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Saturday, 12 November 2011

Rain Lilies and kittens

I know that in the the song it is"rain drops on roses" but I have no roses although I do have whiskers on kittens and lots of Rain Lilies (Zepheranthes). The rainy season started and a whole bunch of the Pink Rain Lilies sent up flower buds
and then bloomed.

When this pot flowered I brought it inside and put into a blue ceramic pot for a couple days as well as photograph it.
It was a bright sunny day and at first I thought that I might have problems with the photographs but these actually turned out alright.

The camera kept insisting that I used the flash but I think that these turned out quite nice. I admit I had to do some manoeuvrings with tables and books to get the right angles and keep all the unfinished renovations out of the picture.

Although I planted patches of Pink Rain Lilies in anticipation of spectacular swathes of pink flowers. I also planted little clumps in holes in the front lawn where some clumps of an undesirable species of grass had been dug up from. Some of these sent up a few flowers too. While not a swathe of colour they were still quite eye catching.

The kittens were running around outside having fun after the rain on both occasions and just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

The tortoiseshell is Jasper (formerly Jasmine) while the ginger is Ichigo and the Mackerel Tabby is Dee Dee. Tweedle the other Mackerel Tabby did not feel like being photographed as she was busy climbing a tree.

 They do not even look like they are posing. Talk about professional models.
I should sign them up.

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Saturday, 29 October 2011

Ground cover and recalcitrant canines

Okay it has been a while. First I moved in before work on the house at Alafua was completed. Although the contractor and his men have been gone a while now they have not quite completed all what they were supposed to do so the place is not exactly all ready. The main problem is the wiring as well as the lights and electrical outlets of the kitchen, bathroom and toilets have yet to be installed among a few other things.

However, that is all out of my control so I have been busy with the "landscaping" which at the moment means planting as many of the plants that need to be transplanted into the ground (rather than other pots or poly bags). It also means planting a hedge or rather several hedges and plant barriers between the various neighbours, the road front and the access road that runs down the back of the property to the creek.

I started by transplanting Flame violets (Episcia) as ground cover around the side where the bedrooms are and along the front of the house that looks out down the street. I have two varieties one with green leaves and bright red flowers
and another with burgundy leaves and pink flowers.

I have had to put cocoa wire over them to keep the four resident dogs (the owner has not come to take them yet) from digging the plants up. I had to rake and remove a whole lot of stones, bones and other rubbish from the area. The dogs were used to digging the soil up and making themselves nice soft beds there as well as all around the house. So far the cocoa wire has kept them off the plants and most have not only recovered but are flowering and look on their way to establishing a nice ground cover.

Unfortunately for some reason the burgundy leaved Flame violets do not seem to be doing too well. Admittedly I did not have that many of them to start off with and very few of those were in top condition. I suspect that the fact that the area these are in has a lot more sun may be a factor.

I also took some Heliconia and Hedychium from Malifa to plant at Alafua.

I planted them both on the side of the bedrooms along the fence with the Helliconia along the fence and the Hedyciums further in. The Heliconia were Heliconia caribea which are the giant ones. One of the varieties I am certain is a cream and the other I am not so sure but is alot more showy than the cream. Once they grow into a decent sized stand they will provide a tall leafy  screen and produce nice flowers as well.

For the Hedychium I have three varieties so far and decided to plant the Yellow Hedychium (Hedychium flavenscens) in this location because they have very big flower heads and a strong scent. The other two varieties seem to be Hedychium coronarium since it is white and the other is sort or salmon coloured but I have not been able to identify it yet. I think it is Hedychium augustiflolium "Peach" I will also plant these two at Alafua although I am not sure when or where. I may try planting some along the creek bank which has been greatly eroded over the last 20 years since I used to go swiming and exploring there.

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Saturday, 17 September 2011

Glorious Lilies

I bought one plant about a year ago now. Since then it had new plantels and I divided it transplanted them. Now two are flowering. Sorry I have no idea what they are called.

I have moved since my last post and have done quite a bit of planting since then. I had to move all the plants I had at Fagalii Uta to our house at Alafua.

I had planted some pink Zepheranthes and Flame violets (Episcia) in the ground at the house at Fagalii Uta. I had intended to leave them for the next tenant but then thought that knowing how some people operate they might weed them out so I decided to take them out. Unfortunately on the day that I was going to dig them up the people who look after the property i.e. take care of the grass etc who had been in the process of mowing the grass and trimming the hedges had added a new thing to their activities: spraying the strip around the house with herbicide!

I guess it makes sense as it kills those hard to reach plants against the houses. Unfortunately this included the strip of Zepheranthes I had decided I should remove. I guess my prescience was correct but I did not act in time.

To make it worse there are cats and dogs in the neighbourhood and when my neighbour who has three dogs and a cat complained they ignored her concerns that the pets might get poisoned as well.

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Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Glorious pink Zephyranthes among other flora

When I went to the back porch to let the cat Felonious Feline yesterday morning I was quite delighted by an unexpected and astonishing view of a whole slew of pink rain lilies Zephyranthes in bloom. Scratchit was of course oblivious to this and made a beeline for her bowl while I went out to admire them. Two of the pots have about thirty flowers in each (yes I counted them). Three other pots have one to four and one of the little poly bags has a couple.

I went to get the camera but the battery was low because in spite of the label "heavy duty" these ones did not last long. Apparently you need to buy special batteries made for use in digital cameras. I don't get it. Heavy Duty should mean heavy duty not heavy duty except if you use it in your digital camera.
Naturally I was so excited and anxious to take some photos that I messed up the pictures and managed to take four blurry shots before the battery died.

I forgot to buy batteries and today they are looking as if the flowers will not last much longer. I suppose I should have held of pollinating them but all I could think of was how this many flowers could translate into tons of seed heads and a gazillion itty bitty black seeds that would grown into more Zephyranthes and produce even more dazzling floral displays.

I used a most unsophisticated method possible which consisted of bending the long stems and making the flowers kiss each other. In the meantime here are some photos I took not too long ago of other plants.


This is a Blue Iris which was from a huge clump that I divided and transplanted only a few months ago. Amazingly they have already started flowering. These flowers look a bit raggedly because they are all wet from the rain. Also to catch them at their best you need to get them in the morning soon after they have opened up. Towards the afternoon they start closing up and do not look as spectacular.

Here you can see some of the blue iris plants. As you can see they are quite small still and yet amazingly they are already flowering. They belong to the Iris family ( Iridaceae). I think these ones belong to the Neomarica genus but I am not sure. I have a similar plant with smaller yellow flowers which are definately Neomarica. Neomarica are also known as Walking Irises or Apostle Plants. this is becasue the flower stalk has numerous flowers (supposedly twelve hence the name) which eventually become little plantlets. As these grow the stalk dips until the plantlets are able to take root which gives rise to the "walking" bit. Here you can see one where the little plantlets are growing where the flowers were.
Unfortunately the big blue ones I have do not do this. However, there are pictures of other Neomarica species that look similar and are also non walking. the closest that I think resembles this variety is the Brazilian Iris (Neomarica gracilis or caerulea). This site has a picture. They look very similar even the three flowers on one stem but the stems of these ones have never ever bent down and taken root.

Here is one of my favourites a Hedychium which is also known as butterfly ginger. I have four varieties; white, salmon and a creamy yellow and a buttery yellow. The one on top is the creamy yellow one. Hedycium are native to the foothills of the Himalayas and have an intense and divine fragrance. Anyone who has gone over the Vailima cross island road in the evening or at night will have smelt them as they get over the top and descend toward Lotofaga as there is a huge patch growing along the road in one of the cattle farms there.
I also remember an even more intense encounter with these on Kauaii up at Waimea Canyon. It seems that the scent is stronger in cool weather because when I was up at the Waimea Canyon it was in the middle of the day and it was very cool. Up at Afiamalu it only gets cool at night unless it is a rainy or overcast day. The ones I have growing at Malifa only smell strongly in the evening. During the day you have to practically stick your nose into the flower to smell it.

This one is the buttery yellow Hedycium. I think it is Hedychium flavescens. I will be planting a whole lot of Hedychium at Alafua along the fence which runs along the side of the house where the bedrooms are. I have not decided if I will plant just one variety or all four in blocks. I will be planting them in other locations too so it is more a matter of aesthetics than of planting one variety or another. The buttery yellow one seems to be hardier and have bigger flower heads so I might put those in by the bedrooms

At Malifa I planted some Hedycium at the base of some of the Avocado (Persea americana) and Moso’oi a.k.a. Ylang-ylang (Cananga odorata) saplings to protect the trees from careless idiots with whipper snippers who kept going to close and damaging the young saplings in one case stripping the bark of and practically ring barking one of the saplings. I also planted some teuila aka Red Ginger (Alpinia purpurata) around another avocado sappling
The Hedychium Genus belongs to the Zingiberaceae Family which is part of the Zingiberales Order.  Strangely most of the plants that I have belong to the Order Zingiberales and most of these to the Zingiberaceae Family. These include the Rattle plants (The Marantaceae Family) and the Helliconias (family Heliconiaceae), Torch Gingers (Etlingera), Beehive Gingers (Zingiber spectabile), Tumeric (Curcuma), Ginger (Alpinia) and Ginger (Zingiber officinale) from the Zingiberaceae Family.

There are so many stunning species available in the Zingiberales Order and the Zingiberaceae Family in particular. Whenever I go anywhere I notice what plants are there. Its amazing how often people are oblivious to what they have growing in their gardens or on their property and worse how often precious and not easily obtainable species are chopped down, pulled out and thrown away or burnt all in the guise of "cleaning up".
Every now and then I have been somewhere and been able to anticipate the destrution and managed to rescue a few plants.
Actually I saw some exquisite little plants growing down by the river at Alafua which I fear are in danger. I am not sure but they could be May flowers they have flower clusters with tiny little white bell shaped flowers. I need to ensure that they are not decimated by the vegetable garden planters there at the moment clearing land.

I transplanted some Tumeric in the front yard at Malifa and they were growing fine but they all withered and died down. I am hoping that the rhizome is still viable and will resprout as it did in the past when I had them in big poly bags until Ninja Cat started using it as her litter box. I am still not sure if it is the variety that is used to produce tumeric but the rhizome certainly smells like that and stains your fingers yellow if you crush it.
The Ginger that I have growing in a few locations is the edible variety. I am only certain of this because they grew from rhizomes I bought from the market and stores specifically so I could grow some.

More Hedges

Here are some of the other hedge cuttings I mentioned earlier are a varriety of green and yellow varrigated leaved plants.

This type has long thin green leaves speckled with yellow. I am some along the fence between the adjacent property which is empty except for a small rather over grown banana plantation. Unfortunately one of the plants that is growing there is the fua saina or mile a minute and the other tougher creeper. At least the mile a minute has some medicinal uses. The other plant is a real pest and climbs up the fence and onto the plants on our property.

You need to constantly pull them off as they will very quickly cover the plants blocking off sunlight and choking them. The giant helliconias, beehive ginger, Golden Torch Helliconias and even the Moso'oi (Yalang Yalang) and esi / pawpaw trees are threatened by this fast growing creeper.

I have noticed that in some cases when they are not getting enough sun they go green.

These are pretty much the same colour scheme but broader shaped leaves. Like the first type it has hard glossy leaves. Neither of them flower but they are quite striking especially when they are big and bushy. A whole hedge would look quite nice.

These are another variety which looks really nice especially when it flowers. The flowers have purple inner petals and white outer petals.

These are the ones that the furry black caterpilar loves too. Colin and I made some cuttings filling two cell trays using the itty bitty cuttings method.

they are looking rather sad and bedraggled at the moment. But I am sure that they will recover. Once they develop little rootlest they will perk up. Then maybe in 3-4 weeks they should have sufficent roots to transplant. I like to wait until they have a nice ball of roots so that when you pop them out of the cell tray or poly bag the soil does not all come pouring out. The cuttings that are transplanted when they have reached that stage of root development tend to recover from transplantation much faster and start growing.

Here you can see the road front with the purple-black hedge being grown. Its very uneven at the moment because the section that is growing all nice and bush was the section planted first and from which cuttings were taken to establish the other sections.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Pink Zepheranthes, Demonic Chickens and wanna be Wolves

There  are several major differences between living at Fagalii Uta and Alafua. The primary one is the noise factor. Aside from extremely noisy neigbhours there are the chickens and the dogs. The Neighbours range from the type who turns their radio on all day a top volume so practically ALL the neigbhours can hear it to neighbours who have built their house right next to the boundry which means you can hear everything they say. The worst part is that this is right next to the bedrooms. Hence the thick plant screens that I have been planting along that boarder.

The other problem is that some of the neighbours have chickens. I always thought chickens crowed in the morning. I remember when we had the poultry farm here ages ago (when there were far far fewer neighbours) the few roosters that had managed to elude identification (and execution) when the pullets were transfered to the laying sheds, would serenade the dawn (until they grew up and their big combs betrayed them and they ended in the cooking pot). These roosters though are demonic creatures who do not seem to understand the concept of crowing at dawn. No they crow good night, they crow at midnight and throught out the wee hours of the night and morning. But it does not stop at that there are several and its always one that starts and then you hear another in a distant location responding and then another then its bedlam.

To add injury to insult the neighbour's chickens root around on our land and seem to take great joy in industriously digging up anything I have planted. I assume they appreciate my having loosened the soil but after finding that they had dug up and scattered a whole bed of pink rain lillies I was not amused. The fact that I do not really want them eatting the resident earthworms is just another point against them.

On top of that our street or rather I should say our neighbourhood is repleat with dogs as in every variety and size of mutt under the sun and at night they will start up a chorus of howling. Like the roosters one starts then that family's dogs will join in then another pack and another until all the dogs in the street and along the main road are howling along. I have not yet discovered just how far this phenomenon extends but I can imagine that it rolls in waves all around the whole Alafua - Sinamonga and Lotopa areas. Someone who lives along the main road quite a distance from the turn off onto our street verified my suspicions when he said that the dogs along the main road are part of the chorus.

I have resorted to putting cottonwool in my ears at night to try and block out the noise a bit. And to think that when I was at Fagalii Uta Undertaker and his two friends used to drive me nuts with their occassional swearing matches with the other dogs!

Well I have had to cover the zepheranthes with cocoa wire too. I think that once they are established I should be able to remove it. Having a yard full of coco wired covered plants is definately not what I envisioned. I will need to sort out some alternative to the cocowire covered Flame violets because I think that as soon as I remove the wire the dogs will be digging them up. Maybe some sort of wooden picket barrier might work?
I still need to remove all the stones as well as some plants and rubbish from the front area of the house where more Flame violets will be planted. I intend to plant Blue Irises in front of those.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Planting a Purple Hedge

I have been plating a hedge at the house at Malifa on the side facing the road. I choose a purplish black leafy hedge plant for a couple of reasons. First it is unusual as most people have hibiscus hedges while others have variegated (green and yellow) leafed hedges. Two it has nice white flowers with little bits of purple in them. I plan on having a second layer with yellow/green variegated leaves. Actually it is not exactly the plant I wanted. I have seen one which is a deep purple. This one ranges from green (in the shade) to black and purplish balck in the full sun.

I started with some cuttings that I transplanted once they had established roots. Then when these grew I waited until I was able to make more cuttings from these. Hoping that no "overly clever and enthusiastic" person decided to "trim" the hedge. I needed woody stems so it has taken a while. But as long as it is woody I can use it. At first I was using pieces from 6 - 8 inches long and sticking them into poly bags fileld with river silt which I have found to be the best medium for rooting cuttings. then I tried to see if I could get more cuttings from each woody stem. So I cut 1 - 2 inch bits making sure that each piece had at least one set of leaves. I used cell trays insead of poly bags since the plantlets were much smaller and that also saved on space. It worked.

Once these had nice healthy roots systems I dug a trench and transplanted them extending the bit of hedge on both sides. Colin and Leatuse helped me with this. Recently we transplanted another stretch and started some more cuttings. As you can see they are green since they were in a shady area.
One major drawback of this plant and one other variety of variegated (green/yellow) hedge plants is that it appears to be the favourite food of one of the butterfly species here. I’m not sure which one. They have BIG fat black furry caterpillars with green and blue stripes with voracious appetites.

In the foreground you can see the Torch gingers that were planted as a secondary screen as well as for the stunning and large flowers they produce. Fully grown the stalks will be about 10 feet tall. I intend the hedge infront to be atleast 6 feet tall to block out the noise and dust from Vailima road as well as provide some privacy.

These were planted from suckers about a month ago. As you can see they already have suckers coming up. These were suckers from a couple suckers that I had planted a few months before that which are to the left as well as one sucker from the original stand that I planted at the back of the house over looking the river (creek). The soil on this part of the property is very sand which is strange but may have been where they dumped sand when building the house. Anyway the soft sandy soil seems to help the plants grow suckers a lot faster. Here you can see the ones I planted a few months ago. The grassless exposed area used to have a covering of bread fruit leaves which I had started with the triple purpouse of compost, mulch and to kill the sensitive grass (Mimosa pudica )that was starting to grow there.

Then certain individuals removed all the leaves. After I explained the reason the leaves were there they started putting some back. The only useful outcome of this is that you can now see the extent of the sucker development. There is also one rather anaemic looking flower stalk emerging. Well plants can be anaemic but its a rather apt description for this poor little thing. Maybe its because of too much direct sun? The others are all semi shaded.

I only hope that with the removal of the moist leave cover that the young plants are not adversly affected. soon they will be covered up again so hopefully it will not be a problem.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Checking up on Torch Gingers

Went by Malifa yesterday to check up on the plants, water them and see how things were going.
The Torch Ginger's (Etlingera elatior) at the back overlooking the river. Well ok ... we call it a river in Samoa but in reality its a creek that runs dry during the dry season.

Anyway the Torch Ginger was doing ok. There was only one flower in its early stages. There were also quite a few suckers that could easily be removed for transplanting. I will do that when renovations at the house at Alafua are complete and I move there. They will require careful watering after transplanting. The only way I can be sure that this will happen is if I am there to do it. I will be transplanting a whole bunch of other plants there too including some blue irises.

The yellow rattlesnake plants (Calathea crotalifera) I planted next to the water tank have really grown alot in a year and need to be thinned out. The only problem is that doing this is not that easy because the soil there is very rocky and digging them out and cutting the rizhomes loose is hard and frustrating work.
Last time I took some I ended up pretty much destroying half of what I cut loose. I planted some between us and the neighbours to create a barrier against their dogs and two of the 5 plants that I planted took. The others kept getting uprooted by the dogs. Here are the two survivors.
Unfortunately my sister did some "cleaning up" along the boarder between us and the neighbours mainly to get rid of the annoying fue that grows over everything and as usual ... cleared other things as well. Typical Samoan style clearing as in cut everything down INCLUDING the two plants that had survived and were begining to grow quite well. They grow close together and very thickly and would have eventually developed into an inpenetratable barrier against the dogs. Now ... well ... I dont know. The roots are still in the ground at least so hopefully they will recover and send up shoots.
Here is a before picture I took a few days before to show how well they had recovered and were growing.

An interesting fact about these plants is that they are part of the Marantaceae or arrowroot family which is also known as the prayer plant family. the reason for this name is that in the evening their leaves fold up as if in prayer. Then in the morning they spread open again. These are not the bright yellow I have seen elsewhere. I have one small clump of brownish ones which I planted far far away because it appears to have some sort of leave infestation which has not cleared up.

Another plant that has had set back due to people indicrimitaley chopping them down or cutting back their leaves are the giant helliconias on one side of the property.
I think these are Helliconia caribaea "Jaqcuini". Well I think it is Helliconia caribaea Jaqcuini it looks alot like this one which that say is Helliconia caribaea Jaqcuini. There is also of stand of pale yellow ones.
What I find frustrating is that no matter how often I explain to some people that you need to just let the plants grow and that if you keep "trimming" them they will not flower. Also I planted them to act as a screen / barrier and provide shade. Once they attain their full growth then the will provide shade and still let breezes through which will be cooled by the shade. Geeze its simple physics ok thermodynamics but still ... I don't understand why it is so complicated for anyone. All you need to do is take note the difference between a breeze that flows through a well shaded area and one that does not pass through any shade.
It never ceases to amaze me that when its blazing hot and people are outside they gravitate to shade trees and YET even though they have used those shade trees they will still go ahead and chop them down or "prune" them within an inch of their lives and then complain  about how hot it is.
Sorry tree killers are one of my major sources of headaches.

Anyway some Zephyranthes that were transplanted a month or so ago have obviously recovered and are growing well. You can see them at the bottom right. An earlier group in the centre just before  the purple grown orchids have been happliy multiplying and flower every now and them. When the whole lot flower it looks fantastic. these are the pink ones which grow the best being resistant to African Snails (Achatina fulica) and grow well by dividing as well as seed.

I have some white ones which only grow by dividind and slowly at that. Very very slowly although I am planning on some experiments with different soils to see if that has any effect. I'd say the pink zepheranthes multiply 4-5 times faster. As for the yellow ones ... well I'm nursing the few I have along hoping to get more. Of course the fact that the African Snails so obviously love them is a problem that I am going to have to resolve.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Serendipitous Tomatoes

Several months ago I noticed that in one of the pots that some Flame Violets (Episcia) had grown into, a tomato plant had appeared. Well that was not really surprising since when I do not throw stuff into my compost pots I sometimes drop fruits, coffee grounds etc into other pots. So I put the pot by the side of the house whereI wanted the flame violets to spread and act as ground cover.
These ones have silvery green leaves and bright red flowers. 
I decided to leave the tomato plant and let it grow with the Flame Violets. I have grown tomatoes before on the farm and know you are supposed to stake and tie them and pinch back the little side shoots etc all supposedly to ensure that each plant produces the maximum amount of tomatoes. I did not do any this to this plant and it has grown and spread over quite a bit of ground and has been bearing lots and lots of tomatoes.
It turns out it is a Roma Tomato and I remember buying some a while back and then throwing them away because I did not use them in time.
 And YES that is one single plant. And it is still growing and spreading.

The combination of Tomato plant and Flame Violets seems to be good as the flame violet acts as ground cover letting the Tomato plant grow without too many weeds.

I took some pictures of the flowers because they look quite nice, not that they could ever end up in a flower shop or a flower bouquet since they are far too small. Still I think that their delicate simplicity and the fine hairs of the stalks and leave are quite interesting and came out reasonably well using the macro.

Its strange how you usually do not notice flowers of "edible" plants as being attractive ... well except for cherry blossoms and certain other fruit trees, but tomato flowers?

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Caught on Film. A Mysterious Bird and a Plant Squishing Cat

Finally I have photographic evidence of the Felonius Feline sleeping where she should not be sleeping. It was a moment after a brief tropical rain storm and the birds were singing with joy as they preened themselves and fluffed their feathers dry. No doubt like some humans they too like to sing in the shower. Although in fact they are singing after their shower and decidedly more tuneful than most humans.

Anyway I heard some strange notes and grabbed my camera in the hopes of being able to catch the mysterious singer. To my consternation the first thing I see when I stepped outside was this:

You must hand it to her though. When I confronted her she just kept her eyes closed pretending to be asleep. But by the twitching of her tail tip I knew she was faking it. Besides there is a decided difference in the way sleeping eyes look compared to the closed eyes of someone (feline or human) who is pretending to be asleep. She even tried to peek at me through little slits but then closed them tighter when she saw I was still there. As you can see in the photo with her tightly closed eye she is definately NOT sleeping. I do not think she realises that it is impossible to sleep with you head up like that. Incidentally THAT is the pot which had the white ground orchids ( Spathoglottis plicata ). Lucky for her they are dead and gone otherwise if it had been a pot with live plants in it she would have gotten a jugof water on her.

In disgust I went off to look for the bird following its whistles to the chain link fence over grown with mile-a-minute between me and the coco plantation next door. I caught sight of the bird perched in a coco tree and was just trying to focus on it when it flew away. I guess it was not a paparazzi fan.
The good thing was that it could not keep its mouth shut and I was able to track it down again encouraging it to whistle by mimicking it. This time it was all the way up in a Breadfruit tree. So carefully I stalked into position and with trembling hands tried to get some decent shots of it.

These were the only ones I was able to get because each time I moved to get into a better position I had to refocus all the time hoping that I would not frighten it off or that it would not decide that another location was better. In any case I have never seen one of these birds in Samoa.

I have tried uploading it to my page on the Internet Bird Collection but was having trouble. Maybe I will be able to get it on eventually.

Mean time this is the link to the site which I have already uploaded photos of other birds I managed to get shots off.