Friday, 5 February 2016

Apres le debacle

Last year we had a heavy infestation of aphids on Frances Fuchsia collection.  So they were given a spray with pyrethrum.  Unfortunately I used an incorrect sprayer which hadn't been thoroughly cleaned since using some glyphosate and trichlorpyr, so we lost about 60% of the Fuchsias and those which survived didn't flower too well.

Things are much better this year - my sprayer hygiene, as well as the fuchsia flowering.  Here is about half the collection:
 The next few images show close-ups of some of the flowers.

 I have used a flash to 'fill-in' the light in the next couple of shots.

This final shot isn't as clear as I would like - orange/red flowers often seem to have reflective petals which muck up auto-focus - but I have included it as an example of a differently-enabled flower-shape.

While I had my camera in the vicinity I also took a couple of photos of our pineapple lilies which are doing a great job.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Veteran members of ANPS go to Senior Boboyan Road

I believe the word "old" is now seen as politically incorrect which possibly explains why it has been removed from the finger board pointing the way off the newer road to the start of our walk.

Here we have the start of the mature road heading off along a valley.  Note the nice clear sky: it was a tad humid, but nice and warm so I at least left any unnecessary clothes in the car.
There had obviously been a bit of rain around which provided a good flow in the watercourse below the road.
We found one quite large patch of orchids which I am sure was Eriochilus sp and as they was all quite red will go out on a limb and say E. magenteus.
There were a lot of yellow members of the family Asteraceae around, but I find it tedious trying to separate the good natives from the invasive weeds and thus focus on other colours.  This is Brachyscome graminifolium.
There were many specimens of Hakea microcarpa along the way.  Some had fully gone to seed while others had quite a good array of flowers.
 Geranium antrorsum.
 The only flowering bean I saw today was Mirbelia oxyloboides
 Epilobium sp.
 Calotis scabiosifolia var integrifolia
This was a mid-sized woody bush, apparently with a vernacular name of Gruggle Bush but Uncle Google does not acknowledge that term.  It is not surprising that the forces of evil  (aka t*x*nomists) have weaved their magic aound this and it is now known by slaves to botanic fashion as Melicytus dentatus.
It definitely was a surprise to find that it is a member of the Violet family!

Particularly in the early stages of the walk the most common tree was Eucalyptus stellulata.  They are a common denizen of frost hollows and other cold spots.  I am used to seeing this as a relatively slender tree but some of these were really hefty.
 A key feaqture of the species is the very nicely coloured bark.  Here are a couple of samples.

I am unsure whether with venerable chap (note I can find many synonyms for antique) was an E stellulata or an E. pauciflora.
 Later in the walk the E pauciflora (Snow Gum) was the dominant tree species.
A grasshopper landed in the track so got photographed.
This next species was referred to as a Mountain Grasshopper but while it has the bulk associated with that species it doesn't have the highly coloured abdomen.  So I throw the images out for comment.

This is a member of the family Rhipiphoridae: they are unusual for Australian beetles in that the larvae are parasitic.  It was found and identified by Roger.

 Moving into Lepidoptera I think this is a Marbled Xenica.
 This is definitely a female Common Brown.
 A very lurid caterpillar
This is a poor image of a Hanging Fly of the family Bittacidae.  I am pretty sure it was a male as it was carrying a nuptial gift of a former caterpillar - see green arrow.
I spent some time scouring the granite boulder heaps for reptiles.  I noted one Cunningham's Skink near the lunch stop but it was unobliging in the matter of posing.  This much smaller reptile was very polite.  I will take a punt on White's Skink Egernia whitii.

A pair of Flame Robins were spotted by Sandra and the male posed nicely.  It was beaten for Bird of the Day by a Satin Flycatcher which was too busy ramming food into a chick to stop for a snap.
The grassland was strangely devoid of macropods, but the snow-gum woodland was very well supplied -  with an apparent sex bias towards males.
There were a lot of thistles on the roadsides, taking advantage of disturbed soil.  I hope the National Park people intend to Do Something about this before they spread too widely.
 As however they haven't Done Anything about this clump of Red-hot Pokers I am less than optimistic that the thistles are going to take some prejudice anytime soon.
 The pokers were close to the ruins of an old cottage, of which the chimney was the only obvious part left.  Footings and rafters could be identified with some effort.
 As we headed back light rain started to fall  ....
... but not enough to do more than dampen the dust on the dirt road!  Good outing!

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Some books about insanity

Well, that title should get you all going!  To remove the obvious from consideration I have NOT written autobiographies!

My daughter gave me a book for Christmas written by  a psychiatrist who had served a year in a mental hospital in California.  It is "Behind the Gates of Gomorrah" by Stephen Seager.  It is obvious at the beginning that he has survived the year, which resolves one of the potential sources of tension.  It is difficult - a few weeks after reading the book - to recall exactly what gripped me about the book, but it is very well written and the characters are many.  I found it very good and would rate it at least 9/10.

As a parenthesis, some years ago I read "In the House of God" which was extremely good, although - to use an appropriate metaphor - bipolar in that the first half is very funny and the second half very dark.  A second book by this author "Mount Misery" was more a mantra about the psychiatric profession and the various forces at play between philosophies.  It is more steadily on the dark side, but very interesting.  I'd rate both of them over 8/10 and well worth reading if you are interested in the medical profession.

What has stirred this post is "A First Rate Madness" by Nassir Ghaemi.  It is primarily a book based on a view that while nations (and businesses) in good times need guidance by sane leaders when the going gets tough the better leaders need a touch of mental illness to get innovation and drive required to fix things.  He discusses a range of leaders (I think I got on to this by a reference  to Winston Churchill) who have some form of mental illness - largely controlled.  I'm not going to try to reproduce his arguments but it is a very interesting book.  A particular highlight comes early where he contrasts the diagnostic procedures of physicians, psychiatrists and historians in justifying his approach.  I give it about 8.5, and that includes an downgrade because I think his justification for regarding Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King as having depression is somewhat weak.  Very well worth reading, both by those interested in psychiatry and politics.

A particularly interesting point is that both Seager and Ghaemi end their books with sections commenting that mentally ill people are not necessarily the evil ones.  Ghaemi argues that while Hitler was mentally unwell - especially when given massive doses of contraindicated amphetamines in later years - many of his staff and colleagues were not suffering any mental illness but were just awful people.  Seager discusses some of the inmates who played their cases so that they ended up in a Hospital rather than the far harsher environment of a Prison.  In each case there are people who the authors rate as bad not mad.

I'm not sure I'd recommend any of these if your situation is in a bad place but if you are happy with where you're at they are well written and very interesting.  Probably not a good idea to try self diagnosis based on the definitions given early on in Ghaemi's tome!

Weather report: January 2016 and 2015 Summary

The year 2016 started off rather hot and rapidly switched to wet!  I shall approach this report thematically covering, for each topic, details for January 2016, how that fits in with some monthly averages and how totals for 2015 compare with other years.


The month began rather dryly continuing the El Nino theme from late 2015 and then switched to La Vieja.  The usual term is La Nina which only changes sex- this was such a switch I believe it needs to change age and sex, going from 'the boy child' to 'the old woman'.  A Uruguayan friend added the word "Regonzonda" to make "old hag" but we haven't got that wet yet. We ended up with 103mm for the month making it the second wettest January we have recorded in the 10 Januaries we have been here.
 Here are the daily totals 
This next chart shows the maximum rain rate, in millimetres/hour recorded each day.
The highest value I have recorded here in the last 3 years has been 174mm/hour.  However that was very extreme and the rates recorded here were the 7th highest (on the 21st) and 10th highest on the 30th.  The event on the 30th was a very serious and severe storm causing much damage in Forbes Creek, which is only 13km East of here.

Total rainfall by year

Total annual rainfall for 2015 was 641mm, well below the 9 year average of 707mm.  This is essentially an outcome of balancing 3 months with the highest monthly rainfall with 4 months of very low rainfall, including 2 "lowest recorded".  Here is a chart of annual rainfalls.


The basic pattern for the month was a series of heating and cooling cycles.
We recorded 13 maxima over 30oC and 4 less than 20oC.  A delight of our climate is that it usually cools down overnight so 5 minima >15oC were unpleasant while the 7 less than 10oC were very welcome.  Overall I'd say it was a Summery month.

Looking at the monthly averages, the average maximum was a tad higher than last year but below the 4 year average.  

The average minimum was a bit lower than last year but above the long term average.

Average temperature over years

I have two years with full records of temperatures.  For 2014 the average of all hourly readings was 12.31oC while 2015 was slightly warmer at 12.70oC.  Obviously it is impossible to make any sensible comment about the significance of that comparison.  There are other ways of looking at the comparison, but the sample is really too small.


As usual the 1500 relative humidity goes up and down a lot, with the high readings coming on rainy days.  This is not rocket science!  
 I have added a line for the 6am rH to the chart, which shows that the reading is typically over 90%, even in Summer.  The days when the 6am reading is low appear to be in front of a rain period, where the weather is coming from the West: that gives winds from the NW which have typical come across the dry centre of the Continent.  The exception is on the 29th- 30th, where the rain came down from the moist North.

In terms of longer term average January 2016 was well above 4 year average for the month but a little below last year.

Annual average value of 1500Hrs Humidity

As with temperature there are only 2 years to work with so I will just note that the value for 2014 was  was 52.4% and that for 2015 slightly higher at 53.8%. 


As always the wind gust data is very variable through the month. Most of the high speed gusts seem to precede rainy days (although we obviously had nothing like the storm which went through Forbes Creek Linked above).
Looking at averages the average gust speed for January was well below the avergae for this month, but still above some other monthly readings.