Thursday 28 November 2013

Why I like blogging…..

On Wednesday, as has been my way for the best past of three years, I posted I picture of a bird.  This week the bird was an Eastern Yellow Robin - a great looking bird in lemon yellow and grey.

One of the birds in the pictures wore a green plastic band on its left leg - green left would have been added to the note book if I had noticed it in the field.  But I only spotted it on the screen at home.

I had done a quick but unsuccessful inter-net search for information about projects banding these birds, but came up empty handed.

I mentioned this in the post, more in passing than anything else.

Then I got a comment from Pete Shanley  - a Melbourne birder who I have never met - pointing me towards one of his contacts doing a PhD on urban Eastern Yellow Robins.

Seven degrees of separation?

I really do like blogging.  SM

Wednesday 27 November 2013

Wild Bird Wednesday 72 - Eastern Yellow Robin

While most birds called "robins" have a red breast, just to be different these guys have a yellow one.  In fact these birds are not that closely related to the Robins I grew up with.  I assume that the similarity of form is a product of convergent evolution.  (Sorry, I should have issued a science warning!).

As you may have gathered by now I am more than normally interested in the way things are named.  I think that the names we give things can alter the way we see them - call a bird a robin and a Brit will expect to come and feed in the freshly stirred earth of a garden flower bed.

These are Eastern Yellow Robins - Eopsaltria australis - and while common, I find them a rather secretive bird - not one that sits on still warm garden fork handles.  These birds seemed very fond of sitting in places with rather bad light!

The first set were taken in a mix of bright light and deep shadow on the side of a path near Lorne, and the second set taken in rather deep shade in suburban Melbourne.  You can see that the second bird has a green plastic band - up until this point I have not been able to find out who is (or has been) studying these birds.

Note green leg band
Note green leg band
Now it's your turn to join in with WBW.  Good number of bloggers have been linking up over the past month, but we can always find space for more!  So, invite away and don't forget to link back here!

Monday 25 November 2013

Heavy Horses

At times I am staggered by the pace of change that has engulfed the world.

Not much more than a decade before I was born, horses pulled the ploughs and carts that had been the engines of agriculture for more years than most people care to count.  I was born just in time to see the tack of the horse age lie unused and abandoned in old barns and farm buildings - its use not just a memory but a reality for many people.

I also saw the consequence of the sweep of machines across the landscape - machine food, machine beer, machine landscapes: the loss of the small, the delicate and wild.

Today I wonder what it must have been like to walk behind the plough and talk to the horses that pulled them - unimaginably hard I suspect.  But rose tinted glasses make me want to find out.

Now we only see heavy horses as the strange cousin of race horses or show jumpers.  The circus side freak show of modern horses.

As a kid I learned the words to this song - and sang it as the players arm tracked down the great spiral to the middle.  It's only now that I think I have some understanding of what I missed and what I wanted to see.

Iron-clad feather-feet pounding the dust,
An October's day, towards evening, 
Sweat embossed veins standing proud to the plough, 
Salt on a deep chest seasoning.
Last of the line at an honest day's toil,
Turning the deep sod under,
Flint at the fetlock, chasing the bone,
Flies at the nostrils plunder.
The Suffolk, the Clydesdale, the Percheron vie
With the Shire on his feathers floating.
Hauling soft timber into the dusk

To bed on a warm straw coating.

And one day when the oil barons have all dripped dry
And the nights are seen to draw colder
They'll beg for your strength, your gentle power
Your noble grace and your bearing.
And you'll strain once again to the sound of the gulls
In the wake of the deep plough, sharing.

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

Sunday 24 November 2013

A very old picture

About 50 million years ago a little wasp like creature had a very bad day.  It flew into some sticky sap and got stuck.  Game over for the poor little thing!

50 million years later I get rather excited as I take ownership of a thing I have always wanted - some amber with an insect inclusion.  Of course, it would have been much more exciting to find the amber rather then buy it, but I'll cope.

What makes this whole idea even more remarkable is that this insect could have landed on my window this morning and I would not have been able to notice one single difference between it and a 50 million year old wasp.  Thats a pretty good product longevity if you ask me!

This is a rather heavily cropped version of the insect.

You can find more close up images at I Heart Macro and Macro Monday 2.  SM

Thursday 21 November 2013

A sky through the stone

My camera is sick.  It's been taken to the hospital for running repairs and TLC.  I miss it!

This is my excuse for posting an old picture!

This is a shot taken from The Valley of the Winds viewpoint. We did not walk down the slope in front of us.  Next time I think we will.

You can find more sky photographs at Sky Watch Friday.

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Wild Bird Wednesday 71 - King Parrots

Of all the birds that I see on a daily basis, parrots are without question my favourite.

One of the (many) pleasures of going away for a while is the chance to see some species of parrot that are not part of my daily scene.

Although I would not have to move very far from where I live to see them regularly Australian King Parrots are still a bit of a novelty to me - so I was more than pleased to find them in the garden of the house we stayed in during the last school holidays.  (You can read about that trip here)

As you can see, Australian King Parrots are rather bright - in fact in some lights the red head feathers of the male are so bright that photographs of them take on a rather unreal feel!  The females and juveniles are hardly dull, but they are a little more toned down than the males.

Australian King-Parrots (once know as King's Parrot) are a robust bird of about 40 - 44 cm in length.  Their scientific name - Alisterus scapularis - means Alister's shouldered bird.  Alister being the four year old son of an ornithologist, and the shoulder relating to the pale wing stripe.

Male, showing pale wing stripe 

Now it's your turn to join in with WBW.  Good number of bloggers have been linking up over the past month, but we can always find space for more!  So, invite away and don't forget to link back here!

As a bit of a special plea, could I remind people to link to a specific post on their blog so that the link takes the "clicker" to the specific post.  Also, if you could disable the word verification nightmare thing that would be great - but of course this is only a request!

Monday 18 November 2013

Great Ocean Road.

While we were away in the last school holidays we spent a bit of time driving on The Great Ocean Road.  You can't really drive anywhere around Lorne without doing this!
I have seen lots of pictures of this part of the world that focus on the long sweeps of the road between the steep hills of the land and the white waves of the sea.

I thought I'd try to see something different.

What I noticed was the wave shapes in the water, the sand and the road.  It was as if all of the features were part of the same ocean wave system.

I also rather like the colours!

From our viewpoint on the hill we could also see the way that the waves in the ocean churn the seabed as they break.  From here its clear why lots of fish live in this zone of tubulance - any tasty morsels of food would have little change of being able to hide in sand that was constantly being turned over by the waves.  The plumes of sand looked rather like clouds.

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

Sunday 17 November 2013

Old Shed

While out for a walk yesterday I took a short cut down a lane I do not normally use.  Like all good short cuts it delayed me!

There were are number of rather tumble down sheds and garages in the lane - this is the unlocked bolt on one of them.

I decided to go with black and white because there was not many other colours than shades of grey.

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

Thursday 14 November 2013

A Welcome Sky

Continuing with the idea from Wednesday!

These birds are much easier to photograph on the plant, rather than on the wing.

Their speed and agility make them masters of the sky.

You can find more skies at Sky Watch Friday.  SM

Wednesday 13 November 2013

Wild Bird Wednesday 70 - Welcome Swallow

The Welcome Swallow is the common swallow over most of Australia.

While they are not the classic harbingers of spring that they are in the Northern Hemisphere, the "welcome" in the name relates to their arrival in greater numbers at the end of winter.  I am not surprised if one flashes past in winter, seeking out late flying insects, but they are more common in summer. Many of the birds from southern Australia, and especially Tasmania head north, in the winter and it is these that are the welcome returnees of spring.

At first glance they do look similar to the Swallow of much of Europe - technically The Barn Swallow - but they lack the dark band that splits the red neck from the pale chest.

I found this group of young birds waiting in anticipation for the return of there parents last weekend - and I thought it was another chance to use the "panorama" format of picture.  The final image shows a nest that I found in the covered parking of our favourite pizza place!  (And yes, I did pop back home for the camera!)

pizza chicks

Over to you for the next part!

Click on the link and off you go!  Enjoy, visit, recommend and spread the news that is WBW far and wide.

Monday 11 November 2013

Beauty and Violence

Cant help but think about the people of the Philippines today - we can talk about beauty, but there is also violence in nature.  Its not malicious violence, but it's violence none the less.

This picture clearly does not show anything really destructive - but it feels a little more appropriate today.

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


Sunday 10 November 2013

Lake Green

When we were at Lorne we spent an evening looking for platypus at Lake Elizabeth.  While we managed to see some of these remarkable creatures, the resulting photographs were less good!

Soon it become clear that the light - and the shy nature of these egg layers - would not yield any decent images, so I looked elsewhere.

Over the last few months I have been playing with a wide angle lens - but out on the water I only had longer lenses on my cameras.  For a long time (in the pre-digital age) I took a look of pictures of "micro-landscapes" with longer lenses - so that's what I did this evening as well.

The shape of these reeds and reflection in the water caught my eye.

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


Friday 8 November 2013

Silver and Blue

Cracking blue sky.  Cracking Silver Gull.  Job done!

You can find more skies at SkyWatch Friday.

Wednesday 6 November 2013

Wild Bird Wednesday 69 - House Sparrow

After a long weekend of domestic bliss (and gardening - which is different) I thought I'd go with that most domestic of birds the House Sparrow.

Although not a native bird of Australia it is now widespread up the east coast of its adopted home.  House Sparrows in Australia are only here (as far as I know) because of the hand of homesick colonists  from the UK.  So this bird seems to be very closely tied to humans - as some of the reference books say "commensal with man".  It makes me wonder what kind of habitat it used before it became a "House" sparrow.

Even its scientific name bears witness to its links with humans - Passer domestica, which means the sparrow of the house (more or less).

All of these shots were taken in classic House Sparrow locations - cafes, boat trip booking offices and gardens.

I know that this species has declined markedly in the UK, so although I know they are not in anyway threatened as a species, I still like to see (and hear) a bird that was part of the background noise of my childhood, but which now may be missing from many places.  It also makes me feel a little less guilty about liking a bird which in reality is a bit of a pest here.

So, over to you - click on the link below to join in WBW.  All welcome - and don't worry if your post is not all about birds - as long as it has some bird pictures all are welcome!

Monday 4 November 2013

Sovereign Hill

As I mentioned in my last post this is a long weekend - because of a horse race!

Today we set off west and a little north to the city of Ballarat.  This is a former sheep station that rose to considerable fame and wealth on the back of local gold finds.  Unlike many other towns in the area, Ballarat continues to produce gold to this day.

It is also famous as the site of an armed rebellion against taxation in the form of gold licenses, which were sold without any political representation.  The clash between a group of miners and the forces of the government is the stuff of Australian legend.

But we did not visit to dig for gold, or to protest, we went to visit an open air museum that is based around a reconstruction of the old main street of Ballarat as a mining town.

Past experiences have suggested that this could be a little cheesy - to much plastic realism and cheap trinkets.  But the truth of the matter was that I rather enjoyed it.  There seemed to be a good balance between being a tourist attraction (which it clearly is) and an attempt to portray some aspects of life on the gold fields.  Some of the small miners "cottages" are, to say the least, grim looking - and I can only assume it was worse for the miners and their families that lived under canvas.

There was a demonstration of gold pouring - which was remarkable for the amount of heat that radiated off the block of gold, and for the speed at which a length of wood caught fire when it was pushed onto the still glowing block.

There were a number of staff in "costume" on foot in the complex - and there was a delightful lack of faux "oh yea, oh yea" about their approach.

As you may be able to tell I had a good day - as did the rest of my clan!

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

Sunday 3 November 2013

Dog Brooch

A number of people have mentioned that there are a lot of animals in our house - moose, elephants, rabbits, rhinos and a rather wonderful water rail are just some of the things that share our house.

Of course there are also the bears, unicorns, fish, tasmanian devils and hippos that come with having kids in residence.

As I was doing something else this week I noticed that one of my favourite brooches that Sal wears was being nicely backgrounded by an orange jumper.  So I photographed it!

I give you Dog Brooch!

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

PS: we have a long weekend in Australia because of a horse race (I kid you not!) so replies may be a little slower than normal!