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.

 

 

Akaroa: a bit of French magic in New Zealand

My previous post was of Fisherman’s Bay Garden, just 20 minutes away from the pretty coastal town of Akaroa, on the south island of New Zealand.

Akaroa is the Ngai Tahu word for Long Harbour.  The Maori, who were the first to occupy this Bay, took advantage of the abundant supply of “food from the forests, seas, river, and skies”.

No wonder the British explorer, Captain Cook, when he had circumnavigated both islands, sent word back to England that he had ”found Paradise”.

During our holiday in New Zealand we were charmed in every way….not only was the weather perfect, but our B&B was set in a beautiful garden.

The volcanic soil and plentiful rain makes gardening look easy in New Zealand. ( As you can see I have garden envy!)

In this bucolic environment the morning began with a slow walk through the green lush garden, and then a stroll down the hill to the coffee shop.

In 1838 a French whaler Captain Jean Francois L’Anglois was so impressed with Akaroa Bay that he  made a provisional purchase of the land in the Banks Peninsula from the local Maori.

However, by the time the French settlers arrived in 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi between the British Crown and the Maori chiefs had been signed.

However, the French still established a settlement with 60 French immigrants and the descendants of these original French settlers are still in New Zealand.

Today Akaroa is seen as both a historic French and British settlement.

The small French community has had an immense influence on wine and other imports from France.

 

 

 

One of my favourite buildings ..the Coronation Library.

We watched children (and young adults) jumping off the pier to swim…what an idyllic way for children to grow up!

Our B&B host had told us that the butcher sold very tasty baguettes at lunch time, and she was right!

Every day we bought some baguettes overflowing with cheeses, ham, salad, local pickles, and chutneys …we sat under the trees near the town square, and watched the boats coming in and out of the bay.

In the town square was a sculpture of a French artist and well known engraver, Charles Meryon whose later work in Paris reflects the influence of his stay in New Zealand.

Sculpture of French artist Charles Meryon

On our last evening we sat in the garden of a restaurant called Mandala, which had Pacific Indian and Asian fusion food..

After a delicious meal we walked around the beautiful bay..needless to say, I took more photos than I could ever use!

The combination of seeing the Fisherman’s Bay garden, and staying in Akaroa made this a very special place.

When we arrived back in Australia we faced a long summer of bushfires and unpredictable weather. (now coming to an end, hopefully)

It has been a lovely distraction looking through these photos, and Akaroa will always have a special place in my heart.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fisherman’s Bay Garden, Akaroa, New Zealand..

I first read about Fisherman’s Bay garden in a book called Dreamscape. This incredibly diverse garden is set along the rugged Banks Peninsula in the South Island of New Zealand.

Needless to say, it was number one on my wish list, when we visited New Zealand in December 2019.

Fisherman’s Bay farm is just 20 minutes away from the pretty village of Akaroa, and includes 100 hectares (250 acres) of regenerating protected native bush in the two coastal valleys.

Jill Simpson, and her husband Richard have a farm and a garden in this beautiful but challenging landscape. Richard says it is just as well the native bush land is protected or they might find themselves making that into a garden too!

When  Jill and Richard moved to Fisherman’s Bay in the late nineties the house and the farm were their top priorities. However, over time, Jill went from drawing landscape designs to planting the garden intensely.

The day we arrived, both Jill and her husband Richard were very busy getting ready for Christmas, just 10 days away. Despite this, they were very welcoming, especially considering they were expecting their family….. including 10 grandchildren…to arrive soon!

They invited us to walk through the garden and take as long as we liked..and this is where we began..

In 2007, Jill and Richard cleared some areas near the farmhouse, and were originally thinking of planting a vegetable garden. However, Jill had always wanted a double flower border.

The plantings in these gardens are a fairly traditional mixture of roses, shrubs and perennials. Jill says ”as time has gone by, parts of the garden represent different parts of my life. This long border is a memory of cottage gardens popular everywhere when my children were young.’

The garden slopes down towards the coast, winding paths leading the way through a shady fern gully, to perennial gardens, to an exposed rock garden..all of it a feast for the eyes!

Jill has designed her garden with the structure and texture of New Zealand native plants combined with a diverse array of non-native plants.

Red Daylilies growing in and around the Smoke bush.

She has made sure that plantings become more naturalistic and less structured as you move away from the house.

The white flowering bush (Cornus) was creamy white when we were there in December, and now (looking at the garden on Instagram) it is pink. …which is just as striking.

The huge skies, the cliffs and the views of the sea, are all part of the garden, thanks to Jill’s skilful design.

In recent times, Jill has been influenced by European and American gardens seen on overseas holidays. ”As time has gone by, parts of the garden represent different parts of my life.”

How true this is of many gardeners….

 

She has taken the ideas from the new perennial movement in the UK…

and the Prairie style in the US and interpreted these ideas and plants into her New Zealand landscape.

 

Toitoi and a New Zealand grass Anementhele lessoniana on the right.

Despite the pleasant summer weather during our visit,  Richard said winters can be a challenge.

Akaroa and the Fisherman’s Bay are at the Southern tip of the Banks Peninsula, and are exposed to winds from the Antarctic ..

Looking across the sea from here, the next land mass is the Antarctic.  Well, at least that is one  weather problem Aussies do not have! (except in Tasmania)

Jill is a keen collector of native hebes, and the garden has more than 150 species (at last count) and cultivars.

 

Arthropodium cirratum in flower

We saw many of these pretty white flowers in parks and gardens in New Zealand. They are very hardy plants and flower for an extended time in summer.

Jill is also featured in a book called Flourish…which profiles some New Zealand gardens and their creators..

what I’ve learnt is that you can’t go against such an amazing landscape. The garden has to work with it..”

At the end of our stroll through this beautiful garden Richard invited us to sit and have some coffee in their barn, now used as a tea/coffee room, filled with gardening books and interesting magazines which Fisherman’s Bay garden has been featured in… A lovely end to the day..

Many thanks to Jill and Richard, for allowing us to visit their garden at this time. It lived up to all my expectations, and more.

It was a joy to look back at this garden during a summer of bushfires in Australia. It is a reminder of the pleasure and sense of place gardens bring to us all.

References:

Dreamscapes by Claire Takacs

Australian Dreamscapes by Claire Takacs

Jill Simpson Instagram:  fishermansbay.nz/

Claire Takacs: Instagram: clairetakacs

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

The Brindabella Mountains near our home in Canberra

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

photo by Affordable Travel Club

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

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

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

Water…water everywhere..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

Summer bush fires, Port Macquarie, the koala hospital..

Summer can be a fearful time in Australia. This year has seen prolonged drought in many parts of the country, and, with drought comes bushfires..

In 2003 Canberra experienced the worst bush fire in the city’s history.  In one afternoon, 400 homes and 4 lives were lost. A time seared in the memory of all who lived through it.

This eerie smoke filled photo was taken at 3.00 pm in the afternoon in our street, as we all filled cars and prepared to leave our homes.(soon afterwards we were saved by a change in wind direction)

This month there have many  protracted fires in Queensland and northern NSW, and our thoughts and best wishes go out to those affected.

It is heart-breaking to see people confronted with homes burnt to the ground, and animals, and birds, unable to escape the burning flames.

newcastleherald.com.au

Amongst the towns and regions most affected, is one known fondly by my family, the pretty coastal town of Port Macquarie.

Port Macquarie Maps

My parents lived in Port Macquarie, and my brother and his family still live there.

Port Macquarie ..Lighthouse Beach photo by portmacquarieinfo.com.au

We had many happy summer holidays there while our families were growing up.

My parents owned a small house and a very big garden  (some might say a jungle) running down to a creek, and surrounded by beautiful mature Eucalyptus trees.

My Father at the bottom of the garden!

As soon as we arrived for our holiday, Dad would take the girls down to the trees to say hello to the fairies….. when branches rubbed together in the wind.

….this tradition lasted a long time and is a lovely lifetime memory for us all.

(And a big thanks to my brother who kept that lovely garden under control until Mum and Dad died in 2000.)

One of the big attractions for young families visiting in Port Macquarie was Peppermint Park, with all kinds of rides, a big water slide and lots of shady trees  (for parents like me to sit under and enjoy some summer reading)

The water slide at Peppermint Park

The day this photo was taken a koala fell out of one of the big Eucalyptus trees overhead, right into the water slide. He slide to the bottom and ran (koala fashion) back to his tree, no harm done…but much excitement amongst the onlookers!

My parents lived just opposite the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, and  we often walked over to see the koalas. This hospital was established in 1973, and is not only for sick and injured koalas but for research into koala’s health and diseases.

Today, with fires raging,  this hospital is inundated with fire-affected koalas, many in intensive care units being fed formula and having their burns regularly dressed.

Some of the koalas, on the way to recovery, are adjusting to mittens and gloves, which help them to move around while their paws are healing. The photos I have seen of the koalas when they first arrive are heart-breaking, but many recover surprisingly quickly.. as seen with this very healthy looking koala below.

International Fund for Animal Welfare

The Animal Rescue Craft Guild has also been using pillowcases, and flannelette sheets for pouches for young kangaroos and wallabies.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare

The hospital has been overwhelmed with  donations of money, food, towels and pharmaceutical supplies. The money will enable wildlife organisations to distribute drinking stations for koalas and other wildlife in the fire ravaged areas.

Northern Star

This year the fires have begun earlier than usual, and are more widespread, and much more difficult to contain. Although each state has a firefighting service, we could not do without the volunteer fighters; all firefighters  are affectionately known as ”the firies”.

The town of Port Macquarie, thanking ”the firies”  on a smoke filled day.

When the fires are burning, volunteers are needed on all fronts, local people and charity groups are invaluable in providing food and accommodation to the firefighters, and this is often for indefinite periods of time. The people who are left homeless are suspended in an unreal world, often without much money or shelter, to continue a normal life. The kindness of friends and neighbours and other members of the community is paramount.

Daily Telegraph> Northern Beaches

So, many thanks and salute to those who fight fires, and those who help on a voluntary basis, not to mention the reciprocal help and support given by firefighters from California, Canada and New Zealand…..doesn’t that just give you hope for the world?

However, much as Australians understand that bush fires are a fact of life, the amount of bush fires burning across the country this year suggests we are in uncharted territory. It is not sustainable to assume we can always rely on volunteers, and hope that the fires won’t be as bad next year; long term planning is needed …. hopefully both state and federal governments will soon begin serious discussion on future policies and budgets for our changing world.

I have used this David Attenborough quote before, but it’s worth a repeat:

It seems to me that the natural world is a great source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. 

It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living. 

Many thanks for taking the time to read my blog, and may you be warm in winter and cool in summer.

PS: Two koalas from the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital appear in the National Geographic DVD, and these two superstars are called Crescent Head Jimmy, and Oxley Twinkles.

I can’t help thinking my first photo of the cute koala in yellow mittens might be Oxley Twinkles!

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Floriade, early morning spring flowers, cockatoos caught in action.

Floriade is Canberra’s biggest celebration of spring.

It takes most of the year for the ACT gardeners to prepare for Floriade, and the results are always wonderful. 

In September Commonwealth Park is ablaze with over one million blooms.

There are horticultural workshops, market traders, entertainment, food and wine, and an ever expanding program of music. Most children who have been brought up in Canberra, have, at some time in their school life, played or performed in a concert at Floriade.

There is also a nightfest, which is very popular, generally, but especially for  photographers; Instagram just explodes with amazing photos at this time.

Floriade Visit Canberra

Every year there is a different theme, this year is World in Bloom.

Somehow these magnificent gardeners, manage to make patterns and pictures out of the beds of flowers. The best way to look at the patterns is from the Ferris Wheel, of course.

The green parsley makes an ideal pathway through the flowers.

Considering the festival runs for one month, I am always amazed at the rounds of tulips, daffodils, poppies, pansies and many other flowers that all seem to flower…more or less on time!

These gorgeous white tulips were just too much for one contrary cockatoo….. I noticed him

walking along the brick wall, lopping the stems of the white tulips as he went.

Unfortunately I didn’t catch him on camera, as he flew away…

leaving a couple of younger cockatoos who were enthusiastically learning from the boss. They were enjoying the smaller deep purple tulips. (tulips seemed to be loved by birds and all kinds of small annoying critters world wide)

Poor tulips, blooming so beautifully one minute, and limp and dried out the next…

Now I wonder who did that?

When I checked on the problems of planting for Floriade (website ‘About Regional’) I wasn’t surprised to read that cockatoos were some of the worst offenders….coupled with hares and feral cats.

The annuals can be affected by early frosts, and need netted beds to keep away the water hens who pluck the young plants out of the ground.

The never-ending battles that face most gardeners at some time during the year.

A mural of the War Memorial (left) and Parliament House (right)

I always admire murals….. imagine how long it must take to get everything in proportion!

The Heart Foundation funds an early morning walk for anyone to join, and we did join them this year. It was sheer bliss to be able to see Floriade in the early morning, and before all the crowds arrived. All they asked was a gold coin donation.

I hope you are enjoying your spring or autumn where ever you are in the world, and are finding some time to enjoy the small simple pleasures.

 

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

Lambley Nursery and Gardens…

In September, we did a trip through Victoria, and visited Lambley Nursery, which is featured in my favourite gardening book, Australian Dreamscapes.

David Glen, a highly respected nurseryman and owner of Lambley Nursery has been a passionate gardener since his childhood in England. However when he moved to the harsh windswept plains of Central Victoria, and opened a nursery, he soon realised he would have to re-think his garden and plants.

we decided to use plants that would not only survive our hot, dry summers and cold winters, but could survive on very little water. Extremes are the new normal now and every season is unpredictable.”

Lambley, in the Great Dividing Range, Victoria has temperatures that range from -6 degrees (C)  (21F) in winter to 45 degrees (C) (113F) in summer. The nursery, and every section of the garden are surrounded by thick hedges to protect it from the winds that frequently sweep across the plains.

Our Canberra climate is similar, so we were very interested in the nursery and gardens and hoped to buy some plants for our own garden. We began in the enclosed dry garden…

….. what a treat to see such colour and texture in a garden that receives so little extra water.

Although David specialises in dry climate plants, as you can see from this garden, this doesn’t necessarily mean only native or cactus plants, but plants from all over the world that have a similar climate. David researched plants from places like Turkey and California, tested and propagated them.

 

After the dry garden, we strolled around this beautiful property, following wide paths, hedges and pines leading from vegetable gardens to spring bulbs to fruit trees…..a sight to behold!

The paths and hedges leading to garden ”rooms” were reminiscent of Monty Don’s garden (as seen on BBC Gardeners’ World).

These gardens are full of tulips, poppies, more flowers, vegetables, fruit trees and beds resting before new planting begins..

 

 

The nursery is extensive, and we were guided by their seasonal catalogues. Lambley is one of the few places in Australia that propagates a wide range of frost hardy and drought tolerant evergreen and deciduous plants and shrubs, and their online business is very popular.

As you can imagine we spend a lot of time buying plants…. the heart always rules the head, and I hope we can fit them all into our garden now…..but that will be for another post.

It would be wonderful to have this nursery nearby if you were starting a big garden as we were years ago.

The countryside around Lambley is picturesque, with wide skies, long stretches of farm land amongst the gently rolling hills.

As we drove  away we watched a farmer and his family gently herding some sheep along the road, (unfortunately I didn’t get a photo)…the youngsters were riding quad bikes very slowly, and the little boy was being shepherded by his mother…

What a very different life he will have to our little granddaughter, being brought up in the city of Melbourne, not far away.

The church at Ascot, close to Lambley.

www.lambley.com.au

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog, and I hope you are enjoying your season where ever you are in the world. If you are a gardener in Australia, may the sun shine and the rain fall.