The focus for February's Outdoor Hour Challenge has been on birds. We've only managed to photograph a few of the birds we've seen recently but we've been focussing on the sounds the birds we are familiar with make. Being surrounded by bush we often don't catch sight of some birds until we hear them and then we'll try and see them.
The Handbook of Nature Study blog has a very helpful link to a bird checklist by country - knowing which birds are known to be in our area has often helped us discover the identity of a new bird we've seen - or at least we can have an educated guess.
This gentleman visiting our bird bath is a male King Parrot. These beautiful birds are fairly quiet compared to the other parrots we hear regularly and we know they're around when we hear them eating in the privet trees at the back of our place.
The Crimsom Rosella below is fairly shy but we just managed to get this photo before it flew off. It has a bell like sound but they swoop very quickly and with their bright colours they make themselves obvious more by their flight than by their sound.
This baby Brush Turkey was having a feed the other morning and wasn't too concerned about us. We've had a couple of baby brush turkeys around before but they've never kept still long enough for a photo and have flown off very quickly.
A sound we hear at night fairly regularly is "boo-book" which we know to be the Southern Boobook owl (also known as the mopoke) but we hadn't actually seen one properly. A few times we'd seen an owl swoop in front of the car when we were driving in the area at night but that was about it.
Then the other week three of the boys went for a walk in the late afternoon and took off up through the bush for a bit of adventure and as they came to a cleared area at the top of the ridge an owl suddenly rose up in front of them and flew off. They were excited about that and when they got home and had a look at some owl pictures they thought it was probably a boobook or perhaps a Barking Owl.
Then last night my daughter and I went for a walk in the evening and as we were walking down the hill to come home there was a boobook owl sitting on the powerlines and we got a good look at him because he didn't move - he just looked down at us. I was so annoyed I didn't have a camera!
You can see what a Southern Boobook looks like at the Australian Museum.
Drawing Made Easy by E.G. Lutz is an old book written in 1921 and is available free online. I got a copy as a PDF here and if you look on page 40 & 41 you'll find some neat instructions on how to draw owls.
A young Praying Mantis found its way inside and we were able to get a good close up view with a magnifying glass. It would be very hard to see if it were outside in the garden greenery. Head shaped like a triangle which can turn 180 degrees, bulging yellow eyes, spiked front legs - some people raise young mantis's but I decided not to suggest this to anyone because we'd have to supply them with other insects to eat - so out it went into the garden to look for its own food supply.
Hydrangeas - I've grown these from cuttings taken when I've pruned them after flowering. I just stick quite
a few of them the ground and usually have some success in propagating them.
Fuschias - I've managed to grow two varieties from cuttings. The first one below took me a while to get going. It must be a particularly slow growing type and its flowers and leaves are quite different from the others.
This is one I bought to get started and it was quite easy to propagate. I just took multiple cuttings and placed them in water until they developed roots and then planted them in pots.
We have sandy, low nutrient soil where we are and I tend to put most flowering plants in pots otherwise they tend not to flower.
Another slightly different variety just beginning to flower for the first time
I love the Chinese lantern look of the flower as it opens
Flowering begonias - well, they are never not in flower, even in winter. All varieties are easy to grow from cuttings. I've taken cuttings at different times of the year with success.
'Nature-study cultivates the child's imagination, since there are so many wonderful and true stories that he may read with his own eyes, which affect his imagination as much as does fairy lore; at the same time nature-study cultivates in him a perception and a regard for what is true, and the power to express it.'
Anna Botsford Comstock