Thursday 29 September 2011

The sky above you (SkyWatch Friday)

Another in my occasional series of sky shots with no sky! Aim of the game is to make it clear what the sky is doing without really showing the sky.

So on a bright and sunny day in the Grampians I found this shadow on a stump – not a cloud in the sky, not a flaw in the shadow.

Hope you like it.

You can find pictures which probably contain the sky at SkyWatch Friday.

You can see the most recent post to my other blog by clicking on the Paying Ready Attention image on the RHS of the page.

Enjoy the skies!

Tuesday 27 September 2011

World Bird Wednesday - Australasian Grebe

Australasian Grebes are busy little birds, and like most of the grebes I have tried to photograph, rather nervous. When “startled, dives rather than flies” says the guide book and it’s not wrong. And they seem to be able to swim for miles underwater, often coming up a very long way away from where they dived. They look similar to the Little Grebe – or Dabchicks as we called them – that I saw as a kid, but they are a different species.

You can find more birds from around the world at World Bird Wednesday.

You can find the latest post to my other blog by clicking the Paying Ready Attention image on the RHS of the screen.

Enjoy the birds.

Monday 26 September 2011

Our World Tuesday - A short walk on a long pier

Took a short walk on a long pier this weekend – as you can see! This is Swan Bay Jetty, about 2 hours from Melbourne. The Crested Terns sat on the rails for a while but most of the other birds took flight.

You can find more pictures at Our World Tuesday.

Hope you enjoy them!

Sunday 25 September 2011

Macro Monday - Grampian Flowers

Despite the howling gale that was blowing I did manage to get some flower images during the trip to The Grampians – in fact I got rather more decent images than I expected!
The Grampians is famous for its Spring flowers and has a wide range of native orchids. I think I may have been there about two weeks too early as there were large numbers of orchid shows leaves only and no flowers (boo!). But tucked away in quiet warm spots I did find a few.

Wax Lip Orchid

Pink Heath

Pink Fingers Orchid

A type of pea (there are lots in the Grampains!)

Mantis or Spider Orchid

Nodding Greenhood Orchid

Blue Tinsel-Lilly

Grampians Thryptomene (each flower is only about 8 -10 mm across)

You can find more close up / macro images at here at Macro Monday.

You can find the latest post from my other blog by clicking on the Paying Ready Attention image on the RHS of the screen

Enjoy the close ups!

Thursday 22 September 2011

Grampian Skies (Skywatch Friday)

Greetings – keen followers will know that I was The Grampians last weekend. (That’s in the west of Victoria if your geography of Australia is a little bit rusty!) Wonderful place. The best sky I saw that weekend was as I got out of the car in Halls Gap when I arrived. Huge sky, full of stars, with the streak of the Milky Way cutting the sky on half. I just looked – could not bring myself to try some picture after a very long drive – added to that was the fact that I wanted a glass of wine! (or 2)

So, these are two other pictures. It was blowing a gale for much of the weekend and the sky did not really put on a show. However, a number of people have mentioned the clear blue skies we get here – so I’ve posted one of them! Also (when almost being blown off my feet!) I noticed the other sky. I was drawn to it by the idea that the rock face and the cloud are sort of opposites of each other. Tell me what you think!
You can find more skies here at SkyWatch Friday.

You can find the latest post for my other blog by clicking the Paying Ready Attention image on the RHS of the screen. The most recent post is about Fishing rather than the Grampians!

Enjoy the skies!

Tuesday 20 September 2011

World Bird Wednesday - Pied Currawong

I’ve been visited by a few Pied Currawongs of late. They seem to have designs on my lunch. These are magnificent (if not always popular) birds that can grow to about 50cm. Their lack of popularity may be due to their tendency to eat the chicks of other birds.

They have a wonderful, strange voice that always greeted me on autumn mornings at my last job. It’s just about the only thing I miss about it.

I’ve taken another step down the “colourful” as these don’t really even make it grey scale – they are black and white. I admit the eye may be a bit crazy looking and that have what can only be described as a “clanking great bill” (all the better to eat you with!).

They seem to be smart and have bags of character – I have to admit I like them!

You can find more world birds here at World Bird Wednesday.

You can have a look at the most recent post from my other blog by clicking the Paying Ready Attention button on the RHS of the screen.

Enjoy the birds.

PS: This is my 100th photo-blog post!

Monday 19 September 2011

Our World Tuesday - The Grampians

I spent this weekend in the Grampians National Park. That’s in the west of Victoria – about 3 ½ hour’s drive from Melbourne. Well it was more like four – buts that’s because two cars had a bit of a dispute on the freeway out of Melbourne and we all had to sit around and wait for them to sort it out.

The Grampians is a splendidly hilly kind of place – with long ridges of high ground that seem to sweep like solid waves across the land. The rock here is very old – 380 million years, give or take a pause for traffic accidents!

I had come to photograph the wild flowers – but it was really very windy, and the plants were flapping about like flags – this proved to be a challenge!

So – I took some picture of some rocks instead! They were about the only think not being blasted about. I walked up to the top of Mount Stapylton past the orange sweep of Taipan wall. This is regarded as one of the best climbing crags in Australia. 90 m of slightly overhanging sandstone. Even in the past when I used to do this kind of thing, I doubt I could have even got off the ground!

So, here are some images and a few “close up’s” of the rock face.

Just as you go around the end of the cliff you come to “Bird Rock” – which as you can see really does look like a bird! If you ever get the chance to visit you should take it.

You can find lots of other good things to see here or by clicking on the Our World Tuesday button on the RHS of the screen.

You can also see my most recent post on my other blog by clicking the Paying Ready Attention button on the RHS of the screen.

Sunday 18 September 2011

Macro Monday - Potter Wasp

Wasps have a bit of problem on the PR front. “Not very popular” or “generally unwelcome at picnics” is how they seem to be viewed.

I think this is a bit of an injustice – OK so they can be vicious killers of smaller beasts and they have a nasty sting – but, if the truth be told, none of us are perfect.

So, here in all its black and yellow glory is a Potter Wasp. I took this picture a few weeks ago on Magnetic Island.

You can find more macro shots here at Macro Monday.

Enjoy the close ups!

Thursday 15 September 2011

Canberra Skies (Friday Skies)

Busy, busy, busy!
School production, photographs of 170 kids in costume to take and process, day trip to Canberra for a science award ceremony (I was not getting a prize!), kids to cuddle, stories to read and blog comments to reply too! Sorry that the replies are not up to date!

Anyway, here are some quick phone snaps of the sky over Parliament House in Canberra. Let’s hope some of the kids who were there today can keep on the science path and help us fix this little planet up!

Parliement house has grass on the top of it - its basically an artificaial hill - and you can walk on top of it. It's one of the few times that MP's are in their proper place - under the people who elect them!

This last shot is looking up through the "flag pole" at the top of the hill. I think it was a bit more than my phone camera could cope with! But there you go!

You can find more (and if I’m honest, probably better skies) here at Friday Skies.

Tuesday 13 September 2011

World Bird Wednesday - Grey Butcher Bird

Today’s World Bird Wednesday post is brought to you by the Grey Butcher Bird.

People have noticed that we have a lot of colourful birds in Australia – so here’s one that manages to be rather splendid in a grey scale kind of way.

When I first arrived here I did not see many of these birds – but once I learnt their voice they are not hard to find. I often see them as I walk to work. I pointed one out to a stranger once and I think he was on the verge of calling the emergency services about an escaped lunatic before I walked off!

Most years they breed in the old oak trees near out house. They are related to Australian Magpies – but don’t seem to have the same aggressive tendencies. As far as garden birds go I have to say they are rather special!

You can find more birds here at World Bird Wednesday.
You can also look at my other blog by clicking on the Paying Ready Attention image on the RHS of the screen (go on – you may like it!)

Monday 12 September 2011

Our World Tuesday - Remembering New York

I’m posting these images and words with a clear understanding of what these days mean to so many, many people. Not just people in the USA, but people all around the world. The September 11 attack was the break-point for a tsunami of violence that washed away life, after life, after life on the day itself and then spread far from New York, Arlington, Virginia and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The waves from that day continue to claim lives.

As a kid I grew up knowing that every box by the side of the road, every strange parked car, could be a fiery gift left by fanatics. But what happened on September 11 was beyond anything that seemed possible. This kind of thing happened “elsewhere”, and the mindset of the people involved seemed to come from an “elsewhen” – as if the enlightenment had not happened and people still viewed the world as the play-thing of distant, but still persuadable, gods.

I do not think that the response to these attacks should be tied to any country, creed, religion or flag – it should grow out of a personal commitment by all of us to do good and to challenge simple minded solutions and violence wherever they are found. Surely, if we are honest, we can do better for the world and its people than we have managed to do to this point. What could we achieve if all the talent, energy, skill and bravery that was shown on the terrible day, and in the days that have followed, had been turned into something other than war?

What would have happened if we had spent the last ten years arming people with knowledge and a real sense of possibility rather than with guns and bombs? How many of the “best and the brightest” can we afford to lose? Each time a person dies a small strand in the great web of the unknowable possibilities of the world breaks with them. “How would life have ever been the same if this wall had carved in it one less name?” as it has been said in a way that I could never manage.

It is spring in Australia, a season of growth and reconnection. If we refuse to tolerate intolerance and if we admit that well educated children are the hope of the world, then maybe, just maybe, the next ten years will be better than the last.


I am posting two pictures of New York – both from 1995. I arrived in the city by water, although I am not able to explain how this can be true. The skyline of the city was lit up with search lights flashing from helicopters and the roads were full of the flashing lights of police cars. It looked like some future, imagined city. It looked like a scene from Blade Runner. I had managed to arrive at the same time as the Pope. This was not a good plan. I walked the streets seeing things in real life that I had only seen on TV. My neck grew stiff from looking up at the towers that seemed to climb impossibly from the streets. The buildings were bigger than anything I had ever seen. The portions of food were bigger than anything I had ever seen as well!

I sat in cafĂ©’s full of police officers dressed in what seemed to be TV costumes – but it was real. I was on the way to Australia to start a new life. Although I did not know it then this has led to two red-headed children, marriage and a new life. Like many others before me, I passed though New York on the way to somewhere better.

That’s how I remember New York : as a gateway to the unknown possibility of the future.

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

(And it has just occurred to me that the shift to the collective “Our World” from the singular “My world” seems to the kind of change I’m talking about and hoping for.)

Sunday 11 September 2011

Macro Monday - Frangipani Flowers

This picture was taken on Magnetic Island – which for those of you not completely familiar with the geography of Australia, it’s about ¾ of the way up the east coast, in Queensland.
The light that day was strangely flat, with spots and specks of rain. I actually think that this made photographing the white flower easier. Frangipani flowers on the bare branches of the tree – it makes a strange sight.

You can find more macro shots here at Macro Monday.

Enjoy the close ups!

Thursday 8 September 2011

A Ten Minute Sky (Friday Skies)

I think that photography can become a trap, where we look for the perfect and the remarkable and in doing so we miss the splendour of the ordinary. I think this comes to the fore when you are looking at birds – common, but splendid birds are overlooked in favour of dull birds, who’s only claim to fame is rarity. But I think it also get get hold of you when you take landscapes - or in this case "skyscapes".

So, armed with my camera I set a time – pretty much as soon as I had this idea actually - and I stood in the garden for 10 minutes. During that time I photographed whatever happened to happening in the sky. These are some of the results. I think it made me look harder to find things – and in doing so I found things I would have normally overlooked!

So, what do you think!

You can find more skies (probably without all the self indulgent thinking / introspection stuff!) here. You can find the latest post on my other blog by clicking the "Paying Ready Attention" link on the RHS of the screen

Enjoy the skies be they remarkable or everyday!

A mystery solved – a mystery deepened - a mystery resolved

Recently blogger Kim posted the picture below with a plea to help name this rather splendid bird.
I tried. I failed. I sought help. I talked to a like minded colleague who likes a bit of a birding challenge. Both of us clearly need to find more things to do with our spare time.

Anyway, I’m pretty confident that the bird is a Red-Legged Honey Creeper.

But this does cause a bit of a problem. The Red-Legged Honey Creeper has never been recorded in the USA! Now this is interesting!

If you look at this map you can see that it is not recorded north of southern Central America or Cuba. Now there has been a bit of weather in that part of the world of late and I have to wonder if this is a bird that has been picked up by hurricane Irene and dumped in Michigan.

Now, if all this is true, this is a startling record.

However, (and I sort of get the feeling this is a rather large “however”) you can buy these birds over the net as cage specimens – so it’s also possible that the bird is an escapee and somewhere a bird fancier is mourning the loss of his (her?) rather splendid pet.

What are people’s thoughts?

UPDATE: 9th September - thanks to the people at Michigan Audubon.

I’ll leave the post as it is – but here is an update. There is a tropical bird display where this picture was taken!

So, no long distance migrant, so heartbroken bird owner, but a cracking bird none the less!

Tuesday 6 September 2011

World Bird Wednesday - Red-Browed Finch

Just to show that all the good value finches dont live in the Americas I thought I'd post these pictures.

These little gems are Red-Browed Finches. They are only about 11 cm long and can often be found in small flocks feeding on seeds in the grass – or split seed and grain around bird tables!
They are one of a small number of birds that have done (reasonably) well out of agriculture –it tends to produce the grassland and clearings that the favour. For all of the brightness of the brow and tail they are sometimes hard to see in longer grass and you only find them as you flush them. I was rather pleased when the bird sat on the wire gate!

You can find more world birds here at World Bird Wednesday.

You can also view my most recent post on my other blog by clicking here or on the Paying Ready Attention button on the RHS of the page.

Enjoy the birds.

Monday 5 September 2011

Our World Tuesday - The Wattles of Spring

Wattles in flower can brighten up even the dullest day – and when the sun shines they can become rather showy! I think these pictures are at the showy end of the spectrum!

You can find more pictures of our world on a Tuesday here at Our World Tuesday!

You can find the latest post from my other blog here, or by clicking the Paying Ready Attention link at the RHS of the screen.

Macro Monday - Spurge

This strange and wonderful plant is a spurge - that means it's in the genus Euphorbia for those who like to know such things.

If flowers - with green flowers - in late winter and into the start of spring. It has what I think landscape designers call an "Architectural Quality" and I have to say it does look rather good.

What the gardening types don't tell you what they recommend it is that it is pollinated by flies! So, as the year warms up and the sun warms the north face of our house, the spurge plants on each side of the steps seem to attract most of the flies that live in SE Australia. Walking up to the door generates the sort of swarm normally associated with a dead horse! It's not always a great way to be greeted - "hello and welcome to our house - and if you could come in before the flies do that would be very nice!" For all their Architectural Quality they have had there last spring! but before they go I thought I'd put up a post about them. So here it is!

You can find more macro images here at Macro Monday - hope you like the close ups