SPOTTED TURTLE-DOVE (Streptopelia chinensis)

Last year I picked up 3 tiny feathers from my apartment balcony tiles.

They were fluffy and soft like those from the under-feathers of a newly born chick.  I tucked them gently into a box in my desk drawer and forgot about them, but one day I imagined actually photographing them in some interesting creative manner that might appeal to fellow nature lovers or bloggers.

It never happened.

Until last night when I was peering intently at the 9″ digital screen on my microscope.  I’d re-discovered the feathers while cleaning out the drawer and was keen to see them ‘up close & personal.’

I was fascinated to see that the spots on the neck feathers of a Spotted Turtle-dove were actually pure white as though someone had randomly painted spots on the bird’s feather(s) or bleached circles of white.


I don’t know quite what I expected to see.  Separate white feathers?  Do we generally think about the patterns on a bird’s feathers?  Probably not!

What could I expect to see in the detail of the soft downy chick’s feather.  I don’t think this microscope is designed to see 3-dimensional specimens that have this  thickness and width.

To be honest, it was very hard for me (with thick glasses) to get a really sharp focus on these fine feathers.   I’ve done much better with more solid flat subjects recently.

The feathers (and glass slide which I’d thoroughly cleaned with isopropyl alcohol wipes I use on my glasses) were surprisingly dirty.   I erased the worst of the obvious spots in the background after I transferred them to my iMac.

……and what details showed up on the tiny feather.  Not much more than what was visible to the naked eye, but I was interested to see that the end of the feather (below) looked like it had been cut straight with a pair of scissors.   It was a natural shape, not made by me.


Life is like a Merry-go-round, but I feel I sit on the sidelines far too much these days.

Is it the fact I am ageing far too quickly since early retirement in 2010?

Is it modern technology which makes me feel like a dinosaur?

Probably a bit of both.

After 10 days of intermittent wireless keyboard connection and my keyboard not registering some letters as I type OR, at the end of a paragraph, a gremlin, chases and deletes each letter at lightning speed until I’m left with a blank page again, I’ve concluded it was a virus or my 2019 iMac was very, very sick.

My tiny 11″ MacAir worked just fine when I took it out of the drawer, but its size and my poor touchpad skills make it not feasible for long-term use with my eyesight.   It’s my communication and entertainment provider every time I go into the hospital for surgery.

My lovely computer technician James is coming today, but last Friday, the Gremlin left my location and moved on to someone new.

Duh!   How can viruses(?) and Gremlins(?) disappear all on their own.  At one stage I couldn’t even type my password to log on, so I had to turn the computer off and try again later in the day(s).

But I decided to keep the consultation time so James could fix a lot of other mysterious computer-related matters……..I hope.

In the meantime, I got outdoors for a short (2 km) walk down to the local pond and lake last Sunday.   The first real nature walk since the 26th of October last year (according to my photo library).

Very little to see in the way of local bird life and not much else happening as the riverside walking/cycling/jogging trail was almost empty.  Where were the usual Sunday crowd?  I could hear some carnival sounds that day.  But where from?  It was a long weekend with a Monday public holiday but there are always joggers or cyclists on the river path no matter the time or day of the week.

There weren’t any of the local Purple Swaphens grazing in the low-lying field next to the gravel path leading to the river.  They are always there – Summer, Winter, Autumn and Spring (including that crazy new season of storms and floods the eastern seaboard of Australia has acquired).

But not last Sunday.

Note: The images below were made in past years.

All I saw were a few Superb Fairy-wrens grazing on the gravel path edges, a couple of Mapie Larks who frequent this area and, initially, an unidentifiable water bird on the rocky edge of Bundap Lake.

Note: Images below were made in past years.


I had trouble holding my heavy 150-500mm lens steady, but here it is.

Last Sunday’s only bird shot.

I couldn’t get the bird to turn around so I could see its breast feathers, so this was the only view.

The large webbed feet were my clue and I finally narrowed the identity down to a Eurasian Coot.   Google images showed it was a juvenile and missing the sooty-black body and white beak of the usual adults I see.

Feel free to correct me in the comments if you believe it to be a different water bird.

The photo below, made in the Royal Botanic Gardens some 10 years ago, show a Coot looking at its feet as though to say……

“My what big feet I’ve got.  Are they really mine?”

A few more photos of Eurasian Coots taken over the years….

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.

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.

MAGPIE-LARK (Grallina cyanoleuca)

I nearly missed the shot altogether.

From outdoors a faint sound of fluttering wings was heard and I saw a medium-large black and white bird through the window.

I have felt like I was in a bird hide in recent days (since I re-arranged some of the furniture).

I just have to remember to leave the block-out blinds up, not down, during the afternoon for bird viewing (on a hot day).

The trouble was I had left the camera body with the telephoto lens on the sideboard.

I slowly stood up and moved (even slower) towards the camera, trying hard not to scare the bird.  It had finished its drink from the birdbath and was now standing on the balcony fence railing.

I knew I would only have seconds to lift the camera, take the lens cap off, turn it on, raise it to my eye/glasses and press the shutter button.

Certainly, there would be no time to see if the lens glass was clean of dust or what the camera settings might have been (from the last bird shot).

I zoomed in as close as I could, then snap without actually looking through the viewfinder properly.  I suspect I wobbled a bit and didn’t hold the camera completely still either.

I instantly realised I had captured a new visitor to my apartment balcony but was too close to the bird so I quickly zoomed out a bit.

Snap! I had managed to get a 2nd (and final) shot.

I recognised it immediately as one of the common Magpie Larks that frequent this parkland and nature reserve setting.

 Often in noisy pairs or family parties, associating with other flocking birds.  It’s voice is varied, but commonly duetting ‘tee-hee’ with response ‘pee-on-wee’ accompanied by wing raising. Alarm call a piercing repeated ‘pee’.

…….says my Australian Bird Guide book

The Magpie Lark must have seen my movement indoors as it promptly flew off into the nearby trees.

Note to self:  I really must clean the exterior of the windows.  Then, the avian visitors would only see a reflection of themselves in the glass, not my movement indoors.

Mmmmmm……I think this is about the 8th bird species that have visited my balcony in the last 6 years since I moved to the western suburbs of Melbourne.

When I downloaded the photos I could see straight away that they definitely weren’t my best bird images, but hey, I did manage to fire off 2 shots so my efforts weren’t wasted.  I was reminded of this quote I’d recently read.

The reason why people give up so fast is because they tend to look at how far they still have to go, instead of how far they have come.

In 2010, when I bought myself a little point & shoot Canon Camera, I would take 500-600 photos in a single afternoon always aiming for the perfect shot.

I knew I could do it if I just practised hard enough.  I knew one day I would get the perfect shot sometime in the future.

Now, between COVID lockdowns, worsening chronic pain and major surgeries, I just make lots of images and remember that all photographers, amateur (like me) or professional, have good days and bad days.

Now I just make the shot and am thankful for all the wonderful birdlife I see out the window or on short walks to the local pond/wetlands.

Life is too short to spend rehearsing

Treat every day as a final performance

Live in the moment.

Live Mindfully (I try to, but don’t always succeed).

And make the shot.

Good or bad shot? Does it really matter when you’re doing what you love?  If I was a paid professional, maybe.  But if you’re an amateur, or professional doing personal photography, just aim and press that shutter button. You can always delete it in this age of digital photography.  Or you can keep it as a memory of that Moment in Time when you saw a new visitor on your apartment balcony.

Here are a few more shots of Magpie Larks that I found that were actually filed in a folder.


A couple of days ago, I spent most of the afternoon and early evening looking for one flower image in my archives.

I never found it, so I probably lost it in a computer crash, but I saw several images of large birds eating their ‘midday’ meal.

None of the images is particularly good so I haven’t shared them online before today.  After seeing a fellow blogger’s image of a bird eating a snake, it prompted me to see if I could find them in my (mostly) unfiled archives.

At the same time, I managed to delete and/or identify/file images. So the exercise was worthwhile.

  1. First up is a Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio) in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne eating a toad.   Well, it looks like a toad more than a frog.


2. Next is a Black-necked Stork (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus) catching a fish in the Great Aviary at Melbourne Zoo…….

……and then promptly drop it.   I’m pleased to say the Stork eventually did catch its fish for lunch.


3.  This Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) seems to have caught a rather large mouse (or rat?).  I always feel a tear come to my eye when I view this shot with the wee critter sitting so calmly awaiting its demise.


4. Down in the long grass at Jawbone Conservation Reserve I spotted a White-faced Heron (Egretta novaehollandiae)  grappling with a lizard or gonna.  Hard to see what kind of lizard it is, but like I said, these are not the best photos I have ever shot.


5. Hard to tell, but I think this is a Little Pied Cormorant (Phalacrocorax melanoleucos) as opposed to a Pied Cormorant (Phalacrocorax varius) which is 15-20cm taller.  I would need to judge the height and closed-mouth appearance of the cormorant to confirm its identity.  Looks like a rat for lunch in this picture.


6.  This is definitely a Laughing Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae), the most common of Australia’s 2 Kookaburras,  grabbing a fat juicy worm for its lunch in the Royal Botanic Gardens here in Melbourne.

Here are some better shots I took around this time in 2011 so you can see the Kookaburra’s feathers from the back (as well as front).


7. And finally, here’s the lunch of yours truly, yesterday.  Yes, I do like green Kiwi Fruit on my salad, as long as it’s ripe but still firm.  I had to throw 2 out yesterday as they were really soft and squishy.  I didn’t order any Kiwi Fruit in my online supermarket order last night.  They were nearly Aus$2 each!  The price of fruit, vegetables and meat is exorbitant here in Melbourne (and probably the rest of Australia) at the moment.

Drought, bushfires, floods or severe heavy rain on the farmer’s crops, together with COVID lockdowns have sent food prices soaring in the last 3 years.


COMMON STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris)

Common they may be, but when you see a Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) cloaked in breeding plumage in the late afternoon light, or Golden Hour, you can’t help but admire them as a very attractive bird.

They’re a rather plump bird with a short tail and characteristic triangular wings in flight.

In breeding season, which is when I photographed them from some distance away, their iridescent sheen was very obvious.

I must admit to not having noticed them prior to this past September when they were out and about in some numbers.

Hopefully, one day, I’ll get some close-up images to share online.  You may have to zoom in close to see their lovely feathers in the images above.