Monday, 22 September 2014

Blue Fingers go, Wax Lips come

This is not a post about certain "entertainers" body enhancement practices but a slight changing of the guard in our Carwoola orchid joys.  I have used vernacular names as it led in to that witticism (and they, unusually, seem to be more stable and agreed than the Latin)!

The first orchids to appear this year, as I have posted in the past were Cyanicula caerulea (Blue Fingers).  I first noticed one in an area I refer to as the "main colony" on 30 August.  This first chart shows the rise and fall of numbers of flowers I counted in that colony.  Note that I wasn't able to count every day.
This colony is at 790m AMSL and as such very close to the limit of altitude for the species cited in The Book.  One neighbour (on whose property about 10% of this colony appears) was interested as to why that is the only occurrence on their block of about 22Ha.  Another neighbour, very plant aware, and about 500m away in a straight line, has commented that the only get isolated plants.

I subsequently found two other colonies.  One was quite near - about 25m from the main colony - while the other was about 200m horizontally and at least 10m vertically. Perhaps this latter group were the highest growing specimens in the world?  The chart below shows the number of plants in each colony.
"Soil" quality was similar - equally rotten shale with a bit of leaf mould - in each site.  I also found about 6 plants in isolated spots elsewhere on the property.

However, just as this species shuffles off the radar the Glossodia major has started to get its act into gear.
Here is the whole plant (and an overview of the crappy soil in which they are surviving).
I counted 10 flowers in the core patch today (22 September).  They were all clustered in one part of the site which measures about 11m E-W and 24m N-S.  The shot below shows the site - basically a clump of Kunzea ericoides, interspersed with kangaroo and wombat tracks.
I shall monitor the number of flowers over time in this site - perhaps inventing a sampling strategy to make the counting easier.

I have also noted that those n the Low Country are finding Hymenochilus sp flowers.  Out here on the rock we don't rush things.  Here is the state of play in my Hymenochilus cycnocephala patch.

I reckon we have at least two weeks before triggering labella become an issue.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Foxlow and its contents

One of the historic stations in this area is Foxlow.  A couple of historic points:

  1. it was the home of Captain, the bullock who escaped and went to live at the Molonglo Flat, with the village now named after  him; and
  2. some of the filming of the Ned Kelly movie starring Sir Michael Jagger was done on the property.

The land and house were sold at auction a few months ago, and today there is an auction selling off the contents as the old owner is now living in Bungendore, presumably in a far, far smaller house.  On the subject of the old owner, the second of the two points above is surprising, as he has had a reputation of being a misanthrope threatening dire consequences if anyone sets foot on the property.   Perhaps he was flexible if paid enough?  Certainly part of the reason we (and at least one other set of former locals) went to check out the sale was it was a chance to have a stickybeak at the place.

I'll get back to the contents sale later but here are some pictures.  They had signs on the road, and indeed a lot of cars parked there as well.
 The driveway was quite impressive, although the grounds didn't show much sign of active gardening.
This is the front of the house, which is actually the bedroom component!  The front door is off round the left side of this view.
Here is a view of the back.  This confirms the view we got walking through that bits and pieces (of utility rooms and a few more bedrooms) had been added on since the original homestead was built.
 One of the main rooms, possibly the main reception room.  Note the height of the ceilings - these days they'd have 2 storeys in that height!  As might be expected with a place this old, it seemed quite dark inside.
This is the room immediately inside the front door.  I presume the day felt cold to the Sydney auctioneers when they started up, but it was a lovely spring day at 18C.
 Several of the fireplaces had these wooden inserts when the fire wasn't operating.  This was the most colourfully decorated.
A barn had been converted to a second dwelling.
 This is a view from the balcony in the barn.  All the stuff in the image was for sale including a job lot of crockeryetc.
The unusual - in my experience - element of the sale was that it was possible to bid on-line before the sale started.  As we couldn't get to the sale we put in a few bids that way.

In a couple of cases we were told that our bid hadn't reached the Reserve (which appeared to be the lower end of the expected price range).  For another item our bid was accepted - we put in our maximum ($200) but the amount bid was $170, being $10 above the previous highest bid.  The we got an email saying we had been outbid and asking if we wanted to up our bid.  As we actually thought it worth $500 we squeezed out a few more $.

Here are a couple of snips from the catalogue, just before it closed off from on-line selling:  In each case the bid offered was the minimum, rather than our maximum.
This was their minimum bid of $5: as it is Lot 517 out of 566 we hope most people will have lost interest by this time.
The most surprising lot was a history of WW1 in 12 volumes.  This had an expected range of $80 -120 but the high bid on Saturday was $900.00!  I am not sure if that meant the auctioneers had undervalued x10 or someone had hit the '0' once more than they intended!

I skimmed the results (and watched the last few lots on-line).  Most things seemed to go for at least the expected price and many were well above the high end of expectations.  We were under by about 50% for the lots on which our bids were over the Reserve!  So we got zip!

The sale is summarised in a Canberra Times article.

To an anonymous commenter: sorry, I couldn't publish that!

Friday, 19 September 2014

Tawny Frogmouth update

The local Tawny Frogmouths are now well into their brooding routine.  It seemed at one stage that they were heading towards an early start (by about three weeks) but a burst of very cold weather in early August put a stop to that!

Yesterday the female bird was perched on a small branch in a Yellow Box (Eucalyptus meliodora) in a position where I walked under her a few times.
That image does show the patch of Tawny colouring on her shoulder (the male is all grey).  Here is a closer shot of that part.
She gave me a steely gaze each time, and stretched out into "broken branch" pose.  I also noticed that after I had passed she shuffled back into the axil of the branch but soon shuffled out into the sunshine, about 70cm along the branch.  These toes are made for shuffling:
As explained in Gisela Kaplan's book on the species, the second toe is very flexible and can be moved so as to give a very stable grip when the bird is on a thicker branch perched parallel to the branch rather than the perpendicular position shown here.

For comparison the following image (taken a day later, from slightly longer range.shows her in non-camouflage mode.
It seemed that she only went into 'stick' mode when I got within about 5m, but I didn't push this as I didn't wish to agitate her.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

COG finds birds in Gungahlin!! Lotsa birds!!!!

30 members and guests fought their way through astonishing peak-hour traffic to the gathering point in Wunderlich St on the eastern shore of Yerrabi Pond.  After going through the rituals we headed down to the shores of the pond (and a few members, including a tall beardie, decided that the weather wasn't as nice as first thought and returned for an extra layer).

One of our members, Bill, surveys this Pond regularly and commented that there are on average 650 Eurasian Coots on it.  Looking at the mass on the area we could see, and speculating on the difficulty of avoiding duplication and omissions that seemed to be a very fair estimate of the number present today. I am occasionally asked how to differentiate Eurasian Coots and Dusky Moorhens.  This shows the difference in bill colour rather clearly.
It is less difficult to distinguish Coot from Australian Pelican.
 In fact Pelican seems to be the signature bird of the pond with structures including these spring-specials ..
 .. and decoy pelicans on the Western boundary.
This Magpie was pointing its bill up and fluttering its wings and tail.  It was an excellent representation of the female Invitatory Display, described on HANZAB v7 p604.
Shortly after we agreed on this venue for our walk a COG member reported Musk Duck breeding on the pond.  So I at least was hopeful of seeing the outcome of this event.  Our first sighting was a male, who cruised very close to shore giving great views of his inflatable bill pouch.
This image shows all the duck and also the great clarity of the water - possibly indicating that there are few European Carp to muddy it (and also indicating pretty good run-off control by the developers of upstream housing).
 This shot shows a deflated pouch and also the array of the feathers,
Then we found Mum and the two surviving chicks.  I failed to get an image of her feeding the chicks - a very rare behaviour in ducks.
 On the subject of chicks, this chap was the tiniest of three Purple Swamp-hen chicks.
This image of a Black Swan gets included under the 'spiffy' rule.
 This one is of a family with 7 cygnets.
 I know the Ugly Duckling was the European based Mute Swan but who could call this cutie 'ugly?
 The bogus pelicans were adjacent to a fallen tree which was well supplied with Cormorants.  At least 3 Great Cormorants ...

 9 Little Pied Cormorants and 6 Little Black Cormorants.
 The green eye of the Little Black Cormorant is a sign of breeding plumage.
The behaviour of these two, both fluffing out feathers and ducking heads with twining necks, was seen as display, indicative of a private moment being needed in the near future.  We moved on: this blog doesn't contain adult content!
When I first arrived I was told that I had just missed a male Superb Parrot.  Right at the end of the walk a flock of 5 birds flew into a small eucalypt, posed long enough for photos and then nicked off.  Well done those psittacoids!

This is the female ..
 .. and here is most of the male.
On the subject of sexing birds (settle down, there is no adult content here - I mean determining which sex the birds are) Peter ran a small workshop on this process for Pacific Black Ducks.  The key feature is that adult females have marks - of a rather variable nature - on their tertials.  In this case they are indicated by red lines.
The male has unmarked tertials.
 This nest was replete with baby Red Wattlebirds ...
 and this one with Noisy Miners.  (We saw an adult come in and feed the young, but  couldn't get a decent (or indeed crummy) image of this.)
It was surprising - to say the least to find a 70cm long Murray Cod (subspecies: former) washing around on the edge of the pond.  It looked pretty sound so possibly had had a big battle with an angler who released it but not in time for it to have survived.
By the time we finished, the weather had warmed up and we had written down 38 species of birds.  An excellent morning!

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Some details on littering

I posted recently about the amount of litter on the roadsides in this area (ie Widgiewa, Captains Flat  and Briars-Sharrow Roads.  The catalyst for that was extending some of our dog walks to the intersection of Widgiewa with Captains Flat Rd (CFR).

It appears to me that the situation has got worse at that area, in terms of it looking like an outpost of the Bungendore tip on a windy day, since the original post.  So today I took myself off there to do a bit of more rigorous assessment.

The area I chose to clean up was 55m long (from the 70 speed limit sign in Widgiewa Rd to the bitumen of CFR) and was about 2m wide on each side of the road.  So that makes it 220 sqm in area. The area is illustrated in this image.
The speed limit sign is on the brow of the hill, marked by A.  (I will get to 'B' later.)

I picked up 143 bits of litter, ranging in size from a take-away ketchup container to a large (1m square) lump of coreflute.  I didn't pick up the broken car battery, but if it is still visible will do when next I go to the tip.  Overall I filled two plastic potting mix bags (~55 l in total) with non-recyclable crud and about 1/3rd filled another 30 l bag with recyclable stuff.

Macro-crap like this is easy to deal with.
Unfortunately this was more typical, with many small fiddly items, rather difficult to pick up wearing very heavy duty gloves.
I also noted the salient characteristics of what I picked up.  This is summarised in the following image (I haven't included the car battery in this).
I'll return briefly to point B in the first image.  That is the school bus shelter, but I don't attach much weight to the kids as a source of litter because:
  • the area closer to the shelter didn't have much litter; and 
  • most of the items (see image below) are not the sort of things school kids would buy.
Although I have seen tradies parked in this area (presumably phoning ahead to their next job) I can't imagine that they would be installing kit after a liquid lunch courtesy of Carlton United.  Well, I hope not.

So who are the sociopaths who dump muck over our area?  I can only conclude it is people passing through, either going to ride trail bikes in Tallaganda or just on the way from here to there.

What can be done about it?

  • Putting up some "tosser" posters (see earlier post) may help, (although possibly the guilty parties would see "tosser" as a compliment).  
  • I wonder if a couple of strategic signs mentioning security cameras would be effective?  
  • Would Palerang Shire be able (not to mention willing) to prosecute people if the signs were actually accompanied by cameras and they captured lowlifes dumping crud?