NANKEEN NIGHT HERON (Nycticorax caledonicus)

For a change, I thought I’d do a post on each of the 100+ Australian birds I’ve photographed and identified over the last 10 years.

When I first spotted a Nankeen Night Heron on the bank of the Ornamental Lake in Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens I was thrilled as I thought it was a rare bird.

It was early in my photography hobby and I’d never seen such a beautiful bird.   I seem to have lost that first image in a computer crash, but I’ve got plenty more photos taken over the years.

Over many months (and years) I discovered they were common, especially in winter on the large island in the middle of the Ornamental Lake when the trees are leafless and the winter sun shines directly on the bare limbs.

There’s supposed to be Nankeen Night Herons in the Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve behind my apartment building (above in the lower left – photographed from the 5th floor) and somewhere in the parkland up and down the Maribyrnong River near my home (below) but I’ve never seen one since living in the area over the last 4 1/2 years.

I hope the image below is helpful for overseas followers to appreciate that I’m no longer living close to the city (of Melbourne) which is partly why I rarely go into the city these days and certainly never do street photography.    

The image is from a Real Estate advertisement but no mention of the photographer was given so unfortunately, I can’t credit that person with this image. Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve is about 100 feet from my ‘back door’. Not obvious in this image is the fact that my apartment building is built about halfway down a very steep slope on the western side of the river valley.  Melbourne city is shown on the horizon.

The images below are a mixture of photos made in the landscaping of Melbourne Zoo as well as at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne.

The mottled brown and cream pattern on the back and wings indicate a teenage heron.
This photo was made in what I call the Pelican’s lagoon at Melbourne Zoo.  Australian Pelicans and Cormorants congregate on the water around 4.00pm each afternoon when the keepers feed them from the boardwalk above.  I imagine the Nankeen Night Herons living on the lagoon island get their own food from the muddy water.
I think this image was of a heron on an unpathed area of the Botanic Gardens.
I’ve just cropped this image on 2 sides to make the heron’s body a bit larger within the frame.

This rather poor image (below) shows what I call the Heron tree in the Ornamental Lake.   The tree is dead and can be covered in 20+ Nankeen Night Herons warming up their feathers in the winter sunshine.

I’ve always been fascinated by the two slim white feathers adorning the ‘neck’ of the heron.   Why did Mother Nature put those feathers on the adult bird?  (I haven’t yet asked Mr Google that question).

I was kneeling down about 3-4 feet from the heron when I took these photos in the Zoo restaurant courtyard (next to the Japanese Garden).

NANKEEN NIGHT HERON (Nycticorax caledonicus)

NANKEEN NIGHT HERON (Nycticorax caledonicus)

The next minute the heron turned and started walking straight towards me and I had to stand up and move away from its path.

This heron was photographed on a small island adjoining the main lake in the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Apologies to the long-time followers who followed my old nature blog and will have seen these images several times before.


In order to see birds it is necessary to become a part of the silence.

 Robert Lynd

First sighting of a Noisy Miner (Manorina melanocephala) on a low(ish) branch of a tree next to the local river last Wednesday.

I stood perfectly still for a few minutes silently wishing the bird would turn around so I could get a frontal shot.

Then it did (as though it heard my request).

I was rewarded with a near-perfect view.

I am exceptionally good at standing perfectly still in silence for quite some time when it comes to bird photography.

I thought I’d have trouble holding my heavy telephoto lens after a long absence of bird photography, but after a few practice shots, I seemed to manage OK.   I can no longer carry a camera bag over my shoulder or the weight in a backpack though.  My deteriorating spinal condition might be up for a 3rd lot of surgery as the nerve compression pain is worse than the hip pain – Sigh!

I stepped a couple of paces closer….

These medium-sized, mid-greyish honeyeaters with their distinctive head pattern live in parks, gardens, open forest and woodland and even low-lying scrub.   You’ll often see them on the ground near the river hunting for some tasty titbits, but can be easily scared off, so best to capture a picture when they’re up high and they feel safer.

They have distinctively rich yellow beak and legs.

Here are a couple more shots made back in March 2017 in the same location.

…..and a couple more made on the metal fence dividing the long reed-covered canal just before it flows into the river – a meer 15 feet from the tree in the images above.

NOISY MINER (Manorina melanocephala) on the fence near the Maribyrnong River

In the photo (below), I was photographing something far off in the distance and lo and behold, a Noisy Miner landed on the fire hydrant right in front of me – May 2014 – near the Royal Botanic Gardens (located south of Melbourne city).

….and another close-up this time.   I spotted this rather tame and friendly miner in the park surrounding Ringwood Lake in the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne – May 2014.   It was standing on a shady log backlit by bright sunlight.

Last Wednesday, I went for a very short walk down to the local river – all 3 of my cameras in my shopping trolley, together with the usual bottle of water, folding umbrella & scarf/gloves in case it got too cold waiting for the right time to photograph a bird (or two).

There weren’t many birds visible although I could hear quite a selection of bird calls on the other side of the path in Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve.

It can be quite chilly in Melbourne’s Autumn, although walking in the sun on a clear day can be very pleasant indeed if you’ve wearing a warm coat.

Best to head for home around 4.30pm between the river and my apartment block as my side of the river falls into shadow fairly early now we are heading towards winter.   Once the light on this side of the river valley disappears, you can be suddenly plunged into total darkness if you’re on one of the walking trails, near the river.

A golf course on the other side of the river also reinforces the lack of suburban street lights.


In winter I used to carry my tiny strong camping lantern to light the path while on the stretch of parkland (400 hectares) which runs up and down the river towards dusk.  Last Saturday I bought a new LED tiny torch to add to my key-ring.

I lost the old pencil torch years ago.

For the benefit of overseas readers, these 2 images put together (below), taken from the top floor of my apartment building, give you an idea of the beautiful (parkland) environment stretching along the river.   The photos were not made consecutively, and it was only yesterday, on reviewing my Local Landscape folder that I realized they almost align (but not quite  😀  )

NOTE: I live on the other side of the first floor (the U.S. calls this 2nd storey) of a 6 storey apartment building facing the road, not facing the parkland.   Wish I lived facing east to catch the sunrise, but who’s complaining when there is so much greenery on the other side of the building.


I was looking through my ‘Favourite Quote‘ folder for something suitable to pair with my recent Sparrow photos and could find nothing.

It was then I did some Googling and discovered there was such a thing as World Sparrow Day – on the 20th March.   I’ve just missed it but decided to share the images (without a quote) anyway.

The male House Sparrow below seems to be staring straight at me.   Could it see me sitting at my desk, camera in hand?   Who knows.  Probably not as the exterior windows had been cleaned recently and it was probably looking at its own reflection?

Next up are a couple of images of the smallest/youngest sparrow I think I’ve ever seen.

Note: These images were made directly through the louvred windows located on the right-hand side of my lounge and computer screen.   It’s been raining for a couple of days and will continue for the next 3-4 days so I can’t open the louvres wide to get a clear shot without the glass edges showing in the photo. I watched it for quite some time and felt some sort of connection with its vulnerability.

Next, a male, just after the bird quenched its thirst.

Then a female (with another young female waiting its turn to drink and bathe in the lower left).

…..and another male.

I’ve never been able to get close enough to these flighty birds as I did the Spotted Turtle-doves in my previous apartment balcony on the north-east side of the city (below).   These doves became so tame that I could (slowly) step onto the balcony and edge up to the birds and photograph them from only  12-18 inches away.   There was one dove with a feather tuft over its right eye that became so friendly I could almost hand-feed it (but not quite).

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Here are some more sparrows taking a bath in April 2020.   They’re highly amusing to watch as they splash and roll their heads around trying to wash and dry themselves in sequence.   I rarely have time to alter camera settings or try for a well-balanced composition.   Its a matter of shoot with the camera on ‘general’ settings with a relatively high ISO in case they go to the shady side of the birdbath(s).  Sometimes the autofocus stops short of the birds in favour of dirty dust patterns, but move the camera slightly and the autofocus can latch onto the bird’s head or eye.

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I’m so lucky to have their company on rainy or housebound days.  But I tend to devote far too much of the morning to their antics.

I love watching the birds.   They’re wonderful company.   They sing joyfully as I wake in the morning and very companionable when singing for a mate.

Here’s another shot from back when I still had my balcony garden set up.  I’d emptied the plant trough and stirred up the soil surface with a fork so that they could rummage around for some tasty titbits to eat.


Commensal with humans, sparrows inhabit most continents throughout the world. They were introduced to Australia in the 1860s by acclimatisation societies and are now abundant in cities, towns, rural areas and around farm buildings, particularly in the south-east of Australia.


QUOTE – Nature

When you have all the time in the world you can spend it, not on going somewhere, but on being where you are. 

Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass

HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus – female juvenile)

It seems like months since I’ve gone outdoors for a nature photography walk, but have been very busy (for a change) and only made images of the birds I can see from my desk chair.

I’ve found another ‘mouse’ hole in a spare plant pot that has the old soil still in it, but after my SIL telling me there’s a mouse plague in the country, it seems I should take the two ‘mouse’ homes out the back gate and re-settle the contents in the back paddock, not leave them on my balcony.


If you learn to enjoy waiting you don’t have to wait to enjoy 

Kazuaki Tanahashi

I am lucky enough to live in an apartment with floor-to-ceiling windows in my loungeroom and look out onto a large balcony with beautiful trees and greenery as a backdrop.

I am also blessed with visits from the local birdlife as I sit at my desk in the mornings waiting to recover from my December hip replacement surgery.   I can walk around now,  although my hip and lower back get very sore by early afternoon.   I have not ventured outdoors to do any Bird or Nature photography as I don’t want to carry any weight as yet and to be honest, I’m still in a lot of pain from other chronic health issues which the recent surgery ignited.

Sometimes I wonder what I’d do without the birds that greet my day and bless me with their chirping and cheeping.   There are 2 regular Spotted Turtle-doves which coo loudly as though to announce their arrival morning and afternoon.   They’ve kept me sane in the last couple of years being mostly housebound, in Melbourne’s long months of lockdown and now, in ‘recovery’ mode.

When I eventually get outdoors and we get a cooler summer day for walking, I hope to have some new images to share.

In the meantime, I started this new blog and deleted my old nature blog and am choosing some of my favourite quotes to pair with archival images.   Today, I’m bringing you some bird photos I shot with a long lens from my desk chair over the last week or so.