Wednesday, 18 March 2009

At the Australian National Botanic Gardens

This is basically an entry to cover a couple of images which appeal to me. They were both taken on 17 March.

The first is of a brown snake (about 1.6m long) - noting the date, it may have been driven out of Ireland!. The second image is an Eastern Yellow Robin.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

From the Kitchen window

It is not uncommon for us to see 'roos from the house, and at this time of year the mums are often carrying a passenger. However actually getting this shot of a joey taking afternoon tea from the pouch was remarkably lucky.


Hinterblitz: some objectives and guidelines

1 To increase coverage, within the Canberra Ornithologists GROUP (COG) bird observation recording system of the area within the COG Area of Interest (COGAOI) outside the borders of the ACT – which I term the hinterland of the ACT.
2 To build up species lists for the hinterland and areas within the hinterland.
3 To give a simple project to which people interested in birds can participate whether or not they are members of COG.
4 To have some fun.

Relationship to the COG Bird Blitz
For the last several years Barbara Allen has been facilitating a Spring blitz of the COGAOI within the boundary of the ACT. This is building up a very useful time series of data. It is my intention that this exercise complements the Blitz and intend that the methods used will be largely the same. I have chosen to do this at the other end of the year to avoid any conflict of resources between the two exercises.

The core date is 21 March and if possible I’d like people to undertake their recording on that date. However, the objectives above are not crucially time dependent, so I would be quite happy to take records for this purpose from 19 – 23 March. (Of course records outside that bracket are always welcome for the COG General observation system.)

Individual Survey Area
Two methods are recommended:
  • a search of an area of 500m radius around a central point, or
  • a search of a 2Ha area.
Since the objective is to build up broad species lists rather than scientific measures of abundance I recommend the 500m approach. However should observers wish to undertake 2Ha surveys I would be very pleased to take their data.

In addition if exciting birds – in terms of species or numbers - are spotted while in transit I’d certainly accept an incidental record.

Individual Survey duration
For 500m radius surveys I suggest that at least 20 minutes is required, and don’t specify an upper limit (but please record how long you are observing).

For 2Ha sites I recommend that the Birds Australia 20 minute search be used. If a 2Ha site is really “happening”, with birds everywhere consideration could be given to repeated 20 minute surveys to the duration of your stamina!

Numbers of birds
Please try to count the numbers of birds of each species seen during your surveys. Note that:
  • if you are certain you have seen 2 birds during the survey period (eg a male King Parrot and a female 10 minutes later, but within your period) that should count as 2.
  • If a flock of 10 birds passes through and clearly leaves the area and a second flock of 7 of the same species arrives, that is 17.
However if in doubt report the smaller number.

Avoidance of duplication
Some of the recipients of these guidelines also complete a COG Garden Bird Survey Chart. To avoid duplication of recording could I ask that they survey in such a way that they do not include any of their GBS site in this exercise. I am not specifying any required distance of separation.

How to report

I intend to try to summarise the observations in the Hinterblitz for publication in a future edition of the COG Bulletin ‘Canberra Bird Notes’ so would like to get my hands on the data .
COG General records are submitted through a hard copy form ( or through an online form at

If people are completing the hard copy forms could they mail them to me at 101 Whiskers Creek Rd, Carwoola, NSW 2620 and after I have extracted the required data I’ll hand them in to COG for processing after extracting the required data. If completing the online forms please let me know the name of the area being surveyed and the date of survey and I will ask Paul Fennell to give me an electronic copy of the record.

If neither of those approaches is possible please send me,
  • the address of the site;
  • the latitude and longitude (or a sufficiently precise address that I can find the coordinates from Google Earth)
  • the duration of your survey(s);
  • a list of the species seen and the numbers of each species; and
  • details of any breeding activity – unlikely at this time of year.
preferably by email to but otherwise to the physical address above.
I will extract the data needed for my summary and complete a COG data sheet for addition to the COG database in due course

Many thanks for your help.

Martin Butterfield

Saturday, 14 March 2009

The (not very) big count

Also known as the Palerang Council by-election.

At the last Palerang Council elections a lady by the name of Judith Miller was elected (with the help of preferences from us). She unfortunately had to stand down after one sitting, citing health issues. So the rules are that there is a by-election.

A few days before I was contacted by our neighbour, the local organiser for The Greens and asked to help hand out cards for one o the 3 candidates. He isn't a formal Green as such, but is endorsed by a Comminity party which is aligned with The Greens. As usual I said OK - on my past performance, probably giving the poor guy a kiss of death.

I opened the booth at 8am and decided to try to keep a track of the number of punters. (The last time I did this for a Local Government election, in South Australia, I was on deck for 4 hours and not a single punter came by.)
At least this time there were some voters. I was expecting a rush at 8am and then slowing down, but in fact it wasquite quiet but generated a bit of steam in the second hour.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Back home to the fruit and veg

The opening photo above features a couple of Brandywine tomatoes which are about the tastiest I can recall, as well as being humongous or bigger than that.

It also includes a trombuccini, which as far as we can work out is a cross between a trombone (a variety of pumpkin) and a zucchini. This is a very strange looking fruit, but also rather pleasant eating when converted into a slice. Many thanks to Rob Ey for providing this plant for us.

The shoe is just there to provide scale: it isn't very big (by shoe standards) and I suspect not too tasty - unless well spiced.

This second image shows a gift basket of produce we gave to Ingrid for her 32nd birthday. )She also got a cheque towards a new computer but that isn't so photogenic.)

This image is of 3.2 kgs of crab apples picked from the garden bed in front of our bedroom. Totally un-netted so the Rosellas are really slack. I continue to be amazed how pruning the daylights out of a tree gets the fruit happening.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

The moving finger daubs ...

.. and having daubed moves on. The images here are of signs and paintings noticed, when I was able to snap them, around Port Vila.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Heading for Objective 2

In a recent message to my running (on the rare occasions they aren't injured) friends I commented that for me to get fit I had three post hammie objectives:
  1. Lose 20 years off my age
  2. Lose 5kgs off my waist
  3. start taking 2m/stride rather than 2 strides/m
I saw step 2 as the most difficult. However I have just been for a 4 hour walk around Pt Vila and have decided that I am well on the way of achieving it. So reality is restored and the difficult one reverts to #3.

My first was along through the wharf to the end of the road. Or at least as near to the end as one can get, since some fascist has decided to build his McMansion across the road. Quite good fun except for when a real estate agent (probably trying to sell the McMansion) went past in his car with two bolshie German Shepherds leaning out the windows stirring up all the local canines. Once the dweet was clear all the dogs returned to their abodes and resumed sleeping.

There were a few birds around, but unfortunately they were mainly seen briefly as they ripped across a clearing. I came across an interesting looking (ie rough hewn steps in slippery limestone) bush track up the cliff behind the wharf and was a little worried that I might have given bad advice to a young lady who I told there was no way through. However after a km or so the track seemed to end up in someone's yard so I backed off, hoping that (a) I could remember all the track junctions and (b) didn't damage myself slipping on the damp limestone.

I got down safely and decided to follow another road that I had passed quite often, primarily to see where it went. It turned out to go down the other side of the peninsula - where the young lady should have been heading for: I think I went past the guest house she was looking for, about 3km down the road so she had a fair old hike! There were lots of pretty flowers in the hedges.

The road actually ended up at a rather speccie beach with a few folk taking advantage of the nice reef break. As well as the flowers I took a few images of signs along the road, but will stick them in a different page. The final very bad image - she was doing about 60kph - is the Vanuatu approach to family planning - the red lump in front of the rider is a child - wearing a helmet but ....

Friday, 6 March 2009


One of the interesting aspects of travel is meeting people from backgrounds rather different to those encountered in Carwoola. On my last trip here the most interesting were an American couple sailing a yacht around the Pacific. This trip (so far) it is a pastor who is staying at the Melanesian. We had nodded acquaintance at the breakfast venue, and one morning I shared a table with him due to the staff shifting the small tables around. Apparently he has been coming here for 25 years (on and off) and travels around the Region doing good works. His wife - a very pleasant younger Chinese lady from Indonesia - had not been to Pt Vila before and reckoned it was a bit quiet.

On 6 March I did a different run around the back of the CBD ending up coming back past the market at about 6:25am. Most of the stall holders were on site - although not open for business -and several of them were listening to a preacher give them the rounds of the kitchen. I did wonder it if it was a politician touting for votes, but no-one was throwing yesterday's produce!

The run today passed by several of Port Vila's finest canines who seemed to have all been allocated patches of bitument to keep warm. None of them gave me a look as they were all engaged in licking sundry body parts. The only pooches that have seemed at all stroppy have been the ones inside fences, and I suspect they'd be OK if they could get out into the street and have a decent stouch with their mates from across the street.

We were taken to lunch today and here is a picture of one of the courses. Checking out the teeth on this beast confirms my decision against swimming here!

Tonights wine is a 2004 Cotes de Duras of which I had never heard before. Very potable and seems - frm lookng at the label as shown to the left -to come from somewhere a tad South of Cahors!

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Kylies go up

We will get to the bimbos in a few bytes, so just be patient!

Here are a couple of nice piccies of trees around the cliifs behind the Lini Highway. I particularly liked the palm as it reminded me of an early Naumann in his Rangoon period!

I was tempted to refer to the second image in the title of this page, but thought something about 'Roots" might have confused the Australian readers and bewildered the rest of you!

Tonight I went back to Le Rendezvous restaurant - opposite the hotel at the top of the hill, for a serve of their Sri Lankan buffet curry night. Before getting to my table I took a couple of snaps of the carved wood in the foyer.

On getting to the table the sunset was rather speccie so here is a sample.

After sitting down I became aware that most of the other tables were half full of excited young ladies having blonde moments. I don't know if any of them were actually called Kylie, nor if their escorts were all Bruces, but the squeakiness of their voices and the number of photos they got the staff to take of them with sunset in the background suggested a good familiarity with the work of Mesdames Minogue and Mole.

The curry was very good, but did a lot of damage to my campaign to lose weight. Although of course, depending on the quality of the curry, that could all change in a rush. But I did promise not to comment on matters alimentary.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

An epiphanous moment!

When I introduced this epic to you I said "I will try to avoid philosopical commentary and details of my alimentary status." This page reduces my score to no more than 50% - and you are probably lucky that it is the philosophy that is breaking through!

I received an email this evening that concluded by hoping that I enjoyed Vanuatu to which I responded by saying that it was hard not to enjoy Vanuatu. This has led me to wonder - reflecting Andrew Lamb's lining me up as Julius Sumner Miller without the Cadbury's endorsement - why it is so. I have concluded, with the aid of some Bordeaux wine and Tusker beer, that it is because the place is very easy going and generally many slightly odd things to observe and think about. In other words, mst of the third world entertainments without thecrime and violence (so far).

However the epiphany came when I suddenly realised that the key to fun n travel is to treat New York, Paris, or London as though they are Dar es Salaam, Port Vila or Hanoi rather than the other way round.

To progress. The Cahors bottle has emptied, and I cannot blame the staff at the hotel. All my own work. So I have moved on to a 2001 Bordeaux which was somewhat thinner but very tasty nonetheless.

I then strolled down the mountain to the Waterfront Bar and partook myself of a fisherman's basket. Alert readers of my missives may be saying "Wasn't that where the Kylies hang out?" I must respond that it appears the Kylies are hydrophobic and tonght's thunderstorms kept them in their kennels.

The bar was graced by the presnce of a gent with a shaved head and a long beard and big gut, wearing a black outfit. My intial reaction was "Bandido" as not quite scruffy enough for most other Motor Cycle Clubs. When paying l'addition I noticed that his black tee-shirt said "trust me, I'm a doctor' so I went over and said "Is it true?" To which his first response - in a fairly good Australian accent was "Yes. I'm a gynaecologist." and as I cracked up he said "Actually I'm not, but it often works!" Back out into the rain to walk up the hill, still chuckling.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Che joins the King

The title refers to my reading "The Motorcycle Diaries" on this trip and thus for me Che, like Elvis, lives. It is an interesting book although I really cannot imagine how they filmed it. By and large Che's behaviour is fairly reprehensible - when viewed from my age - or admirable - when viewed from his age when he took the trip! The book addresses this conflict but I am stuffed if I can see how it would be done in a film!

The translator of the book does explain the meaning of the nickname 'Che' as being Argentinian for something like 'mate'. This makes a lot more sense than our big fat English- Spanish dictionary, which translates it as 'Argentinian'.

As well as reading this tome I got out this morning for a repeat of the run through the port and managed a 30 second improvement. If this keeps up I will have to downgrade the distance.

At 6am the weather was quite reasonable: about 26 degrees and a steady 70% humidity. By lunchtime the humidity had stayed constant but the temperature had risen. As I walked back to the Hotel the clouds were gathering but have not yet dumped forth: they are probably awaiting my departure for 'Le Redezvous' to put on some beef.

There follow a few images of the local vegetation. Frances has noted that when you encounter lush green vegetation it generally means that water is not a problem, which certainly seems to correlate well with this trip to Vanuatu.

In fact the beef did not get put on at the restaurant. They listed a very interesting looking eye fillet avec langoustine but I decided that a Red Snapper dish was the go: and extremely tasty it was. I'll be revisiting the place on Thursday for their Sri Lankan curry night, having checked that this week - unlike last time - it won't be shut for some high-priced help having a private function. On the subject of last time, I referred then to the number of geckos on the ceiling: the most I counted tonight was 12 and an image of a couple of them is below- note the shiny eyes. I also snapped some of the local art hung on the wall.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Vanuatu: the continuing saga

Dinner last night was partaken in the Thai restaurant forming part of the Hotel complex. A rather pleasant Green Chicken curry.

Day 2 started with a waddle down through the wharf area, just to continue the rehab of my stuffed hamstring.

The only surprising thing (and this being my third visit to Pot Vila it takes a fair bit to surprise me) was a young lady - of the white persuasion - stopping me to ask if the road was a dead-end. Since she was 1km from the previous turn-off and the cliffs were quite high on one side (and the sea quite deep on the other) I could understand her concern and answered in the positive. She showed me her map of how to get to a guest house and I explained how to get there (other than retracing her steps this involved some crampons and a very sharp panga).

The immediate question that arose was why a very attractive young woman was wandering though the port trying to get to a guest house at 6:15 in the morning. I hope she had enjoyed the previous part of her day, and she certainly didn't seem at all unhappy.

A day at work then happened. As I have said in an email it was the usual developing country mixture of laughter and screams - with the usual Vanuatu emphasis on the laughter.

The missionaries appear to have relented on Prohibition, although our favourite Chinese store -which sells good wine at a nice price -closed for lunch. Fortunately they had seen the light by 5:30pm and a bottle of Cahors '06 rouge acquired. As always with this appellation it was very pleasant. After a sampling of this I wandered off to La Casa to get outside some Fettucini Marianara. Excellent as always.

An interesting sidelight to the above is that the owners of both the Chinese store and the Italian restaurant seemed to be Francophone. I know Vanuatu has a joint English and French colonial past but this mixture I find very strange. I strongly suspect that both owners speak Bislama and their mother-tongue as well as English so they are at least quattroglottic!

On the crappy side of life, as I type this Pauline Hanson is on the ABC Qld news spruiking herself for the Queensland election. I'd really like to see Anna Bligh returned but my real dread is the Australian answer to Jean-Marie le Pen (minus the intellect) holding the balance of power. Not only will daylight saving never get passed, but speaking other than Chaucerian English will be illegal.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

A Virgin no longer

After many years of being loyal to QANTAS and receiving , in recent years, constant disappointment, I decided to try flying with Mr Branson’s outfit to get to Port Vila and back. This is being typed in Sydney airport on the way out, having flown from Canberra, so I guess I changed status as the plane passed Brand Depot. Passing Brand Depot is probably a good thing, whether walking, riding or travelling in a car or (particularly) an aircraft. Actually the same applies to Canberra Airport but I couldn’t be bothered driving – although I suspect I wouldn’t have had to get up any earlier to do so.

The flight was quite acceptable, with lots of nostalgia since the last time I flew in an Embraeur was going from Houston to Aguas Calientes in Mexico. The scenery wasn’t as interesting this time. Anyway the plane went up and down in the appointed places and (QANTAS please note) times. Transfer to the International terminal was painless and quick (QANTAS please note).

On getting to the Terminal there was a brief period of pear-shapedness since the only way to find the gate seemed to be joining a check-in queue, which I didn’t need. Of course I guessed the wrong way to go through immigration – on reflection the bus paid for by Virgin seemed to drop me off at the QANTAS shop. ‘Twas fixed reasonably quickly.
It was interesting that the drive around Sydney Airport to get where Virgin had parked their aircraft was about as long as the flight from Canberra, but I guess that is how you save costs. I found I had three seats to myself and the flight was pretty good. Everything in the food department was for sale, which is a tad rude for an international flight but I chose not to partake. Oxymorons from the menu were "organic salt" - I actually prefer salt to be just sodium and chlorine, no carbon atoms thanks - and instant capuchino!

The flight was good with just a few patches of bumpiness due to cloud. For the first time we landed at Bauer Field (named after a WWII USAF pilot who made it back 99.5% of the times he took off) in daylight.

This gave som
e great views of the coast just to the East of Port Vila as well as making me thankful that the coconut palms on the final approach were no taller. I quite like coconuts, but prefer not being able to count them from a 737!

As well as the coral atolls, Vanuatu is also famous for it's beef. One could also count them as we went over. I am looking forward to having a close encounter with the parents of some of these later in the week.

Arrival at Vanuatu was good, and two folk from the Stats office were there to greet me. On checking in to the hotel I found that as a repeat guest I got a basket of fruit for free! Really nice papaya, bananas and pineapple! I then went out for a walk to look at birds adding one to my life list (Yellow-fronted White-eye) and one to my Vanuatu list (Buff-banded Rail - sort of like a coot with attitude).

Getting back towards the hotel I headed for the Bon Marche Nambatu to get some thirst quenchers. Buggrit, but possibly in recognition of the title of this page, they are still taking the missionary position on booze on Sundays. Oh well the minbar giveth (beer) and taketh away (money).