Showing posts from March, 2010

The tail of two queues

I apologise for two posts in one day.  However such is life.  As well as that break-through the bounds of decency, all the images in this were taken with my phone: wot a bogan!

The Far queue
The National Gallery has been running a show of Post-Impressionist stuff from the Musee D'Orsay.  It is rather good and has been very popular: at the time of writing my guess is that they will be topping 400,000 visitors, and getting them through at about 6000 a day. With two and a half weeks to go they could well top the half million!  This must have done miracles for the local accommodation industry.

However there have been some issues with the length of the queues.  The two images below show the first and second halves of the queue outside the door of the Gallery on about the 19th of March. In total they extended 240m and I counted 500 people in the queue.  My guess would be another 150 inside the building.  This queue goes to the door of the Natioal Portrail Gallery.  At times it has stretch…

The seasons get confused

This is supposed to be the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, known as Autumn in the UK and Australia or Fall in North America.  Continuing the educational (or obscurantist) thrust of this blog I have discovered that the terms are actually derived from French and German respectively.

We are certainly getting plenty of fruit and vegetables still.  There are a heap of grapes, the pears are coming good, and the apples are about to enter plague proportions.  In the vegetable department we are still getting enough tomatoes, zucchini, trombacini, cucumbers, capsicum and chillis.  The pumpkins are just waiting for a frost to firm them off.

The natural world is totally confused however.  Yellow-faced Honeyeaters have started to migrate (right on average time) and the first Golden Whistler - a beautiful male - turned up yesterday (again on time).  The plants however seem to think it is Spring.

This Daviesia ericoides should flower in September rather than March!

So should this Urn Heath M…

Persons at work (reprise)!

The first wordof the title of this post was chosen to reflect the fact that cleaning up our stable this morning was facilitated by Frances getting to stage 3 (with a gold star) lumberjacking.  (The last word reflects the fact that I have already done a post with that title.)  She has already shown great aptitude in hanging on to a rope to stop me dropping a tree on (a) my head or (b) something valuable, such as our house.  Today she was engaged to hang on to bits of the yellow box which have sat in our stable for close to three years after falling into our vegie garden while I wielded my chainsaw to get it into a stove ready size  My goodness her work made made life easy for me.

A while back I wrote this post about the difficulty of getting people to pull their finger out and do some work.  There have been a few developments since then.

The Camion Real ( a play on a 4x4 being a truck - 'camion' en Francais -  and the Simon and Grafukunkel song 'El Camino Real - the Royal R…

Yet more Fungi!

Today (24 March 2010) the Australian native Plants Society (Canberra Branch) perpetrated a walk to the Smokers Flat area of Namadgi National Park.  There were quite a lot of interesting flowering plants and birds (plus not a small number of reptiles) along the way.  However I am finding that this season is delivering a particularly good array of fungi.

The first two images are of, I believe, Anthurus archeri - the Seastar Stinkhorn, a Fungimap target species.  This was seen at 35:32: 08S 148:54:13E (about 1340m AMSL) in grasses under eucalpyts, close to a highland swamp.

On looking at Fungi Down Under I was impressed to see that they only had 37 reports of the species so this is quite a find.

 The third image is of a fungus passed by many members but very close to the Square Rock trail car park at 35:31:12S 148:54:35E (1238m AMSL - no wonder the last couple of kms seemed easy walking).  I think this is Omphalina sp: in this case the target species is O. chromacea but the specimen seen…

The birds of East South(ish) Canberra

To begin with, let me explain the title of this post.  South Canberra is an official designation of the area of the urban part of the ACT to the South of Lake Burley Griffin and bounded by a range of low hills, separating this township - not at all like the SOuth WEst TOwnships of Johannesburg - from those of Weston Creek and Woden.    The study is largely concerned with the Eastern component of South Canberra, but also strays across the Molonglo into North Canberra: hence the (ish).

I have recently been looking at the implications of the grid of latitudes and longitudes used by the Canberra Ornithologists Group (COG) to summarise observations made by members.  One of the technical issues raised in considering the usefulness of such grids is the extent to which an observation from a site within a grid cell can be considered representative of the cell as a whole.

Obviously this depends on the homogeneity of the habitats across the cell.  In some cases the cell will contain a single typ…

Perons Tree Frog

Frances came running into the house this requesting a speedy camera. She had found a big frog on a red pot.  Of course by the time we got there it had moved, but was then kind enough to pose on a white plastic shopping bag.

The big toe-pads say "tree frog"  and the cross shaped pupil says "Perons" (Litoria peroni).  Here are the pix.

Some thoughts about Citizen Science

There has recently been an upsurge in interest in "Citizen Science" which I take to mean using 'ordinary people' to record scientific observations rather than science professionals. 

From a (slightly cynical) view of the scientific community (and a realistic view of public administration in the post-Reagan era) this is a pretty good deal since instead of:
paying researchers and field assistants you get members of the public to perform similar functions at no cost; andhaving expensive laboratories etc the work is done largely from people's homes. It is also a good deal for the citizens since it allows them to contribute to informed decision making and provides a record of their activities for posterity.  Both important 'feel-good' factors.

Since I am involved in the process in various ways I thought I would set down a few thoughts about the philosophy involved and the (surprisingly large number of ) examples of citizen science with which I am either aware o…

A Short Walk in the Top Paddock

While exercising the dog this morning (and capturing the monster mushroom shown in the previous post) we noticed some other fungi which had the white gills suggestive of Amanita.  Denis Wilson suggests in his comment that this is a Macrolepiota (and that we don't take a chance on eating it).  Happy to agree with both!

So I looked them up in Fungi Down Under and could decide what they were which required a repeat visit.  I still can't get them any closer than that family: the interesting attribute was that the cap felt very light and spongy.  Also one older form present had the little "bumps" (sorry about the technical term) turn black.  Here is an image.
After leaving the fungus and starting the walk home my attention was drawn skywards by the melodious (not) calls of a couple of flocks of about 30 Sulphur-crested Cockatoos.  They were quite pleasant to see flapping through a clear blue Autumn sky.  However what made the sky even better was a pair of immature Wedge-ta…

Call that a mushroom....

... now this is a mushroom.

The small dog weighs about 3.3kgs.  The mushroom weighs 0.8kgs.  As is often thecase with food, bigger isn't always better - it tasted a tad bitter so about half of it wasn't eaten.

It should be explained that the object the small dog is sitting on is a raffia mat made for us by the mother of a birding friend in Tanzania.  It includes the names of a number of interesting bird species woven into the fabric.  An astonishing piece of work.

Also the reference to 'Mrs Martin" reflects a small confusion about naming conventions: in TZ many people put the family name first so I was 'Mr Martin". Thus Frances was "Mrs Martin" (when not simply 'mama').

(Un) Silent Night

One of the delights of living where we do is the quietness of night.  This contrats dramatically with our last abode in New York where not only does the city never sleep, but neither do the Emergency Services vehicles with their sirens.  That being said, it has been a tad noisier than usual out here recently.

....  and I am not making any references to Denis Wilson's recent comment on this blog or his posting on the Nature of Robertson.

Instead this is about the calls of nature - no, no, more amibiguity: I mean the calls of natural things - around the Carwoola area.

The first was a call of an Eastern Barn Owl which  I heard while taking the small dog for a call of nature about 10pm on 16 March.  That was the first I have heard out here, although our friend Julienne from Hoskinstown (about 10km away to the SE as Tyto alba flies) heard one in February.  A question was asked if I had ruled out Masked Owl which I had.  To my (tin) ear the call of the Masked Owl is rather weaker (this …

Revisions to Fungi images

I sent a link to my images of Fungi ito the Fungimap project.  They were able to identify all the images to the genus or species levels and I have posted revisions on that page.

Many thanks to Dr Tom May and the Fungimap volunteers.


To heck with Moriarty

In Kelly's Heroes the character played by Donald Sutherland (a tank commander) constantly chided his 2ic with the phrase "enough with the negative vibrations Moriarty".

So to get back to the positives, here is a shot of a very relaxed and positive small dog!

An era passes

I don't normally do stuff about people dying.  However I feel that a brief public acknowledgemennt of the life and death of Milton Valentine is well merited.

I have known Milton (aka Floggo, or for the benefit of those who haven't done many Pipe Flat 20s, Mr Flog) since about 1984.  We did a heap of Pipe Flat runs together and also quite a few 60 odd km bike rides. He was a legend and an inspiration. 

The runs and rides were a hoot because Milton's sense of humour made these endurance (by my standards) events into a bunch of laughs.  The longest lasting joke (for me) was first made in the course of a bike ride where he said - just after the Queen Mother had cracked 100 years of age - that he and I together kicked her butt for longevity.  He can now discuss that with her up close and personal: good luck your Majesty.

For someone as active as Flog to end up dying, in great pain, of a real nasty cancer was a bugger.  I'm glad he won a Vets handicap last year (2009) and I…

Some book reviews

As well as the usual escapist stuff, I have read (or re-read) some interesting books recently.  While my opinion and $5 will get you a poor cup of coffee this may be of amusement to some folks.

The first sample is "Born to Kvetch" by Michael Wex.   It is a fairly technical study of Yiddish as a langage and a culture but based aroud the use of complaints and curses as a backstay of the language and culture.  I found it very clever and entertaining and am using some of the kvetches in my posts (where some  schlemiel merits the bobkes).  A useful resource might also be the Wikipedia page showing how English (especially in New York) has acquired some of the words.

It is interesting that while both sources translate bobkes as meaning, literally, goat-turds the Wiki idiomatic meaning is 'nothing' while Mr Wex goes for the stronger 'SFA'.  Which leads to a funny story.  I looked up 'bobkes' on Google and found one of the references was a record from Ellis I…

I can see the light .. or ...

Image is in the eye of the beholder.

When we first looked around this place one of the comments of the (then) owners was "We're glad you can see the beauty of the place."  I'm not sure that "beauty" is quite the word I'd use but this evening we had dark clouds coming from the East and the sun still squeezing over the Taliesin hills to the West.  The result was very pleasing (and hopefully captured to some extent in the following).

The Foggy Foggy Dew

To avoid confusion, for the readers with a folk music background I will point out to begin with that I have not been saving anyone from anything!

The morning of 10 March was very foggy as we went on out morning walk at about 8am.  This meant the overnight work of the local arachnids was very pleasing to the eye.  Also quite varied in style.
The dew also decorated the flowers of this Eriochilus cucullatus (Parson's bands or White Autumn Orchid).  By 10:30, when I returned to take some more photos the dew had gone but the result was a tad sharper.
However the moisture was still evident on this Hypoxis hygrometrica (Golden weathergrass), possibly because it was located under a tree which was still dripping onto it.

Fotos of Phungi

We have had another period of sogginess.  Over the period 5 - 8 March we scored 52mm of rain.  This has put us level with the amount we had received by August 30 last year!  Possibly as a result of the moisture we seem to have a good collection of fungi here and there around the property.

I have few resources (limited to Fungi Down Under; P and E Grey 2008, and the related website) to identify fungi so if anyone cares to suggest names (common or Latin) I'd welcome the suggestions. In fact the people who work on Fungimap have very kindly identified - through mycolocgist Dr Tom May - these samlpesand amendments have been made in red below.

The first to really attract our notice was this one growing under a eucalypt in the top paddock.  It is about 15cm across the top.  Phylloporus sp

The next were what I have been calling Death Caps, primarily from the very white gills.  However there is no green on the cap which suggests it is a Smooth White Parasol Leucoagaricus leucothites.  It w…

Clean up Palerang Day

Clean-up Australia Day was Sunday 7 March 2010.  I had decided that:
I would do my usual clean-up along Captains Flat Road; butNot formally register with Clean-up Australia since in the past the amount of stuff (forms, boring newsletters etc) they sent me as a consequence of regstering was such that I felt I had an overall negative effect on the environment by so doing.Subsequently I have discovered that I hadn't drilled deeply enough into the Clean Up Australia site.  Going down a level further (or indeed coming in by a different path) showed links to register as a volunteer for a site rather than to register a site per se, which I had mistakenly done in the past.  That would have overcome point 2! Oh well, bugger.  At least my patch got cleaned up.

In the event we didn't get back from Adelaide until reasonably late on 6 March and it was pouring rain on 7th and 8th.  Thus I didn't get to my task until 9th March.

The overall outcome was similar to usual, collecting 2.5 bags…

A pox upon vanishing firms ..

.. especially those who create hit counters!

One of the small joys of my blogging has been monitoring the hits on the site.  I used a free hit counter from  After about 2 years it has suddenly vanished.  No warning, no apology just vanished.  Profanities upon them and their descendants unto the 5th generation. May their next career be  "Lign in dr'erd un bakn beygel" (a fine kvetch meaning "lying in the earth baking bagels" - see Born to Kvetch by Michael Wex for a discussion of the tasty implications of this curse!)

I have checked a blog by the person who referred me to this counter and their enumerations have also gone.

On looking at the other webcounters available they fell into various classes:
Ones that overtly required you to register (and on reading their terms of use permited them to delete your blog if you did something they didn't like.  This is obviousl;y a high risk if you don't know what they don…

Cleaning up in Adelaide

I approached this with trepidation as it was the first time I had dragged a trailer 1250km in a day and the small dogs health was dubious .  Neither concern  turned out to be a problem.  The aim of the trip was to clean out the remaining stuff from Frances’ mum’s estate which we expected to be fairly trivial.

We got off at close to the time of planning (ie 6am).  This was the first chance to try my driving lights and they duly lit up a mob of roos hopping over the drive.  Getting to Captains Flat Road and there was a convoy happening!  It seemed from the type of truck involved that they were mainly brickies etc heading off to work.  This continued right in to Canberra.

Out the other side and it was still marvelous  how many people were coming from Yass into the ACT – presumably all wage slaves.  On the far side of Yass the RTA had commented about an accident involving a B-double and a right mess it was.  A non-mess was the Coolac By-pass which is now finished and cut about 10 minutes …