Thursday, 3 September 2015

ANPS ascend Mount Majura

The group met at 9:30 at the end of Antill St and I joined them an hour later.  Comments were made about how much they had seen: this might explain why they were only about 500m from the start!

Let me begin with training in identifying unusual things.  I'm sure you will all recognise a Galah.  The blue thing behind it, which will be far less familiar, is the sky.  Yes, it was a nice sunny day!
There were more flowers around than my walk on the previous week.  The first I found was Stackhousia monogyna.
 This week I managed to photograph the first flowers of Hardenbergia violacea which I came across.
Towards the end of the walk I found the first large clump I have found this year.
 Get back into the chronology, I need some help with this one.  I noted "Pimelia linearis" but that doesn't exist!  I think the Pimelia bit is OK.
Cryptandra amara longifolia was found higher up than C, sp. Floriferous.
The only 'egg and bacon' bean of the day: Dillwynnia sp Yetholme.
 Stypandra glauca;  first a single flower ....
   ... then the bush as a whole.
 Wattle Day (plus 1) and here is some Acacia dealbata.
The male Allocasuarina verticilata was still in heavy flower  ....
 .. although quite a few inflorescences had fallen to the ground.
Interestingly I didn't see a single female flower, and I looked at many of the female trees (ie the ones with cones). I reckon the lads have got their timing wrong.  At least that meant I spotted this interesting gall while looking for flowers.
 There were some good birds around, but most of them were skittish.  A Red Wattlebird posed nicely.
 I don't think this Shingleback was posing as much as soaking up the rays.
The lunch spot gave nice views over the airport.  It was interesting that the only store which really stood out was the (under construction) Ikea place.  Also known as the home of "hide and seek"!
We also got a good look at the Majura Parkway.
 This annoys me intensely as at the time of opening the GDE the Government had rejected the idea of this road as "too expensive".  Thus a whole lotta native vegetation, including some in Nature Reserves, got trashed and now they have built (most of) the expensive road anyhow.  Oh well, it keeps the construction workers off the (completed) streets.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Yesterday: Lets All Go to the Zoo Tomorrow

I thought the chance to give a nod to the Beatles and Tom Paxton/Julie Felix was too good to pass up.  It does of course resolve to the fact that we went to the National Zoo and Aquarium today.

The idea of this came from some friends who have grandchildren and explained that the small person gets in for free and if you become a Friend of the Zoo the economics are quite sound.

We have not had responsibility for our small person before, although she seems to like us, so we thought we should have a training session first.  Thus we swung by Small Person Central and took her for an exploratory walk along Lake Burley Griffin.  (She would then be due for a nap and we'd go and check the Zoo - never having been there before.)

It was strangely difficult to keep the pusher going in the right direction, but as the world's greatest philosopher used to say "Learning all the time"
At one point (attention small person's mum - not on the bridge and well away from water) we were all walking hand in hand and a lady of our age went by saying "That looks special."  I think (hope?) she meant it looked very charming, not that we looked as though we were marching in the event that comes a couple of weeks after the Olympics.

We thought it good to have an objective for our walk and decided that Swans were the target.  We found some, with 4 downy cygnets, not far along towards Commonwealth Avenue.  They ignored us this time but when we came by on the way back the cygnets were closer to the path and Mum Swan (are female Black Swans 'pens' as is the case for Mute Swans?) let her displeasure be known so we rapidly headed off.
Arabella liked the plum blossom ...
.. and, on Wattle Day, liked the Acacia blossom even mor.
We were basically gone for a bit over an hour and all enjoyed ourselves greatly.  Mission accomplished.

Having returned small one we headed off for the Zoo.  It is interesting that I haven't been able to find on-line source to cover the full history of the place.  Here is my memory of it:
Whatever.  When we arrived - about noon on a cool Tuesday - the main car park was almost full.  A good sign for people voting with their wallets.

Getting in, the first exhibits were small, and very cute primates:
Cotton-top Tamarinds
Squirrel Monkeys
Then on to some bigger stuff.  I think this was the female Sun Bear.
She was rescued from a tiny cage in Cambodia where she had developed swaying behaviour due to boredom etc.  She still sways a bit but is much better, and certainly has much to entertain her in this enclosure.  Plus a male bear for company.
Little Penguins 
Ring-tailed Lemurs
Unfortunately I dipped on a photo of them walking around upright but they were most amusing to watch.  This one eating an apple peel looks most mischievous.
I was going to speak sternly to the folk chucking the apple bits into the enclosure then realised they were employees.  Hint for future visits: follow anyone carrying a bucket - they are probably going to feed something!

They have a good lot of Australian beasts.  This Common Wombat was sleeping right at the edge of its pen so I got a good snap of its claws.  No wonder they can dig well.
Its Meerkat time!

A Plum-headed Parrot.  Hopefully the Zoo looks after its birds better than the aviculturists around Canberra or these will soon be breeding in suburbia.
A Red Panda
 I think that and the Goodfellow's Tree-Kangaroo ...
... could get a run in a forthcoming blog by Ian Fraser about Orange animals.
Typically active Lions.
We ended in the Aquarium.  I liked this shot covering both the above and below water levels in a tank.
Frances had this huge Groper well up her list of favourite animals in the place.
They had a few reptiles including some very impressive, but not easy to photograph well, snakes.  This frog was amusing: its binomial should be Bufo plasticus.
There were a few shark-like things around and I thought these two Epaulette sharks were the cutest!
Overall, a very enjoyable visit.  The place gets a bouquet!  I suspect it will get very busy in the school holidays.  The most obvious demographic today were Mums with smallish children.  A good idea to get them interested in nature early.  I reckon that Arabella will find the place a hoot!

August 2015 updates

I hope you like this shot of sunrise on 5 August! 
I thought the sunrise brilliant, and the image  'OK' at the time  but 
really rate it highly now!

This Blog

  • The battle with Australia Post has continued.   There are a few updates on  that post.  I will note here that when I exchanged comments about AP with a merchant about to send me some stuff he said "AP are hopeless but at least consistent.  The private sector couriers are are just as hopeless, but erratic."  About a month later someone from Melbourne sent me something by courier.  It didn't turn up and was eventually discovered in Newcastle (fortunately NSW not UK) and got here 10 days late!
  • Some additional Stella coverage has been added.
  • Commentary on a Tawny Frogmouth has been added to the Campbell Park post.

Other Blogs

Friday, 28 August 2015

Yes Virginia, there is a Daffodil Day!

And it was on today, Friday 28 August.  The only reason I knew this was because I was reading about Wattle Day and came across this, including:
 Another welcome decision has come from the State and Territory cancer societies and councils to hold Daffodil Day on a Friday in late August, not on Wattle Day as previously.
I haven't seen any posters or media coverage this year,  However when doing a doorstep interview on SBS news on the night Bill Shorten and his team all had daffodil pins.  The Prime Minister -filmed at Bamaga didn't have one.

Here are some images from various parts of El Rancho Carwoola.

 And there are sill plenty to come!

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Whose Australian Bird?

In my post of book reviews a couple of days ago I made an observation that Romance languages use the possessive element in bird names more than other languages.  That was followed by the suggestion that a research project was available.

The weather today was such that an indoor project was quite welcome so I got stuck into it.  (And a few other linguistic/historic byways.)

Before getting to the results a few words about methods are both important and interesting.


There are 2,368 species included in Whose Bird (Beolens and Watkins).  Looking all of them up would be a huge task, especially for something essentially trivial.  So I decided to restrict myself to the species including  a person's name in their vernacular name as listed as the official entry in Australian Bird Names (Fraser and Gray).  This was a much more manageable 43 species!

To get the names in other languages I referred to Avibase.  The species pages there include two lists of names as shown here:
I only referred to the left-hand list which are I presume the official names in those languages. I didn't consider the entries in Japanese or Chinese characters (but am able to deal with Russian sufficiently to work out if one of the words should be pronounced like the name in question).  There were usually 14 to 17 in-scope languages in the list.  (Newell's Sandpiper only had 10 entries, probably because the bird only breeds on Hawaii and/or is often regarded as a subspecies of Townsend's Shearwater).  The list shown is more or less the standard list of 15: a few (7) species did not include Portuguese thus dropping to 14.  Others (14) had Icelandic added (scoring 16 possibles) while a few (8) others also had Brazilian Portuguese - not always the same as the mother tongue - giving 17.

On the subject of Portuguese, I once mentioned to a work colleague from Mozambique that I had a few words of Spanish and he replied "That's nearly the same as Portuguese: they just pronounce it wrongly."

I also referred back to Whose Bird to collect the year in which the bird was first described and nationality of the honoree.  I wondered if there would be some correlation between these characteristics and the adoption of the name.


Getting back to the use of possessives in other languages, I rated Spanish, French, Italian and both forms of Portuguese as Romance languages.  In total they were listed 175 times for my set of name-birds. The name - or a word clearly a form of it - appeared 114 times (65%).  In the other languages 479 occurrences showed 101 names (21%).   This does at least support my gut feeling which began this investigation.

In terms of individual species the species with the greatest number of foreign usages was the Gouldian Finch, where 7 other languages used Mrs Gould's name.  In 3 cases (Leach's Storm-petrel, Major Mitchell Cockatoo and Latham's Snipe) no other languages had adopted the name: I'll come back to this in the analysis section below.

The characteristics of date of naming and nationality of honoree are summarised in this table-image.
I have included Reunion for the case of Armand Barau.  He was born there and lived there all his life.  The fact that certain people, who have the good fortune to live on the banks of the Seine, regard the place as part of France does not fuss me at all.  

It was a tad difficult in some cases to decide how to treat people who moved around a lot.  Of course, as these folk were often explorers, diplomats or soldiers that is often what they did.  Generally I followed the views of Beolens and Watkins: if they were ambivalent (or simply silent) on nationality I employed Uncle Google and came to my own conclusion - birthplace being a good guide.  From later research Layard is a good example of the problem: I concluded he was British!


Low uptake

I will start with the three cases where no other language uses the name.

Major Mitchell's Cockatoo: that is more commonly referred to as something involving the word for 'pink'.  Indeed the main name used in Avibase English is Pink Cockatoo.  These are cockatoos which looks pretty pink to me:
Nice try no cigar.  They are Galahs.  This is a Major Mitchell's Cockatoo - admittedly, also pink.
Interestingly in French and Italian the vernacular name refers to Leadbeater, who showed the type specimen - presumably in a non-motile condition - to Vigors, as does the binomial Cacatua leadbeateri.

Latham's Snipe: Just about every language other than English refers to Japanese somewhere in the vernacular name.  While this is fair enough as the bird is only found in Japan (in austral Winter) there ae at least 5 other snipe species found in the land of manga.

Leach's Storm-petrel:  I am fascinated as to why Mr Leach isn't more widely recognised.  Perhaps it is because he found the corpse in someone else's collection?  Perhaps because the bird is fairly widely distributed  ...
 .. (thanks for the map ebird) seafarers from other countries had already given it a name by the time Viellot described and named it?

High uptake

Gouldian Finch (11 languages): My suspicion is that this is such a widely used name because the finch is a very spiffy bird popularly kept as a cage-bird and when imported the vendors used the name favoured by Gould (who was, I understand, not totally averse to publicity).

Albert's Lyrebird (10 languages):  Definitely not a popular cage-bird.  Only found in dense forest in a small area in the ranges on the border of New South Wales and Cane-toad country (aka Queensland).
Perhaps the widespread acceptance of the name is due to the name being awarded by a Pom (Gould) but formally published by a Frenchman (Bonaparte)?  That entente cordiale might also explain why the Germans don't use it; they prefer Braunr├╝cken-Leierschwanz (= "brown moving lyretail": a fair description of the bird) despite Bertie's birth in Saxe-Coburg and Gotha!


A large number of British folk is not a surprise since most of the exploration etc was in the 19th Century.  I was surprised to find that 8 of the species were named after were Americans (although 2 folk (Horsfield and Wilson got two each).  


I didn't score which individual languages used the possessives in most cases.  Of the 10 species in which which only one other language used the possessive:
  • 5 were so-named in Swedish (must be something to do with teachings of Linnaeus), 
  • 2 Dutch 
  • 1 each for Czech, Danish and German,
Some more gut feelings: 
  • Neither Finnish nor the European-character Japanese used the possessive nouns for any species. 
  • There was a high use of possessives in the French species names. In several cases I noted that French was the only Romance language to use it.  
  • There were 7 cases in which no Romance languages used the possessives.

Future directions

I think I have taken the Australian examples about as far as they can go.  From the appearance of the weather forecast it looks as though there may be some more opportunities for indoor work so I will sample the listings in Whose Bird (I'm not sure how at this stage) and see what that turns up.