What’s the origin of the phrase ‘Birds of a feather flock together’?
This proverb has been in use since at least the mid 16th century. In 1545 William Turner used a version of it in his papist satireThe Rescuing of Romish Fox:
“Byrdes of on kynde and color flok and flye allwayes together.”
The first known citation in print of the currently used English version of the phrase appeared in 1599, inThe Dictionarie in Spanish and English, which was compiled by the English lexicographer John Minsheu:
Birdes of a feather will flocke togither.
The phrase also appears in Benjamin Jowett’s 1856 translation of Plato’sRepublic. Clearly, if it were present in the original Greek text then, at around 380BC, Plato’s work would be a much earlier reference to it. What appears in Jowett’s version is:
Men of my age flock together; we are birds of a feather, as the old proverb says.
Plato’s text can be translated in other ways and it is safe to say it was Jowett in 1856, not Plato in 380BC, that considered the phrase to be old. The lack of any citation of it in English prior to the 16th century does tend to suggest that its literal translation wasn’t present inThe Republic– a text that was widely read by English scholars of the classics well before the 16th century.
Seagulls down at Altona Beach (on the western side of Port Phillip Bay – the bay on which the city of Melbourne was first settled in 1835).
The river behind my apartment block – the Maribyrnong River – was first explored in 1805……much earlier
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 images below are a mixture of photos made in the landscaping of Melbourne Zoo as well as at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne.
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)
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.
Courage doesn’t always roar.
Sometimes courage is the quiet voice
at the end of the day saying,
“I will try again tomorrow.”
Mary Anne Radmacher
I was determined to do some outdoor photography yesterday.
What actually spurred me to take a camera to my medical appointment was the weather forecast of ‘light winds‘. This usually means the water is still enough to capture reflections as seen in the image on the right (taken a couple of years ago).
The bus stop outside my local medical centre takes me right down to the Maribyrnong River, a large lake and a small area of murky pond with a reed-covered island in the centre and access to a number of local birdlife.
The Maribyrnong River flows (unseen in the above image) just behind the tall reeds halfway down the frame.
To the left of the image above is the large expanse of water between the river and the residential area on the western side of the river valley. Once again poor light and I had to fiddle with some basic photo editing tools just to get this amount of detail below.
Must be 18 months since I visited the area – partly due to declining health and lack of physical ability to walk across uneven ground and of course we Melburnians stayed mostly at home during Melbourne’s 111-day lockdown and nightly curfew during 2020’s COVID.
I discovered yesterday that I can no longer see through the viewfinder (or LCD screen) since a new glasses prescription earlier in the year. So while I could see shadows and light and managed to compose a relatively good composition below, I missed the fact that the photo is out of focus (except for the bush in the foreground) until I downloaded it at home.
They say there is no such thing as poor light in photography, but yesterday there was poor light!
What to do?
Is my 10-year photography hobby at an end?
Or, do I try again ‘tomorrow’?……………. (when there’s better light).
Ever the optimist, I think I’ll try again another day.
I only had my lightweight Sony A6000 with me which doesn’t really get between thick foliage for bird photography. And with the lack of decent light, the Swamphen image was the best I could capture. I spotted about 4-5 Purple Swamphens (Porphyrion porphyrio) in or around the pond and only one Pacific Black Duck (Anas superciliosa) madly swimming up the Maribyrnong River itself (out of focus so no image to share).
Yesterday, it was nearly 4.30pm when I caught the bus down the river valley and in hindsight, I should have known there would not be enough light and just gone home after my medical appointment.
At this current stage of late Autumn, the daylight turns to a short golden hour, dusk, and then, depending on your location, pitch-black (if you’re not near street lights).
There are some spectacular Golden Hours and Sunsets in Autumn around Melbourne and the bayside suburbs though. I’ve captured many of them over the last 10 years.
But yesterday, I turned around to shoot straight into the dying sun (below). I knew from experience it would be just a silhouette.
I quickly decided there was no point staying, so walked around the rest of the pond. You can see the bus stop shelter a third of the way down the frame on the right-hand side of the image below.
You can also see there was not a single bird to be seen on this side of the pond, so even if I’d taken my Canon DSLR and Sigma 150-500mm heavy lens, I wouldn’t have made any bird photos.
I crossed the road to the bus stop going in the direction of home.
I didn’t have to wait long (and it can be up to 40 mins on this particular bus route if you’ve just missed one bus). As it climbed the suburban streets across the river valley, I could see the remnants of a spectacular sunset out the bus window.
When I got off the bus, I took a shot of what was left between the houses (below).
As I walked down my steep short road towards home I managed to capture a little more sky colour across the enormous open field next to my apartment building.
So it’s back to the archives for some images for this blog.
The photos below were taken on a ‘good’ light day 2-3 years ago.
In order to see birds it is necessary to become a part of the silence.
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.
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.
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
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
HOUSE SPARROW – young female
SUPERB FAIRY-WREN – male
SPOTTED TURTLE-DOVE in the early morning ‘blue hour’
HOUSE SPARROW – young female again going by its downy breast feathers
SPOTTED TURTLE-DOVE UP CLOSE
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.