Adventurers, Altona, angels, Birdlife, birds, Birdwatching, Garden, Gardening, Swans, Victoria, Williamstown, Williamstown, Women in Business

Autumnal sunshine relaxes a busy mind

http://www.birdlife.org.au/bird-profile/black-swan

Escaping ones desk is always a challenge. There is inevitably another email to answer or proposal or report to write. So this afternoon when I took a few minutes to walk outside to inspect how my garden was holding up after a few days without rain, I realised just how beautiful a day it was and decided it was time to leave the keyboard behind and take a walk.

While the sun was shining, I took myself up to a river crossing at Kororoit Creek which is surrounded by industrial buildings and in easy view of the incredibly ugly train overpass that is unnecessarily being built 200 meters from the water.

There are a number of places close to my house where I can see birds and they are some of my favourite animals to photograph. Thankfully, the shore birds don’t seem to notice their built up environment and I arrived at just the right time to see many of them enveloped in dappled sunlight.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI had the birds all to myself and while taking photos is a way to capture the moment,  I was happy just to witness their activity as they went about feeding, preening and generally enjoying the sunshine.

Some of the birds in this tiny patch of water included those with the most unlikely features. The Royal Spoonbills have beautiful white feathers and jet black spoon shaped bills which they waft left and right through the water to sift out food.  One of my favourites are the Red- Necked Avocets whose tips of their black beaks tilt upwards in the most surprising way!  Black Winged Stilts have legs so thin that I don’t see how they stay standing and the Sooty Oystercatcher is just a joy of red and black. Check out those legs!

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Sooty Oystercatcher
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Black Winged Stilt

As I continued walking, I entered a grasslands area and here the birdlife changes. They’re mostly smaller and a little noisier.  Beautiful, tiny (less than 8 cms high) are the Zitting Cisticolas. I just love their high pitched little song like hiss of a snake only less scary which immediately tells me that they’re around even if I can’t see them.  Unless you get one like this that sits atop a tiny branch and makes his presence known to everyone!

Zitting Cisticola
Listen to me!

A little bigger but just as flighty, the lovely Crested Pigeons shimmer in the sunlight and are not bothered by the flocks of sparrows (which are becoming more rare) also enjoying the warm air.

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A line of sparrows
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Crested Pigeon

I found myself at Cherry Lake, Altona  having walked much further than I intended… following the birds.  In a whispering She-Oak I was delighted to see White Eared Honeyeaters and Red Brow Finches dropping down to take little sips and dips in the lake then quickly returning to the She-Oak.  I hoped there were no large fish in the lake else these little birds would have made some quick fish a bitesized meal! A Little Wattlebird didn’t want to miss out so he soon joined the fun.

I’m sure there were many other birds I either didn’t see or couldn’t photograph… as soon as they hear me coming, most vanish into the undergrowth or behind a convenient bush.  But occasionally, as with the Red Browed Finches, they tolerate me standing right under their tree as they flit back and forth.

Seeing any birds is always a joy and I encourage to get out into your own backyard and see what you can see.  Listen and look up and down. They are all around you!

If you enjoyed accompanying me on today’s walk through Williamstown and Altona, think about making a donation to BirdLife. before June 30th.  Many of our birds are in danger of disappearing completely. Let’s not forget how much they add to our lives with the colour and song.  Enjoy the sunshine this weekend.

http://www.birdlife.org.au/current-appeal

 

birds, Birdwatching, Garden, garden design, Gardening, Weather, Williamstown, Williamstown

Soil Mountains

“You’re gonna need a lot of soil to fill that hole”, said my husband after we removed part of the deck and discovered a 400mm drop to the ground. Even he didn’t know just how much! 6 cubic meters later and we’ll need more!  But the garden is definitely progressing…

When the soil arrived this morning I have to say I felt a little nervous. The truck delivering it was very large! The mound they tipped onto the driveway was much bigger than expected!

 

We’re using a granitic sand (also known as Tooborac Toppings), to create a path through the garden which will lead you  to a little seating area with a water feature.  I’m advised that this sand can be compacted down so it doesn’t just spread all over the garden!

So when another truck turned up with the sand and dumped another huge pile behind the first lot, I was started to feel very nervous! How would they move all this  by this afternoon? Will my neighbours start complaining we’re blocking the path? Will they clean up the trail of mud through the courtyard!?  Ah the joys of creating a garden!

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But the early results are very pleasing… the garden is coming together.  It even smells better 🙂 It has some order; the path is defined and the sand and earth look good together.  We might even have a garden in time for a planned birthday celebration… let’s see….

 

Australia, birds, Birdwatching, creativity, Garden, garden design, Gardening, goal-setting, protecting species, Victoria, Weather, Williamstown

Williamstown Garden revival

Work is underway to return my formerly ‘aircraft-hanger’ covered garden back into a nearly wild native space for our local birds and wildlife.  I’m very excited that I’ve managed to find a local gardener who sees the same vision as me and we’re hoping to get started next week.

It’s a funny thing creating a garden.  For a while I looked out on what was just a barren patch of dry dirt which was uncovered when we removed part of our timber deck.  It looked very unloved.

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Over the past weeks, due to considerable rain and blazing sun in equal measure, weeds have established a foot hold.  Now initially, I wasn’t happy with the weeds as all I saw was the painful job ahead of removing them.  They go from a few green plants to fully- blown giant invaders seemingly overnight.  They nearly cover the bare ground now.

Strangely, now when I look out of my lounge window and I see their seeded, bobbing heads, I don’t feel annoyed in fact the opposite because the weeds have brought life back to my embryonic garden.

Already, butterflies have returned. Mostly Cabbage Whites but also lovely Dainty Swallowtails who until now only frequented the Melaleuca tree on my nature strip. I see at least one now every day and they always lift my mood as only a large, colourful butterfly can.

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Dainty Swallowtail in Melaleuca Tree

Wattlebirds and Blackbirds visit (probably after the caterpillars I am sure are being left behind!); enormous Dragonflies zip about on the hunt and Rainbow Lorikeets have visited to eat berries from my neighbours’ tree which has only been revealed due to the demolition.

A neighbour who knew about my garden renovation offered me four of her most treasured plants that she no longer had space for, now that she was moving house.  So I was gifted a large, thorn-less Lemon Tree full of fruit; a beautiful pink and white

flowering Pelargonium, a scented Yellow Rose and an Agapanthus, all potted and happy to sit on my deck until a space can be found for them in the garden (although the 42 degree days did challenge all of them).

Next stage is to bring in at least 7 cubic meters of earth and start adding structure to the garden.  The weeds will have to go but I’m sure some of them will find there way back. Along with the butterflies.

 

 

Australia, birds, Birdwatching, Christmas, conservaton, fundraising, leadership, philanthropy, Photography, protecting species, Swans, Threatened Species, Victoria, Williamstown

Share with your community for 2018

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Australian Black Swans Jawbone Reserve Williamstown
So a few things that will keep me busy in 2018 and may be of interest to you or a local community group! I’ve recently joined the board of Seddon Community Bank which is a part of the Bendigo Bank Group and also BirdLife Australia.
Seddon Community Bank provides sponsorship and small grants to local groups so if you know of a group looking for financial or in-kind support  around the Seddon area, please apply for assistance for 2018.
Every Bendigo community bank distributes the majority of its profits (in some cases more than 80%) back to their community so if you are not in this area, please look for your local community bank.
With this in mind, Bendigo Bank has created a family and friends offer to anyone looking for a loan or banking advice.
As it’s nearing Christmas, you may be thinking of making a donation to a worthwhile charity. If so, I can recommend to you, as a dedicated birdwatcher, BirdLife Australia.  I recently joined the board of BirdLife after many years of support and know that Australian birds and their habitats need all the assistance they can get.
You may know (how could you avoid it!) that as an avid birdwatcher, I take a lot of photos and post them on Facebook and Instagram.  Love to hear your comments 🙂
Thanks for taking time out to read my update. I wish you, your family and friends a wonderful, safe and happy Christmas and hope to meet up with you in the New Year.
PS: Please do share these links with friends and family.  Merry Christmas!
birds, Birdwatching, Garden, Gardening, Native Plants, Photography, protecting species, Succulents, Victoria, Williamstown, Williamstown

In an Australian country garden …

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Beau guarding a large Echeveria (he’s afraid of birds and butterflies so no worries there).

I have the amazing opportunity to create a garden from scratch.  Before we bought this house, I have always had to work with the garden I’ve been given… on more than one occasion I’ve lived in a rental house and my main aim has been to keep the garden alive for the next owner inspection.  When I last owned my own home I knew next to nothing about which plants to choose, how to keep them alive or even what I really liked.

Over the years of tending these gardens and killing more plants than I care to admit, I have learned a few things, I’m glad to say.  During those years, I experimented with plants in pots in lieu of my own garden so I planted bulbs and watched what would grow where; I planted a lot of succulents and absolutely fell in love with them.  Who can’t love a plant that replicates itself?!  Echeverias and Sempervivums  and other succulents create little clones of themselves and so you can create whole gardens from just a few plants and a bit of patience.  After a bit of investigation, I learnt that in some countries Sempervivums are called ‘Hens and Chickens’ because of this habit of replicating their own little baby plants.  In other countries they are called ‘house leaks’ as they are used in some countries to grow on the roofs of houses to little plug leaks. I love that!.

Australian natives plants offer an amazing range of subtle, hardy and in many cases, very beautiful plants that can be chosen to suit your local environment.  There are many varieties like the gorgeous Grevilleas. So while many of us still choose to plant up our gardens with roses and other ‘exotics’, Australian native plants are becoming increasingly popular not least because of their tolerance of our extreme weather and low rainfall.

If you’ve read earlier posts, you’ll know i love Australian birdlife and a native garden is a great way to attract native birds.  They need all the help they can get as their natural habitats are disappearing.  Many Australian birds are very small and need protection from large predators like our very large aggressive ravens, butcherbirds and magpies. Suburban cats are an absolute menace. So planting ground cover for little birds is essential if they are to find hiding places away from predators.

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Australian Fairy Wren

So in beginning to plan my own garden, I can start with a few of these lessons:

  1. I love Australian native plants
  2. I love succulents
  3. These two broad plant types for the most part go very well together as they require little attention and not a lot of water – both useful things for an amateur (read uneducated) gardener in a state where rainfall is intermittent.
  4. I love Australian birdlife and want to attract them so that I can enjoy them and photograph them and give then a little haven in an inner city suburb

This all means I want to create an Australian native garden in my very own backyard.

Over the next few months (and years as gardens are a lifetime commitment), I will be changing my 60sqm of dirt into a native Australian garden.

The garden I have to work with was, until a few weeks ago, covered by a huge aircraft-hanger construction that was supposed to be a pergola.  Made of thick pine planks, many struts, brackets, screws and nails, this construction was not only incredibly ugly in my opinion, it took up 3/4 of the garden leaving me just room for a patch of scrawny grass with a few paving stones leading to a small and inefficient shed.

 

 

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This is all gone… including half of the cedar deck which covered most of the garden. The decking was repurposed to create a new deck to host our spa.

Now that the pergola has gone, the spa has been repositioned, the shed has been dismantled and redistributed and the essential water tank has been rotated so it’s in a more practical location, we are ready to start to build the garden.

Actually.we are ready to start planning to build the garden.  I really couldn’t envisage what I had to work with until the space was cleared.  What I’m left with is a rather big hole… ! When I reduced the deck I realised the ground beneath it was more than 30cms below the deck. We’re going to need a serious amount of topsoil before we can even think about putting in a plant.

I am entering that wonderful design stage… I can see what I have to work with and I know roughly what I want to create. Next step is to get some professional advice (we used professionals to dismantle the aircraft hanger and move the deck and water tank around – couldn’t have done it without help).  Possibly I wont plant much until next winter/spring as in Melbourne we are entering the end of spring and beginning of summer and many young plants wont enjoy the 42 degree days we’ll get in the summer.  But I will wait to see what my gardener advises.  Until then. Stay tuned.

Australia, birds, Birdwatching, Uncategorized, Victoria, Williamstown, Williamstown

Wild Williamstown

Happy New Year! I hope like me you had a chance to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors over the holidays. As Christmas falls at the start of summer in Australia, we have no excuse (apart from current unseasonably cool weather) to stay indoors.

We have a wonderful nature reserve not far from our our home in Victoria, Australia and we walk there regularly. So I thought I’d share with you some of the wonderful wildlife that lives at the Jawbone Reserve.  It used to be a rifle range… glad it has been saved for other purposes now! I’m a keen birdwatcher (if you haven’t noticed already!) and so I’ll share with you some of our fabulous feathered friends. Some you may be familiar with but others may be new and exciting:

IMGP3648Sooty Oystercatcher: an amazing looking coal-black bird with bright red eyes as well as legs and beak so it really stands out! Occasionally we see its cousin, the Pied Oystercatcher (Black and white rather than all black) and it’s just as stunning to see.

pelican pelicansAustralian Pelican The Australian Pelican is a large waterbird of the family Pelecanidae, widespread on the inland and coastal waters of Australia and New Guinea, also in Fiji, parts of Indonesia and as a vagrant to New Zealand.Wikipedia I love watching them land … those big feet come down and you wonder if they’ll crash land but they never do. Flying over you in formation, they are like bomber squadrons 🙂

 

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Little Pied Cormorant – or Little Shag… whence comes the term, “like a Shag on a rock” (which means when you are left on your own to fend for yourself)

DSCF5354The Little Pied Cormorant’s cousin, The Little BlackCormorant drying his wings in the sun after a morning dip

little honeyeaterOne of my favourites, Little Wattlebird also known as the Brush Wattlebird is a honeyeater; a cousin of the Red Wattle Bird below

Red WattlebirdRed Wattlebird – these are big honeyeaters which regularly visit my garden and surrounding area; they are territorial and fantastic aerial hunters – watching them chase after and almost always catch a fast moving moth or bug is a sight to behold as they turn almost 360 degrees in mid flight. I’ve never managed to catch it on video… I’ll keep trying. They are particularly active at dusk when their aerial displays can keep me amused for a long time.

white fronted chatWhite-fronted Chat – I rarely see these cheeky little guys possibly as they feed on the ground chasing insects though I often hear them. I managed to get just some blurry photos of them recently so this pic was sourced from BirdLife Australia.

crested tern

Crested Terns are sea birds with attitude. Check out that hair (well, feathers but you get the idea). They will fly over the sea, looking around for a tasty fish and then dive into the water at break-neck speed. It’s amazing to watch. Here’s a short Youtube clip as an example from RedJered.

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These little seabirds are difficult to identify … so many different breeds look similar! So after some research, I’m suggesting that this is a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. If you know better, please let me know!

IMGP3663Around at the same time is this little guy (in fact there were quite a few of these and a large group of Sandpipers). I’ve identified them as Red-Necked Stints (non breeding colours).  They are smaller than the Sandpipers with all white breasts and shorter bills.  Again, if you can enlighten me happy to hear from you 🙂

I hope you’ve been inspired to visit a local shoreline, park or patch of green somewhere near you. You never know what you might see.  Happy 2014. May your skies be full of happy (rather than Angry) birds …

Australia, birds, Melbourne, Queensland, Victoria, Williamstown

I’ve been away too long…

I’ve been neglecting my blog…! So here is a a short but hopefully humourous and joyful look around my neighbourhood of Williamstown, Victoria with a few side visits to Tasmania and Queensland while I get back into serious blogging 🙂 I’ve been thinking we need a bit more fun around us (particularly in Melbourne… we take life too seriously considering how good we have it here!) So… smile, enjoy and let me know if you like it. BTW I’m pinning these to Pinterest.com Never heard of it? Neither had I. Another social networking site… seems to be catching on. Again, let me know if it interests you.
Ciao for niao 🙂
Who could resist these dollar deals
A litle graffiti goes a long way...
Brush tail possums are tourist attractions after 6pm in Williamstown, Victoria

No head for heights!

Fairy toodstool

short art