Sunday, 28 May 2017

Mayllacoota

So we had a busy Friday in Queanbeyan and headed off down the road.  As we passed Michelago the Tinderry range looked excellent: to my mind they have still not fully recovered from the fires that hit them in 2009 (7 years ago).
 The drive down was uneventful.  I don't recall a single example of pelicanish driving!  After a rumble along Imlay Rd and a touch of the Princes Highway we crossed into Victoria and were immediately greeted by a Superb Lyrebird scurrying up a roadside bank.  Getting close to our destination and another Lyrebird was scratching in the dirt at the side of Karbeethong Rd!

Keeping in touch with Australian icons a Koala was in residence in the gum tree next door.
On our last visit a large frog was in the bog.   As a complete change this time a former Feathertail Glider was dead on the carpet in the study.  Poor little blighter.
 This is why they are called feathertails.

The next morning, as is so often the case at Mallacoota, the sun rose!

 As we were about to head off for our first walk (as usual the 8km in to the town centre) Frances noticed that the Koala was very active.  It shinned up a smaller tree and started eating the leaves.  It seemed to be lying almost upside down to do this.
At an early stage in the walk a small white moth landed on my leg.  I don't have my moth book with me so can't identify it with certainty but Tipanaea patulella looks promising.  
 I have no idea what the little brush is - not even if it is part of the moth.
 A Great Egret posed for an artistic scratch .
There is not a great deal of floriferousness around so this gum blossom above the drive is particularly welcome.
 After being absent for the early part of Summer the Grey-headed Fruit Bats are hanging on down by the creek.  I have no idea what they are finding to feed on.  They did seem much more nervous than usual.
 Mr K had changed position and stopped eating.  The branch forming his backrest looked quite thin to bear his weight: I suspect that right hand is in something resembling the Vulcan Death Grip.  As we didn't hear a large thud I guess it worked.
Our second walk was the Heathland element of the Mallacoota Coastal Walk.  This spider web shows how dewy it was in the morning.
 Much acacia (not sure of the species) was evident in the heath area (very little was blooming in the woodland area.
I will be bold and call this a white flower. As it was polite enough to flower it should be recognised for its efforts.
 At Betka beach I couldn't find any Hooded Plovers but there were a few Red-capped Plovers and this little chap, which I have decided is an immature Double-banded Plover: I think the only Winter arrival in this area (from New Zealand).

This was a very helpful Bird of the Day.


Thursday, 25 May 2017

A variety of natural history snaps

That is a pretty bland title, but it is truth in advertising!  These are a few photos taken recently which appeal to me or seem interesting.

I think this first is a slime mould not evidence of a very large bird having an extreme case of the trots.  The cracked appearance suggests the mould is not well.
The next snaps are of cobwebs in the fog.  The first lot are on our neighbour's fancy gate and was taken with my phone while on the morning dog walk.
Having got that one, I went out with my camera about 40 minutes later. While the fog had lifted somewhat, reducing the intensity of the webs, the better optics let me get a few pleasant shots.



I am still 'live'with Bird-a-Day but in the "Not waving, drowning"stage.  So went for a drive round the Plain to see what I could find.  Nothing of great assistance to that project but a juvenile Brown Falcon surveying the paddocks from a hawthorn bush was good to see.
As were a pair of Gang-gangs munching on the berries.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Bird cartoons from Private Eye

A friend has given me a bunch of recent Private Eyes.  Well up to the historic standard (even without the Bazza Mackenzie strip).  A number of the cartoons have a bird theme and are reproduced here for your amusement.




I included the RH one 'cos I like it, even though it isn't bird-related

Saturday, 20 May 2017

A few Firsts

There seems to be a concept in the media of attaching the word "First" to anything to do with a Head of State.

The prime example is First Lady.  According to Wikipedia it was first used for Martha Washington. There are 5 First Ladies (other than the current one) still living:
The kids are sometimes referred to as First Children - possibly starting with Chelsea Clinton

The term First Dog has also been used, notably for the one acquired by the Obama family.  (This has nothing to do with First Dog on the Moon.)  I don't think the term was used for Checkers - because at that stage Tricky Dicky was only a candidate for Veep rather than the President he later became.

Having raised he of Watergate infamy, I am wondering if the current parlous situation is a case for the designation First Meshungener?   I offer with no comment two pictures from the first screen offered by Google in response to a search for "meshugener images"



Friday, 19 May 2017

A note about May rainfall

A note was posted on the Carwoola Community Facebook page about the impending deluge in the area.  At the time of writing (13:40 on 19 May) it hasn't yet made it, but there have been a few sprinkles.  As we have only had 2.2mm so far this month some more rain would be welcome (unless you're trying to do a concrete pour).

This has led me to have a look at what has gone on in past Mays.  We have records for various properties covering the period from 1984.  The minimum fall recorded for the month was 1mm even in 2005.  Since we have lived here the lowest May total has been 3mm in 2009.

Here is a distribution of the falls by size, counting the number of years in each class.
It is a bit difficult at this time to work out what BoM are forecasting with precision, but their rainfall forecast maps are suggesting 15-25mm on Friday and Saturday.  If both days are at the low end of the scale we would end up getting at least 32mm for the month (in the middle class) while the upper range giving a total of 52mm puts us up a class.

I, and I suspect many others, have accessed the Elders 28 day forecast for an idea of what is to come. It has generally been quite reasonable (accepting that one BoM forecaster has been reported as saying anyone who goes more than 6 days out is dreaming!)  However the site has recently been looking like this:
The next week is entirely consistent with the BoM forecast but the remaining 3 weeks are blank.  That has been the consistent appearance of the site for the last 2 weeks.  It looks almost as though they have given up trying to forecast for the final 21 days of the 28 day cycle.  I will despatch an email to find out what is going on.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

COG puts on a couple of Dunlops

This is not a reference to new tyres , nor FAQ tennis shoes, but a Wednesday walk to two adjacent sites in the ACT (just) suburb of Dunlop.  I hope you aren't Weary yet!

A very pleasant morning greeted 28 members and guests in Dunlop. 
I was a tad alarmed that people were watching birds and ignoring the facilitator who'd had to park several metres up the road.  Eventually I gave up and joined them.
The core element of the outing was a counter-clockwise walk around the pond.
Waterbirds were evident from the start including a (family?) group of 5 ducks with a significant Mallard element in their ancestry. We decided to rate them as Mallard (domestic type) rather than Mallard x Pacific Black Duck hybrid. 
At some stage a field seminar on these various terms and why none of the local Mallards are genetically pure is desirable.
Early sightings also including both small local grebes, Black Swans, Hardhead (including this one doing something very strange with its wing...
 .. and a more conventional specimen) ...
Australian Wood Duck and Pacific Black Duck. Shortly after starting our walk a few Australasian Shovelers were seen and two Grey Teal completed the set of Anseriformes.
Eurasian Coot, 
Australasian Swamphen 
(after some discussion about whether NZ Pukeko were a different species I focused on the 'asian' component of the name  which assured that they were both the same) and Dusky Moorhen were also seen, with three independent juveniles of the last species investigating a large drainpipe. The array of waterbirds (loosely defined) was finished with a flying White-faced Heron and one each of Straw-necked and Australian White Ibis.
A fair collection of common urban land birds were seen – mainly in low numbers.  Welcome Swallows 
 were a bit more numerous, and very tricky to count.


A Nankeen Kestrel was judged to be sitting on a wire just on the ACT side of the impenetrable barrier of the ACT/NSW border. Certainly it was doing a good job of predating ACT biota.
Other notable landbird sightings were 15 Red-rumped Parrots, 6 Red Wattlebirds in a single party (but not appearing to be hurrying to foreign parts) and 12 Double Barred Finches. The passerine highlight occurred after most people had left when a Restless Flycatcher was seen near the remaining parked cars. It was still around, hovering and doing the scissor-grinder call,  and photographed on our return from the grassland.  This is my better snap
but the offerings by Lindell 
 and Duncan
are far better!
We decided to explore the Dunlop Grassland as it was nearby. It was well grazed 
(don't worry about closing the gate, how do you open it when its locked!) and as a result few birds were seen. We added Flame Robin (2 brown birds) and Brown Falcon to our day list.
In total we recorded 40 species, with checklists at West Belconnen Pond and Dunlop Grassland

Sunday, 14 May 2017

More on Council elections

In a discussion on Facebook of my first post about the upcoming Council elections Peter Marshall mentioned the fact that landowners who are not residents can also vote in the election.  This is in line with the philosophy of "No taxation without representation".  (However I don't think we'd find people tipping chests of tea into the Molonglo if this rule wasn't around.)

A separate roll of non-resident voters is set up by Councils as described by the NSW Office of Local Government (OLG).
  • The Local Government Act 1993 (the Act) requires council general managers to prepare and confirm the rolls of non-resident owners, occupiers and ratepaying lessees of rateable land in the council’s area (the non-residential rolls). 
  • The non-residential rolls are to include the names of the persons who: 
    • have applied, at any time, for the inclusion of their name in any such roll; and 
    • on the closing date (40 days prior to the election) are, in the opinion of the general manager, qualified for inclusion in that roll.
The OLG site includes a comment encouraging Councils to publicise the availability of non-residential enrolment on their websites.  QPRC has published on their Facebook page an invitation for non-resident ratepayers to enrol using the forms on the Council website.  The instructions make it clear that only one person can be nominated for each property which is helpful in estimating the impact of such voters on the enrolment. as it can possibly be approximated by the number of vacant dwellings available from the Census.

In the 2011 Census 772 vacant dwellings made up 12% of the dwellings in Palerang, while 1200 vacant dwellings were 7.5% of the dwellings in Queanbeyan.  It has been suggested that there are more holiday homes in Palerang than Queanbeyan!. Of course these are only the dwellings which the Census Collector identified and determined as vacant.  They could have missed a few dwellings and would correctly have ignored blocks of empty land (which still have an entitlement to enrolment).

The inclusion of these non-residents has a very slight positive impact on the relative size of the 'rural' vote.  It mat well be balanced by voters who own property in Queanbeyan but reside out of the LGA.

I have attempted to discover how many non-residents were actually enrolled in the 2 Councils in 2012 but this is turning into a bit of an epic.  QPRC didn't know - possibly because the roll is deleted after each election - and referred me to the State Electoral Commission (SEC).  They have assured me they will reply in 5 working days!  When they do so I will update this post.

In fact the SEC got back to me in about 3 working days for which they are to be congratulated. With my customary gift for understatement I could say the results were surprising.  There were 8 (yes, the number between seven and nine) non-resident electors enrolled in Palerang  and 7 (one less than in Palerang) enrolled in Queanbeyan.  That is a smidgin over 1% of the unoccupied dwellings in Palerang and close to 0.5% of those in Queanbeyan.  One can only assume that no-one knew of this entitlement.

While there are nuances in the qualifications for enrolment (eg the landowner must live outside the LGA - but someone in Queanbeyan who owned land in Palerang would have been eligible) but quite clearly fears of us being swamped by the opinions of people from Pitt or Collins Sts would seem to be unfounded.  Unless a lot of absentee landowners read this (or the QPRC website) and flock to register!

While looking at the Electoral Commission website I came across some interesting material about the 2012 elections.  There are inter alia summaries of voting for Palerang and Queanbeyan which show a number of interesting facts:
  • Voter turnout was higher in Palerang (81.49% of enrolled voters) than Queanbeyan (75.85%)
  • The proportion of informal votes was similar at around 9% in both constituencies;
  • The method of voting with the highest proportion of informal in both areas was ordinary voting at close to 10% in both.
Looking at the total number of formal votes we still get round about 3 Councillors from the former Palerang.

It seems that if people in the rural area are concerned about whether the merged Council will represent them the best thing is go and cast a vote  - and do this carefully so that it is formal!