Showing posts from January, 2011

Some images from Tanzania

In 2001 I was offered and accepted a contract with Statistics Sweden to work for 2 years in Tanzania.  It was, to say the least, an interesting experience both professionally and personally.

We have been going through old photographs recently and Frances found a couple of unlabelled CDs.  On loading them up one turned out to be the images we took - with a film camera - on our Northern loop safari (NB in Kiswahili that just means journey)  to (inter alia) Lake Manyara, Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater.  Some of the shots were quite interesting so here they are for your enjoyment.

None of these photographs were taken from a Torquay Hotel.
On this trip we drove off road through the wildebeeste migration (at that time near the Grumeti River on the western side of Serengeti) for about 2 hours.  This lot are just bathing in a small lake.

I will stick with animals for a while.  These two were typically energetic on a kopje beside the main road ....
... while these were just about as active unde…

Willow chair and a test sit

In late October last year I posted about creating a living chair in our garden.  (Alert viewers will note that as usual I was in the role of assistant rather than creative spark.)  I have been remiss in not recording its progress since that time.

The willow has delighted in the deluge: indeed there was a period in December when its habitat was no different to a creek!  As things have now dried out a tad it was necessary to apply some discipline to its growth patter,  Here is the result.
It would be premature for us to try sitting on it, and i don't think the small dog would enjoy the position, so we delegated test sitting to a well know character.
It was given a clear bleat of approval.

A cross-eyed frog

I found the this little charmer sitting on our deck early in the morning.
From the swollen toe pads it is a tree frog.  The cross-shaped iris makes it a Peron's Tree Frog.  This species is best known for its maniacal-laugh call during the breeding season..

Stubble quail and other denizens of grassland

Yesterday morning (24 January) I decided to take myself for a bike ride down Woolcara Lane to see how Yanununbeyan SCA etc had stood up to the December and January deluges.  The short answer to that question is reasonably well but that is not the focus of this post.

About 6km from home, going along Captains Flat Rd as it passed the Carwoola (note this is an anagram of Woolcara) a pair of quail flushed from the side of the road, heading for the shelter of the tall grass in the paddocks.  As I wondered which species of quail (Brown or Stubble) they were, I became aware  of Stubble Quail calls coming from the paddock.  These calls became constant - at least one calling bird every 200m throughout the next 16km or thereabouts, until I entered the SCA. Being a medium sized bird they didn't stick out of the grassland.

A number of local residents had commented on the higher than usual number of Stubble Quail in the area.  Comments have also been made on the COG chatline.

Two bird species…

The Sculpture Garden moves ahead

My first post for the year included some stuff about, you should excuse the pretension, a small "sculpture lawn" we are creating.  Having been looking at the initial efforts we have moved on.

A major part of this has been mowing the area and picking up all the loose rocks.  (The latter will be helpful in maintaining the road where the Creek floods.)  We have now added a few more works to the collection.  The first thing a sculptor needs is an assistant for the heavy work.
Note both the nifty titfer and the red rammer.  We have previously borrowed a dropper rammer from friends but it was getting obvious we needed one of our own  Since this was a really nice red colour, only cost $40 and I am sure will get lots of use this was a Good Idea.

The helper also wired the things together. 
The artist then got busy with the touch up paint to cover the bits that got interfered with in the previous two steps.
Some more images of the trees:

This one we call The Wave.
It is true art trouvee a…

The tale of a twitch

To many people outside the birding community all birders are referred to as "twitchers".  The mass media often take this to refer to people spasming with excitement at the thought of seeing a new bird.  As usual with the mass media this is wrong.  Mark Cocker explains the truth in his book "Birders: Tales of a tribe".  The term developed as the original twitchers used to travel around England in foul weather on a motorbike and would be shivering from cold when they got off.

To some extent the term can be used perjoratively since the twitcher is seen as someone who just keeps score and doesn't 'enjoy' the inner essence of the bird (IEOTB).  Or some such postmodern bushwa.  There are also tales - fostered by the mass media, who would find a negative story in the end of world hunger - that twitchers are not responsible but trash the countryside. 

Within the Canberra birding community a small number of us have formed what we refer to as a twitching group. …

How dogs hunt

I recently commented on the small dog grabbing a reptile which we had not spotted (and which we would rather she had not 'spotted' either).  A comment related events with a kelpie that stirred up all sorts of wildlife unseen by the kelpie's human companions, concluding to the effect that "Your dog spots snakes."

I suspect that the kelpie in question is an eye dog.  I am however not convinced that Tammy can be so described in all circumstances.  She is very good at spotting stuff where she has a good view, but she is so small that in the current season when off highly manicured areas she is basically wading through (what would be to us) a dense rainforest.  However her sense of smell is extremely acute.

By way of example, a couple of rabbits were amusing themselves on our lawn this evening so I went out with Tammy on the lead to see what we could do about this.  She and the rabbits spotted each other at the same time and the bunnies headed for the scrub.  I could …

Beans means ....

Growing up in the UK one of the regular advertising slots on TV was "Beans means Heinz".  This post will ignore the Goodies adaptation of this but will return to advertising (possibly with a link to beans) later.

While looking round gardensin the UK Frances was impressed by the wigwams most people used as support for beans.  So when we returned 4 wigwams were built, based around some old willow branches.  I would have to say that I don't think any of them would provide great accommodation for a Native American (or indeed any sort of American) family.  However after a couple of false starts due to the high tides they are now up and going.
The latin associated with these beans is Phaseolus coccineus.  The way one of them is going I suspect it may be P. c triffidus.
Since there were two inundations a few slots at the base of the wigwams were not taken up in the first growth.  By the time we could replant the gastropods were active, but we didn't want to use snail bait sin…

How do you know they are Lilies?

The answer to this question may be found in the work of Mr Anthony James Donegan.  In his seminal epic "My Old Man's a Dustman" the answer is "Lily's wearing 'em."  Well, no-one is wearing these, but they are definitely lilies.

This is our second cycle of lilies as the more polychromatic plants have died down.  What these lack in variety they make up for in size: each flower is close to 20cm across and the tallest plant (still in bud at the time of writing the initial part of this post) is close to 2m high!  See below for an update on this

Elsewhere in the garden we have dahlias of various varieties including a linear bed along the front of the house.

The most numerically common flower at the moment is a large white daisy.  This image shows 2 of approximately 6 clumps around the main lawn.

Continuing the educational thrust of this blog, and again referring to the tuneful ditty cited in the first paragraph, the chorus includes the insight
"... wears gr…

My final post (this year) on Eastern Spinebills

Success at last.  After the trials of attempting to photograph spinebills from the kitchen window and the sunroom window Frances commented, after spending some time in the sunroom garden bed that I should just take my camera out there "and they will come".

Yowza.  Was she ever right: as they didn't stay still getting a count was hard but my guess is that there were at least 6 in an area about 20m square.
I am pretty happy with that shot.  There were still raindrops falling from the surrounding vegetation so the bird shook itself, causing all its feathers to fluff out.
There were also some juveniles present.  The first image shows two of them and other 2 images show the poses and plumages of this age cohort.

Vegetarians, or other sensitive persons, should not follow the next link!  So to misquote the phrase attributed - apparently apocryphally - to Hannah Glasser "First plant your red-hot pokers...".

The omnivorous Wombat

A few weeks back I posted about being attacked by a wombat.  Today, Frances found a photograph of the offending/offensive beast!  Since this was about 25 years ago this was a hard copy image which I have scanned.

A few plants loose in the top paddock

I have previously posted an image of a very large Blue Devil (Eryngium ovinum) in our top paddock.  As other 'Devil's' seem to be approaching full colour I went back on 11 January  to see how it was going.  Rather well, albeit a bit palely, is the answer!
This time I measured the clump and it was approximately (my feet are not yet on the metric system) 1.2m x 1.1m x 0.4m - the last value being the height.  In close up the flowers are quite interesting, although not as dark as some of the smaller specimens around the place.
This plant is growing close to our top dam.  Here is another Blue Devil, not far from the biggie,which appeared in the paddock to be a darker blue.
The difference is not fantastic on screen.  An impact of light and digital photography?

I noticed that for the first time in a couple of years there is a flower on the Swamp lily (Otellia ovalifolia).
The flies prove that this is the Australian bush!  It was interesting to read the comments about this species inW…

Retailers and online sales and bulldust

I was tempted to title this post with a more direct thought about the retailers, but a reference to pork pies might have got some attention from the forces of ultra-evil (ie lawyers).

Every reader in Australia will be aware of the bleats from various very rich retailers about how they are being beaten up by on-line sales and to quote from Afferbeck Lauder "Aorta do something about it."  The main problem according to the gooses of the retail industry is that on-line sales from overseas don't pay GST. 
It has been proven, by the resultant debate, that GST is not the issue for most people, it is the huge prices charged by retailers in Australian physical shops.

By chance I needed to buy a new running watch since the strap on my current one broke and is now held together by a cable tie (which while effective is not elegant).  What follows starts with that specific experience and then makes a couple of general points.

In the past when I have looked for watches of my preferre…

Berries (rather than Weasels) ripped my flesh

Apologies to the late Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention but as I burrowed into the boysenberries and raspberries my mind flashed back to 1970!

The strawberries have calmed down quite a bit (probably a couple of handfuls a day rather than a couple of litres) but the diversity is very good:
An alert observer (probably implies one who hasn't listened to the video link under 'Mothers') will be able to spot strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and boysenberries in that image,  From a squizz near our top dam there are also a HEAP of blackberries coming down the 'pike.

Not exactly a berry but on occasion edible is the flower of the Globe artichoke.  We have attempted to eat one of these but it seemed to be one of the foods in which more energy is used to consume it than the food actually provides.  However they do look nice so Frances picked a few as indoor flowers.  To our great surprise the flower has developed a fair bit more.

The rest of this post is a bit of a g…