Tag Archives: spring

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring: wind, weeds and weary gardeners…

 

Canberra is having a very windy spring this year…

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Quite a few of us have had many bad hair days..

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The rain clouds rising from the Brindabella Mountains in spring

We have also had an incredible amount of rain this year. After ten years of drought, everyone is collectively holding our breath and hoping it will continue…

Canberra is cool Temperate and Alpine  Zone 8-9. In theory we have:

mild or warm summers (I would say, often very hot summers)

cold winters (heavy frosts)…Yes!

and spring is a pivotal event…Yes!

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Tim Entwisle, the Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, has written a book about Australia’s changing seasons, called Sprinter and Sprummer.

He says we should adopt a five season approach, early spring should include August and be called Sprinter (August September)

And late spring should be called Sprummer (October, November)

He bases his seasonal categories on the timing of the plants, the activities of the animals, and the unsettled weather before we move into summer.

It is true that much of Australia has no real spring or a very short spring, and not many of the flowers and plants common to the European spring.

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However, in Canberra, as you can see, we do have a joyous spring, after a cold winter. (by Aussie standards, of course..)

Paul suggests that we have should have our own season called Sprindy because we do have a lot of  windy weather in spring.

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However, during our Canberra spring, we brave the windy, often cold weather , to plant and enjoy English cottage garden flowers like Jonquils, daffodils, aquilegia, tulips, Iris.

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Many flowers only come out in late spring, (November) and then we can smell summer in the air.

However, during the spring and summer the real stars of the garden are not the pretty spring bulbs and flowers, but the flowering long lasting, ”foot soldiers” of the garden. I’m coming to appreciate them more and more. For example..

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The Orange Sparaxis,  grows in poor soil and has survived through drought and wind and rain. They are striking  to look at, and these flowers, right by the walkway, are often admired by  passers-by.

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This is a Native Geranium  ground cover, which will flower and flourish in all conditions, and brings the bees. I have seen a photo of a Geranium just like this called Wild Geranium on Jason and his wife Judy’s  great blog called garden in a city  .

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The Lemon-scented Geranium is another plant that tolerates almost any conditions, and brings the bees and the butterflies too. Another foot solider.

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We have three Bottlebrush bushes in our garden, but this  one deserves a special mention, for hanging in there, behind the cabin for many years. The winter and spring rain have made it sit up and take notice and it is lovely to see its flaming red colour across the garden.

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And now for my spring change of heart……the Iris is lovely, but……. here today, and gone tomorrow. In autumn I spent ages re-planting the Iris into this part of the garden, and very soon the plants were leggy and falling over in the wind and rain. We were away for a week, and the flowers had died off, and the weeds had taken over.

Enough already! In autumn we will dig them up, and keep a select few and replace the rest with the hardy native plants.

Of course I’ll always grow some spring flowers, they are such a joy and sign of hope in a garden.

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As Peter Cundal, the previous presenter of Gardening Australia, said one day, as he bent over a some spring plants..

”when I see the first signs of a spring plant coming up, my heart gives a little leap!”

..and I feel exactly the same way.

This has been a big week for our family, as my older brother had a long and serious heart operation and is now successfully recovering. He is a dedicated reader of my blog, and is extremely knowledgeable about birds and plants. He lives in a beautiful part of the world (Port Macquarie) with no winter or sprinter, and I know he will be glad to be back there very soon, and I look forward to him being well and able to enjoy his own green spaces again.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Spring time at the coast

December is such a hectic Christmas month, I’m taking a nostalgic look at our visit to the South Coast of New South Wales in spring

…a stroll along the beach early on a soft spring day

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plenty of time to take in the details……

patterns in the water…

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……..on the sand and the rocks

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and little worlds,  all going about their day

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Later, we had coffee looking out over the Narooma breakwater….

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then we walked along  the craggy path to the headlands… I wished I’d had this photo while I was still teaching..

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We watched seals sunbaking on the rocks at the headlands…..regardless of the waves crashing up against them…

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Turning back from the headlands, is Narooma with Gulaga (Mt Dromedary) in the background.

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I love the inlets around Narooma, so still and calm…I’d rather be a pelican than a seal any day!

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On the way home we passed a valley full of lilies…yet I have trouble growing one or two in Canberra..

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Here is a hedge surrounding the car park at the local supermarket, a master-stroke of design for a public place, hardy and useful for birds. Grevilleas are planted along the southern side.

 

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The wattle birds and parrots are feeding and chatting everywhere

 

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On the side of a busy road, this New Zealand Christmas bush was flowering in all its splendour

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We took a quiet back track through a small forest of spotted gum trees on our way home.

A curious Red-necked Pademelon, (related to a Wallaby) stood looking at us..It was so quiet he stayed for a while

….and made our day.

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When we arrived back at our friend’s house, (Gardener Extraordinaire), her neighbours had given her some kangaroo paws and bottlebrushes from the garden.

So much to see and do on a spring day at the coast!

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All photos copyright to Gerrie Mackey

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canberra’s spring feast of garden festivals…

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Lake Burley Griffin is at the heart centre of Canberra, and it comes alive in spring……the warmth, the flowering trees, shimmering lake and most of all….on behalf of all Canberrans….good morning sunshine!

I hope you will follow me through the next few months of gardens and festivals in Canberrra, including  Floriade, some Embassy gardens, Parliament House courtyard gardens and some productive suburban gardens.

Every year, Commonwealth Park, on the northern bank of Lake Burley Griffin, hosts the biggest horticultural event of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere…a spring festival, Floriade.

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An amazing one million bulbs and annual seedlings are ordered before Christmas. There are, typically more than 70 varieties of tulips, and a range of daffodils, hyacinths, ranunculus, Dutch Iris, interspersed with pansies, violas, poppies, and a variety of daisies.

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There is an almost year round preparation for this event. The Floriade theme for the year is decided about 18 months beforehand. This year the theme is Reflections, a tribute to the 100th anniversary of the Anzac landing at Gallipoli.

Andrew Forster, the head gardener says this theme is very close to his heart, as his grandfather’s two brothers were at Gallipoli.

 

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Preparation begins in earnest in February, the areas are marked out and the paths made around the beds. Agricultural pipe is used for drainage under the beds, and a base of organic soil is spread about 15 cm deep over the growing areas. This is levelled, then patterns are marked out with pegs.

In March the planting of one million bulbs begins! They are placed on the soil and covered with an additional 12cm of soil mix. This mix has a fertilizer added to enhance growth. The annuals are then planted on top…..in total about 2700 cubic metres of soil mix is used to create the beds.

During the month long festival not all the bulbs come out at the same time, but annuals are planted between the bulbs to keep the  colour and design clear and vibrant.

I noticed the gardeners have planted some parsley in between the hyacinths and the pansies ….what better plant to keep a rich green colour all month long and it is totally unaffected by wind and frosts.

In fact in this photo the parsley seems to be better behaved than some of those renegade bulbs nearby…

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An automatic irrigation system with a diluted liquid fertiliser is pumped over the gardens every three weeks, and all the beds have secure netting and fencing to protect them from wildlife.

Although Commonwealth park is five minutes away from the city,  the gardeners have to look out for ever present rabbits and possums, not to mention bats and birds…….what a job!

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winter photo of the Floriade beds covered with netting

Fortunately we only found this elegant kangaroo nearby…

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Two weeks before the event begins, the barriers are removed and the team of gardeners weed and tidy the beds. I wonder if the gardeners do round the clock watching for pests during those two weeks ?   ….I hope they don’t come across the cockatoo who flies through my garden lopping new shoots from roses…just for the fun of it.

This festival is a great tribute to Andrew Forster and his team of fantastic gardeners.

 

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