Saturday Evening Post #143 : On Country

I was pleasantly pleased to see the other day that Australia Post is encouraging people to add the First Nation’s Traditional Place name to their address fields in letters and parcels.  Here is a map that is a start on the journey

I had the fortune I guess as a small lad to grow up in a Murray River community and was friends with a several of the local young boys.  Now to my memory there never was much talk about being ‘on’ or ‘in’ Country, but truth be told I might have missed it anyway.

What is memorable now, with some much older and better pondered hindsight is that the lads, whether hunting, swimming or messing about in the bush weren’t all that fussed about being ‘in or on’.  It came to me later that they, ‘were’ country.  Moving with an ease and confidence that was as eternal as the trees, rocks, bushes and animals.

It is more than just an acceptance of the area, it was a spiritual connection, not so much in the mystic, but rather in embracing they were part of the environment. No doubt more wiser heads than mine can explain all the elements, but I’ve noted over the years the same kind of ‘spiritual connection’ among many cultures and religions.  Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Dao, Buddhist and many others. The clear connection between themselves and the land around abound. Not only at some higher form, but the simple integration of action with belief.

#Kneetoo’s family worked the Hay Plain and Lachlan River areas, and Bill, my Father-in-Law had developed a very respectful relationship with the Dadi Dadi and Mari Mari traditional owners of the area. The family stories of their connection and how the locals would turn up at one of Bill’s camps, says much about both.

Did any of it rub off on to me?   Well a quick story.  When I was around 17 or 18, one of our city relatives came to visit over the summer holidays.  We decided to go for a bit of an exploration along the Murray River bank near home,  a place I have to say that I did know quite well.   It didn’t take me long to pick up a kangaroo pad, or slip through the riverside scrub, but my city born and bred relative found the going quite difficult.   We also waded across the River at a point where during summer the shallow water ran over a long clay secure bottom.  I didn’t stop to look but simply crossed.  He, hesitated. Lookrd, and then gingerly took each step as if it might be his last. But by the end of the day, his grin from being in the grove with the around was as wide as the flowing river.

Full disclosure.  When I first moved to the “Big Smoke” I stayed with them for about a year and he was able to do the same thing for me among the backstreets and parkways around his home.  A learning experience.

When we walk the Eynesbury forest with the award winning Chris Lunardi, he won’t let me lead a walk.
“I’ve watched you walk off the track and then disappear before my eyes,” he’ll say.  “Then twenty minutes later, about a kilometer down the track you’ll suddenly re-appear on the side of the track.  It’s eerie!”
But then again.  I like Grey Box forest. It’s been said, kindly and not so kindly that I have Grey Box sap in my veins. 🙂

My first few seasons at Woodlands Historic Park were not years of bird photography.  I walked the paddocks and the hillsides as a Landscape Photographer.  Even had the kit. The header image while taken on a digital camera, is in fact firmly attached to a whacking great tripod that I used to use with a 4×5 inch Linhoff Super Tecknika camera.  Standard fare of my early trade.

This one was in the early mists of mid-winter.  One of my fav times for those moody landscapes.
The creekline is Moonee Ponds Creek, –Woiworung Country—and the rich red sand in the foreground was much prized by the builders in Melbourne during the building boom around 1880-1900s.  The locals would fill drays from the creek and transport them to the building sites.  So I didn’t have to do much work on the image to keep that richness intact.

I’m guessing I don’t roam as much as I used to, much preferring these days to have a Jon Young ‘Sit Spot’ and watch the interactions of the trees, birds, animals, clouds and winds on a much more macro level.  Each. To his own.

Wathaurong Country

 

Saturday Evening Post #55 : A Zest for Life

Due to a turn of circumstances, and a change in the weather, with intense cold together with strong winds, meant I was housebound the other morning.

I kept walking to the window, and pressing my nose up against the pane, but to no effect as the weather just seemed to laugh at my difficulty.

Then, on what can only have been a serendipitous moment, a small brown bird arrived on the fence. Followed by a second, and then a third.
A closely followed by the local backyard Blackbird.  Looking as always dapper in his rich dress.

We’ve known for the past few days, that they had an active nest in one of the bushes in the garden next door, and we had seen occasionally the past few days a young one in flight.  But now it was obvious that the pair had hatched out a fine looking crop of three young ones.

And I should add “Hungry” ones.  They sat on the fence, the garden pots and bushes, calling, calling, calling.  Feed me. I’m here, feed me.

I opened the sliding door to patio and sat down inside on a small stool, with the D500 and the 300mm PF lens.  As there was little light available in our small garden area, I was running into trouble getting sufficient shutter speed, so took a decision, and after all, they only ‘common’ blackbirds, to run the ISO up beyond 3200 and see how good the D500 might be. I also wanted to try out the latest offing from Topaz Labs with their AI DeNoise, although for the present image I didn’t use it.

The small garden area must have been full of good tummy filling food as they stayed for at least an hour or so.  Which gave me a great time to learn of some of the habits of the little birds, and to experience their simple zest for life. Each mouthful was accepted and then the cry went up for more. I began to feel both sorry and develop a respect for the hardworking male.  The female must have been off having a rest, (or gone shopping?)

The small birds cheery chatter among themselves and their calls for more food was a warm feel on a cold day.
Each carrying a new life, each eager to get a great start and each filled with a desire to learn the way of being a blackbird.

Much of the time I just sat and watched, as they skipped back and forth from pot to fence, to the edge of the patio, and eventually running across in front of me.
Not often I can have that much fun looking out my own door. 🙂

No doubt this will not be the only crop the pair will have this year, and soon instead of being their protector and uber food deliverer, Blackie, will chase them out of his territory and they will begin a new chapter of their lives.  Not doubt they will take the same enthusiasm with them.

Enjoy.

Saturday Evening Post #002

I want to sing like the birds sing. 
Not worrying about who hears, 
or what they think
Rumi

For those who’ve seen a Black-shouldered Kite food exchange, you’ll agree that the process is highpowered, high speed and high risk.
The male, with mouse, hangs in mid-air while his mate, barrels up to snatch the mouse, usually knocking him about as she passes.
One one occasion, I saw her lock claws over his, and he couldn’t let go of the mouse, and she was not going to release her lunch.

After a bit of struggling it resulted in them tumbling wing over wing, body rotating around body, as they completely out of control plummeted to ground. And she would not let go.
Finally she, being the bigger of the two, gained enough wing control to halt their descent, which left him hanging or rather swaying upside down. Perhaps she relented her release for a milli-second and he was free to drop away and fly off.
I worked with another pair, the male only had one working foot, and he never did food exchange in the air, and I often wondered if he lost the use of his limb in such an incident.

But, I’ve never seen a Spotted Harrier exchange close up.  Always they happen far out over the paddocks, two birds fly toward each other, exchange and then they fly apart.  The mechanics had eluded me.  Until the other day.

A pair of Spotted Harrier are preparing a nest, and in between collecting sticks and grasses, there is time for top up of food.

For a good part of the morning they had been calling back and forth, a bit like the Three Little Pigs building their house.
Then the call changed, much more warble than the shrill call of a bird of prey.   “That is strange,”, saith I to EE who was on the other side of the vehicle, “There is a change or something is happening.”

And sure enough she sprang out of the nest tree and headed across the paddock. About then, I caught sight of the male, who stopped and Harrier-like hung in mid air about 50-60 metres from where we were standing.
She then wafted in as a good Harrier would, and they danced about one another in the air for a moment or two, then she raised the wings and ever so gently slipped in under his, and took the mouse in a total surgical move. Simple, almost ballet like. He watched to be sure all was well, and then just slid away. She returned to the treeline to enjoy her snack

Amazing to see the completely different approach to food handling.

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Saturday Evening Post 001

“Thus it is said:
The path into the light seems dark,
the path forward seems to go back,"
Lao Tzu

What, I said to myself, is the point of having a blog if I don’t post something to it?
So after bumping into Robin Whalley’s site, The Lightweight Photographer,  he is all into Mirrorless cameras, get it, light weight!!!!  I thought his idea of a current shot with a little bit of ramble seemed like a good way to keep the blog roll rollin’. (think a theme song is in there somewhere, shades of old b&w tv and Rowdy Yates.)  Oh, I date myself.

Had a bit of time at the Mansion Lake of recent.  And as the evening sun was dropping behind the trees, small shafts of light ran between the wonderful, large, trees, and made great little spot lit openings on a super stage.
All I had to do was call in the talent, and have it fly into the light, and being the obliging bird it is, (This egret is a regular at the Ornamental Lake, and has been on the blog and my Flickr sites on more than a number of occasions.) it did.

BTW, Robin Whalley has some rather useful books and vids on using software such as Lightroom, Photoshop, On One and others.  His approach I rather enjoy, and as he is now doing a series on Nik Software, my fav Noise Reduction and Sharpening tools, I guess I’m a bit hooked.

Cue Great Egret.  Enter Stage Left.

Great Egret.jpg

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