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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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…
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!
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.
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.
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 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..
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..
…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)
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.
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…
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!
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.
All along the paths the trees are changing, and the birds are in attendance.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
This year, Australia, like so many other countries, has been battling against unusual weather patterns, in between coping with a pandemic. We have had an unprecedented amount of rain this year in our region. I read today that there might be a locust plague in the Eastern States of Australia due to our excessive rainfall.
Despite all this, as the Desiderata poem quotes,
“with all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world”
This wonderful poem was found in old Saint Paul’s Church, Baltimore dated 1692
To end the year, I’ve chosen some photos taken through the year, and the seasons.
Photos that show some of the more pleasurable moments in an otherwise difficult year.
Winter was particularly dreary this year, but we did have one highlight. Every afternoon, at almost exactly 4.00 pm this pair of King parrots came down to the bird bath. The female would drink, while the male perched on a branch of a nearby tree, then she would perch on the same branch while the male came down to drink. Then they flew off together.
Each following their instincts for survival, but touching none the less.
In spring the King Parrot pair, brought their young one to the wires above the garden almost every day to feed. What a delight!
During the winter we occasionally looked after our daughter’s dog Charlie.
Charlie doesn’t believe in sleep-ins, and I guess he is right, the winter mornings are lovely, especially with so much greenery and soft pinks and blues around mountains at dawn.
The pansies below have been in the garden for nearly two years! I don’t think we have ever had such a robust bed of pansies. Whatever anti-ageing tablets they are taking, I ‘d line up for them too!
They seem to be smiling all through winter.
I have often mentioned Ken’s garden in my posts. Ken is a neighbour, whose passion is his garden. He works tirelessly all through the winter to tend, not only his own garden, but to the verge around his property. This is a great public space for children to enjoy and for adults to chat.
Our own garden has never been so green, and shady…
Many thanks for reading my blog post today, I appreciate readers and comments, and enjoy following fellow bloggers, it is a wonderful window into other worlds.
Canberra has been in Lockdown for over two months now and there are just one or two highlights every day that keep us afloat. We are allowed a daily walk, and fortunately there are many paths and bush trails near us…
and lots of gardens to look at along the way.
Even in the middle of winter, it is lovely to get outside and walk around. Another daily highlight is buying a take-away coffee at our local café. It’s the small pleasures that count.
The Brindabella Mountains around us are a deep blue hue in winter and early spring. Even with our mandatory masks on, the clear mountain air is a tonic.
Almost everyone I know has become a bit more reflective in Lockdown, we all appreciate family, friends and neighbours now that we cannot spend time with them. People need people!
During this time I have been putting together some of my family history. ..and not for the first time I’m reminded of my family’s good fortune in emigrating to Australia.
It has taken three generations for my family to find a place to call home, and how lucky we are to live in Australia.
My father was born in Scotland of Irish parents…amongst his many stories he talked about hiking in the mountains of Scotland ….
I’m sure he would have loved to spend his life in the wide open spaces, which he always loved, but earning a living was the most important thing to do and he applied for and got an apprenticeship on the Clyde River in Glasgow.
My father and his brother decided to emigrate to Africa, for work, and in my father’s case, for adventure. As they boarded the ship, my grandmother stood on the dock, and said
“I wish you were all wee again”.
It was only when I was a mother myself that I realised the poignancy of that remark, he thought he was off for an adventure, but she knew the truth. Both her sons left for a better life and she never saw them again.
My mother was born in Ireland, and brought up in South Africa.
Her father and mother left Belfast and ”the troubles” only to find life in their new continent just as difficult.
My mother became a nurse, and she and my father moved to what was then Northern Rhodesia, and is now Zambia.
Although my parents had excellent skills to survive in a new country, my father had always wanted to be a farmer, and so they accepted a job of farming and care-taking a farm in a remote part of Zambia called Abercorn. In the way of new migrants, my aunt and uncle came to stay on the farm as well, and all their skills together, kept them afloat.
My older brothers and my parents loved this time of their lives, despite the trials and tribulations. The stories they told were wonderful, and I feel I missed out on something special.
However, the remote farm was a precarious long term prospect, and my father and my uncle were able to get work in one of a cluster of copper mines in Zambia.
I was born in the small mining town of Mufulira. My brothers and I had a happy childhood in this town, but, over time, there were tensions as Zambia struggled for independence. It was our temporary home.
Eventually, at the difficult age of 55, my parents made the decision and we left Africa for Australia. I was eighteen and my brothers were in their early twenties. We had a clean slate and a future full of possibilities in Australia.
It was more difficult for my parents. They left behind relatives and friends, people who had the same experiences and interests as themselves. Just as many migrant children have done, we became the bridge between our parents and the new country. At an age when we were leaving the family home, we were helping them make a home. We worried about them, often without realising how resilient they were.
When I married, it was to a 5th generation Australian. (although Paul’s ancestors are Irish too!) I was glad to know that my children had ancestors, not only from all over the world, but also in the country of their birth. Our daughters have a natural sense of belonging in Australia, they wear their nationality with ease.
The initial struggle to live in a new country was successful for my parents. They came to love Australia, and over the years they appreciated the landscape, the Australian humour, and the uncomplicated way of life.
They loved their big garden, and filled it with mango, avocado and many failed attempts at pawpaw trees. Many years later, although the house and garden have long been sold, the avocado trees survive…. which just goes to show, you can’t keep a good avocado tree down!
Lockdown is almost over in Canberra, and we will, very tentatively, begin moving around, and seeing family and friends again.
Best wishes to everyone and stay safe and sensible!
My brother, Neil lives in Sydney and every morning, regardless of the weather, he walks with a small group of like-minded guys who are up early…usually a bit before dawn.
Sydney and Canberra are in Lockdown, and residents are allowed two hours of exercise (close to home) every day in both cities. Bondi beach, and the cliffs beyond make for ever changing views of the city and the beach, especially at dawn. How very lucky they are to have these views, at any time, but especially during a Lockdown period.
One of the walkers, Tim Read, regularly takes photos with various cameras, and has kindly allowed me to show these two. Many thanks Tim.
Although Sydney is only a four hour drive away from Canberra, our climates are very different . I often envy my brother his walks as I sit shivering in my study in Canberra in winter and spring. However, our compensation is spring!
This year we had a long cold and rainy winter, and it was lovely to see the blossoms finally arrive on the plum tree..
and the almond tree..
The Wattle trees Paul planted a few years ago are enthusiastically flowering in the new garden.
We have become philosophical about the amount of blossoms lost to the birds…
In fact the King Parrot feeds on blossoms just above us, as we sit on the deck having coffee, blossoms raining down like confetti.
Canberra’s suburbs are surrounded by paths and bushland, and during these Lockdown periods many Canberrans have joined the Facebook Wildlife photography group, and are publishing a wide range of colourful parrots and birds.
We live in one of the outer suburbs of Canberra, and McQuoids Hill, a nature park nearby, has become a very popular walking destination since Lockdown.
This landscape is very similar to the landscape of my childhood and that of my brothers, in Central Africa.
We have only seen kangaroos on walks in this area, but people regularly take photos of Wallaroos (a cross between a wallaby and a kangaroo) so I’ll try to get a photos of them.
During winter we read an inspiring local story about Dimity May who has started a small business growing local organic seedlings tailored to our Canberra market. She called it Reid Tiny Farm. (Dimity was born and raised in Reid, a suburb of Canberra.)
Dimity had always been passionate about organic products, and has a Permaculture Design Certificate at Allsun Farm at Gundaroo. Later she completed a market gardener masterclass developed by a renowned farmer and regenerative agricultural advocate Jean Martin, based in Quebec. (an online course mainly for professional growers)
She’s had a challenging start to her business, with baking hot days last year, followed by torrential rain this year. However she has moved her business to Pialligo’s Garden Lots, and now has a seedling-raising cocoon tunnel purchased from Active Vista in Tasmania. Dimity’s father built the frames for the seedlings. The whole family is involved in her business, and hopefully they can continue to help her during this Lockdown.
At the start of 2020 Dimity began growing seedlings organically and has gradually developed her business. Now a subscriber can get a small or large box of seasonal seedlings four times a year.
We had subscribed to Dimity’s project during winter, and when she emailed to say our spring seedlings were ready, we were thrilled… it was just in time to start planting new seedlings and, chance to get out of the house!
Unfortunately it was teeming down with rain the morning we went to get our seedings, so I haven’t yet taken any photos of Dimity and her surroundings, or the polytunnel.
However, here is our bounty! We chose to buy a small box of seedlings (4 boxes a year, one for every season) and this spring the seedlings we have are; beetroot, radish, broccoli, cos lettuce, red butterhead lettuce, English spinach, cabbage and pak choi. (some we have given to neighbours.)
Our seedlings look very healthy and happy, and in between the seedlings we have some small plastic white butterflies to chase away real white cabbage moth/butterflies.
Dimity has, on her website, a quote by Martin Fortier (a farmer educator and award winning author) and this quote seems just right for Dimity’s business.
What we need is food grown with care by and for people who care.
Thank you for visiting my blog today, and I hope everyone can enjoy a bit of sunshine and small pleasures during these uncertain times.