Cockatoos, Christmas and Mount Taylor …..

Just before Christmas, we had an unexpected visitor. ..

A group of cockatoos were helping themselves to the flowers on our apricot tree, and when Paul chased them away he noticed that one of birds was walking, rather than flying away.

It seemed to be a young cockatoo, perhaps a male, with a very protective mother who walked along the path with him. (I wish I’d taken a photo of them)

 I hoped they would both fly away, and I returned to the house to get on with Christmas preparations.

Anxious relatives watching from the carport roof..

However, a few hours later, the cockatoo was still sitting under a tree in the garden. He has a mark on his head…..we wondered if he’d had a “crash landing” in the garden while the apricot raid was on..

...behind the cockatoo there are.. two metal statues of magpies

I decided to call WIRES (NSW Wildlife Information, Rescue, & Education service.) and I had a chat to a very helpful person called Lyn. She asked if the cockatoo had a tail, (which he didn’t have, compared with the other cockatoos) and this indicated he was definitely a Juvenile.

This photo was taken some time ago, and gives an example of the wing-span and tail of a healthy youngster..

Lyn then gave me an interesting, and amusing insight into the life of a young cockatoo. During the mating season, Sulphur Crested Cockatoos nest high in the hollow of gum (Eucalyptus) trees. The parents share the incubation of two to four eggs and feed nestlings for about 6 -8 weeks. Cockatoos may have as many as four young cockatoos in the hollow for a long time.!

Lyn said, ‘‘as you can imagine they are quite stunned and very reliant on their parents when they leave the hollow!”

These two photos were taken in Rushcutters’s Bay in Sydney last spring

Lyn said WIRES members, understandably do not take young birds if they are being fed by their parents. When the parents stop feeding the juvenile cockatoos starts to become independent and usually have developed well enough to fly.

The young mother on the left, looking after the juvenile cockatoo

The young cockatoo, settled into one of our Japanese Maple trees. He pulled himself up by his beak and claws, looking a little stunned, but always with his mother close by.

The mother of the young Cockatoo feeding him.

Fortunately our cockatoo family were very quiet (which is VERY unusual). His mother was completely devoted to him, she arrived about dawn every morning, fed him and often spent time preening him, and then she flew off, and came back in the evening to feed him again.. Paul and I sometimes wondered if he was going to be bigger than his mother..

Meanwhile Christmas was just a few days away, and our daughter, son-in-law and our two grandchildren were arriving any minute. They live in the inner city of Melbourne, and so they greeted the idea of a young cockatoo in the tree, with great interest.

Christmas day was a happy family time, fortunately the young cockatoo and his energetic mother had moved to a densely covered Bottlebrush at the bottom of the garden, and we made sure they had peace and quiet there. Our granddaughter made the cockatoo a nest out of paper plates, and thoughtfully left it under the plum tree.

The parents continued to watch over their youngster, and his mother spent time gently spreading out his wings …very poignant to watch.

The cockatoo family gradually moved to another very quiet garden, and we are not sure exactly what has happened to him now, but I hope he is learning to fly..

Once Christmas was over, presents had been opened, visitors had come and gone, there were a couple more things to do. Paul wanted to harvest his abundant bed of carrots, and had two willing helpers. They loved it, nothing like getting your hands in soil!

Once the carrots were harvested and cleaned, we had one more box to tick….we don’t have many traditions in Canberra, but almost everyone enjoys the outdoors.

We have lived on the slopes of Mount Taylor for many years. Our tradition is that when we get together, we make a bit of a trek along the path to the middle section of Mount Taylor .

The following photos have been taken over the span of many years …

When our daughters were young we walked up the path to look at the view, to see if we could spot our house, and to look for the kangaroos.

Lake Tuggeranong and surrounding suburbs
the kangaroos relaxing on Mt Taylor..

Paul, our son-in-law Anthony, and our grandson and granddaughter walked half way up Mt Taylor. They didn’t see many kangaroos, but they loved the climb, especially our grandson who is three and half years old. He couldn’t wait to tell his Mum ..

“I went to the mountain: and I loved it!”

the path leading home ….
Guess what they saw while they climbed the mountain…a cockatoo looking ahead..

Happy New Year to everyone, and thank you for taking the time to read my blog post, during this busy time of the year.

In the words of David Attenborough:

It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest 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...

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

Canberra in late spring: ladders and gardens….

Lately we’ve had a very busy time spring cleaning the house and garden.

Paul suggested painting the cabin, which was long overdue. The good news was we had recently bought (at great expense) a very solid and reliable ladder.

However, I had recently read about the many household and garden accidents as a result of home usage of ladders.

Despite our new ladder, I was concerned about “the father of the bride”.

So, it was agreed, I would come out and hold the ladder where there were uneven surfaces.

Everything went smoothly, and while I held the ladder occasionally , I had time to look around the garden, on that lovely warm spring day..

While I stood holding the ladder, I saw some of the flowers in the garden that I hadn’t noticed recently. When there was a chance, I went inside to get my camera.

Love in the mist …taking over the garden, but in a pleasant way..

After a while I sat in a garden seat, but still kept an eye on Paul’s progress, especially when he changed the position of the ladder.

From my new position, it seems the garden is changing daily. The last of the sweet peas have almost doubled in size, competing with the hedge to reach the sun. They still have their wonderful scent, which always reminds me of my mother.

The Wormwood shrub was shining in the sun, whereas the Chinese lanterns in the photo below are closing up….. enough sun!

Lupin

The Lupin above has been featured in a previous post of mine, and I’m proud of this showy shrub because we have tried to grow them in previous years, with no luck.

However from my observation garden seat, I noticed for the first time that the Lupin had several saplings self seeded in the pathway! I’m now hoping we can grow more Lupins for the garden.

Years ago, I read and kept a great quote from a fellow gardening blogger, Rhonda, whose blog is called Down to Earth.

A garden will give you much more than vegetables, herbs, and fruit…..if you let it. It gives a sense of peace and connecting with the natural world, a place to think and a quiet haven from a noisy world…When you create your garden make sure you have a few seats to remind you to linger……”

It is lovely to turn into our street and see the beautiful Brindabella Mountains, everything is looking green and we are all hoping for a peaceful summer without bushfires.

Best wishes, and where ever you are in this noisy world, may you find a quiet haven.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

Spring time in Canberra, the garden, the birds and housing for chickens..

Despite the changeable weather, and perhaps because we have had so much rain, all the spring flowers and bulbs were smiling this year..

The wind blows relentlessly across this part of the garden, but the tulips stand firm… I love them!

The Aquilegias are thriving in the garden, which is quite remarkable because the possum (and family, we think) pay a nightly visit to this part of the garden…. they jump into and over the flowers to get onto the plum tree. Very very annoying!

The garden looks a colourful yellow in early spring, the daffodils defy all odds and come up looking stronger every year. The yellow flowering plant on the left is Bulbinella Nutans, which we bought at Lambley Nursery in Victoria.

Australian native plants have their own colour and beauty especially in the early morning light.

This part of the garden has become very shady, with maturing Manchurian Pear trees, Japanese Maples and big and small birdbaths. All birds have their favourites!

This delicate Japanese Maple attracts the tiny Silver-eye birds and the Honey-eaters. These birds come to the tree even when we are sitting under the branches. Our granddaughter says this is because it is a magic tree.

Paul has grown some lovely vegetables this year. He has just cut some Silverbeet and he gave some to our neighbours, Lois and Sandi.

Sandi made four Spanakopita pies and gave one to us. It was delicious and we took a photo of our empty plates, and sent them to him. Spanakopitas is a Savoury Greek spinach pie.

In early spring we noticed this little Sulphur Crested Cockatoo while we were walking up Heartbreak Hill. It was soon joined by a large (noisy) group of Cockatoos. Phew!

We are frequent visitors to Open Gardens, and quite often we see varied chicken coops.

A chicken coop with a creative flair.
I liked Cluckingham Palace

This chicken coop is in the wonderful estate of Retford Park in Bowral. What lucky chickens, it may even be temperature controlled.

The Retford Park gardens

I hope you are enjoying spring, or autumn in your part of the world. During this time of turbulence across the world, I am acutely aware of the peace, tranquillity, and friendship we find in our garden, our home and our neighbourhood.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

Choughs, Bower Birds and Cockatoos: while we’re away, the birds will play..

There is no doubt about it, although we have a wonderful range of birds in Canberra, the big birds are troublesome in the winter. This year we’ve had an abundance of rain, so there is plenty of greenery, lovely rich soil (thanks to Paul’s hard work) so there are worms aplenty. We also have four birdbaths, with fresh water and/or rain water.

However, a cockatoo on top of the veggie patch is an absolute no-no, and luckily we got home in time to see this… they do humour us by flying off when we chase them. ..but all gardeners know, they’ll be back!

However, this winter we have two breeds of birds that are new to this area. The White-winged Choughs, apparently are very sociable and love to move around in groups of up to ten.

White-winged Choughs (perhaps too young to have their tipped white wings.)

According to the website, Birds in Backyards, White-Winged Choughs have claws a bit like a chicken, and can dig with their beaks and scratch with their claws. While we were away, they took the opportunity to rake over our back garden, and gradually turned over the veggie patch. We had a hard time persuading them to leave their garden paradise.

White-winged Choughs..

White winged Choughs are found in southern and eastern Australia, and are only distantly related to the European choughs. However, Kent Wildlife states that Choughs in Britain have a long history in heraldry in glass sculpture, coats of arms, flags, and even signs.

I read that Choughs are connected with kingship, nobility, wisdom and might.

I couldn’t wait to tell Paul our Choughs had long distance prestigious cousins. Paul, perhaps a little garden weary said “we should add that Australian choughs are just a nuisance.

The Choughs have flown off to greener pastures, thank goodness, because we now have the Bower Birds.

Two female Bower Birds picking through the wires to reach the sweet peas.

Last year they pecked away at the foliage of our garlic crop, and this year they decimated the rhubarb and any other sign of life in the veggie garden.

Paul says they sound like Ewoks in Star Wars as they seem to chat and whistle to each other in the neighbouring trees. They are still visiting the garden, and we are still chasing them away.

Life is never dull with all these birds in the garden, but every now and then it is just lovely to see a shy King Parrot, patiently waiting for other birds to finish drinking from the bird bath. Perhaps we need a Canberra Coat of Arms for our King Parrot.

One thing about having cockatoos around every corner, we’re never lonely!

Best wishes to everyone, and may you have pleasant weather and enjoy your day.

Canberra’s winter: birds, kangaroos and walking tracks..

Canberrans often complain about our winters, which are generally colder than coastal areas nearby. However, when I looked through my photos of winter in Canberra I decided to look on the bright side.

canoeing on Lake Burley Griffin

Canberra in late autumn, early winter can be beautiful, and for many people it is a time for rowing, cycling, running and walking and taking photos.

One of my favourite occupations is looking out the window into our back garden and taking photos of the birds we often see in winter.

Here are a family of King Parrots who fly in to drink melted water from the gutter of our cabin in the garden. I love watching these beautiful birds because they are very cautious and shy and we hardly ever see them during other seasons.

The male Australian King Parrot has a completely red head, and the females are similar to the males except that they have a completely green head and breast…easier to distinguish in the photo below.

In winter we often go to the Australian Botanic Gardens, there are always a few colourful native plants and an abundance of birds ….especially early in the morning.

Canberra is a planned city with many parks and bushland. We often go for winter walks along Coolaman Ridge Nature Track, which has a winding track around a mountain ridge. Quite often in winter the kangaroos are slow to start the day and you can see a little Joey still half asleep enjoying the warmth of the sunshine on the rocks.

The photo below shows the kangaroos in languish mode, along a track near Mount Taylor, near where we live. This photo was taken a while ago (in winter) and since then this area has become very popular as a walking track, and a place to take dogs for a walk. Fortunately there is a fence between the walking track and the kangaroos, who spend time on the other side of the mountain.

We saw these kangaroos at Weston park, and although they are watchful, they are used to people strolling by and taking photos occasionally.

As the winter sun sets, the view from our street is of the Brindabella Mountains…the colours change from hour to hour. The currawongs call is a familar sound in the evening, time to close the curtains, turn the heater up, and be very, very thankful we live in a peaceful part of the world.

Best wishes to everyone, and I hope you are enjoying your patch of sunshine where ever it may be…

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

A cruise down the Nepean River and a visit to the Mother Earth Nursery…

On a sunny autumn day, Paul and I joined a group of gardeners from the Bowral Garden Club on a coach trip to the Nepean River. This tour included a cruise down the Nepean river on The Nepean Belle, an old world style paddle wheeler designed on the Mississippi sternwheelers.

The tour included a picnic lunch and a visit to the Mother Earth Nursery, known to be a gardener’s delight!

Our Nepean Belle on the right hand side

We had an early start boarding the bus and drove to the Nepean River, with a few eye-catching moments on the way. As we turned towards Penrith, we passed the construction and building of the new airport in Western Sydney.

The new airport being constructed in west Sydney..

It was an amazing sight, (even from the road rather than the air) with enormous cranes that could match windmills, and along the highway we could see suburb upon suburb of new houses. All the houses seemed very close together, hardly a bit of space for gardens, and not a tree in sight anywhere!

Many years ago, as a very young teacher, I taught at a school around this area, but with no airports, and no suburbs. In fact, my walk from the train to the school was surrounded by paddocks! Now the city has come to the country!

None the less, this is a beautiful part of the world on the edge of the Blue Mountains National Park.

The Nepean Belle slowy moving through the water to pick up our group..

Once we boarded the boat, and chatted to fellow passengers, we were served with tasty scones, strawberry jam and cream. As you can imagine, after our early start, the scones and tea/coffee were very welcome!

The Nepean River (and the Hawkesbury River) supplies water to the city of Sydney’s five million people, as well as providing agricultural production. As such, it is a lifeline for Sydney.

As the Nepean river is at the base of the Blue Mountains National Park, it provides a haven for natural flora and native wild life, and has walking trails and canoeing and kayaking.

Some of the wildlife seen in this area are, wombats, wallabies, lizards, eagles, cormorants and even mountain goats. We did see one White Breasted Sea Eagle, but no other sign of any other wildlife.

The White Breasted Sea Eagle perched on a branch. Flood damage is very obvious in this photo..

The Nepean and Hawksbury rivers have flooded many times, however, the flood in July 2022 was the worst since 1978.

On the cruise it was easy to see the damage done by these floods, with broken trees and huge boulders rolled across cliffs and sand..

Fortunately some trees show amazing resilience, growing in between rocks, with very little soil.

This photos show the long winding Nepean River and the edge of the Blue Mountains National Park

To end the day, here we are at Mother Earth Nursery, with an enormous amount of plants to buy or just look at and enjoy..

Mystic Spires and Santa Barbara (Mexican Sage)

…and here we are back home, with our two new plants and a wish list for Paul for two new Dahlias

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog today, and best wishes to all who are gardening in spring and those who are enjoying autumn (some of the time)

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

Canberra in autumn, down memory lane ..

Canberra is the capital of Australia, a planned city, with many parks, bush trails, green spaces and lakes. However as with many capital cities, Canberra is often seen as short hand for federal government rather than a landscape where people live. One quote I’ve read is “”Canberra has too many politicians, too many roundabouts and too much cold weather!”

When I retired from teaching in 2013, I decided to write a blog about Canberra, the beauty of the mountains and the lakes, and also the every day life of people living in Canberra.

Paul and I took a cruise along the lake, stopping at the Governor General’s House and beautiful garden.

Many of the photos of Canberra in this post were taken between 2014 and 2017, when I began blogging, and regular readers may recognise some of the photos…

The Governor General’s House

Canberra in autumn is usually sunny, warm and pleasant, the best season of the year for planning gardens, going for walks, runs and rides, and taking photos!

Lake Burley Griffin in autumn, gorgeous Manchurian Pears and Black Mountain Tower in the distance.
National Library of Australia, a Tourist boat and the Manchurian Pears in full bloom.

Spring in Canberra can be windy and chilly, but the beautiful Manchurian Pears are out in bloom, which lifts the spirits. The National Library of Australia is one of my favourite buildings, often seen in my blog, I know! The small rather quaint tourist boat has, for many years, taken tourists who prefer a gentle slow tour of the lake.

In our early days of retirement, I was so keen to take photos that I dragged Paul out before dawn to walk around Lake Burley Griffin…. always worth it.

Canberra is full of early morning rowers, riders and walkers.

We often walk around the Parliamentary Triangle, and I love this Federal Government building…amongst others.

The Cockatoos under the Oak trees.

All along the paths the trees are changing, and the birds are in attendance.

The Cockatoos tend to eat with their left claw, uninterrupted by pesty photographers.
Galahs often feed close to Cockatoos, but today this Galah is with two small Red Rumped Parrots
Australian King Parrots deep in leaves!
A young cockatoo attacking the last of the tomatoes.

During summer and autumn we eat breakfast on our deck, overlooking our garden.

At the risk of getting indigestion we often have an interrupted breakfast to chase big and little birds out of the veggie patch..

Thank you for taking the time to read my post today, and may your autumn or spring gardens be full of colour and joy.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

Canberra in summer: gardens, sunshine and life with cockatoos

Canberra’s usual spring planting was lost to rainy weather. Finally, close to December, the rain stopped falling and the sun came out, but most of us were still struggling with Hayfever, after months of long grasses growing in between suburbs and on verges of gardens.

The rain prevented the lawns and pathways from being mowed.

Once the rain stopped and the sunshine came through, it was lovely to walk through the garden and see it blossoming for summer.

We’ve never tried growing Lupins before, but during Covid we ordered three Lupin plants online, and this was the only one of three that survived, and thrived! The bees loved it.

The Salvias have also attracted the bees, and although I was tempted to trim this red Salvia as it spread, I took my cue from the bees buzzing around me!

When we visited the UK I was amazed to see hedges of fuchsias growing like weeds. They are tricky to grow in this part of Australia, but these two seem hale and hearty.

Hydrangea

This hydrangea is loving its place under the plum tree and this year it has the right amount of water and sunshine.

Paul has grown an impressive crop of garlic this year, and to think he was worried that our continual rain in November, might affect the crop. Once the crop has dried out, (in our garden shed) Paul will keep the garlic under the house, in a cool dark shelf.

Buddleia /Buddleja (not sure of the spelling here)

I have included this lovely plant although it grows in Melbourne, near the home of our daughter and family. Our granddaughter, aged five, said she watched a cartoon about bees, and when they saw tempting flowers, they said to each other “Let’s have a party!”

This gorgeous blue flower is always full of bees having a party, and if we ever have a space in our garden, we’ll try to grow it.

Canberra has many paths between suburbs and plenty of choice of walks. During the summer months Paul and I walk almost every day. One of our favourite walks is near “Five Ways” otherwise known as Ken’s garden, which I featured last year.

We live on the side of Mount Taylor and so we walk up a path called Heartbreak Hill (named by one of our neighbours) and along to Ken’s garden and then back home.

Red Hot Pokers and Agapanthus

Ken began by planting some Red Hot Pokers and Agapanthus on the verge of his house and garden, and then gradually extended the garden.

It is a wonderful social space where people tend to linger on a summer day, chatting to Ken, his wife, or other passers-by. It is very much valued by the community.

Not to mention birds, and Wattle Birds in particular, as you can see.

Wattle bird feeding on Red Hot Pokers.

The birds in Canberra have never had such a feast of grasses, flowers, seeds and berries. As a result we now have far more big birds than usual, many living on Mount Taylor near us. (Currawongs, Ravens and Cockatoos)

When it comes to Cockatoos, the War of the Roses has nothing on the Wars for space in the best Eucalyptus trees. We live opposite two mature Eucalyptus trees, and this summer, there has been constant screeching and chasing each other in and out of the trees. Their wingspan is incredible and their screeches can be ear-splitting.

When they are in the trees, they often peel the bark and drop it, or they shred flowering trees, (or our Almond tree.)

Mercifully they all seem to fly off to the mountains once their young are mature enough to be self-sufficient.

Paul found this wonderful card in the National Library, and it just sums up cockatoos perfectly……

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog today, and may you be happy and healthy in 2023.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

Christmas in Canberra: birds, books, bloggers and flowers

Christmas is such a busy time that I’m going to keep this post, short and sweet.

The first sweet item is a book that I ordered online, through Booktopia. It has arrived in time for Christmas! This book is part of a series, written by Laurie Graves. Laurie lives in Maine, USA and I live in Canberra, Australia, so we couldn’t be further apart, but the wonderful part of blogging is getting to know and enjoy fellow bloggers. I have been reading Laurie’s blog posts for a few years now, and I know just how much time and effort she has put into this series.

We are a family who love stories and reading and we’ll enjoy this book. Many thanks Laurie!

Rainbow Lorikeets

My granddaughter pointed out these Rainbow Lorikeets in the playground, completely oblivious of children playing around them.

This Crimson Rosella has spent some time in our garden this year, without a partner….very unusual, hopefully the new year brings a partner.

Another Crimson Rosella, this time at the coast. He or she is navigating the spiky bush very well considering she has a beak full of food!

We recently bought a Hibiscus shrub to put on our deck, and this is the reward, a regular supply of beautiful flowers.

Another Rainbow Lorikeet swaying in the breeze…

A flashback to winter. Every year we get a visit from a pair of Kookaburras, and this year they had two juvenile Kookaburras with them.

There is something endearing about Kookaburras, and perhaps it is their early morning call, one of the unique sounds of the bush in Australia.

We walk past this plant in a neighbour’s garden almost every day in spring. I don’t know the name of this wonderful plant but it lights up the garden in the early morning.

It looks like Waratah flower with the leaves of a Woolly bush.

Many thanks for taking the time to read my blog post today, and may you all have a peaceful Christmas where ever you are in the world.

PS the header photo is a red flowering Eucalyptus …it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

The garden, the birds and an occasional kangaroo….quiet distractions from a weary world.

Having featured the Sydney Opera House in my last post, this week the Opera House had displayed the colours of the Ukraine, appropriate for these times

With such turmoil in the world this week, it was a quiet distraction and a joy to take a photo of this lovely Gardenia….the creamy petals are just soaking up the rain amongst the dark green foliage. We have two Gardenias in our garden, and this one has never flowered until this summer. ….it has tried, but the flowers never quite made it.

This summer, according to the Bureau of Meteorology, in our region, we have had 200% more rain than our average summer rainfall. As Canberra is often in drought, there is something magical about rain, and everything is green and growing. However, it is possible to have too much of a good thing, and parts of Queensland and New South Wales are experiencing severe flooding. It is either a feast or famine in Australia.

Meanwhile, our garden is greener than normal, and the zucchinis threaten to take over, along with the borage… I’m looking up recipes which include zucchini whenever I can..

Canberra’s usual season for newborn birds is spring: September, October, November.

This very young magpie is a February baby, and is bravely learning to fly.

Perhaps the abundance of food this year has increased breeding time.

The cockatoos are having field day eating from all the fruit trees. In our immediate neighbourhood they are enjoying plums, apples and almonds..no wonder they look so healthy!

…..and you can just throw the rest away, Paul and Gerrie will clean up the mess

These young Galahs look quite endearing, but when they are waiting to be fed they make a very insistent chanting call. I’m glad they are not in our garden!

One of the paths we walk almost every day.

Recently my neighbour went for an early morning walk, and as she past Ken’s garden, she saw a kangaroo grazing. Kangaroos sometimes come down from Mount Taylor to eat on the sweet and abundant grasses in the surrounding suburbs.

I rushed out with my camera, but the kangaroo had disappeared by the that time.

Red Hot Pokers, in Ken’s garden, and Mount Taylor in the distance..

However, I’ve added a photo of a kangaroo, because we do have many kangaroos living in the bushland between suburbs in Canberra. It is not unusual to see kangaroos on our morning walks. The photo below was taken on an early morning walk along Chapman Ridge.

Kangaroos waking up slowly on a winter’s morning on Mount Taylor.

When the rain finally stops, it is a joy to see the Brindabella Mountains again, especially as it was only two years since the devastating summer bushfires were burning on these mountains, how nature replenishes and repairs…

Many thanks for taking the time to read my blog, and best wishes to all those, especially children, trapped in the madness of war. Having taught many children from war-torn countries, what they taught me is to never give up hope.

Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.