# A PHOTO A DAY KEEPS THE DOCTOR AWAY – Day 34

Today’s image is from last week, not my old archives.

Last Thursday the 23rd to be exact.

female SUPERB FAIRY-WREN

With the overnight rain leaving a trail of droplets on my lounge windows, all the photos I took this morning are blurred which is a shame.

With rain forecast for the next 5-6 days, I suspect I won’t get any more bird photos in reasonable focus until next week.   That’s one of the downsides of using AF (autofocus) instead of MF (manual focus).   It can autofocus on the water droplets and not on the bird itself.  I doubt even the most experienced nature photographer would be able to capture fast-moving wrens as they dart about the ground or foliage.

But, you can bet if I put my 2 cameras (with their short and long telephoto lenses) away in their soft pouches on the floor, a bird will visit and stand still with a clear shot 😀

Here’s another shot of a male wren I took when living over the north-east side of Melbourne.  This time the bird was relatively still for a longer period of time.

I found a great YouTube to share – highlighting how fast the wrens move and their call.   Thinking about it this morning, I realise it’s more like a mouse squeaking than a bird call.

I’m sure you’ll have an appreciation of how hard they are to capture in really sharp focus on my potted herbs or balcony fence railing.

If you’re a bird-lover you might also enjoy this YouTube of some exotic bird species, their calls and feather displays

I played it through a couple of times while having my morning coffee this morning.

# A PHOTO A DAY KEEPS THE DOCTOR AWAY – Day 27

No image from my archives today as I had another visit from my Superb Fairy-wrens to share.

I was just about to fill the bucket with hot soapy water to take out onto my balcony to wash the exterior windows, bird baths and bird ‘swimming pool’ when I realized I’d forgotten to turn the computer off.

I sat down at my desk and logged off and then a delightful little female Superb Fairy-wren landed on the Rocket plant trough right in front of me.   Grabbed the Sony ‘mirrorless’ and shorter telephoto lens (as it was so close) and made about 70 shots on the continuous shooting setting.

Many were blurred and the blue feathered male was a bit too quick for me, although I did get a shot of the male standing right in front on the window in front of my desk, but the shadow was shading its eye.  I’ll include it anyway.

So out of 70, I scored 11 shots in reasonable focus with the first shot being the best.

Note: After they left the balcony I went out to do the cleaning and also cut back the Rocket plant so there’d be no tall stems hiding their bodies in future.

The male (below) is about 2 1/2 feet away from my camera lens and I can’t quite believe it didn’t see me move.  If there’d been no window, I could have reached out and touched it.  What a thrill it is to get so close to these tiny birds.

Now the windows are sparkling clean I can almost guarantee it’s going to rain tomorrow  😀

SUPERB FAIRY-WREN (Malurus cyaneus) – MALE

Last week I mentioned being able to distinguish 3 Superb Fairy-wrens now.

One of which was the male with the eclipse (non-breeding) feather pattern and colouring.   If  you  look  at  the  face  and  the  breast  below (31st  July),  you’ll  see  what  I  mean. Those tufts of white/fawn/greyish colour are quite noticeable, almost like a moustache and clipped beard or ‘beard’ of one feather.

2 days ago, either this male has gone into full breeding plumage, OR it’s a different bird.

See below.

Not an especially good photo but you can see the clear back, cap & cheek pale blue colour.

Yesterday, after I’d arrived home from my morning errand, the sun was out and I decided to spend some time in my balcony garden preparing for Spring planting.  After re-arranging my potted plants and cleaning up all the winter leaf litter in the corners (and tipping out a few totally pot-bound withered plants and depleted soil), I came indoors to turn the computer on and out of the corner of my eye saw what appeared to be 6-7 wrens in the garden.

It was almost like a party.

Obviously stirring up all the soil and pruning back some herbs to 1″stubble, must have opened up some tasty food for my avian friends.

I noticed that male in full breeding plumage was back again but could see no signs of the fluffy feathers between the blue, SO I think it is my one and only male……. ready to breed.

In one week, he’s ‘changed his clothes’ and put on his best head and chest colours to ‘attract the ladies’.

The sun was a bit too bright, but I managed to get a couple of shots in reasonable focus to share.

This second shot is a bit clearer, but the brilliant sunlight, reflecting off the rain clouds, spoilt the shot a bit and over-exposed the breast feathers.

After all that physical work and heavy pot moving, my right elbow and lower back is extremely sore this morning and it hurts to type, so a couple of days rest is required methinks.

Spring is only 3 weeks away now, so my list for new plant seedlings is getting longer by the day, but I only have room for ‘x’ number of pots and only have the time and energy to carry ‘x’ number of heavy watering cans once the seedlings are planted, so I’ll have to ‘prune’ down my Seedling Shopping List a bit.

After all the weeks of watching and waiting for last year’s experiment in growing Capsicums and ending up with only 6-7 fruit and broken branches from the nightly possum (?) visits, I think I’ll concentrate on tomatoes, baby spinach, more parsley (English curly & Italian flatleaf) and some fast-growing leafy greens – they seem to grow the best on this hot west-facing balcony garden of mine.

Some images from the last 2 Summers below………

I found 3 Harlequin bugs over-wintering in the Lemon Thyme yesterday, so I REALLY must find a solution to their infestation this year.

SUPERB FAIRY-WRENS (Malurus cyaneus)

They say Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining, but my day, which revolves around my computer in the mornings, seems to have been one long thunderstorm of niggling, annoying ‘flashes of lightening’.

A couple of weeks ago I vowed I wasn’t going to upload another post that didn’t have new photos or positive affirmations of some kind.

Well, I haven’t got any new good photos or positive things to say about my (new) iMac so I thought I’d better upload something…..well…..anything,  to let you know I’m still here.

The only joy in my day has been observing the avian visitors to my balcony garden and even they have been few and far between and hard to photograph on the dark wintery days in the poor light.

Note: Having just typed that sentence, the clouds have now cleared and the sun has put in a cheerful appearance LOL

The weather has been very cold, wet and filled with gusty strong winds in recent days, so even my potted garden has been neglected.  The wind-blown dead Maple leaves are starting to collect up against the balcony fence making for good spider habitats.

My new baby Broccolini and Tuscan Kale seedlings have been very slow to mature.   At the rate they’re growing, Winter will be over before I see the fruit of my plantings.   At least my Blueberry has had lots of flowers.   So that’s a ‘positive’.

I suspect most of the Fairy-Wrens are hunkering down in the thick green hedges (3) across the road.   The workmen on the apartment building construction crew next to the hedges  have even been working through the rain and on Saturdays, but I doubt they’ll finish before the end of this year.

I wonder if they’ve got room to put in some new green landscaping.   Now THAT, would be a bonus 🙂

If my photo library screens didn’t keep freezing (resulting in me having to log off to reboot the computer) so many times each morning, I would have had my new photo library finished by now.

But it’s not.

Having to re-log onto WordPress every time I want to type a comment on my  favourite blogs and other ‘hiccups’ have made blog reading less fun than it used to be too.   So if you haven’t seen me around your blog much, I DO still read your posts, just too weary to think of a suitable comment, or unable to press the LIKE button due to some glitch.   At the moment there are 14 WordPress blogs I can’t LIKE (or COMMENT) on.

So I’m thinking I’ll go into hibernation mode for the rest of Winter in the hope that Apple release the next software update in a few months time which might work miracles and ‘set my computer free’  

I figure if I stay off the computer most of the time, then I can at least get some other tasks done on the TO DO list.

Since most of the images (above) were shot through dirty dusty windows, here’s a better shot of the female Superb Fairy-wren from the 10th April (below) to remind you of what they look like on a sunny day through the open sliding door.

SUPERB FAIRY-WREN (Malurus cyaneus) – juvenile

I was just replying to a commenter that I hadn’t seen a Superb Fairy-wren for weeks and hoped they hadn’t found a new home when all of a sudden, 2 juveniles – a male and a female – landed on the balcony fence.

I just caught a movement over the top of my computer screen (so now new followers know why I have my desk in front of the lounge windows).

Sorry to say, I caught the bookcase reflection in the glass door…….. (and I really must clean the lounge windows).

The female flew away before I had a chance to take the lens cap off my (newly) repaired 150-500mm lens and aim.

So I clumsily followed the young male as it wandered through the herbs and eventually managed to capture a couple of shots of its back before it, too, flew away.

Juvenile male SUPERB FAIRY-WREN flying around the Lemon Verbena (right) and Perennial Basil (left).

It’s many weeks since I’ve seen these cute, fast-moving little wrens.  It’s so rare for them to stand still and pose for a shot.

APOLOGIES….

I’m way behind with Blog Reading and replying to some comments, so apologies to everyone concerned.

Sometimes, when life gets busy, you just have to accept your failings and move on……

Here’s a few quick shots of that male Superb Fairy-wren from Tuesday.  I think I had the sliding door open for the first 2 shots and the other 3 were through the dirty windows so they look a bit faded.  I don’t see these wrens  often now.  Maybe they’re nesting and got little ones to feed, or maybe, they’re fed up with finding no food in my much-reduced balcony garden?

So here’s a series of images so you can follow them around my garden like I do.  They’re such fun to watch.  It’s always a challenge to capture these fast-moving little wrens within the frame, but it’s always fun trying.

Anyway, Tuesday’s sighting was a rare one in recent weeks.  I think they visit me, take a stroll around the remaining potted plants and then drop down to the grey concrete tiles where they used to find scattered seed, then up to the fence railing, drop down to the apartment below mine, find nothing there and……………fly back to the hedge on the other side of the road.

That seems to be the routine.

I’m thinking that my Sony a6000 might need cleaning and servicing.  Yesterday’s shots at the pond in the Wetlands look a little odd.  Or maybe it was just the gusty winds that tried to blow me over and I wasn’t holding the camera still enough.  I’ve lost the rubber eyepiece for the 3rd time, and without it, my glasses are getting scratched too.

After visiting the local Pharmacy yesterday, despite ominous cloud cover, I walked over to the bus stop to check when the next bus would arrive heading down to the Maribyrnong/Edgewater/Bunyap park/wetlands (I wish they’d make up their minds out of the 3 names they’ve got on the signs around the pond).

One sign would be more than adequate.  I used to walk along the river path from home to visit this wetlands and pond, but of course, walking this far is out of the question at the moment.

A few rain drops fell but I decided to……….wait for the next post to tell you about it 😀

A TYPICAL VISIT FROM THE FAIRY-WRENS

I made a point of getting out of bed early this morning with the intention of going out for some nature photography, but the sky appeared heavily overcast.

The light is low, so unless it fine’s up a little later in the morning, looks like the outing may not be worth while the taxi fare to get to one of my old photography haunts.  I’m not normally a morning person as I try to stay in bed asleep for however long my body tells me it needs rest (to recover from a disturbed night’s sleep which happens 365 days of the year).

To be honest,’overcast is good for bird photography.  It stops Australia’s brilliant sun glare bouncing off the bird’s wings and/or flares from the sun creeping through gaps in the tree foliage.

THIS SHOT WAS A LUCKY ONE IN THAT NORMALLY THE BRILLIANT SUN GLARE WOULD HAVE TOTALLY ‘WIPED OUT’ THE OUTLINE OF THE WREN, (not just those feathers on the right), BUT YOU CAN TELL IT WAS QUITE WINDY BY THE RUFFLED FEATHERS.

Bird photography using the DLSR and heavy long 150-500mm lens hand-held is not easy for me, but the long months of being pretty much housebound have given me ample opportunity to photograph the birds on my balcony with my left elbow anchored like a tripod on the armrests of my desk chair (or even have my elbows resting on my desk).

I’m gradually learning that the continuous shooting setting does not score me any more shots in focus (than the single shot setting) when it comes to photographing the fast- moving little Superb Fairy-wrens. Other slower-moving birds, or birds that stand still, are much easier for me to capture in focus.  Even the smaller juvenile House Sparrows are easier than the Fairy-wrens.

The only way to capture a bird in reasonable focus it to aim where I think they’re going pop up their little heads after each mouthful of food and then…….snap…..press the shutter button at the exact moment they’re upright (before they lower their head down to the food crop again).

I have about a 1/10th of a second in most cases.

I don’t have time to change the camera settings once the birds have flown on to the balcony and/or potted plants.  Setting the ISO on Auto to allow for both sunny perches and deep shade doesn’t work either.  It takes too long for the camera to assess the light conditions and set the ISO automatically.

The best chance of capturing a shot is to put the ISO on 800, (which is about the highest my cameras will go without getting too much noise in the image), and the shutter speed between 250-320 (for you amateur, or new bird photographers out there).  I haven’t tried setting the DSLR on full auto for bird photography.

I’ve just shared what camera settings seem to work best for the tiny fast-moving wrens in my particular light conditions.  They may not work for you.  Or, you may be a better bird photographer than me.  I also seem to get better shots in the mornings before the sun moves over my apartment building.  The sun, if its going to be a sunny day, doesn’t hit the balcony until about 2.30pm.

I’ve notice that the English curly parsley is about 3″ lower than the Flatleaf Italian Parsley, so for some reason, that seems to be the Wren’s favoured ‘salad’ meal and there’s one particular juvenile male that’s become a regular grazer.  You can see him in the parsley’s green feathery fronds below.

Both Parsley varieties used to be the same height, although I did catch a Harlequin bug crawling up and over the parsley yesterday, so that got despatched by flicking it off onto the ground below my balcony.  I can’t quite bring myself to kill pests, but can flick them quite some distance away quite happily.  I wondered if it was eating the English Parsley also.

So I took 17 shots at around 9.30am this morning and this is 16 of them (below) to show you how hard it is to get one focal point of the DSLR on to the bird’s-eye through the glass window or sliding door.  It’s a bit too chilly to open the door wide this morning, which I normally do first thing on a warm day.  I had quite a few emails to read this morning so was reading, eating my breakfast and keeping one eye out for any tiny movement when the birds visited.

It’s surprising how quickly your eyes become attuned to the slightest movement, even on a relatively windy day when the plants, bushes and trees are waving their foliage around quite wildly and you’d think I’d miss the ‘action’.

So it’s a matter of keeping one eye on the parsley, the other eye on the Nemesia flowers and your ‘third’ eye, or intuition, focused on the viewfinder of the camera.  🙂

Anyway, breakfast’s finished and I sense a slight change in the overcast sky, but the speed with which the clouds are moving across the horizon might indicate its a little windier than forecast.

NOTE: Last night I was cleaning my camera lens and filters (ready for today’s intended outing) when I sensed a rattling as I ran the cleaning cloth around the rim.  I couldn’t understand where the noise came from.  I put the UV filter back on the lens (which I always keep on to protect my expensive long lens) and got my little rubber dust blower out to finish off the task.  I’d missed a tiny bit of fluff on the actual lens so took the filter off again and low & behold, a slim shallow ‘ring’ fell off the camera.  Not sure, but I suspect its part of the $1000+ lens.  Its broken.  But the filter seemed to screw back on OK and the lens cap fitted securely.

So I am left with a slim (now obsolete) ring of some kind.

At the moment, I can’t afford to take it in the Repair Department for assessment, buy a new expensive long telephoto lens or a new 86mm Promaster UV filter, so keep your fingers crossed I can ‘limp’ along without the broken ring.

SIZE MATTERS……

I was just about to put another load of laundry in the washing machine when I felt compelled to go back to my desk, sit down and pick up the camera.

In doing so, I caught a female juvenile Superb Fairy-wren at the bird bath having a drink.

The is a first folks! 😀

I’ve never seen a Fairy-wren use the bird bath before (and as you now know, I do nothing all day but look out the window from my Room With a View LOL 😀 ).

When I downloaded it, I found a shot from yesterday of the baby boy and with a tape measure in hand, measured the pot so you could get a sense of how tiny these juveniles are. The plastic terracotta pot measured 6 1/4″ from base to rim, so now………you can appreciate their size and the full pot is not completely shown in the frame (below) either.

Is there a Bird Angel watching over me?

(I also noticed that the holes in the new bird dish, where the chains hook, are much lower in this one and with the gusty wind swinging it to and fro, the water is emptying much quicker than the old bird bath.  Perhaps it’s meant to be a seed bowl, not a water bowl).

ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ

It is not 1962.

But it was one of the most ingenious prison breaks of all time—if it worked.   In 1962, inmates and bank robbers Frank Morris and John and Clarence Anglin vanished from Alcatraz, the federal island penitentiary off the coast of San Francisco.   They had used sharpened spoons to bore through the prison walls, left papier-maché dummies in their beds and floated away on a raft made from 50 raincoats.

 

I DO NOT HAVE 50 RAINCOATS and wouldn’t dream of damaging my cutlery with a heavy-duty nail file.  All I want to do was escape from my tiny modern apartment next to the Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve.

 

Yesterday, I made the 3rd attempt (in the last week) to finish my long list of errands in my immediate vicinity.

I was getting desperate 🙂

I had a very long list – including a replacement bright blue ceramic bird bath for the highly confused and bewildered House Sparrows – a replacement for the one I had broken in my over-zealous balcony fence clean about 2 weeks ago.  Will I EVER get to buy this B$@%# new Bird Bath?

It was late in the afternoon at 4.00pm, (when you can’t make a quick getaway via car), to be setting off.   I was almost ready to go yesterday when I realised I hadn’t turned the computer off, so walked over to my desk, located in front of the lounge windows, and sat down once again for the zillionth time that day.

I closed each application I’d been working on and turned the computer off when I caught a sudden movement out of the corner of my left eye.

Yikes!

It was another baby Superb Fairy-wren – male or female – I couldn’t quite tell.  The sex is not so easy to identify when they are juveniles.  It was a lousy shot.  Not just because I was shaking with excitement.

The glass sliding door was closed (well, of course it was, I was going out shopping).

The glass was filthy from the overnight rain. (or was it because I hadn’t cleaned it all week – take your pick – whichever reason you like).

But what was worse, I’d moved the armchair in order to put the clothes horse with the wet washing right in front of the open door earlier in the afternoon.  The reflection was hitting the (now closed) sliding door.

I dare not get up out of my chair as I couldn’t be sure whether I was visible from the wren’s perch.  When the windows have just been cleaned all the birds can see is a reflection of the sky, plants and the balcony fence.

I’m invisible.

But when the glass is dirty, sometimes I’m visible, sometimes I’m not.

 

Then with a flick of his/her tail, the bird was gone.

 

I stared at the ruby-red lettuce for a while.

I needed to get that clothes horse and wet washing out of the way.

But was it worth taking the risk of moving (to get up out of my chair to do it)?

Suddenly I spotted the Fairy-wren jumping on to the next seedling tray into the Pak Choy which had bolted and gone to seed from being in the overly warm lounge room.  I’ve already recounted my failure in having an indoor garden leading up to Spring and the subsequent transfer of seedling trays out to the open balcony fresh air.

 

“Turn around” ……I sent a telepathic message.

“All right, don’t”. I said with down-turned pouting lips.

“But you could at least fly away for a few seconds, so I can move the clothes horse to erase the reflection clouding my shots”

“No way” said the tiny Wren on receiving my request.

“I’m having too much fun, eating these fresh young leaves”

 

I cursed again as the next shot was ruined by the reflection from both the glass door and a clothes horse white line straight through the bird’s eye.

I suspected I had the DSLR and long telephoto lens on far too slow a shutter speed, but I dare not put the camera down to look in case I missed a photo opportunity.

Normally I can change camera settings with the DSLR up against my eye when I’m calm and have no Brain Fog…….but not when I’m excited.

Still too blurred…….and the tiny wren continued to snack on my Mizuna ‘Red’ (Brassica rapa var nipposinica).  It must have liked the peppery flavour?

This is the first time I had bought one of these Diggers Club Heirloom cut-and-come-again leafy vegetables featuring the lacy, purple-red foliage (to add a splash of colour and a pinch of pepper to salads and soups, so the plant label said).   

Most plant nursery’s stock Diggers Club varieties, although my younger brother buys his Heirloom veggie seeds from an online source.  He mentioned yesterday that he was going to plant more Amish tomatoes this year as he’d had a bumper crop last year.

 

A quick turn around of wings and tail spoilt the next shot too.

 

…….and all I got was a little rear end poking fun at me.

It then flew away and I finally had the opportunity to move the folding clothes horse.  I thought the bird show had ended so I didn’t open the sliding glass door, but sat down ready to turn the computer back on, as I couldn’t wait until after my planned shopping expedition to see if any of the shots had turned out.

Then the sun came out and luckily I hadn’t put the lens cap back on, because the tiny wren came back.

I’d had quite a bit of trouble focusing in the first place because the 150-500mm lens was actually too long and I’d had to slowly lean back in my swivel chair to try and get the camera to autofocus.  It kept ‘auto’ zooming in and out trying to find the subject.

….and of course, each time the DSLR long lens played around, so did the bird.

But the Sony ‘mirrorless’ with its shorter 55-210mm lens was tucked away in its camera bag and I couldn’t reach it without scaring the wren away.

 

It was throughly enjoying the warmth of the winter sun on its back.

Then success.

Despite the dirty glass, I got a fairly decent shot (below).  I’d noticed those white little puddles of bird poop and wondered which bird had made them.

House Sparrows make white pellets.

The shadows from the late afternoon sun were stretching longer and longer.

I was desperate to escape “Alcatraz” but I still hesitated in case I missed further shots.

I do believe I’m becoming a bird-aholic.

Can’t get enough of the wee small creatures.

I really should be going to BA (Bird-aholics Anonymous), but like all people with an addiction, it was up to me to make the first move and after this long Winter at home with only the birds for company, I just couldn’t take the first step to attend a BA meeting.

I was glorifying in my indulgence and soaking up the possibilities.  (I have an addictive personality type and once I’d broken my bird-aholics remission, I just couldn’t stop).

The Super Fairy-wren ‘babe’ flew up to the Nemesia flowers.  I was getting ‘drunk’ on the sight and wobbled continually, as well as (what I later found out) was a ridiculously slow shutter speed at 1/60 and small aperture at f29.0.

Yes, I was deliriously ‘drunk’ on photographic vision.

I’d never even checked the camera settings in my haste and excitement, although I had switched the ISO to AUTO at one stage.

 

That’s getting better……”Can you move your head a bit to your right?”

 

…….and then…..he/she stood fairly still.

Is that the end of the photo session I wondered?

“Can I now get out the door to do the long list of errands (including your new bird bath)?”

“Do what you please.” answered the Fairy-Wren.

“In the meantime, take a shot of my rump” said the baby bird.  “It’ll be the best shot of the day if you can stop that camera shaking so much.”

THE END.

I actually took a total of 41 images, but by the time I turned the computer back on and downloaded the shots to review them, the sun had gone behind the cloud cover and rain threatened.

Just like today, it is starting to rain and my 4th attempt at escaping these four walls looks like its in jeopardy.

No……..wait…….the sun’s coming out again.

But I need 3 new colour ink cartridges, a new pack of printer paper, a browse through the cordless vacuum cleaners in the furniture shop next door, a new door mat, bird bath and other items at the nearby hardware/plant nursery warehouse and then there’s……………………………………………………………………

 

Have good trust in yourself,

not in the one that you think you should be

but in the one that you are

Taizan Maezumi, 1931— 1995, Japanese zen Buddhist teacher

I AM……..A BIRD-AHOLIC.

I AM.

PS The baby wren just reappeared and after numerous ‘shots’, my 4th attempt to escape this apartment is in jeopardy.  This time I WILL NOT stop to download them.  I will not.

Looks like Mizuma ‘Red’ is off the Spring menu once and for all 😀