AUSTRALIAN EMPEROR DRAGONFLY (Hemianax papuensis)

It was early afternoon and I realized the indoor potted plants needed watering.

They’re mainly hothouse plants so don’t actually need a lot of water to grow in the warmth of the room (despite the air-conditioner being set at 20C).

The last pot to be checked, (with a dry finger dipping into the soil), was my Lucky bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana).

To my surprise and absolute delight, there was a dragonfly grasping a stem.   I presume it must have flown in the open door seeking a bit of shade in the hot afternoon.

The first shot was a bit dark and soft in focus.

I watched the insect closely for quite some time and even wondered if it was alive as its body was perfectly still.

I took a couple of shots, but bobbing down slightly and bending over was too painful on my lower spine (where I had the surgery a couple of months ago).

This might be worth getting my trusty old tripod out of the wardrobe and putting the camera on it to achieve better focus.

So I did.

The tripod was rather dusty but I opened it quickly.

Note: I’ve got a remote shutter release cable somewhere but haven’t used a tripod or the release cable for some years as most of my photography is of birds or the occasional landscape when I go for a walk.  Using a good tripod, turning the image stabilising off and attaching a remote release cable really does make a difference.   I’ve got two tripods.   A really good, but heavy, one and a lightweight travel one which is perhaps too light and prone to falling over in strong winds.

I was wishing I still had a macro lens, but the 17-55mm f2.8 lens works just fine these days. 

It was an Australian Emperor dragonfly (Hemianax papuensis).   No doubt the excessive rain, floods and changing climate in Australia have suited butterflies and damselflies perfectly.

The Australian emperor dragonfly, also known as the yellow emperor dragonfly, scientific name Anax papuensis, is a species of dragonfly in the Aeshnidae family. It is black with yellow dots along its tail.Wikipedia
Scientific name: Hemianax papuensis
Rank: Species
Family: Aeshnidae
Infraorder: Anisoptera
Order: Odonata
Phylum: Arthropoda

Then I saw a leg move and slowly lifted the potted plant off the TV table, opened the sliding door and set the pot down on the balcony tiles giving the insect opportunity to either sit in the hot sun or fly away.

DRAGONFLY – AUSTRALIAN EMPEROR (Hemianax papuensis)

When you’re mainly housebound, every little nature encounter is both exciting and uplifting to the spirits.

When I lived (and worked for over 16 years) next to the Royal Botanic Gardens on the southeast side of Melbourne, I concluded that the best time to photograph dragonflies was around February, often the hottest month of our summer.

I could bend, kneel and even lie on the ground back in those days, but not now (after 3 lumbar spine surgeries and a total right hip replacement).

I really appreciate it when the birds & bees and other little critters sit for a length of time at waist or chest height and don’t move.  😀

But coming indoors and standing perfectly still on a potted plant was definitely a rare occasion.

AUSTRALIAN PAINTED LADY (Vanessa kershawi)

Butterflies can’t see their wings. They can’t see how truly beautiful they are, but everyone else can. People are like that as well. 
Naya Rivera

Back to December 2010 for this series of images.   I can picture the scene now.  This butterfly was captured by my little Canon PowerShot A3000 IS (prior to buying my first Canon DSLR at the end of that same month).   Who says a little inexpensive Point & Shoot camera isn’t as good as an expensive DSLR.

The location was near an archway right next to the entrance to The Herb Garden, Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne.  The colourful Lantana was in full bloom and a shaft of sunlight lit up the flowers and Australian Painted Lady butterfly.

AUSTRALIAN ADMIRAL BUTTERFLY (Vanessa itea)

I don’t often see butterflies in my current home location (compared to the dozens I saw when I lived near the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne pre-2015) and walked around the lovely 55-hectare site regularly.

On the 10th December, when my desk was still next to the lounge window, I glanced sideways and spotted an Australian Admiral Butterfly (Vanessa itea) on the outdoor power switch unit.

I slowly rose out of my desk chair, grabbed a short telephoto lens (15-55mm attached to a Canon DSLR body), and went outdoors to capture a photo before it flew away.

It was a lovely insect and didn’t seem to have any wing damage as is often the case captured in past photography opportunities.

BUTTERFLY – AUSTRALIAN ADMIRAL (Vanessa itea)

I tried to get a little closer and better focus but the butterfly must have felt threatened as it closed its wings rather abruptly.

It stayed that way for a few more minutes and then flew to the opaque balcony dividing fence……

…..and then flew away.

For those of you who see butterflies all the time, this short photo opportunity may not seem so exciting, but for me, who rarely sees more than a cabbage moth butterfly around my potted plants, this was a rather thrilling experience.

My usual ‘bird on my balcony’, where I have to work hard in a very short time at capturing a fast-moving small bird, is sometimes more work than fun.  This was definitely fun!

 

ROCK DOVE (Columba livia)

Rock Doves, or Pigeons, as most of us call them, are common in my suburb, especially in the area around the nearby river and parkland.

The species has so many markings and colours in the feathers that some people might think they are different birds when they see them in a group.

Basically, they are in almost any location where there are ‘man and his crops.  I’ve seen them down the beach, in suburban backyards and in parklands.   They seem to be in droves on city buildings.

I first noticed them on my balcony back in January 2022 with this fine specimen standing on the air-con outlet on my balcony below.   Before that, they appeared on the rooftops and balcony fence railings.  While I’m sure an experienced photoshopper could get rid of the blurred louvred windows lines in the image, I’m happy to get the shot anyway.

Yesterday, there were 2 rock doves fighting over the birdbath (or bird paddling pool as I call it during the hot weather).

I went to get my camera and frightened them away with my sudden movement.   A short time later they came back to the birdbath individually so I was able to photograph them.

The feather patterns/colours are completely different between the two birds and the slimmer one seemed to be much younger.

I had the sliding door wide open so was able to get a clear shot.

(note: you’ll be pleased to know I finally got around to cleaning the exterior lounge windows yesterday, so the only hindrance to fairly good shots are the interior furniture reflections if the sliding door is closed and my intermittent wobble holding the heavy telephoto lens and camera still.  I also cleaned out the birdbath and the rocks in the water.  This morning reveals lots of smear marks on the louvred windows though.  A more thorough wash is needed, but I’m sure you can appreciate that cleaning every louvre slat individually is rather tedious).

Birds on my balcony often stare straight at me to check on my movements and proximity.  All the birds are very skittish in this area and nothing like the tame approach I was able to get to the Spotted Turtle-doves when I lived on the northeast side of Melbourne pre-October 2016.

In the image below the dove/pigeon moved its head just as I pressed the shutter button.  I think it was wary of confronting the younger Rock Dove again.

The rear view below shows some of the lovely aqua and mauve sheen on the throat and neck of the fatter bird.

…..and then they were gone.

There’s never much time to change camera settings or zoom in or out on these occasions.   It’s a case of shoot and just hope you can fix minor blemishes or lighting irregularities in photo editing software.   I just use the Mac’s basic in-house editing software to tweak the light and definition mostly.   I don’t have the interest, or more importantly, eyesight, to use all the other editing software on the market these days.

Mostly it’s too hot to go outdoors at the moment, so no interesting walks to share.

RIBWORT PLANTAIN (Plantago lanceolata)

A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows.

Doug Larson

…..and the last grass I’ll be sharing this week is Ribwort Plantain (Plantago lanceolata).   I just double-checked its name and it seems to have quite a few.

I know it as Ribwort.  I’ve photographed it many times, but the image I like best is the one below as it has a more interesting background than my other photos.

Besides, it is the only one in my GRASS – Ribwort folder 😀 ), so with our current heatwave here in Melbourne making me rather lethargic toward wading through my Photo Library to find some other photos, this image will do.

RIBWORT or RIBGRASS (Plantago lanceolata L.)

Very closely related to Plantago Major, it’s very tolerant and can adapt to extreme condition. This plant can actually live anywhere from very dry meadows to places similar to a rain forest, roadsides, open woodlands and grasslands.

When I was studying Herbal Medicine in the early 1990s, I vaguely remember it being noted for its blood-staunching properties.   I was reading a great website this afternoon and copied the information straight across to this post in case you’d like to know a bit more.

 

MEDICINAL PROPERTIES

 

Same as his relative Common Plantain, Ribwort Plantain is a safe and effective treatment for bleeding, it quickly staunches blood flow and, as an antimicrobial, encourages the repair of damaged tissue to promote faster healing.

The heated leaves are used as a wet dressing for wounds or skin inflammations, and as an external antihistamine against  animal stings or bites.

The entire plant is astringent, demulcent and ophthalmicA distilled water made from the plant makes an excellent eye lotion. The leaves find also use as a nutritious tea rich of vitamins, minerals, mucilage and tannins.

Yet an other great wild medicinal plant and edible vegetable. For survivalists and woodsman this is a plant you must know because it can help heal wounds, prevent infection and the seeds can serve as a starchy food source.

 

CULINARY USE

Ribwort Plantain is a very nutritional leafy vegetable containing Calcium, and vitamins A,C, and K. Its young leaves are eaten raw, but larger leaves get tough and are much better cooked. Leaves have a slightly bitter flavour, which makes them more suitable to add to soups or salad, rather than consumed by themselves. Roots and seeds are also edible, usually cooked, same as the flower buds that work well for making a mushroom kind of taste stock.

 

FEATHER-HEADS (Ptilotus macrocephalous)

Ptilotus macrocephalus (Feather-heads) – Amaranthaceae

I found this lovely and rather interesting grass, Feather-heads (Ptilotus macrocephalous) in a landscaped bed in the Royal Botanic Garden (RBG) on my regular walks when I lived on the inner south-east side of Melbourne pre-April 2015.

This bed was filled with many different types of grass with various heights, seed heads and interesting planting patterns.

The grass bed below is the particular one I’m talking about.

The bed looks rather overgrown in the 2012 image above, but it is worth a look close-up if you’re visiting the RBG in Melbourne (ehrrr…..assuming it’s still there  😀  ).   The bed gets full sun and I imagine the soil rather dry in Melbourne’s hot summer (like today which is very hot at 38C).

Feather-heads are a perennial with woody rootstock and widespread on dry sites in western Victorian grasslands but becoming increasingly rare.

Few seeds develop during a wet spring as the upright flower collects water and the pollen is destroyed, so I might suggest the last 3 years of flooding rains in Victoria (and the east coast of Australia in general) might have wiped this grass out in the wild?  Just a guess.   The long-range weather forecast said the next 3 years are going to be exessivly dry and hot in Australia.

FEATHER-HEADS (Ptilotus macrocephalus)

It’s native to Australia and classified as a herb.  The showy ‘bottlebrush-like’ flowers are up to 12cm long and 7cm wide, held at the ends of stems up to 80cm tall.

Just another of the grasses filed in a folder in my photo library that actually is identified – most are not.

PURPLE FOUNTAIN GRASS (Cenchrus setaceus)

Purple Fountain grass (Cenchrus setaceus) is my all-time favourite grass and I’ve photographed it many times, especially in the Royal Botanic Gardens here in Melbourne.

Up until I photographed a tiny patch of Windmill Grass, mentioned in the previous post, it used to be the most interesting among my Grass images.

There was one patch in the highest point in the south-west corner of the RBG (Royal Botanic Gardens) that I used to visit at the end of an afternoon’s walk which changed colour and lit up in the golden hour.

Occasionally, it can be seen in residential gardens, but only where owners have the space or are particularly fond of its beautiful colour and shape.

 

WINDMILL GRASS (Chloris truncata)

There is not a sprig of grass that shoots uninteresting to me.

Thomas Jefferson

I find grasses much more interesting than flowers (most of the time) and the most interesting one I’ve come across (so far) is Windmill Grass (Chloris truncata).

It is a native species which is frequent in grassland and open, dry, forest country from South Australia through to Queensland.

The one and only photo I’ve got was a wee bit too busy for my liking, but when I went back a week later to try and get a better shot, the grass was gone.  Mown down by Les the Grasscutter with his old tractor and flail.

I’ve never seen it again in that area next to the path or any other location for that matter.

WINDMILL GRASS (Chloris truncate) – 22nd JANUARY 2018

COMMON BLACKBIRD (Turdus merula) – Female

Hot today, so the birds came out to play.

The wet feathers of this Common Blackbird (Turdus merula) looked to be brownish so I presume this is a female Blackbird.  Her beak wasn’t a very bright yellow so I also wondered if it was a juvenile or young adult.

I’ve seen male Blackbirds fairly regularly in the tree in front of the balcony fence, but I think this is the first time I’ve seen a female.

No doubt she’ll be back now she knows the location of the paddling pool.

After the Blackbird flew away, 4 House Sparrows came for a drink and a paddle, but I missed the shot in my eagerness to zoom out the lens.

The Best Things in Life are Free

Made on the 12th of February 2012 in country Victoria (all within half an hour as the sun set).

And finally, on the 25th of December that same year….

I’m a great believer in taking time to smell the Roses (as the saying goes).

But I’m even more inclined to watch the sunset.

It never ceases to amaze me how many colours can occur in a short period of time on the same day.