Wednesday, 24 June 2009

The foggy, foggy, dew

Afficianados of the English folk-music scene should note that I haven't been covering any young maidens to protect them from the elements. However there has been quite a bit of condensation around El Rancho, Carwola in the last few days and this morning I took a few piccies.

This first one is rather nifty. We currently have a pair of Kookaburras visiting the place every day. They do a good laugh as it gets light and them proceed to interfere with the reptiles and invertebrates on our lawn.

As well as our rock art, covered elsewhere in the blog, we have fiddled about with a couple of bits of timber. This old stump was just laying around and Frances thought it could do a fair imitation of a Baobab: so we made it so. Evidently the wombats reckoned it was a welcome addition to the scenery and voted accordingly (not quite a globe nor golden, but I regarded it as positive). I added a close up of that element of the image for the coprophiles in the readership.

Finally we have a Brittle Gum (Eucalyptus mannifera) which has adopted a rather strange growth form: sort of a Saguaro imitation. I trimmed off a few dead bits to emphasise the bendy shape. I will try to get a better image later.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do

I don't know if John Wayne had a shed (or indeed if he was really the originator of the title phrase (some goose on WikiAnswer claimed it was Charlton Heston) but if he did have one, he would have used the phrase when it got to shed cleaning day. Of course with him "the man" who'd goota do would probably be some illegal immigrant who he paid 2 bits an hour to do what he gotta.

I don't have an immigrant (other than myself) on hand so paid myself zip to create the sparkling situation shown below.

Frances (actually she's another immigrant, but Kiwis charge too much) commented that she had forgottten there was a floor in there. I was certainly surprised to find the bench top.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

More rodent wars!

When we got back from a trip to the City (ie Canberra, as opposed to 'town' which is Queanbeyan) the small dog greeted us as effusively as ever . However she then started to show a whole lot of interest in some gear stacked against a wall.

I assumed there was a mouse (in Kiswahili, panya kidogo) lurking under there. So I started to shift the gear - suitcases - with a small terrier lurking behind my legs. As I shifted the last case a panya kubwa (in KiIngereza, rat) bolted out. Having to dodge my legs meant the terrier was a little late getting going. She did however work out where the rat had gone and spent the next several minutes as in the image above attempting to dig through:
  1. the cement floor; or
  2. the brick wall; or
  3. the wooden side of the cupboard
to have a (probably brief) conversation with the fleeing one. She certainly got pretty vocal in expressing her objection to being removed from the vicinity.

Her objections were ignored and after putting some barricades in position I placed some warfarin in a position to include it in the rat's - but inshallah not the dog's - future diet.

We now hope she is willing to ignore the issue and not demand to go and speak to the rat in the middle of the night!

Australian Raven Breeding in the COG AOI

This is another in the series of posts mulling over analysis of interesting data from the Canberra Ornithologists Group (GOG) Garden Bird Survey. One hopes that the analysis is also interesting!

The original catalyst for looking at these data came about from a question raised a reader of the COG publication Birds of Canberra Gardens. For Australian Raven this book commented that "Breeding records also increased over the length of the Survey." Did this comment still apply after a further 10 years of data was available?

An early look at the data suggested the answer to the question was "yes" but showed a perplexing change in the data for the period 2004 - 2007. This note examines that change, bringing in data from the COG Area of Interest (AOI) as a whole to supplement that in the GBS.

Initial Analysis
The initial analyses are shown in the chart below, which is hopefully able to be interpreted at blog-font size.
Whether the three very high years are included or not the number of breeding records shows an upward trend - with a reasonably high value of the correlation coefficient - over the 27 years. As would be expected, the series including the high years shows a faster rate of increase. It must be noted that the definition of 'breeding record' is one or more breeding observations in a site in a year. Thus a higher number means more sites recorded breeding a year and not necessarily that sites made more observations.

A first thought was that the high years followed immediately after the 2003 Canberra bushfires, and this will be discussed further below.

Other data
The Atlas of Birds of the ACT does not include a map of the breeding records of this species. It does note that the species is not suited to the heavily forested areas (such as the gullies in the bushfire affected ranges). It does note that birds of this species maintain a permanent breeding territory - making the change for 3 years seem even more unusual.

Both Atlases of Australian birds do map these records. The first Atlas (based on observations in 1977 - 81) shows breeding records from all 1 degree grid squares in SE Australia. Again reference is made to the maintenance of a long term breeding territory. The second Atlas (observations in 1998 -2002) has a 'gap' in breeding records (but not observation records) covering approximately the high country of Victoria and SE New South Wales.

The Handbook of Australian New Zealand and Antarctic Birds (HANZAB) makes a number of references to the species requiring trees in their preferred habitat. Such habitat includes dry open sclerophyll woodlands - possibly similar to that of much of the burnt out areas of the Brindabellas. Again HANZAB refers to the behaviour of the adult birds "Adult breeding pairs sedentary, occupying permanent territories of up to 120 Ha year-round.... "

COG General Records

The Annual Bird Reports published by COG include some information about the number of breeding records submitted each year for Australian Raven. They are summarised in the graph in this section. Note that in this case a "record" is of a single observation, similar to what I refer to as an observation in the GBS. Again there is a dramatic rise in more recent years, but a little later than for the GBS records. However the picture from the general records broadly supports that from the GBS.

For most years there is only limited detail provided about the general observations, but where details are provided it appears that the majority of the records come from the urban areas. Thus these data do not:
  • support the hypothesis that the rise in GBS records is a result of breeding territories in the mountains being burnt out in the 2003 bushfire's; nor
  • offer any alternative hypothesis.
I would welcome any comments explaining the apparent change in the breeding pattern of this species.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

What's in a name?

I have abstracted the following from The Australian ( full story at,25197,25633841-12377,00.html)

"SOME of the victims of the Kerang train crash in Victoria's north are suing the truck driver.
Truck driver, Christian Scholl, 50, yesterday was cleared by a Victorian Supreme Court jury over the crash that killed 11 people.
A lawyer for five of the victims, Don Maffia, says he is bringing a claim against the Transport Accident Commission which insures Mr Scholl. ...."

So we have a lawyer from the Maffia taking on a Christian. I was going to say 'I don't like his chances.' but I actually do like them because I think he is a greedy ambulance chaser whose probability of success should be very low.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Random elements of rural life!

When we acquired the property there were a number of Red-hot Poker plants in position. Interestingly they seem to be of two different types. One lot bloom in mid-Summer while the others bloom in what would be early Summer - if it was the Northern Hemisphere. The images below show (on the left) some blooms we picked and (on the right) some blooms we didn't pick before the first real frost hit three days later.
On the subject of frost we were visited by the fur coat wearer below on a cool morning. It certainly justifies the specific scientific name of Wallabia bicolor. Judging by the size of the abdomen this one is carrying a joey.

I haven't put up any photographs of local birds for some time, so thought I would start to remedy this with some images of the most common ones. Herewith:
  • an Australian Magpie (probably a juvenile to judge by the mottled plumage) wandering across the lawn;
  • a Laughing Kookaburra, which had been dealing with something in the area Frances dug over the previous day;
  • a pair of Australian Wood Ducks, showing the contrasting appearance between the plumage of the male and female birds; and.
  • the returning frogmouths (remember

Monday, 8 June 2009

Bonsai and indoor plants

We have a number of willows growing in Whiskers Creek as it goes through our property.

One of these was identified as a Crack Willow, which is the nastiest invasive species around the area. After a couple of attempts at poisoning it appered not to slow it down too much I decided that a dose of bonsai treatment (courtesy of the nice Husqvarna people) was merited. This resulted in my fire heap growing somewhat: watch this blog for the 2009 conflagration sometime soon.

Other willows are not so invasive, but do produce nice twigs when pruned. Again Sweden's finest assisted in this process. Frances was on hand to record the process. A trailer load of firewood was a side benefit.

Frances has also been busy in her potting shed, rearranging matters having acquired a couple of extra pallets courtesy of a visit to the tip. While taking this photo I couldn't help but snap a Fuschia (Rosetta?).

Friday, 5 June 2009

Lurid Arthropods

The attached images were taken this morning in the upper reaches of our block. The wee animals were dining on a small Eucalyptus meliodora (aka Yellow Box).

I have been told, by Dr Roger Farrow, "They are a sap-feeding bug, a species of Eurymela (Hemiptera:Eurymelidae). Veru sociable, pften ant attended, won't harm the host tree."

The Diet of Worms

I thought this title would be fun, because of the ambiguity between a meeting of various religious people in a small town in Germany and its actual topic. However shows that there are is more ambiguity than I had imagined.

On to the annelids!

This image shows the sight revealed when the light excluding cardboard is removed from my worm farm. I have no idea how many worms are in there now, but I suspect it is a large number, so things are going well. They are generating over a litre of liquid fertiliser per week and will soon have a second container of castings for use.

There are a few important rules for having happy worms (which are not often included in the farming instructions):
  1. Do not put onions or citrus in their food;
  2. Put the food that is given to them through a blender. Some folk say that microwaving also works well, but we have a nice blender so I am sticking with what I know;
  3. Cover the food, when added, with a thin layer of roughly crushed dry eucalyptus leaves.
The third point seems to be absolutely crucial. Since I remembered this I suspect the productivity has at least doubled.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Down on the farm

It has been a few days since I added anything so here are a few images taken recently.

The first is just included for the cuteness of the 'roos exploring the grass on our lawn.

The next two are part of Frances landscape art oeuvre. Some earlier commentary on this activity is in We are continuing to construct the mini-wall and decorate the three termite mounds. The latter is very interesting in that one of the mounds in particular is subject to the forces of nature, in the shape of Eastern Bearded Dragons using mound as a look-out point and thus knocking the quartz off! I am sure that Mr Long would have photographed this every day and published a book about it by now.

However, the magnum opus is a snake form visible from our house. It is intended to be visible from a supine position on our bed, from where the LH image was taken. The RH image was taken up close and personal (herpetal?). Possibly the tail still needs a bit of work.