Quarantining in Canberra and gardening for mental health..

At the end of two weeks of self-isolation in our home in Canberra, our neighbours sent us this lovely, and much appreciated card.

We recently visited our daughter and family in Melbourne, Victoria, during a time when Melbourne’s Covid numbers were on the rise. In order to do this we agreed to self-isolate in our own home for two weeks once we came back to Canberra. We had regular police visits during this time to check that we were doing just that. We also had a Covid test at the end of the fortnight.

All went well, but I’m glad we could open the gate at the end of a fortnight

The yellow Wattle bushes were flowering and the Manchurian Pear trees have pretty white buds. The pink almond blossoms can be seen in the distance.

Spring growth in the garden was just beginning when we left for Melbourne.

By the time we got home, thanks to the frequent rainfall this year, everything had grown and the garden was full of lush greens and yellows.

The tulips in the front garden were a lovely surprise, and even impressed the police who came to check on us. We couldn’t go into the front garden, but could view them from the window, and that was enough.

Unfortunately we missed the lovely apple tree blossoms, but here is a photo from last year…at almost the same time.

Canberra has an abundance of busy birds visiting gardens in spring, and our plum tree attracts various parrot families at this time of the year.. The plum tree is near the house, and so it is easy to take photos and watch them all day ……instead of looking up exercise programs, and/or de-cluttering the cabin.

The King Parrots eating in the plum tree
A Juvenile Crimson Rosella

On rainy days the cockatoos fly in to check on the almond tree….they love almonds, especially if the shells have been softened by rain.

I have read that cockatoos spread out their crests when they are happy, active, annoyed, or purposefully going somewhere. Perhaps active and happy in this photo.

While we were weeding all through the garden (Paul did 90% and I did 10%) I listened to a podcast on gardens, gardening and our mental health.

Geraldine Doogue on Radio National was interviewing Sue Stuart Smith, the author of a new book called The Well Gardened Mind. As a psychiatrist the author was interested in the connection between gardening and mental health. Her grandfather, Ted, had been a P.O.W. during the war, in a camp near Gallipoli. He returned home malnourished and shell-shocked.

His wife took great care of him on his return to England, but he still remained traumatised by his experiences. In 1920 he was able to enrol in a government program, a Horticultural Rehabilitation scheme in Hampshire. This program taught people the full range of horticultural skills, tending the soil, growing vegetables, seasonal changes. Ted became a keen gardener, and lived a long and full life, growing his own vegetables.

Sue Stuart Smith writes about cultivating the land, and the enormous benefit human beings have when connecting with the land. The gardener is drawn into the rhythm of the garden, the structure of the seasons is stabilizing, and we are pulled along by its growth.

The garden doesn’t let you procrastinate for too long, the seeds have to be sown in autumn or spring, the weeds have to be removed!

I haven’t yet read the book, but everything Sue Stuart Smith said in the interview was interesting and so true.

While we were self-isolating we received regular messages from ACT Health to check on any Covid symptoms, but also on our mental health during this period of isolation.

Over the two week period we had a few friendly conversations with the police who visited daily. Each time they mentioned that most people self-isolating in Canberra, are returning from overseas, and have no choice but to quarantine in small rooms in hotels or motels, often with small children.

During our two week of quarantining we had enough living space in our house, and plenty of gardening jobs to fill four weeks rather than two.

One of the young policemen said ”well you’ve got your garden…you’re okay!”

I bet he comes from a family of gardeners!

Ixias ..another spring surprise

As well as the garden, the cockatoos provided a bit of every day humour to our lives. This cockatoo doesn’t look impressed with his pick of the crop…

I’d trade this for an almond any day

Our garden was very important during this period of isolation, along with the birds, family, friends and neighbours. I will definitely buy Sue Stuart Smith’s book to read further on this interesting topic.

Here is a lovely quote from her interview:

When we sow a seed, it is an action of hope”

Thank you for taking the time to read my post, and may you have a few rays of hope in your garden today.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

Canberra in August, the joys and hazards of spring…unless you have a Muesli Bar

Winter in Canberra becomes dreary and seemingly endless by late July.

This year has been a particularly damp winter, and while we always welcome rain in Canberra, grey skies and drizzling rain can dampen the spirits during a pandemic!

Just when spring was around the corner, we had freezing temperatures, and snow on the mountains….

Michael McCoy, in Gardening Australia writes that winter is bleak in his patch,

‘but then, sometime in August it’s as if someone flicks on a dimmer switch preset at its lowest setting and starts to turn up the dial.”

Almond tree blossoms
Manchurian Pears beginning to flower, flowering Almond tree nearby, and the beautiful yellow Snowy River Wattle bush

Not only does the light change in August, but bird songs change too…..during winter and early spring, we hear the territorial call of the raucous Wattle Bird, who seems to be telling us off every time we go into the garden.

The Wattle Bird has been feeding steadily from the Grevillea bush (Wee Jasper) all through the winter.

Now we hear the early morning magpies warbling melodiously, and during the longer spring evenings the blackbirds start to sing…… a joy to hear.

Magpies are one of the most common birds in Canberra, known and loved for their friendly visits to suburban gardens. Most of the year they are affable birds, companions in the garden, without causing too much damage. They not only have a beautiful morning call, but are also skilled mimics, and are known to imitate barking dogs, sheep, chain-saws, and during the bushfires they very quickly learnt how to imitate fire engine sirens.

However, once spring starts, some Magpies become territorial, and the swooping season is upon us! As Canberra has so much bushland between suburbs, the magpies are naturally nesting close to suburban houses. Traditionally magpies swoop as a means to protect their patch while they care for their young.

Magpies are a protected species of bird in Australia, and so there are plenty of warning signs for people, walkers and cyclists especially, to be alerted to swooping magpies.

Bike riders and and people on small motorbikes are particularly targeted, perhaps because they are moving rapidly across the bird’s territory.

Spare a thought for all the people who work outside during spring.

Surviving as a postman/woman in Canberra has always been quite a challenge during spring…. a helmet and a waving yellow flag might help, but a territorial magpie can be very persistent.

In 2017 this young postman won local fame by trying a new technique.

” I get some pretty good quality Muesli bars specifically to feed the birds. You have to develop a relationship with the birds, that is the way to do it in spring”

However, times have changed. The magpies in this postman’s area are, no doubt very disappointed because Canberra now have new electric bikes for delivers of mail.

The new high-tech electric Australia Post vehicles have been adapted from the Swiss Post Model. These bikes are energy efficient, and more stable than a motor bike. They are also so quiet no one notices when their mail is being delivered.

They have the capacity to carry many more parcels, and with increased online shopping parcel deliveries now outweigh letter deliveries.

There are some definite downsides to the vehicles, but they are here to stay, and I think all posties will be glad of protection against rain, wind and heat in summer.

The roof of the vehicle gives 100 percent UV protection and an added consideration……. protection from swooping magpies in spring!

Our local postie was very enthusiastic about her new vehicle, and when I asked if the new model was keeping swooping magpies away she said

”well, yes, so far……. but they’ll find a way!”

I’ d be interested to know how other readers are receiving their mail these days.

I hope the sun is shining and your garden is growing where ever you are in the world today. In these uncertain times the garden, city parks, country walks, bush trails are a wonderful distraction.

Stay safe and sane!

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

Canberra’s autumn in Lockdown, rain, sunshine and birds

As the calendar pages turn towards the middle of 2020, uncertainty and Lockdown continues in Australia, and the world.  As if to compensate, autumn has been magnificent in Canberra this year…

After a dreadful summer of bushfires and thick smoke, it is wonderful to see trees, and plants flourishing with good rainfalls around Canberra in March, April and May.

The  weather looks wild through the Eucalyptus trees, but the trees are loving it….

not to mention the birds!

Photos could not really capture the sheer delight these cockatoos are having in some nearby Eucalyptus trees during the rain..

They are flying into the trees, calling (screeching) to each other..

….and sinking down gently into the rain-filled branches. A couple of them were hanging upside down on the outer branches, with wings spread out (I missed that photo opportunity)

Watching their games and delight, it is a reminder of how much they have missed the rain too.

The Crimson Rosellas are also back in the garden in bigger numbers than we have seen for a few years.. a little more sedate in their response to rain..

Here in Canberra  the autumn colours of the  landscape are often muted greens and soft greys, but this year, everything is looking very, very green.

Our Lockdown rules allow for a walk every day, and this one is a favourite of ours because it is not far from our house.

We follow this path until we come to what is known by locals as ”Heartbreak Hill” or ”Cardiac Arrest” Hill.  Actually it is not steep at all, with lovely views of the mountains, along the way.

One morning we were walking up Heartbreak Hill and we came across these two delightful young parrots… called Gang Gangs. A parent is watchful in the leaves behind them.

Does anyone know the ”Where’s Wally?” children’s books?

This could be “Where are the Gang Gangs?” amongst the autumn colour.

We have never seen Gang Gangs in our suburb, but, so much natural habitat in the bush has been lost in the fires, it is not surprising birds are moving into suburban areas for food.

They are most welcome!

Years ago I used to walk down this path almost every day. An elderly gentleman was always working in his garden and one day when I admired his roses, he told me I could come in and cut some roses to take home, at anytime!

He passed away some time ago, but he would love to see these roses continuing to flower.

It made me wonder how long do roses last?

Paul has been painting the cabin and the deck, and now to the garden!  My contribution so far was to ‘trim’ a very old Rosemary bush…once I started I couldn’t stop! Paul called it the ”Rosemary Bush Massacre”.

There is a large green grevillea near the deck called ”Wee Jasper”. This bush brings the Wattle Bird and also the elusive  Eastern Spinebill to our garden, because it flowers all through autumn and winter.

However, because it does flower for such a long period of time, and has birds and bees buzzing around,  it is seldom pruned.

While I had my garden clippers at hand, I decided to trim some of the older branches of the Wee Jasper..

As I reached into the branches of the Wee Jasper,  the Eastern Spinebill flew into the bushes and settled on a branch very close to me. I couldn’t believe how close it was, and how still. This is a bird almost impossible to photograph as he usually moves so fast and is very elusive.

I have just enough Irish blood in me to wonder if that tiny little bird was warding me off his bush…perhaps he was watching while I trimmed the Rosemary Bush..

…Eastern Spinebill one, Gerrie nil.

The Eastern Spinebill feeding from the Pineapple Sage, photo taken two years ago.

We are lucky to have one of our daughters working from her home here in Canberra, and it has been a few months now since we have seen our elder daughter, our son-in-law and our granddaughter.

Just after Christmas our granddaughter helped us pick this very cute koala for the garden. ..  a happy reminder of her.

We look forward to more State borders opening in Australia, so that we can get together again.

Many thanks for taking the time to read my blog posts, and thanks also to the nurses and health workers all over the world. ..what a service to communities they do!

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Canberra Magpies on border patrol..

As we adjust to our ”new normal”,  Paul and I decided to make sure we went for a long walk every day, to help us keep fit, and sleep well.

Fortunately, Canberra has been designed to have corridors of bushland between suburbs, and there are many fire trails (backtracks) that skirt around suburbs.

Crimson Rosella

Life in the bush is thriving again since the recent rain, and to our delight, we saw quite a few birds as we walked.

Rainbow Lorikeets

I noticed a splash of colour and saw two baby Rainbow Lorikeets preening themselves in the hollow of a gnarled old Eucalyptus tree.

A juvenile Galah

and this endearing little Galah also resting and nesting in the same tree……all unhurried and blissfully unaware of world events around them..

The Brindabella Mountains are recovering from the dreadful summer fires and now there are only clouds overhead, rather than smoke rising from them.

In the distance we could see Sulphur Crested Cockatoos swirling and swooping through the suburbs like shining white kites. (unfortunately hard to capture without a good lens on the camera)

Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos

Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos are not very common in Canberra, but since the fires, many of these parrots have come to Canberra for the water and vegetation.

They are the smallest  bird in the Cockatoo family, and make a sound like a creaking door. They mate for life, and live in family groups, and they are very low-key compared with their cousins, the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo.

My mother used to say the black cockatoos bring the rain……we would welcome the rain and the cockatoos any day.

On the way back home we saw a group of Magpies; very familar to all Canberrans.

They stood together, warbling softly to each other..indignation written all over those intense stares…

There is certainly something going on here…

The problem is the Magpie in the nearby tree. She has long white markings on her back.

This Magpie is  a ”ring-in” …… an outsider. Her striking white markings suggest she is a coastal Magpie… and not from this area.

This Magpie comes from the State of New South Wales, not our state, known as the Australian Capital Territory.

She hasn’t heard the news…the borders are closed!

Never mind, the Canberra Magpies border patrol  are on to it!

We left them to it , and I hope all went well.

A day in the sunshine, walking and looking at the birds, cheered us up immensely.

Less news and more walking is our plan!

Hard not to smile at these two …absolutely no social distancing going on in the koala world. (photo from Pinterest)

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog, and may you enjoy at least a little of each day in these unpredictable times !

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved 

 

Canberra’s summer……heat, fires, hail and rain, and flowers..

The photos below seem like a dream to me now: this was our garden in November….late spring.

We had some rain, which made the garden look quite green.  I looked at these photos at the end of summer and I had to double-check the date on my camera to make sure it was just a few short months ago.

Despite the fairly calm conditions in Canberra in spring, the hot dry winds, the drought in much of Australia, and the early and unusual fires in other parts of Australia, were the warning signs of the terrible summer to come.

Australia’s Parliament House at midday in December. Photo AAP.

During December fires had spread across the country, and the winds blew the thick smoke through Canberra… some days the air quality was the worst of any major city in the world.

The agapanthus flowered valiantly, blue and white balls of colour through our smoky summer days.

The Gardenia flowered so gracefully on one of our hottest days…(40 degrees C) Incredible!

Our home is part of a group of suburbs not far from the Namadgi National Park, with views of the Brindabella Mountains…all mountain photos are taken from our garden or our street.

Inevitably the winds, and the searing hot temperatures spread the fires across the mountains.

Even more apocalyptic was the sight of the fires burning across the mountains at night.

During some of evenings, when our suburbs were on ”high alert” and it was hard to sleep, we shared meals and glasses of wine with neighbours…a memorable time.  There was an acute sense of camaraderie and community during  the  fires.

Then came a sudden chance of rain, which became a freak hail storm…

Paul rushed to get the unexpected hail out of the entrance of the water tank, before the water had a chance to overflow and/or hail damaged the tanks litter strainer.

Finally some nice, steady rain came! The whole garden looked as if it was having a bad hair day!

However, in many parts of Eastern Australia there were floods and road closures …

ABC news photo

…even more trauma and heartbreak for people and particularly wildlife.

Finally, in February the cooler weather and rain enabled the ACT Emergency Services to gradually reduce the fires in the mountains.

Miraculously, everything started to look green again. Canberra, at the end of summer could do with more rain, but all normal weather patterns do not apply this year!

Cautiously at first, the birds are coming back to the garden..

The almond tree had endured hot dry winds, leaves stripped from the hail storm, and reduced water…

but it has flourished and has a bumper crop of almonds this year..who know why?

”…and he said, and she said….””

The cockatoos are back….noisily cracking almond nuts and gossiping in the trees…..life is back to normal.

During the last few months many animals have been moved out of Namadgi National Park for their safety. Amongst them, platypus, koalas, rock wallabies and even Northern Corrobboree Frogs. I hope to do a post on their return soon.

After seeing the plight of so many koalas this summer,  here is a link to a video clip of an endearing young koala called Willow, and her first encounter with a butterfly. 

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-10-03/butterfly-photobombing-koala-joey-goes-viral/7897804

 

I hope your season, summer or winter, has been less traumatic than ours, and that you are ready, as we are, to enjoy the mellow days of autumn.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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