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Birds on a wire or fence

I don’t know what this is, and couldn’t match it online. (Breaking news: it’s probably a yellow-faced honeyeater!) Photographed in Sydney.

Birds on a wire or fence is the Bird Weekly theme.

Australian Pelicans in Adelaide

Robin (the North American kind) in Stratford, Canada

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Monarch butterfly pupa

Pupa (also known as chrysalis) tucked away out of danger. You can see the wing markings through the thin pupa.

When my parents wintered in south Texas, they grew butterfly-friendly plants to help the Monarch butterflies, which are in danger in North America. The butterflies would head north from Mexico and lay eggs in my parents’ garden. The eggs would hatch, the caterpillars would gorge themselves, and then they’d crawl off to what they considered to be a safe location (including under lawn chairs!). Then the magic would happen inside the pupa.

“Chrysalis is a Greek word for gold. Scientists are unsure about why the gold band and spots appear on the chrysalis. … After about 10 days, the final moult reveals an adult butterfly. The enlarged abdomen is full of fluid. The butterfly pumps the fluid into its crumpled wings until they become full and stiff.” (source)

How did something so large fit into that small container?

Posted for Becky’s SquareUp challenge. I’ve gone with “playing around with the word up”.

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Birds beginning with “C”

My first thought for the theme of “Birds beginning with C” was cormorants. The photo below deserves to be pulled out of the gallery above, in part because it may need an explanation! In China, cormorants have been used for centuries to catch fish for humans. This photo gallery from The Guardian has some stunning photos of the men and the birds in action. In my photo, I suspect the man was parading these cormorants through a busy tourist area in search of people willing to pay for a photo.

Cormorants being carried – Yangshuo, China

I discovered I have photos of other C birds too, lurking in the archives.

Black cockatoo – Alice Springs, Australia

Canada Geese — Stratford, Canada

Pied currawong – Sydney, Australia

Condors – Colca Canyon, Peru

Birds beginning with “C” is the Bird Weekly theme.

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Pelicans and petrels

One wingtip drags in the water

I photographed these petrels in the Indian Ocean while sailing from South Africa to India on Lord Nelson in 2013. After leaving Durban, we swung south (way, way south) and east, giving a wide berth to Madagascar and any lurking pirates, before eventually heading northeast, back on track. The weather at 35deg South was not what we expected from the Indian Ocean — grey, chilly, spitting with rain. The bonus was the company of petrels and even albatrosses, following the ship. They never seemed to flap those long wings: a feather lifted here, a wing tilted there. Such effortless flyers. I watched them for hours (frankly, there was little else to do!).

Banking to turn

The pelicans were photographed in Cairns, not quite as exotic a destination as the southern Indian Ocean.

Birds with Long Wingspans is the Bird Weekly theme.

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Some kind of katydid

I pity the small insect those front legs snatch!

I would never have spotted this small green insect but I happened to see the flash of movement when it landed on the duranta tree on my balcony. It was two metres away and I had no hope of making out details but luckily my camera was just inside the door. Maximum zoom revealed it to be quite an elegant mantis-type bug. From what I could learn online, it’s a kind of katydid, of which there are about 1,000 species in Australia.

The overlapping wings create a lovely diamond pattern.

In search of protection.

Did you have to look closely to spot the katydid? Excellent camouflage.

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Tomato Diary 11

15 Oct: Ripening very nicely, thank you!

The experiment: to grow tomatoes on my balcony during a Sydney winter using seeds scraped from a store-bought tomato. (Although we’re well into spring now.)

There’s not much left to say about the experiment. I think we can all agree it was a success, albeit not a quick one. From seed planting in early May, it’s taken almost seven months for the tomatoes to reach the eating stage (I had five for lunch on Sunday!). So yes, seeds scraped from a store-bought tomato will germinate and the plants will grow in a Sydney winter, but they definitely prefer the spring with its overall warmer temperatures and longer days. (So do I, actually.)

22 Oct: Good enough to eat?

Remember in September, I started to water one pot with milk and to not use chemical fertiliser? That experiment was not a success. The milk didn’t seem to hydrate the plants as well as water, and the pot is significantly heavier. Some digging with a stick revealed that the bottom 3 or 4 inches of soil has turned into a type of semi-solid swamp that released quite an unpleasant smell as I dug around. The liquid oozing from the drainage holes was a sort of thick green. (It’s the pot on the left in the photo below.) My advice: don’t do it!

The powdery mildew problem has not been cured by spraying the leaves with diluted milk, even with the addition of baking soda to the mix (a suggestion from Jude). You can see in the group photo below that these plants have a lot of naked stems! If you’re wondering why they haven’t gained much in height, the answer is that I’m pinching off their tops when they get to the height of the stakes because the plants generally sit on the balcony’s raised bed (visible at left) and there isn’t much vertical room.

22 Oct: Not the healthiest looking tomato plants you’ll ever see! But there are 80-odd tomatoes, the largest the size of a golf ball or small plum.

Interestingly, the star performer of the five plants has been the runt that I retrieved from the rubbish because I felt sorry for it (the small black pot above). It was the first to flower and the first with ripening fruit, and is taller than two of what were apparently the four strongest ones.

I’m keeping a tally of harvested tomatoes, and when this is all over I’ll let you know how many I get.

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Pride of Madeira (and bees!)

I love those pink/purple stamens sticking out.

On a visit to the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney a couple of weeks ago, I came across a very large planting of Pride of Madeira (Echium candicans)*. The large flower spikes are at about eye level — and the bees absolutely loved them. I was very glad these were non-aggressive bees!

It’s interesting how the flowers appear in spirals.

Let me at that pollen!

The photo below is a crop of the one above, to zero in on the bee. That “pollen basket” (thanks to Jude for introducing me to that term) is so blue that it looks like an enamelled jewel adorning the bee’s leg.

This bee is kind of cute with its hairy front.

*Don’t be too impressed by my plant knowledge — being a botanic garden, everything has a label. 🙂

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Tomato Diary 10

Time to eat one of these babies!

The experiment: to grow tomatoes on my balcony during a Sydney winter using seeds scraped from a store-bought tomato. (Although we’re well into spring now.)

I wasn’t sure if this was ripe enough, but only one way to find out!


It was not quite ripe enough — slightly bitter, and not exactly full of flavour. There are 81 more on the plants, sized from marbles to small plums, so no doubt I’ll eventually get the timing right.

Tune in later for Tomato Diary 11.

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Riverside Walk

Monday was a public holiday here, and the weather was marvellous for the long weekend! On Sunday I headed to Sydney’s northwest, to Lane Cove National Park (you can see the location in the last image, if you’re curious).

Off we go! Downhill, I approve of that.

A 5km walk follows the west bank of the Lane Cove River, and in some places you’re close enough to see the water.

Small flowers could be spotted beside the trail.

No danger of getting lost!

The temperature was about 30C, with barely a breeze, so the shady sections were welcome.

No shade here, but the ferns are pretty.

Messing about in boats!

At the end of the section of the walk that I did, I was puzzled by signs with numbers and names. They couldn’t be distances, surely. I finally realised that they were official picnic areas, and they were certainly popular on the day. They can be reserved in advance.

I’ve blurred the people’s name on this Reserved sign.

Once off the trail, it was no place for a pedestrian. You really are expected to drive or cycle to the trail. I often had to walk along the bush’s edge when a car came along.

Pedestrians beware!

And here’s the location of the park.


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I’m also including this walk in Lens Artists ‘A Photo Walk‘ challenge