Category Archives: Wildlife in the suburbs

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Far North Queensland, sunshine and colour…and dodging the snow back home.

Almost every year we go to Far North Queensland in the winter. We leave our coats at home and freeze all the way to the airport. Then we board the plane for a  three hour flight into another world, casual clothing, hats and a pair of sunglasses…nothing can prepare you for the colours of Queensland.

As the plane circles to land in this beautiful part of the world my heart always gives a lift…..

the vast azure sea, the tropical mountains, and the long blue skies.

This year we went with friends and family, and visited three different places, Port Douglas, the Atherton Tablelands, and Palm Cove.

Palm Cove, a short distance from Cairns, is a pretty beach surrounded by palm trees and winding paths, and a mostly gentle sea.

We spent our time in Palm Cove with our family and lovely granddaughter, and it was interesting to see this colourful world through her eyes.

From our apartment, on the third floor, we had a great view of the lush green palms and tropical plants…

Giant Palm Lily.. growing up to 5 metres. White and cream flowers appear during the months of Feb to July. The berries ripen from yellow to red.

Birds play an important role in distribution of rainforest seeds, and we were heartened to see that Queensland has its share of cockatoos, eating and spreading seeds.

We woke every morning to the familiar sound of cockatoos screeching overhead as they flew from palm tree to palm tree. This must be an unsettling start to the day for unsuspecting overseas tourists.

Looking down from our apartment we saw a flash of iridescent blue, the Ulysses butterfly, common to this area…almost camouflaged by the rich green surroundings.

I know that many bloggers are interested in butterflies, especially Jason and Judy from https://gardeninacity.wordpress.com/ so here are a few striking Queensland butterflies from the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary in Kuranda.

Ulysses a large swallowtail butterfly abc.net.au

The Red Lacewing Butterfly Aust. Butterfly Sanctuary

Cairns Birdwing butterfly  Aust. Butterfly Sanctuary

The Cairns Birdwing butterfly is the largest of all Australian Butterflies

On our walk through the gardens to the beach we saw so many colourful and unusual plants and flowers…..as our granddaughter said ”Oh Wow!”

heliconia: part of the banana family

Golden Penda xanthostemon chrysanthus

Unfortunately I couldn’t find the name of this pretty pink/red flower..

The palm below is a striking entrance to a garden.

We have been coming to Palm Cove for about 25 years, and one thing is a constant, Pete’s Place. This is the shop where you can buy milk, bread, magazines, summer clothes and hats,

….and THE best best fish and chips in town. Especially the fresh Barramundi.

a pretty dusting of snow on the Brindabella Mountains.

Meanwhile, we read and heard about the changing weather, back in Canberra.

Canberra does get the occasional dusting of snow in our winter,  but this year …. especially in the National Park and some parts of Canberra, the snow kept on coming !

Social media went mad with clips of kangaroos hopping around in the snow, wombats and even a platypus pushing through the snow..

The ABC and BBC news and the Washington Post had clips of kangaroos bounding around in snow.  What a confusing time to be an Aussie animal…this photo says it all..

Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary Tasmania: Photo Bernadette Camus

SO….who is responsible!

…..and how about booking us into Palm Cove next year?

I hope you are enjoying your season where ever you are in the world, and thank you for taking the time to read my blog, especially if you should be out in the garden!

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey  All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

Canberra’s Australian National Botanic Gardens in winter

The end of June and the beginning of July is mid-winter in Canberra…..no wonder the pelican looks dejected.

However, there is one place where you are sure to find colour and interest in Canberra ‘s winter months, and that is at the Australian National Botanic Gardens.

I love this combination of colour and texture. The Golden Everlasting Daisy in the front, the Red Kangaroo Paw at the back, and a pretty grey shrub (no name attached) in the centre.

Kangaroo Paws come in a variety of colours including red, yellow, orange, purple and green. These plants protect themselves during extremely hot summers by letting their strap-like leaves die down, and underground rhizomes wait until autumn to send leaves up again. After a bush fire the growth of foliage on the plant become more prolific.

Golden Everlasting Daisy grow wild in every state of Australia, from the mountains to the sea. They attract many butterflies, and this one is a Painted Lady Butterfly.

Eremophila warnesii..Scrophulariaceae

This is a cream-coloured winter flowering plant. It has velvety leaves and always has a few bright purple bugle-shaped flowers.

Sturt Desert Pea

The Sturt Desert Pea  is a beautiful South Australian floral emblem, and grows well in various parts of the Botanic gardens here, especially in the desert garden. Aboriginal names for this flower include ”malu” (kangaroo eyes) and ”meekyluka” (flowers of the blood).

The Dwarf Banksia is a lovely soft green bush, with almost luminous yellow flowers….they are like welcoming beacons in the winter.

Banksia flowers attract the nectar loving big birds and the smaller insect eating birds, and are an important source of food for birds in the gardens.

The tiny New Holland Honey Eater is frequently seen at the Botanic Gardens, and is very elusive, but I was lucky enough to get this photo early one morning in the gardens.

The Crimson Rosella is another frequent visitor here, amongst the soft green winter foliage.

The gardens are full of tranquil paths and green spaces, it is hard to believe there is a University and a city just a few streets away.

Of course where there are Eucalyptus trees there are almost always Sulphur Crested  Cockatoos  as well…and here are a few of the noisiest Cockatoos in the gardens during my visit.

Don’t be fooled by that closed beak, ‘‘butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth’‘ look from this cockatoo. He has just finished screeching to his noisy friend.

Who me?

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog today, and I hope, despite the vagaries of the weather, you are able to take some time and enjoy your garden, and your part of the world, as I enjoy writing and photographing mine.

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 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.