow feeding its offspring once.   I edited the contrast and sharpness of this shot below, managing to make it more visible despite the glass fence.

All my avian visitors love the fresh green shoots of the Maple.   Two sparrows even chewed on a few Violet leaves and Asian lettuce leaves earlier this afternoon, but unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera lens cap off and by the time I picked up the heavy long lens and took it off, the movement must have startled them and they flew off.

Soon I hope to get sight of the New Holland Honeyeaters and the Eurasian Goldfinches, but even a Willy Wagtail, Thrush or Magpie Lark would be a welcome sight.

Spring is the season to be grateful for a Room With a View  🙂

 

BIRD PHOTOGRAPHY

Some of you non-bird photographers probably think it’s quite easy to photograph birds on my balcony.

After all, I am using a 150-500mm lens mostly……and the birds are about 5-15 feet away (the closer shots are made with the Sony a6000 and it’s 55-210mm ‘kit’ lens).

I can assure you it’s not.

Some days, I seem to manage ok, other days its near on impossible as the birds face the wrong way, or walk on the pot rim behind the plant.   There’s a definite skill to getting the one focal point through the plant foliage and onto the bird’s eye OR moving the camera slightly to stop it autofocusing on the dusty rain droplets on the glass windows.

A sharply focused eye is what usually makes for a good bird photo.  The eye is where the viewer’s eye goes straight to (even if the rest of the bird is ‘soft’ in focus).

2 days ago, the Japanese Maple only had faint knobs where the leaf buds were starting to show.

Example below:

Today, the leaf buds are starting to open.

The Canon & 150-500mm lens was too long so I went back to get the Sony a6000 out of its soft pouch and went out to the balcony fence to get the following shot.

I spent some time trying to get the buds in focus on the main tree but the autofocus kept weaving in and out on various small branches.

Then I noticed some small branches which were easier for the autofocus to catch.   This branch was in front of the stairwell/lift wall where the corrugated surface bounces the hot sun onto my balcony garden.


…..and while too far away for this lens, I saw a New Holland Honeyeater sitting on the other Japanese Maple in front of the building’s entrance.   I knew if I went back indoors to change cameras it would have flown away before I could get the shot.  It was lovely to catch sight of a different species of bird now I’m more housebound with this ‘dodgey’ hip and knee etc.

Here are some images (again 😀 ) of the New Holland Honeyeater taken in 2017 just to remind you of what it looks like.

Apart from a crow (or House Raven ?)  landing on my balcony fence for a few seconds last week, I haven’t seen much in the way of the 6-7 bird species that frequent this area this year so far.   I certainly hear the caw-caw of the crows more since the construction workers have been here.

When I went out yesterday I noticed an awful lot of rubbish on the construction site – perhaps the crows/ravens are coming for a rummage around the rubbish?

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) 🙂

BIRD POOP EVERYWHERE….

It’s 9.30am Sunday and I just stepped out on to my apartment balcony to fill the bird bath.

“S%#@” I said to myself.

There’s bird poop everywhere.

I was so engaged at observing the multitude of birds in the flower, herb and veggie pots yesterday, I once again forgot the repercussions of feeding the hoards (of local bird life).

The hard white pellets were not just on my apartment balcony fence either.

(That’s their usual depository).

There were soft white mini puddles of the stuff on the slate-grey balcony floor tiles.  I gingerly weaved my way across the 5′ space to the bright blue ceramic dish and filled it up with fresh water and surveyed the scene.

The new blue bird bath seems much thinner pottery and lighter in weight. I hope it down’t fly off the chain in one of our gale force winds in the future. I’d knocked the previous one off the hook in some over-zealous bird poop cleaning some weeks ago.

Do I wait in the hope that today’s rain will wash some of it away OR get right on to the task of getting it off with some hot soapy water before it dries too hard?

I think I’ll give The Rain a first shot at the task.

In the meantime, the Japanese Maple tree in front of my balcony is covered in tiny new leaves.  The buds didn’t take long to sprout.  The above photo is from last year, but it’s the same week in early Spring and is perfect for today’s post.

In Australia, we call the 1st of September the first day of Spring, not the true Spring equinox which occurs around the 20-23rd September.

This new growth usually brings the hoards of House Sparrows for breakfast and later in the day – about 3.30-4.00pm, depending on the warmth of the sun – the tiny little Fairy Wrens.  The Sparrows seem to love the tender bright green tips on each branch.

With warmer temperatures forecast for this coming week, Spring is definitely making her mark on the landscape.

Yesterday’s images were lousy (of Birds on my Balcony).

I’d only taken about 4-5 and then given up. After spending the whole morning bird watching, Friday’s sore throat got much worse and I succumbed to a lazy afternoon of TV (with half an eye straying to the bird life as the chirping and tweeting rose and fell over the hours).

One good thing to come out of being housebound so much this year is that I’m getting lots of practice at photographing the fast-moving smaller birds in the area.  …and with the potted plants 4-10 feet from my desk chair, who can resist the practice.

If you want to become a good photographer, practice, practice and more practice can never go astray.

Not all shots have been good, but the ones below, taken on Friday, are just fine and even the shape of the shadows on the corrugated wall in the background make an interesting addition to the scene.  It’s a female Superb Fairy-wren in this case.

I notice in my photo archives on the 10th September 2017, I was down at Jawbone Marine Sanctuary and Conservation Reserve (stretching from the western suburb of Williamstown down Port Phillip Bay to Altona and beyond).

Will I ever get back down there to photograph the Royal Spoonbills with the long 150-500mm lens?  I think the images below, made with the Sony ‘mirrorless’ camera and its (one and only) 55-210mm lens on the 1st February this year show promise of some great shots to be made from my Canon DLSR and longer lens.  But I haven’t been well enough to go back in recent months.

Then there’s the Australia Pelicans and various Cormorants out on the rocks of the promontory, or long island separating the lakes system and the sea.

I think I need to take a tripod and choose a windless day and perhaps conserve my minimal energy and catch a taxi direct to the small lakes system, take a few images, have the obligatory Fish’n’Chips on the beach and come straight home again.

(I  rarely go to the beach these days, and truly, its the only place to have piping hot REAL chips and perfectly battered fresh fish.  Cafes and restaurants and shopping centres/malls are not the same as sitting in the fresh sea air with some spray from the rocks catching you unawares and the scent of the sea filling your nostrils).

Here’s a few images from last year to remind the regular followers of the scene (and give the new followers an idea of the potential).  There are various segments of the long coastal walk and I’ve only explored part of one closest via public transport.

Here’s a map of the walk I’ve done so far since living in the Western suburbs, and while my knee, hip and lower back pain prevent a repeat of this small section, I can always ‘cheat’ and avoid the lengthy 2-bus trip (which winds its way through the suburbs picking up and dropping off passengers at each stop), by catching a taxi which only takes approx. 25 minutes and can drop me off at the top left of the map right next to the walking path and 2 islands where I first saw the Royal Spoonbills.   The taxi can drop me about 20-50 feet from the spot I want.

I’ve visited the area several times now and want to do some bird photography, not walking.

I caught a taxi the very first time I went this part of the coast as I was a complete newcomer to this side of Melbourne and didn’t have the slightest clue which bus services went where, OR exactly where I was going.

This stretch of the coastal walk would probably be only a brisk 30 minute walk, but anyone who walks that fast is missing a beautiful piece of coastal reserve and conservation area and maybe should think seriously about getting a treadmill and blindfold to use in their garage for exercise purposes.

Here’s a few more images to lure you to the spot if you’re a local Melburnian.

My beach and coastal walks years ago were limited to the Bayside Beaches on the south side of Melbourne when I was living over that side of the city.

(Sorry about the long post, but once I started, my fingers ran away with the words and my long months of being pretty much housebound needed the visual outing).