Keep Calm


This last few months have been particularly difficult in the light of climate change induced bushfires here in Australia and now the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID 19). It would in the light of compulsory lockdowns, quarantines and restrictions on social gatherings and travel easy to be filled with dread and let feelings of hopelessness pervade our lives. I myself have had further restrictions imposed as I’m in the process of recovering from spinal surgery and am fighting off the temptation of feeling sorry for myself and collapsing in a heap.

There is an antidote to this. Firstly instead of just being passive and feeding our psyches with all the negative news we can find in the media endeavour to do something creative. Creativity is important, it feeds the soul, gives a sense of achievement and allows you to express yourself. All of this has a positive effect on your psychological well being. It doesn’t matter what it is – paint, draw, knit, cook, write, photograph, sing. Although singing could be problematic depending upon your living arrangements and how well you can sing. My partner has issued me with an ultimatum; if I sing Bohemian Rhapsody at full volume in my usual tone deaf manner then lockdown or not I will be looking for alternative accommodation which I think is a little harsh. Secondly reconnect with nature. This one could be a bit hard depending on what the local authorities are imposing, but it can be done. If confined to the house take time out in the garden, encourage wildlife to come into the garden and watch them. Plant things and watch them grow. If possible go a walk in the park or woods (maintaining correct social distancing of course), go bird watching, fungi spotting it doesn’t really matter. Bonus points if you can combine this with doing some creative as this will allow you to enter a flow state. Sounds poncey but “it is the mental state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by the complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting transformation in one’s sense of time” (Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, 1975). The benefits of this are that intense and focused concentration on the present moment that you become so totally engrossed in the experience to the extent that other needs or concerns become negligible and this makes you feel in control over a situation. Do this a few times a week and your mood will lift.

I’ve taken my own advice this week. As I said I’ve been laid up at home and not doing much so I hauled my carcass down to the Avon River a couple of times to photograph some birds in the dawn light. It was well worth it. Stalking birds and photographing them required too much concentration and I was able to forget about my own circumstances and the worries of the world and just enjoy being in the moment. It was so enjoyable that I’m going to get out and do some more over the next week.

 

Red-cap Dawn by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Red-capped Robin (Petroica goodenovii) in the dawn light. York, Western Australia. Olympus OM-D E-M1 with Panasonic Leica DG 100-400/F4.0-6.3 lens. Exposure: 1/500 sec, f6.3 at ISO 1600.

 

Great Egret by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
A great egret (Ardea alba) hunting in the early morning light on the bank of the Avon River in York, Western Australia. Canon EOS 6d with Sigma 150-600mm f5-6.3 lens. Exposure: 1/1000 sec, f7.1 at ISO 800.

 

Rufous Whistler by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
A male Rufous Whistler (Pachycephala rufiventris). York, Western Australia. Canon EOS 6d with Sigma 150-600mm lens. Exposure: 1/1000 sec, f6.3 at ISO 2000.

 

Right that’s me done I’m off to try and bake a lumberjack cake.

New Book

The cover of “Australia’s Best 100 Walks” to which I was a contributor.

 

As a fledgling photographer many years ago I used to look at copies of National Geographic and daydream about one day being a one of their photographers. Many years later that still hasn’t happened, but I have managed Australian Geographic. I happy to announce the launch of Australia’s Best 100 Walks published by Australian Geographic for which I was a contributing photographer, writer and researcher. It is available fro good bookshops such as Boffins Books for a smidge under $40 AUD.

 

Bathurst Lighthouse on Rottnest Island, Western Australia. One of my photos from the book Australia’s Best 100 Walks.

Arboreal Brassieres

It’s always a voyage of discovery walking along the River Avon.

 

Trees with bras besides the Avon Walk Trail in York.

 

Trees with bras besides the Avon Walk Trail in York.

 

Over the next few weeks posts will be a little sporadic as I am having much needed surgery on my back. Please bear with me and I’ll try and post new content as and when I can.

New Victoria Dam

The ubiquitous New Holland Honeyeater (Phylidonyris novaehollandiae), New Victoria Dam, Korung National Park, Western Australia.

Over the last few days my FaceBook feed has been seeing some seriously tasty bird photos from one of the groups that I belong to. The photos all come from one area  – New Victoria Dam which is 30Km east of Perth on the Darling Range in Korung National Park. So when the Beloved Significant Other (BSO) announced she was competing in a croquet competition at a location just 20 minutes drive away I immediately volunteered myself as driver.

 

 

 

 

There are two starting points to the walk and which you choose will largely depend upon when you visit. If you visit outside of office hours Monday to Friday or anytime at the weekend then y ou have to use the upper carpark as your start point as the access road is shut. During office hours you can drive down to the lower carpark keeping in mind that if stay till after 5pm then you won’t be able to drive out. I started at the upper carpark which only adds 800m each way to the walk. The walk consists of a 7Km round trip down past the New Victoria Dam to the Old Victoria dam wall and the garden and picnic area. There used to be a path through the trees at the edge of the road but it has become quite overgrown and indistinct so you are best walking along the access road. As you walk down the road on your left is the  gravesite of Francis Weston who died in 1876 aged two days, his parents lived in the timber workers settlement at Bickley. When you get to the lower carpark walk through it and then follow the trail markers. After walking through the forest you come to New Victoria Dam. Walk down the steps and at the bottom turn right onto the road and walk down to the remains of the Old Victoria Dam.

 

The gravesite of Francis Westson who died in 1876 aged two days. His parents lived in the timber workers settlement at Bickley.

 

The steps down to the New Victoria Dam.

 

The original dam was built in 1891 and pumped water via pipelines to Kings Park and a reservoir there on Mount Eliza. The dam became the first permanent water source for Perth and was operated by the private City of Perth Waterworks Company. As the water catchment area took in agricultural land and timber settlements there were fears that it would be polluted by raw sewage and excrement from livestock. Between 1895 and 1900 typhoid broke out in Perth and 425 people died. The water was tested and found to be contaminated so the government took control and made changes to prevent re-occurrence. By 1988 the concrete structure was beginning to degrade to such an extent it could no longer be repaired so in 1990 work on the new dam commenced and because of the use of roller compacted concrete it was completed by the following year. It can hold 9.5 million kilo-litres and is used to supply drinking water to Kalamunda and Lesmurdie. 

 

The wall of the old Victoria dam and the garden beside it.

 

In the lee of the old dam there is a grassed picnic area and toilets. Thickets of ti-tree and one-sided bottlebrush or claw flower have been planted and the thick vegetation along the creek line provides dense cover for a number of bird species. On this trip I used the picnic gazebo as an impromptu bird hide and spent a couple of hours watching the various birds feed and drink. I saw  red-eared firetails, mistletoe birds, splendid fairy wrens, western spinebills, new holland honeyeaters, white faced herons and rosellas. The dam spillway feeds water to the pond and creek that provides a year round water supply which means that the birds are always active all here. If you are there at dawn or dusk then kangaroos can be seen feeding on the grass. It is a great little spot and doesn’t require too much effort to get there.

 

Red-eared Firetail (Stagonopleura oculata), New Victoria Dam, Korung National Park, Western Australia.

 

White Faced Heron (Egretta novaehollandiae), New Victoria Dam, Korung National Park, Western Australia.

Anastasis

190206-Albany-0248-Edit.jpg by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Male Musk duck (Biziura labata) at Lake Seppings, Albany, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM1 mk ii with Panasonic Leica 100-400mm f/4-6.3 lens. Exposure: 1/1000 sec, f6.3, ISO 1600 with +0.7 stops exposure compensation

 

Anastasis –  from Ancient Greek ἀνάστασις (anástasis, “resurrection”).

A funny name for a blog post about Lake Seppings in Albany, Western Australia, but it does describe what happened.

 

20191228-Albany-0257-Edit.jpg by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Australian Pelican, Pelecanus conspicillatus, Lake Seppings, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM1 mk ii with Panasonic Leica 100-400mm f4-6.3 lens. Exposure 1/1000, f10, ISO 200.

 

Way back in the Nyittiny (creation times) the spirit Djrat walked on the earth and created south coast of Western Australia and as he walked he left a footprint which filled with water and created a freshwater lake 1.1 Km long and 400m wide. The Minang group of the Nyoongar called this place Tjuirtgellong or “place of the long necked turtle” which was an important food source for them in the summer months. The lake was surrounded by a variety of vegetation. Fringing the lake are bullrushes, sedges, and reeds reeds. Further back were Western Australian peppermint trees, spearwoods, paperbarks, native willows, wattles, banksias and melaleuca. All this provided habitat  for over 100 different bird species including Australian white ibis, yellow-billed spoonbil,  white-faced heron, blue-billed duck, musk duck, black swan, hoary-headed grebe, Australian pelican, Eurasian coot, spotless crake, masked lapwing, dusky moorhen, purple swamphen and buff-banded rail. 

 

Purple swamp hen by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Purple swamp hen, Porphyrio porphyrio, Lake Seppings, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM1 mk ii with Panasonic Leica 100-400mm f4-6.3 lens. Exposure: 1/1000 sec, f6.3 at ISO 2000.

 

20191228-Albany-0277-Edit.jpg by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Jewel spiders (Austracantha minax) are often called Christmas spiders as they are commonly found during December and January. Lake Seppings, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM1 mk ii with Panasonic Leica 100-400mm f4-6.3 lens. Exposure: 1/250 sec, f8, ISO 320.

 

All was fine and dandy until 1790 when the British explorer George Vancouver arrived. While he was mapping King George Sound he didn’t see any Minang but saw plenty of evidence that they were around and he later wrote that he found a ‘native village; fresh food remains near a well-constructed hut; a kangaroo that had apparently been killed with a blow to the head; a fish weir across what is now called the Kalgan River; and what appeared to be systematic firing of the land.’ (R. Appleyard. ‘ Vancouver’s Discovery and Exploration of King George’s Sound’ in Early Days, Journal and Proceedings of the Western Australian Historical Society, 1986, pp.86-97). That was the start of colonial settlement. As far as the lake is concerned well initially the settlers tried to do the right thing and in 1887 the Albany Municipal Council applied to the state government for permission to make the Lake and some of its surrounding bushland a botanical park. This lasted up until 1900 when it became a rubbish dump for the city of Albany. This sad state continued until 1972 when it was decided by the department of fisheries and fauna to turn the lake into a water fowl reserve.  Very quickly the community got on board with initially a bird-walk being established by the Apex club of Albany in 1980. By 2004 a walk around the lake had been completed and the lake was given protected status. In 2018 there was a ‘community planting’ of some 22,000 trees and understory plants to provide a ‘biodiversity corridor’ and habitat for endangered wildlife such as the western ring tailed possum.

 

Brush Bronzeing, by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Brush Bronzeing, Phaps elegans, Lake Seppings, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM1 mk ii with Panasonic Leica 100-400mm f4-6.3 lens. Exposure: 1/1000 sec, f5.7 at ISO 2500.

 

Every time we go to Albany I always visit Lake Seppings. I love walking around the edge of the lake and observing all the wildlife. I see it in many ways as a beacon of hope. The local community came together and have made a serious and worthwhile attempt to restore the lake to what it once was it still has a long way to go before it reaches its former status but it is a very good start. For the Nyoongar I hope that the recent claim for compensation for the loss of their traditional lands succeeds and can bring them some way of moving forward.

 

Red-winged Fairy-wren by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Red-winged Fairy-wren, Malarus elegans, Lake Seppings, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM1 mk ii with Panasonic Leica 100-400mm f4-6.3 lens. Exposure: 1/1000, f7.1 at ISO 1000 with -1 stop exposure compensation.

 

New Holland Honeyeater by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
New Holland Honeyeater, Phylidonyris novaehollandiae subsp. longirostris, Lake Seppings, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM1 mk ii with Panasonic Leica 100-400mm f4-6.3 lens. Exposure: 1/1000 sec, f6.3at ISO 800.

 

Yoondoordo

Yoondoordo by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
The Eastern Osprey (Pandion cristatus) is known to the Nyoongar people of the south west of Western Australia as yoondoordo. Oyster Bay, Lower King, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM 1 mk 2 with Panasonic Leica 100-400mm f4-6.3 lens. Exposure: 1/2000 sec, f6.3 at ISO 400.

 

I’ve got to say of the bird types raptors, or birds of prey, are my favourite. The way they hover above the landscape looking for prey or ride the thermals brings a quickening to my heart. Probably a corny thing to say but I really enthralled by their power and majesty –  they are the epitome of an apex predator. It’s not just the large raptors like wedge tailed eagles that do this but the smaller species such as falcons and kites as well. I’m lucky that where I live I often see birds of prey hunting and I’ve shared some  photos on the blog of collared sparrowhawks, nankeen kestrels, and brown goshawks over the years.

 

Yoondoordo by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Look at the talons on that! Eastern Osprey (Pandion cristatus), Oyster Bay, Lower King, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM1 mk 2 with Panasonic Leica 100-400mm f4-6.3 lens. Exposure: 1/1000 sec, f6.3 at ISO 400.

 

When we started making plans to spend Christmas in Albany I was excited because it would mean that I’d be able to photograph Eastern Ospreys at a nest site near where we staying. So when we set out I made sure I had the necessary kit to take advantage of the opportunity. I spent a very happy Christmas Day filming these wonderful animals.

 

Busy Little Bees….

…. er that should read busy rainbow bee eaters.

Rainbow Bee Eaters (Merops ornatus) catching insects and taking them to their chicks in their burrows.

 

Walking down by the Avon this morning there was a lot of commotion. A steady “prrrp-prrrp” sound followed by a flash of bright colour. Scanning the trees I found what I was looking for in the branches of a big old dead gum tree. A male rainbow bee eater bashing a large insect on the branch till it was dead so it could take it to its young brood. On further inspection I noticed that there was a holding pattern going on with mum and dad taking it in turns to take food to their ever demanding young.

 

Mum taking off to make the delivery while dad waits patiently to be cleared for take off.

 

A further shufti and I find the burrow and settle myself in to watch the parents fly in the food supplies. It was non stop, no let up at all. First off we see dad make a trip.

 

Rainbow Bee Eaters (Merops ornatus) catching insects and taking them to their chicks in their burrows.

 

Rainbow Bee Eaters (Merops ornatus) catching insects and taking them to their chicks in their burrows.

 

Rainbow Bee Eaters (Merops ornatus) catching insects and taking them to their chicks in their burrows.

 

Rainbow Bee Eaters (Merops ornatus) catching insects and taking them to their chicks in their burrows.

 

Rainbow Bee Eaters (Merops ornatus) catching insects and taking them to their chicks in their burrows.

 

Rainbow Bee Eaters (Merops ornatus) catching insects and taking them to their chicks in their burrows.

 

Rainbow Bee Eaters (Merops ornatus) catching insects and taking them to their chicks in their burrows.

 

As soon as he is clear it’s mum turn.

 

Rainbow Bee Eaters (Merops ornatus) catching insects and taking them to their chicks in their burrows.

 

Rainbow Bee Eaters (Merops ornatus) catching insects and taking them to their chicks in their burrows.

 

Rainbow Bee Eaters (Merops ornatus) catching insects and taking them to their chicks in their burrows.

 

Rainbow Bee Eaters (Merops ornatus) catching insects and taking them to their chicks in their burrows.

 

Rainbow Bee Eaters (Merops ornatus) catching insects and taking them to their chicks in their burrows.

 

Rainbow Bee Eaters (Merops ornatus) catching insects and taking them to their chicks in their burrows.

 

Rainbow Bee Eaters (Merops ornatus) catching insects and taking them to their chicks in their burrows.

 

All pictures taken with a Panasonic Lumix G85 with Panasonic Leica Vario Elmar 100-400mm f4-6.3 lens.

 

Below is a short video clip containing footage of the birds and some more stills.