R.I.P. – Sigma 150 – 500/5.6 – 6.3 APO DG OS and Promaster 86mm UV Digital Filter

THE GOOD NEWS…….yesterday was perfect weather….cool, light wind, overcast (clearing to sunny) and was the day I finally ended up going back to the Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve to try and get a decent photo of the Royal Spoonbills (Platalea regia) in the middle of one of the lakes..

“Once a highly degraded site, Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve has been transformed into an ecological haven and a place of beauty for the whole community. Stretching from the Westgate Bridge to Williamstown, Altona and down to the Cheethams Wetlands and Point Cook, the park consists of open grasslands, wetlands, a saltmarsh and mangrove conservation area, Wader Beach and the Kororoit Creek.

The Bay trail, popular with cyclists and walkers, runs through the north of the park.”

THE BAD NEWS……I…..ehrrr…..had a slight accident and killed the long telephoto ‘birding’ lens.  Initially, I thought it was just the $139.95 UV filter.

I took the UV filter off and turned the camera/lens upside down to look through the viewfinder and all the glass fell out of the lens barrel and on to the asphalt walking path.  (in hindsight, now why didn’t I turn it upside down over the grass)?

Not even worth taking it to the repair department in the city – even if the glass could be replaced it would probably cost hundreds of dollars (or half the price of a new lens or more).

THE GOOD NEWS……Yes, I got the shot!  

Not close-up, but good enough (and many more before the accident – these will come next week when I’ve reviewed the images and my wrist is less sore.  It’s just in a splint at the moment as I didn’t want a plaster slab on it for a week restricting everything I do).  I can type ok.

In the meantime, this morning the swelling on my knee has gone down, but very painful so maybe I should have had that X-rayed (as well as my hand).  Funny, how the worst of the pain comes out the next day.

THE BAD NEWS……by the time I picked up the pieces, finished the walk, sore in more than a few spots……..$1141.45 had gone down the plughole (as they say)……in taxi, lens, UV filter, bus……later that night, taxi, hospital E.R, taxi home.

THE GOOD NEWS……only a hairline fracture in my (X-rayed) wrist……..but my knee hurts like hell this morning…..lets hope it gets better with rest.

THE BAD NEWS…..I can’t afford a new lens & filter (at the moment), so this may be an end to any close-up bird shots in the future.

I didn’t even shed a tear over the loss of my beloved ‘birding’ lens – all I thought was ‘another one bites the dust’, kept walking and shooting with the other 2 lenses I had with me.

THE GOOD NEWS.….It was a glorious day and there were hundreds, if not thousands of birds to be seen.  I had a lovely chat to another photographer who told me some of the names of the other birds and showed me his photos taken further along the foreshore – (it was low tide).

Another couple of photographers (on bicycles) stopped to chat and tell me more about the whole Marine Sanctuary and Nature Reserve.

So, I’d say it was a good day 🙂

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BLACK-NECKED STORK (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus)

BLACK-NECKED STORK (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus)

The Black-necked Stork (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus) is huge, often known as Jabiru.

The adult is unmistakable, with white body contrasting black flight feathers, back and tail, and iridescent purplish neck and head.  The black beak is massive.  The legs are long and bright red, although the colour seems to vary in my old photo folder.   Seems to be more of an orange colour, but I suppose that is the Auto White Balance setting I used back in the day I shot these photos.   A couple of the images in this post seem to be on a warmer White Balance Setting (as you’ll notice).

BLACK-NECKED STORK (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus)

Eyes are dark in the male and yellow in the female.  The immature bird is brown above paling to whitish below, beak and legs grey.  Apparently the voice has deep booms with the beak clappering and to be honest, I can’t remember this sound from my many Zoo visits, (where the images below were made in the enormous Great Aviary).

I’ve never seen it in the wild, with it being found predominantly in the far north, or far north-eastern, areas of Australia.  But in re-booting my nature blog and starting a proper bird index of the 101 (errr……probably more like 110) bird species I’ve photographed in parks, nature reserves, Royal Botanic Gardens and Melbourne Zoo, its forms part of the list.

I think I’m up to about 40 birds I’ve shared and listed in the right-hand column of this page, so there are quite a few more species to share from my archives in future posts.

I found it a little difficult to find a really sharply focused image in my old iPhoto folder this morning, so I’ve uploaded an array of images hoping that some of them will be clear enough to see some of the feather colours and details.

Twice I’ve seen what I presume is a mating display (?) or aggressive display (?) between 2 of these stunning birds, but not being familiar with the movie/video features of my camera didn’t know how to capture it.

It was well worth seeing 🙂

 

COCKS COMB CORAL TREE (Erythrina crista-galli)

I decided to end my blogging and blog reading holiday a couple of days ago and get back into the swing of Blogging and sharing my nature photos again.

My brain was turning to ‘mush’ while on holiday from the computer.  Being mainly housebound for most of 2018 only added to my intermittent Brain Fog, Short-term memory problems and Cognitive Dysfunction.   I was putting a lot of it down to the Auto Spell-check in the latter part of 2018, but the truth is…… my fingers don’t always type what my brain tells them to. 

(if you read some weird sentence on one of my 3 blogs, don’t hesitate to point it out to me using the comments section.  Spell-check and proof-reading don’t always catch the errors).

This is not a sign of ageing, merely some of the Symptoms of Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME)  that seems to send my normal brain function awry.  The fact that my Mindful living practice was put out of sync with some complicated family issues only added to the mix.  Hopefully these family issues have now been resolved.

I came across my Cocks Comb Coral Tree (Erythrina crust-galli) folder while meandering through my old iPhoto Library in the last couple of days.  While not an Australian native tree/flower, the tree is striking due to its unusual bark.  The difference between its Summer canopy of lush green leaves and many brightly coloured flowers and non-flowering bare tree trunk and branches, is really quite extraordinary.

There is one large very old tree near the Herbarium and one smaller tree near the William Tell Rest house.

These are located in the southern end of Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens.

The colourful Australian Rainbow Lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus) love it’s nectar, and in one particular small tree next to a walking path in the RBG, can be found close enough to observe and photograph.

Cockspur coral tree is just one of its many common names, and is a deciduous shrub or tree from South America. It has been commonly grown in Australia as an ornamental plant, and has become invasive along waterways in coastal NSW north of Sydney.

LITTLE PIED CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax melanoleucos)

LITTLE PIED CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax melanoleucos) enjoying the early afternoon winter sun on the Maribyrnong River.

The Little Pied Cormorant (Phalacrocorax melanoleucos) is the smallest Australian Cormorant.  It’s a miniature duller version of the Pied Cormorant (Phalacrocorax varies), but the adult lacks the large coloured facial skin patches.

The white face extends above the eye.

Tufted crest of black feathers on the forehead appear in the early breeding season.  It lacks the black thigh patch of the two larger pied species with the immature having brown upper parts merging into off-white underparts, with a blackish thigh stripe.

Habitat: Almost any water, inland or coastal, fresh, salt or brackish, of any sort.  It is very widespread indeed and I’ve seen this bird with its wings outspread drying its feathers in the public gardens like the Royal Botanic Gardens to the south-east of Melbourne where I used to live, the Treasury Gardens on the eastern rim of Melbourne’s CBD (central business district), as well as down the local bayside beaches that I’ve visited via public transport since I took up Photography as a hobby in 2010.

GREAT CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax carbo)

One of my goals for this year, (and I don’t have many), is to be able to identify birds which look very similar.

To me, a Cormorant is a Cormorant.

Pied Cormorant (Phalacrocorax varius) looks the same to me as a Little Pied Cormorant (Phalacrocorax melanoleucos) for example.

It was only on re-viewing my Cormorant photo folder last night that I realised the Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) is actually very easy to identify and I really just hadn’t made enough effort to read up on Australia’s largest cormorant in my Bird Guide Book.

These birds are large.

Very large.

The adult is iridescent black, with bare yellow facial skin and throat path.  In the breeding season, a white chin and thigh patches develop.  The immature bird is dark brown.   It’s facial skin colours, even from a great distance away, when you can’t determine the bird’s actual size, make it quite distinct from the Little Black Cormorant (Phalacrocorax sulcirostris).  

I really don’t know why I kept getting them mixed up.

Australia has 5 cormorants and a couple of them are regular inhabitants of my local river (behind my apartment building).

The images above were made back in August 2012 at Melbourne Zoo.  These birds aren’t in any form of enclosure, but probably come to the island and enormous lagoon area near the Orangutan enclosure, at around 4.00pm, to partake of the daily feeding of the Australian Pelicans in the area.

If you’re visiting Melbourne, or even just a local, it’s a good idea to check out the various feeding times around the Zoo to get some great close-up views of the various birds & animals etc.

Melbourne Zoo is open 365 days of the year.

WHITE-FACED HERON (Egretta novaehollandiae)

I was out of bed early today as I have to go into the city (of Melbourne) for an appointment.

While I won’t have time for any Street Photography for my B & W Blog, I do want to fit in a few other errands while there (hip pain permitting).  I’m not looking forward to it as the Christmas shopping crowds will be horrendous.

11th JANUARY 2018 – POST CHRISTMAS CROWDS (and still within the summer school holidays in Australia).

Dare I say……I am not a people person at the best of times, let alone in Melbourne’s CBD (Central Business District) the week before Christmas.  I only go into the city centre for the very rare appointment these days as I can’t stand the cloying perfumes and body products people wear, OR the smell of cigarettes………..let alone the crowds and noise.

Sometimes I think I’m allergic to the human race, not just the city centre 😀

To cut a long story short, because I was up a couple of hours early and sitting at my desk drinking my morning coffee, by sheer chance I happened to look up through the lounge window at the fence between the main road footpath and the cliff face (above my computer screen).

I was astonished to see what looked like a Heron standing on the fence (and wouldn’t you know it, I didn’t have the cameras out of their ‘sleeping bags’).

I twisted around in my desk chair and reached for the long telephoto lens & DSLR case, whipped out the camera and tried to steady it, but I was too excited and couldn’t hold the camera still.  I managed to fire off one shot as the Heron lifted off and flew away.

Fortunately, that DSLR and long 150-500mm lens is always set on Shutter Priority (and I wouldn’t have had time to look at, or change, the camera settings anyway).

Unfortunately, the shutter speed was only 1/100 (left over from last night’s playing around photographing House Sparrows at various camera settings) – not fast enough, although I might have scored a good shot if I had more time to check the DSLR settings AND if I’d been standing on my balcony and could have watched the bird flying to the north (not chopped off by my computer, lounge room blinds etc).

A heron standing on a residential fence really was a rare sight and so you will believe me, here’s the shot:

While I’m not good as shooting moving objects, especially birds in flight,  I have occasionally achieved a few good bird-in-flight shots by sheer luck over recent times.

Here’s some more images taken over the last couple of years of the White-faced Heron (Egretta novaehollandiae), at various locations around Melbourne, so new followers know which bird I’m talking about.

……..and at Melbourne Zoo’s Great Aviary (below)

THIS MIGHT HAVE BEEN MID-WINTER WHEN MOST OF THE LARGE BIRDS ARE AT THE TOP OF THE ENORMOUS WALK-THROUGH AVIARY. PROBABLY ABOUT 30-40 FEET ABOVE THE BOARDWALK.
A RATHER WET AND BEDRAGGLED WHITE-FACE HERON SITTING ON A BRANCH – LEVEL WITH THE VISITOR BOARDWALK.

The image (below) is probably the first good shot I ever made of this Heron (along the Yarra River in Abbotsford – an inner suburb north-east of Melbourne city).

WHITE-FACED HERON (Egretta novaehollandiae)

……and down at Jawbone Conservation Reserve in the western coastal suburb of Williamstown.

……..and just in case I manage to get down to the coastal path in Jawbone Conservation Reserve this Summer (before my hip replacement surgery booked in February), here’s a sample of what I hope to see again.

Has to be a cool day though.  I’m not fond of Melbourne’s Summer heat & humidity and this coastal walk has almost no trees or shelter from the scorching Summer sun.

It’s actually only about 25 minutes drive from my home, but without a car, it can be a long 2 bus trip (if I just miss the first bus and have to wait 40 minutes for the next one OR just miss the connecting 2nd bus which also runs on an irregular basis.  Time it right on a weekday and the trip might be about 45-60 minutes?? via public transport).  I could catch a 3rd bus to the other end of this walking trail and walk from north-west to south-east.

 

VERBENA or SHRUB VERBENA (Lantana)

I, finally, have to be honest.

The reason I haven’t shared many flower images from my archives recently is that I can’t decide which ones to post.

I have too many photos………still……..after deleting thousands a couple of years ago.

THIS IMAGE LOOKS A LITTLE SOFT IN FOCUS (TO ME).

I look in each of my old iPhoto flower folders, all named and identified with their common and botanical names at the top, and then, at the images and think……that’s not very good.  Or, that’s not in focus.  Or even, that’s too dark and needs the contrast or shadows reduced (or something).

The 2 images below had such a dark background, they almost looked black.  I lightened the backgrounds this morning.

I’m my own worst critic.

In recent times, on reviewing many of those early archival images, they ALL seem terribly dark.  Must have been something to do with the lounge room where I had my desk and computer, which, while lovely and cool in the summer, fell in to deep shade for all but 2-3 hours in the middle of the day.

I must have altered the exposure on the computer images to fit what seemed right in the dim night-light when I did the reviewing.

I lived 2 streets away from the Royal Botanic Gardens up to May 2015 and that dark living space must have influenced my photo editing to some degree.  I’ve mainly done a little cropping or ‘tweaking’ the exposure, contrast, sharpness and colour saturation (until I set up a Custom Picture Style in-camera).

In Winter, the room was even darker.

NOTE: I do even less editing these days.  I usually just press the AutoCorrect button in the El Capitan photo editing section of my Mac Pro – Exposure AutoCorrect, Sharpness AutoCorrect and the Autocorrect button for Definition.  Sometimes I reduce the colour saturation a wee bit as my Custom Picture Style on my 2 DSLRs can make colours too bright depending on the light of the day and season.

Melbourne (and the rest of Australia probably) has very bright harsh sunlight in the warmer months.  Something to do with the hole in the Ozone layer over the country I suspect.

I never get up early enough to catch the soft early morning light.

I’ve tried a few of the different Picture Styles on the Sony a6000 e.g. Autumn Leaves, but don’t like their over-saturated colours much.

I LEFT THE BACKGROUND DARK FOR THESE WHITE LANTANA FLOWERS.

On the other hand, maybe I discovered very early on in my flower photography that most flower blooms had better definition if a little under-exposed with a dark background.

Either way, I now live in a light, bright space with floor-to-ceiling windows and a relatively large, hot, sunny west-facing balcony.

I can now get a better sense of exposure on my large computer screen.

But, dare I say…….. I’m always hot these days  😀  (after living in what my friends used to call ‘freezing’ cold).

WHEN THE WEATHER GETS ROUGH & THE GOING GETS TOUGH…………..TAKE A PHOTO OR TWO

Yesterday, Melbourne had the equivalent of the whole month of December’s rain………..all  in one day.  I woke in the early hours of Wednesday morning to the heavy patter of rain drops on a plastic bag I’d left on my apartment balcony and the sound didn’t seem to let up all day.

The rain was far too heavy to go out and rearrange the plastic bag (full of pots I’d emptied over recent weeks).

It was almost like mid-winter.

Today was not much better and there was flash flooding in Melbourne city and the inner suburbs.

Roads and lane ways were virtual little streams and I’m sure most shoppers and office workers would have done better to take shoes and socks off to walk across the flooded roads.

On the TV news tonight,  rivers of water swept down long flights of stairs to the underground rail stations and I’m sure Christmas shoppers would have had a rather soggy trip home.

I’ve had a very busy week with family and health issues and trying to do a lot of organising of things I don’t normally have to deal with, so I didn’t get around to scanning my flower archives for some images to share.  I thought we’d had enough on the subject of birds on my Nature Blog, but when I sat down mid-afternoon for a rest, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the most extraordinary sight.

It had been raining so heavily, the top of the balcony fence was literally covered in one long gigantic puddle.  

Next thing……up flew a juvenile female Superb Fairy-wren and with a hop, skip and jump proceeded to dance along the fence rail like a small child in rubber boots jumping in puddles for the first time and skipping in sheer delight.  Every 3rd or 4th step she would scoop up a drink with her beak, splash and kick up her feet  to make a larger splash.

To say she was dancing would definitely be the best description.

Then the tiny Fairy-wren would turn, look around and ‘skip’ back along the fence.

Back and forth she went over and over, and of course, as is always the case with me,  the cameras were put away as I was doing some Spring-cleaning and didn’t want to trip over camera gear on the floor.

Grrrrr!

The Canon DSLR and long telephoto lens case was the closest to where I was sitting, so I pulled the case to me and whipped out the long heavy lens (fortunately with the camera still set on Shutter Priority for bird photography) to try and capture some of the action (mostly unsuccessfully).

Still, I did manage to capture a few shots.

The Sony a6000 with its fast 11 fps (frames per second) on continuous shooting mode would have been far better.

Next minute a juvenile (?) male flew down behind her, looked left and right as though to check no one was looking, then briefly mounting the poor little female, had his way (ehrrr……unsuccessfully as far as I could see), jumped off and flew away.

It was so quick I nearly missed it.

The fluffy down-wrapped young female looked one way down the fence, then the other as though to say “that was fun, but it was so quick, I nearly missed it too 😀  ”

Then with another hop, skip, jump & splash, she flew off across the road.

Anyway, here’s the few shots I managed to get, with the fourth one being out of focus (except for the wet feathers), but I’m sure you can imagine the scene.

A few days ago, I was surprised to see the Fairy-wrens walking all over my net-covered blueberry bush, pecking here and there through the cotton threads, at what I assumed were young shoots, as I’m sure I ate all the ripe berries when I lifted the net and checked the bush each morning.

NOTE: Most of these images were made though dirty windows.  Where the birds are sharper in focus, no doubt that would have been when the sliding door was open and I was able to photograph the birds direct,  and where the images were less sharp, the photos would have been made through the glass window/door.

Enjoy……….

…..and I REALLY will get around to choosing some flower images, but you know what its like when Life gets Busy.

The Blog(s) suffer first.

I THINK THIS MIGHT ALSO BE A JUVENILE OR YOUNG CHICK – HER FEATHERS LOOK VERY SOFT AND DOWNY AND HER BEAK AND HEAD LOOKS QUITE SMALL.

SOLITUDE

I wrote this on a fellow blogger’s site and he suggested more readers might enjoy it…..

His question was…..where did you find solitude……(after relating his own experience)

 

I find solitude every day in the times that all is silent around my apartment – especially noticeable on a Sunday.

 

 

Just the sound of birds chirping and caw-cawing, the occasional whisper of the wind in the tree tops outside, and very faintly, the low drone or hum of a plane occasionally, almost like thunder as it rolls across the sky.

(This occurs because I live halfway up a steep hill and the sounds of traffic and urban living float over the top without having touched my ears, attuned as I am to the sounds of nature which dominate my senses).

The hum of a plane can be so low you wonder if it was there at all.

For a city dweller it’s a kind of feeling that few would notice. I am enfolded in Solitude’s cloak regularly, but not the solitude you would find in the wilderness.

 

 

At this time of year, the constant tiny cheep of young chicks in nearby nests reminds me I’m never really alone or lonely. I live in Solitude and yet I do not.

 

 

Even standing at the local pond on a weekday is a sort of solitude in that no one walks that way at that time.

 

 

There’s only ever-widening ripples as the occasional Duck or Teal steps off the bank onto the water surface and in ever-increasing webbed feet strokes, darts in and out of reeds, tiny inlets and then slows to a halt and finds shade in the blistering heat of our afternoon Summer sun.

 

 

Tiny flowers sway and dip down in a bow, then spring up a little higher, as a bee, having soaked up the pollen, lifts off with its tiny wings and flies in and around each nearby bloom, before landing once again and pausing in its daily flight pattern.

The new Spring leaves on the Eucalyptus wobble and sway in a meditative dance and then suddenly stop when the wind drops, only to pick up their drooping green ‘feathers’ as the wind re-ignites.

 

I watch the tiny, almost invisible midges slowly move up the large glass window in front of my desk and know that today is a slow and restful day for Mother Nature, (having done her best over Spring to bring new life to Winter’s decay).

DEEP SHADE AT THE EDGE OF FROGS HOLLOW NATURE RESERVE 100 Feet FROM MY ‘BACK GATE’
A rare shot made in deep shade, which when cropped and had the shadows lightened in post processing revealed a NEW HOLLAND HONEYEATER (Phylidonyris novaehollandiae) – FROGS HOLLOW NATURE RESERVE

 

If you only hear Sound, then how do you know Silence. If you only know Heat, how do you know what Cold means. If you only know dark, (like a person born blind), how do you know Light.

 

The GOLDEN HOUR casts sunlight on some bare weeds along the Maribyrnong River bank

 

The Joys of Solitude are impossible to understand without having experienced them.

 

Everything in this life is Impermanent and ever-changing and yet, when you truly know Solitude, time seems to stand still.

 

USING YOUR IMAGINATION…..

I’ve just spent the last hour watching 3 Superb Fairy-wrens hopping through the shady branches of the Japanese Maple growing in front of my apartment balcony.

I have so many birds coming to my little bird bath (hanging from my balcony fence) which I can’t share online as the birds move so quickly, take a sip or two, then fly off to ‘greener pastures’ OR, my camera is out of reach OR, the lens cap still on.  (I live in a windy, dusty area and I suspect the dust, continually appearing on my furniture each day, is from nearby building sites – hence the reason for leaving the camera lens cap on much of the time).

So……………. you’ll have to start using your imagination (for this post).

It was a fun and entertaining morning.

Here’s the scene……….(and this is a couple of female House Sparrows photographed last year of course).  Even though the photo was made through 3 panes of glass, I managed to fiddle the contrast and exposure enough so you can see what I see (now the Maple has its full cloak of Summer foliage).

After a heavy (dust-filled) rain, it’s almost impossible to see the birds in this tree from my desk chair  indoors.

……and here’s the male Superb Fairy-Wren below (so those new to my nature blog know what a tiny Fairy-wren looks like).

This image was made on the 2nd December.  I’ve cropped it down a fair bit as the blur of the black window frame was caught in the photo.

In recent days, I’ve seen lots of juvenile House Sparrows land on the balcony, take a drink from the bird bath and fly into the Eucalyptus on the right hand side of the balcony (visible over my the top of my computer screen).

This young sapling’s height was lower than the balcony fence when I moved here 2 years ago.  Today, it is about 3+ foot higher than the fence. If it grows at this rate, I’ll have a shady balcony garden, instead of a hot balcony garden in 2-3 years.   There are 8 trees planted in front of this side of the building in this 5-year-old housing estate and my tree is the only one that has grown wider (and not taller as the other 7 trees).

Does Mother Nature know I need a shady tree for my Avian Photography subjects?

THIS TREE FILLS MY VIEW AS I LOOK OVER MY COMPUTER SCREEN THROUGH THE FLOOR-TO-CEILING LOUNG WINDOWS. THE TREE ON THE RIGHT OF THE FRAME IS MUCH TALLER BUT HAS FAR LESS WIDTH AND FOLIAGE (COMPARED TO MINE).

All the bright green leaves in the image (above) are this year’s growth and the tree has filled out with heavy thick foliage making it a haven for birds on the hot summer days, but quite hard to photograph through.  Yesterday was 37C degrees in Melbourne (about 100F) and very hot and muggy right up til midnight, so when I got home from my appointment on the other side of the city, I could hear rustling of several birds in its depths.

Right now (11.20am Saturday), the air is filled with an amazing array of bird calls and you’d be forgiven for thinking I live in the country.  Early evening I hear Frogs croaking (from Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve behind my building).  Soon, as the summer weather heats up, I expect to hear the nightly clicking and chirping of Cicadas calling to attract a mate

I refilled the bird-bath with cold water and a few tiny cubes of ice ‘for the little fellas’ to cool them down this morning.  They seem to appreciate this cooler water on a hot day.

The light is dull, a little dreary and the skies heavily overcast as we’re expecting rain, but it’s still hot and muggy like yesterday – actually quite good photography weather.

The bushfire season has already started in my state, with a fire threatening houses on the outskirts of a large country town during the week.  Fires were already ignited in another state the previous week.

……..and I ate another 6 ripe blueberries when I watered the garden last night.  I fear there will be no blueberries for Christmas Day as I keep eating them every time I see a few ripening.

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The (first) consultation with the Orthopaedic Surgeon yesterday confirmed what I already knew – I needed a total right hip replacement.  I can only walk with considerable pain and even swivelling in my desk chair is starting to hurt (this past week).  Operating days vacant were in February and in March – methinks I’ll ring back on Monday and book the earliest.  In the meantime, I hope you’ll all continue to enjoy images from my archives.

I think we might have a flower week this week starting with some lovely Camellias from The Camellia Walk in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne.

Camellia japonica ‘Somersby’

When I photographed the various Camellia varieties over the years, I tried to photograph some of the name plaques at the base of the bushes, so I do have a few names for the gardeners and flower lovers among you.

BUFF-BANDED RAIL (Gallirallus philippensis)

I’ve never seen a Buff-banded Rail, (or any other Rail for that matter), in the wild, but viewing it in The Great Aviary at Melbourne Zoo reveals it might be hard to see in long grass anyway.

It looks similar (to me) to the Lewin’s Rail (Rallus pectorals) in my Photographic Field Guide Birds in Australia (by Jim Flegg), but the Lewin’s Rail seems to have a longer beak.  I do so hope I’ve got the identification of the bird in this post, correct.

This bird is found locally in Newells Paddock Nature Reserve, only a bus/walk away from my home, so hopefully, when I get back to nature walks, I’ll have an opportunity to search for it.

In the meantime, here’s a few old images from the zoo made 4-5 years ago.

Buff-Banded Rail (Gallirallus philippensis)

It’s a medium-large Rail with a distinctive white head (ehrrrrr…..in most of my shots it looks brown 🙂 ), stout sharp brownish beak, dark crowns, prominent white supercilious over chestnut cheeks, and grey throat.

It rarely flies and has long grey legs.  These images were made from an overhead boardwalk in the Aviary which is about 15 feet above the ground, so most images were made from that angle/height.

This bird is mostly active at dusk and I’ve seen it only rarely on my many zoo visits in the past.  I suspect this is partly due to its excellent camouflage (as much as my zoo visits were during early afternoon).

Found in many of the coastal areas of Australia, apparently it squeaks, clicks, croaks and has a raucous bray – not like my usual local bird life who bring sweet music to my ears regularly each day now, with the Superb Fairy-wren having the cutest song in the cooler mornings.

Of course we’re in to Summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

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My days seem so busy with health matters in recent months, I haven’t had much time to devote to my blog(s) and Photography, but then I was trying to reduce my computer time anyway.

I’ve downsized my balcony garden (and not replaced my much-used herbs and other green veggies in anticipation of surgery and not being able to water the garden) – the garden was getting too big anyway.  I’ll replant and redesign next Spring. I had to re-arrange several pieces of furniture in my tiny studio-style apartment yesterday and today, (to allow a tradesman with a ladder to measure & quote for window UV film next week), and a host of Spring cleaning tasks I don’t normally do.

I did a massive cleanup of the bird poop on my balcony which I had neglected.  Had to rearrange some kitchen cupboard contents as it’s too painful to twist at the moment.  We had a dust storm in Melbourne  last week, and dust has got into the most surprising of places indoors, necessitating extra housework too.

Melbourne’s weather is predictably UN-predictable and who knows whether it will be hot or cold for Christmas/New Year.

Gosh, it might even snow as it did in August 1849, July 1882 and 1951, OR a tornado (like February 1918) or other freaks storms as in February 2005.  I think the whole world’s weather patterns have been extreme to say the least. 

In the meantime, it’s still mainly images from my archives that you’ll see on my nature blog.

Bird images are the easiest as they are well filed in my old iPhoto library.  Flowers a little less so.  But each time I view the old photo folders I do a tiny bit of culling, re-editing and re-filing, so it has been a useful exercise.

NO EXPLANATION NEEDED

If you’ve been following my nature blog and reading about my balcony garden exploits in the past, you’ll be pleased to hear…..

I saw a BLUE berry yesterday…….

Then I turned over leaves where I knew bundles of green berries had been hiding…….

Ate all the 6-7 berries straight off the bush……and then went to get the cotton bird netting to cover it.  Only comment I can say is that I hope the rest ripen through the netting.

…..and I hope, what I suspect is……the plant is pot-bound and that doesn’t affect the future ripening.  If the bush grows much larger, I’ll have to give it to my brother to plant in the ground up at his farm.

I suppose I should cut off a piece, but since it was a small roll of netting, I’ve just bundled the excess up with a rubber band and left it on the ground.

Whoopee! 😀

Blueberries for Christmas.

NEMESIA (Nemesia fruticans)

I bought a small pott of Nemesia in Winter to add a splash of colour to my balcony garden and its prolific flowering has been a cheerful sight for many months.

Normally I’m not a fan of brightly coloured flowers, preferring mainly blue (or white, or pastel), but I can’t deny these medium to upright plants are a winner.

 Even the Fairy-wrens and House Sparrows seem to like its young green shoots, (or I assume that’s what they’re pecking at).

We’ve had such strong winds, heavy rain (and even a dust storm last week) recently and I went outdoors between rain showers last Friday, to re-photograph the flower blooms to share online.  For the umpteenth time, I had to cut off broken branches and dead-head some spent flower blooms too.

The gusty wind is not kind in my area.

I had to wait for several wind gusts to die down to capture them in focus though.

(Have you ever noticed, that wind gusts, like waves down at the beach, drop or change approximately every 7th? gust or wave.  Seriously.  If you like photographing flowers and live in a windy area, watch carefully and you’ll be able to work it out).

Like many of my herbs and other plants, it seems to love my west-facing balcony with hot sunny afternoons, but did well in overcast Winter days also!

This morning I was reading Nemesia is a genus of annuals, perennials and sub-shrubs which is native to sandy coasts or disturbed ground in South Africa and there are quite a lot of hybrids around.

I haven’t bent down to smell them, but the plant nursery label says they’re lightly perfumed.  They come in a range of colours from white, pink and magenta to dark blue and purple.  They’re ideal for garden beds and borders, pots and containers, can take full sun or partial shade, but do need well-drained soil.

I’ve a mind to buy some more in different colours now that I’ve down-sized my garden to much smaller pots.  I’ll wait and see if the Harlequin Beetles are attracted to them this Summer before doing so though.

(The pests demolished almost every leaf on every plant last year – even, the pungent or bitter-leafed herbs).

Note: I upgraded to larger pots in the last 2 years, but found the need for about 6 heavy watering cans to water my garden every evening, (even in Winter), tedious, so now have down-sized pots (as well at reducing the plant pot number) this past Spring.

I tend to be a little over-ambitious when it comes to gardening, but next year, I need to sit down and think more seriously about just how much time and energy I want to put into my green oasis.  Living in a rented property means scrubbing the seepage stains and bird poop off regularly to maintain the balcony tiles and fence to what a rental contract and most Landlords require (in the ‘neat and tidy’ clause)  😀

PURPLE SWAMPHEN (Porphyrio porphyrio)

In the 2 years I’ve lived in this western suburb of Melbourne, there are certainly many native birds which I’ve seen before……mainly the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, but also The Great Aviary at Melbourne Zoo and down at the local bayside beaches within public transport distance of the city centre.

The Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio) is one of them.

There are usually 4-5 Swamphens grazing on the low-lying field behind my apartment building.

Looking across the field to the walking path and Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve in the background.
Looking over the low-lying field on the right-hand side of the path leading down to the river – 2016

The field is about the size of a soccer field and is much lower than the path leading down to the river, so one imagines it might flood if the river burst its banks and flooded the area as it did in….

“Since 1871 there have been 27 recorded floods in the Maribyrnong area, with large floods occurring approximately every 10-20 years. The highest recorded flood affecting the Maribyrnong floodplain was in September 1906, and the next known highest was in May 1974″.

Not sure, but I seem to remember the area further along the river flooded in 2011 (but don’t quote me on that).

The 2 lakes, Nymphaea Lake and the large Ornamental Lake in the Royal Botanic Gardens are home to many Purple Swamphens and I was lucky enough to see one tiny chick struggling onto a floating island in the Botanic Gardens only a  few years ago.  I’ve made a number of images in the early years of my Photography hobby of these birds and you can usually get quite close to them in the RBG.

I can only get as close as about 20 feet in my own ‘backyard’.  They are not as used to humans in this area.

But the first time I saw one was a juvenile in April 2011.

Purple Swamphen (juvenile)
A purple Swamphen in a golden Wattle at Ringwood Lake in the outer eastern suburbs where I was born and grew up.

 

KHAKI CAMPBELL DUCK (Anas platyrhynchos domesticus)

Flowing on from the previous post of last Wednesday’s walk around the pond at Edgewater/Maribyrnong Wetlands, I thought to share a few more images of the pair of Khaki Campbell ducks that live in the area.

I have to be honest and say I’d never heard of these domestic ducks and it took me a while to put name to bird when I first saw them in January, 2017.  They have that heavy dabbling beak like our Northern, or Australasian, Shoveler.

They come in 3 colour varieties: khaki, dark and white.  They are a cross between Mallard, Rouen and Runner ducks.  The male (drake) Khaki Campbell is mostly khaki coloured with a darker head usually olive green.

They’re supposed to be gentle, passive and a very friendly breed when raised by hand and since spotting them, I often wonder where the local pair came from – pets, country farm or the wild (descended from some ducks bought out by some English migrants to the area in the 20th century.

After all they come from Gloucestershire in England.

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 😀

RED WATTLEBIRD (Anthochaera carunculata)

I’d just made my morning coffee and sat down at my desk in front of the floor-to-ceiling lounge windows to read my overnight emails, when I caught a sudden movement out of the corner of my eye.

I turned my head and picked up my Sony ‘mirrorless’ camera which I’d just removed from it’s ‘sleeping bag’, but my movement must have startled the bird through the window (which is very dirty from recent rains), and it flew away before I had a chance to take a shot.

I uttered a word not so polite for a little old(er) lady – $%@#! – missed the shot! 😀

It was a Red Wattlebird (Anthochaera carunculata) and while I’d seen these honeyeaters on the hedge over the road a few times in the last couple of months, this was the first time one had landed on my balcony fence rail.

Of course it may have visited my balcony garden one day when I was out, but since I’m pretty much housebound most days now, I am still aware of the avian visitors due to their distinctive calls, even if I don’t actually catch sight of them.

NOT REALLY A GOOD SHOT PER SE, BUT THIS IMAGE WAS MADE LATE ONE AFTERNOON IN FROGS HOLLOW NATURE RESERVE (LOCATED BEHIND MY CURRENT APARTMENT BUILDING)

Talk about thrill of the year.

I never cease to be amazed at the variety of birds which visit my balcony or the (3) hedges across the road.  Many of which make such brief visits I don’t have time to take the lens cap off one of my cameras and capture them in an image to share with you.  (Or maybe my cameras are still in their overnight sleeping bags and I haven’t set them up on my desk for the day).

Sometimes I feel as though I haven’t seen a bird all week, but that would be a lie as the House Sparrows visit the bird bath regularly nearly every day and I’m still getting the occasional sighting of a male Superb Fairy-wren with it lovely blue head and upper back. I photographed one only yesterday, but I won’t bore you with more shots of the Fairy-wrens as I’ve already shared so many.   Haven’t seen a female Superb Fairy-wren for several weeks, so they may be nest-sitting?

Anyway, I haven’t seen a Red Wattlebird this close-up for about 5 years (when one landed at my feet on the paving stones next to the pond in the Fitzroy Gardens in East Melbourne) below.

I’ve shared these images (in this post) from my archives before…….several times…….but I’ll share them again so you know what bird I’m talking about.

Once again I was reminded of how large this particular species of honeyeater is.  While you may think the grey-brown and white streaks of its head, nape and back and grey-brown rump are pretty ordinary,  its yellow belly and reddish-pink wattles, (or earrings as I like to call them), make this species stand out in the crowd.

The 2 images below were made from underneath a large tree next to the Yarra River in north-east Melbourne with a long lens about 3 years ago.

RED WATTLEBIRD (Anthochaera carunculata)
RED WATTLEBIRD (Anthochaera carunculata)

The Little Wattlebird (Anthochaera chrysoptera) has a very distinctive and raucous ‘cockay-cock’ ‘kwok’ ‘yekop’ sound,  once described as ‘fetch-the-gun’, is totally familiar to me now.  I’m not sure whether the Red Wattlebird has exactly the same sound or not, but once you hear a Wattlebird’s’s call and identify it, you’ll never forget it.

The image (below) was made in a residential garden in north-east Melbourne where I used to live next to the Yarra River (which runs to the south of Melbourne city and out into the bay).

Easy to see how they blend into the branches when the tree is bare of leaves in winter.

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By the way, for long-time followers, the recent right hip MRI I had done about 10 days ago and got the report from my GP on Monday revealed, advanced osteoarthritis, extensive loss of cartilage, a muscle tear, a hip labrum tear and some minor common hamstring tendonitis – not good news.

 (I thought my spine was bad enough and had seen my old Neurosurgeon in June and got a 2nd opinion from another Neurosurgeon only a few weeks ago.  It was actually the ‘second opinion’ neurosurgeon who suggested I have my right hip investigated).

I had a look at the MRI disc they give you at the Radiography Centre and thought my right hip looked like a craggy rock (compared to the MRI ‘slice’ showing both hips for comparison).  My left hip looks like an ordinary round ball and socket to me.  Not that I’m a radiographer, just saying that the difference was striking and I could see the hip labrum tear easily).  Labrum tears don’t always cause symptoms, but when they do, Mr Google says the only treatment is surgery – they do not heal on their own.

So, it’s been my HIP and torn tissues/muscles that have been keeping me pretty much housebound in recent times 😯

When you have 3 different pain/fatigue conditions for 38 years, it can be hard to discern between the regular chronic bad/severe pain and a new pain site (in case you wonder why I could put up with such severe pain for so long).

I have a referral to see an Orthopaedic Surgeon on the 7th December.

 

OLEANDER (Nerium)

The enormous Oleander (Nerium) was in full bloom (with a few spent dead heads) outside my local pharmacy yesterday and I stepped back & forth trying to work out how to get some images in the shady part of the bush.

First close-up was at an Aperture of f3.5 which I often use for flowers to get a blurred background.

Next  a shot taken at an aperture of f8.00 to get more in focus. (note: I couldn’t see on the LCD screen due to the bright light of the day, hence several shots, which I’d later keep, or delete, on seeing them on my large computer screen).

The harsh late afternoon sun made shots of other flowers on the walk to my medical appointment almost impossible to shoot.

Disappointingly, the enormous patch of Fairy Iris which I’d been hoping to photograph next to the small local park, was still at the bud stage, so no photos there.

I only scored images of the pink flowers and a Magpie sitting on a nearby tree. So glad I had 2 cameras and 2 lenses to choose from.

 

While it has lovely flowers and is extremely tough, the downside of these particular plants is that all parts are poisonous, so not a good plant to have in your garden if you have young children around.

While the leaves are generally green, I believe there are variegated leaf forms.

Flowers come in a range of colours and are sweetly scented, but I must admit I’ve never bothered to bend down and smell them (having allergies to some strongly-perfumed flowers).

The flowers appear late Spring until the end of Summer and are white, pink or crimson, with some double forms available.  Oleander is perfect for hot, dry gardens.

The only thing I find a wee bit annoying is that with the lovely flowers, there are often dead or dying blooms next to them, so it can be a bit hard too capture a fresh flower without its dead neighbour within the frame.

Doesn’t stop me trying though 🙂

BLUE-WINGED KOOKABURRA (Dacelo leachii)

While we’re on the subject of Kookaburras, (see previous post), I thought to share my not-so-good shots of the Blue-Winged Kookaburra (Dacelo leachii).  

The bird is clear enough, but I didn’t make a good job of erasing the cage wire in the foreground.

Blue-winged Kookaburra (Dacelo leachii)

After hundreds of hours of practice over about 3 years, I became quite good at photographing birds through fine cage wire at the Zoo – so that the wire disappears completely – but not so with the images in this post.  And this bird’s cage wire had large gaps between each strand, so I have no excuse.

But I’m still going to share so you can see the difference between the 2 Kookaburras.

Blue-winged Kookaburra (Dacelo leachii)

The Blue-Winged Kookaburra is only found in the far north, or north-west, of Australia so I can’t bring you any images made in the wild, only at the Zoo.

This bird is slightly smaller than the Laughing Kookaburra and has lots of blue on the wings.  The rump and tail are a lovely azure blue in the male and the tail is chestnut barred black in the female.

This one is noisy, and has a poorly formed cacophony of harsh cackles and screeches.

Blue-winged Kookaburra (Dacelo leachii)

Here’s the photo of the Laughing Kookaburra in the previous post which was located in the  same size cage next door for comparison.

The Kookaburra has its own enclosure at Melbourne Zoo and despite the cage wire between the bird and my camera, this shot turned out pretty well.

By the way, if you’re new to bird photography, there’s nothing I can recommend more that practicing photographing birds at your local zoo (if you live in a city like I do).  

You learn very quickly how to hold a camera very, very still in order to get one DSLR focal point through tiny 1/4″ (yes, quarter of an inch) cage wire AND you learn exactly how far the subject must be from the cage wall in order to make the wire lines disappear.

Seriously  🙂

Here’s a good example……a Crimson Rosella, well maybe its got slightly different feather pattern and no blue cheeks, but we’ll call it a Crimson Rosella, photographed behind very fine cage wire.

  1. THE BIRD IS CLINGING TO THE WIRE AND TOO CLOSE.

2.  THE BIRD IS FURTHER BACK BUT STILL A BIT TOO CLOSE TO THE WIRE AND I PROBABLY DIDN’T HOLD THE DSLR STILL ENOUGH.

3. THE BIRD IS JUST THE RIGHT DISTANCE AWAY FROM THE CAGE WALL and I MANAGED TO HOLD THE DSLR (with its 9 focal points changed to 1 focal point) VERY STILL. Sometimes you get a haze of funny lines in the background, but it is possible to make the cage wire disappear.

Or better still……..

4.  PHOTOGRAPH IT IN THE WILD, LIKE I DID (for the first time ever in my western suburb), BEHIND MY APARTMENT BUILDING WHERE THERE IS A LARGE TREE ON THE EDGE OF FROGS HOLLOW NATURE RESERVE.  Image made on the 24th October, this year.  I’ve cropped the image and lightened the shadows to make the bird more visible.  I was so surprised and excited to see this colourful Rosella near my home I admit I had trouble keeping the camera still and I didn’t have a long telephoto lens at the time.

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NOTE: I started going to the zoo in 2012 and over about 3 years of annual membership, I went there about 100 times (going by the dates in my photo library).  You only have to visit a minimum of 3 times per year to make Annual Membership worth paying for.

Sometimes I’d go 3 times a week in Melbourne’s hot summers as the temperate rainforest landscaping was so shady and exceptionally cool.

Melbourne’s main Zoo, located in North Melbourne (and easily accessible by tram from the city centre), is open 365 days per year, although from time to time, they do close certain exhibits for maintenance.  Sometimes I’d go specifically to do nothing else but practice bird photography in The Great Aviary (where you can walk around on the long boardwalk which criss-crosses the enormous space and get quite close to some of the birds, especially at feeding times).

I might add, on overcast cool days, many of the birds were roosting on branches at the top of the enormous Aviary where it was warmer and quite hard to see, so I’d choose a sunny day if I was visiting in Winter if you’re a Tourist.  Secondly, if you specifically want to see the Great Aviary, phone the zoo beforehand and ensure its not closed (on your chosen day) for maintenance.

LAUGHING KOOKABURRA (Davelo novaeguineae)

Australia’s Kookaburra needs no introduction to most people the world over, but it’s actually called the Laughing Kookaburra (Davelo novaeguineae) to differentiate the bird from the Blue-winged Kookaburra (Davelo leachii).  From what I’ve seen on the internet, I suspect some people confuse it with our Kingfishers.  They seem to include the word Kingfisher in the title just as much an error (to my knowledge) as calling a Koala a Koala Bear (which is not a bear at all).

The Kookaburra’s beak is fuller and not as pointed as a Kingfisher.

I used to see and hear them regularly in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne Zoo or prior to that, when I still had a car and went bush walking, up in the country.  I’ve only heard a Kookaburra once in all the 2 years since I moved to the western suburbs (and never actually seen one here,  despite living next to a nature reserve and some 400 hectares of green space up and down the Maribyrnong River).

The Kookaburra has its own enclosure at Melbourne Zoo and despite the cage wire between the bird and my camera, this shot turned out pretty well.

Famous for its raucous accelerating laugh, increasing in volume then fading, this youtube , despite the bird being indoors, is a little more accurate than some other YouTubes I’ve heard.

It’s a large bird, much like a Kingfisher in appearance, with a white crown, smudges and streaked brown, with distinctive dark patch through the eye.

Its back and wings are brown, with bluish feather-edges on the shoulders,   Its rump and tail chestnut with black bars.

It’s actually one of the first birds I photographed in the Royal Botanic Gardens when I took up photography, as it landed on a park bench and later, could be seen pulling up worms in the tan bark mulch on a garden bed.

But the shot below is one of my favourites for the simple reason, that the bird was about 50 feet high up an enormous tree some distance away and all I could see was a white blob lit by a bright ray of sunshine in the dark foliage.

I made a hand-held shot with my 150-500mm lens trying to guess where the head might be near the top of the white blob and was amazed to see, on downloading the image to my 27″ screen,  that I’d actually captured a Kookaburra and it was in relatively sharp focus.  I must have been holding the heavy telephoto lens very stead that day.

….and another shot of a Kookaburra in the wild (below) – Dandenong Ranges National Park – located in the low range of hills overlooking the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne.  It’s a bit far away to see much detail, but I was glad to photograph it in the wild, as opposed to my local urban area.