Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Wild Bird Wednesday 129 - Looking back at 2014

What a year its been.  I have been a little more widely traveled than normal and have seen so great wildlife - I have visited many great blogs and often felt more than a little jealous!  And I have been encouraged and supported by the comments on this (and my wordy) blog.

As we wonder what 2015 will bring, here are some of my favourite bird images from 2014.

American Avocet, Arizona
Broad-Billed Humming Bird, Arizona 
Crested Shrike-Tit, Phillip Island, Australia

Crested Tern, Mud Island, Australia

Curlew Sandpiper, Lake Lonsdale, Point Lonsdale, Australia

Fairy Terns, Mud Island, Australia
Gang Gang Cockatoo, Halls Gap, Australia 
Kookaburra, Halls Gap, Australia
Puffins, Farne Islands, UK
Rainbow Lorikeet, Surrey Hills, Victoria, Australia  
Silver Gull, Mud Island, Australia
Now its your turn!  Click the familiar blue button and off you go to the wild world of WBW.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Indoors and Outdoors

One of the things that blogging gives you is a tiny glimpse into the lives of other people - and one of the things that I enjoy most is see what other people are up to in different seasons to the one I am in.

It still surprises me the number of 'I'd forgotten it was not winter with you' type comments from the Northern Hemisphere!

Anyway - these two images are a result of me thinking about these differences and similarities.

The first image is taken indoors - where I assume the state of our loving room is very similar to many in other parts of the world.  I also decided to play with zooming during a long exposure - and the chaos and confusion seems appropriate for Christmas!  And before anybody asks, the blurred vision is nothing to do with red wine or fine Tasmanian malt whiskey (honest!)

The second picture is about summer - not the bright blue sky, the cricket on the radio nor sandy days at the beach. Its about the background hum of insects - the white noise of summer.

While me and H were taking a bit of a walk - all 850m of it! - we found this bee swarm in a bird box.  I can only assume that there were no birds in it!

You can find more shots from around the world at Our World Tuesday.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

twas the night before…….

Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro' the house
 not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.  

But out on the wires over my garden this beast was making its presence known with its raucous call and general bad behaviour!

It's a Brush-Tailed Possum, probably on the way to stock up for Christmas on my vegetables!

It's the evening here, so my Christmas day is almost over, hope your day goes (is going) well!  SM

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Wild Bird Wednesday 128 - Superb Fairy Wren

I can't help but think that if I had seen models of birds like this as a kid I would have thought that they were just a Christmas tree decoration!  How time change.

I found this superb Superb Fairy-Wren last week in a pause between showers.  Superb indeed.

I just want to thank all the people who have linked, clicked, commented and hopefully enjoyed WBW this year.

128 weeks is a long time, but as far as I know, I and WBW will still be here each Wednesday for 2015!

Consider these a Christmas gift from Australia, where it is summer and the days are long. SM

Click on the blue button below to join in with WBW.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014


This is Bryce.  Most days he sits outside of The Body Shop in Camberwell, selling The Big Issue.

I don't know why Bryce is homeless, but I do know that last year his wife fell and broke her hip.  Badly.  I know this because he told me when I asked him 'how are you going?' as I bought my regular copy the magazine from him.  It was like he just wanted somebody to tell, and I happened to be that somebody.

I don't know why Bryce is homeless, but I do know he is well spoken, unfailingly polite and always keen for a conversation, or even just a brief hello.

I don't know why Bryce is homeless, and neither do I know why our current government seems to think that people who have fallen on hard times, or who have suffered at the hand of bad luck, are the ones responsible for whatever fiscal issues (they imagine) our country has.

I don't know why Bryce is homeless, and I don't really know if my regular purchases of The Big Issue help to keep him afloat.  But I hope they do.

I do not share the religious beliefs that many of our politicians claim to hold, but at this time of year if we cannot hold out a hand to help those who have fallen, then when can we do it?

In the midst of the excess and wealth of the season, we need to find a space for those who are not so lucky.

Hope you all have a happy, restful and above all else, peaceful Christmas.   Cheers SM

Thursday, 18 December 2014

A sky from carols

Earlier this week we had our schools carol evening - music from the kids and 'community singing' during which most people sat silently.

The evening was about as wintry as it gets in December here - if you had a jacket you were wearing it, and if you had a spare one you were very popular.

The wind - more or less straight from the Antarctic - calmed down later on, and there were a few nice clouds.

These may not look like classic Christmas cards, but they are what we get here instead of snow!

You can find more (possibly pre-christmas) skies at Sky Watch Friday.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Wild Bird Wednesday 127 - Royal Spoonbills (and one other!)

Like many people I think I will be putting the blogs on the back burner over the next week or so - but be assured the WBW will pop up on time and in the expected place!  In the chaos of Christmas WBW can be the rock on to which you cling!

Todays birds are Spoonbills - these large water bird seen to be rather nervous and I have struggled to get images of them by 'stalking'.  I think a hide may be needed for these birds - which seems like a good plan for the new year!  (If anybody has any experience of using small portable hides I'd be interested to hear what you have to say).

We have two species of Spoonbill in Australia - The Royal Spoonbill (Platalea regia) and The Yellow-Billed Spoonbill.

The Royal is the slightly smaller of the two species at about 80cm tall, while the Yellow Bill can be over 90 cm.  But this difference is hard to see in the field - the key field marks are the colour of the bill and legs.  The Royal has a black bill and legs, while the Yellow-Billed is (wait for it!) yellowish! However, in my experience the the bill of the Yellow-Billed often looks almost white, or even flesh coloured.  Maybe its my eyes!

Another difference seems to be that the Royal is a little more proud of its plumage (befitting its station!) and tends to be spotlessly clean, while the Yellow-Billed can look a bit grubby at times!

Royal Spoonbill
Royal Spoonbill
Yellow Billed Spoonbill
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Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The Old Man

The Old Man of Coniston is hill (or small mountain, depending on its mood and the weather) in the southern Lake District.  It was once the highest point in Lancashire, before the boundaries were changed and it became part of Cumbria.  I have only even known it as a Cumbrian.

It was probably the first hill in the Lakes I ever climbed - many years ago, long before I headed south.

But this was not the reason I choose it to climb when we were back in the UK - I choose it because it's a great walk, well within the ability of my kids - and it pretty much shows you all of what the Lake Distinct is like.

Long views.  Steep crags of climbable rocks.  Small tarns hidden in the folds of the Earth, that surprise by their presence.  But also the hand of farming and industry - sheep cropped grass lands and old mines and quarries.  Well worn footpaths and at the end of the day, tea, ice-cream or beer depending the time of day or your age.

About 20 of us went up the hill, and due to the quality of the company 20 of us came down.  Such arithmetic is always pleasing!

We took morning tea at Goats Water and watched people climb the dark buttresses of Dow Crag; memories of climbing the same rocks came flooding back. We took lunch on the top - eccles cakes and sandwiches and talked about old time, and smiled at the number of kids we had with us now.

The best part of 20 years had passed since I had seen some of my companions:  it was a good day.

H at Goats Water with Dow Crag in the background 
P at Goats Water
Looking back at Goats water with Dow Crag on the RHS.
Low Water and Coniston Water from the summit
Low Water, Coniston Water and Windermere from the summit.
All in all a splendid day.

You can find more shots from around the world at Our World Tuesday.  SM

Monday, 15 December 2014

Early Christmas

At least my reason for being busy this week is the activities of my own family!  Concerts, choir performances, dance rehearsals and shows and so on and so on!

So, as a brief macro post - I give you this:  an candle powered music machine!  The melody is a little repetitive, but it its rather seasonal!  And the snow on the tree is all I will see!

You can find more macro shots at Macro Monday 2 and I Heart Macro.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Cumbrian Sky

More shots from the UK today!

This is the sky that greeted us as we pulled into the car park at the end of the Walna Scar Road, on the Coniston Fells in the Lake District.  (If the truth be told, the water in the picture is not a lake!)

This was the start of a great days walk up on to The Old Man of Coniston - another walk that I have done many times in the past, but still enjoyed.  The best part of the walk was that about 20 old friends of mine, now with children and or dogs, also came along - so it was a day of good walks and better conversation!

More pictures to follow!

You can find more skies from around the world at Sky Watch Friday.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Wild Bird Wednesday 126 - Spotted Pardalote

Eventually Sunday's rain stopped and I was able to get tout - not to where I had planned to go, but to a small local wetland sandwiched between a bike path and a freeway.  This does not sound like the most exciting location, but it is local and it normally holds some birds.

Before I had even managed to get near the water I saw some movement by the side of the path.  I retreated a little and waited for a while.  A slow but regular flow of post rain dog walkers may not have helped the bird quickly return, but eventually it did.

My initial reaction on seeing the bird was that it was a Pardalote of some kind, and this proved to be correct. Once I got reasonable views of it, the orange yellow rump gave it away as a Spotted Pardalote. And the grass in its mouth gave it away as a bird that was building a nest.

Possibly surprisingly, this small (8cm) nest is burrows near the tops of banks and other hidden away places.  The books all seem to suggest that the outer layer of the nest is made of bark shreds, while the inner part is lined with grass. So, presumably, these beak-fulls are intended to line a nest somewhere.  

This bird also goes by the name of Pardalotus punctatus - which means 'spotted leopard spotted bird' - and as you can see it has spots!

These were the first pictures I have managed to get of this species - and given their size, the less than bright light and the dog walkers (how dare they!), I'm pleased with the results

 Its almost your turn to link to WBW - but first a note about word verification!

Word verification is turned off on my blogs - but due to a glitch with Blogger (or somewhere) it will show up - HOWEVER, you can ignore it completely, type a comment and just click publish and it should work.  

Now it really is your turn to click the Blue Button and join in with WBW - feel free to spread the word to the world!

Monday, 8 December 2014

A short walk in Langdale.

This week's post takes me back to the UK.

Many people, both from overseas and the UK itself, visit the Lake District on their holidays - but I was lucky enough to live there for almost five years.  It's a place that is very special to me.

It was inevitable that I would revisit the place on my recent return to the UK.

Memories abound.

One late morning we went for a walk along the bottom of Langdale - a very well known glacial valley near the tourist heart of The Lakes.  Many years ago, I used to take school groups walking in this area and while its not back of the hand territory, it was (and still is) very familiar.

We walked slowly and talked and talked with a friend we had not seen in many years.  We eat chocolate, Eccles Cakes, but no flask coffee.

I miss the place.

You can find more shots from around the world at Our World Tuesday.

A Ring Rabbit on a rainy day.

Rain. Sunday.  Plans down the drain.

So, my first attempt at focus stacking with photoshop and macro.  I don't think this is too bad for a first try - four shots, each focused on different planes, merged to form one image.  It's a wee bit slow - I can only work out how to do it one pair of images at a time - but it passes the hours while I wait for the rain to stop.

In case you are wondering - this ring rabbit is where S hangs here rings at night.

You can find more macro shots at Macro Monday2 and I Heart Macro.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Blue (And Red) Sky

While I was down at Point Cook this Biplane was doing some stunt flying.

Though a longish lens it looked so frail and delicate.  I was also surprised that I was able to freeze the motion of the prop.  Hard to believe how quickly the technology of flight has changed, even if the basics of wings remains the same.

You can find more skies at Skywatch Friday.  SM

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Wild Bird Wednesday 125 - Welcome Swallow

This will be a very brief post this week due to a rather hurried work trip to Sydney - oh the glamour!

While I was out and about at a very dry section of the Point Cook Wetlands near Melbourne this weekend, I paid a visit to a bird hide.  The hide over looks what is sometimes a lake - but on this day it was a grassland!

However, I did have a great look at a pair of Welcome Swallows (Hirundo neoxena) feeding their young.  When I saw where they had built their nest - just over a poster on urban birds - I had to smile - and then I saw a coincidence that really did make me laugh.

Apart from a crop in to wide angle this is not manipulated!

This one does need to be clicked on.

Now its over to you - click on the blue button to join in with WBW.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

The First Day of Summer?

I took this picture on Sunday - one day before the official start of summer in Australia - but nobody had told the weather.  It was pretty hot and by mid-day a heat haze had kicked in, making this distant view of Melbourne a touch more abstract than normal.

You can find more pictures from around the world at Our World Tuesday.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Leopard Orchid

This is a Leopard Orchid - taken at the ever reliable Heatherlie Quarry in the Grampians.

You can find more macro shots at Macro Monday2 and I Heart Macro.  SM

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Neither a sky nor a mammal - Shingleback Lizard

This is a shingleback lizard - or to use the name I first knew it by, the Stumpy Tail lizard.  Both names are good - its back does look like the shingles on a roof and it does have a stumpy tail.

This lizard was taking some spring sunshine on board when I found him (or her) and was remarkably tolerant as I stuck the lens of a camera up its nose!

There are many reptiles in Australia which which I would not be so bold!

You can find more shots of animals from around the world at Saturday Critters

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Wild Bird Wednesday 124 - Robin

When I was back in the UK one of the things I really enjoyed was catching up with the kinds of birds I used to see around my house everyday.  Nowadays I see Australian Magpies and two or threes species of parrot most days, along with a few introduced birds. So, seeing robins, tits, finches and warblers was a real treat.

What surprised me when I got back home to Australia was how few pictures I had taken of these 'domestic' species - at least part of the reason for that is that I often saw them when I was sat in a garden (beer or otherwise) and I was not in photographic mode!

So, in celebration of the common and the everyday, I give you a Robin from the UK.  This is a common, and trusting species, in the UK.  As far as I am aware this species is much less domesticated in the rest of Europe.

As you will notice if you are not from Europe this is not the bird you call a robin - presumably the robins in other parts of the world gained this name via the possession of a red breast rather than a shared evolutionary history.

Anyway - this rather obliging bird stayed still enough form me to photograph it, even if it did have a fondness for the shadows of a hedge.

And now it is over to you - click the blue button to link in with WBW and off your go!