Sunday, 23 September 2012

A tree frog in our garden!

Tonight we were enjoying the increasingly warm Queensland weather and ate our dinner outside (the novelty never wears off for us Brits!).  We heard a rustle and something landed on the ground under our Myrtle trees amongst the fallen leaves.  A closer look revealed a Green Tree Frog  Litoria caerulea.  We have a very small suburban back garden, so were very excited to find this new inhabitant here!

The picture below gives you an idea of how small he is... we hope he decides to stay in our trees and not venture through the fence to the driveway.  Tree frogs can grow quite a bit bigger than this, up to around 10 cm.  This one was probably about 5 cm.  One interesting fact about them I have just found is their use in medical research: Several peptides from the skin secretions of the Green Tree Frog were found to destroy HIV without harming healthy T-cells.  Amazing.  Yet, as a group, frogs are some of the planet's most endangered set of species with a complex, numerous and poorly understood range of causes of extinction.  Despite this, the seriousness of the widespread loss of amphibian species is much overlooked in comparison to endangered species of the more cute and cuddly variety.  Amphibian Ark and Save the Frogs are two organisations who are trying to raise awareness and stem the losses.  

I hadn't even realised tree frogs would be in Brisbane.  The last time we saw one was this much larger beauty pictured below, when we stayed  last New Year on a cane farm near Bundaberg, quite far north of here.  Of course, on that trip we saw plenty of cane toads too!

Saturday, 15 September 2012

A bush photography class

Last weekend I was a very keen participant in a photography workshop, held in my local bushland of Mount Gravatt as part of the Peaks to Points festival by the local environment group at Mount Gravatt, part of the Bulimba Creek Catchment.  It was a beautiful Queensland morning, so I set off on Juanita, my trusty bicycle, forgetting that there is a big hill up to Fox Gully where the workshop was held!  Arriving a little warm and dishevelled, I settled into a comfy chair in a tent under the shady trees to listen to the marvellous 'amateur photography expert' Alan Moore.

Alan imparted his great knowledge and experience of taking photographs of the bush in a highly enthusiastic and engaging rapid fire hour.  As a very keen amateur who has never had any instruction or been brave enough to move off the auto functions, this was something of a revelation!  A big thing for me was to learn more about depth of field, which I now know is tied to the camera's aperture. Manipulating the depth of field using the aperture can give some great effects and ultimately much better photos, such as that nice fuzzy background to portraits, so the eye is really drawn to the subject.  This works in combination with focal length and focus.  Equally, you can use the aperture settings to ensure you get as much as possible in focus, by using a large depth of field.  The confusing thing is that a large depth of field equates to a small aperture (e.g. f/22), and a small depth of field (more restricted focus) equates to a large aperture (e.g. f/4.5)!  Here are a couple of examples of photos I tool at the workshop with a small aperture, set at aperture value F8.0, which has meant that the picture has stayed focused on both the close up of the tree and the path disappearing into the distance.  I used 'Av' mode on my camera to set the aperture, so that the camera would automatically adjust the other settings like shutter speed.

In this photo of the Pied Butcherbird Cracticus nigrogularis I did the opposite, and increased the aperture to F5.7 (shallower depth of field) at a larger focal length (i.e. zoom).  I was brave and used the Manual settings! Although not perfect I'm pretty pleased with the result (a tripod would have helped with the slower shutter speed) .  I'm very excited to try out more of my new found knowledge and camera settings.

The Pied Butcherbird is probably the most beautiful singer of all the Australian birds, You can hear a beautiful example of the song below, as I often do when I wake up in the morning.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

A koala at the top of the mountain

Another beautiful Sunday evening, so it was hard to resist another stroll up Mount Gravatt.  So far we have only spotted Koalas in two areas of the mountain, in the area between Gertrude Petty place to just below Federation Lookout, both of which are near the base of the mountain.  We have not heard of Koalas appearing near the top and haven't seen any up there ourselves, despite always keeping our eyes peeled.  The top of the mountain has a car park, picnic sites, a restaurant and the lookout, so we assumed the Koalas preferred the more tranquil lower parts of the mountain.

We often mistake termite nests for koalas, or hanging branches in the tall trees, and its not until we zoom in with binoculars or my camera that we can tell for sure.  Initially, this seemed like such an occasion, when Edd my partner asked 'is that a Koala?' as we neared the very top of the mountain.  However, although what Edd had been looking at was a dead branch, if he hadn't said that then I wouldn't have looked and spotted this Koala sitting very high up in a gum tree!  As we stood watching, a lady walked past with a dog off it's lead.  When I mentioned to her that the rule on the mountain was to keep dogs on a lead, as dogs are one of  the biggest threats to the survival of the endangered Koala (like the one in the tree, right there!), her response was that it is a well behaved dog and she is a local.  Nothing like the locals setting an example though, is there?!