Category Archives: Wildlife in the suburbs

Autumn garlic planting at the Almond café…

Autumn has arrived in Australia, and here in Canberra we’ve had some lovely soaking rain and then crisp sunny days…

 

….the perfect combination to bring the cockatoos to our almond tree for the falling almonds, the kernels now soften by the rain.

The cockatoos are early risers, and so it is party time on our carport roof, where many of the almonds fall…

They pace about, checking on almonds, letting the rejects drop to the ground with a soft thud (just in case we are not up yet)

…..while they’re eating the almonds there is a lot of socialising, and sometimes even sharing…

Meanwhile Paul has added compost to one of our vegetable beds, ready to plant our garlic for the year.

We’ve always tried to avoid using garlic with pesticides, much of which is imported. Garlic is quite expensive to buy, and easy to grow, so we plant the garlic in early autumn …..at a time when we can leave it in the ground for 7-8 months.

Garlic likes good drainage, and some water and fertilizer occasionally, and it is the perfect low maintenance crop to have during winter and spring.

…this is our garlic harvested and drying in November last year. It is our best crop yet, and should be enough garlic to last us until the end of this year.

We have been growing garlic for three years, and every year we try out some new, organic garlic from local farmers. Last year we had a some cloves from Windellama Organics which we bought at the Farmer’s Markets in Canberra.

 

This year we are adding some garlic we bought from a farm near Lake Crackenback called Paddock Perfect

…we stopped off to buy some eggs on our way home from a weekend in the Snowy mountains..

This cute little stall was by the side of the highway…..you can pick your own herbs, or buy jam, eggs and garlic….

The sign says ”Please leave your payment in the honesty box provided below”

…and we did.

In a paddock nearby we could see the happy chooks.

They’ve got everything they need; shade, water, food and most importantly, space to move about. Needless to say, the eggs were delicious!

In the background there are some goats, perhaps used for goats milk or cheese.

Here is a flashback to our summer vegetable garden….this  young Crimson Rosella (changing colour from green to crimson) is caught red-handed sampling our tomatoes!

And all this time we thought a passing possum was the culprit!

By late summer…these lovely Crimson Rosellas have grown into their brilliant red and blue feathers….

…and I hope you have noticed that I’m doing my best to give equal opportunity to all local birds on this blog…

Autumn is a lovely season in Canberra, and I hope you are enjoying your season, wherever you may be in the world.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gang-gang cockatoos: the faunal emblem for Canberra (ACT)

Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos are not the only birds in Canberra, but you could be forgiven for thinking so if you are a regular reader of my blog.

Autumn is such a busy time for all birds in Canberra, so there are many photo opportunities, but the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo some how always manages to fly into scenes and photos..

Much ado about nothing..

So to educate myself about other birds, last spring I joined a group of people surveying the Gang-Gang Cockatoo, here in the National Botanical Gardens.

My first glimpse of a young Gang-Gang Cockatoo (male) at the National Botanical Gardens.

In Canberra we are lucky enough to have seven varieties of Cockatoos (who knew?) and this cute pair are the male and female Gang-Gang Cockatoo.

Photo by Julian Robinson Canberra Ornithologists Group

The adult male has a distinctive scarlet red head and crest, and the female has a dark grey head and chest..

The description of the Gang-Gang is that they are ”gregarious, but relatively quiet cockatoos” ..probably because they can’t get a word in edgeways, if the white Cockatoo is around!

Photo by Julian Robinson Canberra Ornithologists Group

They live in monogamous pairs and family groups can be seen together in summer. In some cases the young Gang-Gangs roost together in the same tree while the parents are foraging for food.

I had difficulty finding Gang-gang Cockatoos in the Botanical Gardens, but was told to listen for a sound like a squeaking door, and sure enough, when I listen for that sound, I looked up and saw, through flakes of bark drifting down on me, the red tuft of the male cockatoo……

A young male Gang-Gang cockatoo …

The Gang-Gang Cockatoo is the faunal emblem of the ACT and it is part of the logo of the Canberra Ornithologists Group and ACT Parks, Conservation and Lands department.

Perhaps as a result of the quiet nature of the Gang-Gang Cockatoo, I got very few photos that day,….so my thanks goes to Julian Robinson for his two lovely photos of the Gang-Gang male and female together….looking very endearing.

I’ll end with photo and text taken and written by Geoffrey Dabb, which featured in the Canberra Times some years ago…I hope you can read it.

Text and photo Geoffrey Dabb.

 

Did you hear who she’s been seeing lately?

 

Thanks to the Canberra Ornithologists Group for their interesting and informative website www.canberrabirds.org.au/.

 

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Season’s greetings and blogging in the Bush Capital

Season’s greeting from the bush capital of Australia.

I began blogging about 18 months ago, to write a low key kind of diary about our garden.

Before long I realised that the blog was really about my place in the world: Canberra, the bush capital of Australia.

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The National Arboretum in Canberra….. 100 trees in 100 forests

The word Canberra is often used to explain the workings of government….”Canberra raised taxes this year…”

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Parliament House Canberra

But of course, behind the workings of Parliament there is a city of people who call Canberra home.

Since I began blogging about green spaces in Canberra, I have met many gardeners, volunteers and ordinary Canberrans who are very knowledgeable and proud of their place in the world.

 

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Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin. National Library Australia copyright

The gods were smiling on this lovely part of the world when Chicagoan Walter Burley Griffin won the competition to design Canberra, and his wife Marion Mahony created the beautiful drawings of his design.

He dreamed of a city in green spaces, and that is what we have today… a city in a big bush garden.

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Lake Burley Griffin and Parliament House

The land around the lake is reserved for all people to enjoy..

 

This kangaroo was photographed five minutes away from our house, on the edge of Mt Taylor. Not long after we moved to Canberra, 30 years ago, a kangaroo from Mt Taylor hopped down our suburban road. A great introduction to life in Canberra for our family!

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a young kangaroo on Mt Taylor

I’ve shared the blog with some big personalities

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A Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo

and some colourful ones ….

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King Parrots

 

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A Crimson Rosella

 

and some that are just plain cute.

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young Kookaburras

I’ve had the pleasure of following many blogs, in UK, US, Canada, Italy, France and of course, Australia and New Zealand. The Northern Hemisphere seasons, especially the autumn and spring are a delight to see. As an armchair traveller, I also enjoy the breath-taking snowy winter photos….happy in the knowledge that I won’t have to go and shovel snow at any time!

Thank you very much to the all the people who have visited and followed Canberra’s Green Spaces, over the past 18 months, I appreciate every visit, and every comment.

Geraldine Mackey: Copyright All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mount Taylor, a summer walk..

Summer is coming slowly to the Brindabella Mountains, a lovely blue and green tinge lingering from spring.

This is the view of the mountains from our street.

 

This region is Ngunnawal country, and it was an important meeting place and significant to many Aboriginal groups.

The mountains and hills were used as markers and were excellent vantage points for keeping an eye on enemy clans, and signalling friendly clans.

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This is a glimpse of Mt Taylor from our back garden….a backdrop behind our  almond and  plum trees.

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Mt Taylor is part of a green belt between the satellite cities of Woden and Tuggeranong. This was all part of Walter Burley Griffin’s plan for green spaces between town centres

Last month, the end of spring, we enjoyed an early morning walk, up Mt Taylor.

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It was still cool, and the kangaroos were waking up slowly…

Amongst the grasses there were some wild flowers.

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Golden Everlasting

 

 

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St John’s Wort

Today, we did this walk again…..the signs of summer are everywhere…

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The kangaroos are alert and looking for greener grasses..

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Some wild flowers are still blooming…the grasses are drying off..

The natural bush colours of summer; grey, yellow and brown are everywhere to be seen.

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This is a Noisy Friar bird. He looks a little pre-historic, but his beak is very useful for feeding off Eucalyptus trees and wild flowers

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What a joy to see these flowering Eucalyptus trees…the flowers and supple branches are often used in Christmas wreaths, and always remind me of summer holidays..

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Here are two Wattle birds…like many Australian wild birds…quite bossy!

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The magpie calls a friendly hello from his feeding spot in the grasses and wildflowers

This cockatoo has landed with a deafening screech on a tree near us, and climbed to the top spot…

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The Corellas (cousins of the Cockatoos) are all feeding on some wattle bushes near the road…

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I wonder if that magnificent yellow crest increases self esteem for Cockatoos?

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As we walk back home I can’t help taking photos of two lovely flowers, one growing almost wild in a corner of someone’s garden. I’m not sure of its name, but one of the Protea family I think.

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Protea: Rocket pincushion

and the other, a striking Bottle brush, flowering quietly in the shade along the back track. (officially known as the Fire trail)

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And back home to our garden. Paul has spent a few heavy lifting days putting mulch down all over the garden, to keep the plants cool for summer.

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Here in the front garden we are planting for birds and bees…salvias, daisies, Grevilleas, and the lovely Chinese Tallow tree.

May you enjoy your green spaces, where ever you are in the world, and if you are in the depth of a northern hemisphere winter, then I hope you are planning for your spring!

Copyright Geraldine Mackey All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canberra Nara Peace Park and the bird we share with Japan

This is the story of Canberra Nara Peace park, celebrating friendship, harmony and trade between Japan and Australia…….and a mighty little bird, the Latham Snipe, that flies between our two countries every year.

The park is set in the Lennox gardens on the edge of Lake Burley Griffin. Even at the end of winter there is a stark beauty to the gardens..

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Canberra Nara Peace Park opened in 1999, is a symbol of the friendship between the sister cities of Canberra, built as the National Capital of Australia in the 20th century, and Nara, the first capital city of Japan in the 8th century.

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This lovely little park is a joy to visit in any season, but especially in spring.

The dry stream bed is lit up once a year for the Nara Candle festival. We missed this wonderful festival this year, so I’ll keep that story for another spring.

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The young magpie in the photo is Canberra’s most well known bird. She is probably looking for insects, but magpies are also very curious birds,  so she could be just  ”having a stickybeak” as Australians would say…

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The park has a gazebo surrounded by Japanese maples and cherry trees.

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A relatively new addition to the park is a sculpture, Toku, commissioned to celebrate the1300th anniversary of Japan’s ancient city Nara.

The five storied pagoda form represents Canberra

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a floating stone represents Nara…

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and the lovely little sculptured bird represents a Latham’s Snipe.

This is a species of shorebird that migrates annually between Japan and Canberra.

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Latham Snipe arriving in Canberra for summer. Photo courtesy of Geoffrey Dabb

The Latham Snipe, weighing only 200 grams, spends half the year in Japan and then flies south to the warmth of Canberra and other parts of south-east Australia for the spring and summer.

Japan and Australia are working together to find out more about these mighty little birds.

On the foreshores of a wetland in Hokkaido in Japan, five birds were skilfully fitted with trackers, before they began their amazing voyage.

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Early data showed the birds travelling more than 5500 kilometres in six days of continuous flight from Hokkaido in Japan to Papua New Guinea at an average speed of 40 km/hr.

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The Latham Snipe. Photo courtesy of Geoffrey Dabb

The visiting birds are starting to arrive in the south east of Australia, to settle in for the spring and summer.

During the summer four more birds will be fitted with trackers to observe their movements here in Australia, and their long return flight.

I’ll never complain about the long flight back to Australia again!

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The Nara Peace park is full of colourful trees and blossoms in spring, and shady peaceful places to sit in the hot summer months.

If you are wandering around the park, or just sitting and contemplating the beauty of spring, give a respectful nod to the symbol of the tiny bird near the top of the sculpture, Toku.

…. and wish the Latham Snipe well for summer in Canberra.

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To follow the flight progress of these fearless little birds visit the Jerrabomberra Wetlands site and look for the Latham Snipe project.

I hope you are enjoying your season and birdlife where ever you are!

Copyright Geraldine Mackey  All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve …fire, rain, water and new life…

This is Tucker, the first koala to be born at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve for a long time.

He is looking hale and hearty, and living up to his name, (Tucker is an Aussie slang word for food.)

Tucker, oblivious of his local fame, is munching his way through branches of Eucalyptus leaves with gusto!

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Tidbinbilla, set in a beautiful valley about 30 minutes drive from Canberra’s CBD, is part of the Namadgi National Park. It has been a Nature Reserve for 80 years.

This year we are having record breaking spring rainfall and the countryside has never looked so green.

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The very last of the snow in early August

Brett McNamara, the Regional Manager with ACT Parks & Conservation said this is the first year he has ever seen the remarkable occurrence of snow on the Brindabella Mountains……

and a flooded river below.

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In 2003 Canberra and the surrounding region, including the Namadgi National Park,  suffered devastating bushfires.

Those of us living on the southern side of Canberra remember the surrounding mountain fires raging for days afterwards. Wildlife and vegetation was decimated. One koala survived in the Tidbinbilla Reserve and his name became Lucky.

Although the photo below was not taken during the Canberra bushfire, it is, sadly, as poignant  as many images we saw during that time around Canberra.

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While fighting a fire in the neighbouring state of Victoria, this firefighter noticed an extremely distressed koala, and spontaneously offered him a drink from his water bottle.

I kept this photo in my classroom for a few years after the fires…a great discussion starter on many topics, especially how interconnected we are with all that happens in our world.

Now, many years later, such are the vagaries of weather, in spring 2016 here we are driving  over the bridge near Tidbinbilla and heeding warning signs for flooding! This is the Murrumbidgee river, and  the name is derived from the Aboriginal word for ”big water”.

img_6201-1024x740So much rain, so much water….it is a frequent talking point in Canberra this spring. Our annual rainfall is approx. 620 mls (around 25 inches) annually.

This year we have had more rain than usual….and the dams are at 100% capacity.

We’ve come to Tidbinbilla today to enjoy the beginning of spring….and to look for the second star attraction at Tidbinbilla…another baby koala!

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Hardenbergia (Happy wanderer)

 

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Early Nancy (Wurmbea dioica) It gets its name Early Nancy from its early flowering in winter (between July to Oct)

New foliage and new life everywhere!

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Paul took two great shots of a kangaroo and her joey. Isn’t that an efficient way of managing a baby while teaching him how to eat!

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We were standing a good distance away, … but this is a lovely moment of a curious baby being pushed back into the pouch for safety. This sensible young kangaroo is ready to hop away …. Look at those powerful legs, tail and feet!

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Early morning in the bush, and this kookaburra is enjoying a slow start in a shaft of warm spring sunshine.

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Here is a brush-tailed Rock Wallaby. I have read that they survived the fires by hiding in rock crevices.

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This is the plaque for the only koala to survive the fires. . Since Lucky died in 2008 there have been no koalas at Tidbinbilla, until in 2013 when the state of Victoria donated some koalas of breeding age to the Reserve…..

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….along came Tucker in early spring, and now here is the second baby koala.

The Reserve held a competition in the local paper (The Chronicle) for the naming of this little fellow. Two families won the competition because they entered the same name…suggested by the children in both families…

The winning suggestion was  Ghanbi which is an local Aboriginal name for fire.

Best wishes to Ghanbi and Tucker, and the future koala population of Tidbinbilla.

In the words of Walter Burley Griffin designer of Canberra,

The shadows of the clouds and mists as they cross the mountains are very beautiful indeed. As I have said before, it is a grand site for a city.”

I hope you are enjoying your green spaces in whatever part of the world you are living.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey :  All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring flowers at the National Botanic Gardens

October is the perfect time to visit the Botanic gardens in Canberra…

 

Canberra has had very good winter rainfall, and now, at last, all the plants have sprung into life.

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Recently we took a guided tour of the Gardens, called ”Breakfast with the birds”.

It was absolute magic to be able to stroll around the grounds of the Botanical Gardens in the warm early morning sunlight, before the gates were open to the public.

This was followed by a delicious breakfast in the café. A great way to start the day.

img_6337-956x1024Our guide said  Wattle Birds have to check each individual flower in the Grevilleas and usually only find some nectar in about one in ten flowers.

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No wonder they are such busy birds. In spring they whiz about our gardens like streaks of light…my neighbour says it is like being in a Star Wars movie sometimes.

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This Wattle Bird has a nest just above her head in the Banksia bush.

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The ever alert Currawong is in the same bush…waiting..

(I’m pleased to say two Wattle Birds chased it away a few seconds later)

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I love looking out for birds, but the colourful native plants were the scene stealers on this day..

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The Proteas (Waratahs) look wonderful alongside the ghostly white eucalyptus tree.

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And here are more Grevilleas and other spring flowers.

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Isopogon formosus

 

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Eastern Spinebill feeding on a Grevillea

 

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Grevillea Flexuosa Zig-Zag Grevillea

 

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I hope you are enjoying your plants, gardens and green spaces in whatever part of the world you call home…

I’d love to know if you have a favourite amongst your own plants.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey  All rights reserved

 

Do cockatoos seek revenge? Bulbs, blossoms and birds..

Cockatoos are frequent visitors to our garden, especially when the almond tree flowers and the almonds grow and drop onto the ground.

They spend a lot of time collecting the almonds from the ground, cracking open shells, and eating almonds on the carport roof, while socialising…

They are pretty good at putting on a show for the camera too..

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The almond tree has beautiful flowers and is much loved by many birds.

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The Wattle birds enjoying the almond flower nectar..

However, there is seldom harmony amongst birds and gardeners in spring.

Recently a couple of the cockatoos hopped onto the almond tree and started shredding the leaves and the flowers. Earlier this year, they had successfully shredded our flowering Eucalyptus tree of many of its smaller branches, so we hoped this wasn’t going to start a new trend…

Paul waved the broom at them and politely said ”shoo!”

Well! We’ve never heard that tone before!

For our resident cockatoos, even implied criticism is hard to take…they collected their almonds and flew off to the neighbouring telephone wires….

and turned their backs on us!

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….. and if you think you are going to get a photo opportunity from us…you can go sing for your supper…

They disappeared for a few days, but, sadly, the plot thickens.

Last year, I took most of these perfectly good tulips out of the front garden and put them in pots on the deck in the back garden.

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Cockatoos frequently fly over the deck to get to the almond tree, and very occasionally they behead a daffodil or two along the way, usually the ones that have the temerity to flower early.

However, sometime after our falling out with the cockatoos, we came home one evening to find some of the early flowering tulips, and some crocus had been pulled out of their pots, and half eaten…. what a mess, what destruction!

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The culprits had very large beaks…

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Cockatoos are known to be curious and intelligent birds…so, were they sampling new bulbs for taste or bearing a grudge?

As my neighbour said, perhaps….”Revenge is a dish best served cold”

The cockatoos did not come visiting for a while, but we enjoyed seeing some of the other springtime youngsters…

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Young kookaburras ”Oh did you hear what they did? We would never do that!”

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Baby Eastern Rosellas…

 

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I was wondering if I could come down and have a drink?

 

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Baby galah…or Elvis impersonator..

Recently we went to Sydney for a wedding, and this time I hid my (remaining) flowering bulbs behind the camellia on the deck…better safe than sorry…

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All quiet on the home front when we got home…

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At least we have a few surviving tulips for the deck, so all is not lost.

There is not much chance to enjoy anything in the garden at the moment, because the rain has been tumbling down all week.

Except of course if you are a cockatoo. Word is out that the almond shells are lovely and soft, and have been lying around on the ground for some time now.

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Well, okay you’re forgiven. We’ll just sit here in the rain and enjoy the bounty ….

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I guess every gardener has some challenges, and at least ours are mighty big personalities!

Since I started blogging and reading gardening blogs, I’ve learnt all about a the hazards of nearby  rabbits, possums, deer, squirrels and other invaders in the garden…do you have yours?

Copyright Geraldine  Mackey. All rights reserved

 

Yarralumla in spring; blossoms, birds and kangaroos….

Can the centre of government be fifteen minutes walk away from this bay?

I often think our grandchildren will hardly be able to comprehend this innocent time when Parliament House is surrounded by quiet suburbs like Yarralumla, where people walk dogs, ride bikes, and play golf.

Yarralumla is named after the Indigenous people’s term for the area, and means ”echo”.

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Yarralumla has lovely walking tracks with views of the Governor General’s residence.

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The Governor General’s House and the beautiful Brindabella Mountains as the backdrop…

This is a working property where heads of state, and royalty visit, and many events are hosted during the year.

Despite the grandeur, one of the challenges of the Governor General’s House and garden is the ongoing problem of  the resident cockatoos and kangaroos….

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These kangaroos are having a charmed life near the entrance to the Governor General’s House with all the lush greenery around …meanwhile a strange sounding hooter is attempting to frighten away the cockatoos from the main gardens….although I imagine it would take more than a hooter to frighten a determined cockatoo.

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Walter Burley Griffin, the talented architect from Chicago who designed this garden city, could not have imagined that kangaroos and cockatoos could be such a problem in the future!

Along the walking track at Yarralumla is the Royal Golf Club. A few years ago, this photo below made headlines  in many parts of the world……

Australian Open Interrupted by Kangaroos

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In 2013 golfer Karrie Webb waits for the kangaroos to clear the fairway during the Australian Open….

I believe someone kindly lifted some fencing for this mob to jump out of the limelight!

Meanwhile on this spring day in Yarralumla…

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Amongst  the great variety of trees we saw many birds feeding..

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The young Australian King Parrots almost disappearing into the oak leaves…

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The adults are watching over them from above….

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Crimson rosellas feasting on spring flowers..

We pass the Heritage Nursery…this is a place where plants just leap out to be bought,  but today I’m going to show restraint with plants (and chocolate!)

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…..and to end a lovely day’s walk.. here  is a view of Telstra Tower on Black Mountain..

This tower is disliked by many, but for me…and I know for others, when we are travelling back to Canberra after a long car trip…the sight of the Telstra Tower silhouetted against the sky means we are nearly home..

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and there is no place like home….

I hope this is true for you too.

Enjoy your home and green spaces where ever you are in the world…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Wattle Day and spring time in Canberra!

I’m a little bit late for this greeting…. Wattle Day in Australia is 1st September, the beginning of spring.

The Golden Wattle flower is our national floral emblem.

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Golden Wattle National Archives of Australia

It is colourful, full of hope, incredibly resilient, and regenerates easily after fire. The perfect Australian plant.

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There are more than 1000 species of wattle in Australia, and I am told, somewhere in Australia a Wattle plant is flowering every day of the year. How about that!

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Terry Fewtrell, the Wattle Day Association President says that wattles have been part of the Australian landscape for 30 million years,

“Wattles are like the great silent witness to the whole Australian story…”

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I walked around my suburb on Wattle Day, and some Wattles were flowering…

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Some parts were nearly finished…

and some were just starting to bloom..

IMG_5569 (1024x813)Flowering in the National Art Gallery spring garden is a more unusual Wattle, with  a cinnamon coloured flower. It is called Acacia Leprosa or Scarlet Blaze.

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No matter which Wattle plant you choose for your garden, Angus Stewart, from Gardening Australia, says you are onto a winner … (in a very expressive Aussie kind of way)

”because wattles literally grow on the sniff of an empty fertilizer bag”

I was having a very Australian bird kind of day on the first day of spring as I walked….

The Red Wattle bird is watching me from the garden.

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Our resident magpie is….looking alert. Magpies can be tricky in spring because they become very territorial and can swoop passers-by. I like to think I’ve built up some good karma by providing so many water bowls for them in summer, not to mention putting up with high maintenance babies.

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At the end of the day….a call from the two very cute new kookaburras who seem to have set up home in our area..

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And, as the sun is setting over the Brindabella Mountains, more rain is promised this week…

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What could be better for the first week of spring?

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I hope you are enjoying your green spaces wherever you are in the world.