Tag Archives: birds

Cockatoos and Australian King Parrots….waiting for spring

So, what to do in winter if you are a cockatoo?

Sulphur Crested Cockatoos living in Canberra have an abundance of food, and very few enemies. So there is plenty of recreational time.

…During the dreary winter days why not practice undoing knots, and a tennis net is just the thing….

Parrot experts say that the parrot family are the smartest of all bird families, they continue to learn as they grow, rather than relying on instinct.

Luckily humans leave tempting problems like street lamps and tennis nets, and almonds wedged in the roof of carports..

A Sulphur Crested Cockatoo looking for almonds on the carport roof..

The Little Corella is a cousin of the cockatoo, and has become a frequent visitor to the Canberra region in recent years….judging by the amount of lamp post covers swinging in the wind.

Members of the Canberra Ornithologist Group have noticed Corellas teasing rows of Crested Pigeons perched on power lines by pushing them off balance..(obviously the Little Corella has no problem with balance)

Little Corella Judith Leitch www.birdlife.org.au

There is something very sweet about these Crested Pigeons, who manage to keep their fine hairdos in place regardless of the weather…(or teasing going on)

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In June, the beginning of winter, we usually have cold crisp days, with blue skies…

Food is still in abundance…

The Crimson Rosella feasting amongst the grass seeds in our garden

Then comes the grey, cold July days, and life becomes a bit tougher..

The male Australian King Parrot with vivid orange and deep green colouring, and the female Australian King Parrot with a softer green and orange chest.

On cold winter mornings these King Parrots perch on the guttering of our cabin in the garden. There they drink the melted icy water after a frosty night.

We have a Japanese Maple growing between the cabin in the garden and our house. This year the King Parrots have come to feed on the dried seed pods…

.. giving us a perfect chance for photos as we sit in the sunroom having coffee..

The female Australian King Parrot

The male King Parrot

The male King Parrot spends a lot of time rearranging his tail so that he can eat in comfort.

The male King Parrot, finishing a good meal!

This magnificent Yellow-Tailed Black Cockatoo flew into my neighbour’s garden last winter, and used the Silver Birch tree as a viewing platform in the hunt for food..

(Despite their regal appearance,  I read recently that their cousins the Orange-tailed Black Cockatoo in Western Australia have suffered injuries from Raven attacks.)

A Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo

A Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo feeding from a Banksia bush..

And now, in mid-August, there is warmth in the air, and the skies are occasionally blue again.

We saw this Magpie on our walk this morning, and he began warbling…… a very familiar and much loved Australia Magpie call.

My Scottish father used to say the bagpipes brought ”a stirring” to his heart and I think a Magpie’s warbling brings a stirring to most Australian hearts.

and back home, here is another important member of our garden bird family ….one very noisy Cockatoo!

”I told you spring was coming…doesn’t anybody listen to me anymore?”

… it is true, spring is almost here!

Paul and I are also waiting for a very special event in our lives, my daughter and her husband are soon to have a baby, our first grandchild!

Lake Tuggeranong

With the early morning light increasing, I have been getting up early (hard to sleep in when waiting for baby) and reading and enjoying many blogs …a lovely distraction.

May you enjoy your season, and green spaces, where ever you live in the world…

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Autumn.. and I’ve got the empty bird bath blues

As soon as spring arrives, our garden becomes a playground for families of birds.IMG_8097 (1024x650)On this cold spring day the Cockatoos have perhaps given up on flying lessons for this big family……far too cold ….

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But on a brighter day, the babies are growing up…….. parents of all persuasions  are a pretty tolerant bunch.

This sweet looking Crimson Rosella, no doubt a parent, is watching on from the Japanese Maple, while the young ones enjoy the birdbath, and even better……..

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………a sprinkler shower as well!

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This little one is a Juvenile Crimson Rosella, and she is moulting and changing from green to red. At the moment she has nice red pantaloons, but is looking a bit awkward…just as most teenagers feel at times..

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This one is also changing colour, but she is a real water baby and spends all her time happily in the birdbath..

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The young Wattlebird is as hyperactive as her parents, and the mere thought of the water is sending her into a spin!

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Kookaburras are not that common in our area, but this young one has, perhaps, come down from Mt Taylor in search of water.

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She turned her head to give me her best side as if to say……”‘you’ll catch me soon @kooka.burra’

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Galahs are always found in family groups, but this little one has found his way here to our Bottlebrush bush on a very hot day…but waiting politely for his turn in the birdbath..

These young Eastern Rosellas are blending in nicely to the Japanese Maple

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Lovely to see these colours on a hot day..

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But the regulars in our garden are the Magpies, and this year a pair arrived with these three babies. Very soon it is obvious there are two fast learners…..

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and one High Maintenance Baby

 

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It was a long spring and summer with HM following Mum around plaintively calling for food, every morning and every evening. Mum seems young and anxious, and she gives in every time…

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One day, just for a little break, the whole family left HM up on the carport roof (plenty of grubs and fruit up there)

”I know you are down there!” she is calling

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Mum is just enjoying some peace and quiet in the veggie patch

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Dad’s having a bath…he’s had enough, he wants this baby off the payroll..

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As we drive away for our summer break, I wonder if HM is going to make it…she has to learn to feed herself…as Garrison Keiller says about difficult kids ”Just send money and pray”

 

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When we return from our summer holiday, the Magpies have gone…..in fact all the young birds have grown up and flown away…it’s very quiet here …I realise I’ve got the empty bird bath blues..

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Then, just as I write this, the three young Magpies come back for a visit….they poke around the lawn looking  for some worms, have a drink in the birdbath, and stay a while as we do some gardening..

HM Baby is turning her head to show she is listening for beetles, worms and grubs in the ground…she can feed herself!

IMG_1556 (1024x882)Just look at them!  So confident, these city slickers in their sharp Armani suits…all grown up and ready to go….when did that happen?

 

May they have a happy autumn and winter before their hectic turn at parenting begins..

Copyright Geraldine  Mackey. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

Wollemi Pine, eucalypts.. and green spaces in the city

Canberra, as with many young cities, is growing rapidly, and sometimes the rush to build overtakes the need to plan long term….so thank goodness the National Botanic Gardens were planned and planted in the 1960s and it is now in the heart of the city.

 

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During summer I joined a walking group to re-discover some of the joys of the National Botanic Gardens. I have written a few posts on some of the diverse parts of the gardens, The Red Centre Garden, and the Rainforest Gully.

The walks are coming to an end this week, so here is a last snapshot of some of the plants and places we have passed by.. …

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This is the Wollemi Pine, one of the world’s rarest and most ancient tree species.

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The Wollemi Pine belongs to the 200 million year old Araucariaceae family. It was, until 1994,  believed to be extinct. David Noble, a National Parks and Wildlife Officer was bushwalking and abseiling in 1994, and came across an unusual plant in a National Park close to Sydney.

Scientists and Horticulturalists were amazed, as is the general public…because the Wollemi Pine comes from the age of dinosaurs…there are very few left in the wild..

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Palaeontologists say it is likely that the dinosaur crossed paths with the Wollemi Pine and may have eaten Wollemi leaves….amazing!

There are a small amount of Wollemi Pines still in the wild, and they are protected, both from human intervention and from fire, to ensure their survival.

However, people can now buy and grow a Wollemi Pine (if you have a very large garden!) and become part of one of the most dramatic comebacks in natural history.

www.WollemiPine.com

The trees that do dominate the landscape of the Gardens are the Eucalypts.

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In summer visitors enjoy concerts under the trees, children come for ”Eucalyptus by Gum” educational adventure, couples get married, groups meet to have picnics.

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There are more than one hundred species to be seen if you wander across the Eucalypt lawn.

As we’ve walked around the gardens we were amazed at the colour and texture of bark on the Eucalypt trees……

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The tree below is called a Smooth-barked Apple…it is eye catching and smooth as silk to feel..

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It was one of the earliest Eucalypts collected by Europeans, Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander who travelled with Captain Cook in 1770. It is quite easy to see why they wanted to take a sample home.

The Gardens are also the perfect place for photography enthusiasts …..

…where else would you see King Parrots looking so beguiling….

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This shy New Holland Honey Eater is darting between the banksias….hard to catch..

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 And here is another well known Aussie, a Galah, perched on top of the highest point of the highest tree… oh to be a bird…..

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Autumn is a wonderful season in Canberra, and I hope to write a few more posts about my home town before winter begins!

Copyright Geraldine  Mackey. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A grand site for a city…

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In 1913 Walter Burley Griffin, a young architect from Chicago was the winner of a design competition for the new capital city of Australia. His wife, Marion Mahony did many of the design drawings for the project. She was the first woman in America to become a licensed architect. They made a remarkable team.

On his first visit to Australia, at the site for the future capital city, Canberra, Walter Burley Griffin told the Melbourne Press,

”I think this is a grand site for a city. Of course I’m pretty familiar with the layout of the land, but drawings and photos can give you no real idea of the contour of the country and its charms

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Views of the Brindabella Ranges from our house on the south side of the city of Canberra.

The morning and the evening lights at Canberra are wonderful.

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The shadows of the clouds and mists as they cross the mountains are very beautiful indeed.IMG_0747 (1024x622)

Walter and Marion believed that good planning and architecture could improve the quality of life of the people living in a city.

With their vision, Canberra is designed to have several town centres,  with corridors of greenery and bush in between, and several small lakes…

Rodney Moss, former Professor of Architecture at the University of Canberra and Director of Cox Architecture says,

”Canberra is a city designed within a landscape setting..”

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It is possible to go rowing before work..

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or keep an eye out for the sleeping cockatoos as you drive to work…

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or walk along the backtracks behind our suburbs..

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The corridors of bush means that wild birds and kangaroos live in a companionable way around  us….

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one of the many young kangaroos watching us as we walk up Mt Taylor

Magpies are part of the family…(sometimes not in spring, but that is another story)

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These parrots visit our cabin in the garden for some unfrozen water in winter …

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In summer our fruit trees are given over to the birds

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They are worth it!

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Early on a hot summer’s  morning the sun shines through the gum (eucalypt) trees…

..as Walter remarked……it really is all about the light.

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Once Walter Burley Griffin had seen the site he said he was reminded of a great American artist, George Innes..

he said every one of his paintings reminded him of Canberra.

Thanks to the magic of the internet, I’ve looked up some of his paintings, and I agree, the light in many of George Innes’s paintings is very similar to the light in Canberra.

Walter never did see his design completed, and he died unexpectedly while working in the north eastern Indian city of Lucknow. Fortunately Marion was at his side when he died, and she did make the journey back to Canberra to see it as a fledging city. …but that is a much bigger story..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canberra’s native gardens around Parliament House

Parliament House in Canberra covers an area of 33 hectares on Capital Hill. There are 10 hectares of turf (easy to see) and 13 hectares of garden beds. I have written a post on the courtyard gardens, but native gardens around the building actually make up about nine hectares of the gardens.

IMG_5637 (640x390)In 1988 the native gardens were originally planted as a dense understory beneath the canopy of trees.

Canberra suffered a very long drought, starting in 2003 ….the native gardens were watered until 2006 when the whole region began severe water restrictions. To achieve a 45 per cent reduction in water use, the irrigation of the native gardens was stopped. As with many gardens in Canberra, some plants were lost,  others adapted well, and some were replaced by shrubs that could tolerate drier conditions.

Here are some of the native plants that have survived and thrived…..

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Hairpin banksias (Banksia spinulosa)

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Eriostemon

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An early flowering Bottle brush (Callistemons) in this part of the garden

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Grevillea ground cover

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Grevillea shrub

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Purple Mint Bush (Prostanthera ovalifolia)

The gardens fit into the landscape so well that it is surprising to find paths winding throughout the shrubs and trees, it is easy to forget we are walking between Parliament House and a busy road!

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Tennis courts, for use by all parliamentary staff, are almost hidden amongst the trees..

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and a Senate oval is used for volleyball, football and touch football. The hedge of Bottlebrushes are unfortunately not flowering yet, we’ll come back later for them.

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The plants at either side of the Senate oval steps are hairpin banksias and white Correas

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Natives grasses are used as boundaries between one garden and another….unfortunately the snowy river wattle (Acacia boormanii) has almost finished flowering (behind the native grasses)

I love the white barked gum trees which can look spectacular in the evening or early morning light.

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This is the perfect habitat for birds, but, today, we’ve only seen the larger birds around…. ravens, magpies, and of course…..a currawong being swooped by poor swallows as they try to defend their nest.

It must be spring!

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a Magpie studiously ignoring the frantic call of a Plover.

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a Currawong looking out for the swallow’s nest…

The Senate gardens are slightly different to the House of Representative gardens, so I’ll write about that in a new post.

A cool calm garden in the Atherton Tablelands

 

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Friarbird in the Grevilleas

 What I love about visiting other parts of Australia (and the world) is looking at gardens that always reflect the people and their place in the world. My cousin lives in one of the many small  towns dotted across the Atherton Tablelands, North Queensland.

Over the years, with the help of some gardening friends, Theresa has created a cool, tranquil garden full of birdsong.

Many birds visit our garden in Canberra, but there is a difference in quiet country areas….these birds seem to own the garden…here is a Honeyeater with a shrill call louder than that of most big birds.

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The many native shrubs and bird baths in this garden attract a wealth of birds…and some curious onlookers!!

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This handsome fellow has the unfortunate name of Drongo (an old Australian slang word for fool or idiot)….this bird is anything but….it is an amazing bird with a great story, …so more on that in another post.

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The Drongo bird

This garden has three sections, or garden rooms, each flowing from one to the other. The first ‘room’ opens onto a colourful space designed for quiet and contemplation.

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Through the archway the next room has a long stretch of lawn, with wide borders for herbs and vegetables, and  some lovely native plants, the Bottlebrush and the White Penda.

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White Penda bush (flowers in spring) and a Bottlebrush bush…a haven for birds

We were there in the winter, and Theresa had Italian parsley, ordinary parsley, 3 kinds of thyme, mint, basil, chillis, rosemary, spring onions, Italian spinach, tomatoes, passionfruit and pineapple…and hibernating is tumeric and ginger.

As we had just arrived from the frozen south, (Canberra) what a joy to be able to walk into the garden every day and pick fresh vegetables and herbs!

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Theresa’s attention to detail makes this a lovely garden to sit in quietly, or go back to and discover new small surprises in out of the way places.

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The third part of the garden has native plants and a wonderfully scented Gardenia beside the garden bench. It looks very healthy compared to the ones we have in our garden, I feel I should apologise to all Gardenias growing in Canberra, the cold winters do not suit them at all!

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This garden’s design and planting has been a labour of love over many years. It has survived the vagaries of North Queensland weather, rain hail, the tail end of cyclones and sunshine!  Today this calm, lush garden, with cool verandas and continual birdsong,  welcomes friends and family at any time of the year.

 

 

 

Currawongs…..The boys are back in town….

The boys are back in town with smart black suits and beaks to match….

I love this first line of a poem called, Currawong, written by Bill Chestnut and displayed in his Tasmanian garden.

Canberra is full of birdlife, and as our garden is close to Mt Taylor, we have our share and more. Most of the birds are welcome, interesting to watch, and some, like the magpies, are part of our every day life in the garden.

However, the currawongs….. regular visitors from Mt Taylor, are the least likeable of all the birds. They fly into the gum trees in our street like jet pilots, aerodynamically perfect, and with a confidence to match.

This grey currawong, photographed and found in Western Australia, is not native to our area, However, I could not resist using this shot as the photographer has captured that menacing look …….

 

Grey Currawong (C) William Betts 2015 www.birdlife.org.au

Grey Currawong (c) William Betts 2015 www.birdlife.org.au

 

Here is the Pied Currawong, the type found in our region, more frequently than we would ever want..(despite their beautiful song)

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When the Currawongs arrive ..all the other birds in the garden disappear; no more wattle birds, parrots and honey-eaters taking turns at the birdbaths, no more parrots softly chattering in the trees as they feed.

Needless to say, the Currawongs are not welcome in our garden, and when Mr Greenspaces (Gardener No 1) is around, they fly off pretty quickly. I am known by birdlife and animals in general to be a bit of a pushover.

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In the interests of this blog, I have tried, many times to get a photo of a currawong…with no luck.

I had given up on the currawong, but the lovely Eastern Spinebill spent most of the autumn feeding in our Peppermint Sage plant, right near the kitchen window. I had the camera ready for this beautiful little bird, and then I noticed the Currawong land on the railing of the deck, not very far from the Peppermint Sage. A very bold move on the part of the Currawong because the deck is definitely out of bounds for them, and they know it.

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Eastern-Spinebill-C-Ian-Wilson-2015-www.birdlife.org_.au_.jpg

A photo of the elusive Currawong was tempting.  I fiddled with the camera, hardly noticing the Currawong  getting closer and closer to the Peppermint Sage. There was a flurry and the Currawong flew away…..the Peppermint Sage leaves waved and the Eastern Spinebill was nowhere to be seen.

I had a moment of paralysing Irish guilt…had the Currawong left with our Eastern Spinebill in its beak?

Fortunately for me, not long afterwards, I heard the reassuring shrill call of the Eastern-Spinebill..it had survived to continue feeding for another day.

Here are is my photo of the Currawong on the deck…certainly not good enough to risk an Eastern-Spinebill. Next time I’ll be paying attention…..when the boys are back in town……

 

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