Thursday, 30 May 2013

An indoor rainbow ....

I have not posted a no sky sky for a while so here is one.

We have had some bright weather over the last few days - and when the sky is clear and the Sun is low in the sky we get natural rainbows indoors.  I think we get so many bands of colour because of the number of small panes of glass in the window.

I have to say I do rather like refraction - oh the wonders of basic science.

You can find more skies at Sky Watch Friday.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Wild Bird Wednesday 46 - Some Australian Cormorants

Along with gulls and pigeons, cormorants may be one of the most obvious birds that many non-birders see.  I think that there may be three reasons for this.  Their black and white or all black plumage makes them very distinctive.  They also tendency to loaf about on piers, jetties and rocks in a generally obvious and photogenic fashions.  And last, and no means least, they are sometimes called shags - and the less said about the better!

We have five cormorant species in Australia (and the Darter as well).  So, here is a whistle stop tour of four for these species.

There are three black and white species, and two all black ones.

The birds I see the most is the Little Pied Cormorant (Phalacrocorax melanoleucos) - which, as would be expected,  is small and black and white.  The length and colour of its beak and a long white eyebrow stripe are the key ID features here.
Little Pied Cormorant
Little Pied Cormorant
Slight larger (and much less widespread) is the Black-Faced Cormorant (Phalacrocorax fuscescens).  I don't see this bird very often - which may be due to me not "working through" all the cormorants I see sat on boats and jetties.  Here the key field mark in the adult is the black crown that extends all the way down to the eye, given the bird a black face!

Black-Faced Cormorant
Black-Faced Cormorants
It came as something of a surprise to me that I had no decent images of either Pied Cormorant (Phalacrocorax various) or Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo).  This is about the best I can do for the Great Cormorant, which I have just realised is the same species as the "Cormorant" in the UK.

Black-Faced and Great Cormorant (with Pacific and Silver Gull)
In keeping with their rather sensible names, the Little Black Cormorant (Phalacrocorax sulcirostris) is both all black and small.   Thats generally enough to be able to identify this species - but it does not pay to get over confident!

Little Black Cormorant
Little Black Cormorant

Although its not really all that clear the second of the LBC's is "panting" - passing air over the inside of its mouth to evaporate liquids and cool down.  Its the equivalent of sweating in mammals.

And here endeth this brief and incomplete tour of Australian cormorants!  And its over to you.

To participate in WBW, just click on the link below and off you go.  Don't forget to invite any new bloggers who may post bird images.  

Monday, 27 May 2013

Next Year's Vintage.

These are some more of the pictures I took while wandering around Stones on the Yarra while Sal warmed up for her choir singing.

It was cold (ish) damp underfoot and great to be out and about after a long week at work.  I look forward to seeing - and then tasting - some of the products of these plants in a few years!

You can find more pictures from around the world at Our World Tuesday.

Enjoy the pictures.

Sunday, 26 May 2013


This Sunday, Sal and I drove off to Stones on the Yarra - a vine yard, cafe, restaurant and music venue in the Yarra Valley. Sal was singing with the choir again and I was along to cheer and clap in all the right places.

As is often the case I could not resist having a bit of a look around as she was getting organised.  Some time in the last few days there must have been a wedding at the venue, because there was light scattering of confetti mixed in with autumn leaves and small stones.

The music was great, and its not just because I am biased. 

You can find more macro shots at I love Macro

Thanks to Lisa for the time she put in to running Macro Monday.  

Enjoy the close ups.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

An Autumn Sky

This is a quick grab of the Liquid Amber tree that grows in our neighbours garden.  Its another shot taken very near my clothes line.  At this rate I should be able to rent that space out to new photographich bloggers in a few years!

I hope next week will be less busy.

You can find more skies - and more wide awake hosts - at Sky Watch Friday.

Enjoy the skies - I'm going to bed!

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Wild Bird Wednesday 45 - Little Birds.

Having just survived the tyranny of old age, I seem to be succumbing to a more insidious danger - too much work!  Well at least today anyway.  Normal service will be resumed soon.

These images were taken a while ago, but they show some remarkable behaviour.  These are Little Egrets and Little Black Cormorants hunting together in a shallow pool.  I don't think there is any doubt that the individuals of each species are working together - and it looked very much like the two species were cooperating.

The cormorants would swim along, line abreast pushing (what I assume are) small fish in front of them.  They would surface and turn in towards the shore, often with something in their beaks.  The egrets rushed backwards and forwards, keeping level with the cormorants and picking off food the escaped - or was pushed towards the shore.  All in all it was pretty remarkable - and a situation where I wished I had turned on the video!

Now it's over to you.  Click on the link below and off you go into the world of WBW.

Monday, 20 May 2013

An Australian Australian.

One of the things that has been most remarkable things about migrating to a new country, is coming to terms with the newness of the wildlife.  I have never had a time when I did not watch birds, look and flowers and generally pay attention - so coming to Australia was like entering a whole new world.

In many ways that is actually true.  So, here is a picture from my world - if you see one of these in the wild you are in Australia - or very close to it.  This is an echidna - or as I was taught as a kid in biology a spiny anteater.    If you dont know, this is a mammal that lays eggs and has hip bones like a reptile.  But it has fur, feeds the young that hatch from the eggs on milk and is "warm blooded".  There are only two other species of animals in the world remotely like it - the platypus and a much larger species of echidna.

So for your view of my world I give you that most Australian of Australians - Tachglossus aculeatus!

You can find more pictures from around the world at Our World Tuesday.

You can find more of my thoughts on things Australian at my other blog.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

A Macro on Monday - Two Things.

These are the only two things that I have that were owned by my parents.  So, on a round figure birthday,  I think it's appropriate to look backwards at the same time as looking forward.

So, at the end of a (very) good day I decided to post this.

You can find more macro shots at Macro Monday.

Cheers SM.

PS:  If you feel like giving me a birthday present, why not visit my other blog and have a read!

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Evening Sky

I like these gentle, painterly sorts of skies.  No big flashing lights or neon signs - but they are good to look at.

These pictures were taken from my back yard.

You can find more skies at Sky Watch Friday.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Wild Bird Wednesday 44 - Magpies

These rather magnificent birds are Australian Magpies (Gymnorhina tibicen).  They are found over the vast majority of Australia, although they do differ from region to region.  They are about 40 cm long and have a rather mean looking beak.  They are not really "magpies" at all in the sense of a being crow like the European and American Magpies.  Australian Magpies are more closely related to Butcher-birds.

These striking black and white birds can be found most mornings patrolling the edges of my garden beds.  In their breeding season they can get very (very) cranky and swoop people at times.  The most remarkable thing about the swooping is that the birds can remember who they dislike from season to season!

I really like having these birds in the garden because of their calls - its called "carolling" and it has to be one of the most distinctive sounds of Australia. You can here it here.

I love that red eye in the last picture.

Now its your turn to get involved with WBW.  So click the link below and off you go.   Please visit, comment and invite to your hearts content.

Cheers - SM

Monday, 13 May 2013

Our World Tuesday - Its Autumn

Its been a while coming, but I think it may well be autumn - possibly early winter by the number of scarves and hats I saw on the way home from work!

Autumn is a dynamic sort of season.  Falling leaves, blustery storms, maybe even an early frost or two. But it can also have days of stillness and light - the last effort of a summer unwilling to give up just yet.

Without trying to sounding too serious this combination of movement, colour and stillness is what I tried to create in these pictures.    My daughter was all too willing to rush through the leaves and generally mess about.  I rather like the outcome.  All comments appreciated!

You can find more shots from around the world at Our World Tuesday.  Enjoy the pictures.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

A Mantis for Monday.

Its a post and run today.  Mothers day here today which is much more important than a long post!

You can find more macro shots at Marco Monday.

Enjoy the pictures (and look after you Mum!)

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Sky Watch Friday - A Pacific Sky

I love gulls.  There, its out in the open.  The chip stealing monsters that so many people dismiss as just "seagulls" are one of my favourite types of birds.  We are not blessed with many species in Australia - but what we lack in quantity we make up for in quality.

I have posted this image into the Sky Watch Friday world because of way the light from the Sun has bleached the outer feathers of this bird to a pure white.  While you can see the sky, it the feathers that tell how bright and clear a day it was.

I think that this means it qualifies as being a sky image, where the main thing is a lack of sky, but you really do know what the sky is like!

You can find more images of the sky at Sky Watch Friday.

Enjoy the skies!

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Wild Bird Wednesday 43 - Grebes

I think many non-birders mistake grebes for some form of duck - thats if they notice them at all!

I tend to think of them as rather secretive birds and while they go briefly mad during the courtship season they do seem to spend a lot of time either underwater or hiding!  This makes them all the more fun to watch and somewhat frustrating to photograph.

The Australasian Gebe (Tachybaptus novaehollandiae) is a common little grebe here.  Its a little grebe in terms of its size, not not in terms of being the Little Grebe  (T. rurficollis) - aka The Dabchick - that I used to watch in the UK.

This bird is in the breeding plumage -  or whats left of it - after the Australia summer.

And this bird is a well grown chick.  You can see still see that distinctive black and white patterning on the young bird.

A grebe that I watched as a kid and can still watch in Australia is the Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus).  This is a bird that seems to have made being "distant" into an art form!  They are often well out of range for close observation, but their distinct shape makes identification straight forward here. 

So, I was pleased to find one (just about) in range on my trip to Perth.  These images are a little more cropped than I would like - but beggars cant be choosers!

The chaos of redecorating has declined enough to let me sit at my desk again - all I need now is to put all the pictures back up on the walls.  But enough of this!  Now its your turn to join in with WBW.

Click on the link below, and off you go.  Remember to visit, comment and invite - the more the merrier!


Monday, 6 May 2013

Our World Tuesday - Pre-digital Mountain.

Back on the 15th February 1991 the Lake District in England was covered in snow.  I set off with a friend to spend the day 'playing' (as we would have said at the time) on the snow and ice at the back of Red Tarn.  Red Tarn, for those of you who have never been there, is a wonderful upland Tarn - small lake - that sit below the eastern flank of Helvellyn.  By world standards this is not a tall mountain - in fact its probably just a big hill -  but in the winter it can be cold enough to do bad things to brass monkeys!

We climbed a gully full of firm ice and snow - I recall a fantastic cup of hot chocolate about half way to the summit.

But it is this view that really sticks in my mind.  When we were close to the top I turned round to see the evening light catch the top of a small peak on one the the ridges that wrap around the tarn.  The whole world was turning pink.  These days I'd take dozens of pictures.  On that day I took two.  This is a scan of the best of them.

The originals were taken on 100 ASA film - probably Fujifilm.  The scan  has been made with a $100 scanner and I have not altered the colours.  If you look at the top right hand side of the image you can see where the emulsions have been damaged at some time between 1991 and now!  I still have the lens and camera I took this image with - and strangely I still have the climbing log book I used at the time to record this kind of stuff.  It really was a different world.

I'm entering this image is a "pre-digital" competition at My Yarta Diary.

Striding Edge, Cumbria, UK
You can find more picture from around the world, the vast majority of which will be from this century, at  Our World Tuesday.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Macro Monday - Doors and Boards

The ship of normality has been sighted on the horizon, but it has not yet docked at the place I call home.  Where did all these books come from and where am I going to put them??

Back to the archives!

A while back we visited Castlemaine, an old gold town.  I mentioned that it was a town of rather faded glory, with a wealthy past.  But it is also clear that there is a community here that is active and alive.

I think these images show something of both sides of the town.

You can find more macro shots at Macro Monday.

Enjoy the pictures!

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Sky Watch Friday - Archive Sky

The week long presence of painters and carpet layers has reduced my house to chaos and my brain to mush - although we do stain free wall and crisp new carpet!

As a result I have been (very) slow in replying to comments and lacking in inspiration for new images.  So here is the result of some archive mining.  In February 2006 I spent two week in a school in Ohio, doing some teaching, presenting at some science conference and generally having a good time.

This is one of my favourite images from the that trip - although at that time I had only just moved from film to digital!  It seems remarkable that it was only seven years ago, and digital cameras were still pretty new and DSLRs had not become really commonplace.

If you see this post Rich - can you tell me where this place is!!

(edit - this picture is from Century Village in Burton, Ohio - thanks Rich!)

You can find more skies, many of which will be more accurately placed on the globe than this one, at Sky Watch Friday.

Enjoy the pictures.

And if you have the time and inclination you may enjoy the new post on my other blog.  Its about the wait for autumn.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Wild Bird Wednesday 42 - More Perth Birds.

As was pointed out to me I did get "value for money' out of my Perth trip!  One of the things I like about a few days of travel on my own is the freedom you get to indulge your own private forms of madness - in my case photography!

So, for no other reason than I like them here are some (more) of the birds I saw in Perth.

White-Cheeked Honeyeater.
The White-cheeked Honeyeater  is not a bird I see regualtly - although it occurs down most of the east coast of Australia, it is absent from Victoria.  So, Phylidonyris nigra was a good bird to see.  The red glow in the background is a very out of focus brick wall!
Rainbow Lorikeet 
Although the Rainbow Lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus) is native to Australia, its not native to Western Australia.  It has become established in Perth from aviary escapes and is now very common.  In fact it's a bit of a problem as it competes was the regional parrots for nest holes, which are always at a premium, especially in habitats that lack mature trees.
Willie Wagtail
The Willie Wagtail (Rhipidura leucophrys) occurs all over Australia except Tasmania.  Its a boisterous, noisy and brave little bird.  It will attack dogs, cats, magpies and crows if the fancy takes it - and with its flared eyebrows and swishing tails they have often had stern words with me as well!

Nankeen Night Heron
I round off with a Nankeen Night Heron (Nyctocorax caledonicus).  As you can see this bird - and another that joined it later  - was sitting in in the top of a rather flimsy tree.  It was  little more windy than the picture would suggest, so I'm pleased with this image.  This is a widespread Australian bird - but I never get feed up of watching herons.

Now its your turn to become involved.  So, click the link below to join in.  And don't forget to visit the other blog, comment on the pictures and invite new WBWers to get involved.