Friday, 21 November 2014

Comments on a few books

Describing this as "Book Reviews" seems a tad pretentious but I have enjoyed a few books recently that might be of interest to others.  Most of the links below go to Amazon because that came up first in my Googling: if you prefer other vendors go for it.

"Down the garden Path", Beverley Nichols.  

Originally published in 1932 this is a great read as containing some brilliant (in some cases almost vicious) depictions of the people associated with the garden Nichols develops in a rural area of England.  He does also cover basic principles of garden design but its the characters that I liked and got it included here.

It is also a very funny book!

"Wild America" Roger Tory Peterson and James Fisher

Published in 1955, I think this was just about the first book covering a Big Year in the US.   It is astonishing to read the first few pages - dealing with a period when a direct flight from London to New York was too long so flights had to refuel at Gander - in an era when New York to Singapore is readily achieved.

As one would expect from two such well known naturalists it is a brilliant book.  They chose to write with the two authors writing separate sections (sometimes commenting on what the other has written when it is their turn, or adding footnotes as appropriate). This adds to the humour of the book.  

(The link to Amazon mentions a bundling opportunity including the excellent Kingbird Highway which I haven't read for many years - memo to self: do so soon but references Wild America as an inspiration for a Huge Year in about 1973.  Kaufmann got it into publishable shape in the 1990s)

The eye of the wind, Peter Scott

This is an autobiography of Sir Peter Scott and was a great surprise to me in terms of the balance of his various lives within the book.  I have always known of him as a naturalist and broadcaster with a general awareness of his reputation as a wildlife artist.  While those aspects are covered, I found much more ink was expended on:
  • his time at school and university, with more coverage of wildfowling than nature conservation;
  • service in the Navy during WWII (very interesting insights into conduct of various sized ships in combat conditions). 
  • yacht-racing, up to Olympic level, and 
  • gliding (which basically confirmed my view to never have anything to do with this activity).
That is not a negative, as it is very well written and new information is always welcome, but merely a reflection of my expectations being otherwise.  

The number of "names" - and titles - mentioned is quite massive but serves to illustrate how well connected he was as a results of the reputations of both his parents.

An excellent read.

Biodiversity- Science and solutions for Australia  editors Steve Morton, Andy Sheppard and Mark Lonsdale.

This book was published in 2014 by CSIRO.  Unlike the others it is available as a download - or indeed chapter by chapter download - if your ISP arrangements can handle files up to 30.1Mb.

Also unlike the other volumes mentioned I haven't yet finished reading it. That is because it isn't quite as gripping reading: it is a reference work not a Ripping Yarn!  I suspect it also has a further role.

This suspicion came about in part when reading some words on p27 about marsupials 
"The only thing they do not do is feed on flying insects which remains the job of birds and bats." 
 The authors go on to support these words but they seemed such a massive simplification I started to wonder why it had been said and who the audience was the audience for the book.  Then the word "simple" grew in my mind - surely it is aimed at politicians in need of sound bites!  That also explains the use of the chunder inducing "Key Messages " at the start of each chapter.

There is some interesting stuff in the book and the price is right (especially if you ask them to mail you a copy at no charge) so I intend to persevere (but at the moment "The Once and Future King" by T H White is filling in my discretionary time.)

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Cog visits Stony Creek NR

23 members and guests gathered at Urriara East Picnic ground.  After noting a Dependent Young Pied Currawong
and White-winged Chough Nest with Young in the Casuarinas in the car park we headed off along the track above the Murrumbidgee.

A single Dollarbird was seen very early on and then a pair seen in a group of large dead trees
appearing to defend them against all intruders.  These included a male Collared Sparrowhawk and a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo.  A surprising sighting in these dead trees was a pair of House Sparrows apparently utilising a nest hollow.

Other Summer visitors noted in this area were 4 Rainbow Bee-eaters

(note the tail streamers) and 3 Tree Martins (pursuing a female Collared Sparrowhawk).  Somewhat further along the track a White-faced Heron nest complete with sitting bird was noted high in an Allocasuarina.
Raptors were well in evidence during the walk.  We also observed a Brown Goshawk (by size, a female); at least 2 Nankeen Kestrels, a Brown Falcon and 3 sub-adult Wedge-tailed Eagles.

The mistletoes didn't seem to be flowering as obviously as last year, but Mistletoebirds were seen in several places in the River-okes. On the ground the most noticeable flora were the California Poppies.
We may be a little earlier but neither of the terrible weeds (St John's Wort and Paterson's Curse) seemed to be as evident this year as last.  Let us hope that this indicates some control measures are beginning to bite!

On the subject of biting the group gave the local reptiles a fair chance ...
.. but our offer was fortunately rejected.

This walk at this time of year had been suggested as a check if Painted Honeyeaters had returned.  Alas. none were seen or heard during this walk.  Also missing were any Woodswallows: we didn't even record a Dusky Woodswallow let alone the horde of White-browed seen on our previous foray here. However we did pick up 44 species which is quite good for a warm morning in a pretty open area. ​

Thanks to Darren and other staff of The Murrumbidgee Corridor Team for arranging the gates so as to facilitate access.

An early Summer's Day dream

A post including a visit to Oberon had to refer somehow to Mid-Summer Night's Dream!  Basically, this was a get home day so we arose and took Tammy for a walk around the Showground (adjacent to the caravan park) pulled down the tent and took off.

Our route took us back to Bathurst which was a very reasonable drive.  This is because of the number of overtaking lanes in the route, enabling the quite high amount of traffic to keep moving while not being as expensive as 4-lane.  Of course, the traffic didn't move through the inevitable roadworks.

Diesel was available at a good price in Bathurst (a better price was seen in Goulburn but getting in early gave us peace of mind).  It seems that that Canberra area is the only place in Australia where fuel prices haven't fallen recently.

We turned off the Great Western Highway towards Oberon.  This is also the route to Jenolan Caves and Kanangara Walls but they aren't on our itinerary.  Other than simply ticking off another town we hoped to add another Memorial to the Register (none being shown for Oberon) and to visit a wood products shop we visited about 20 years ago.

First however we found ourselves going through the village of O'Connell.  The entry to the the village was along a Memorial Avenue planted with Desert Oaks.
 We then climbed up towards Oberon, noting that we hardly saw a vehicle, although the road was very good quality.  Just outside the target town another area of road works slowed us down while we were led through by an escort vehicle.  We noted with some suspicion the presence of the Titania Motel.  Presumably the Bottom Club wished to adopt a lower profile.  Following my thespian roots (Maldon Grammar School, 1966) I do hope that a carpenter in town has changed his name to Peter Quince.

The War Memorial was found thanks to advice from the Visitors Centre.
As well as the memorial pictured above the site featured a sculpture featuring the words of Ataturk:
They're a bit hard to read from the small image, but are quite remarkable sentiments so here you go:
Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives …. You are now lying in the soil of a friendly Country, therefore rest in Peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets  to us where they lay side by side in this Country of Ours.
You the mothers who sent their sons from far away Countries, wipe away your tears, your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace.
After having lost their lives on this land they have become  our sons too.

These are the words of MUSTAFA KEMAL ATATURK, Commander of the 19th Div 5th Army who fought against the ANZAC forces in defence of the Gallipoli Peninsular 1915.  Later to become the 1st President of MODERN TURKEY

No wonder there is a memorial to Atatturk immeadiately opposite the Australian War memorial in Campbell ACT.

The wood shop we were seeking no longer existed as the owners had sold up and moved to Bathurst.  The lady in the VC was giving me addresses etc for Bathurst and seemed surprised that we weren't going back that way.  However she, and a helpful Council guy gave me instructions for how to find the better route to Goulburn (going through Shooters Hill).

The road was now fully sealed and thus limited fun, apart from meeting a full sized van as we descended down a very steep and narrow older bit of road to the Abercrombie River.  After about 100km we got to Taralga where a Memorial was in the Register.
I have only shown the plaque, as the small, dead tree against which it was positioned was too sad.  A bit further down the street was a fair grand War Memorial Hall, the haunt of the CWA and RSL (rather than mice and hen).
Another rumble through Goulburn and Taralga got us back to Bungendore where the Plumed Whistling Ducks were evident including quite a few swimming on the dam.
Thence just a quick trundle back home.

This wasn't the most exciting trip we have done, although much of the scenery was very pleasant.  It is of course good that we have been to a number of new places and learnt a bit about them.  The essential problem was the apparent lack of professionalism in many of the operations designed to extract things (such as money) from tourists.  Perhaps the local industry is totally focused on the Sydney weekend trade?

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

All quieter on the Western Slopes

The day began a tad unquietly with a freight train going through at about 0115 but we slept until 0615.  The quilt was used after 0400 as it was rather cool!  It was still much quieter than the previous night!

Our plan for the day was to see a few things in the city and then to visit some villages on either side of the City.  After the fairly long drive of the day before this was to be a quiet and peaceful day!

The first item on the schedule was Gosling Creek Reserve for some birding.  After a conversation in the visitors centre I was a tad surprised to find this Reserve is canophobic while the adjoining park is pet-friendly.  So Frances went for a walk with Tammy while I scurried off to the Reserve to check on birds.

As the wind had come up again most of the water birds were elsewhere (except some coots and a pair of Musk Duck) so the best birds were the Superb Parrots in the Park displaying complete indifference to sundry pooches.

We then cut across on a driving tour to the Pinnacle, a rocky outcrop in the foothills of Mt Canobolas.  Dogs were allowed on leads so we ascended to the top and got great views across the area towards the city.
 The white areas are orchards or vineyards covered with netting.  They are also a bit visible in the next shot which is primarily indicating the rockiness leading up to ...
 .. the Pinnacle itself.
The walk was I think a City installation and there were plenty of things you weren't allowed to do.  You were warned about falling branches and the unevenness of the ground (but not its upward inclination!)
The big Mountain (Canobolas) was a State Conservation Area - conserving it for mineral or forest exploitation, not protecting the environment - but it was still likely to be canophobic so we didn't go there despite recommendations from many folk that we should.  Lake Canobolas which we had intended to visit for birding, had kiddies playgrounds and was thus canophobic so we passed on that.

A cider brewery was looked at but was only open on weekends - a very common situation in this area  - so we passed on to Borenore where the CWA Memorial Hall was ticked off.
This area is promoting itself as a food and wine centre with a place called Agrestic being a good place to acquire the local products.  Frances went in first and noted that most things didn't seem to be priced (and those that were, were quoting rather large numbers) so she passed but told me they were selling Badlands Beer.

On entering I found that the wine/beer wasn't priced and on asking was told that the wine had prices on the back of the bottle and the beer was $4.50 for a 300ml stubby.  Most of the wine was $30+ so well out of my range but I thought I'd grab a 4-pack of beer.  There only seemed to be one woman serving (who had told me the prices) and  she was dealing with another customer who'd got many items and kept adding to them.  Eventually I got my turn and she asked me for $20 for my 4 bottles.  When I protested that this was not not 4 x $4.50 she said "Oh.  I don't know, we charge $20 a pack."   I walked out, beerless. If she had taken a TAFE course in customer service she should ask for a refund as they clearly taught her zip.

We then trotted off to the Botanic Gardens.  They were very pleasant in the main .  We liked this Bert Flugelman arch which had some very odd reflective properties due to the angles of the plates..
 The native grass display was very well set out with good labels (although, like ANBG, many of the things we were interested in seemed not to be tagged).
The place definitely seems to be trying hard, although we questioned the priority set which sent a young person off with a leaf blower to clear an area of concrete while a nearby bed was decorated with a huge thistle and a flowering Salvation Jane Patterson's Curse!  As the latter wasn't labelled I assumed it wasn't an exhibit and pulled it up.

Next step was to go to a bakery advertised on the foodie map.  Now we knew it was in the Woolie's car park we found it,but blow me down it was closed on Monday!!!

On, on to historic Millthorpe. We had to ask at a newsagent's/cafe - which seemed to be the only open place in the village - to find the War Memorial which was a wall in the oval.  Very nice it was too!
 However we had missed the Memorial Gates as we drove by, as had our informants (who lived here)!
The historic walking map made much much us the word 'former' as in "Former Bank", "Former Bakery " but mentioned Lister's Grave in the Cemetery.  As claimed on his stone he seems to be the discoverer of gold in Australia.
We found the track we were walking to be heading off into the wilds so bailed out and looked at the (former) Railway Station.  Good that they are selling wine but note the opening hours.
We had got to about 2pm by this stage and decided to get permission to visit, for birding, another Reservoir for which permission was needed from the Council.  A Birdlist we had got from the Visitor Centre said to enquire at the VC.  So we did.  No-one there knew anything about this and the people who were thought likely to do so weren't answering their phones to tell the VC people the secret.  VC person passed the message to a colleague in Customer Relations at the Council and suggested I go to the Council Office and chat with her. So I did, finding that the two people at the front counter had sat at the next desk to the bird at Agrestic when doing the course.  Despite this they eventually seemed able to contact the person I was after but she couldn't make contact with the guys at the depot who were the holders of this mystery,

Bugger.  Back to the camp for some reading time.

It was a bit of a worry watching the night's crop of new campers coming in.  Most of the grey nomads in vans had bailed in the morning and there seemed to be a stream of young persons coming n, looking to be in party mode (possibly party 'til you puke mode).  This didn't bode well for the coming hours of slumber.  In fact there was one burst of chanting "Down, down, down" and one pillock wandering about making inane comments into a mobile phone so not too bad at all.  The quilt was again deployed at about 4am keeping us snug until 0615.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

I'll huff and I'll puff

A reasonable nights sleep, apart from waking as a huge and noisy train rumbled through as was the case at Bathurst.

Some rain and wind were forecast for Orange on the 16th.  As we lay in bed at 5:30 we could hear this happening.  Then things turned a bit flappy and as Frances looked out the window we could see that the weather had got a tad innovative with the annex.  Some frenzied action - with astonishing little bad language - followed and in 15 minutes normality was restored.  However this does confirm our view that today is the better day for driving and tomorrow for walking around Orange.

In fact the weather hadn't finished with us.  It then pissed down and eventually the weight of water on the annex caused a corner to collapse.  In struggling to re-erect it with very wet and somewhat cold hands a pole got snapped.  That seemed to be able to still function, but given the very strong wind forecast for the late afternoon we weren't at all sure what the situation would be after our day out.  (It was surprisingly good, but did prove a distraction through the day!)

Our chosen route was to go through Wellington.  We had intended to cover this town on our big trip earlier in the year but were distracted by animals on bicycles. In fact sculpture again formed a distraction as we came across this work (by Frances Ferguson) about 7km before the town.  I shall probably augment this report later but here are a couple of images to start with.
The vertical elements of this were salvaged from a railway bridge which collapsed into the Macquarie River.  Here is some detail of the wall around the 'pod';.
I have been surprised at the amount of Grevillea robusta along the road.  According to Plantnet it is native to the North Coast and naturalising  on the North-West slopes - I think the latter is going on further South.
 This is a close up of G robusta in a park in Wellington.
Frances had read recently that Wellington was the methamphetamine capital of NSW so our expectations were not high.  In fact it was a lovely spot with many old buildings, a great park by the river and a very charming lady in the Visitors Centre.  (Also some excellent fellow tourists, including Harry the Jack Russell)

For some reason the main War Memorial isn't in the Register: it soon will be!.

 A huge pine tree attracted a bunch of crazed Little Corellas (if there is any other sort of this species).
 Possibly it was a screw pine?
This is I think a very colourful legume - sorry, member of the Fabaceae.  Big tree, not a shrub or herb.
 After leaving Wellington and not not pausing to take a snap of the slammer sorry, Christ shit sorry again, I mean Correctional Services Centre, we ducked around the airport and got to Bodangora War Memorial. Tick - sorry it is a bit like train spotting, but so is twitching birds!
We progressed on and found the memorial in Goolma.  I knew there was one in the Register and headed towards a sports field.  Frances was alert and saw a flag pole and some Rosemary: bingo!
We then swung into Gulgong where the nice lady in the Museum (sorry I dion't have a good look at it, but I was still distracted by the weather, and wanted toi keep moving) told us where the Memorial was.  Very attractive it was too!
I decided this set of plaques deserved a wide audience!
As did this interesting garden bed surrounded by Wiradjuri (I assume, they are the local mob) designs.
We then got to our target town of Mudgee.  They had a range of War Memorials.  The most obvious was this clock in the middle of the main street.
Moving on to Robertson Park this bandstand had a plaque honouring the blokes who fought in the Boer War.
 Also the main cenotaph.
There was quite a lot of interesting architecture around the town.  A pub ...
 .. the Post Office ..
 .. and the Regent Theatre ....
.. were the example I snapped.

We drove back via Ilford (no memorial and thus not a town - but see Nonny Mouse's comment below), Sofala and Bathurst - visited previously so no stopping due to camper anxiety!

Saturday, 15 November 2014

50 shades of various colours

This continues our endeavours to visit every town in NSW.  The title refers to us staying in the Colours caravan park at Orange.  So the first possibility was "50 shades of Orange.  That may still get a run.

The first set of colours noted weren't exactly orange, but the fields we drove through did cover the spectrum between 'golden' and 'brown' fairly well.
 I had expected, from Google Maps, our route to go through Molong but the signs took an hypotenuse through Cargo, where we found a new Memorial!  Woo hoo!
 We got to Orange in fair time and erected the camper quite efficiently.  For some reason - not because of lacking offers of assistance - I ended up doing it more or less solo in about an hour.  Given that it was a few weeks since we'd done it, and we wanted the annex up, that was pretty good.  We decided that we'd start by having a bit of a look around the town.

The main aim of this was to go the Regional Gallery as we plan to go to Mudgee tomorrow and the gallery will be closed on Monday.  Outside the gallery was this memorial to Banjo Patterson who was born here.
The blue item to the left has a couple of verses from Mulga Bill's bicycle.  The square markers list the winners of a writing comp in the Banjo's memory.

A little further round was this work called The Well.  Definitely Quite Interesting.
This rather phallic item has all the plaques from Orange's efforts in the Tidy Towns awards. IMHO it is still doing a pragmatically good job, although apparently not getting recent gongs: erhaps they have stopped competing?
This next snap annoys me, as I can't remember who the sculptor was and can't so far find it on the net.  Thanks to my efficient friend Sandra I now know it was "Seed" by Bronwyn Oliver.  It was very attractive however.
Frances recommended I have a turn in the Gallery.  They seemed to have 3 shows going on, and I rated the one by Rosemary Valadon as very interesting due to the eminence of her models for women in pulp novels and the wit of their comments about the experience,  The show by Chris Langlois was excellent technique and really good .  The 3rd show was rather amateurish (IMHO - and my opinion is worth zip)!

We then set off to explore a bit more.  As we walked through a park I saw this guy who seemed to be getting plenty of interesting readings.  I presume he was mainly into small change left by picnickers.
 This commemorates Sir Neville Howse who was a surgeon and Mayor of Orange.  In the background is the Boer War Memorial.
This is the main Memorial complete with 11/11 wreaths.  In the background here is the Mt Canobolas Hotel with some interesting architecture.
Completing the War Memorials of Orange is thuis plaque about the tower on the Anglican Church.  We only found that as Frances noticed a sign from the Diocese shaking the can to maintain the tower!
I liked this sign in the street!
 An interesting shaped tree in front of the Memorial Hall.
Next door was the Town Hall.  It is now the office of OCTEC a service provider in the youth unemployment market.  They definitely seem to be on the side of the angels.
This attractive bush was in Cook Park - in the centre of town and effectively the arboretum  Unlike the Forest approach of the National Arboretum they only have 1 tree of each species - but some of them are monsters!
 They also do weedings. At least 3 were going off at 4pm!
Getting back to camp, and the title of this post, the next site seemed to have invited the 50 shades of grey nomad for a party.  Very jolly.  However they all nicked off at about 1845 and peace returned.  Basically nice folks!