Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Tea For Two - with an IBIS!

As this is Wild Bird Wednesday that Stewart from Paying Ready Attention hosts and I have family in Australia and have being going there now for many years, I thought on Wednesdays I would show you some of my Australian photographs.  However it was only from 2007/8 that I started taking digital photographs so that is where we will start, in Sydney at the Botanical Gardens.

The Australian White Ibis is a fairly large Ibis species, around  25–30 in long and has a bald black head and neck and a long black down curved beak, measuring over (6.6 in) in the male, and under in the female.  There is some sexual dimorphism in size, as the slightly heavier male weighs 3.7-5.5 lbs compared to the 3.1–4.2 lbs female.   As an comparison, the American White Ibis generally attains 2.2 lbs in weight.  The body plumage is white although it may become brown-stained. Inner secondary plumes are displayed as lacy black 'tail' feathers. The upper tail becomes yellow when the bird is breeding. The legs and feet are dark and red skin is visible on the underside of the wing. Immature birds have shorter bills. The head and neck are feathered in juveniles.

The Australian White Ibis reaches sexual maturity in 3 years and can reach 28 years of age.

The White Ibis usually gives off a foul stench. This smell is not described as rotten, but an odd smell that is rather unpleasant and distinct.

There has been debate in recent years over whether to consider them a pest or a possibly endangered species. Birds in tourist areas of Sydney such as Darling Harbour, the Royal Botanic Gardens, or Centennial Park have been a problem due to their strong smell. Populations in the latter two areas have been culled.  Another fact as you can see is as they nest in the Palm tree in the Gardens, (see above) they eventually ruin them and die (see below).

Breeding season varies with the location within Australia, generally August to November in the south, and February to May, after the Wet Season, in the north. The nest is a shallow dish-shaped platform of sticks, grasses or reeds, located in trees and generally near a body of water such as river, swamp or lake.  Ibis commonly nest near other waterbirds such as Egrets, Herons, Spoonbills or Cormorants.  In fact if you look closely i the shot with the Ibis nesting, to the right, you will see a Little Cormorant.  

Two to three dull white eggs are laid measuring 65 mm × 44 mm.  The clutch is then incubated for 21–23 days. Hatchlings are altricial, that is, they are naked and helpless at birth, and take 48 days to fledge.

Alternate colloquial names include "Bin Chicken", "Dump Chook" or "Tip Turkey", from its habit of rummaging in garbage and "Sheep-bird".  I decided to go and have a coffee and as you can see I was joined by this Ibis who preferred a glass of milk.

He was determined to gobble up every last crumb of the lovely cake.

So it ever you are in Sydney, why not drop into the Botanical Gardens for Tea with a Ibis!

I hope you have enjoyed the start of my once a week Australian photographs. 

 Thanks for visiting today.

MANY THANKS TO ALL who visited any of my blogs yesterday.

I am linking this post to WBW Wild Bird Wednesday

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Romance of Roses

As promised I am visiting the beautiful Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park which covers over 128 acres and comprises rolling meadows, woodland, riverside fields and formal gardens. The City of Belfast International Rose Garden has made the park world famous, and contains over 20,000 blooms in the summer, divided into trial and display beds, an historical section, and a heritage garden that displays the best of the roses from local breeders.

Above are some of the walking group enjoying the kaleidoscope of vibrant colour.

In July 2012, Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park was awarded the Green Flag Award, which recognises the best open spaces in the UK.  It is one of ten of our parks, cemeteries and open spaces to receive this award.

Rose Week, which has been running at Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park every July since the inception of the Rose Society in 1964, will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year.  Last week was International Rose Week where every existing type of rose in the world was on display at Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park in south Belfast so Northern Ireland has a rich heritage in rose breeding, dating back to the 19th century.

Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park also contains International Camellia Trials, a walled garden, a Japanese-style garden with water features for quiet contemplation, a very popular childrens' playground, an orienteering course and many walks.  However today, I am showing you the Roses I photographed.  Soon in another post I will take you into the Japanese –style garden.

The idea of rose trials in Northern Ireland was first mooted in 1963 and the first trial roses were planted in the winter of 64/65.  Substantial development took place in 1980 and in April 2000, in Texas, the City of Belfast International Rose Garden was awarded the “Plaque of Merit” by the World Federation of Rose Societies.  This is only the fourth time the award has been given and it is a measure of the esteem in which the garden is held worldwide.

Approximately 50 new roses are submitted every year and are judged under 3 separate categories.  
They are 1.  Floribunda, Miniature and Climbing.
              2.   Hybrids.
              3.   Shrub. 

Rose hip of Rose below

They are judged by Permanent (80% of marks) and International judges (20% of marks) over 5 different visits throughout the summer.  They are looking for habit & growth, freedom of flowering, colour, disease resistance, flower quality, fragrance and resistance to weather damage.  The main countries contributing to the trails are Northern Ireland, Ireland, Scotland, England, USA, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, France, Czech Republic, New Zealand and Japan.

The prizes for these categories are commissioned from local artists and craftsmen and change every year.

Originally, the park formed in the mid-18th century as part of the Willmont Estate that was first owned by the Stewarts, a farming family from Scotland.  The Estate was used for growing crops and bleaching linen and the main family house stood on the site of what is now the park's lower car park.

During World War II, American troops were stationed in the grounds of the estate while their officers lived in Wilmont House. Lady Dixon was well-known for her work with the troops and was created Dame of the British Empire as a result. Before she died in 1959, she donated the estate to the city of Belfast in memory of her late husband, a former High Sheriff of Belfast.
The site was re-opened as Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park later that year.

Thank you for visiting and hope you enjoyed the Roses.
MANY THANKS TO ALL who left comments yesterday on any one of my posts.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Walk along Lagan Tow Path

Last Saturday my church walking group boarded a train from Bangor, County Down and arrived 1 hour later in Lisburn, Country Antrim.  On the way, while we were passing Holywood, we saw 2 Egrets, Tufted and Mallard ducks and 4 Herons from the left side of the train and on the sea side were Black headed gulls.  In Lisburn, after coffee, we headed for the Lagan Tow Path and the 20 of us started our walk to Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon International Rose Gardens.

                                                                   Moorhen- Juvenile

As you can see from the photos there is a lot of weed, so it was difficult to photo the birds.

                                                                  Little Grebe

As Northern Ireland has always been famous for its Linen trade, so I did a little research on this mill below.

HILDEN Mill has a long and prestigious history in Lisburn and as the end of an era draws near many local people will be recalling their own memories of Barbour Threads.
In 1784 John Barbour, who hailed from Scotland, established a linen thread works in Lisburn.
At the same time his son, William, bought a derelict bleach green at Hilden and set up business.
Later, the thread works were transferred to Hilden and as early as 1817 it was employing 122 workers.

In 1823 William Barbour bought a former bleach mill at Hilden and built a water-powered twisting mill.
The Linen Thread Company was founded 1898 and it quickly became a large international company.
In fact it became the largest linen thread mill in the world, giving Lisburn a richly deserved international reputation.

By 1914 it employed about 2,000 people and until recently some 300 workers were still employed there, with the work-force dropping to just 85 in recent years.
Among the company's varied products were nets, which could be made into snares and fishing nets.
The company built a model village for its workforce in Hilden, which consisted of 350 houses, two schools, a community hall, children's playground and village sports ground.

Lisburn became the envy of the world thanks to its Linen and Thread industry and now the last remnant of that history has closes its doors for the last time.

The mill closed in 2006 however the good news is that in December 2009 planning permission was given for a £100 million development on the site by London based developers Galliard Homes which, according to architect Dawson Stelfox of Consarc Conservation, will create a ‘new urban mixed use village’ on the site. There is a precedent for this approach in that the Barbours created a model village linked to the mill including 350 houses.  However in this economic climate, nothing has happened and it did have  fire in 2011.

Today there is a Irish Linen Centre & Lisburn Museum in the centre of Lisburn City.
Flax to Fabric is our main permanent exhibition tour; learn about the history of linen from the ancient Egyptians through to the period of the cottage industry and see skilled demonstrations of spinning and weaving.

 You may be interested to see my video of a Threshing machine working which was used in the linen industry.   My video can be found in my archives entitled, ‘Nature in different guises’ on Sunday 19 May 2013.

Then I came upon this wonderful meadow where I would have loved to spend more time looking for butterflies and just relaxing.

In the group was one other experienced bird watcher however the rest where people who had only an interest in nature.  As the main bird we saw at the Lagan was the Mallard and most people thought they were all males, I did try and explain how you could tell the difference at this time of year when the ducks were going into eclipse (moulting) More information on this in my post entitled Baby Eider Video on 13 July.

The Male Mallard above and the female Mallard below, at first glance look very similar.  However on closer inspection, you will see the male has a yellow bill and the female a darker one with some orange on the lower mandible.  Also the male has a slightly orange tinge on its breast.  The feathers on their backs are different although this is more difficult to detect.  You find Mallard nearly all over the world, so next time you see one in the summer, have a closer look at it.

If you only remember one things about the difference, remember the bill colours of each.  These are close up to help you.

As I said before, there was a lot of weed and I thought it might be interesting to photograph it and I have slightly edited it.

These were 2 Fungui I encountered along the way. 
Does anyone know what they are?

Now I am hoping someone will know this pretty white wild flower.  I know it is not Cow Parsley or Hog Weed.  It is even prettier than them and I managed to capture a few bees.

 The Syrphids (hoverflies), in these two photos landed on the Ragwort plant.

We finally reached Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Gardens which I will tell you more about tomorrow, however on our way in, these are a few of the flowers found in an enormous herbaceous bed.


 Echinops sphaerocephalus
The genus name derives from the Greek words "ekhinos" meaning "hedgehog" and "opisis" meaning "aspect", with reference to the appearance of the inflorescence, while the species name sphaerocephalus derives from the words "sphaera" meaning "round" and "kephalos" meaning head.

 In the main gardens there were not many birds, in fact of only birds I saw were numerous Magpies, 1 Robin and a handful of Wood Pigeon.  I didn't have time to explore the wonderful meadows where I may have seen more birds and butterflies.


      Allchemilla Mollis - close up


There were some wonderful very old trees with branches going in all kinds of directions, however the children were having great time climbing and playing around them so it was difficult to photograph them.  While walking through one of these area, I came across the piece of wood that had been carved into an acorn. (see above)

I loved the way the light played with the shapes of the branches and the one below I felt could be turned into black and white.

Now I am leaving you with a Rose because tomorrow I am going to show you the wonderful Roses that this garden was exhibiting.  The previous week had been the International Rose Week, so I think you are in for a feast of blossoms tomorrow.
Thank you for visiting and I hope you will call again.
THANKS TO ALL who left comments on any of my posts yesterday.