We recently spent a week in Sydney, house-sitting for Paul’s brother, Martin and his wife Kris.
Paul’s mother is 96 years old this week, so it was a wonderful opportunity for Paul to spend some time with her every day.
Martin and Kris live in a leafy suburb, with many trees, colourful flowers and cool green lawns. Sydney gets a much higher rainfall than Canberra, so we are always somewhat blinded by this bright sunny green city.
We soon found a walking track with a notice saying, “A Blue Gum High Forest in your Backyard”
Some thoughtful planners have managed to preserve land in the suburb to keep a small amount of Blue Gum forest. There is a path through the forest, and it is a bonus for suburban dwellers to have this small forest within reach of walking every day.
The Blue Gum High Forest only occurs in Northern Sydney. It gets its name from the tall Eucalyptus saligna, or Sydney Blue Gum with its distinctive smooth bark and trunk.
The timber of the Blue Gum high forest was valuable to Sydney’s early settlement, and ongoing clearing, farming, development and weed invasion meant that less than 5% of the original forest remains in the world.
Needless to say, all the birds love the Blue Gums, and cockatoos gather amongst the trees every day. ( a mixed blessing).
Paul and I have also been inspired by the wonderful garden Kris has made…
When we arrived the Flowering Pink Gum tree had just started to flower…
and the day we were leaving the beautiful Flowering Gum put on a show for us, and the Rainbow Lorikeets did the same!
We are back in Canberra now, after an enjoyable week in Sydney.
We are so impressed with Kris’s Flowering Gum Tree, we are going to try growing one ourselves.
Many thanks for reading my blog post today, and best wishes to everyone, especially friends and relatives in New Zealand who have been battling the elements for some time.
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.
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.
Spring has come and gone, and I had hoped to write a post on spring flowers in the garden…but it can wait. Perhaps as a result of our long Lockdowns this year, the last few months have been very busy as we return, cautiously, to normal life, new Covid variants notwithstanding.
Recently I read a very interesting article in The New Yorker about a Renaissance painting called Madonna della Vittoria, the work of Andrea Mategna, painted in 1496, now hanging in the Louvre.
A British born historian, Heather Dalton, lived in Melbourne while doing a doctorate at University of Melbourne, and noticed a familar looking bird in a book of Renaissance paintings. The painting shows a slender white bird with a black beak and an alert expression, and an impressive-greenish yellow crest. Heather spent many years making sure she was right in thinking it was a Sulphur Crested Cockatoo.
At the time Andrea Mantegna painted the Madonna della Vittoria, the bird could have been taken from eastern Indonesia, partly by water and partly overland via the Silk Road. This journey would have taken years, but a well-cared for cockatoo regularly lives to be 60 years old and beyond.
After many years of research, Heather Dalton is sure that bird in the painting is alive and not copied from pages of a book. She writes “The cockatoo’s natural pose in the painting with its crest erect, suggests it was painted from life. Dalton argues the bird’s appearance suggests it is drawn from life. Taxidermy species show birds in profile, this bird faces forward, just as a curious intelligent bird would do.
Francesco 11 Gonzaga, owner of the cockatoo would have collected exotic birds for interest and fashion, and as a signal of of worldly power and wealth.
Somehow I am not surprised that the resilient Sulphur Crested Cockatoo had survived a long journey and was living in a totally different environment, thus playing their part in history, so very long ago.
Having lived alongside Cockatoos in Canberra for many years, I can appreciate their beauty and unique personalities, and despite their destructive qualities, I am glad they are now a protected species. The best place to view a bird is in its own natural environment.
This is a photo from The Canberra Times, which I have used before, and it shows how destructive intelligent birds can be when winter comes and there is nothing to do!
As the local writer Jackie French says
”There is no 100 per cent effective way of keeping Cockatoos out of your orchard or garden. Cockatoos are too intelligent to be deterred easily. Beware the bird that plots and plays.
Cockatoos seem to be unique birds in that they enjoy eating and playing, sometimes at the same time!
Many thanks for taking the time to read my post today, I hope you are able to enjoy your green spaces, and birds, where ever you are in the world today.
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.
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.
The Australian National Botanic Gardens is a wonderful place for wildlife because there are so many 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.
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.
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 ..
As the calendar pages turn towards the middle of 2020, uncertainty and Lockdown continues in Australia, and the world. As if to compensate, autumn has been magnificent in Canberra this year…
After a dreadful summer of bushfires and thick smoke, it is wonderful to see trees, and plants flourishing with good rainfalls around Canberra in March, April and May.
The weather looks wild through the Eucalyptus trees, but the trees are loving it….
not to mention the birds!
Photos could not really capture the sheer delight these cockatoos are having in some nearby Eucalyptus trees during the rain..
They are flying into the trees, calling (screeching) to each other..
….and sinking down gently into the rain-filled branches. A couple of them were hanging upside down on the outer branches, with wings spread out (I missed that photo opportunity)
Watching their games and delight, it is a reminder of how much they have missed the rain too.
The Crimson Rosellas are also back in the garden in bigger numbers than we have seen for a few years.. a little more sedate in their response to rain..
Here in Canberra the autumn colours of the landscape are often muted greens and soft greys, but this year, everything is looking very, very green.
Our Lockdown rules allow for a walk every day, and this one is a favourite of ours because it is not far from our house.
We follow this path until we come to what is known by locals as ”Heartbreak Hill” or ”Cardiac Arrest” Hill. Actually it is not steep at all, with lovely views of the mountains, along the way.
One morning we were walking up Heartbreak Hill and we came across these two delightful young parrots… called Gang Gangs. A parent is watchful in the leaves behind them.
Does anyone know the ”Where’s Wally?” children’s books?
This could be “Where are the Gang Gangs?” amongst the autumn colour.
We have never seen Gang Gangs in our suburb, but, so much natural habitat in the bush has been lost in the fires, it is not surprising birds are moving into suburban areas for food.
They are most welcome!
Years ago I used to walk down this path almost every day. An elderly gentleman was always working in his garden and one day when I admired his roses, he told me I could come in and cut some roses to take home, at anytime!
He passed away some time ago, but he would love to see these roses continuing to flower.
It made me wonder how long do roses last?
Paul has been painting the cabin and the deck, and now to the garden! My contribution so far was to ‘trim’ a very old Rosemary bush…once I started I couldn’t stop! Paul called it the ”Rosemary Bush Massacre”.
There is a large green grevillea near the deck called ”Wee Jasper”. This bush brings the Wattle Bird and also the elusive Eastern Spinebill to our garden, because it flowers all through autumn and winter.
However, because it does flower for such a long period of time, and has birds and bees buzzing around, it is seldom pruned.
While I had my garden clippers at hand, I decided to trim some of the older branches of the Wee Jasper..
As I reached into the branches of the Wee Jasper, the Eastern Spinebill flew into the bushes and settled on a branch very close to me. I couldn’t believe how close it was, and how still. This is a bird almost impossible to photograph as he usually moves so fast and is very elusive.
I have just enough Irish blood in me to wonder if that tiny little bird was warding me off his bush…perhaps he was watching while I trimmed the Rosemary Bush..
…Eastern Spinebill one, Gerrie nil.
We are lucky to have one of our daughters working from her home here in Canberra, and it has been a few months now since we have seen our elder daughter, our son-in-law and our granddaughter.
Just after Christmas our granddaughter helped us pick this very cute koala for the garden. .. a happy reminder of her.
We look forward to more State borders opening in Australia, so that we can get together again.
Many thanks for taking the time to read my blog posts, and thanks also to the nurses and health workers all over the world. ..what a service to communities they do!
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.
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 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…
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 …
…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?
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.
The end of June and the beginning of July is mid-winter in Canberra…..no wonder the pelican looks dejected.
However, there is one place where you are sure to find colour and interest in Canberra ‘s winter months, and that is at the Australian National Botanic Gardens.
I love this combination of colour and texture. The Golden Everlasting Daisy in the front, the Red Kangaroo Paw at the back, and a pretty grey shrub (no name attached) in the centre.
Kangaroo Paws come in a variety of colours including red, yellow, orange, purple and green. These plants protect themselves during extremely hot summers by letting their strap-like leaves die down, and underground rhizomes wait until autumn to send leaves up again. After a bush fire the growth of foliage on the plant become more prolific.
Golden Everlasting Daisy grow wild in every state of Australia, from the mountains to the sea. They attract many butterflies, and this one is a Painted Lady Butterfly.
This is a cream-coloured winter flowering plant. It has velvety leaves and always has a few bright purple bugle-shaped flowers.
The Sturt Desert Pea is a beautiful South Australian floral emblem, and grows well in various parts of the Botanic gardens here, especially in the desert garden. Aboriginal names for this flower include ”malu” (kangaroo eyes) and ”meekyluka” (flowers of the blood).
The Dwarf Banksia is a lovely soft green bush, with almost luminous yellow flowers….they are like welcoming beacons in the winter.
Banksia flowers attract the nectar loving big birds and the smaller insect eating birds, and are an important source of food for birds in the gardens.
The tiny New Holland Honey Eater is frequently seen at the Botanic Gardens, and is very elusive, but I was lucky enough to get this photo early one morning in the gardens.
The Crimson Rosella is another frequent visitor here, amongst the soft green winter foliage.
The gardens are full of tranquil paths and green spaces, it is hard to believe there is a University and a city just a few streets away.
Of course where there are Eucalyptus trees there are almost always Sulphur Crested Cockatoos as well…and here are a few of the noisiest Cockatoos in the gardens during my visit.
Don’t be fooled by that closed beak, ‘‘butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth’‘ look from this cockatoo. He has just finished screeching to his noisy friend.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog today, and I hope, despite the vagaries of the weather, you are able to take some time and enjoy your garden, and your part of the world, as I enjoy writing and photographing mine.
It has been a busy month and I’ve missed writing a post for Mother’s Day.
Looking through my photos, I thought I’d highlight some of the many mothers and parents amongst the wildlife in our garden, and around Canberra.
Of course I have to start with the biggest personalities in Canberra, the Sulphur Crested Cockatoos.
Despite their screechy and bossy ways, it was lovely to be able to capture this very patient mother having her yellow crested feathers examined by one of her youngsters….
One morning Paul and I wondered if a world war was breaking out in the garden, only to discover that the baby cockatoo (almost as big as its mother) was having a mighty tantrum about being fed..”I want it right now!”
Kookaburras are not very common in our garden, but Kooka parents will bring a baby to the birdbaths on hot days….while the parent/sibling waits patiently on the garden bench.
and here is an even younger Kookaburra in the photo below. It looks as if it is having a first flight from the nest with the safety of wires to land on, and parent close by…
Even in winter, there are late babies, and the King Parrots like to fly into the garden for a drink….and then feed on the buds of the Japanese Maple…
As I took a photo of them, I noticed their baby waiting patiently in the tree…the first winter, wow it is cold out here!
The photo below shows a young Currawong in our garden…the first, and only time we have seen one so young. ..unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of the parent who would undoubtedly be somewhere close by. Currawongs are the bain of our lives, as they chase small birds, and generally frighten everything out of the garden. However, this little guy with his crew cut, is cute!
This is a great photo of an adult pied Currawong, and thanks to Harry Charalambous Birdlife Australia.
A kangaroo has an extra responsibility, she carries her Joey around in her pouch for some time..
She is putting her paws protectively over her Joey, perhaps to warn him that I am nearby with a camera, or that he is about to fall out of the pouch!
Here is a baby Koala, almost too big for a ride with Mum..
This adult Koala carried her baby for a while…
..and then it all got too much and she sat down……haven’t you felt just like that in a supermarket with a toddler?
It was lovely to share these, mostly accidentally photos, I have taken of motherhood and parenthood in full swing with birds and animals.
I was lucky enough to have a mother who believed that the small details of life were important, and that people, nature and animals should be central to a life well lived. She noticed the tiny details; the spider web in the morning light, the lizard in the sun, a new flower blossoming, a bird call…she got great joy from it all.
Canberra is known as the Bush Capital of Australia, as it is a city interspersed by bushland, and surrounded by forests and national parks.
However, the devastating bushfires of 2003 not only destroyed over five hundred homes in Canberra, but also burnt through forests around Canberra.
As a result the ACT government decided to develop the National Arboretum in Canberra, as a centenary gift to the city.
48 000 trees have been planted in 94 forests on a 250 hectare site.
Amongst the developing forests of the National Arboretum is a wonderful regional botanic garden called STEP (Southern Tablelands Ecosystem Park).
We recently visited STEP early one spring morning…..
The Sulphur Crested Cockatoos have a dawn gathering at the small dam near STEP….
and feed on the grasses nearby. As usual, they are very noisy, but it is lovely to see them in their natural environment…
At STEP an enthusiastic group of volunteers have gradually designed and developed an area to represent the native plants and trees typical of the Southern Highlands.
Built into the landscape is a rock amphitheatre. It is used as a gathering place for educational groups and others visiting STEP. On this cool morning, the smooth rocks ringed by the Eucalyptus trees make this a very peaceful place to visit..
The Eucalyptus trees are characteristic of those found in the region’s hills, slopes and valleys, and as it is spring it is wonderful to see some flowering Eucalyptus in the gardens ..
After a long dry winter, the spring blossoms have arrived, and not just on eucalyptus trees…the colours of the bush change from muted greens and greys to yellows, fuchsia, purples and whites..
I took a photo of this wonderfully coloured shrub, (Mirbelia xylobioides) on Sunday morning, and by the following Thursday it had finished flowering ….you have to be quick..
When I arrived on Thursday for a second visit, the day after much needed rain, everything looked fresh and green and shiny..
Some shrubs have finished flowering and others have just begun..
In recent years, through blogging, and travelling, I have read about and seen grasses being used in design and landscapes all over the world. Now I have a new appreciation of grasses in Australia.
One of the volunteers called me over to look at and feel these young grasses, Poa Induta. They are soft to feel with long silky stems and delicate seed heads.. my absolute favourite for the day…
The gardens have some impressive metal sign posts to mark various areas around STEP. Here you can see the flowers of the She-oaks (Casuarina) sculptured into the metal.
Unfortunately I missed the opportunity to take a photo of the friendly and very knowledgeable volunteers sharing morning tea under the shade of some of the bigger trees.
However, here is a photo from my visit a few years ago, the shady trees have grown and are still a welcoming spot for morning tea.
The volunteers come to STEP every Thursday, rain, hail or shine and work tirelessly to keep this wonderful regional botanic garden growing and developing.
STEP has a very interesting newsletter for Members, and it is very easy to become a member and/or a volunteer.