Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Raven, rodents and ratbags

This is going to be a very mixed post, as indicated by the Title.

Let us begin with the Raven topic.  In the area we live there are two possible species of Raven, the Australian Raven (Corvus coronoides) and the Little Raven (C. mellori).  Both are firm believers in 'basic-black' as the colour for feathers, and the size is not really much help for distinguishing them.  In most situations the key identification variable is the call:
  • Australian Raven has a rather deep, long drawn-out call, which I could render as Caaawwwwwwww;
  • Little Raven has a somewhat higher and much more rapid and clipped call - Kakk, Kakk, Kakk.
The number of birds in a flock is also often helpful.  If there are more than 3 or 4, I expect it to be Little Raven, but would generally expect this judgement to be confirmed by call.  It used to be the case that Little Ravens were rarely seen in Canberra urban area, but there have been a few recent sightings - possibly birds moving across the City.

A final feature is the presence of raised feathers on the throat when calling.  The Australian has these, known as hackles, while the Little doesn't.  Finally a photo-op!  I took this when a Raven perched on a tree in our garden and called this morning and it clearly shows the hackles.
The white eye suggests it is an adult bird.

The rodent issue is an annoying one.   We have had a spate of electrical appliances break on us recently (including a breadmaker - the Good Guys get a bouquet for replacing it willingly under warranty with no fuss).  Another failure was our dishwasher.  When the service person from Detlef's Electrical (bouquet for turning up on time etc) visited us he took the front off and there was a dead mouse in the switch ware.  Unfortunately in dying it also burnt out some of the links on the electronic motherboard.  That was going to cost at least $400 to replace and if there was any further damage , much more.  There is a new dishwasher in our future!

Other than the annoyance of some dumb mouse costing us a heap of bucks this did stir some memories.   While we lived in Dar es Salaam we had various rat stories (as i think does everyone who has ever lived in the Tropics).  The one this stirred to mind was coming home after a weekend away and being greeted by a strong stench os something dead.  I searched and searched but could find no corpse.  The smell then seemed to go away - presumably some desensitisation effect, since it was back in spades when I came in from my run the next morning.  By dint of sniffing in circles I decided it was coming from the direction of our fridge.  Rather than just looking underneath it as i had the previous night I pulled the appliance out and there, a foot off the ground, was a small rat arced between two contacts for the automatic defroster.  That one just killed itself, not the appliance!

Let us move on to ratbags.  There may be some commentary of this nature relating to my supplier of mobile phone services, but the jury is still out on that one.  It will merit a full post in its own right if that happens.  Right now I am on about senders of trash emails.  They don't unduly worry me as Google mail does a good job of sending them all off to a special folder from whence they can be trashed. Here is todays crop:

Some weeks back the thought occurred to me to keep a little track of what ended up in the 'trash emails inwards' (I am trying to avoid the term which also refers to inedible luncheon meat, since that might attract more of it).  Over 50 days I received 162 bits of junk, typically 3 or 4 per day.
  • On 4 days I received none and on 5 days received 8 or more.   
  • There didn't seem to be any pattern relating to day of the week. 
  • Very little of it was at all persuasive.  Either the English expression was so bad it was obviously bogus or the 'message' so blunt I was not interested to follow up.
  • I generally don't open the message in case that triggers something nasty but from the summary in the gmail window the three biggest approaches were a request to hide funds (45); lottery winnings in an event I hadn't entered (31); and telling me that my Gmail or Google accounts were to be closed (21).  

Isn't it a pity that people can waste their time and resources sending out stuff like this?  I suppose it is better than hacking Wikipedia for Sarah Palin or spruiking for a mining company, but even that is a tough call!

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Updates in May

This is my usual trick of listing those posts to which possibly interesting stuff has been added.  The animals of May page has been updated progressively. 

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Carbon footprint? What carbon footprint?

It being out of fire-ban season and the weeds having grown alarmingly during the wet of last year we had a big pile of stuff to ignite.
We compost most of the weeds which we collect (my guess is that over a year that heap is almost the same size as that pictured, but it gets recycled back into the garden beds).  However some things are just too invasive, long lived or woody to be composted.  The invasive component includes Serrated Tussock, Brambles, Sweet Briar, Hypericum (both the garden variety and St John's Wort) and Periwinkle.  The woody lot include prunings from our fruit trees and vines.  Bits of willow meet both criteria.

The weather for 2 June looked excellent: cool. cloudy and light winds, plus we had showers forecast for the previous day. So I rang the RFS on Tuesdayand let them know I planned a pile burn for today.  I also let the neighbours know things were likely to get a bit smoky.

One of the things that has interested me in previous years has been how the heap has declined.   So this year I decided to to take images every twenty minutes to show this.  So here we go with 4 images from time 0 to 60 minutes later.

I had set the camera up on a tripod so that the pix were all taken from the same spot.  Unfortunately it went to sleep between images and I didn't get the zoom exactly right  each time.  This shows the camera position (the next several images are courtesy of Frances).
In that image I have obviously failed "Road Worker 1" as I am not actually leaning on my shovel.  The tripod is visible in the centre of the image.  The next image shows I also failed Golf 1, since the putting style is woeful.

In one of our favourite Irish songs "Lanigans Ball" the chorus is along the lines of "We spent 6 months in Dublin, learning the steps for Lanigan's Ball."  Perhaps I should have repeated the course?
May I misquote Mae West in her question to a policeman sent to guard her?  In this case her question could have referred to a hosepipe!
The final image suggests that I was correct to warn the neighbours about smoke.  According to my memory of Native American communications technology (according to the Duke) this is probably telling several tribes to get to Little Big Horn!

Of course if my smoke signal was received by the Hekawi tribe it would be taken as on order for Matzah balls with a side of gefilte fish.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

ANPS does Black Mountain

I cannot recall why Black Mountain acquired its name.  It certainly had it before the process of  habitat, sorry hazard, reduction incinerations gained political imprimatur.  Despite the best efforts of the fire people there was some interesting stuff around today.

As usual I will begin with some snaps of angiosperms.  I'll begin with a nice set of burls on a Scribbly Gum (Eucalypus rossii).
Moving right along, to plants in flower rather than stress.  The first is notable, because I can generally recognise a Hakea!  This one is - according to the authorities - H. decurrens.
Next up is Coronidium oxylepis lanatum.  This wasn't the best specimen we saw today - and there were quite a few evident - but I had the camera out, pursuing a very uncooperative Hymenopterid, so snapped the flower
Towards the end of the loop we came across some Cryptandra amara.  One might say the androecium is certainly cryptic!
Seeing as we have moved into 'white' let us stay there with White Punk.  No, not John Lydon and certainly not Kurt Cobain.  Rather Laetiporus portentosus
Note the white spores beneath the fruiting body.  I was surprised how few fungi there were around on this walk: the only other I noticed were a few small bracket fungi.

To keep the bryophytologists happy here are some snaps of lichen.

I will conclude with an image of a spider.
It was suggested this was a Wolf Spider but it didn't look like the Wolf that bit me at Bulls Head many, many years ago.  Rather, a web search suggests this is a male Red-headed Mouse Spider Missulena occatoria.  Noting that it has rained recently one might conclude from the linked article that this poor lad was out looking for love.  Probably good for him that he hasn't found it!