Thursday, 21 September 2017

Botanical reflections on "poetry"

In the days of my youth I played Coarse Rugby in England.  A consequence of this was that I was occasionally forced to visit establishments which engaged in commerce, with particular reference to beer.

As one of my team-mates (actually the vicar's son) said "You don't buy beer, you just rent it."  When visiting the return location (which in the case of a Watney House was possibly directly plumbed to the spigots) one was often regaled with witty ditties, many of which have been collected by the English broadcaster Nigel Rees.  One that has stuck in my mind was
"A poets ambition must be small,
to write his verse on an outhouse wall" 
(or words to that effect).

That reminiscence has been generated by a visit to the Glossodia site on our block today.  After looking at about 50 leaves I finally got my reward.  Two of the leaves in one area were accompanied by buds!
To rephrase the admonitory doggerel above:
A botanists life must be blighted
If stuff like that gets them excited!
My guess is that it will be another week at least before this proves it isn't a Caladenia.

The area behind the Glossodia patch is rather heathy, on a particularly stony ridge.  To my great pleasure and surprise some of the Leucopogon fletcheri was in nice flower.

Nearby one of the most pathetic of the local wattles, Acacia gunnii was still in flower.  It is usually one of the first to come into blossom: perhaps when you are only 30cm high and sparsely flowered you start early to try to get a heads start on the big boys?
In the matter of "quite unexciting" Luzula densiflora could be considered a contender if looked at from a distance.  However i think getting a close up takes it into the "interestingly complex" category.
There were quite a lot of meat ants charging about on secret ant business.  Pleasingly they kept away from me.  When I got back home I found that a Chrysomelid Leaf Beetle had hitched a ride.  As they don't bite me I carefully put it out in the garden to do  its thing.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Some garden flowers

Having given the wattles a run a couple of days ago I thought I'd put up some snaps of some of the plants flowering in ur garden at present.   Despite the almost total lack of rain and high winds.

The daffodils (and relatives) have been giving good service for several weeks but are changing a bit as the varieties bloom at different times.  As was intended when Frances bought them).

These are the relatives: two pale versions of jonquil.  Apart from looking quite attractive, if Perfumed Garden is your thing, these can be smelt for several metres (and if brought into the house can be overwhelming)..

 Small blue bulbous flowers - looking back I find my friend Alison suggested in the past this is Triteleia.
I'll note in passing that these flowers were being visited by hoverflies.  I saw my first butterfly for the season also (a Cabbage White, but they all count!)

A couple of fruiting plum trees appear to have survived, in part at least.
 So have a couple of flowering plums.  This one was getting some action from a honeybee ...
...  and looking very spiffy when backed by an unfortunately cloudless sky.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Acacia Day - a little late

I didn't get out to take photos of the flowering wattles for the official Wattle Day so have decided that 16 September will be Acacia Day.  I have tried to find some photos of African What-used-to-be-Acacias (but following the taxonomic stoush of the Century (so far) have been renamed Vachellia and Senegalia) but all my snaps from Tanzania are ungood.  So we'll stick with the victorious Ocker Wattles.

To my surprise quite a few have survived the fire and are flowering nicely at the moment.

As is nearly always the case this season it was blowing a gale outside but hopefully these images will give the idea.  I have usually done close up first then a shot of a larger area of shrub/tree.

Acacia rubida: many of these bit the dust but this one is doing well.

 Quite a number of Acacia dealbata survived well.

 The most lurid survivors are Acacia mearnsii from the direct seeding.
 At a distance the very bright flowers stand out well against the relatively dark foliage.
 Not the best photo of Acacia pravissima but this is about the only one which survived.
The next day I found - OK noticed - a couple more of these, and as the wind was less intense was able to get some better images.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Winter Weather summary

I recently received a comment on my August Weather report (sorry, can't remember who) to which I replied that I would compile a summary of Winter in total.  I have finally got around to that.

For reasons I have described in an earlier post I define Winter as being July and August.  (In this area June seems to have more in common, both meteorologically and through observed natural history, with March and April than July and August.)


 As would be expected it was a relatively dry year, being well below average rainfall.  However it wasn't extreme.


My data series is missing reports of temperatures for most Winter days in 2001 and 2004 so those years are omitted from the series.  I - or at least Excel - calculated trend lines for the two series but neither of them shown a significant trend.  (The minimum series was closer to significance than the maximums.)

The maximum temperatures were very close to average.  The average minimum in 2017 was also close to the average average minimum (convoluted term shown deliberately to highlight depth of manipulation involved).  I think it interesting that the past 8 years have all been above the longer term average.

The most interesting attribute of Winter temperatures is whether there is a frost or not.  As explained elsewhere a temperature at screen height of 2oC indicates a temperature of 0oC at ground level.  I thus use 3 measures of frost:

  • A light frost (which my Dad used to call a ground frost) with a minimum between +2oC and 0oC;
  • A hard frost (which my Dad used to call an air frost) with a minimum equal to or less than 0oC; and
  • Total frosts ( the sum of the above).

In analysing the data this became complicated by the days on which it was apparent that values were missing (and had been replaced by 0).  I decided that days on which both maximum and minimum temperatures were  0oC were "missing values" while a minimum of that level was dinkum.  As a consequence the number of days per Winter became variable and I have decided to illustrate the 5 of recording days with a frost.
With due allowance for the impact of my messing around as described above, and noting the shape of some non-significant trend lines, I think that what this shows is the impact of the dry years from about 2001 to 2010 in giving a high proportion of hard frosts and the wetter period from 2010 to 2016 giving a higher rate of light frosts.  I shall see what Excel can do in the way of a regression of percentage of frosts against rainfall and update this post with the result.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Demolition men happen

An alternate title to this post was "Farewell to the bomb-site" as the house area looks so much better now.

A crucial stage in our bushfire recovery happened today with the demolition contractors (Irwin and Hartshorn) turning up to clear the old sheds out of the way.  We got an indicator that serious activity was about to happen when a large grabber was parked at the top of our drive yesterday.

While I was out early this morning it traveled up the drive as captured in these images by Frances.
A few of the burnt out Acacia pravissima got grabbed en route to allow the monster truck to get in.  Frances saw that truck come across the ford and it just fitted.  That was also the case later in the operation when it backed down the drive.
Waiting to start.
The top shed got attended to first.
The big truck is in the background here.  The approach seemed to be to get it loaded with metal and then it chugged off somewhere - a metal recycling facility I think - while the grabber and the small truck worked elsewhere.  
The stable and the red sheds also took the required hit.
After the metal had been cleared away a bucket was used to clean up the wood (from the deck) and other non-metal stuff.  I think that went to the tip.  I'll include some photos of the finished sites later but I was astonished at the precision of the work by the operator of this machine: I wondered if he could pick up a 5c piece!  (Or would he need more incentive - say a $2 coin?)
The supports for the carport were dealt with by this saw.  At times the stream of sparks stretched about 3m.
The roof of the carport gets grabbed.

Here are the promised images of the cleared sites.  First the stable and red shed  ....
 ... then the carport, toolshed and potting shed  ...
 .. and finally the top shed.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

No snow in the valley

At the risk of using an official joke without the approval of the full Committee, the title refers to a comment made on marathon training runs when the Murrumbidgee Valley was full of fog.  Even though we were only about 9km into the run when this was observed some people thought it looked like snow.

I am rabbitting on about snow as a weather report we heard on Tuesday mentioned snow on the ground at Nimmitabel.  This led me to forecast a temperature of 5oC for our arrival there.  Frances noted it was 14oC at Mallacoota so was more conservative going for 8oC.

The day started with a surprise in the animal department.
We have been going to Mallacoota on and off for 6 years and this is the first time I have seen a kangaroo on the lawn.  Indeed, its the first time i have seen one within about 1km of the house so I have no idea where it came from.

A Satin Bowerbird came a posed nicely on the top of the flagpole!
There was no excitement on our dog walk  or in our packing up processes.  Heading up the highway we had some concern that an old (laden) log truck might be going up Imlay Rd.  while it rumbled along nicely on the flat, bends or hills caused the anchor to be deployed.  Fortunately a clear bit of road appeared and we passed.  I noted that there were a lot of South-bound campers and caravans on the road: we wondered given the current weather forecast why people would be heading into such a climate!

The forest at the start of Imlay Rd had been subject to forestry activities.  I guess that is why they exist.
 Over the 60km of the road we crossed with 8 fully laden jinkers heading towards Eden.  (NB the photo was taken by Frances in the LH seat!)
That caused us to remark that all the signs urging people "Don't lose it on the Imlay" were oriented to be read heading Eastbound.  Presumably its the weight of the laden trucks that makes them a bit liable to do unpleasant things.

 About the 32km post a hazard reduction burn had tidied up after the forestry operations.  Presumably it will soon regenerate.
 Some more forestry work was actually happening beside the road.
 By the time we got to the end of Imlay Road we were up to 500m above sea level but the emperature was still 14oC.  Not looking good for my guess about Nimmie!

It didn't really cool down greatly until well after Bombala.  By the time we got to the Snowy Mountains Hwy (about 10km from Nimmitabel) it was down to 10oC and flickered between that and 9oC as we approached the village.  There was some snow on the shady side of a road cutting, and more visible on low hills around the village.  I didn't stop for photos.

I thought I'd be positive and asked Frances to take of jolly Spring lambs.
Mum seems not to have been too impressed with that pummelling and took off.
Possibly looking for a bottle of mint sauce.  (Another official joke refers to roast lamb being the only thing better than an 20 mile run in rain.)

The main range had been invisible due to cloud.  A little more snow was visible around Cooma but couldn't be captured in a photo. This image - taken around Bunyan - shows the cloud having moved in.
The temperature stayed around 9oC and we got back to a very chilly house.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Finally getting a finger

...orchid that is!  Detail on this will come below.

We began the day as usual with a walk into town, mainly for exercise but also keeping an eye open for birds.  This was rewarded with a sighting of a Brush Bronzewing sitting on the cycle path.  This is an addition to my Mallacoota area list and only about the 5th I have ever seen.  That was closely followed by a fast moving Azure Kingfisher at Stingray Point.  Neither of them posed for photos!

Our main nature walk was to Bastion Point with hopes of seeing a few of the waders visible the previous afternoon from Captain Stevenson's Point.  The omens were sort of good when Frances spotted a flight of about 5 Australian Gannets fishing about 500m offshore, accompanied by a number (I guessed 20) Crested Terns.

We started by walking on the inshore side of the point ...
 .. trying not to think about the number of ticks lurking in those reeds.  Fortunately they continued to lurk and didn't hitch a ride.  There were a few purplish flowers about.  I can't put a name to this one ....
 .. but Carpobrotus glaucescens (Pigface)  is very easy.
 Alas the waders were largely invisible.  Possibly the strong wind had caused them all to hunker down further up the Inlet.  At the foot of the steps up to the car park there was a heap of washed up kelp with quite a few fruiting bodies.  This was the biggest of them, about 30cm long.
 Later in the day we went to explore a new track, the continuation of Watertrust Lane, after the gate.  It's quite a wide road with a wide reservation under the power lines.
 The weather was not that flash, with a strong westerly and occasional spits of rain.  As a result there were few birds around, and most of those that were visible were silhouette's against the polarising overcast.  However the walk was made worthwhile when Frances spotted our first finger orchid of the trip.  I have even been able to identify it as Petalochilus catenatus (thanks to Alan Stephenson's book on Orchids of the Shoalhaven - its only 300km from the Shoalhaven to Mallacoota).
There were a couple of other strange plants around.  I think from the flowers this is an Acacia, but having sparse flowers apparently restricted to axils gives it an odd appearance.
This definitely a bean, but with very leathery leaves which look like those of Hardenbergia (OK, that is also a bean so perhaps the similarity isn't too surprising.).  
I have included this fuzzy photo because the plant is most annoying for most of the year, with rosettes of leaves covered with white powder which at a quick glance look like flowers.  Here they actually had flowers!
 Our final visit for the day was the powerlines opposite Karbeethong Road.  In a few weeks this will be a mass of flowering Sun Orchids (or possibly slashed for fire prevention) but on this visit there was not a great deal in flower except a mass of Epacris impressa.  Surprisingly most of it was white, while my memory has most of it being red in this area.
 Finally, the sunset was very peaceful as we watched TV.