Category Archives: Canberra’s Suburban Gardens

Australian bushfires..you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone…

The devastating bush fires burning across much of Australia has made this a long and sombre summer for most Australians.  The extent of the bush fires, and the ferocity of those fires is unprecedented.

Today’s  newspaper has a photo of an older man, former owner of a lovely home in a community he and his wife loved; he pointed to the charred rubble on the ground and said…

life was good, and then suddenly there was nothing.”

In December and January many holiday makers go to the pretty NSW South Coast of Australia, and this year we too, intended to meet up with our family there for Christmas.

We cancelled our holiday just before Christmas, and stayed at home. Luckily we did. We had a lovely time at home, and cleaning birdbaths and watering was a daily occurrence.

In early January the fires tore across the south coast, destroying homes, and communities, and with some loss of lives.

The Brindabella Mountains during a hot summer.

Canberra too, is in a fire prone area, and, in January, as the fires continued to burn in National Parks and along the coast, we had to prepare ourselves for the possibility of leaving our homes at short notice.

What do you take when you may be leaving your home for good?  

A suitcase of clothes, essential documents, water, a full tank of petrol in the car, photos, and sleeping bags (where did they go…given away years ago?) USBs, chargers, torches, batteries, candles, matches, the list goes on.

If there is no power, we are back to torches, matches and candles…. the real world!

We have lived in Canberra for over 30 years, and those of you who follow this blog know that one of the joys of living in Canberra is that almost every suburb is surrounded by bush, and the birds, the kangaroos, wallabies are part of every day living for us.

A young kangaroo watching us as we walk up Mount Taylor is spring. (before the drought)

A very important looking Cockatoo, on his/her way to Mount Taylor..

However, this comes at a price during droughts and bush fires season.

Two young Galahs who always stay in family groups, or in pairs.

Communications during bush fire threats are much better these days, it brings a chill to all Canberrans to remember how poor the communication was during the 2003 fires.

These days we have a helpful app called “Fires Near Me” which gives daily and hourly updates on fires in our region.

During the really hot days, everything is quiet,  and the smoke from the surrounding fires is thick in the air. A quality index reading above 200 is considered hazardous to health. On one particular day the reading in Canberra was 5,000, the highest level in the world for that day.

It is a great relief when a cool change comes,  the smoke haze improves (for a while), and the birds come back again.

As the weather clears, the cockatoos fill the skies with their screeching as they swing confidently into the garden to check the almond tree..(miraculously full of fruit).

This  gives us an endearing sense of normality.

Cockatoos feeding in a nearby garden.  Paul says the cockatoos have an App called “Food Near Me”

Needless to say, they and all animals and birds are welcome to any food we can give them.

We live near Mt Taylor, home to many kangaroos, wallabies, birds, butterflies, lizards, insects, indeed, a smorgasbord of animal and insect life. Now, in the early morning and the late evening some kangaroos, one with a joey, come down our street to drink from the birdbaths, and buckets of water we leave out for them.

A group of volunteers called Water our Wildlife put stations of water in the same place daily so that the animals know where to go for predictable water supplies.

 As I write there are no active fires in or very near Canberra, however, we have been in a state of alert since the beginning of  January.  So much has been written about the fires, and so much sadness,  that I decided to just show some photos of our two most loved holiday destinations, both of which are also on high alert..

Kosciusko National Park ..(some contained fires in the higher regions)

This is an area rich in flora and fauna……

A sign near this beautiful Snow Gum (Eucalyptus trees) says “these grandfather trees are two and three hundred years old. Aboriginal tradition says that the spirit of ancestral travellers live in these warraganj (old snow gums)

During all the fires, there is the devastating loss of wildlife, flora and fauna, and loss of habitat for those who survive.

However, this little Pygmy Possum (a mouse sized marsupial) is capable of surviving for almost two weeks by bringing its body down to the low temperatures during times of extreme cold or heat. The biggest threat to this little possum is clearance of the land…another story.

Our second frequent and much loved holiday destination is:

The NSW South Coast ..also on alert..

We have spent many happy days with friends  walking along these pretty beaches solving world problems .

The bird life in this part of the world is amazing, and to see the birds fly between these beautiful spotted Eucalyptus trees, with jet pilot  precision,  is both stunning and a privilege.

The Rainbow Lorikeets are very noisy in spring when they feed off the flowers from the Spotted Eucalyptus  trees…and then reverse into the bird bath for drinks…ever cautious..

 

A walk through a wooded area near the sea..

I hope this young Swamp Wallaby, and others, have found safety..

Firefighters are often fighting for long days with extreme temperatures…no wonder they are sleeping on the ground.

Amongst all that is lost, and fear of what may be lost, is the absolute admiration and out pouring of gratitude for the fire-fighters.

They are the first port of call for wildlife too

this firefighter nearly missed the birth of his son.

The son of fallen volunteer fire-fighter Geoffrey Keaton receives a posthumous award on his behalf, from RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons. Photo NSW RFS

Some firefighters have been killed, most with young families. These families have to grow up without a father, which is a life long sentence.

There is so much more to say about the generosity and kindness of ordinary Australians, the leadership and calmness of RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons, and the heartfelt worldwide response, but I will leave that for another post.

Jessica, (blog:  Rusty Duck) will have seen that Kangaroo Island has suffered badly in every way from the fires, and has lost most of its Ligurian honey bees, believed to be the last remaining pure stock of bees found anywhere in the world.

Many thanks to all of you who have sent good wishes, it is lovely to have a blogging community across many worlds.

PS I will write about the gardens in New Zealand in February.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Season’s greetings and blinded by greenery in New Zealand..

Looking back at this photo,  taken in November this year, it hardly seems possible that the mountains were so blue and the trees so healthy looking just a month ago.

The Brindabella Mountains near our home in Canberra

During December Canberra has had strong hot winds, and no rain….it is a bone dry brown city.

Although Canberra is not directly affected by bush fires at the moment, there are many bushfires (large and small)  burning across the country, most contained…..for the time being.

Depending on the winds, the grey clouds of smoke from nearby bush fires creep through the city most afternoons.

It was heartwarming to look back through photos and see this lovely King Parrot in spring, eating happily in our plum tree.

In November we also had a new group of Galahs coming to the birdbaths every morning.

Since this early start to a very hot summer, we keep the birdbaths full, and put little pebbles in the smaller bowls, to help the bees and and other insects land on the pebbles, before drinking. All need shade, and water is paramount.

Paul was due to go to conference in Auckland, New Zealand, in early December.

We were somewhat apprehensive about leaving home during these uncertain times, however, we took all the precautions we could before we left, and also had someone to come and water the garden.

photo by Affordable Travel Club

Looking at the above map you can see we are closer to New Zealand than to many parts of Australia. The map below shows that it only takes three hours to get to New Zealand from our region.

Despite our proximity to New Zealand, it is a very different country to Australia.  New Zealand  is lush and green with an abundance of water.

After leaving our smoke-filled city,  we landed in New Zealand, and as we  got off the plane we were almost blinded by the light and the greenery everywhere!

Water…water everywhere..

New Zealand is full of friendly people, magnificent scenery, National Parks, and wonderful gardens..

I intend writing a few posts on New Zealand after Christmas….but spoiler alert..

our Air BnB in Akaroa ..surrounded by a wonderful garden

The pretty little French town of Akaroa on the South Island is  a delight  to  visit…..

….and I have a few tempting photos of an incredible garden which will just take your breath away, Fisherman’s Bay Garden…

Jill Simpson, a keen gardener, has, with the help of her husband Richard, created a garden along the rugged and dramatic coastline of the Banks Peninsula. (New Zealand’s South Island)

In more recent times she was influenced by the new perennial movement in the UK and Europe, and the Prairie style in the US.

The garden has something for everyone…and to think they are at the Southern tip of the Banks Peninsula and are exposed to the winds from the Antarctic…..there is no excuse for the rest of us!

This is a garden that will make you want to jump onto the next flight to New Zealand, and if you can’t do that, well, at least you can read my blog posts early next year on this garden and more..

Meanwhile, back home, it has been a very tough week for most of Australia. Record high temperatures, fires and smoke in almost every state. Thank goodness the temperatures are due to drop next week…and hopefully in time for Christmas.

I know what Australians would love most for Christmas……… rain!

Many thanks for reading my blog today, and during the year. I enjoy writing about green spaces, and I love reading blogs from all over the world….a little slice of life from other people, who may be far away, but share ideas and ideals…. how similar we all are despite our differences.

Season’s greeting to you all, and may Christmas and the New Year, bring peace, harmony and some common sense to the world in 2020.

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

Canberra’s Backyard Bird Count

Summer in the suburbs, a young Kookaburra on his maiden flight, resting on one of the Eucalyptus trees in our street.

Birdlife Australia has a wonderful program called Birds in the Backyard. 

It is a research, education and conservation program that was developed through concern that we are gradually losing small native birds from  parks and gardens, through rapid expansion of cities, suburbs and towns.

The Silver-eye in a neighbour’s garden..

An Eastern Spinebill, visits every autumn for the flowers of the pineapple sage.

One week of the year is set aside for the Aussie Backyard Bird Count. During this week, individuals can participate in collecting data by recording the birds we see, in twenty minute periods.

Birds can be recorded in our own backyard, a local park, a main street of a town, a beach, or a patch of forest….anywhere in Australia.

The Wattle bird, feeding on the nectar from a Bottlebrush bush.

In 2018 Australians counted 2.7 million birds including 30 000 Rainbow Lorikeets.

The rise of Rainbow Lorikeets shows how the Aussie backyard has changed from the traditional European-style cottage gardens, to more native gardens.

Lorikeets are nectar-loving birds and like to forage on the flowers of Eucalypts, Bottle-brushes and Grevillias to harvest nectar and pollen.

There are still many pretty cottage plants and gardens in the suburb, mixed with native street trees.

My daughter and her family live in an inner city suburb in Melbourne. (Melbourne is the second biggest city in Australia.) It is a rapidly changing suburb from the original workers cottages to townhouses for a younger generation.

One constant in the suburb is the street trees. The streets we walk down regularly are lined with Bottle brushes and Eucalypts. It is a pleasure to walk to the coffee shop, and look at the gardens and the bird-laden trees and shrubs along the way.

Melbourne is well known for warm and inviting coffee shops too.

Grafted Red Flowering Eucalyptus trees

At Christmas time we noticed some of the street trees were decorated by local residents and children, and the flowers could out do any Christmas decorations!

In the same suburb of Melbourne, the park and playing fields are lined with palm trees. I don’t know the history of these trees, but the Rainbow Lorikeets are feeding and  nesting in them too, which show how adaptable they are. Lorikeets, are, unfortunately very bossy birds, and tend to dominate other species of birds.

The data collected from the Aussie Backyard Bird Count records the three top birds counted in every state in Australia that year.

The the top three birds counted in Canberra and surrounds (Australian Capital Territory) were……..The Australian Magpie

The Magpies enjoying a summer bath in our garden.

The second most recorded bird was the Crimson Rosella.

The Crimson Rosella enjoying some Pineapple Sage in our garden..

and the third was the  Pied Currawong.

The currawong is a handsome looking bird, and flies into the garden with the precision of a jet pilot. Whip smart, he knows where to find water, and also little birds nesting in trees.  Once the currawong arrives in the garden, the little birds disappear.

The bird count can make everyone feel a bit territorial and competitive about our favourite birds…

I’ve heard the New South Wales magpies have slightly different colour markings to our Magpies in Canberra, and are more striking….

and here is a New South Wales Magpie…and she is putting on the Ritz…

Whereas our Magpies, looking a bit scruffy, are pulling plants out of the garden,

However, the very young Canberra Magpie in the photo below began her early life in the courtyards of Parliament House,  and is entertaining all the visitors with her beautiful birdsong. So she is a celebrity from day one!

I’ve used this photo frequently, but it is hard to resist this cute little Magpie, her warbling to be heard through the courtyards of Parliament House.

At the end of the Backyard Bird Count week, we can vote for our favourite of the 50 most popular birds in Australia. (an impossible task of course)

This year I have voted  for the Eastern Spinebill. This tiny little bird, with a mighty strong call, can be heard every autumn in our  garden. He comes to the Peppermint Sage plant in our backyard regularly every year (in the uncertain natural world, this is a comfort).  He competes with the bossy Wattlebird for food, and stands his ground. This is the Lion-heart of little birds.

The Eastern Spinebill (c) Ian Wilson 2015 www.birdlife.org

In and around Canberra this spring there have been an abundance of smaller native birds which are unusual to Canberra (to me anyway). On my Canberra Wildlife Photography Facebook page, I have seen photos of Leaden Flycatchers, Rainbow Bee-Eaters, Sacred Kingfisher and a Rufus Songlark. Perhaps the drought is moving these birds closer to Canberra for the water and relatively easy food sources. They are very welcome.

I hope you have some sunshine, rain, plants and birds, where ever you are in the world. The joys of life!

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canberra’s good fortune…a twist of history, fate and International Competitions.

By a twist of history, fate, and International competitions, Canberra, the Federal Capital city of Australia, and the Australian Parliament House have been designed by two remarkable architects.

view from Mt Ainslie photo by Great Aussie Travel

In 1912 an American (Chicagoan) Walter Burley Griffin was awarded first prize in the international design competition for the new federal capital of Australia ..Canberra. He designed a city built into the landscape, with buildings and suburbs in corridors of greenery. The Brindabella mountains provide a beautiful  amphitheatre to the city.

Walter Burley Griffin in 1912

 

 

 

Walter and Marion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walter Burley Griffin’s wife, Marion Mahony Griffin, also from Chicago, was the first licensed female architect in the US. She did many of the design drawings for the project, and they were a true partnership in that they shared similar ideals, with an emphasis on nature, democracy and social reform.

As fate would have it, Romaldo (Aldo) Giurgola was an Italian student in Rome during the second world war, and he was fascinated by the design of Canberra, created by the Chicagoan  Walter Burley Griffin.

“It remained in my mind…you can imagine when there was only war and destruction around us. It was a really wonderful thing.”

The city of Canberra today Photo by ABC

Aldo Giurgola won a Fulbright Scholarship and moved to the US, and he eventually co-founded Mitchell/Giurgola Architects in Philadelphia. He had an outstanding career teaching and practising architecture in the United States.

In 1979 he was invited to help judge the Parliament House competition in Canberra, but he preferred to compete, seeing this as an opportunity to contribute to nation building through architecture.

The firm went on to win the competition beating 328 entries from 29 countries, and Australian Parliament House was opened in May 1988.

Parliament House at dusk …photo by en.wikipedia.org

When he arrived in Canberra Aldo looked at the view from Mt Ainslie before beginning; he wanted to fit in with Burley Griffin’s plan of Canberra.

He always believed that the building should not be higher than the people, that true democracy rises from the state of things.

view of Mount Ainslie from Parliament House

His aim was that every worker has natural light…

and the corridors and courtyards are balanced and also filled with light.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison with other politicians, walk through the many corridors during sitting weeks in Parliament …photo by Inside Story

Guirgola also suggested the colour schemes, muted pinks, greens and greys, the colours of the landscape…

Romaldo Giurgola Architect of Australia’s Parliament House…..Photo by NY Times

Several Americans including Harold Guida joined him to plan, document and oversee the construction. Harold Guida and Aldo Giurgola decided to stay in Australia, and live in Canberra.

”I have lived in New York. It is a fantastic city. But it is a city for the young. In Canberra he says, it is easier to find a measure between lifestyle, natural beauty and human ambition.

Visit of Aung San Suu Kyi at Parliament House

Aldo Giurgola remained a much loved and loyal Canberran, frequently invited to Parliament House for various events. He received an Order of Australia in 1989.

In his older age, he built a small holiday house for himself near Canberra, with views of the Great Dividing Range. The design is derived from Palladio’s villa at Vincenza, La Rotunda, and built by  Andreolo Mario.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was essentially a square room for himself, his daughter and her dog, for working, dreaming, reading and talking. A central skylight let in additional light, and at night they could look at the moon and the stars.

It seems the perfect retirement for a wonderful architect who, despite his early life in Italy and New York,  was very much attuned to the Australian landscape and values. He remained an Italian citizen and became an Australian citizen….salute to Romaldo Giurgola!

He died in 2016, aged 96 years old.

 

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mother’s day for Aussie wildlife..

It has been a busy month and I’ve missed writing a post for Mother’s Day.

Looking through my photos, I thought I’d highlight some of the many mothers and parents amongst the wildlife in our garden, and around Canberra.

Of course I have to start with the biggest personalities in Canberra, the Sulphur Crested Cockatoos.

Despite their screechy and bossy ways,  it was lovely to be able to capture this very patient mother having her yellow crested feathers examined by one of her youngsters….

One morning Paul and I wondered if a world war was breaking out in the garden, only to discover that the baby cockatoo (almost as big as its mother) was having a mighty tantrum about being fed..”I want it right now!”

Kookaburras are not very common in our garden, but Kooka parents will bring a baby to the birdbaths on hot days….while the parent/sibling waits patiently on the garden bench.

and here is an even younger Kookaburra in the photo below. It looks as if it is having a first flight from the nest  with the safety of wires to land on, and parent close by…

Even in winter, there are late babies, and the King Parrots like to fly into the garden for a drink….and then feed on the buds of the Japanese Maple…

As I took a photo of them, I noticed their baby waiting patiently in the tree…the first winter, wow it is cold out here!

The photo below shows a young Currawong in our garden…the first, and only time we have seen one so young. ..unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of the parent  who would undoubtedly be somewhere close by. Currawongs are the bain of our lives, as they chase small birds, and generally frighten everything out of the garden. However, this little guy with his crew cut, is cute!

This is a great photo of an adult pied Currawong, and thanks to Harry Charalambous  Birdlife Australia.

Pied Currawong c Harry Charalambous www.birdlife.org.au

Kangaroos at the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve Photo Geraldine Mackey All Rights Reserved

A kangaroo has an extra responsibility, she carries her Joey around in her pouch for some time..

She is putting her paws protectively over her Joey, perhaps to warn him that I am nearby with a camera, or that he is about to fall out of the pouch!

Here is a baby Koala, almost too big for a ride with Mum..

This adult Koala carried her baby for a while…

..and then it all got too much and she sat down……haven’t you felt just like that in a supermarket with a toddler?

It was lovely to share these, mostly accidentally photos, I have taken of motherhood and parenthood in full swing with birds and animals.

I was lucky enough to have a mother who believed that the small details of life were important, and that people, nature and animals should be central to a life well lived. She noticed the tiny details; the spider web in the morning light, the lizard in the sun, a new flower blossoming, a bird call…she got great joy from it all.

A toast to her, and to all mothers!

 

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

 

Canberra’s autumn, gardening and cockatoos at the almond cafe..

Autumn in Canberra is all about the changing light,  birds flying in and out of the garden, and the pleasant gardening weather.

Easter is a time when all the almonds on our tree have ripened, and the shells have softened after some much needed rain in the last few weeks. This means the almond cafe is open for business.

For those new to my blog,  cockatoos love softened almonds, and especially when they fall on the carport roof.  This allows them to eat and chat in relative safety. They are very sociable birds, and the young ones in this photo seem to very happy with their almonds.

There were fourteen cockatoos on the carport roof and the almond tree when this photo was taken.

Interestingly, most cockatoos seem to consistently hold food in their left claw…

Our garden has changed over time, and now some of our bigger trees need trimming every year. The apple tree on the right hand side is the only tree in the garden to get special treatment, clipped by a trained arborist.

…thus the lovely shape in summer.

Last autumn Paul cleared a large section of the garden, and we had fun choosing some new plants, something you don’t get a chance to do very often in an established garden.

This year Paul re-did the paths with wood chips and put mulch all around the plants.

It looks like a completely new garden!

We have two rain water tanks. The white tank in the photo below is the smaller one, kept purely for this garden. It is attached to the carport so that rain water can drain from the roof of the carport into the water tank.

It is lovely to see Paul’s hard work paying off this year, the garden is flourishing, especially the two Manchurian Pears, the Snowy River Wattles (Acacia), and a Grevillea called a Bronze Rambler….. and this plant sure does know how to ramble!

And following the path up to the carport (and water tank) are some Camellias, and the first flower has just arrived from the oldest bush.

 

Our front garden is the most affected by frost and heat. In this tough climate, the Canberra Belle (Correa) is one of the most rewarding plants, they survive all, and give the bees a chance in autumn with these pretty little bell flowers. They are indeed the Belles of Canberra..

Another lovely autumn flowering plant is The Chinese Lantern Plant (Abutilons)

I have previously quoted the poet Dorothea McKellar’s poem  Australian Autumn and here are a few lines from the poem again….

”This is the gentlest season of the year.

From mists of pearl and gold

The slow sweet hours unfold….

An autumn view of the Brindabella Mountains from our street.

I hope you are enjoying your season, or changing season, where ever you are in the world. What is your favourite season of the year?

 

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canberra’s summer ends, farewell to the Eastern Koel…

The shadows of the trees are longer in the evening light, the air is cooler, and sweeter..

…autumn is on its way.

The lovely green (watered) lawns of Lennox Gardens are deceiving, after this long hot summer, the landscape  of Canberra is looking very dry.

At the end of summer there is a changing of the guard with our local birds.

In autumn the tiny Silver-Eyes venture out to feed from our neighbour’s blackberry bushes. They are a welcome sight.

 

 

 

Perhaps as a result of so little rain this last month, more birds are flying into the garden to use our birdbaths.

This morning while we were having breakfast on the deck, it was fun to see two young Crimson Rosellas, always shy birds, having the big birdbath to themselves.

What a thrill, bathing in the water, and having  a shower from the sprinkler.

As these two finished their bath, they flew up to the archway in the garden, their long tails spraying water as they flew…a lovely sight. Unfortunately I was unable to catch it with my camera, but here is a similar one, taken almost exactly a year ago!

Young Crimson Rosellas begin life with green feathers mixed in with red and blue, last year’s Rosella is still very green in colour.

Here is a mature Crimson Rosella in the Australian Botanic Gardens… just look how vivid his colours are, and how long his tail is. What a handsome bird!

Fully grown Crimson Rosella at the Australian Botanic Gardens.

In summer we have three Magpies visiting every morning.  Every year there is at least one Magpie who loves water just a little bit more than the others. Often the youngest one potters around the garden by himself in autumn, a little bit like the youngest member of the family, we enjoy his company….before he too, leaves to join a new group of Magpies.

The youngest Magpie, lingering in the water..

Here is a young Magpie watching her mother, who has her head tilted listening for insects and grubs in the grass and in the ground. Another youngster, learning her survival skills.

An unwelcome guest in our neighbourhood in summer is the Eastern Koel. This bird migrates all the way from tropical New Guinea to Australia for the breeding season. In recent years the Koel has progressed further south each year.

The male Eastern Koel

The juvenile Eastern Koel

The Eastern Koel is a member of the  cuckoo family. The female lays an egg in the nest of another bird, (usually a Red Wattlebird) and when the baby Koel hatches it pushes the other eggs out of the nest.

For the past three years a Koel pair have visited a neighbourhood garden, left an egg in the Red Wattle bird’s nest, and moved away.

All through the summer, a pair of Red Wattlebirds  are the hosts, and the young Koel cheeps incessantly while the significantly  smaller parents desperately  search for food for the nagging youngster. During the summer the young Koel grows to twice their size.

The Red Wattle Bird feeding from a Bottlebrush bush.

According to Birdlife Australia, it is still uncertain as to why the Koel comes so far south to breed, perhaps because the weather is warmer, the berries and fruits are in abundance in Canberra, and also the poor unsuspecting Red Wattle birds have lived in this region for a long time, and have proved to be excellent parents.

The Red Wattle bird looking slightly annoyed, and with good reason!

Unfortunately the cheeping, beeping young Koel seems to nest near our garden every year, but finally in autumn it disappears, fully grown. (Phew!)

However, one of the most welcome bird calls in autumn is the Eastern Spinebill.

Yesterday this tiny delicate bird arrived on the deck, and with a powerful call, it settled into feeding from the fuchsia. Autumn has truly arrived!

The Eastern Spinebill favours the flowers from the Peppermint Sage, but, this year, either he is early or the flowers are late, so I have used a photo from last year.

The Eastern Spinebill feeding from the flowers of the Peppermint Sage.

Canberra also has its birthday in March, so there are lots of concerts, picnics, hot air balloons,  and general outdoor gatherings. It is a wonderful time to catch up with family and friends.

I hope you are enjoying your changing seasons, where ever you are in the world.

The best birthday present for Canberra’s autumn would be good soaking rain for a sustained period of time. Crossing fingers for that.

 

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

Canberra’s summer: Red Hot Pokers, Cockatoos, and sunsets…

Every morning in summer we walk down to the shops to buy the paper…and we always stop to admire this view…

This garden is on the verge of the road and the footpath. It has been planted and cared for by a very generous gardener who lives in a house nearby. He and his wife bought and prepared the soil, fertilizer, and plants. They have even installed a watering system, and keep it watered all summer at their own cost.

How is that for a gardener’s generosity of spirit!

Red Hot Pokers

These colour co-ordinated Eastern Rosellas are up early and enjoying the morning sun.

Further along the path is a neighbouring garden spilling over with a shrub that seems to be saying…”It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and summer”.

Acca sellowiana, Feijoa of the Myrtaceae family

 

Every morning we pass the cockatoos and galahs enjoying breakfast at this bird feeder …(a mixed blessing)

The galahs seem to understand the pecking order, and wait for their turn. Occasionally they all eat together.

And far off on the lamp post, a female cockatoo is on parenting duty….

Nearby, a young cockatoo is holding on tight to the branch …. perhaps his first flight without his mother..

Oh dear, he had a slip, but luckily his beak is strong enough to steady him.

His tail feathers look like a wedding dress!

As we walk across the playing fields, we often see the male Red Rumped Parrot and the lighter coloured female….these parrots are always feeding  in the grass, and are totally unperturbed by sporting events going on around them.

By the time we walk home, it is getting hotter, but the Red Hot Pokers are still a treat to see as we walk…

This summer we have had a heatwave and dust storms ..

This makes for some beautiful sunsets across the Brindabella Mountains

When I look across at this view of the Brindabella Mountains,  I think there really is no place like home..

I hope you are keeping warm or cool where ever you are in the world, and enjoying your home as much as I enjoy mine.

Copyright:  Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

Canberra the Bush Capital, bird song in summer…

In the summer time, most Canberrans living in the suburbs, wake up to birdsong.
Australia is well known for its big noisy birds, but in summer, the blackbird, tiny in comparison, has a melodious song that can be heard all through the garden, and beyond..

His sweet song, is only heard when the bigger birds are not around.

The blackbird usually sings in the morning and evening, but today he is singing right through the midday heat….. maybe he knows the summer holidays are on their way.

Another beautiful little bird takes advantage of big bird free days in the garden…the male Fairy Wren.

The male Fairy Wren

He and his family fly around the garden, tweeting softly, ducking into their birdbath, and hopping from bush to tree.

I have read that Fairy Wrens never move far from their original home, and our Fairy Wren family have been a welcome sight every year in a leafy part of the back garden.

The striking Crimson Rosellas are part of the Australian parrot families.

The Crimson Rosellas socialising on the netball hoop

They are quite nervous and shy, and fly away easily. However, when they are in the plum tree near our deck they make gentle twittering sounds to each other…and seem very sociable.

I have used this cute baby Magpie photo in one or two of my previous posts, but he deserves his publicity.

A baby magpie warbling in a Dogwood tree in one of the Parliamentary courtyards

He was warbling away oblivious of crowds of tourists and media in one of the courtyards of Parliament House. He may be warbling to try and chase the crowds away, but magpies generally look on people as friends, so he could be warbling out of the sheer joy of living.

Magpies have a very melodious song, and it is perhaps the most well-known Australia bird call, except for the Kookaburra with his more raucous cackle.

 Magpies also make a lower warbling sound. This seems to be more like talking. 

Magpies warbling at each other about who is going to get the rapidly melting strawberry ice-cream.

This summer a couple of magpies have nested not far from our bedroom. They begin warbling to each other about a half and hour before dawn every morning,

…..lovely really, but a bit later would also be fine.




Galahs feeding together near the lake

 

When I first arrived in Australia, and visited a farm in the Central West of NSW, I remember seeing flocks of Galahs rising slowly from the paddocks and flying across the endless blue skies. A lasting memory of an endearing small parrot. (but, of course, not at all endearing to the farmer watching them eating the crop!)

Galahs, like some of the other parrots in Australia, make tweeting noises to each other, and remain in groups where ever possible.

Crested pigeons, enjoying the sun together, not a care in the world..

Crested Pigeons are one of the most common birds in Canberra. I have included them despite their lack of a distinctive song, although they do coo away happily when they are nesting. They live happily in any garden, and have absolutely no common sense, or sense of danger. When they do get scared off, their wings make a kind of whistling sound as they fly away.

…remind me again of why I can’t get through the window?

I thought of writing this post today, as I walked down our leafy paths to meet some friends for coffee. The wonderful blackbird’s song followed me all the way down to the café.

It was also a reminder that in a city with some big personalities, like the Cockatoos and the Currawongs, it is easy to over look the smaller birds.

 

I hope you are keeping cool or warm where ever you are in the world, and perhaps enjoying some bird songs too…

Do you have a favourite bird, or bird song?

Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year. I’ve enjoyed another year of blogging, and being part of a blogging community. Many thanks to all  those who read and comment , and to those who just like to drop in and read occasionally. All welcome and much appreciated.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

Canberra’s spring: a garden, a cockatoo and a nervous gardener..

We’ve had some rain in spring, and the camellia is flowering beautifully.  I put the small elephant watering-can close to the flowers one day, and the Wattlebird began to use it for a perch while eating nectar from the flowers.

However, today a Sulphur Crested Cockatoo flew down onto our deck, which, as the nuns at my high school would have said, is a mixed blessing. They are such characters, curious and smart, but they can do a lot of damage in a garden with their strong beaks, and wilful personalities..

Fortunately this is a young one, and he has spotted some of the almonds that have fallen from the tree.

I have just moved these lovely Blue Dutch Irises into the pot…..fortunately the almond is keeping him happy, and it is a lucky thing that the Dutch iris is not flowering yet.

As I have mentioned in a previous post, Cockatoos sometimes take umbrage with flowering plants, and lop their heads off…

Fortunately the Dutch Irises survived and flowered….how lovely they are!

The pink and yellow tulips are true survivors…I confess this was such a busy year I didn’t lift any of my bulbs, and naturally most of the tulips did not flower this year ….So these pretty ones have taken pride of place in the garden…

The orange Sparaxis came from a cutting in my mother’s garden in Port Macquarie….18 years ago or more! However, this is the first year there are so few flowers, the combination of lack of water, and my neglect of the garden… I’ve apologised to them too.

We have Aquilegias flowering all through the garden, such a delicate flower, but yet tough, and a rewarding plant in the garden in our part of the world..

My favourite flower this year is Ixia, sometimes known as the Corn Lily plant, and I have read that it is an exotic member of the Iris family. A small but gorgeous spring plant, and it is surrounded by Salvias here ..

The succulents are doing well. The bowl on the top right is an old birdbath. Last year I described filling the birdbath with succulents, small smooth stones, and a miniature agapanthus. While I was eating lunch on the deck that day, a curious young Magpie flew down and pulled the agapanthus out! I had to cover the whole birdbath with the newspaper to distract him. Everything has survived. Birds and plants!

 

After a day of rain we went for a walk along Lake Tuggeranong. The azure sky and soft blue Brindabella Mountains looked lovely…it is beginning to look like summer..

However, the birds around the lake were still very much on parenting duty with young ones…

The Purple Swamphen is on guard by the nest, and the other adults are venturing further afield with the young ones….it was hard to get a photo, but they did look very cute!

I would love to say the water below is an Australian icon…a Billabong, but it is really a very large puddle!

In the water is a Red-rumped Parrot, (male). Usually a quiet unobtrusive member of the parrot family, today he was splashing about and loving having a bath.

It’s been a long time since he’s had the joy of a bath as big as this…..and he doesn’t care who is watching!

The Red-rumped parrots are always found in pairs and small groups in grassy areas..

The male Red-Rumped Parrot

 

The Female Red-rumped Parrot..

….and back home, we are soon to welcome our daughter and  granddaughter for a visit. This will be our granddaughter’s first visit since she learnt to walk.  The world looks so different when you are up on two feet…. …. and I wonder if she is up to a holding a watering can yet?

I hope you are enjoying your green spaces, whatever part of the world you live in ..and to paraphrase David Attenborough

”The natural world is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living”

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.