Saturday Evening Post #157 : Roll up, Roll up, the Circus is in Town

We have finally been able to break out of our 5km border restrictions.
Not big mind you, we only needed about 7km to get to The Office.
Along the River Park walking track the bush is alive, as they say to the sounds of parrots, lorikeets and smaller bush birds, including Wagtails, all busy either defending a nesting location or challenging for better accommodation.

None, it seems, more so, than the large number of Rainbow Lorikeets that have descended on the park area.  Over the years their numbers have grown to what can only be plague proportions.  Each hollow in every tree seems to be a Rainbow chosen location, much of course to the chagrin and detriment of the smaller birds that simply can’t compete with the noisy, brash and boisterous Rainbows.

But they do have some advantages for the photographer, besides their brilliant colour scheme.

As EE commented as we walked down the track with the calls of the Rainbows ringing through the trees, “They are  bit like a single bird circus, each one has its own act.” Perhaps its partly bravado, partly the need to show-off to their peers and partly to intimidate other species.  But there is no doubt that a pair can provide hours of entertainment, as they talk, preen and dance together.

We were a bit late for the opening of this bird’s performance.
Two options I think:

It had been holding on to the bark on the branch and it had given way under the weight and it had desperately grasped the bark above with its beak,

or

It was using the bark and the balancing act to impress its mate.

Either way, as it waved the bark about with its foot, was it trying to gain balance or simply attention.

Easily able to support its weight by the beak, it didn’t seem to be in any hurry to recover and rolled around for quite a long time.  In the end, dropping the bark, it did a ‘chin up’ grasped the bark near its beak with first one, then both legs and swung up onto the branch.

Hard to say, but the crowd threw popcorn and cheered at the performance. 🙂

You can tell we’ve been locked up too long when such simple things form such great amusement.

Enjoy

 

 

 

 

 

 


Saturday Evening Post #156: A Jewel

I’ve often commented on Flickr and Facebook and other online groups, and of course here on the blog that I consider the Australian Hobby to be our most beautifully marked raptor.

It’s steel-blue-grey wing and back contrasts with the rich  chest and underwing colours and the light and dark underwing patterns all make for an impressive show.

David Hollands writes, in “Eagles, Hawks and Falcons of Australia“, in his chapter on Australian Hobby

If there is a jewel among Australian hawks,  it is the hobby. Smaller than the Peregrine, it  is lithe and slim and incredibly fast. At rest, sleek and polished with a silhouette that tapers rapidly from its slim shoulders, it has the look of pent-up brilliance waiting only for the trigger to transform potential into action. In flight the promise becomes reality, it seems hardly to have left its perch before it is travelling at dazzling speed. The wings are long, narrow and swept back in a sickle-shaped curve that is particularly noticeable when gliding. … Of all the falcons I know it is the most graceful and there are few more exhilarating sights than one that is stooping, wings curved back, eyes fixed on its target: everything taut and totally controlled:wavering not one fraction from its course and travelling at remarkable speeds for its size. (p.156)

Somehow I suspect that most of us never get to see the bird at much more than a distance, or at high-speed in a high wind, or perhaps sitting on a open perch or fence post.

But to appreciate this bold little bird requires a lot of time working with just one bird or pair, and due to their rather nomadic and social isolation, it is not often we get the chance.
I have featured a pair at nest at the Werribee River Park precinct a couple of years now on the Flickr and here on the blog.  We have had at least three previous seasons with them, and were highly anticipating getting out of our 5 km bubble to see if they had returned for another year.
And.
They have!

We have the good fortune of being only a 15 minute and 5 minute walk from their nesting area.   So it’s possible to arrive early and watch the comings and goings of both the tiercel (male) and falcon (female) and learn a little about their ability in the air.

The nest is being reused and is high in a sugargum, the multi-branching of the tree has produced substantial eight to ten branches that form a ‘cup’ and the previous owners had filled it with sticks, and as Hobbies don’t build but rather reuse, its probable that they have not refurbished the nest since its last use.

The nearby Werribee River run between some quite steep, and high sand ‘cliffs’ and Fairy Martins and Welcome Swallows among others use the area over the water to hunt for food.  It makes an easy food source for the tiercel, he sits on a branch overlooking the water, and when opportunity presents itself, with barely a feather flick he is airborne off the branch down into the river area and because the cliffs on either side give the target little hope of avoidance, is usually back up out the other side of the river in his first swoop. If he misses, I’ve not seen it happen yet.
Which brings me to another point that David points out about it travelling at both incredible speed and with unwavering trajectory.
It is hard to put to words, but on return he flies far out and then on a perfectly designed and executed arc, circles back to land without making any adjustment to his travel that I can detect. It is like a beautiful Tai Chi move.  Smooth, controlled and effortless. (In Tai Chi, the term, “Sung” would be appropriate)
At first I thought it was just a one off, but each time he came in it was pretty much a carbon-copy of previous returns.
The falcon does the same thing when she leaves the nest and returns. It’s a long arc at speed, and just as she approaches the nest, she throttles back and lands though the tree branches as light as a feather.

It’s early days in the cycle at the moment as they are still mating, but not doubt she is sitting on some eggs as he is quite the busy provider.

It is worth contemplating that over the next two months, he will bring in daily about 12-15 kills. Mostly small birds, from Martins, Swallows, Sparrows, Honeyeaters and the like.  Not so much Mynahs and Starlings. (Although they are quite plentiful). That will be somewhere around 700 dinner invitations that the invitees can’t refuse.

This shot is the tiercel, he has just passed over the food supply to the falcon and is going to take a quick rest in a tree opposite until she has eaten and is ready to return to the nest.

Covid Lockdown Restrictions not withstanding there will be more to see of this pair and their progress with the clutch.

Saturday Evening Post #155: Shadow Opportunity

Deng Ming-Dao writes,” Times of oppression and adversity cannot last forever. In the midst of great difficulty, a tiny opportunity will open—if only by chance.
You must be sharp enough to discern it, quick enough to catch it, and determined enough to do something with it.  Stick to it like a Shadow.”

“It is like a bird. If you try to catch it, you will miss. If you are always with it, moving at its speed, as much a part of it as its own shadow, then it is easy to seize.”

We have, tis fair to say, had our fill of lockdownitis. One of several pairs of Black-shouldered Kites that we’ve worked with over the years has flown several clutches of young while we’ve been at home with our four walls.

The sad thing is that the 5km limit we  have been forced to work to, just gets us to the turn-off to the road where the Kites territory begins. So it was possible to drive, and park, and like a kid looking in a lollyshop window droll on the glass.

But. Not able to get close enough to see what was going on.

The road runs off a major access road, so parking on the side, (within our limit) is fraught with its own challenges.  Myriad passing traffic, difficulty of parking on the side of the road, not to mention, standing about with a long camera lens  is likely to bring the wrath of some ‘public concerned individual” as to why we would be doing such a thing. And of course the inevitable visit from the long arm of the law.
So, we stayed away.
This particular pair, and really its the female, as we are pretty certain she has had two male companions over the past couple of years, have done their bit to keep the Kite species alive and well supplied.
Working backward, with the few clutches we had photographed without interruption and the number of clutches that were started and then we lost track of, or had begun and we came back on the end of the season with the young well and truly on the wing, we think in the past 3 years, they have had somewhere around 8 clutches.  Maybe 9.  On average she brings out 3 young, so given one known clutch failure, and one that only produced two young, it would be fair to say they have flown around 25 young birds.

Now we have a little more travel space, EE and I ventured out, among other places to see what the kites were doing, (If anything)   Parking well off the mainroad and scanning about, eventually we found one of the pair sitting high on a tree.  Not long after the female emerged from the top of a tree, and with much sqarrking encouraged the male to go hunting.
Bingo.  They have a nest.
That would be perhaps number 10 so far.  She is a bit of a workaholic.

Shadow time!  Hopefully the next few weeks will give us a chance to follow the progress.

The weather wasn’t all that kind, but here she is coming in with a fresh prize to prepare for the young, which must only be hatched for a week or so.

And just in case you’ve not seen a link before
The Peregrine Falcons high up on 367 Collins Street in Melbourne have hatched a clutch of three.
Here is a link to their video feed.

https://367collins.mirvac.com/workplace/building-overview/falcons-at-367-collins

Enjoy.

 

Saturday Evening Post #153: When Nothing is Something.

Adventures in Visual Literacy.

Ahhhh, you’ve got that old Dejavu Feeling again!

I also apologise as there has been little to write about this end during the past week.  We have been in a lockdown hiatus.

I had a couple of interesting comments and emails regarding last week’s post, and at the same time had been following a Daoist website that talked about nothing as being something.

Let me briefly explain.
“Thirty spokes share the hub of a wheel;
yet it is its centre that makes it useful.

You can mould clay into a vessel;
yet, it is its emptiness that makes it useful.

Cut doors and windows from the walls of a house;
but the ultimate use of the house
will depend on that part where nothing exists.

Therefore, something is shaped into what is;
but its usefulness comes from what is not.”
Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching

No Thing Ness is, it turns out, because of its usefulness, becomes a thing in itself.

The use of Negative Space as a photo composition element is like the hole in wheel, or the inside of the cup.  Useful because it is not the subject, yet. Provides a balance or harmony that gives the subject it’s power.

The lurking Minimalist inside me is always attracted to the simplicity of the hole in the wheel as much as the details on the spokes.
It makes us more aware of the importance of details in the subject.

It can be a contrast in sizes or volume that gives the subject some ‘breathing’ room.  As my old mentor, John Harris would add, it gives the subject a visual pause. Somewhere for the eye to relax.

And it allows the viewer to enter into the subject because of the mystery, and make up the rest of the story and emotion.

I found this motif on an early morning walk.  I see the building shape just about everyday, but with a dew on the structure and the reflection of the sky it turned into an abstract where the inside and outside spaces give little clue to the real world.

Nothing it seems is indeed Something.

Enjoy

 

 

Saturday Evening Post #152: Adventures in Visual Literacy

One of my previous mentors and a blog I follow, is David DuChemin. A practicing photographer, photo-journalist and mentor-trainer.
On a recent post, “What makes this image work”  David struck a note that parallels my own photo expression.

He talks about being able to de-construct the image to work out the elements that make it successful, and any that might detract from the story. Worth the read if you like to think about why some pictures are more memorable than others.

It is a process I’ve been fortunate to have been taught a long long time back when I was a mere wee broth of a photographer, and still wet behind the shutter button.

One of my great mentors, and a notable photographic friend and a staunch ally was, and I’ve mentioned him before in past blogs, John Harris.
John had a way of teaching that made people want to learn.  He would often say about deconstruction of a photo, “What we are looking for is the photo inside the photo.”

John and I first met when I was, for want of a better term, acting as Stage Manager for a major photographic convention and National Judging event.  Judging of National and International competitions is on par with any blood sport, and emotions, egos and competitive angst abound.
So it was not surprising that during the running of the event, as I was co-ordinating it, I was told, “John Harris is coming!”   Fear and trepidation would be the hallmark of such an appearance.  John will want to change the colour of the room. John will need those curtains to be pulled back (or forward, or removed), John, will bring his own equipment and the current gear will need to be removed. Don’t expect John to accept the furniture layout, it will need to be changed, etc, etc, and etc.
Quite the demand list it seemed.  Pity is we were running on a tight time schedule, a budget that didn’t exist and we had a power of work to get through in the time allotted. Changes, however small, were not going to happen, let alone be tolerated.
And certainly NOT on my Watch.

“John Harris is here” midway through the afternoon, I heard in hushed terms.
I expected some demi-god.  What I got was a pretty decent replica of my own Dad!

He did look the place over, suggest a few changes, we had some words, and eventually we arrived at what I expect could be called an amicable arrangement.  The show went on.

Something between us Clicked—to coin a photographic metaphor.   It was more than just respect.  We would go on to build a great relationship, built primarily around our mutual love of image, and as seekers of the story within.

So much so, that John spent a lot of time over my photos, and their progression, I reciprocated. A process that benefitted both our work.
Together we ran classes for visual literacy, and general photo training.
I was scheduled to run a two day event in a small country town, and while the locals came out in good numbers, just as I was beginning I was a bit shocked to see John Harris come through the door.  He’d heard I was there ,and had driven up specially for the day.  I added him to the programme and as he was an accepted ‘local’, any friend of John’s was a friend of all.  Suddenly I wasn’t just some passing stranger with a few slides to show, I too was part of the community.  Such was John’s prowess.

A programme we developed together, and did successfully run for several years, involved image deconstruction. John had collected a large folio of tear sheets from a range of magazines, and we would pass them out to small groups at the event ,and have them highlight the elements of the visual.  Much as David D is asking in his blog.
John’s skill was making the images meaningful, mine was getting each of the groups to communicate what they were seeing and experiencing. What lens, shutter speed, lighting, point of view, emotion, visual elements and the like, so that everyone could both share their experience with the photo, and of course hopefully use the gained knowledge in their own work.

David’s current image of the coffee barista at work is a classic shot for deconstruction.  No two of us are ever going to agree on what should and shouldn’t be in the image.  As John would remark, “If we all agreed, then someone could take One Photo of the Subject and we’d never need to take our Cameras out again. Art that is not growing is Dead!”

Thanks David for the insight, Thanks John for the memories.

A Black-shouldered Kite, hunting pre-dawn. Too simple? : Or simply Abstract?

 

Saturday Evening Post #151 :The Heathdale Glen Orden Wetlands

I’ve had a few enquires regarding the Latham’s Snipe photos, I’ve been sharing of late on Flickr and elsewhere.

And as I thought, you dear reader, needed a bit of  break from some of the stream of consciousness posts of the past few weeks, I’m going to break with Tradition for the Saturday Evening Post and put up several shots for an insight into the summer-over home for these wonderful creatures that fly all the way from Japan to take up residence in a small wetlands surrounded by suburbia and not 500 metres from a major shopping complex: The Werribee Plaza.

Heathdale Glen Orden is about 35 hectares of parkland and water retaining basin, situated in a saucerlike depression in the middle of a number of housing complexes.

There is a main feeder drain that brings water from several kilometres away from the run off of roadways and parklands, and is fed into the water-retaining area from a smaller feeder drain.  The drain is full of reeds and cumbungi and the like and the runs for several hundred metres before the water enters the lake area proper.  During that time the clever plants filter out the majority of large rubbish and begin the process of clearing the water of sediment and other detritus
The water that flows into the lake area is already quite well filtered and the large open areas of water further act to remove impurities.

The water area is quite shallow, and on a good rain it quickly fills and flows out well beyond the fenced off areas. However that very fact makes it ideal for the visiting Snipe as it produces small areas of damp mud, small dry areas for roosting and pools of water that keep a steady food supply available.

The past couple of days, we’ve had some decent rain, around 35-40mm. Perhaps even more in some areas.  This has enabled the feeder drain to pickup quite a volume of water and when I visited this morning water was extending well out over the surrounding area and footpaths around the  wetlands.  Perfect for Snipe.

The area is a favourite patch of a couple of  birding “off-siders” as my Dad was wont to say.  David Nice, from Flickr is part of the Friends of Heathdale Glen Orden and posts there , and also on Flickr. Always a good supply of info of what the area has to offer.
Dave Torr, he,  the emeritus President of the (former) Werribee Wagtails, is a local and walks the area most days. Not much misses his attention.

So here are a few shots from this morning.  I used the Nikon Z50 with its 16-50mm kit lens.  I’ve had the lens for over a year, but have rarely used it. What surprised me was the small size, it’s almost a pancake lens when folded up, and despite its lightweight feel and design is quite capable of producing very sharp, very useable results. It may not be a birding lens of any repute, but as a walkabout lightweight kit it will get a few more outings  I think.

Enjoy

Oh, I didn’t see any Snipe today, but I was running out of time on my “exercises hour”.

Across the shallow, water retaining basin.
The feeder drain that brings water from housing developments a few kilometres north. After the recent rains it has been given a new life
Toward the Eastern End. This location is usually much drier and a small feeder drain comes in at the end of the fence line.
A well formed walkway winds its way across the wetlands. But it is well overgrown and with only a few area of open water makes bird watching challenging.
Hey, Who Let the Water Out!
That’s a duck halfway down the footpath. Always the opportunist.
The western end of the lake area, normally not underwater, and a good location for spotting Snipe

Saturday Evening Post #150 : Reaching Out Visually

I came across the following poem by 16th-century mystic St. John of the Cross, titled “A Rabbit Noticed My Condition”

I was sad one day and went for a walk;
I sat in a field

A rabbit noticed my condition and came near.

It often does not take more than that to help at times—

to just be close to creatures who
are so full of knowing
so full of love
that they don’t—
Chat.

they just gaze with
their marvellous understanding.

Interesting to me, at least as it harmonised well with a chapter of a book I am reading during lockdown, which covers among other thing, the concept of “Mindfulness”.
It has a four step process, with  Mindfulness, Awareness, Visualisation, and Awakening.

Now I feel perfectly qualified to lecture on this subject as true to the Internet Uncle Google tradition, the less I know about something and it’s intricate details the more I am able to pontificate on why my way is the correct view—There is a lot of tongue in cheek in that sentence, I hope it doesn’t get too lost 🙂 .

Mindfulness in the ancient tradition is not so much about the current psyhco-babble feel-good about your body, make contact with your feet on the ground, feel you breathing and all the other paraphernalia that seems to have been attached to it by those who have hijacked it for their own needs and reasons.
Simply defined (the best that a bear with a small brain can handle), is “Focusing on One thing at a Time”  Works for me!

Awareness: Observes the world with both sensory and cognitive perceptions, (There are a lot of long words in there, Miss; we’re naught but humble pirates. What is it that you want?  -Captain Balbosssa: Pirates of the Caribbean)

My takeaway was that Awareness reaches out to be inclusive and expansive. Not just internally but of the around.
Resonates with me a  lot, as when I’m in the field, I’m not just seeing a bird, but rather there is an interaction as Jon Young describes as “building a rope.”  My birding friends are happy to see the bird and log it in their notebook, and then go search for the next one.
As a photographer, I’m more likely to consider the lighting, angle, the background, the best point of view and what that bird is doing, and likely to do.

As St J. says, being able to interact with “A Creature so Full of Knowing…So Full of Understanding”

Now it turns out, I’m not a logger of species or an inveterate note keeper.  For others, and I applaud them for their skills, it’s a matter of being able to recognise and log various attributes of the bird and build up an interesting database, both for their own use and to share online on ebird, or some other chosen platform.

So awareness is not all that complicated, but as we are in lockdown, its a skill that I find that I’m not able to put into practice. And like all skills, or craft it loses its edge from lack of use.  That’s why artists, writers, sports people and so may other craftspeople are constantly honing the skills. Top tennis players don’t get there by watching another fool-tube video or Uncle googling the best technique.

It’s probably no surprise that I walk my hour’s ‘exercise’ early in the morning. I like the walk the pre-dawn.

And I’ve added an Awareness element to it of late.
I try and notice as many things as possible during the hour out, and then when I come home, over breakfast, I take a sheet of paper and brain-dump all I can remember observing. Not to compare lists or build up a database as such, but rather, just what did I see when I was out today.

After breakfast I toss the paper anyway. As I’ll be fresh tomorrow.

Mind I’m getting a bit tired of logging 17 disposed disposable masks. But I do put down things like the splash of early morning sun on the roofs across the watercourse.   Also what work the council has done on the parklands.  And of course the inevitable, the people that I pass by.  And so it goes.

Not sure where it will lead, but at the moment it adds to the day out and is a beaut distraction from our lockdown blues.


I had need the other day to go out our local medical clinic.  After that I strolled down to see the local Black Swan family, its only a few minutes from the clinic.
I had the previous few days been photographing Welcome Swallows as they begin to prepare nests in the drains under the roadway.
I had wondered if any Fairy Martins had returned, and on this day, I heard the cheery chirping calls, and was glad to see a dozen or so Fairy Martins working over the pond, and zipping through the roadway drains.
This is one of the few that old slow D810 could captured.

Saturday Evening Post #149: Gratitude

It is funny, as in complicated, how some things just keep rolling around about the same time, but always seem to have some link.

The word “Gratitude” has been at the head of the pack for me this week.

A Chinese Proverb says, “When you drink water, spare a thought for the source”
As it turns out, I’ve been taking the time, and the energy, and the obsession I normally reserve for things in the birding world and doing a bit of research and investigation into some of the more esoteric aspects of Tai Chi.

The ancients divided the “elements” of the world into Five parts.  Won’t bore you with the examination, but essentially they are Earth, Metal, Water, Wood and Fire.   Each is linked to a season of the year, and there are so many health, hygiene, meditation and spiritual elements to it all that has so far escaped my attention, but it has given me a new area to explore during the current catastrophe that is upon us. At least it’s a distraction.  🙂

I take my hour of exercise first thing in the morning.  As a photographer, I walk a little in the pre-dawn and then turn for home just about on sunrise.  On a good day, and today was one such day, the crisp blue sky gives way to the brilliance of the sunshine skating low beams of light across the local wetlands and slowly but surely the shapes emerge, the colour glow, and the world seems to me to be in harmony for that 30 minutes or so that I walk home.

I also stop by a little secluded, off the track location that I’ve discovered and make it a practice to add some Tai Chi routines to my enjoyment of that morning light.

It’s only a little pond, I am thinking of calling it “My Beautiful Spot”.
And this morning as I was settling into the routine, a flurry of wings sped by my head and with a ‘splossssh,’ a Pacific Black Duck landed on the water in front of me. Completely oblivious to my presence, it paddled about the pond, came to a spot near where I was standing and stepped out of the water for a bit of wing stretch and preen. I had to slow down my Tai Chi so as not to put it to wing.
Eventually it paddled back to the far side of the pond, and lifted vertically out of the water and was gone.

My beautiful spot took on quite an awe of optimism. For just a few moments.  I had a friend. 🙂

I managed to sneak a photo of duck, poor quality as the sun was still a sleepy-head, but hey, it was the best encounter, I’ve had this week.

During the week, I drove down to the end of my 5km radius to see how the Black Swan Family were doing.

And another touch of sunshine and some healthy looking young cygnets also lifted my heart.
Enjoy.

Remain Safe

From: The Fortress: The Global Headquarters of the Doona Hermit.

 

Saturday Evening Post: #148.1 Humbled by Onion Grass

Not often I add an addendum to a post, but the wonderful responses to last Saturday’s Onion Grass, really reached out to me.

Thanks to all those who commented and opened up a little about their thoughts on creativity, awareness and the emotions that flowers have across a range of cultures and communities.

Always good to have a touch of feedback that gives me a little tug on the old heart.

And humbling in the way that Lao Tzu would say,

See others as yourself. See families as your family. See towns as your town. See countries as your country. See worlds as your world.

Who would have thought a tiny little unpresuming splash of purple among the vastness of the sedges and weeds at the local water basin would reach to touch so many of us.

Thank you again for taking the time to ponder and rejoice.

Saturday Evening Post #148″ Ode to the Humble Onion Grass

If you are an avid gardener, and particularly if you are fastidious about your pristine lawn, then:  Warning!  Click away now. Nothing here to see.

Hey, were did they all go???

Onion grass (Romulea rosea) Do a Google search and the first 1,200,000 hits are all about eradicating it from your lawn.
But.

I like Onion Grass, well at the least the flower and there is a back story.

Many many years, ago, when as it turns I was less then half as old as as I am now, I had what at the time was described as a “medical incident”, details aren’t important, but I ended up in hospital, undergowing life-saving surgery that in itself was brutal enough to bring many people down.
I don’t recall any of it, as I remained sedated for quite the week or so. I’m told on good authority that the first two nights the night-shift nurse sat by my bed and held(squeezed) my hand most of the night to keep me focused.  Must have worked. 🙂
I never did get to meet her, or to offer a simple “Thank You”.

More weeks in hospital, mostly putting weight back on I seem to recall, and eventually I was able to sit up, and a few days later I was discharged, and then spent more weeks at home mostly in bed, just recovering.
—Stick with it,  We’re getting to the Good Bit 🙂

Finally I was able to get out of bed and shuffle about the room, then the house, and by now I could longingly look out the window.
The timing of all this was the middle of winter,  June, July August.  Just about this time of the year. Slowly both the weather and I began to improve.

On one of those hand-picked rich warm sunny August days, when the wind was low, the sun was bright and the whole creation seemed to sing, I looked out the back door at the dear old welcoming green lawn, opened the door boldly and tentatively stepped out.  No earthquake, no general swaying and lurching, and the warm sunshine was, well so inviting.  I, like Neil Armstrong before me, took one more step from a man, and one giant leap for … me!  I stepped off the footpath on to the grass.

As I looked down to enjoy the greener view, and also coincidentally just to check that I had my feet the right way round and I wasn’t falling over, I noted a tiny small purple flower just ahead of me in the grass.  I shuffled over for a closer look.  It was the first spring Onion Grass flower.  I looked about for more, but if they were there, they were outside of my view.
So I settled on the one I could see.

There it sat.  No concern for being in the wrong place—the right place for me! Just humbly doing its job of soaking up the sun, full of life and promise for its species.
And well, ya gotta remember I ain’t been out for a couple of months.  That little purple splash and I bonded.

So much so that just about ever spring wherever I am, and I come across the richness of that purple among the green, it’s enough to stop me in my tracks and be very happy to enjoy the memory of that encounter so long ago.

Fast forward to the present. I was walking among the sprawling sedges and reed beds in our local wetlands the other day. It’s not even a wet lands,  simply a water retaining basin to protect the local housing development areas from storm water, cleverly disguised to look like a wetland. Mostly, as its requires a lot of rain, it’s dry.
Hard to find birds there at the best of times, even Australasian Purple Swamphens use it as an access to somewhere more suitable.

And as I meandered along, out of the corner of my eye, a splash of purple.  There is an ancient Bible text that says, “..’I must turn aside and see this marvellous sight,…
And so I did.

There quietly waving in the breeze, the little purple flower declared to the world, “Here I am”, and me, well I was delighted at the find, as it means Spring is well and truly on the way.

New Life always has such promise.

Saturday Evening Post#146: Awareness

Triptych: “A group of three photos displayed together. Usually with a common connection of feel, subject or meaning.”
—”the whole is greater than the sum of the parts”

I had a work colleague, many years ago, who specialised in in Triptytch. His field of work was, of all things, English countryside pubs.
As a young photographer, as he would tell the story, as he travelled about the ‘olde country’, he did stop at the pub for at least a quick pint. By the end of a day’s photoshoot, again, as the story was told, he was quite the merry, and the photography intent did suffer.

His little Austin van carried in the back, a selection of quite large potted plants. Usually colourful flowers and bushes, or the occasional small formal tree.
Once he had found a suitable location, the lighting was right and the best angle for the shot was selected, he would, ‘arrange the studio’ by tastefully placing, or replacing existing pots from his collection.

When he arrived in Australia, he started the same process, but, the sweeping expanse of Australia’s countryside meant it was a long dry drive between suitable pubs, and your average pub on the dusty road of the  Lachlan plain, while a useful metaphor in a Banjo poem, didn’t seem to take all that well to a few carefully arranged geraniums out the front.

He turned for awhile to making triptych of vast mountain ranges, and it was about the time I contributed several photos to his endeavors.
It is an interesting process to shuffle through a range of prints, looking for the special magic that connects them is a way the makes the whole so much greater than the strength of the individual elements.

From my previous “Little Journey’s” post you’ll know that #kneetoo and I had taken a run to the Treatment plant in the sunshine.

I’d also written the previous Saturday Evening Post #145  about mindfulness and being in the moment.
I had need earlier in the week to attend my local doctor’s clinic for a discussion with my GP.  Among the various topics discussed, he made an out of left-field suggestion that, “Perhaps you might like to try ‘mindfulness’.”
To which I was happy to respond, “Well I wrote a blog on that very subject at the weekend, and I incorporate it in my Tai Chi training and photography. What would you like to know?”
But,
As I discovered at the treatment plant working with a number of quite co-operative Brown Falcon, I’m a bit rusty on the reflexes and awareness of the subtle signals Brown sends just before it throws from the perch and is gone. Brown generally jumps down, and away.
Not great for infight, however it is possible to get a just-on-the-wing-unfurl and sometimes, the light, the angle and Cartier-Bresson, ‘decisive moment’ collude and a worthwhile result makes its way on to the memory card.

But when you’ve lectured, written, and extolled the virtues of “Awareness” for weeks without practice, the Karma is also going to be ready to bring me back to reality.
Such was the case with four Browns

They all were in no hurry to go anywhere, and we were quite happy to sit or stand with them. The joy of watching the bird at work in its environment soon sees the minutes melt away.

Then when the time to go occurs, and the camera better be more than ready. Arms ache, feet move to better balance, a step to include or exclude some background object, and waiting.
But sad to say, each bird slipped off the post without me even getting the shutter release halfway down.  Karma!

It once again reinforced to me how much of what observing these amazing birds reveals, and how much each is an individual.

More to learn.

Quick Triptych from a Lightroom printer Layout Style. All just moments before departure.

 

 

 

Saturday Evening Post#145: Where Ever You Are: Be There!

Sure, the shops are all closed by government decree around here, so I’m really talking from past experiences.

Have you been in a shop, ready to part with the hard earned, find what you want, approach the ‘sales’ staff, and find the they are busily enthralled in their own world on their ‘phone’. Some Tik-tok, spacebook, istafalm or other thing that holds attention.  Not wanting to make eye-contact under any circumstances, they’ll try to get the whole customer interruption, (used to called making  profit), out of the way.

Or perhaps, there is a ongoing discussion among several about lunch possibilities, or last night’s gym session.
Walk into a store, and my local greengrocer is such, and it’s a hive of activity, each customer is welcomed, a small banter of conversation, admittedly just above, “Oh have a nice day”, but at least an interest in the person.
Refreshing.

I had a friend once who was forever telling people, “Where ever you are: Be There!”
The same concepts come across in many religions. I’m not into deep meditation, or discovering my inner-self, or even spirit-filled ether of nebulous thought.

Nearly 18 months back, we were so I remember being told, “All in this together”.
Now its down to arguing why vaccine support can’t be redirected to Sydney to help. (And, please, I do understand there is much packed into that simple sentence, and  pumping more arms tomorrow is not going to bring the numbers down the day after.)

If any, us Melbournians might want to have a little compassion given we were putting out numbers like 600 or more infections A DAY, this time last year.

Wherever you are be: Be There!

What my friend was advocating, these days,  carries a well-worn, and oft, misunderstood and misused term.
Mindfulness.
It crops up in all the ‘best’ websites, lectures, books and corner spruikers.

Lao Tzu defined it so much more simply.  “Focus”  Ahh good photographic term, something I can get my head around.

Poking my head up against the viewfinder, and carefully working the composition, at some point, I have determined which part of the image is to be:
1. The focus, and
2 the Point of Sharp focus.
Wherever you are: Be there.

Henri Cartier-Bresson said, “To take photographs is to hold one’s breath…. It is putting one’s head, eye and one’s heart on the same axis….
There is a creative fraction of a second when you are making the picture. That is the moment the photographer is creative
     Opp!  The Moment.
Once it is gone, it is gone—Forever.”

As bird watchers, counters, seekers or photographers we are acutely  aware of the around.  The calls of the birds across the paddock, the Magpie in pursuit of a raptor, the shrill call of a White-plumed Honeyeater’s warning, a pair of Magpie Lark bonding.

I’m taking to doing much more sitting and watching, listening and soaking up the winds, sounds smells and changes of season than previously.
What is around the next turn in the track is not as alluring as years gone by. I’m happy to be a little kid on the beach, looking intently at a grain or two of sand as being overwhelmed by the broad vista before me.

Where ever you are Be There.

Besties to all those locked down, all those who are struggling with the isolation and hats off to all those dedicated Heros who are working so hard for us.  You show us the way

From the Global Headquarters of the Doona Hermit.

You don’t get more focused than a hungry juvenile Australian Hobby lining up for lunch to arrive. 🙂

 

Saturday Evening Post: #144 :Brown Falcon Dreaming

Hello all my felllow-lockdownees, and others.
The Doona Hermit has crawled out from under the covers here at the Global Headquarters of the Doona Hermit.

Not much to see in our street, so I’ll move on to other things.

Best wishes to all the Sydney-siders.  So many of them stood with us in solidarity last year as our lockdowns dragged on and on. We know your pain, we know how hard it is with just about everybody doing the right thing and then… what are those people doin!!!
Concentrate on the good ones.  Those who are working on the front-line, in the backrooms, calling, delivering, offering comfort, and all the other other genuine human things we are so capable of in crisis.
Goodonya

Meanwhile Victoria is again in the firing line with a nominal, “Five Day Circuit Breaker”, but I doubt if there is a single Victorian who even dares to image that come next Tuesday evening we’ll be relieved.  The smart money seems to be on an extension of some duration.

The ‘We allwannagotothefooty” mantra has meant that those few selfish (and this blog doesn’t usually call it a it is!) had their couple of hours of ‘pleasure’ and now we all suffer.
Years ago in the Sun New Pictorial newspaper, columnist  Keith Dunstan (OAM) established the Anti-Football League (AFL)
I’d be happy to be a subscribing member at the moment 🙂

Draw a line


I watched part of the David Attenborough series “LIFE IN COLOR“, can’t find much of a link anywhere, but will keep trying.  The part that is of interest here to your scribe was the segment on the Fiddler crab and its ability to use polarised light to find a mate, and to avoid predators.

As a photographer I’ve been interested in the use of polarised light and its characteristics for a long time.  Numerous polarising filters, filter sheet, and polarising materials laying around the work area will attest to the ongoing investigations.
Even helped me on several jobs, particularly when we were working for car mags, and also the excursion into interiors for home-improvement clients.

I wish I could find some details of how the production team worked with all this, how they determined it worked and how they then built the special gear to bring it to screen.  A few voice-over sentences hardly does it justice.

The interesting one for me was that if said crab turned its attentions and its special skills to the skies, what it would ‘see’ was a blank, white canvas. Any movement, say a predator gull, or large hungry seabird, would be picked up as a black shape against the white, no distractions, and as quick as you can say, disappear, it was down in its hole, safe and secure.

No doubt, and I hypothesize, (you get to do that a lot hidden under the doona), that the creature also had some shape recognition, much like the plane and boat recognition shapes that were used by spotters during WWII.
Which of course led to the next hypothesis.

If it works for your clever and well equipped Fiddler crab, might it not have some similar application in other creatures.

Long-term readers will know I have a theory. No, I didn’t borrow this one from Mr An Onymous, this is pure Doona Hermit land.

I’ve sat and watch Brown Falcon’s for many an hour.  Not your ‘Oh, there’s a Brown Falcon on the fence’ move on” sort of stuff, but sitting a respectful distance from Brown and watching it watch.

I’m convinced they have the area ‘mapped’. Somehow. Each scan of the scene reinforces the last scan, or reveals something new to be added to the ‘map’.  Such as.
That skink just came out from under the leaves.  There is a snake working through the bracken.  The crickets are gathering near the little water soak. Each can then be evaluated as to the risk-management of pursing the prey.  Once they know where the opportunities exist, they don’t have to immediately take off and chase, they can plan and take action at a time that suits them.

Flying there is usually, low and fast through the grasses and bushes not even being able to see where the quarry is, but knowing if they stick to the map, weave here, turn there, zig left, they will arrive, like a shopper in a supermarket, at the right aisle, for the prize.

Now if I combine that with the polarised light Attenborough segment, I am wondering if Brown’s have some similar ability.  Looking out they see a blank canvas, and anything that moves across that landscape is ‘red-hot’ in contrast, and easily mapped and evaluated.
Such is the theory.

In the meantime this Brown was sitting high on his territory.  It is a fav perch, right alongside a major, busy road, with wide open paddocks all around.
On this particular frosty morning, he’d taken the opportunity to warm up in the struggling sunlight and was in no hurry to move on.
The scanning process was obvious.

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