Canberra Day Forty Four

Monday 24th October, 2016

Not exactly a Canberra day but…

What a lovely day! A truly delightful day. Beautiful weather and excellent company. Today I hung out with a good friend of mine and her charming little 3 year old man; Mr Independent. I drove down to Wagga Wagga last night to stay a couple of nights with them. We’ve been trying to organise it from Melbourne for AGES but it hasn’t happened. Moving to Canberra actually made it easier cos its closer than Melbourne so FINALLY we’re having our hangout! A sleep in for me this morning, aahh! Then a quick brekky and off down the green highway to the lovely town of Junee in New South Wales for a unique experience visiting the licorice and chocolate factory. If you are ever in the area, this is absolutely a must visit and I’m so glad I got to see it. You can see the rotating machine that coats organic licorice made from scratch on site with Belgian chocolate, the chocolate polishing bubble machine that buffs up the chocolate pieces once the THIRTY to FORTY layers off chocolate have been applied creating a matt effect, the licorice pipes and cooling system, and you can actually make rocky road or an enormous chocolate freckle. Plus a brilliant gift shop, great cafe, a great little video tour and a rustic setting…shall I go on? Oh, and vertical bowling with a ball make entirely from licorice!! Such fun. Plus chatting all the way there and back, like old friends can. What a lovely time we had!

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How adorable! Mr 3 pretty excited to be making his own giant freckle!!

And that was only the day time. Another friend of theirs had a birthday today: I know, how many birthdays can there be? So my friend worked through the afternoon while I sat and chatted (I know my specialties, plus I dunno how to work the Thermomix) and cooked us up an enormous feast! Even the 10 of us couldn’t finish it off, with a huge main course, dessert, birthday cake and fruit platter plus drinks laid on. A lovely evening making new friends and catching up with old ones. Then to bed on a full stomach ready for a huge sleep.

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Canberra Day Thirty Four

[Friday 14th October 2016]

Today was a great day! Not every moment, but wouldn’t that be asking a bit much in ordinary situations? But the not-so-great moments got turned around to become something good so all in all I’m stoked. I really enjoyed myself today! It started with a plan of what to do for the day. The last couple of days have been less than productive, which I don’t enjoy, and after all its day 34; time is cracking along! More than a month already, can you believe it? On days where I wake up and don’t have a plan for the day, they tend to be the days that I roll over and go back to sleep, because why not, and drift aimlessly through to early afternoon before making up my mind about what to do then having to rush about to do it, or missing the chance. So I decided Thursday night that before I went to bed I was making a plan, and when morning came I was sticking to it. The plan that Chester and I came up with was to wake up, get dressed in my cycling gear and ride my bike down to one of the streets in our new suburb that has a lot of eateries. I would go to Eighty Twenty café that hubby recommended and have breakfast, then check out the bike path that runs along Sullivan’s Creek, somewhere that I’d seen and wanted to check out, and that hubby has ridden part of, I think. And I did! Add in the bonus of remembering to call at the bike shop and get a bracket so I can attach my mobile phone to my handlebars for GPS on the go. Minus not actually navigating my way successfully to Sullivan’s Creek after my phone went flat and rendered my new bracket moot!! I haven’t really got my directions at this new place, and all the through roads around here have bends in them! What a crazy situation! So you just think you’ve gotten your bearings and the road take a 45 degree bend! Now where are you? But in the process I was in sensory heaven soaking up the lush green budding and leafy trees forming avenues over the roads, and the beautiful flowering gardens in all colours with some trees still blossoming, and well-kept front areas of houses in our neighbourhood, and probably the bordering suburbs as well; not really sure where I went! Eventually I hit Anzac Avenue which was somewhere well in the wrong direction from where I was meant to be, then my phone died, so I had a lovely meandering time trying to figure out how to get home! It was actually just so nice to dawdle around checking out the gardens and lawns, and taking detours wherever I wanted. Luckily I’d picked up some names of street nearby to ours already…remembering this is day 3 living in this new place!

I got home and felt like I could go for more so I did another street and luckily came around the block back again. All up about 9km but just a good amount to get going again. I haven’t ridden for a couple of weeks with rain, then wind, then pervasive disinterest! So it was good to feel like I can still do it, and still get that nice little spike of feel good from rolling around the suburbs on my bike. Plus the weather just turned any outdoor activity into sheer bliss! 20 degrees, chill breeze, blue skies making for great biking. That ride set me up for the rest of the day. Everything else good that happened after felt like it happened because of the ride.

I mentioned breakfast was at Eighty Twenty in Braddon on Lonsdale Street. Quite lovely, but I found the menu a bit challenging; not your standard egg and bacon! More your quinoa, nuts, almond milk, home baked granola type place, but in the end I did have their smashed avocado on toast with 2 eggs and 3 bits of asparagus on top and peas and feta around the plate. It was delicious actually, I’d have it again for sure. Just to show you can have eat-out breakfast without bacon! Sitting in the sun with my bike next to me did fill me with some feelings of accomplishment. Here I’d planned this thing that I’d been putting off really for the last week or two, and I was doing it! I can follow through. I’m not a wash out, a failure, useless. I can do it, and the proof is that I did do it! So nothing to stop me next time, hey? Except carrying my bike down the stairs from our level one apartment; that’s not an easy feat! I guess practice makes perfect.

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SO what else to do on a sunshiny day but tackle something I’ve been wanting to do: check out the Mount Ainslie lookout. I went once before you might remember but it was in a cloud and you couldn’t see a single thing! Today you could see forever or to the beautiful blue hills that border Canberra. Blue skies, sunshine, and the view is spectacular! Always worth the short drive up. I went planning on getting view photos only, but thought I’d walk along a short track back from the lookout itself, heard a bird and it was an hour and a half later when I looked up! Only two rows of trees, one on either side of me, one tree deep, but I got some spectacular birds! Great photos and extended views of a bird I’ve only seen once and got one muffled shot of that first time, a lifer in a Little Eagle soaring above (that was exciting, never forget to look up!), and other interesting birds being very conducive to photos! And I didn’t even have to try, they were all just there, going about their business. The best way to watch birds!

Went home for a nap, but was too excited to look at the photos from the morning. That was a task well worth doing because I found there were 2 different species of bird that I’d photographed but hadn’t realized what they were! Two more for the morning’s list! I knew they were something different but they were too far away; luckily my camera brings them closer J

It was all too exciting, so after a couple of hours I headed back to find the actual trail. Not the Kokoda trail near the lookout; that’s for mountain goats! So I headed down the hill looking for a trail. Not the old tip trail, it’s too rough and large gravel and steep; I’d do an ankle! Not the next one down; its appears to go into the shooting range from the back! So it turns out that the trail I did way back last year when we were here for our hosts wedding was the best one, and the one I should be doing. They need to make a brochure like they have for Black Mountain; it would save a lot of precious birding time, wandering all around everywhere. The first half of the walk was in the wrong direction really, but because there weren’t many/any birds other than the pesky Noisy Miners (!) I kept up a bit of pace and did a pretty nice 2km walk before (re) finding the best spot. So I had my eyes open to other things: rabbits, kangaroos, a cute echidna! And everlasting daisies, tons of them! They are all just about to open the buds; I’ve made a date to go back next week and check it out.

Two successes of my later birding walk were walking alone in the bush (although I have been building a tolerance to this with lots of walks lately, this one was a bit more removed from carparks and passersby) and walking alone in the bush at dusk approaching dark. My recent anxiety flare up has brought these closer to the front of my mind again which is a pest! I’d squashed them down nicely for quite a while. I’ve always been terrified of the monsters in the dark. We had an outside toilet as kids and whatever age I was I’d still wake one of my parents to go with me. But it didn’t stop me having to bite the bullet of the adrenaline rush that was running from the back door to the toilet door in the direct and utterly exposed lie of fire of those who waited at 2am on the other side of the green mesh wall to gun me down for some unapparent reason!! I was always terrified of gun men, and kidnappers, and rapists. I still am to a degree, but I’m more rational in questioning the reason: a) why anyone would want to shoot me, b) why they would wait in the cold all night right there near the toilet in case I needed to go to the toilet, c) how they would know the layout of our house and toilet, d) why they would shoot a child with a shot gun (the only gun I knew, and so assumed they had) and so on. If you start thinking like this it does all start to crumble, but you have to make that conscious switch to think like that, which is indeed the challenge. Anyhow, you’ll be pleased to hear that no thugs or bandits were crouched behind tree stumps in an enormous area populated by a whole 2 walkers waiting to loot us and so on. I returned to my car, by this time practically in the dark, unharmed, and with only a little adrenaline coursing through my veins. And so concluded my happy day! Exercise, the beautiful outdoors, challenging myself to eat outside my comfort zone, finding my way around new suburbs unaided, beauty and birds to be photographed; how lucky am I? A low key dinner and sitting on the couch to end a wonderful day.

Magical Monday

New bird alert! New bird alert! Excitement, excitement!

And what a relief it is on a day like this, a week like this, to feel excitement!

I haven’t been having a very fun time of it, to be honest. Everything is a bit or a lot hard, tedious, effortful, difficult, troublesome, not worth it. Getting up is a drag, showering is a hideous ordeal, eating is just tiring, deciding to do anything is impossible! I’ve been sleeping a lot, avoiding thinking about my to-do list a lot, and just skimming through the days til bedtime.

It’s not fun!

But here is an effort, however tiny and minuscule, yet enormous and huge, to get out. Just for a little bit. Just to have done something other than be at home; unproductively, unsuccessfully, un-impressively at home.

It’s all in my new direction from the psychiatrist – getting outside, enjoying the sunshine. I’m trying to do my bit since he has turned my life around. I owe him that much.

I realise I also owe that much, or more, to my husband as well so here it comes Beautiful: I promise to try your caring suggestions and get a bit motivated and interested if I can!

Ah, IF. The stories you could tell…

So in the late afternoon on Monday I gathered myself up, stuffed myself into some clothes (hopefully matching!), got the car out and took myself down to my old favourite birding spot; Blackburn Lake Sanctuary.

I can’t believe how long it has been since I was down here last! I’m definitely going to make more of an effort to get here more often because let’s face it, in suburbia anywhere it’s a great privilege to have some green spaces nearby for an escape/retreat/sanctuary/reset.

And every time it rewards me so greatly. This time I didn’t even get past the car park for the first hour!

I heard some lorikeets, assumed they were Rainbows but then caught a glimpse and they had shorter tails and red on their head! New bird!!!!

They were truly beautiful, and fun, and acrobatic, and shrieky, and a challenge to get still enough for a decent focused photo!

Honestly I felt as much satisfaction from changing the settings to get a better picture as I did in finding a never-before-seen-or-photographed-bird!

I changed to shutter mode to still their actions after using the programmable mode gave me a too-slow shutter speed and was too slow to focus, and was too dark and too grainy! Then I had to keep adjusting the ISO and exposure as I followed the birds around depending on whether I was shooting up at the outside of the tree in full sun, shooting under the canopy up into the dark shadow or straight across at a neighbouring tree…etc.

I was pretty proud of some of the photos I got. I always recognise that chance and luck have quite a bit to do with the photos, but having purposely set the variables, I do take pride in the fact that the photo was taken by chance and the settings were perfect for that chance!

So here’s a few of my favourites! Hope you can enjoy looking at them as much as I did taking them!

We start in some gorgeous wattle trees where there’s some pretty fierce competition from cranky Red Wattlebirds and Noisy Miners, plus some quiet guests in the lovely Galahs.

New bird! The gorgeous Musk Lorikeet - vibrant red forehead, cheek and tip of beak, wattle

New bird! The gorgeous Musk Lorikeet – vibrant red forehead, cheek and tip of beak

Musk Lorikeets are apparently notoriously hard to find because like other lorikeets the only time they’re quiet is when they’re eating! Add to this their preference for eating on top of the canopy where they not only blend in with their green underbelly but are hidden by layers of branches and leaves! So I feel pretty lucky that they choose these low growing trees to feed from.

Pretty pretty pretty! I love the yellow patches just above the wing and the blue head!

Pretty pretty pretty! I love the yellow patches just above the wing and the blue head!

I always appreciate it when my birds kindly move to the dead trees and branches – it’s very convenient to me! Thanks for the photo op!

The perfect camoflage - despite the colourful patches, when the lorikeet turns its back it becomes invisible!

The perfect camouflage – despite the colourful patches, when the lorikeet turns its back it becomes invisible!

This is a photo that makes me really proud of what I have achieved! To shoot past all of the sticks and leaves to get a clear focus on the bird is a very tricky thing, and something I wouldn’t have been able to do before my photography course – kudos to Master Your Camera’s Wendy!

This is a photo that makes me really proud of what I have achieved! To shoot past all of the sticks and leaves to get a clear focus on the bird is a very tricky thing, and something I wouldn't have been able to do before my photography course

The dangling upside down antics of these Musk Lorikeets are so delightful! In this shot you can make out the brownish yellow patch on its back

This photo is typical of my excitement when I find a new bird. At first I just snap away furiously to get a shot, any shot. Then I realise they’re not going anywhere and slow down and start adjusting the settings. Then I can take a breath, stop and actually look at composing a shot for the best photos of the day – this is just about it!

This photo is typical of my excitement when I find a new bird. At first I just snap away furiously to get a shot, any shot. Then I realise they're not going anywhere and slow down and start adjusting the settings. Then I can take a breath, stop and actually look at composing a shot for the best photos of the day

Always dangling for the best bite to eat! Love all of the different colours.

One downside of shooting through the exterior is that you can get foggy patches in your photos!

I love this photo for the underbelly of the bird, something that isn't always photographed but I find it fascinating!

I love this photo for the underbelly of the bird, something that isn’t always photographed but I find it fascinating!

Then the Red Wattlebirds and Noisy Miners got too overpowering and my new friends all flew off squawking and squarking! Luckily they didn’t go too far and settled in a nearby eucalyptus and a different wattle tree. This was perfect as they were in the clear path of the afternoon sun which always makes everything look beautiful and good as new!

And towards the end I get this shot! Love it, this shows so much character of this bird!, gum tree, eucalypt

And towards the end I get this shot! Love it, this shows so much character of this bird!