Tag Archives: Banksias

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wollemi Pine, eucalypts.. and green spaces in the city

Canberra, as with many young cities, is growing rapidly, and sometimes the rush to build overtakes the need to plan long term….so thank goodness the National Botanic Gardens were planned and planted in the 1960s and it is now in the heart of the city.

 

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During summer I joined a walking group to re-discover some of the joys of the National Botanic Gardens. I have written a few posts on some of the diverse parts of the gardens, The Red Centre Garden, and the Rainforest Gully.

The walks are coming to an end this week, so here is a last snapshot of some of the plants and places we have passed by.. …

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This is the Wollemi Pine, one of the world’s rarest and most ancient tree species.

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The Wollemi Pine belongs to the 200 million year old Araucariaceae family. It was, until 1994,  believed to be extinct. David Noble, a National Parks and Wildlife Officer was bushwalking and abseiling in 1994, and came across an unusual plant in a National Park close to Sydney.

Scientists and Horticulturalists were amazed, as is the general public…because the Wollemi Pine comes from the age of dinosaurs…there are very few left in the wild..

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Palaeontologists say it is likely that the dinosaur crossed paths with the Wollemi Pine and may have eaten Wollemi leaves….amazing!

There are a small amount of Wollemi Pines still in the wild, and they are protected, both from human intervention and from fire, to ensure their survival.

However, people can now buy and grow a Wollemi Pine (if you have a very large garden!) and become part of one of the most dramatic comebacks in natural history.

www.WollemiPine.com

The trees that do dominate the landscape of the Gardens are the Eucalypts.

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In summer visitors enjoy concerts under the trees, children come for ”Eucalyptus by Gum” educational adventure, couples get married, groups meet to have picnics.

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There are more than one hundred species to be seen if you wander across the Eucalypt lawn.

As we’ve walked around the gardens we were amazed at the colour and texture of bark on the Eucalypt trees……

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The tree below is called a Smooth-barked Apple…it is eye catching and smooth as silk to feel..

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It was one of the earliest Eucalypts collected by Europeans, Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander who travelled with Captain Cook in 1770. It is quite easy to see why they wanted to take a sample home.

The Gardens are also the perfect place for photography enthusiasts …..

…where else would you see King Parrots looking so beguiling….

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This shy New Holland Honey Eater is darting between the banksias….hard to catch..

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 And here is another well known Aussie, a Galah, perched on top of the highest point of the highest tree… oh to be a bird…..

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Autumn is a wonderful season in Canberra, and I hope to write a few more posts about my home town before winter begins!

Copyright Geraldine  Mackey. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From a rainforest gully …to some Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos..

I’ve come back to the National Botanic gardens of Canberra on a beautiful summer morning, and all the more sparkling because we’ve had some steady rain last night for the first time in a month.

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The Rainforest fern gully was created in 1960 from a naturally occurring dry gully with a few eucalypts, shrubs and grasses….and as I step into the cool shaded area today it is hard to believe it was ever dry..

IMG_0365 (1024x727)The lower end of the gully begins with Tasmanian cool temperate rainforest plants..and gradually changes to the warm temperate rainforest of northern NSW and south eastern Queensland

…as I follow this path I’m effectively walking the entire east coast rainforest of Australia in ten minutes!

IMG_0776 (1024x932)To create this gully, fast growing wattles and eucalypts were grown, and 2000 fine mist sprays installed to keep the humidity high…

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the understory has small trees, fallen branches and ferns..

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Macrozamia miquelii

Now a canopy of tall plants, like an enormous umbrella protects the ferns below from the direct sun, heavy rain, drying winds and frost…all of which can happen in Canberra.

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Blackwood tree Acacia Melanoxylon

I expected to find some birds in the gully, but the rain and soft sunshine has sent them out to the Banksia and Grevillea bushes….a little bird flew into the ground cover and stayed there, forever it seemed, I guess a whole small world of activity is going on in there…

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Hakea minyma Proteaceae

Here is a New Holland Honeyeater having breakfast at the Banksia café..

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As good luck would have it, just as I headed for the car park, some noisy Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos arrived..

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Unperterbed by cars and people nearby, one of them began burrowing into the tree, possibly looking for grubs to eat..

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In no time at all he has almost disappeared into that hole….

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… so his mate is coming over to see what it is all about

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While the ”Boss Cocky” watches on…

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..A lovely way to spend the morning…

 

A bee hotel and a stroll through The National Botanic Gardens in summer

 

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Canberra has quite a few hotels, but this is special…..a timber bee hotel at the National Botanic Gardens, especially made to attract many of the native bees in the area.

(it reminds me of my neighbour’s neat and organised quilting cupboard!)

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To attract a variety of bees the hotel features many different room decors, including hardwood logs and mud bricks drilled with holes, plant stems, fern fronds, and hotel ”rooms” made from cardboard tubes which are packed tight with paper drinking straws, the perfect size for a native bee nest.

The hotel is in a shady spot at the Botanic Gardens, and surrounded by flowers, mostly of the daisy species.

 

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I arrived early in the morning to see the new bee hotel, but I’m also here to join a group who do a garden stroll through the Botanic Gardens every week. One of the first things we do is look at what is in flower….how about this Banksia Victoriae Proteaceae?

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Near the entrance to the gardens is a bust of Joseph Banks, a British naturalist and botanist, who took part in Captain Cook’s voyage to Australia and New Zealand.

He was fascinated with Australian plants, and the plant genus Banksia is named after him.

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The bust of Joesph Banks is surrounded by Banksias, and therefore we are also surrounded by birds.

A Wattlebird is feeding on the Banksia flowers, in branches just above us…..the food must be tasty! Unfortunately, the one thing the Wattlebird objected to was my camera, so no photo…..sadly.

Considering this is mid summer I am surprised at how much is flowering….

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Corymbia filicifolia

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Pandorea jasminoides

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Rhododendron Viriosum Ericaceae

Here is a Lemon Myrtle tree flowering gloriously in the summer sun… when you crush the leaves there is a wonderful scent of lemon…

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Lemon Myrtle white blossom

It is thought that Aboriginal people have always used the leaves for flavouring in food, and this tradition  continues today. The leaves are used in cooking,  to make tea, and are also added to  soaps and used as herbal remedies.

These gardens are a paradise for birds…this lovely Crimson Rosella is busy preening his long blue tail and wishing I would just go away..

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Crimson Rosella

We are back at the entrance of the National Botanic gardens, what a cool and beautiful spot to spend the morning… I have no doubt that bee hotel will be booked out in no time!

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