beautiful firetail

Venturing out for another bout of gardening, I saw movement from the corner of my eye. Expecting to see the resident fairy wrens bobbing around, I was excited to see two little birds I haven’t seen before.

1.beautiful firetail

I wasted no time grabbing my camera and returned to find they were still in the orchard. They certainly weren’t disturbed by my presence.

2.beautiful firetail

I consulted our Guide to Australian Birds book and found out they are beautiful firetail finches. The only finch endemic to Tasmania, (the European goldfinch and greenfinch are introduced) appear to have an olive green head but it actually has the same fine dark barring as the white body.

3.beautiful firetail

The bright red rump and beak, highlighted against black tail and mask, co-ordinate perfectly.

4.beautiful firetail

Males have a black centre of abdomen and undertail, their plumage darkens and eye ring becomes bluer during breeding season.

5.beautiful firetail

Usually seen in pairs, the beautiful firetail eats mainly grass as well as casuarina and tea tree seeds. I don’t know what they were finding so tasty on this occasion, either the grass or some small insects to complement the herbivore diet?

6.beautiful firetail

These birds share an equal partnership, both construct the nest, incubate the eggs and care for the young. Fortunately, their conservation status is secure, hopefully they will visit again.

7.beautiful firetail

The Gorge

We recently crossed another item off the bucket list with a wonderful lunch at The Gorge Restaurant in Launceston. Located in the Cliff Grounds at Cataract Gorge, the building was constructed in 1896 as a tearooms, replacing the white refreshments tent that previously served picnickers.

1.The Gorge Restaurant

In the early 1970s, the Gorge Restaurant opened, being the first licensed alfresco dining area in Australia.

2.The Gorge Restaurant

The Victorian style gardens were showing signs of spring.

2a.Cherry blossom

We opted to dine inside, the relaxing ambience was most welcoming.

3.The Gorge Restaurant4.The Gorge Restaurant

Our window seat afforded lovely views over the garden and tree tops.

5.the view6.rhododendrons7.the view

We settled in with a refreshing Clover Hill sparkling rosé from the Tamar Valley

8.Clover Hill Non Vintage Rosè

while nature provided the entertainment.

9.sparrow

The extensive wine list was narrowed down to a Frogmore Creek 2016 Riesling, sustainably grown in the Coal River Valley. It proved to be the perfect choice.

The friendly waiter was very patient while we decided on our meals, there was so much to choose from. We were very happy with the Crispy Spiced Quail, red cabbage & gin slaw, cauliflower puree and maple bacon,

12.Crispy Spiced Quail

Braised Beef Cheek, Paris mash, thyme roasted baby carrots & lager jus

13.Braised Beef Cheek

and Tasmanian Bush Pepper Calamari, chilli & lime rice vermicelli, coriander & rocket.

14.Tasmanian Bush Pepper Calamari

We savoured the wine while the chairlift glided past the window, sometimes with a passenger, sometimes uninhabited, before ordering dessert.

15.chairlift

My Deconstructed Pumpkin Pie, candied pecans, ginger crumb & spiced cream had to be seen to be believed.

We shared tastings of the Warm Chocolate & Hazelnut Brownie, white chocolate parfait & raspberry coulis

19.Warm Chocolate & Hazelnut Brownie

and the Coconut Lime Tart with rhubarb & blue curacao sauce.

20.Coconut Lime Tart

We walked off some of our decadence returning to the car park, pausing on the suspension bridge to take in the stunning landscape.

21.Cataract Gorge upstream22.Cataract Gorge lower basin

It was difficult to focus on this magnificent cormorant enjoying the sunshine, the bridge was swaying not me.

23.cormorant

resplendent robin

Winter has arrived and our gorgeous scarlet robins have returned. They form permanent monogamous pairs and move to the open forests during the warmer months, returning to nest in our garden as the days shorten. The male makes quite a show once he is back, letting everyone know this is his territory again. Late one afternoon, he spent quite some time admiring himself in the window. Unfortunately, he was in shade and I didn’t capture him in all his glory.

The next day, Michael sat patiently while the sun shone on the same perch, in the hope of catching the perfect image.

5.no robin

Initially disappointed, he was soon rewarded with a prolonged robin lavation.

The black headed honeyeater seems bemused by the aquatic antics, reluctant to take the plunge.

10.robin & friend

I haven’t seen the female recently and assume she is busy building the nest while he makes himself irresistible.

I’m pleased to say he is not totally narcissistic. While his partner incubates the eggs, he will feed her and both parents share responsibility for feeding the young.

13.robin

monochrome Melbourne

In 1973, Paul Simon released the song, ‘Kodachrome’ and I distinctly remember his notion that “…everything looks worse in black and white.” I decided to put this to the test on a recent trip to Melbourne. I have always found something fascinatingly enigmatic about monochrome photographs, perhaps it’s the invitation to look closer to discern images less obvious. The London plane tree below our apartment window does seem to lack something without the verdancy,

1.London plane tree

and the food looks a little less enticing.

2.ale & pork crackle

We wandered along Southbank, the late afternoon sunlight glinting off the water. The bar on Ponyfish Island seems to be perpetually crowded.

3.Southbank Pedestrian Bridge & Ponyfish Island4.Ponyfish Island5.Southbank Pedestrian Bridge

It was a perfect evening to be out on the Yarra

6.rowers

or to sit with a beverage and just observe.

7.wine

Friends, lovers and loners were enjoying the ambience,

as the sinking sun danced on the leaves of the plane trees.

The next morning, we crossed the pedestrian bridge

13.Southbank Pedestrian Bridge

pausing halfway to capture the view upstream.

14.Yarra River, Princes Bridge

The buildings are just as impressive without colour

15.Eureka Tower16.Melbourne skyline

and the reflections mesmerising

17.Southbank18.Southbank19.Southbank

as we strolled along Flinders Walk.

20.Flinders Walk

We passed Sandridge Bridge, The Travellers sculptures telling stories of past immigrants to Australia.

23.rowers24.Sandridge Bridge & skyline

Someone had kindly left birdseed for our feathered friends.

25.birds

The rowers were being pursued by a lone gull – or so it seemed.

26.rowers

I wonder if this cormorant could smell the fish at the Sea Life Aquarium across the river. He looks like a statue against the abstract motion of the water.

28.cormorant27.Sealife

Not far past Seafarers Bridge

29.Seafarers Bridge

we reached our destination – DFO, South Wharf.

30. DFO South Wharf

Interestingly, when Paul Simon recorded his concerts in Central Park in 1982 and 1991, he changed the lyrics to “…everything looks better in black and white.” You can decide for yourself.

Mary Arden’s Farm

After soaking up Shakespearean history in Stratford-upon-Avon, we drove three miles to the village of Wilmcote to the family home of the great bard’s mother. Mary Arden lived with her parents and seven sisters until she married John Shakespeare in 1557 at the age of twenty. Mary Arden’s Farm is a working farm and portrays 16th century life. Costumed workers complete the scene and we really felt we had stepped back in time. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust bought the farmhouse in 1930 and refurbished it in the Tudor period style.

1.Palmer's farmhouse

The funny thing is, in 2000 it was discovered that the house actually belonged to a neighbour, Adam Palmer, and it was renamed Palmer’s Farm. The rooms have been beautifully preserved.

The Arden family house had been acquired by the Trust in 1968 as part of the farm without realising its significance. A more modest dwelling, some of the timber framework has been replaced with Victorian brickwork but the original features date back to 1514.

6.Mary Arden's house

The outbuildings have been maintained, providing comfortable shelter for animals and vehicles.

7.Mary Arden's Farm

The evidence of hard manual labour has been retained,

10.millstone

the outdoor Tudor oven could have been the prototype of today’s pizza ovens?

11.Tudor outdoor oven

We wandered past the birds of prey, patiently waiting for their moment in the spotlight.

The boss was in her office making sure things ran smoothly.

16.the boss

Of course, I fell in love with the donkeys.

Michael fell in love with a couple of birds. He learned the way to win a heart was with a nuzzle rather than a stroke. Apparently, birds see the offering of a hand as aggression.

The occasional dead chick works, too.

23.peregrine falcon

Into a barn for, not surprisingly, a barn owl experience.

24.barn owl

No prizes for guessing who volunteered to don the glove.

25.barn owl

No nuzzles this time but the reward was the same.

28.barn owl