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.