Monday, 28 February 2011

Go East young (?) man

Following Denis Wilson's post and a subsequent email, about the orchidaceous delights of Mongarlowe which lies to the East of Carwoola, Frances, myself and the small dog took ourselves off there to see what we could find.  The possible query is whether I still qualify as young (Frances is younger than me, and if anyone questions the small dog's youth, just watch her go after a wabbit)?  I have decided that relativity is the go: see a helpful entry in Wikipedia to confirm that I am a spring chicken.

For those coming from Braidwood it is possibly useful to know that Wilson Rd, which runs from the main street past the dunnies becomes signed as Little River Road.  Google Maps and Google Earth seem to call this Budawang Rd, which caused a little confusion in my mind.  However if one ploughs straight ahead along Wilson Rd all works out OK.  When you get to Mongarlowe take a right turn and keep an eye out for the fire shed, going behind it to get to the cemetery.  Possibly check out the interesting decor of the houses en route.
We particularly liked the bird feeder in the background!

On getting to the cemetery we were greeted by a local resident who appeared to be either communing with the departed or escorting her goat (Tillie by name) around the premises.  
 We avoided a confrontation between the small dog and Tillie!  Given that a goat - albeit a placid specimen - was in the vicinity we were amazed to find any vegetation left in the area.

Anyhow, we followed Denis's Google earth image and found some Corunastylis oligantha, the Mongarlowe Midge Orchid, very promptly.  Photos were taken!
Quite a lot of the plants seemed to have 'gone over' to use the orchid persons euphemism of choice for "having been fertilised and passed the torch to the next generation".  'Gone over' certainly has the benefit of brevity!
The Eriochilus cuculata were in profusion: I cannot understand how Tillie had been so slack on the job.  The range of tones in the Parsons Bands was quite impressive (this image is a combination: I couldn't find two with this level of contrast side by each in the cemetery).  Note yet again how 'un-hairy' the sepals are.
We then took ourselves off to the 50kph sign on Charley's Forest Rd to search for other goodies.  Lots of E.  cuculatus and eventually some more Corunastylis oligantha (I think - see image below).
We then went back to the cemetery - it was more or less on the way home -to check for Speculanthas (Tiny Greenhoods) but dipped on them.  HOWEVER: we did find a different Corunastylis just a bit further upslope from the C. oligantha!
I will make a bold call, from the image and text in the Great Big Book for Boys and Girls Who Like Australian Orchids (aka Jones D. L.  "Complete Guide to the Native Orchids of Australia") that this is C. ostrina the Purple Midge Orchid.

We also found a few other plants in flower. herewith some images.

It wouldn't be fair to leave the cemetery without "a tip of the lid" to the local community who seem to have done a fair job on trying to recognise the early settlers of the area. Unfortunately most of the plaques about the Hogan family have been reasonably weathered so I didn't photograph them.  Here is a snap of the memorial to a Galway (surprisingly from Waterford).
We left down the Northangera Road towards the Kings Highway.  A good fun road. although being mindful of my passengers comfort I didn't enjoy myself too much.  We couldn't work out where Monga National Park joined the road (if in fact it does) but crossed the Mongarlowe River which had a good flow in it.
In fact what hits the road, just South of the River Crossing is a State Conservation Area.  An expedition thereto is covered in a later post.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Berrying before digging holes

I have posted on my vegetation monitoring blog about my efforts to control the blackberries around the property.  It is more a matter of control rather than eradicate since we do enjoy eating the fruit so will probably keep one or two bushes once we get on top of the ones we don't want.
 Note the thorns on these bushes. If people in the mediaeval times had picked blackberries there would have been no need for people to get leeched to let the bad blood - or come to that the good blood - out!

Last year we got very few fruit since the bushes were influenced by the preceding very dry year.  At a rough calculation this year human foragers (us and my friend Rob) have taken about 28 litres of fruit.  Here is an expert picker at work.
Being up by the dam one gets a chance to view the wildlife.  Rob viewed a duck which had been sheltering under a bush he was picking: I think it was only the leech-like efforts of the brambles that prevented his systolic pressure hitting four digits!  We didn't see any large wildlife but there were many dragonflies around
and quite a few native flowers of which this twining glycine was particularly attractive.
I referred above the images to human foragers.  While we were working on this pick the birds were also active.  I noticed Crimson Rosellas (the usual suspects in fruit pecking), Noisy Friarbirds and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters all indulging in a gobble.  No wonder the seeds get spread around.

The reason for digging holes was not to do with interment (aka burying) but the transfer of some Photinia robusta bushes from point A (where they were not wanted) to point B (where they would contribute to a hedge - but not a hedge fund: I do have some principles).

This was one of those exercises where step B had to be completed before step A.  Other than getting a bit sweaty from the digging and using a crowbar on recalcitrant shale this was quite straightforward.  However persuading the plant that it needed to move was not simple.

Having dug a trench around the plant and severed quite a few lateral roots I decided that horsepower was the go and hooked the tree - via a strong rope to the trusty Subaru.  My driving skills turned out to be better than my knot-tying skills since the clove hitch came undone (which I, and Baden Powell thought impossible).  So it was back to plan A, - different to Point A referred to above- involving leverage, brute force and plentiful ignorance.

In the next image note how the crowbar displayed the hitherto unknown elastic properties of steel bars.  Contrast the positions of the end of the crowbar in this image and the previous one, before I stood on it.
The Photinia sneered at these efforts also, so it was back to the Jesse Ventura model of gardening.  In making that analogy I am referring more to the time when he was known as "The Body" than his later career as Governor!
By adding a felling axe to my list of tools (previously limited to spade, mattock, crowbar, towbar, saw, loppers and shears) I finally managed to achieve victory and, in the WWF approved fashion, gave the shrub an aeroplane spin before dunking it in Point A.
There are about 4 more of these plants to transfer.  However: I am going to wait see how this one deals with the trauma of losing to a mere human before tackling another!

Friday, 25 February 2011

The "standard" Autumn Orchid

This is IMHO Eriochilus cuculata or Parson's bands.  We did see this on the Settlers Track as well as the more flamboyant Magenta Autumn Orchid but I have saved posting about it until I found one on the home block.  That happened this morning 25 February as we patrolled the place with the dog.  Here is a snap:
Note the much paler colour.  I'd like to say note the absence of hairs on the sepals but I can see a few small ones! However they are not as big as the other day so i will merely mutter about taxonomists and move on.

In case you wonder why they are called Parsons Bands look at this post from the Nature of Robertson and learn!  It really pleases me when Google puts such a relevant post up front!

Some bouquets and a large brickbat

I will start with a couple of bouquets, mainly because that will allow my wrath over the brickbat to stew a little further.

The first bouquet goes to Country Energy for the effective and courteous way they undertok the inspection of poles on our property.  They really are a great organisation and I hope that if the sale goes through the new owners of the utility keep the staff and keep up the good work.  (It is interesting that I normally have a lot of time for Premier Kenneally but think she has dropped the ball on this one.  Equally, the mere fact that Fred Nile opposes something would lead me to support it but not this time.)

My second bouquet gets shared around a bit because lots of companies get involved but they all more or less done good.  The remote control for our DVD player went belly up and I needed a new one.  On visiting the Good Guys (our electrical retailer of choice) they didn't sell them, but were kind enough to tell me who did and where to find them.  The vendor was a mob called WOW and they promptly recommended a Logitech Harmony 300 Universal Remote.  This does everything the old Samsung one did and is a little more logical.  So floral tributes all round.

OK.  No more Mr Nice Guy.  Frances wanted to go to a gym class today and as I had finished blackberrying in time I said I'd go in with her to schlep the recycling stuff into the collection bins.  I thought I'd take the small dog and go for a walk as well.  Frances asked if I could drop by the Kingston ACT Library and pick up some books she had reserved.  All done nicely and no hods get emptied thus far.

At this point my luck ran out.  I decided that I would like to get my teeth around a burger while walking the dog, but to go to the Yass Rd Takeaway in Queanbeyan would mean leaving a yowling dog outside.  Then I thought of the red van in Bowen Park which always has a bunch of people on deck ordering grub.  (The place has had a lot of trouble with ACT Government Planners  and National Capital Authority bureaucrats saying they hadn't planned to have a restaurant there. This is in itself a great reason for me to support the burger bar.)  As it's outside there would be no difficulty about the dog.  So I get there and join quite a long and slow moving queue.  After about 15 minutes ((!!!) mainly spent trying to keep Tammy and a Samoyed looking thing a little further up the queue away from each other I place my order and get a docket #43.

I couldn't quite work out how one picked up the nutrients until the serving person yells out "#31 and 32 your food is here".  So there are 11 more groups - some involving 6 or 7 people - in front of me and I take the small dog to look at some swans.  Both parties to this inspection look a bit worried about the other.  On getting back to the van it seems that all the people who had placed orders in front of me are still there.  Nothing happens except more people keep ordering food: no nosh is being distributed.  So by 30 minutes after I have placed my order I asked the serving idiot how much longer: 5 minutes he says.  After 10 minutes have passed he calls orders 33 and 34 to pick up their kit.  I then go and say "I have to leave now: give me my money back please."  Notice the politeness.  The response was I have yours here waiting to wrap."  "I have waited an hour and have to go.  Give me my money back."  "Fred: this guy has no patience.  Give him his money back."

There are two things that astonish me about this performance:
  • That a burger bar can take more than an hour to provide a burger; and
  • That punters are willing to wait all that time to get a meal that will take them 5 minutes to eat.  They are I think mainly public servants so it is their lunch hours that are expanding.  (The area is full of policy Departments such as Treasury and PM&C so probably no-one notices that 20 staff are taking multi-hour lunch breaks.)
I hope the burger bar get evicted from their site: not for breaching the planning rules but for being incompetent poopheads!  Unfortunately ACT Planning and the NCA only care about the planning rules.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

ANPS Walk to Settler's Track

Today, 23 February 2011, the local chapter of ANPS took a walk along the shorter version of the Settlers Track in Southern Namadgi National Park. Please note that the linked page is about 1.5Mb - so if you are on a dial-up connection, now might be a good time for a coffee! 

It was a snorter of a day.  Great weather, a pleasant track with not too many hills and lots of nature to look at, hear and photograph.  I haven't done much with the images of the huts since that is included in the linked brochure.  However I did find this interesting newspaper snippet in Brayshaw's Hut.
This was particularly interesting to me as when a teenager in the UK I used to visit Linnet's Cottage at Bradwell in Essex which had been similarly decorated - but in about 1810, with newspapers reporting blokes being transported to Australia for stealing blazers!

This image - of a lichen covered branch framing a view across the valley to a frost hollow - summarises a fair bit of the walk.
There were also some shapely granite boulders here and there.  A pity about the thistles but they were everywhere: presumably the ACT Government can't afford a few bucks worth of broadleaf herbicide!

Since this was an ANPS walk let us get down to matters floral.  We will start off with the trendiest family of flowers, the orchids.  Today I noted the Rosy Hyacinth Orchid (Dipodium roseum)
The next species is the Magenta Autumn Orchid (Eriochilus magenteus).  Note the hairy sepals which distinguish it from Parsons Bands (E.cuculatus)

Let us move on to dicotyledons.  In order we have Calotis sp,Lobelia sp and Rhodanthe anthemoides
Insects were evident  - but not annoying!  The most common arthropod around was the Common Brown Butterfly.  They were everywhere and (unlike most members of their Family) occasionally posed for a snap.
In one of the damper parts of the walk I managged to capture this image of a crane fly (in the Tipulidae family).  This image possbly explains why the family has the common name 'Daddy Long legs"
My final insect image was taken because I liked the small grasshopper (possibly family Acrididae) hanging off the side of a Helichrysum rutidolepis.  On looking closely there also seemed to be some ants on the 'hopper's back!
I only got one decent shot of a vertebrate. It was initially identified as the alpine sub-species of Verreaux' Tree Frog (Litoria verreauxii alpina) but on further consultation (one should quit while one is ahead - for glory - but keep questioning -for science) as the nominate subspecies (Litoria verreauxii verreauxii).  the lack of fine pointed warts appears to be deterministic!
I didn't get an image of the 1.2m long Red-bellied Black Snake I found while looking for birds: at least I saw this one unlike the hundreds of others I probably walked past.  The one I spotted shot through VERY quickly as I fumbled around for my camera!

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

COG visit to Googong South

Let us cut to the chase with the trip report submitted to COG:
Report on Walk to London Bridge

The day started well both in terms of the weather (fog disappeared as the 22 members and guests left Burra Rd) being a beautiful fine day - at least to start with- and a good crop of birds. 

The birds of the day appeared early in the walk in the high speed forms of 4 Peregrine Falcons.  There was considerable interaction between the birds flying at one another and vocalising loudly.  Two perched in a dead eucalypt and were duly chased off by a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo.  Two Australian Pipits posed nicely on dead Mullein stalks at the end of the London Bridhge arch.

On entering the woodland we were treated to good views of two Eastern Yellow Robins and a little later to 4 Scarlet Robins.  Only a single Leaden Flycatcher was seen, close to the Queanbeyan River.  This was seen attacking a Pied Currawong but we couldn't determine if this was defending a nest or simply good policy.

Overall 40 species (the full list will appear in the trips section of the COG website  click on the Pelican and follow your nose) were recorded before the leader took the group on a side track followed by a scramble up a hillside just in time to put on our raincoats for a heavy thunderstorm.  As we were all drenched we passed on the side trip to Tin Hut Dam!

The visit is planned for 16 March 2011 

If there is a total fireban in Palerang Shire on that day the walk will be cancelled.

There is a nice brochure put out by ACT Parks Conservation and Lands (ACTPCL -  yes, I know Googong Dam is in NSW but don't ask me to explain this stupidity, just say "thank you for the nice map Mr Stanhope").  This notes that 165 species of birds have been seen in Googong!!  A shorter list of species provided from the COG data base is at the foot of this post.
Directions are summarised in this first map (click to get a larger version and then zoom in if needed).  I have taken the maps from the ACTPCL brochure.

People may wish to meet by 8:15 at Spotlight in Queanbeyan to carpool, or those from Southside may wish to make arrangements for themselves to come to the other end of Old Cooma Rd via Royalla.  We will all meet at the spot designated on the above map at 9am and then go in convoy for the 3km to the official car park at the Woolshed.  Note that there may be some gates to be opened and closed along the way.

The basic strategy for the walk will be to start with the Dhurrawarri Buranya Walk (yes there will be a test to check you can all spell it proper).  This is 4km according to TAMS but 7km according to my MTB speedo, allowing for having to go round rather than over the arch.  As we're walking we will going over the arch of London Bridge.  The first 1km or so is through grassland, changing to woodland (some apple box and a lot of Euc. rossii) on the far side of Burra Creek.

This is illustrated in the second image (which is the area marked with dotted lines on the big one).
I visited the area on 22 February and  Drawdown Crossing was 1m deep so we will return over the arch.
In case you think that was an ex-crossing, check out this shot of Washpen!  My guess is that was several metres deep in the middle.
We actually head off to the left along the edge of this watercourse (the Queanbeyan River) and do some walking along a fairly rough trail which is a tad overgrown in parts.  It isn't an epic trek, but it is not a smooth graded fire-trail either.  There are a couple of stretches of rock steps.

I suggest we carry lunch with us - and a good supply of water.

When we get back to the cars I suggest we drive the 2.5km to Tin Hut Dam and prowl around that area, possibly going down to an inlet off the dam.  Again, it depends how we feel.  We should see the male Musk Duck on the dam.  A couple of shots from today: I couldn't get one of him firing water about!

List of Birds from the COG database
Musk Duck
Black Swan
Australian Shelduck
Australian Wood Duck
Grey Teal
Pacific Black Duck
Australasian Grebe
Common Bronzewing
Little Pied Cormorant
Great Cormorant
White-faced Heron
Yellow-billed Spoonbill
Wedge-tailed Eagle
Nankeen Kestrel
Australian Hobby
Purple Swamphen
Dusky Moorhen
Eurasian Coot
Black-fronted Dotterel
Masked Lapwing
Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo
Gang-gang Cockatoo
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
Crimson Rosella
Eastern Rosella
Red-rumped Parrot
Horsfield's Bronze-Cuckoo
Pallid Cuckoo
Fan-tailed Cuckoo
Laughing Kookaburra
Sacred Kingfisher
Rainbow Bee-eater
Superb Lyrebird
White-throated Treecreeper
Brown Treecreeper
Superb Fairy-wren
White-browed Scrubwren
Speckled Warbler
White-throated Gerygone
Striated Thornbill
Yellow Thornbill
Yellow-rumped Thornbill
Buff-rumped Thornbill
Brown Thornbill
Southern Whiteface
Spotted Pardalote
Striated Pardalote
Eastern Spinebill
Yellow-faced Honeyeater
White-eared Honeyeater
Yellow-tufted Honeyeater
Fuscous Honeyeater
White-plumed Honeyeater
Noisy Miner
Red Wattlebird
Brown-headed Honeyeater
White-naped Honeyeater
Noisy Friarbird
Spotted Quail-thrush
Varied Sittella
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike
Golden Whistler
Rufous Whistler
Grey Shrike-thrush
Olive-backed Oriole
Dusky Woodswallow
Grey Butcherbird
Australian Magpie
Pied Currawong
Grey Currawong
Grey Fantail
Willie Wagtail
Australian Raven
White-winged Chough
Scarlet Robin
Flame Robin
Rose Robin
Hooded Robin
Eastern Yellow Robin
Australian Reed-Warbler
Rufous Songlark
Welcome Swallow
Fairy Martin
Tree Martin
Common Starling
Red-browed Finch
Diamond Firetail
House Sparrow
Australasian Pipit
European Goldfinch

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Jezabel, but not a Painted Lady

I could have put this on an Invertebrates page but then I would have missed using that title, which would have annoyed me intensely.

The allusions in the title refer to the wife of Ahab (king of Israel not he of the Pequod) who seems rumoured to have put herself around and about more than somewhat.  However this blog eschews all such matters in favour of butterflies.  We have been visited recently by Imperial Jezabels (Delias harpalyce) and not by either Australian Painted Lady (Vanessa kershawi) nor the European Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui).

The Jezabels are rather flashy butterflies.  In these images they are feeding (I think) on nectar from our Dahlias.  In the top image note the presence of a bee just above the butterfly.

In support of my thought about feeding, in the next two images the proboscis is clearly visible and unfurled for action.  I am beginning to define a decent insect shot as one in which the proboscis is clearly visible!

Friday, 18 February 2011

At last the birdbath gets some use

On 30 December last we went for a prowl around the garden centres at Pialligo, to see what the traditional places were offering (as opposed to our usual blat to Bunnings - Australia's equivalent to Wal-mart).

Amongst the goods on offer were some very attractive glazed birdbaths and we decided to buy one.  Even if it didn't attract the birds it would look pretty!

I installed it so we could see it from the kitchen and erected a convenient perching twiglet nearby.

For 50 days (if my arithmetic is correct) not a damn bird used it.  Thank goodness it looked nice.  Then this afternoon (18 February 2011) I noticed some fluttering near it.  Yes! Yes! Yes!  some birds had finally decided to investigate it.  Over the next 10 minutes a pair of Superb Blue Wrens had a splash as did 2 White-browed Scrubwrens.  I fired off 16 photographs (using a burst process to fiddle with exposure) and got 1 good image:
The "scrubbie" isn't at its best in this image so I have cut a better shot (ie which shows the white-brow as well as the white patch on the wing) of that species from another image (in which the blue wren was vibrating its tail to a dark blue blur for some reason)!

Vertebrates of February

This post starts with bad news: a wascally wabbit!
We are beginning to get very excessive numbers of these.  An excessive number is 1, and more than 3 is very excessive.  They seem to be coming out of the Kunzea, thus avoiding my trap and I am not sure if they are dining on the improved oats I have on offer for them.  The small dog does her best, but is constrained by being on her lead (most of the time).

Although I despise the Shooters Party with a passion, I really think that landholders should be able to acquire a low powered gun for vermin control on their property with little bulldust.  Unfortunately the forces of political correctness will not allow that to happen.

On a happier note this Eastern Water Dragon was checking out some rocks near Whiskers Creek.
Even happier has been the appearance from time to time of a little dragon on the rocks beside the Creek crossing.  This must be an indication of a breeding event.  The chappie in the snappie is about 40cm long counting the tail .  The second shot explains the "water" part of the name.

The highlight in the bird department thus far in the month (6/2)  has been an eastern Yellow Robin appearing in our Pistachio tree, right outside my study.  While showing that to Frances a juvenile Horsfield's Bronze-Cuckoo also turned up!

On 8 February I was checking the NW corner of the property and became aware of much noise by a group of 8 Gang-gangs.  As I looked up at them I spotted a Tawny Frogmouth trying to camouflage itself in an axil.  I don't think that was what was stirring up the Gang-gangs.  As it was about 800m from the house I don't think it was one of the usual breeding pair.
The next day (9/2 or, if you're in the US, 2/9 ) the pair turned up back at the house, well snuggled together in what I term their favourite roost.  (I prevaricate there as last year it wasn't their favourite roost, unlike the year before.)

On my way back to the house (returning to 8/2) there was a further outbreak of noise.  This turned out to be a group of 4 immature Black-faced cuckoo-shrikes.  3 of them fitted briefly into one image.
The fourth one was about 5m further to the left.

On 17 February in the late afternoon I heard the piping call of a Grey Butcherbird close to the house.  This is not unusual but I was feeling in a photographic mood so set off for a snap.  This was achieved quite easily when a bird perched on a fence post.
It is obviously a young bird - note the brownish tinges.  There were at least three young birds foraging for caterpillars etc under some Acacia dealbata.  Unfortunately they were obviously independent so not a breeding record: that happens somewhere a bit further up our block.  I was interested to see a Pied Currawong swoop one of the smaller birds: they really are disgusting birds.

As it is only 16 February (OK so this is after the GBB on 17th, but it is a thematic blog, not a chronological one) as I write this, it is probably still a bit previous to say we have the overall highlight of the month.  It is however going to take a biggie to beat this:
This was taken at about 1715 on a rainy afternoon (thus the rather damp appearance of the wombat).  After taking the photo I went outside to get a bit closer  and it just ambled off: I didn't think a pic of its gluteal region would add greatly to the ambience of this tasteful blog.   The bovine skull was acquired by Frances on an ANPS walk somewhere North of Goulburn and is erected as a brief homage to Georgia O'Keefe.

Having let the marsupials establish a toehold on the lawn we find others exploit it.
The next images revert to a bird, but also feature the skull, and the kitchen lawn so are shown here rather that with the other avian insights.  Superb Blue Wrens have made Eastern Spinebills look easy to photograph.  So it was really nice to get one posing on the skull for long enough to get at least one half reasonable image.

The second image is simply a close-up extracted from the first, so that folk not familiar with these little beauties can appreciate them.  Although I don't use the skull for digging, for some reason the first image reminds me of the British Christmas Card icon of a Robin perching on a spade handle!