Sunday, 31 July 2011

Whither weather?

For most of this year - certainly since March 2011 - it has appeared to me that the weather forecasts for Canberra issued by the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) have been a bit of a dogs breakfast.  By that I mean they have been all over the place.  I place great weight on the phrase "appeared to me" since I have not tried to record events in any structured sort of way.

By way of example, here is a summary of my memory of the weather forecast issued prior to 31 July for the period from Sunday 31 July to about Friday 5 August.
  • There were to be no frosts in this period (ie all minimum temperatures would be above 0);
  • There would be showers on Sunday and then showers again from Wednesday through  Friday.
The forecast issued in the afternoon of 31 July (a more or less dry day after a -2 minimum) has
  • A mininmum of -3 for Monday and 0 for Tuesday.;
  • Isolated showers on Friday.
This seems to be quite a significant level of change.  To try to get a handle on whether this variation is significant I intend to record each day for the 7 days forecast:
  • the overnight minimum forecast for each day; and
  • an indicator of likely rainfall.
After 7 days there may be a pattern emerging.  I shall update this post with comments where something appears to be worth commenting on.

Of course, the BoM forecasts, while the most authoritative are only one of the forecasts issued.  I also look at the forecasts issued by The Weather Channel (TWC).  For the first 7 days of August there is not great correlation in the minimum temperatures (see comments on this graph):
 Another way of looking at this is to do a line graph of the two series:
The following chart shows the variability of forecast rainfall for 3 dates.  Notes about interpreting the graph follow the image.
Looking at the forecast for 8 August (red columns) the BoM started forecasting on 1 August, with no precipitation expected.  For the next two days the forecast for 8 August was 'chance of showers' which rose to 'rain' in the forecast of 4 August dropping back to 'chance of showers' from the forecast on the 5th.

In essence this shows the problem: no, or very little rain forecast then downpour then drop back to very little.

WRT to rainfall the agreement between the two forecasts is better in that they are identical except for 7 August where TWC indicate chance of showers.

Adding to the confusion is a disconnect between what is on the BoM website and what is announced on the ABC TV News.  For the first period of observations (1 August) the website said -1.8 was the minimum while the presenter on TV said -3.  I will stick with what is on the website, since if it is on the internet it must be true!

Friday, 29 July 2011

It ain't arf cold, Mum!

I have commented in a couple of recent posts about the lack of warmth overnight.  The past evening was the coldest yet.  I do not make this call based upon the official records but upon the fact that our water pipes froze lat night for the first time this year.  They also took 4 kettles of hot water to get them thawed.  (After 2 kettles on the pump inlet failed I went and gave the outlet at the tank a serve also!)

We have a thermometer on the verandah which reads 'warm' by about 5 degrees (due to the shelter and - presumably - some radation from the house) but gives a fair relative measure.  That was as low as I have seen it this year, and took a long while to show any increase in temperature,

Once the sun did rise things were generally quite attractive, so I went and took a few snaps of ice crystals on foliage.

The next day (30 July) started equally cold, and again our pipes were frozen.  Later in the day I spoke with a near neighbour who had recorded -10, rather than the wimpy -6.5 at the airport: he said it was only the second time in 10 years that his pipes had frozen.  The Creek had ice on it, as did the Joycea stalks beside it.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Arachnophobes: do NOT read on!

On the other hand, any comments from arachnophiles about the ID of what follows would be welcome.

After a bitterly cold (-6 - yes I know my Finnish and Canadian readers will regard that as 'possibly cool') night and morning the day turned out to be a beautiful Canberra Winter day getting up to about 15 degrees.  So I went for a walk around the block to see what was occurring.

The Melichrus urcelotaus (Urn Heath) is beginning to flower and the various other heaths around the place are getting buds.  Spring isn't here yet, but one might be able to see it in the distance.

I did find a rather sick looking Eucalyptus meliodora (Yellow Box) with a large bit of loose bark.  On tugging the loose bark a large (say 8cm across the legs) spider ran out.
A very attractive beast in an understated way.  As the light was fading it was difficult to get a really good shot but flash seemed to help a bit.  I have only a general book on spiders, and shall try to read it more closely this evening but thus far have no idea of the ID of the beast.  Thanks to my friend Denis for advising that it is a Huntsman.  On reading around the very interesting site he recommended I came across the entry for this species: the notes below the image suggest that trying to get below Family level is a matter for experts.

Possibly some of the features of the head will be helpful.
The two rows of 4 eyes, and general hairiness, impress me more than somewhat.  I can really imagine this being the anti-hero of a 1950s Horror movie!

(As an aside I am amused that Denis's reference site relates primarily to Queensland.  So does the best site for insects which also has some spider species including this one.  Apparently lots of people interested in arthropods live in Queensland because of the wealth of subject matter there.  As the current temperature here is -6.5 I reckon the scientists also like the climate better than that of the Monaro!)

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

ANPS on Aranda Hill

I was a bit late arriving today (bird duties for awhile in Aranda) and joined the group at morning tea.  Some guests were present, but hadn't signed on I believe!
Moving on up the hill a litle we found a Eucalypt in flower.  There was much debate about the species (most buds were in groups of 3, suggesting E. rubida, aka Candlebark, but some groups of 4 - 6 also found) and a sample has been taken away for further analysis.  The flowers were pretty
Nearby a flower of Amyena micheli (a mistletoe) was found.  Ths species is only supposed to flower in Summer!
A few flowering Acacias were found.  In order, the two images are A. dealbata and A. genistifolia

At a lower level the Melichrus urceolatus was coming into flower as opposed to the buds which have been evident for some time.
Somewhereabout this stage in the walk I found a very hairy caterpillar adhering to the back of a leave.  It wasn't moving much but looked a bit fresh to be officially designated as an ex-caterpillar!
The only fungus of note was this small Earthstar (possibly Geastrum sp).
I must include a bird photo: this Little Pied Cormorant was perched overlooking a dam in the grazing area.

Sea Eagle nest camera

There are a great number of raptor nest cameras around the world.  A couple of them are linked from the banner page of The Nature of Robertson

However I have just become aware of an Australian version.  This is focussed on the nest of a White-bellied Sea-eagle in Homebush aka Sydney Olympic Park.  It has the great advantage of having an infra-red camera so can show what is going on in the hours of darkness.

The text accompanying the images suggests that the chicks will hatch around 14 August.


Tuesday, 26 July 2011

More Canberra touring

Today I had to take our car in for a BIG service after 125,000km in about 4.5 years.  This meant it would be in the hands of Capital Subaru for several hours so I packed the trusty treadlie in the back and took myself off for some travels. 

After a tour de poo-pits in Fyshwick (nothing of great import there) and a stop for a service of my dental work in Civic I headed West towards the Cork Oak plantation.  Last year I blogged about the massive number of Fly Agaric I found there.  That was early June (ie 6 weeks earlier in the year) but I would have expected some trace of the fungi to be evident.  Not one as found.

However the cork has been harvested, giving the oaks an interesting appearance.
My estimate is that the height of the debarked area is about 1.5m and the depth of the cork about 2cm.  This produced a very strange effect.  The litter on the ground under the trees is a mixture of fallen leaves and acorns:
Surprisingly the place wasn't full of parrots or cockatoos gorging on this bounty.

After riding on a bit I decided to swing by the National Library to check my email.  As I emerged I noticed a line of sculpture opposite.
By accident I snapped the passing car but I thought it added a bit of context to the work so have retained it in the image.  All the works are related to indigenous society in one way or another.

Moving on past the High Court and the NGA one comes to Bowen Park where the swans were still causing chaos.  There were also a lot of magpies around and - Hallelujah - the first plum blossom.
Hopefully this means we continue to get close to Spring, although the City gets there 2 weeks before we do.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

A gut-buster, but good! Cadel Rules!!!!!

We have tried to avoid knowing the daily results of the Tour de France until we have seen the SBS highlights.  However this morning on our run I saw a neighbour's copy of the Canberra Times which rabbited about Cadel Evans being so close - but still a National hero.  Obviously he had lost.

Supporting this view was the absence, on Sunday, of headlines in the Sydney Morning Herald, New York Times and Washington Post screaming that Cadel had done the business.  ( A similar quietness in the New Zealand Herald might have indicated that no-one from Palmerston North had won.)  After seeing the race I found the linked Post article: about 12 stories down in their sports pages and the Herald article in a side bar (because it isn't - thank goodness - Rugby League).  The offending newspapers did remedy their lack of interest on Monday (although the NZ Herald had it somewhat buried, and their report was exactly the same as the SMH, so both took it straight from AP).

But we already had the time trial recorded and duly sat down at 5:30pm to, regretfully, watch Cadel lose again.

As the event unfolded Phil Liggert and Paul Sherwin (both contenders for deification) started making calls about how he couldn't be beaten.  How did they get it so wrong???

They didn't.  He won!!  HE WON!!!

We kept wainting for the announcement that something had gone wrong.  It didn't seem to be coming so I went and checked the web.   HE WON!!!

All I can assume is we got what we paid for: stealing a look at a paper totally misled me and thus us.  Or else the Canberra Times totally stuffed up (or we saw yesterday's edition)!  The other journals merely display their usual ignorance about important stuff!  I don't care: he must be Australian of the year, World Sportsman of the Century etc etc .


I am even thinking of going to see the Tour Down Under in Adelaide next year in the expectation that he will be there and I can kiss the pavement he has walked on. 

Following Denis Wilson's example here is a breakdown of the degrees of separation between myself and Cadel.
  1. In 1997 I was in Denmark and saw the European U23 MTB Championships.  This was won by Miguel Martinez of Spain.  I cheered him on.
  2. Martinez was a rival of Cadel's when they both started out.
 That is possibly a bit of a cheat as I didn't actually get a reply to my cheers (going up a 20m high 15% slope I wouldn't reply either). So here is another go: I have deleted the names as I can't check that using them is OK.
  1. A close friend of mine, now deceased, was a good friend ..
  2. of another Australian professional cyclist until a serious crash ended his career.  The APC
  3. would certainly have known Cadel well.
We're almost brothers!

Thursday, 21 July 2011

I'll never forget what's his name ...

.. but I can't remember voting for him.

I will begin with a digressive trip down memory lane.

Those of mature years may remember a great film from 1967 of the same title as this post.  I have two particular memories related to the film:
  1. In the opening scenes of the film itself the main man - played by Oliver Reed - marches through the streets of London with a large axe over his shoulder.  He then uses said axe to smash his desk, in an advertising company, to smithereens!  Much better than a simple note.
  2. The culmination of the film is the last ad he directs.  It is about a photographic film product (which comes in yellow and black packets) and concludes with people using this product to snap a nuclear holocaust.  Very powerful stuff.  The character is very annoyed when his film castigating advertising is awarded a "best ad of 19XX " gong! However when it appeared on Australian TV the advert was not shown: possibly the TV station involved didn't want to upset a company that makes film which it sells in yellow and black packets, but it did rather change the ending!
Back to business- or at least politics.  We were recently subjected to a State Election and I have previously reported how the National Party candidate was elected (much to my disgust).  However he was fairly elected as shown by this cut from the SEC website.
Click on the image to see the name circled in red.

I recently had cause to look up the member's email address.  The easiest way to do this is to find his page in the NSW Parliament website.  Here we go:
Click on this image to see the same name - also circled in red - and another, far less WASPie, circled in purple (as in prose).  Given that many elections have been overturned for totally trivial reasons I am intrigued that the person appears to have been elected under an informal name.  Inquiries will be made: as a first step I sent the following to the State Electoral Commission.
Dear folks
 In the last State election some of the voters of the Monaro elected one John Barilaro to represent them (and me). A person of this name was announced by yourselves, in the virtual tally room, as winning the election. However when I look at the NSW Parliament website I find the member for Monaro is referred to as (John) Giovanni Domenici Barilaro. How is it possible for a person to be elected under one name but to sit under another?

To quote an unsuccessful candidate for the Upper House, please explain.

Best regards
Martin Butterfield.
I have now received a response from the State Electoral Commission:

"A candidate’s name appears on the New South Wales Electoral Commission (NSWEC) virtual tally room as listed on the ballot paper. Therefore Mr Barilaro appears as John Barilaro as that is the name he chose to appear on the ballot paper for the election.

"A Member of Parliament’s name on the NSW Parliament website lists the full names of elected Members."
To quote Arte Johnson (from the closing credits of Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In) "Veeeerryyy Interestink.  But stupid".  Here is my response.
"Does that mean that if I chose to run for Parliament I could do so (as far as the ballot paper is concerned) under the name Ernesto Guevara?  Gautama Buddha? Rob de Castella?  Jane Fonda?

"It seems very strange that if I want to open a bank account or pick up a parcel from the Post Office I have to show proof that I am who I purport to be but if I am going for a position to formulate legislation I can delude the voters."
 This generated a very smart response:
No the name on the ballot paper has to appear as your surname and a given name or a derivative of your given names.
So I could be Martina (if I wished to appeal to tennis fans!  It is interesting that an "Honest John" is really a "Schietto Giovanni " and one may form an opinion as to the correctness of either approbation!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Tourism in the local city

Today I went to various spots in the ACT to see what was going on.  Several of these visits will have some interest to environmentally aware people (and perhaps also to the ACT Government and its public servants).

My first thought was that I might have been a tad previous in suggesting Winter was over.  When, at 9:30am, I parked at ANBG the external temperature was 1 degree!

However I had a very pleasant walk through the gardens.  A very promising sight was a Gymea Lily about to burst into bloom in the Sydney Gully.

Generally there were a lot of plants in, or close to, flower.  The Banksias on the track closest to CSIRO were doing a splendid job of attracting Honeyeaters and one close to the Eucalypt Lawn was hosting a red Wattlebird.
You can even see the red wattle!  I also noted these flowers of Hakea Petiolaris which I thought interesting.

My next call was to the Museum of Australia, expecting to visit a free exhibition there.  It turned out the exhibition wasn't free so they didn't get my patronage.  However, while getting myself outside a sausage roll (or two) I came across some interesting plaques (click on the images to read them).
 I was curious that the plaque didn't mention the disastrous nature of the explosion of the hospital.  However there is another plaque which sort of does
as well as the family's memorial to Katie on the far side of the Lake where she died.

While looking at this sad sight a Darter swam by.
I then toddled off towards the major tourist attraction in Canberra: the Fyshwick Sewage ponds!  Before getting there however I had to pass a Traffic Hazard! 
The unspecified hazard is the swans which walk sedately across this very busy road.  Pleasingly the motorists all slow down to let the birds across.  I saw groups of 3 pass, but only got one in the image.
On getting out to the poo pits I found that there was a fair range of waterfowl present but still in lower numbers than there has been prior to the rains of 2010.  The highlight was 21 Black-fronted Dotterels feeding on an extensive area of mud.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Black and not-so-Black Waterfoul

As I happened to be in the vicinity of Kelly's Swamp this morning I went in to see what was floating, or wading around.  Seeing was a tad difficult due to the amount of reeds that are invading the swamp.  However from one of the hides I spotted a rather unusual looking duck.
I have shown it to the left in this image so as to include a 'normal' Pacific Black Duck (PBD) for comparitive purposes.  I have asked the members of the COG chatline their opinions as to whether this is an albinistic PBD or a hybrid with some other mallard-oriented species.  My initial guess is that it is a hybrid based upon the normal colouring around the supercilium (aka eyebrow).

Advice from members of COG is that it is a partial albino.  Hybrids with mallards usually have orange feet and legs and curly tail feathers,  This bird doesn't have those attributes.  Also the mallard hybrids are usually much larger than the PBDs, and this one is similar in size to the standard duck.

The second photograph shows the bird co-existing peacefully with a Black Swan.
There was less peace when the pale duck was spotted by Purple Swamphens.  They chased it quite vigourously, despite ignoring the 'normal' PBDs.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

The beginning of the end ..

.. of Winter.  And not before time - I have found the last week particularly unpleasant and empathise with those folk who haven't had four weeks on the North Coast!

However a couple of days ago I noticed that about 25% of the Superb Fairy-wrens around our garden have got into full breeding plumage.  So far the males seem happy to tolerate each other's company.

Then this morning we noticed the first Silver Wattle (Acacia dealbata) blossom.
The weather forecasts are talking minimums greater than 0, and showers for the next few days, so one is hopeful that the days of -6 have departed for another year!

The first shower did start in late afternoon.  It was very light but with the sun peering through a break in the dark clouds a rainbow was indicated.  Here is the end of that:

Thursday, 14 July 2011

ANPS in Tallaganda 13 July

The ANPS Wednesday Walkers took themselves off to a Southern part of Tallaganda National Park.  We stopped twice on Wild Cattle Flat Rd to explore tracks running up into the bush.

Of course we were in the middle of Winter so matters were rather low-key both as regards birds and flowers.

At the first stop I thought we were going to be in the interesting situation of walking for about an hour and not recording a single bird.  Things did pick up on that a bit and I ended with 5 species recorded.  This included hearing a distant Superb Lyrebird calling briefly.

In terms of plants at this stop I was most impresed with the size of some of the Eucalyptus sieberii (Silvertop Ash)  and the burls around their bases.

The second stop kicked off well for birds with a Wedge-tailed Eagle soaring overhead and a mixed feeding flock of at least 50 birds of at least 5 species passing by as we ate lunch.  The birding highlight came at the highpoint of this walk when another Lyrebird gave a beautiful display song (surprisingly, with no mimicry).

There was very little photographic action (that appealed to me) with the angiosperms.  Only one plant Bossiaea foliosa had been bold enough to stick forth flowers
so I took some photos of the buds on a few other species.  The first is Monotoca scoparia.

Next up are a couple of fungi.  The first was arranged (by Ma Nature) very artistically on the end of a log.
I believe this to be Ryvardenia campyla.   The second fungal species was as weird as all get out, since it was a series of bright red stalks poking out of the ground (through a litter layer) over an area of about 50cm square.  I wasn't sure if it was a fungus (thanks Roger for the support for that view)
 but have since identified it as Clavaria miniata (Flame fungus).

I also took some images of various manifestations of moss.

I'll conclude with a nice example of the theory about moss growing on one side of a tree
In the Northern hemisphere the theory is that moss always grows on the Northern side of a trunk since this is more sheltered from the direct heat of the sun and tends to be a slightly more humid microclimate.  As would be expected, in this hemisphere it is the Southern side that is more fertile as shown here.  NOTE for the unwary navigator: this is only an approximation and one would need to be in desperate straits indeed to rely on this for recovery from a major spatial dislocation!