THE LOCAL POND

Recently, what with being more housebound and the stinking hot weather for most of the Summer, and even……now…..early Autumn, I’ve been feeling all blogged out.

Just when I feel like giving up blogging altogether, I see something new and get invigorated, uplifted and inspired all over again.

Last Saturday’s walk down to the local pond was one such day.

I walked down the short steep bit of road from my ‘back gate’ (aka the roller door entrance to the 1st level of car parking under my apartment building is what I call my ‘back gate’).

 

NO BIRDS TO BE SEEN ON THE POND AT ALL.   NOTE: THIS IS THE POND WHERE I SHOT MY HEADER and FOOTER IMAGES   BRIGHT SKY IS COMPLETELY OVER-EXPOSED FROM THIS ANGLE.

 

THEN I SPOTTED SOME MOVEMENT IN A TREE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE POND, lifted the 150-500mm lens and spotted a NOISY MINER (Manorina melanocephala)

All it took was the sighting of 2 Australian White Ibises (Threskiornis molucca)….or should I say ‘Ibis’ for plural?

  

I’ve never seen an Australian White Ibis around my local pond or river before.  I must say it was a real thrill.  While the birds were some distance away, it was almost the highlight of the whole Summer.

ROYAL SPOONBILL (Platalea regia)

(Actually the highlight was photographing the Royal Spoonbills down at Jawbone Conservation and Nature Reserve – left – on the 10th January, breaking a $1000+ camera lens and my wrist in a fall).  

GROUNDSEL (Senecio vulgaris L.)

My world is very small in enforced retirement.

I notice the smallest change in every leaf, insect and wind gust on my balcony.  Fortunately, I’ve always been drawn to the small details in life and in doing so, can usually appreciate the simple things that most people take for granted.

Last Saturday, it looked quite pleasant outdoors (although) 5 minutes into the walk through the ‘back gate’ and down the rest of my road to where a stony/asphalt path leads to 2 steps and then a gravel path, it turned out to be more than warm.

My 20 minute walk turned into 2 hours.  But I never can walk fast with a camera in hand.  I’m always stopping to look around.

In general, residential areas and open fields are looking so pale and parched this past Summer, you could be forgiven for thinking Mother Nature had sprayed the landscape with diluted bleach.

Unless, the grass is near a water source, it is so crisp and crunchy underfoot and the earth so hard, you almost feel as though you’re in a foreign county nearer the equator.  (ok, I’m exaggerating, but seriously, the grass is bone dry).

PURPLE SWAMPHEN (Porphyrio porphyrio) pecking at dry grass in a shady patch of a nearby tree.
PURPLE SWAMPHENs (Porphyrio porphyrio) might be finding a few more insects where the grass is a bit greener next to the Frogs Hollow water course surrounded by dry 7-8 foot high reeds.  I can’t get closer to these Swamphens than this (no matter how stealthily and cautiously I step).  The birds seem to sense me before they even see me

Australia does have hot Summers and cold Winters and being such a large continent, a wide variety of weather zones from temperate in the south and most coastal areas, to desert in the centre, to tropical rainforests in the north.  But in general, down south here in Melbourne and its surrounds, in the south-eastern state of Victoria, the weather/seasons are called Temperate.

I generally have to stay indoors on hot days and this past summer, I’ve been waiting for the Summer’s blistering heat and gusty winds to ‘settle down’ to Temperate!

I WALKED OVER THE CRUNCHY DRY GRASS TO WHERE THE CYCLING/WALKING PATH IS NEXT TO THE MARIBYRNONG RIVER (in the background).

Last Saturday I was taken aback at the dryness and lower-than-usual water level in the nearby ponds, river and lake-like expanse of water between the main river and the local housing estates in this river valley.

We’ve had a sprinkling of rain showers, but we need serious RAIN.  We need hours/days of heavy soaking rain which reaches deep down beyond the roots of even the largest old trees.  Every time there is a quick rain shower, the earth sends up a feeble few stalks of green which dry to a crisp within a day or two at the moment.

I noticed the 2 rocky low ’causeways’, which link where the ponds fill up and overflow into the large water catchment area, are dried up.

The pond in the current Header and Footer in my Nature Blog (which I change from time to time), has minimal water and even the water reeds and Bullrushes are crisping up to pale gold in the heat, as you can see in the Pacific Black Duck images below.

And they’ve got their roots in the water!

Even so, I did catch sight of a few birds last weekend, but it was definitely a thrill to see the 2 Australian White Ibis.

The Crested Pigeon with its beautiful markings, pale pink body and head crest are always easy to spot.  They’re usually on the ground.

CRESTED PIGEON (Ocyphaps lophotes)

……..and for those new to my Nature Blog, the images below are what are usually seen in the cooler months. Green, blue and birds galore.

But instead we get the images below on the walk home.  Dry grass and lacklustre scenes.

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COASTAL CUSHION BUSH (Leucophyta brownii)

Found it!

I thought the bush in the previous post looked a bit like one of the Coastal Saltbushes I’d seen down at the Jawbone Coastal Conservation and Nature Reserve and I was right.

I found the name of my mystery local bush with the right words in a search of Google Images late last night.  It’s halfway down the pdf. here

Then of course, I was able to type the correct name into my Google search and read more about it at Victorian Resources online

I thought it looked a very drought-hardy plant even in the flat open windy area near my local river, so looking up Coastal Saltbush wasn’t too far wrong.  It brought me to a Coastal plant website.  In fact, after putting the right words, in the right order, in my Google search I found the name in something like 5 minutes.  Just goes to show how appropriate wording in your search can be vital in identifying local flora and fauna quickly.

I’ve often spent, quite literally years, searching for names and given up, then one day decided to try again with different wording for Mr Google and I’ve come up trumps in 5 minutes.

It’s all very well to bookmark an Australian Plant directory online (OR even look up my own 2 plant encyclopaedias), but narrowing  your plant search  down with carefully chosen words can be a great time saver.

Now I’ve found it, I can name the photo and put together a short post on last Saturday’s walk and bird life.

WHAT PLANT IS THAT?

It’s been a busy week so haven’t had a chance to upload the (rather lacklustre) images from last Saturday’s walk down to the local pond.

The grass is so dry and the ground so parched, I hope to goodness there is no broken glass, or anything else around, which might start a grass fire in the large field on one side of my home, or the nature reserve.  Andy the Grass-cutter keeps all the open areas mown very short in summer, but even so, I think a fire on the ground would spread quickly at the current time.

IMAGE MADE AT THE START OF SUMMER IN NOVEMBER 2018

I’ve been totally frustrated in trying to identify this grey low-growing ground cover in the small landscaped area between the large lake-like expanse of water and the Maribyrnong River.  I first photographed it when moving to the area 2 1/2 years ago, but its identification has mystified me ever since.

Does any Aussie who follows my nature blog have any ideas?

I’m thinking it’s probably an Australian native as the local Parks (and Council?) have spent the last couple of years removing all non-indigenous trees in Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve and the surrounding parkland and I would think they planted this low-growing grey ground cover for its drought tolerant hardiness.

Maybe it reminds an overseas follower of some species in their own drought-hardy area.

It almost looks like a coastal saltbush but I’ve done a quick scan of photos with Mr Google Images with that description.  I tried Googling ‘grey ground cover Australian native’ or included the word drought-tolerant etc.

The map below gives you a sense of the area I live in.  I’m surrounded on (most of) 2 sides by open field, nature reserve or parkland.  In fact I read that there’s 400+ hectares of parkland up and down the Maribyrnong River.

Last Saturday, I did only the lower half of the walk indicated by the broken line on this old map (from my photo library in 2017).

“H” is home.

It was hotter than expected and within 5 minutes I was over-heated and despite a bottle of chilled water, I was wishing I was home in air-conditioned comfort and my right hip/knee/ankle told me in no uncertain terms it didn’t want to go for a walk anyway.

 

ZUCCHINI ‘BLACK JACK’ (Cucurbita spp.)

At the risk of boring some of you, I had to take some more photos of my Zucchini ‘babies’.

Trying to part the large leaves with one hand and hold the camera up close was quite a challenge yesterday.

MY LARGEST ZUCCHINI AT ABOUT 4″ long X 5.8″ thick.

I’ve changed the ‘picture style’ setting on my DSLR back to Standard, which is why the close-ups taken with my DSLR and Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 lens are rather pale (but more like their natural colour).

The images made with my Sony a6000 ‘mirrorless’ camera,, (while seated at my desk chair) at the end of this post, are made with the camera on Vivid picture style and are much brighter.

Of course the sun and light at the time of shooting also influences the overall image.

HARLEQUIN BUGS ON LAST YEAR’S CAPSICUM PLANT.

I now have SIX zucchini babies and this morning when I turned on my computer and sat down I noticed a couple of Harlequin bugs sitting on the flower/fruit (one close to the centre of the image below).  The zucchini on the right seems to have quite a curve in its growth pattern (below).  Perhaps it couldn’t get through the tangle of leaves and stems?  Since I’ve never grown zucchini before I can only guess.

Harlequin bugs are the pest that decimated my crops of nearly every single leaf last Summer. They even outshone the Cabbage Moth Caterpillars with their voracious appetites.  So far, they haven’t sucked the sap out of any Zucchini leaves, but as I type this post, I’m anxiously watching one Harlequin bug sitting on one of my smallest zucchinis.

Hmmmmmm!

Am I supposed to cut off some of these large leaves?  Or is the curved zucchini merely growing crookedly because the plants are growing in such a small pot and it’s ‘stunted’?  I’m also wondering if the zucchini will grow to a decent size at all?

If you’re a vegetable gardener, please let me know in the comments section.  Otherwise I’ll ask Mr Google later in the day when the household chores are done.

……..and here are the shots made a few days ago with the Sony a6000 on ‘vivid’ picture style (below).

As most of the longtime followers know I’m an amateur photographer first and a gardener second. but you have to admit there’s something really intriguing/fascinating when you look at  vegetable plant details up this close.  It’s almost like there’s a whole miniature world to visit and admire.

Actually Spring onions are one of the best vegetables to observe.  Mine usually grow about 2-3 inches every day.  I’ve just pulled the last one out to make room for another herb seedling friends gave me.

I went for a short walk (15 minutes for normal people, 2 hours for me) down to the nearest pond on Saturday, so when I’ve got time to review the afternoon’s photos and put together a post,  I have some bird images to share.

I have to admit that the pain in my right hip was so severe (despite an extra dose of painkillers), I vowed to never go for a nature walk again after I got home.  Sometimes I think nature walks will be permanently off the agenda now that my total hip replacement surgery has had to be cancelled and I’m limping around like a little old lady.  Other times, I think …..just one more tiny walk and I’ll happily retire from nature photography (and I push the pain limits), but I suspect I’m doing more damage to my hip by walking.  It’s a ‘wear and tear’ injury osteoarthritis, so the Orthopaedic surgeon said, not an ‘old age’ degenerative problem.

THE LOWER STEP (not far from my back gate) WHERE I CAN SEE OVER to FROGS HOLLOW NATURE RESERVE – about 100 feet away.
STANDING ON THE STEEP SAND PATH LOOKING BACK TOWARDS THE 2 STEPS AND THE PATH LEADING UP TO MY ‘BACK GATE’.  Did I tell you it’s very, very, very steep…..the path and my road.

I sat on the lower step down where the path leading to/past Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve starts, for a while after my short walk.  At that minute, 3 Superb Fairy-wrens came to the dried out remains of  an old withered wild Fennel(?) bush and kept me entertained for another 30-40 minutes.  Just goes to show, you don’t have to go far to catch a glimpse of the local bird life in my area.

These wrens were so preoccupied with eating the dried up seeds they didn’t notice me sitting on the step about 7-8 feet away.

It’s all a matter of opening your eyes and truly seeing the small details around you when you live in an urban area.

I think I will grow Zucchini as a permanent part of my balcony garden.  The flowers are so interesting the way they open and close .  Some are gnarled and knotted (the females with the fruit).  Others, (the males), are picture postcard perfect with their golden petals splayed out in a beautiful umbrella shape.

PHEW!

PHEW!

Well, I think I can safely say…….Summer is finally over in Melbourne, Australia.

No it’s not.

Yes, it is.

No it’s not…… and so on.

Every time I (and my Balcony Garden) heave a sigh of relief at the cool morning breeze wafting over the area, the sun starts heating up again.

This morning, it’s blissfully cool sitting at my desk in the morning shade (as the hot western sun hasn’t crept over my apartment building yet).  I’ve been more attentive to the thirsty plants and especially attentive to the daily task of looking for those pesky little Cabbage Moth Caterpillars and Harlequin bugs.

I HAVE noticed the Kale and baby Spinach grow much, much slower under the pest ‘cage’.

Obviously the netting diffuses the hot sun quite a lot.

I found one large plump caterpillar on a half-eaten leaf of one baby Tuscan Kale plant under the new ‘pest net’ a couple of days ago and sighed one of those frustrating sounds yet again.

How in the hell can those pesky Cabbage Moth Butterflies have got under the pest net and laid more eggs?

I’m beginning to wonder if ‘pest eggs’ are in the potting soil I bought from the local Plant Nursery Warehouse a couple of weeks ago.  I still haven’t potted up all the seedlings my friends brought me several weeks ago and a few yellowed and died.

I have the tiny Curry Plant (Helichrysum angustifolium) abovesitting on my desk (still in its seedling pot) with one (of two) Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilica) and my French Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) in the hope that keeping them indoors will escape the ravenous appetites of the pests.

PEACE LILY with its MANY NEW LEAVES

On the bookcase near the opposite side of the sliding door is the other Sweet Basil, one small pot of Mint (Mentha spicata) and the Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum).

THIS PHOTO WAS TAKEN A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO. THE TARRAGON, ONE OF THE BASIL AND THE CURRY PLANT ARE NOW SITTING NEXT TO MY COMPUTER.

I bought the Peace Lily about 2 months ago to clear and detoxify the air in the lounge.  It grew so fast, I had to re-pot it in a larger pot 2 weeks after purchase.  Now it’s growing so fast – about 3-4 leaves EVERY day – I need a larger pot again!

It’s staggering how fast most plants grow either indoors in this light-filled modern apartment, OR in my west-facing balcony garden.

Just goes to show what a lot of light and some TLC will do 🙂

Sure, I’ve had quite a few failures (incl. 2 baby zucchini above), in the blistering heat of our recent ‘record-breaking’ Summer, or attack by Harlequin bugs and Caterpillars, but on the whole, my gardening efforts since I moved to this western suburb of Melbourne 2 1/2 years ago, have been mind-boggling.

Now it’s cooler and I’ve moved the Zucchini to in front of the window near my desk so I can watch it growing, I now have 4 new zucchini babies. In fact, one of those babies, is growing about 1 cm (1/2″) EVERY day at the moment!

THIS IS THE PICTURE ABOVE MY COMPUTER SCREEN EACH DAY

I am not exaggerating.  At this rate I should have a zucchini to cut in about 7-10 days.

I looked Zucchini up in the new Organic Gardening book my brother gave me at Christmas and apparently the flowering stems with fruit are the females and the long thin stems (and no fruit) the male flowers!  I still can’t quite believe these vegetables have grown in such a shallow small trough.  Quite the opposite to what my new gardening book says.  I’ve never grown zucchini in my potted garden before.

I planted the Climbing Spinach (Basella alba ruba) seeds a few weeks ago and 6 out of the 10 seeds have sprouted.  The other 4 seeds must have been ‘duds’.  Can’t wait for it to start climbing the trellis I made out of 4 bamboo garden stakes tied together at the top.

So far, no half-eaten leaves.

Hopefully the caterpillars will leave this pot alone as I have no netting to put over it.

This photo of the climbing spinach was made 2 weeks ago.

The weather is gorgeous today and barely a breath of wind.

Blue sky and sunshine with a couple of overnight rain showers have been blessed by cooler breezes in the last week.

I’m still having to water every night at dusk, but that’s a ‘given’ when you have a garden made of potted plants.  The strong gusty wind in this area dries out every pot almost every day.

I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t even had time to try making Dolmades (stuffed vine leaves) after my brother kindly bottled some leaves from his farm (for me).  They look a bit ‘fiddly’, but I’m determined to give it a try.

My Balcony Garden is in a state of constant change as something dies, or is eaten by the pests, OR I decide to try growing a different plant/vegetable.

Life is just one big experiment at the moment, but at least with the cooler weather I can find some Joy in my Day (instead of wilting in the heat).  My apartment has air-conditioning, but once the hot sun hits the floor-to-ceiling windows, my desk area still gets very hot in the mid-to-late afternoons in Summer.

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.

EURASIAN COOT (Fulica atra)

Eurasian Coots are ‘common as mud’ in Australia.

You can usually find them in large fresh water lakes, reservoirs and floods, but they can also congregate near swamps, sewage farms and occasionally…….sheltered seas.

Their large dumpy bodies, with sooty black wings and tail, are quite distinctive with only a rich brown eye to relieve the overall body colour.

This poor Coot (below) was stuck on a rock trying to dislodge a piece of fishing line from its beak and gullet near the edge of the river on the north-east side of Melbourne.  Eventually a couple of other walkers and I managed to catch the bird and remove the plastic line and it swam happily on its way, but it was hard to catch I must say.

Nether the walkers, nor I, had a smart phone with internet access, so we couldn’t ring for the local Wildlife Rescue service to come and relieve the Coot of its irritating plastic line.  It does make me cross when I come across birds in distress, due to the thoughtless acts of fishermen and campers.

The bird’s beak and frontal shield is white, so in general, you can’t mistake the identification.

It dives frequently and has a distinctive metallic ‘kyok’ and other twanging sounds.

One day I came across a nest right next to the bank of the Ornamental Lake in the Royal Botanic Gardens and was lucky enough to catch a couple of chicks take their first swim.

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SCENTED GERANIUM ‘Candy Dancer’ (Pelargonium ‘Candy Dancer’)

This scented Geranium is a small, compact shrub growing approximately 70cm (27 inches) wide and 70cm high.  It’s so easy to grow and has a lovely fragrance and is drought and heat tolerant, so perfect for our Australian climate.

Pelargonium ‘Candy Dancer’

The images in this post come from The Herb Garden in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne (as you can see from the brick paved path in the background), but I’ve certainly seen it in many residential gardens also.

Pelargonium ‘Candy Dancer’

ZUCCHINI ‘Black Jack’ (Cucurbita spp.)

My 2 baby Zucchini died.

They never stood a chance in the last few days of Summer heat and while I moved them to the right hand side of my balcony, which goes into shade earlier in the afternoon, their sad yellow pallor spoke volumes in my attempt to nurture them to fruition.

This morning, it’s cool, overcast and looking promising for some cooler temperatures in the coming week, so I moved the trough over to where I can see the plants over my computer screen, for, on this morning’s inspection, 2 Harlequin bugs had landed on their large gently scalloped leaves and looked very much like they had found a new home.

Hopefully, closer scrutiny throughout the day time I am home will lead to some new fruit and NO Harlequin bugs (which decimated my leafy crops last Summer 2017/18).

For those new to my nature blog, this is how close I can move a plant if I want to look at it regularly without leaving my desk chair.

By the way, excuse the dirty windows in these images, but the overnight rain a few days ago brought with it an astonishing amount of dust and while I’ve dusted indoors, I haven’t had a chance to clean the lounge windows yet.

Keep your fingers crossed the current new flowers bear some fruit.

……and on a sadder note, I’ve only seen a couple of House Sparrows visiting my garden in the last week – hope this doesn’t mean the avian visitors have moved on to greener pastures. 

While the excavator on the building site across the road does make a lot of noise in the mornings, I was hoping the bird bath hanging from the balcony fence and a large ring of bird seed tied to the top of the fence would lure them back…..especially the Superb Fairy-wrens (shown below).

(it might be back to the archives for some bird images to share……..).

MINDFULNESS……

AFRICAN BLUE LILY (Agapanthus) – 28th December, 2012 – in a blissfully cool shady location, Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne.

Karl Duffy on his Mindfulbalance blog has the most beautiful quote this morning and I couldn’t resist sharing……

Not being tied to our urgent to-do lists:

Consider the lilies of the field…

And you — what of your rushed and

useful life? Imagine setting it all down —

papers, plans, appointments, everything,

leaving only a note: “Gone to the fields

to be lovely. Be back when I’m through

with blooming.

Lynn Ungar, Camas Lilies

I find his daily quotes and words of wisdom very uplifting and inspiring.  If you have the time and interest, his blog is well worth following.

His email notification of a new blog post is one of the first I view after opening my computer in the morning.

SHINING MEADOW RUE (Thalictrum lucidum)

Have been so busy this last week, I almost forgot about my Nature Blog, but today, while looking for some photos for a friend, I came across an image of Shining Meadow Rue (Thalictrum lucidum) made in the Royal Botanic Gardens back on the 18th June, 2012.

……..and just to remind you of what The Herb Garden in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne looks like in Summer or Spring, here’s a few images made over a number of years (below).

The circular brick edged garden falls into shadow around 4.30pm, so best to visit either in the morning or early afternoon.

(Hint: its pretty bare in Winter, so don’t bother visiting at that time).

From memory, the Shining Meadow Rue was growing just inside the entrance of The Herb Garden, one of my all-time favourite places to sit on a hot summer’s day (when I lived on the south-east side of Melbourne).

Melbourne’s long hot summer is finally over and we’ve got some more pleasant weather in which to enjoy the great outdoors this week.  I was going to say it’s hot today, but let’s call it pleasantly……… very warm, instead  🙂

ZUCCHINI ‘BLACK JACK’ (Cucurbita spp.)

Just for the fun of it, I bought a small punnet of 4 zucchini seedlings about 3 weeks ago to see if they would grow in my hot, west-facing balcony garden.

I’ve never grown zucchini in any of my previous balcony gardens as the plants grow too big for such a small space.

The plant label said “A high yielding variety with dark-green skin and creamy-white flesh.  Plant in settings of two.”

  • POSITION: Full sun
  • PLANT: 75cm apart
  • MATURITY 6-8 weeks

My plastic pots and troughs were way too shallow and nowhere near large enough to plant one, let alone 4,  plant seedlings, but I stuck them in one trough and lo and behold…….they grew.

One did keel over and die on a particularly hot day towards the end of last week, so I just pulled it out and threw it in the bin.

They even had flowers within 10 days and today, when I went out to inspect the soil moisture, I noticed 2 tiny zucchini growing.

The plants did keel over yesterday and for one of the first times ever, I had to give the plants a drink mid-afternoon while the sun was still hot.

I try to never water plants during the day in the warmer months, as it can burn their fragile roots.  I prefer to water my potted plants at dusk in the summer, so the plants can drink up the moisture over the cooler night-time.

If my plastic pots are very small, I sometimes need to water first thing in the morning when I get up, (while the balcony is in full shade), as well as at dusk.  The sun moves over the apartment building and hits my balcony about 2.30pm DST (daylight savings time), so early morning watering on a hot day is not such an issue as it would be in an open sunny field.

I also bought a large pest deterrent cover.

They only had one size on the store shelf, and one packet left (in my nearby plant nursery store last Saturday).  Initially, I had it spread over all the young seedlings and I thought it was working, but my Pak Choy and Mint is STILL getting eaten.

Where in the %$@&! do these little pests come from?  Are they in the new potting soil I bought?  Are they invisible and jump on the plants before I finish potting, ‘watering in’ the newly planted seedlings and put the netting cover over? I took the cover off this morning and decided to just let the seedlings have a little more sun.

Oh well, at least the established herbs seem to be insect-free this summer.

After a lovely cool change about 10 days ago, when I hoped Summer might finally be over, Melbourne is in the middle of another heat wave at the moment – not expected to end until next Tuesday evening.

It’s OFFICIAL – Melbourne (and the rest of Australia) has had the hottest summer on record!.  Today, Friday the first day of Autumn, is hotter than ever.

SUNSET LAST NIGHT ON THE CLIFF TOP OPPOSITE MY APARTMENT BLOCK. YOU’LL NOTICE THE EXCAVATOR SITTING ON THE TOP OF THE HILL. IT’S BEEN RATHER NOISY AGAIN SINCE JUST AFTER CHRISTMAS. THE CONSTRUCTION WORKERS SEEMED TO HAVE HAD 6 MONTHS OFF AS I HADN’T SEEN THEM SINCE 26TH OF JUNE LAST YEAR. BUT THEY’RE BACK ON TRACK THIS YEAR ‘EATING’ AWAY AT THE CLIFF FACE TO READY THE SITE FOR A NEW APARTMENT BLOCK.

PACIFIC GULL (Larus pacificus)

Before I took up Photography as a hobby in 2010, a seagull was a seagull.

I never knew there 6-7 Gulls in Australia and certainly had never heard of a Pacific Gull (Larus pacificus).

 These gulls are large and have a very distinctive large yellow beak with a red tip.  When I first saw the juvenile brown gull, I thought it was a different species. The juveniles keep their grey-brown feathers and assume their adult plumage over 3-4 years.

The adults have bright yellow legs while the juveniles have more a dark pinkish grey leg colour.  They’re widespread and common, but rarely far from the sea.

I’m glad I managed to capture photos of the Pacific Gull (Larus pacificus)together with the common Silver Gull (Larus novaehollandiae), so you can see the size comparison.

They’re quite common down at Port Melbourne beach at low tide where they search the tide line and seaweed for food, but I’ve also photographed them at St Kilda beach, the closest southern bay side beach to Melbourne City.

GLADIOLUS (Gladiolus cardinalis)

You don’t seem to see Gladiolus in many residential gardens in Australia these days, but they were a great favourite of my Mother in our quarter acre first home block.  My Mother had a massive garden, both ornamental in the steep slope in front of our house, as well as the vegetable gardens and fruit trees in the rear yard.

There are around 260 species with thousands of cultivars and most originated in South Africa.

They should have a sunny situation protected from wind with a well-drained soil, but will tolerate periods of dryness once they’re established.

The funnel-shaped floors open from the bottom of the stem upwards and come in shades of white, red, pink, yellow, orange and some bicolour.

These images of the gorgeous GLADIOLUS (Gladiolus cardinals), a hybrid, come to you from our Royal Botanic Gardens here in Melbourne, but I daresay are easy enough to find in any local plant nursery or online supplier if you want them in your ‘Aussie’ garden.

GREVILLEA ‘LITTLE DRUMMER BOY’ (Grevillea lanigera)

GREVILLEA ‘LITTLE DRUMMER BOY’ (Grevillea lanigera) – 28th August, 2010 – Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

GREVILLEA ‘LITTLE DRUMMER BOY’ (Grevillea lanigera), or WOOLLY GREVILLEA, is one of my favourite early flower images made in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne.

…..and one of the most ‘stolen’ of my flower images.  I just found another 2 websites who have used this image without my permission.

Perhaps I should be flattered.

But why can’t people do me the curtesy of at least asking if they may use one of my images.

I’ve got about 7-8 images used by professional bodies (with my permission) or even a young street photographer who asked if  he could use one of my B & W images as the header on his website, (which surprised me as I’d have thought he would want to use one of his own, but he was just starting a website and has probably substituted one of his own by now).  I’m happy to share if people ask, but I do like to be asked first.

I do like people to at least credit me as the photographer too.

Anyway, this lovely woolly low-growing Grevillea is a great ground-cover endemic to the eastern coast of Australia.  It’s one of the ‘spider’ flowered Grevilleas.  It flowers in Winter and Spring and has really soft grey-green foliage.  It may be 8 1/2 years since I took this image with my first little Canon point & shoot – my first camera when I took up Photography as a hobby – but surprisingly, despite my novice status, I still think it’s one of the best flower photos I’ve made which shows great detail.

There are something like 350 Grevilleas which grow in every part of Australia, but I’ve only photographed about 5 different varieties.  The other 4 varieties I’ve got in my Grevillea folder are of the ‘toothbrush’ flowered Grevilleas.  The honeyeaters love their nectar.

They’re pretty drought-hardy and benefit from a light prune after flowering.

It’s back………

My Sigma 150 – 500mm lens is back……………….from the camera repair department.

Just thought I’d share my delight with you.

Of course, I’m still in a state of shock at the repair bill of this much-loved telephoto lens (including the new UV filter which I always buy for my lenses to protect them).

But I’m so glad to have a long telephoto ‘birding’ lens again.

Now……….where are all the birds who normally visit my balcony during the day.  Wouldn’t you know it, not a bird in sight! 😀

I might just have to walk down to the local pond today to test it out.  Of course I did test it in the repair department, but that’s not the same thing as testing it on a real live distant bird.

TREE or SHRUBBY GERMANDER (Teucrium fruticans)

Shrubby  Germander (Teucrium fruticans), also known as Tree germander is a bushy, evergreen shrub with oval to lance-shaped, grey-green leaves, to 3/4″ long, with white-woolly underneath.

It’s native to the western and central areas of the Mediterraneun, not Australia, but I find it a lovely plant and almost wish I had one in my balcony garden, although it does like a bit of shelter and I fear it would quickly go downhill in my windy home location.  But with all the successes I’ve had in my small west-facing garden, you never know – it might just grow beautifully 🙂

The whorls of pale blue/mauve flowers are very pretty (even if they don’t have the brilliant colour of some of the flowers in my previous post).

They make an excellent hedge, and do best in moist, well-drained soil and full sun.  They make a nice clipped low hedge in a herb garden and may be cut to within 2″ of ground level in the Spring to maintain a nice compact growth habit.

The images in this post were not made in the Royal Botanic Gardens, (surprise, surprise), but against a wall in the riverside walking path near the Collingwood Children’s Garden in the inner Melbourne north-east suburb of Abbotsford,  where I lived briefly before moving to the western suburb where I currently reside.

FLOWER PHOTOGRAPHY

While I love my current home location, I can’t deny that it’s not as ‘colourful‘ as when I lived next to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne (up to May 2015).

I was also a short bus ride away from some of Melbourne’s other main public gardens and The Conservatory (in the Fitzroy Gardens) at that time.

After walking the Royal Botanic Garden’s many paths for over 25 years, it really was fun to capture some of the beautiful flowers through the seasons when I bought a DSLR in late December 2010.

While I do have a relatively small Edwardian public park a bus ride away at the current time (images above), somehow it’s not the same as the diverse range of flowers, grasses and old trees of the RBG (Royal Botanic Gardens) which was first planted in 1846.   Quite a few of those old trees were uprooted or severely damaged in a storm in 2009, but other 150+ year old trees, sourced from many countries around the world, remain a backdrop to some of the RBG’s beautiful paths and avenues.

One of the main drawcards to the RBG is the wide variety of formal garden beds, informal planting of native plants as well as a rich variety of grasses and trees.  It’s variety is constantly being updated and replanted to maintain a lovely array of foliage as well as flowers.

Melbourne is known as the Garden capital city of Australia and its many public parks and gardens are a living testament to the wisdom of some of the early settlers in the area who made the effort to surround the first white settlement with gardens.

While recent years have seem much re-landscaping from English cottage garden plants to more drought-hardy natives, South African and South American plants, some of the 55,000 plants are bound to be in flower in any season.

The Treasury Gardens and Fitzroy Gardens on the eastern perimeter of Melbourne’s CBD (Central Business District) together with many National Trust Properties make for a wealth of photo subjects to entertain and enchant the Garden Lovers among you.

So to cheer up those living in the northern hemisphere, which is still under storms and/or snow/wintery chill, here’s a colourful array of some of my early flower images – mostly made between 2010 and 2013 (combined with a few butterfly images from the Butterfly House at Melbourne’s main zoo in North Melbourne).

NOTE: As always, if you see a misspelt name, blame the Auto Spellcheck which keeps changing my typing OR if you see an incorrect name, please don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments section.  There are 3-4 flowers which have several common names, but I’ve only listed one to save space.

 

WATER BUTTONS, BUTTONWEED (Cotula coronophifolia)

Water Buttons are a native of South Africa, but naturalised in all Australian states and New Zealand.

These hairless, low-growing, perennial herbs flower in Winter and Spring and grow on a range of soils from sandy loam to clay, but are restricted to wet soils that are periodically flooded according to Mr Google.

They generally exist in moderately saline, waterlogged soils and may form large mats over shallow water,  but the images in this post were made in Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens.

Not sure that the patch of plants was in water-logged soil in the RBG, but they were flowering profusely all the same.

I could have chosen to photograph just one flower, but then you wouldn’t get a sense of how gorgeous they are en masse.  Their button-like flowers tend to turn throughout the day and follow the sunlight as you can see in my images.

I’ve seen them in the soggy field around the pond in the nearby Newells Paddock Conservation and Nature Reserve about 2 miles from my current home.

I tried to get down low to photograph them in Newells Paddock when I first visited this amazing restored area a couple of years ago, but I wobbled too much as I was trying not to get wet socks through a hole in my old walking shoes.  The ground was covered in low-lying water under the succulents and grass floor beneath my feet, so the images below just really give you a sense of the surroundings in that paddock (field).  Hope to get back there soon to photograph more of the bird life.  You can get a sense of the bird life here

Or, you can keep following my nature blog waiting for me to photograph them.  Not sure I can get around all the ponds and fields as the water is hidden underfoot for the most part, and I don’t have any gumboots (rubber boots).  I tend to stick to gravel or asphalt paths for walking these days as I’m a bit accident-prone (as you will know if you’ve followed my blog for a long time 😀 )

It’s been raining solidly for a couple of hours this morning and is blissfully cool, so I definitely won’t have to water my balcony garden this evening.

I glanced at the coming week’s weather forecast on the internet this morning, (as I do every morning), and it looks like cooler weather next week.

Dare I hope for a walk outdoors soon?

Is the stretch of heat waves Melbourne’s endured through January, finally finished?

Will there be enough rain to put the bushfires out?