Category Archives: Wildlife in the suburbs

Canberra’s regional botanic garden..STEP

Canberra is known as the Bush Capital of Australia, as it is a city interspersed by bushland, and surrounded by forests and national parks.

However, the devastating bushfires of 2003 not only destroyed over five hundred homes in Canberra, but also burnt through forests around Canberra.

As a result the ACT government decided to develop the National Arboretum in Canberra, as a centenary gift to the city.

48 000 trees have been planted in 94 forests on a 250 hectare site.

View of Lake Burley Griffin, and surrounding mountains from the National Arboretum of Canberra

Amongst the developing forests of the National Arboretum is a wonderful regional botanic garden called STEP (Southern Tablelands Ecosystem Park).

I took this photo of STEP four years ago…and still flourishing today

We recently visited STEP early one spring morning…..

The Sulphur Crested Cockatoos have a dawn gathering at the small dam near STEP….

and feed on the grasses nearby. As usual, they are very noisy, but it is lovely to see them in their natural environment…

At STEP an enthusiastic group of volunteers have gradually designed and developed an area to represent the native plants and trees typical of the Southern Highlands.

Built into the landscape is a rock amphitheatre. It is used as a gathering place for educational groups and others visiting STEP. On this cool morning, the smooth rocks ringed by the Eucalyptus trees make this a very peaceful place to visit..

The Eucalyptus trees are characteristic of those found in the region’s hills, slopes and valleys, and as it is spring it is wonderful to see some flowering Eucalyptus in the gardens ..

 

A wasp feeding off the flowers.

After a long dry winter, the spring blossoms have arrived, and not just on eucalyptus trees…the colours of the bush change from muted greens and greys to yellows, fuchsia, purples and whites..

 

Hardenbergia violacea

I took a photo of this wonderfully coloured  shrub, (Mirbelia xylobioides) on Sunday morning, and by the following Thursday it had finished flowering ….you have to be quick..

Shrub Mirbelia xylobioides

 

Solanum linearifolium (Kangaroo Apple)

 

 

Pelargonium australe

 

Ammobium alatum

 

Leucochrysum albicans

When I arrived on Thursday for a second visit,  the day after much needed rain,  everything looked fresh and green and shiny..

 

Carex appressa

Some shrubs have finished flowering and others have just begun..

Wahlenbergia stricta

 

Podolepis hieracioides

In recent years,  through blogging, and travelling,  I have read about and seen grasses being used in design and landscapes all over the world.  Now I have a new appreciation of grasses in Australia.

Carex tereticaulis

 

 

 

Cullen microcephalarm

One of the volunteers called me over to look at and feel these young grasses, Poa Induta. They are soft to feel with long silky stems and delicate seed heads.. my absolute favourite for the day…

Poa induta

The gardens have some impressive metal sign posts to mark various areas around STEP. Here you can see the flowers of the She-oaks (Casuarina) sculptured  into the metal.

Unfortunately I missed the opportunity to take a photo of the friendly and very knowledgeable volunteers sharing morning tea under the shade of some of the bigger trees.

However, here is a photo from my visit a few years ago, the shady trees have grown and are still a welcoming spot for morning tea.

The volunteers come to STEP every Thursday,  rain, hail or shine and work tirelessly to keep this wonderful regional botanic garden growing and developing.

STEP has a very interesting newsletter for Members, and it is very easy to become a member and/or a volunteer.

www.step.asn.au

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.

 

Canberra’s spring: birds, plants and a BraveHeart..

Canberra in spring, sunshine and flowers…. it is enough to make your heart sing.

Every day during winter the beautiful little Eastern Spinebill came to feed from the remains of the Peppermint Sage in our garden.

The Eastern Spinebill is an important pollinator of many native and non-native plants.

The Eastern Spinebill is a Honeyeater, and its long curved beak can reach nectar from native and non-native flowers.  They are often mistaken for Hummingbirds, (including by me) as they can hover over a flower in the same way a hummingbird does, but generally they perch on branches like other Honeyeaters.

The Eastern Spinebill: Photo by Ian Wilson (c) www.birdlife.org.au

The moment spring arrived, so did the Red Wattlebird. This bird is amongst the largest of the Australian honeyeaters. Despite the Eastern Spinebill’s loud call, he didn’t stand a hope and soon disappeared, and the Wattlebird took possession of the flowering Grevilleas, Camellias, and indeed, the whole garden..

The Red Wattlebird is known to be very assertive, noisy, and tenacious. It is difficult to tell the male from female, but both are extremely territorial in spring.

This year’s Red Wattlebird chased the sweetly twittering Silver-Eyes out of the plum tree, and the Crimson Rosellas out of the apricot tree.

..and the Blackbird, minding his own business searching for worms by the veggie patch…

It’s not as if they are all searching for the same food. ..the Wattlebird mostly feeds on nectar, and occasionally eats insects, either in the foliage, or caught mid-air….but is not a dedicated worm eater like the Blackbird!

Our garden felt a bit like the Australian parliament last week, there was a sudden shift of power!

Yesterday, to Paul’s amazement,  he saw the Red Wattlebird chasing a young Currawong…. David verse Goliath!

Currawongs are highly intelligent birds, with a distinctive and melodious call. They eat fruits and berries as well as small vertebrates, and in spring they sometimes attack nests for bird’s eggs.

No wonder the Wattlebird has turned into BraveHeart!

Pied Currawong: Photo by Harry Charalambous (c) www.birdlife.org.au

This spring we are choosing native plants to go into our newly cleared garden beds. Canberra had half our annual rainfall this year, and surrounding areas have been declared drought affected, so we are looking for frost resistant, and drought tolerant plants.

We would also like the plants to be bird-attracting (we can enjoy the birds and they are such good pollinators.)

Here are some we could choose:

(I took all these photos at our Australian National Botanic Gardens here in Canberra, a wonderful place to visit in spring.)

Grevillea

Grevilleas have been very successful in our garden so far…

Correas

Correas, are very easy to grow, and the bell-shaped flowers attract nectar feeding birds throughout the year.

Bottlebrush bush

The Bottlebrush is a hardy rewarding shrub, we have some in the garden already, but they are so reliable, we’ll add more.

Wattles (Acacia)

We had a Cootamundra Wattle Tree, beautiful while it lasted, but fairly short lived. We will plant another one.

A New Holland honeyeater on a Banksia flower.

I have not succeeded in growing a Banksia in our garden despite their hardy ability to survive in drought, once established.

Sturt Desert Pea

Who would not wish this lovely and unique flower in the garden, but I have only seen them thriving in the Australian Botanic Gardens, rather than gardens around Canberra.  I’d love to know if anyone is growing them successfully in Canberra.

I hope you are enjoying your season, and your place in the world at this time of the year, and may the sun shine and the rain fall on all the drought affected areas, in Australia, and elsewhere.

Many thanks to the photographers at Birdlife Australia, who generously allowed me to use their photos for the Eastern Spinebill and the Pied Currawong. This is a great organisation to support.

www.birdlife.org.au

Geraldine Mackey: Copyright, All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mystery Bay, birds, beaches, a swamp wallaby and signs of spring!

There’s some foot tapping going on here…..

Crimson Rosella

The seed bowl is taking a while to arrive today..

We are back in one of our favourite places, Mystery Bay, visiting friends.

Canberrans are not very far from the pretty south coast of New South Wales, and it is a wonderful place to visit for short holidays and long weekends (and is usually warmer than Canberra in winter, and cooler in summer).

Mystery Bay beach

Regular readers of this blog may recognise the sharp-eyed Kookaburra and lovely Spotted Eucalyptus (Gum) trees from a previous visit to this garden…

Kookaburra in Mystery Bay

The King Parrot, always a gentle and welcome visitor to a garden, looks as if he has been colour co-ordinated to fit with this birdbath..

The King Parrot in Mystery Bay

On the first warm afternoon, we walked to Mystery Bay beach and watched the soft winter sky turn pink. On the way home we noticed Wattle shrubs beginning to blossom… a sure sign that spring is on the way.

Wattles are Australia’s National Flower, and, as I remember it,  Wattle day used to be the 1st August, but now is 1st September….

During the weekend, we went with our friends to a music concert in the neighbouring town of Narooma. On the way home we saw this lovely flower, but I have no idea what it is…I’m sure someone will be able to help me out here.

The weather was taking a turn for the worst, but we still ventured a walk through the forest, to look at the Burrawang Cycads growing amongst the ghostly looking Spotted Gum trees.

The forest is part of the National Park, and provides a home for many birds and also smaller Australian animals like swamp wallabies.

We picked a wild and windy last day to go for a walk along 1080 beach…

No matter how windy the weather, the beach is still a good place for solving world problems..

However, the icy wind that day drove us back to the car….whose idea was this anyway?

Just as we left the car park we spotted this Eastern Yellow Robin, and he seemed to come down to greet us…

As we were driving back through the bush, we spotted this Swamp Wallaby munching on some Eucalyptus leaves….

A Swamp Wallaby is a small macropod marsupial. It lives in forests, woodlands and swampy areas…

Luckily he wasn’t going anywhere until he had finished his lunch..

I wish I had been able to take a photo of his long tail…quite remarkable..

Sadly we had to leave all this wonderful wildlife, and the good company of our friends to return to Canberra…

As we drove over Brown Mountain, we noticed it had been snowing…not unusual in this part of the world, but a first for us.. (and I think this would be called a dusting of snow in the Northern Hemisphere!)

This is a picnic spot on the edge of a little town called Nimmitabel. it had been snowing since Saturday, and the children nearby were having fun with toboggans…

picnic and rest stop at Nimmitabel

We chose to have our coffee in the warm new coffee shop at Nimmitabel on this day…

When we arrived home in Canberra, our regular King Parrots ( a pair) were having a much needed drink from the birdbath….

and, spring must be on its way because they had brought a baby King Parrot along to feed on the Japanese Maple..(I think this is a female as the male has an orange head)

The baby seems to be saying…….it is very cold for a first outing…

Such a cute baby!   I felt very pleased that the King Parrots had trusted their youngster to our garden for her first glimpses of the world….

Thanks for visiting  Canberra’s Green Spaces, and I hope you are enjoying your place in the world, whatever season it may be..

For anyone who missed my first post on Mystery Bay, and is interested in the area, here is the link….

http://www.canberrasgreenspaces.com/category/new-south-wales-south-coast/

Copyright Geraldine Mackey :  All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canberra in winter: Parrots, the Lake, and Edmund Barton, first Prime Minister of Australia

Canberra has a crisp blue-sky beauty in winter…..and for those of us who live in leafy suburbs, it is all about the birds that visit our gardens, and brighten a cold day.

Winter is the time for King Parrots in our garden…. and this year they are searching, in particular, for fresh water. Almost every morning they check the gutters of our cabin for frosty water pools warmed by the morning sun.

Although King Parrots are relatively large, they are sweet, shy birds, always in pairs, and easily frightened away..

Once they have had a drink, they often fly to the Japanese Maple, right near the sunroom window…

Look at the beautiful red and dark green markings on the tail and underbelly of this bird, as David Attenborough says, the natural world is so full of beauty…

Our regular Sulphur Crested Cockatoos are also looking for water..

…and, rather like school inspectors, they investigate the garden thoroughly

and we are found wanting …….

Where are the bird baths?

What happened to all the almonds?

I have the feeling we are getting zero out of ten for this old bird bath..

Hardly any water, shabby looking, almost toppling over..

The only reason we are here is because your neighbours are neglecting theirs…

The birds are great fun to watch while I am resting and waiting for my wrist to mend. Many thanks for all the well wishes, my wrist is now almost back to normal, and all is well.

Apart from watching birds from the sunroom window, I have been catching up on some reading,

This book, called ”The Good, the Bad, and the Unlikely”  is a very short history of Australian Prime Ministers.

It is written by the irreverent and humorous journalist Mungo Maccallum.

Commonwealth Avenue Bridge. Some of the flat stones from London’s Waterloo Bridge (when it was demolished) were donated to this bridge when it was built in 1963.

Inspired by my reading, I wanted to take a photo of the statue of Edmund Barton, the first Prime Minister of Australia. His statue is appropriately in the suburb of Barton, and we decided to incorporate a walk around Commonwealth Park, near the centre of the city, before taking the photo.

Despite being a clear winter’s day, there was a biting cold wind, and all walkers and cyclists have long abandoned the Lake and are warming up in coffee shops all over Canberra.

Commonwealth Avenue Bridge, Lake Burley Griffin, and the Captain Cook Memorial

The Captain James Cook Memorial is combination of the water jet, and a terrestrial globe, and commemorates the bicentenary of Captain Cook’s landing on the east coast of Australia in 1770. The three routes of Cook’s voyages, are inscribed on the surrounding handrail.

The stunning jet  of water always attracts the eyes of tourists, especially children.  Many years ago, as a young teacher in Canberra, I met up with friends and we hired a little boat, and rowed around the fountain.

We were thrilled to get thoroughly wet by the jet spray……they seem such innocent times now!

The above photo was taken in winter a few years ago…the photo below was July 2018, absolutely freezing…..even the resident pelican looked downcast.

However, a pair of Crimson Rosellas were steadily eating their way through some scattered seeds from overhanging trees.

Across the lake from Commonwealth Park there is a view of Old Parliament House (now the Museum of Democracy) and behind it,  Parliament House today (under repair as the roof has been leaking).

Here is another, much closer, photo of Parliament House. Much clearer without the repair work tent over the roof!

And here is the handsome statue of Edmund Barton….

According to Mungo Maccallum, Australia’s first Prime Minister, Edmund Barton had one unique quality…he managed to unite a fractious group of politicians and colonies into creating a federation… in Mungo’s words..

Like most of their descendants, this motley bunch (the politicians at the time) were driven by a combination of idealism and self-interest, and getting them to agree on anything substantial was like herding a football team into a temperance meeting room.

Politicians all over Australia, agreed to become… as Barton says,

”a nation for a continent, and a continent for a nation

What a talent! I wonder how successful he would be if he tried that today!

Here is another sculpture of Edmund Barton, which is in The Prime Ministers’ Avenue, set in the magnificent Horse Chestnut Avenue of the Gardens in Ballarat. Well worth a visit, in every season.

https//ballaratbotanicalgardens.com.au

 

 

I hope you are enjoying your green spaces, where ever you live in the world….each season has a beauty of its own.

 

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

 

Corella-geddon……..borders and companion planting…

Corellas are the slightly smaller cousins of Sulphur Crested Cockatoos, and when they  come to town, everybody knows about it…

They screech, strip leaves and bark in search of food, undo lamp post wires to swing on them, and they are up for a party any time!

Sam Dooley from Bird Life Australia says ”they are extremely intelligent birds who are able to adapt and exploit new food resources”  Corellas in Canberra (and elsewhere in Australia)  have developed a penchant for the seed pods of the Liquidambar, and the Oak trees, traditionally northern hemisphere trees.

They are destructive and entertaining in equal measure.

Well, just as long as they haven’t discovered our garden.. because look who’s coming….

Autumn is the time cockatoos fly in to our garden to check out our almond tree.  Thanks to Paul for taking this incredible photo as the cockatoo flew into the garden…

The cockatoos haven’t visited too often this autumn, perhaps because they prefer their almonds soft and soggy from the rain and we haven’t had any rain since February. We are hoping May will be rain month…

Meanwhile, Paul, who is just in the last stages of finishing his PhD, decided to clear about one quarter of the back garden, (he says it is a good counter balance to studying) . The plan is to change a very overgrown tired area, with a winding path and new plants along the borders.

Magpies are very tame and great gardening companions….that is, if you are clearing, rather than planting..

They dig away looking for grubs and take a great interest in the gardening routine.. as you can see they are very low key compared with Corellas.

At the rear of the above photo is a water tank, it is attached to the carport roof, and rain water drains from the  gutters into the tank…  (we have a second much bigger tank near the house) These two tanks have provided enough rain water for most of the back garden this summer.

Here is Paul’s cleared border…looking great, and ready for new plants. The Photinias on the right hand side will be trimmed right back at the end of May.

The magpie on the archway is really enjoying a shower, what could be better after a bit of companion gardening..

Meanwhile I had a much smaller project on hand…moving some of the succulents, which, after summer are spilling out of their pots.

I put an ornamental white agapanthus in the middle of this old birdbath, and some succulents and pebbles around it. One of the younger magpies spent a bit of time watching me… as the Aussie saying goes..  she was having a ”stickybeak”.

…. I left to have lunch on the deck.. and started filling in my new ” Five year Garden and Planting Diary”

and when I looked into the garden, she had pulled out one of the agapanthus. I suppose if it was good enough for me to pull plants out of pots, it must be worth  trying for her…

She is warbling at me (gently) here, to tell me that this is her territory..

and she looked so determined to try again that I resorted to putting the newspaper over the top of the new creation, while I finished writing in my diary.

The things you do for birdlife….

The succulents are safely on the deck now…

and all is well in the autumn garden..

….except for water….that most precious commodity for much of Australia.

Crossing fingers for May..

 Finally the weather has cooled into the gentle golden sunshine that is autumn in Canberra, and often accompanied by beautiful sunsets..

The kind of weather that inspires you to stand in the garden every morning and sing

”Oh what a beautiful morning..”

I hope you are enjoying spring or autumn/fall in your part of the world, and singing…

 

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

Canberra gardening in Spring, Cockatoos ten/ Gardener one (won?)

During the dull and colourless days of winter, I always forget the sheer joy of walking into the garden in spring.

This year we planted new tulips and these pink ones were the best performers…

When they began to grow I told my neighbour they were orange, but in fact, the orange tinge is on the inside of the tulip, or perhaps the red tulips, (almost finished flowering) are reflecting some red onto them

….either way, they are a joy to walk past every morning.

A few years ago we bought a packet of mixed bulbs from Diggers and miniature surprise bulbs keep coming up in the garden,  like these tiny yellow daffodils.

 

 

 

 

Many gardens in Canberra have Alpine plants. I have grown to love them, especially in spring, when they display their tiny, but perfect flowers.

 

The almost magenta-coloured Salvia is a good backdrop for the lovely white Dutch Irises, multiplying all over the garden.

The Hot Lips Salvia (photo below) flowers for about nine months of the year in Canberra.

This year we planted some lavender along the path, and the bees absolutely love it.

New this year are some blue Dutch Iris, smaller than others we have in the garden.  We have planted them in three different parts  of the garden, with varying sunshine. They all flower at different times in spring and so there is always an extra touch of blue in the garden.

Speaking of sunshine, we have one part of the garden which has full sun most of the day.

At the nursery recently, I noticed this lovely plant called Gazania Variety. This is the description on the flower.

A small perennial plant, which is very hardy and versatile and produces masses of daisy flowers. They thrive in a range of soil types and positions, and are ideal for hot dry exposed sites.

Let me add, they are very resilient.

There were four flowers on the plant when I put it into this blue pot. Their colour is breath-taking on a sunny day, and can be seen from all over the garden. The flower below was my favourite.

I should add that this is a fly-over areas for Cockatoos who are visiting a neighbouring tree.

….as you can see from the photo below, my favourite flower has been lopped off at the stem, in the morning, and left to wilt and die.

Overseas readers might not know that Sulphur crested Cockatoos frequently take an exception to a flower, especially bright coloured ones, and they break the stem as they go past.

Not to eat, just because they can..

Crimson Rosellas are also known to do this, especially in spring, but my money is on the Cockatoos.

I tried small stakes near each stem…no luck, and then, in a hurry before dusk (early morning seems to be lopping time), I wrapped this gaudy, but strong twine around the plant.

The poor plant now looks mighty confused, and naturally is not flowering with the same gusto as before.

The flowers were lopped regardless of stakes or twine..

I found a hideaway place on the deck and pulled out all the twine and stakes. The poor plant looks as if it is on day release.

We went to visit our lovely granddaughter, and I left the long suffering, but recovering Gazania, in a very secluded spot on the deck. When we came back, there were no less than six flowers lying wilting on the deck.

So….?

In her blog  NewEnglandandGardenAndThread, Judy says we have to remind ourselves that our plants are not our children (and yes, who knew?)

However, just on principle I’m keeping the pot of Gazanias in the laundry at night, and on the front deck in the day time. (where I can keep an eye on them and flyover Cockatoos.)

okay, so where have you hidden them?

So far, the flowers are gradually recovering.

I think I might have won the battle…..

Butter would not melt in my mouth

but  perhaps not the war….

 

I’m not going to let this spoil spring for me, and I hope you are enjoying your green spaces and season, where ever you might be

 

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey  All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canberra, the bush capital in spring…

The Australian poet CJ Dennis said… ” spring is near, then suddenly it seems, one golden morn..

View of the Brindabella Mountains from our garden at dawn

the bush awakes, a living thing

A Crimson Rosella looking over her nest in a Eucalyptus tree in the National Botanic Gardens in Canberra

Flowers bloom…

A female Australian King Parrot eating the flowers of our plum tree in the garden

birds sing..

A Magpie warbling in the gum tree at Lake Tuggeranong, near our home.

and the entire world puts on its brightest dress to greet the laughing spring”

Grevillea rosmarinifolia ”Rosy Posy” family Proteaceae

Canberra, unlike many parts of Australia, has four distinct seasons, and spring is welcomed here the way it would be in the Northern Hemisphere.

The Manchurian Pears in full blossom along Lake Burley Griffin (photo by Paul Mackey)

Canberrans hear many different bird calls in spring, but none so earth shattering at 5.30 in the morning as the Kookaburra’s cackle….

However, who can blame them for waking us up early? No one should miss a minute of a spring morning…

Every spring one or two young Kookaburras arrive in our garden.

I like to think they come because we have plenty of water, and they are relatively safe for flying lessons between the garden arches and the overhead electrical wires.

We call this young Kookaburra the Minister for Transport… he looks so important doesn’t he?

…..and he’s in the right city!

Meanwhile… the ”Town Crier”‘ is marching up to the top of the neighbour’s roof..

So………

Where is this Grandbaby anyway? …

….and does she know about me yet?

 

Our first grandchild has arrived safe and sound, and….. she is absolutely lovely in every way..

 

The very best description of being a grandparent is surely the words written by Australian writer, Thomas Keneally

‘Being a parent is like being a slightly bewildered NGO in the trenches, with fear of consequences all around..

…..to be a grandparent is a little like being a General back in the chateau, writing dispatches on the bravery of the troops, besotted with admiration for them, but with the warm knowledge there’ll be time for wine with dinner.”

 

 

I hope that you are enjoying your garden and green spaces, where ever you are in the world…

 

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

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)

Crested pigeons

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

 

Autumn garlic planting at the Almond café…

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

…and we did.

In a paddock nearby we could see the happy chooks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.