Tuesday, 1 December 2015

November updates

Let us start with some humour, in the shape of a snip from the Letters page of the great UK magazine Country Life:

This Blog

Other Blogs

  • A series of posts about a trip to Robe SA starts here.  Folk who have wondered about the leg-flagged Oystecatcher can find out details in this post.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Latest Beer commentary

During our recent trip to Robe I visited the Robe Town Brewery.  I sampled 3 of their brews and acquired 2 bottles each of Amber Ale and Baltic Porter.  (The owner's name clearly shows a familiarity with matters Baltic!)  Herewith the comments:
  • Amber Ale: a very honest Ale, with lots of body and good complexity of taste.
  • Baltic Porter: at 6.2 ABV it is to be approached with caution but has all the goodies associated with the Imperial Russian Stout styles of beer.  Strongly recommended when they do another brew!
Closer to home I infested Dan Murphy's at Woden today and acquired an 8 pack of Matilda Bay produce.  This is 2 samples each of 4 brews.
  • The Ducks. 4.2% ABV.  The next word after 'Ducks' is apparently 'Nuts'!  A very pleasant, full bodied Ale with a nice clean finish and the usual fruity tastes.
  • Fat Yak, 4.7% ABV. A very fat dose of hops gives it a very grapefruity taste.   A very good sample of Pale Ale.
  • Lazy Yak, 4.2% ABV.  A rather thinner and more bitter Ale than the preceding one.  Perhaps more refreshing but I prefer something fuller.
  • Minimum chips, 4.7% ABV.  A Lager!  I thought it didn't taste like a Pale Ale.  Having said it is of that style I rate it as more along the lines of products from Ceske Budejovice than St. Louis.  In other words very pleasant: a little citrus-flavoured than the Ales but more full bodied.
I think my preference amongst these 4 is the Fat Yak, just over the Minimum Chips.  That being said I reckon the lager would be a better match for that which New Zealanders pronounce as "Fashion shops".

Plants around the house

Some of these are growing in containers, which is I believe the current term for avoiding ambiguity regarding some plants which might generate a "substance".

The catalyst for this was Frances spotting the flower on a bromeliad.  It is now on the deck, after a Winter in the potting shed.
I am intrigued by the Zygocactus flowering now.  It was called Christmas Cactus when I grew cacti as a kid in the UK so why is it flowering now in Australia?
This is a small succulent of which I have no idea of the name!
These globe artichokes are really hitting their straps.  My guess is they are now about 1.6m high.  They are in the vegetable garden but we don't eat them - too fiddly.
Watsonia - I shall try to get a better focussed picture later!
Whatever the weather has been up to, it - and possibly a severe pruning - seems to have been to the liking of the floribunda rose.
A white Cistius grows in an obscure part of the garden.
After some years of trying we are finally getting a good showing of acanthus flowers outside the sun-room.
There are also some native species giving a good showing at the moment..  I can only ID them to genus.  I'll begin with Melaleuca.
A Leptospermum with relatively small flowers
A mint-bush, Prostanthera.
I'm pretty sure this is an Olearia and it is the first time I have noticed it flowering - it must have been there for all the time we have.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Not quite Captain Beaky

Those with decent memories - taking mine as a benchmark, that isn't a high qualification - may remember the song about Captain Beaky and his Band.  This featured a reptile called Hissing Sid.  Yesterday afternoon we had a visit from his relative "Slithering Sid".  Or to be slightly fashionable, Slytherin' Sid (although our reptile was not leg-challenged).

We became aware of our visitor on hearing a slithery noise coming from the garage.  On investigating the noise was coming from an empty beer carton.
It had got in quite happily but seemed unable, or unwilling to get out.  However even when I carried the box outside and placed it horizontally the Eastern Blue-tongue Lizard seemed reluctant to emerge.
 Eventually it was tipped out and ...
 ..slythered (sic) away to hide behind our gas bottles.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

ANPS feels the heat in Carwoola

16 members gathered on Captains Flat Rd, opposite Clydesdale Rd, for the first half of this double header.   

It was not frigid as we climbed through the fence.  For a change we went to the left inspecting the most Western part of the Reserve.  Members of the family Asteraceae were very obvious from the start with a smallish patch of Leucochrysum albicans var tricolour encountered very soon after starting.
Here is a shot of a much larger colony found later in the walk.
Some specimens of Brachyscome aculeata (normally found in the higher areas) were also identified, 
and swathes of Xerochrysum viscosum provided a nice touch of yellow.  
Purple was offered by both Brachyscome rigidiula and Calotis scabiosifolia var. integrifolia
Most of the members of the family Fabaceae seemed to grown beyond the flowering stage. Occasional blossom was noted on Bossiaea buxifolia and Daviesia genistifolia.  Several Acacias were identified, but the only species flowering was A. mearnsii.  One magnificent specimen 
filled the air with perfume, but despite this enticement few invertebrates, and no honeyeaters were observed utilising this resource.  Other flowering species included Viola betonicifolia
and a very nice Eryngium ovinum (Blue Devil)
On a recent Community Plant Walk to the area a Calochilus sp was found but that was completely finished by this time and not relocated. The only orchid found, Microtis sp.(homework needed there), was very common, especially in the damper spots. Here is a particularly tall specimen
and a close up
Overall 118 species were recorded here including 11 additions to the already extensive list.

There were many butterflies, mainly Common Brown and Australian Painted Lady.  
 (an out of focus image but it does shown the white areas, not on the Brown).
A small spider had chosen to wander on Jo's thumb!  I now wonder if this isn't a Mouse Spider (family Actinopodidae): they seem to have some species at least where the males have red heads and dark blue abdomens.  If so, I am pleased it didn't bite as "A guide to the Spiders of Australia" suggests their bite can be as bad as a funnel web. Experts have now advised that it is a Red and Black Spider, (Nicodamidae) possibly Nicodamus peregrinus.
A few members then retreated for various  reasons and the rest of us headed to Cuumbeun Nature Reserve.  Here we found a member of the NSW Parks Service about to enter the Reserve to spray some St Johns Wort: a very useful public service!  He took a pause to show us the nest of a Honeyeater - most likely White-eared Honeyeater - complete with three nestlings - near the gate.
It was soon apparent that the 10 days of warm to very hot weather since my reconnaissance had caused many of the plants -notably the Dillwynnia spps -  here to have finished flowering.  It was also rather warm, and those species in the few shady shady spots got particular attention.  Wahlenbergia, notably W. communis and W. stricta were common.  A few plants of Gompholobium huegelii were found, but only one open flower was noticed (the image is from the earlier recce).
Dianella revoluta was flowering here and there,
while specimens of Styphelia triandra and Stypandra glauca were also seen, with no flowers, but distinctive leaves.  

At the lunch stop (in the shade, reached after a very hot walk up the rocky hill) Bossiaea buxifolia was found to be flowering.  
On the walk back some of the Bursaria spinosa was approaching flowering but very little of the Kunzea ericoides was in bud yet.  This is the opposite situation to our property less than 10kms away.

96 plant species were recorded here.  A very good outcome given the rather sub-optimal weather conditions which resulted in a rather early finish.

In the animal world, other than the nest referred to above, most interest came from Cicadas, with one found emerging from a pupal case

and an adult travelling on a sleeve.

A Cut moth larva in its abode was also interesting

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

A Bug Blitz

The Coordinator of Waterwatch in this area announced a Bug Blitz on 24 November.  I joined her for the last site of the day, where the Molonglo flows under Yass Rd near Queanbeyan (its actually just in the ACT).
 I helped a bit by doing some netting in the shallow bits.
 Here I am emptying my catch into one of the buckets.
 Deb wore waders so got somewhat deeper ...
 .. in fact a lot deeper.
She was keen to sample from both the reeds in the area.

 So what did we catch.  A good range of things.  I didn't photograph the one sort of fish we found (Gambusia sp. a feral pest species known as Mosquito Fish or Plague Minnow - the latter gives a better feel for its depredations on frogspawn and tadpoles, as well as clearing up mozzies).

Here is an insect which was scooped up from the reeds - not an aquatic species.
 The rest are some of the wide variety of aquatic invertebrates we found.  I could barely identify any of them but Deb was well on top of matters and I hope she'll be able to correct any misremembering in what follows.  They were mainly photographed in ice cube containers following extraction from our buckets.  No bugs were harmed in the making of this post!

This first example is a back-swimmer, one of the Order Hemiptera, or true bugs.
Thanks to Deb reminding me, I now know this is a beetle (Coleopterid) larva!
 A Mayfly nymph (Order Ephemeroptera)
 Possibly a Damselfly nymph, but the presence of the gills suggests another Mayfly nymph?
 This one is definitely a Damselfly nymph!
 Finally some Shrimps of which we found quite a few.
Not photographed were a bunch of Waterboatmen, some Diptera larvae, several mites (Arachnids rather than insects) and at least one snail.

A great couple of hours!  Thanks you Deb.