Birds, Ouma’s Cookery Book, Raymond Blanc with Covid: are we changing?

We are back in Lockdown here in Canberra, as are many states of Australia. The Delta variant is a tough one, and Paul and I thank our lucky stars we are vaccinated.

The good news is, spring is on its way, and with it, come the birds. I took this photo of the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo from my study while I was typing. He/she has decided to walk along the road rather than fly. It could be that the roads are so quiet now, but as regular readers of this blog know, Cockatoos are a law unto themselves, and he is on a mission.

There is something endearing and reassuring about birds arriving in the garden during spring….. life goes on in the usual way, regardless of Lockdowns.

This Juvenile Kookaburra is a very welcome visitor, especially as a family of Kookaburras come to our garden every year in August, they are not regulars. I would like to think it is to show off the new baby, but in reality it is probably because we have plenty of birdbaths and veggie beds with worms in them.

The parent Kookaburra is taking his time at the blue birdbath.

Just before Lockdown began, we started moving all our books from a shelf near the kitchen. I pulled out a very old copy of my mother’s book, called Ouma’s Cookery Book. The first edition was published in 1940, in Pretoria, South Africa. My mother bought the seventh edition of this book in 1958. My sister-in-law has a recent edition. A publisher’s dream!

The book was compiled originally from recipes donated by women in South Africa between the first and second world wars. The first editions featured war-time recipes and gradually more recipes were added with each new edition. It is much more than just a recipe book, it has practical information on how to make do and feed a household, when times were tough. It is also full of quotes and comments and interesting social history, more relevant today with our current pandemic.

My mother, who’s own mother died when she was young, no doubt learnt all she needed to know from this book, especially when she and my father lived on a farm in a remote part of central Africa.

It is lovely to see Mum’s handwriting, she has hastily written her Lemon Delicious Pudding recipe, very popular with the whole family

Sadly it has been many years since I have used a recipe from this book, and it is only now that we are in Lockdown that I have time to go through it, and enjoy all the quotes, and perhaps try a recipe or two. (If I’m successful I’ll let you know)

I have also been reading an article in the British Edition of Country Living called To the Manor Reborn. It is the story of Raymond Blanc, a Michelin star chef and restaurant owner in London, who is recovering from Covid. He has had to work very hard to recover, and says during his recovery he thought of food and gardens, and remembered his childhood near Besancon in eastern France, where the family lived off homegrown vegetables and the odd rabbit.

The experience of Covid has changed his ideas of food.

‘I think the environment is going to define very much what we eat from now on, post-pandemic we’ll be all looking for local produce, there will be a re-discovery of lost skill. My mother created the full foundation of my food philosophy. She taught me about the soil, the environment, about joy, about sharing, about teaching.”

Since being interviewed, Raymond’s elderly mother died, and he has written a book called Simply Raymond: Recipes from Home. The book is dedicated to his mother.

It will be interesting to see how this pandemic changes us. I think there is already a rising interest in locally grown food, and we plan to increase our own garden beds with more of our produce in mind.

No matter how you get your food, the pandemic has shown me that sharing that food with friends and families is surely one of the most enjoyable experience in life. The recipe I distinctly remember as a child from Ouma’s cookery book was Koeksisters, a kind of doughy plait, exploding with syrup. Not the most healthy dish in the world, but a lovely plate to share with friends and family. South Africans are famous for their coffee, and I’m sure these Koeksisters are meant to accompany coffee or a Rooibos tea.

Koeksisters Recipe: photo by Introducing South Africa

Thank you for reading my blog today, and best wishes to everyone. May your garden, and your food and family and friends, sustain you during these Covid days.

Baby boom for birds amongst their favourite trees, scones and cream and a tree kangaroo

Crimson Rosellas in the shade of a Eucalyptus tree.

International Tree Day is coming up on Sunday 1st August. Time to celebrate all our beautiful trees in Australia. and the wonderful array of birds that rely on these trees.

The states surrounding Canberra (ACT), are either in Lockdown or just coming out of Lockdown, and everything is very wintery and quiet..

Despite a few blue skies you may see in some of today’s photos, don’t believe it…. Canberra is having a cold, rainy, windy winter.

The brightest colour in the garden this week was the cockatoo’s yellow crest.

Fortunately birds are still visiting the garden and we are also going for bush walks around Canberra, when the rain stopped. While we were walking along Coolamen Ridge, on a rare sunny day, we noticed the juvenile Kookaburra below calling for his family..

Why are we seeing juvenile birds in the middle of winter? Perhaps, as a result of the rain, there is an abundance of food… Paul suggested a bird baby boom. Well that would be something positive in these Covid times.

Two juvenile Rainbow Lorikeets exploring near the hollow in the tree…there’s always a daredevil isn’t there?

These magnificent Eucalyptus trees are providing a haven for the birds to feed on and nest in hollows. Imagine how safe and warm they would be on windy rainy days.

One of the adult Rainbow Lorikeets is the ”scout” and she has a good vantage point.

The Australian National Botanic Gardens is a wonderful place for wildlife because there are so many Eucalyptus trees.

This Crimson Rosella has returned to a hollow in a Eucalyptus tree at the gardens
Gang Gang Cockatoos are quiet and elusive and never far from the protection of Eucalyptus trees

Australia has a wide variety of bird and animal life, and while we are on the topic of trees, there is a unique marsupial very much connected to trees, called the Tree Kangaroo.

While visiting my cousin in the Atherton Tablelands in Queensland in 2017 we stopped off at the Nerada Tea farm. This is the largest supplier of Australian grown tea, and not only do they have a lovely shop with lots of interesting teas and specially selected imported teas,

they also have a tea room with very inviting scones and cream.

As this is dairy farming country the lashings of cream on warm scones was delicious but messy!

After visiting the shop, we noticed a furry animal in one of the trees….a tree kangaroo! Very difficult to take photos of these shy animals, as it is very hard to see them. They look a bit like furry teddy bears with long tails. This was the first time for all three of us to see one in the wild.

Tree Kangaroos are kangaroos that live in trees. They have small ears and shorter legs and arms, their feet have curved claws for gripping and climbing. They are marsupials and are the largest tree-dwelling mammals in Australia. The Lumholtz Tree Kangaroos is the smallest of the species, and are found in the rainforest patches on the Atherton Tablelands.

Tree kangaroos feed on leaves and foliage and fruit and flowers of native trees in the rainforest.

This Tree kangaroo had a baby in its pouch.
A Lumholtz Tree Kangaroo: Photo National Zoo and Aquarium

Fortunately I was able to get a photo of a Tree Kangaroo from our own National Zoo. I must say this tree kangaroo is looking very well groomed and smart.

On this wild and wet day we stopped off at small cafes and shops selling delicious foods, specialist food products and coffee. A very satisfying day indeed.

Many thanks for taking the time to read my blog post today. With so many people in Lockdown or quarantine, or just being careful during these Covid times, I noticed a Zulu saying (undoubtedly meant for hunting) but true for us today ..

”To be clever is to be still”

Go well.

Geraldine Mackey: Copyright All Rights Reserved.

Canberra’s winter photos…. those that didn’t make the cut.

Well here we are in the middle of winter in Canberra, and I have left my camera in Melbourne.

Canberra, with its beautiful clear autumn and winter light, lends itself to photography. My Iphone is fine for family photos, but my camera is better for landscapes.

However, I do have many, many folders of photos that have not been used. I wonder how many bloggers are the same? I am better at de-cluttering the house than getting rid of photos. You just never know when you will need them.

So here are a few photos from these folders of my favourite places to walk, take photos, and have coffee in Canberra. Some photos have been used in previous posts, but many have been hiding in all those folders.

Ann Moyal, a writer, and an academic, had to say….

“I have been in love with Canberra for over sixty years. Its parched landscape, its ring of deep blue mountains etched against an iridescent sky. Its light and calming beauty…

Canberra’s suburbs are full of birds all year round, but in autumn and winter we start to notice some our most colourful visitors…the King Parrots.

T

The male Australian King Parrot is the only Australian parrot with a completely red head. The female King parrot has a green head and neck.

Australian National Botanic Gardens

The Rainbow Lorikeet is a beautiful splash of colour against the Eucalyptus tree in autumn.

Lake Burley Griffin

Early morning walkers and bike riders are dedicated…they are relaxing around the lake in every season ..even winter.

The National Library of Australia

This is my favourite building, one of the best places for coffee, and so warm and comfortable too!

The National Art Gallery of Australia sculpture: Floating Figure by Gaston Lachaise

I always enjoy the native gardens in Art Gallery gardens, and the sculptures change with every season.

The National Art Gallery of Australia sculpture: Cones by Bert Flugelman

Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve is not far from the city centre, and is full of wildlife..

I have many photos of kangaroos as a result of our visits during spring. However, for some reason this photo never makes the cut.

An Emu at Tidbinbilla.

When we first came to Canberra we went to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve at Easter time with our two young children (after our Easter hunt back home). We found a picnic table and sat down to have our picnic and Easter eggs. Some Emus appeared out of nowhere and two of them snipped up the Easter eggs, and off they went into the bushes! Our daughters have had a very cautious approach to Emus every since.

One of my absolute favourite places for a walk in autumn and winter is around the suburb of Yarralumla.

Government House Yarralumla

This is the house where the Governor General resides, and has a wonderful view across the lake. There lines in the water are for rowing boats.

In summer time I sometimes meet friends at a coffee shop near here, and the mature shady gardens are a wonderful place to sit on a warm day.

During one of my visits, a very organised lady arrived with her greyhound and small dog. I asked if she would like me to keep an eye on them while she ordered her coffee. She thanked me, but said the little dog was the boss, and even with her restricted collar, she would not let the greyhound move away.

I could believe it!

Just as I write this today, Australia has experienced a spike in COVID cases in Sydney, and short Lockdowns have begun. This is a timely reminder to get vaccinated. Paul and I have had our first vaccine with no side effects and will have the second dose in August.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog today, and may your garden, your home and family be happy and safe, where ever you are in the world.

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

Victoria border closes, a hurried trip home, and happy birthday Marion Mahony Griffin.

We arrived in Melbourne, in the state of Victoria, last Tuesday to visit our family and grandchildren.

On Friday, as a result of new UK Covid cases in Melbourne, the Victorian government decided to have a short five day Lockdown. We watched the news at midday, and made the decision to pack up and come home, as the borders between states were closing at midnight. This could possibly mean not being able to get home for some time….much easier to come for a return visit in more settled times.

This is the world we live in these days!

We left at 3.30 pm for the eight hour drive back to Canberra. We usually stop at our favourite country town coffee shops, and occasionally at a really pretty nursery, where you can buy plants, and delicious cakes and coffee….all at the same time.

This time we stopped at a Roadside Service station for petrol, sandwiches and coffee. Everyone looked tired and preoccupied, manners were in short supply, understandably.

It was good to see the lights of Canberra through the bush as we got closer to home. We arrived at 11.30…. we made it by 30 minutes! Although we share the driving, Paul did all of the night driving, and he did a great job navigating trucks and semi-trailers, which seem to loom out of nowhere in the evening.

The lights from Telstra Tower can be seen as we drive into Canberra, it is a landmark for Canberrans.

Now that we have settled in back home I’m beginning my long term plan to write a few posts about Walter Burley Griffin, who designed the city of Canberra, while his wife Marion Mahony Griffin, played a significant role, not only as a fellow architect but as an artist who drew up the beautiful watercolour sketches of the city. Recently these two Chicagoans have been getting a bit more of the attention in Australia, at last, as it is richly deserved.

The Griffin design has allowed for more than one city centre, and more than one lake for recreation.

Today I’ll just write a little about Marion Mahony Griffin, as it was her birthday yesterday, (Aussie time). She was born on the 14th February 1871, in Chicago.

As we have precious few photos of Walter and Marion I’ll add some of my favourite photos of Canberra, some of which may have been in earlier posts.

I took this photo just before we left for Melbourne. Lake Tuggeranong on a fine summer’s day, the shops, library, College tucked into the landscape.

In the summer of the year Marion was born the family were caught in one of the worst fires of that time in Chicago (1871).They survived the fire, but decided to move out of the city, and took their children along Lake Michigan to a place called Hubbard Woods. Marion grew up exploring the woods and forests, and she later said it was ”the loveliest spot you could imagine.”

Her mother, Clara was a Unitarian, and the church provided a social connection, and a sense of social justice for the family. Marion had a talent for art and an interest in architecture, and in 1894 she became the second woman to graduate with an architecture degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the first woman in America to become a licensed architect.

It is always very peaceful on the lake in the early mornings

Her skill as a graphic artist was already well known at university, and once qualified she began working for Frank Lloyd Wright. There she met Walter Burley Griffin, a young idealist architect, who shared many of her ideals and values. They eloped in June 1911 (Walter’s family had reservations about Marion, as she was older than him, and ”too bohemian”). However, theirs was an equal match of values and talents. Two months later, an international competition for the design of the new capital in Australia was announced. Walter entered the competition, but was a well known dreamer and procrastinator hence to quote by Marion…

For the love of Mike, when are you going to start those plans for the Australian capital? Do you realise it takes a solid month to get them over there. That leaves exactly nine weeks now to turn them in. Perhaps you can design a city in two days, but the drawings take time and falls to me…”

Making Magic The Marion Mahony Griffin Story by Glenda Korporaal.

Despite the universities recently opening architecture to women, Marion, at that time, could not apply to enter the competition herself, as a woman. How frustrating for a talented feisty woman like Marion.

Commonwealth Place.

The plans were done in nine weeks, and there was a mad dash one winter’s night to get the last train able to meet the last boat to Australia. The Griffins’ entry was the last to arrive.

View from Mount Ainslie, the War Memorial looking down onto Anzac Parade to Parliament House across Lake Burley Griffin.

In May 1912 Walter received a telegram stating that he had won the competition. There were to be many hurdles ahead, but none the less.. what a wonderful day for future Canberrans!

View from Reconciliation Place across Lake Burley Griffin to the War Memorial.

Both Walter and Marion’s philosophy was that architecture and city planning should work for the environment, not against it. Rather than looking to the past for their inspiration, they looked to a future.

It is amazing to think that Walter could be in an office in Chicago and design a city in a such a contrasting country as Australia, and Marion in turn was able to draw beautifully detailed sketches of the plan. What a team!

Marion, I think would have been pleased to see wild birds happily eating acorns outside Parliament House.

Marion’s story is as rich and varied as Walter’s and in the words of the fascinating book called Making Magic The Marion Mahony Griffin Story by Glenda Korporaal.

She was also a botanist and an idealist, an astute social observer, a loyal wife, and a woman very much ahead of her time.”

150 years later, I hope Marion and Walter would be happy with their city. Happy Birthday Marion.

In March we are going to an exhibition in Sydney about another part of Walter and Marion’s life, their time in Sydney. I’m looking forward to that.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay safe and sane!

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

Canberra’s 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.

 

 

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.

 

Canberra’s Backyard Bird Count

Summer in the suburbs, a young Kookaburra on his maiden flight, resting on one of the Eucalyptus trees in our street.

Birdlife Australia has a wonderful program called Birds in the Backyard. 

It is a research, education and conservation program that was developed through concern that we are gradually losing small native birds from  parks and gardens, through rapid expansion of cities, suburbs and towns.

The Silver-eye in a neighbour’s garden..

An Eastern Spinebill, visits every autumn for the flowers of the pineapple sage.

One week of the year is set aside for the Aussie Backyard Bird Count. During this week, individuals can participate in collecting data by recording the birds we see, in twenty minute periods.

Birds can be recorded in our own backyard, a local park, a main street of a town, a beach, or a patch of forest….anywhere in Australia.

The Wattle bird, feeding on the nectar from a Bottlebrush bush.

In 2018 Australians counted 2.7 million birds including 30 000 Rainbow Lorikeets.

The rise of Rainbow Lorikeets shows how the Aussie backyard has changed from the traditional European-style cottage gardens, to more native gardens.

Lorikeets are nectar-loving birds and like to forage on the flowers of Eucalypts, Bottle-brushes and Grevillias to harvest nectar and pollen.

There are still many pretty cottage plants and gardens in the suburb, mixed with native street trees.

My daughter and her family live in an inner city suburb in Melbourne. (Melbourne is the second biggest city in Australia.) It is a rapidly changing suburb from the original workers cottages to townhouses for a younger generation.

One constant in the suburb is the street trees. The streets we walk down regularly are lined with Bottle brushes and Eucalypts. It is a pleasure to walk to the coffee shop, and look at the gardens and the bird-laden trees and shrubs along the way.

Melbourne is well known for warm and inviting coffee shops too.

Grafted Red Flowering Eucalyptus trees

At Christmas time we noticed some of the street trees were decorated by local residents and children, and the flowers could out do any Christmas decorations!

In the same suburb of Melbourne, the park and playing fields are lined with palm trees. I don’t know the history of these trees, but the Rainbow Lorikeets are feeding and  nesting in them too, which show how adaptable they are. Lorikeets, are, unfortunately very bossy birds, and tend to dominate other species of birds.

The data collected from the Aussie Backyard Bird Count records the three top birds counted in every state in Australia that year.

The the top three birds counted in Canberra and surrounds (Australian Capital Territory) were……..The Australian Magpie

The Magpies enjoying a summer bath in our garden.

The second most recorded bird was the Crimson Rosella.

The Crimson Rosella enjoying some Pineapple Sage in our garden..

and the third was the  Pied Currawong.

The currawong is a handsome looking bird, and flies into the garden with the precision of a jet pilot. Whip smart, he knows where to find water, and also little birds nesting in trees.  Once the currawong arrives in the garden, the little birds disappear.

The bird count can make everyone feel a bit territorial and competitive about our favourite birds…

I’ve heard the New South Wales magpies have slightly different colour markings to our Magpies in Canberra, and are more striking….

and here is a New South Wales Magpie…and she is putting on the Ritz…

Whereas our Magpies, looking a bit scruffy, are pulling plants out of the garden,

However, the very young Canberra Magpie in the photo below began her early life in the courtyards of Parliament House,  and is entertaining all the visitors with her beautiful birdsong. So she is a celebrity from day one!

I’ve used this photo frequently, but it is hard to resist this cute little Magpie, her warbling to be heard through the courtyards of Parliament House.

At the end of the Backyard Bird Count week, we can vote for our favourite of the 50 most popular birds in Australia. (an impossible task of course)

This year I have voted  for the Eastern Spinebill. This tiny little bird, with a mighty strong call, can be heard every autumn in our  garden. He comes to the Peppermint Sage plant in our backyard regularly every year (in the uncertain natural world, this is a comfort).  He competes with the bossy Wattlebird for food, and stands his ground. This is the Lion-heart of little birds.

The Eastern Spinebill (c) Ian Wilson 2015 www.birdlife.org

In and around Canberra this spring there have been an abundance of smaller native birds which are unusual to Canberra (to me anyway). On my Canberra Wildlife Photography Facebook page, I have seen photos of Leaden Flycatchers, Rainbow Bee-Eaters, Sacred Kingfisher and a Rufus Songlark. Perhaps the drought is moving these birds closer to Canberra for the water and relatively easy food sources. They are very welcome.

I hope you have some sunshine, rain, plants and birds, where ever you are in the world. The joys of life!

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Far North Queensland, sunshine and colour…and dodging the snow back home.

Almost every year we go to Far North Queensland in the winter. We leave our coats at home and freeze all the way to the airport. Then we board the plane for a  three hour flight into another world, casual clothing, hats and a pair of sunglasses…nothing can prepare you for the colours of Queensland.

As the plane circles to land in this beautiful part of the world my heart always gives a lift…..

the vast azure sea, the tropical mountains, and the long blue skies.

This year we went with friends and family, and visited three different places, Port Douglas, the Atherton Tablelands, and Palm Cove.

Palm Cove, a short distance from Cairns, is a pretty beach surrounded by palm trees and winding paths, and a mostly gentle sea.

We spent our time in Palm Cove with our family and lovely granddaughter, and it was interesting to see this colourful world through her eyes.

From our apartment, on the third floor, we had a great view of the lush green palms and tropical plants…

Giant Palm Lily.. growing up to 5 metres. White and cream flowers appear during the months of Feb to July. The berries ripen from yellow to red.

Birds play an important role in distribution of rainforest seeds, and we were heartened to see that Queensland has its share of cockatoos, eating and spreading seeds.

We woke every morning to the familiar sound of cockatoos screeching overhead as they flew from palm tree to palm tree. This must be an unsettling start to the day for unsuspecting overseas tourists.

Looking down from our apartment we saw a flash of iridescent blue, the Ulysses butterfly, common to this area…almost camouflaged by the rich green surroundings.

I know that many bloggers are interested in butterflies, especially Jason and Judy from https://gardeninacity.wordpress.com/ so here are a few striking Queensland butterflies from the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary in Kuranda.

Ulysses a large swallowtail butterfly abc.net.au

The Red Lacewing Butterfly Aust. Butterfly Sanctuary

Cairns Birdwing butterfly  Aust. Butterfly Sanctuary

The Cairns Birdwing butterfly is the largest of all Australian Butterflies

On our walk through the gardens to the beach we saw so many colourful and unusual plants and flowers…..as our granddaughter said ”Oh Wow!”

heliconia: part of the banana family

Golden Penda xanthostemon chrysanthus

Unfortunately I couldn’t find the name of this pretty pink/red flower..

The palm below is a striking entrance to a garden.

We have been coming to Palm Cove for about 25 years, and one thing is a constant, Pete’s Place. This is the shop where you can buy milk, bread, magazines, summer clothes and hats,

….and THE best best fish and chips in town. Especially the fresh Barramundi.

a pretty dusting of snow on the Brindabella Mountains.

Meanwhile, we read and heard about the changing weather, back in Canberra.

Canberra does get the occasional dusting of snow in our winter,  but this year …. especially in the National Park and some parts of Canberra, the snow kept on coming !

Social media went mad with clips of kangaroos hopping around in the snow, wombats and even a platypus pushing through the snow..

The ABC and BBC news and the Washington Post had clips of kangaroos bounding around in snow.  What a confusing time to be an Aussie animal…this photo says it all..

Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary Tasmania: Photo Bernadette Camus

SO….who is responsible!

…..and how about booking us into Palm Cove next year?

I hope you are enjoying your season where ever you are in the world, and thank you for taking the time to read my blog, especially if you should be out in the garden!

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey  All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

Canberra’s good fortune…a twist of history, fate and International Competitions.

By a twist of history, fate, and International competitions, Canberra, the Federal Capital city of Australia, and the Australian Parliament House have been designed by two remarkable architects.

view from Mt Ainslie photo by Great Aussie Travel

In 1912 an American (Chicagoan) Walter Burley Griffin was awarded first prize in the international design competition for the new federal capital of Australia ..Canberra. He designed a city built into the landscape, with buildings and suburbs in corridors of greenery. The Brindabella mountains provide a beautiful  amphitheatre to the city.

Walter Burley Griffin in 1912

Walter and Marion

Walter Burley Griffin’s wife, Marion Mahony Griffin, also from Chicago, was the first licensed female architect in the US. She did many of the design drawings for the project, and they were a true partnership in that they shared similar ideals, with an emphasis on nature, democracy and social reform.

As fate would have it, Romaldo (Aldo) Giurgola was an Italian student in Rome during the second world war, and he was fascinated by the design of Canberra, created by the Chicagoan  Walter Burley Griffin.

“It remained in my mind…you can imagine when there was only war and destruction around us. It was a really wonderful thing.”

The city of Canberra today Photo by ABC

Aldo Giurgola won a Fulbright Scholarship and moved to the US, and he eventually co-founded Mitchell/Giurgola Architects in Philadelphia. He had an outstanding career teaching and practising architecture in the United States.

In 1979 he was invited to help judge the Parliament House competition in Canberra, but he preferred to compete, seeing this as an opportunity to contribute to nation building through architecture.

The firm went on to win the competition beating 328 entries from 29 countries, and Australian Parliament House was opened in May 1988.

Parliament House at dusk …photo by en.wikipedia.org

When he arrived in Canberra Aldo looked at the view from Mt Ainslie before beginning; he wanted to fit in with Burley Griffin’s plan of Canberra.

He always believed that the building should not be higher than the people, that true democracy rises from the state of things.

view of Mount Ainslie from Parliament House

His aim was that every worker has natural light…

and the corridors and courtyards are balanced and also filled with light.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison with other politicians, walk through the many corridors during sitting weeks in Parliament …photo by Inside Story

Guirgola also suggested the colour schemes, muted pinks, greens and greys, the colours of the landscape…

Romaldo Giurgola Architect of Australia’s Parliament House…..Photo by NY Times

Several Americans including Harold Guida joined him to plan, document and oversee the construction. Harold Guida and Aldo Giurgola decided to stay in Australia, and live in Canberra.

”I have lived in New York. It is a fantastic city. But it is a city for the young. In Canberra he says, it is easier to find a measure between lifestyle, natural beauty and human ambition.

Visit of Aung San Suu Kyi at Parliament House

Aldo Giurgola remained a much loved and loyal Canberran, frequently invited to Parliament House for various events. He received an Order of Australia in 1989.

In his older age, he built a small holiday house for himself near Canberra, with views of the Great Dividing Range. The design is derived from Palladio’s villa at Vincenza, La Rotunda, and built by  Andreolo Mario.

It was essentially a square room for himself, his daughter and her dog, for working, dreaming, reading and talking. A central skylight let in additional light, and at night they could look at the moon and the stars.

It seems the perfect retirement for a wonderful architect who, despite his early life in Italy and New York,  was very much attuned to the Australian landscape and values. He remained an Italian citizen and became an Australian citizen….salute to Romaldo Giurgola!

He died in 2016, aged 96 years old.

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.