Saturday, 31 March 2012

A walk up Palerang Rd

We seem to be getting into a pattern of taking a longer walk mit hund on Saturday afternoons.  Today we went to Palerang Rd in Tallaganda State Forest wheer we hoped to find orchids and colourful fungi.  This is quite close to home and apart from discovering that
  • one of the bends on the way is extremely corrugated; and
  • I can still apply opposite lock quickly when needed
the drive through Hoskinstown and Rossi was enjoyable.

We began by exploring a creekside area where we have previously found Diplodium sp and Spiranthes sp.  Alas the cupboard was bare of orchids.  However these Dianella tasmanica fruit were quite appealing.
Further up the road - and up was certainly the appropriate description - we noticed a large clump of Clematis, justifying its vernacular name of Old-man's Beard.
The overall habitat was very pleasant to walk though on a beautiful Autumn afternoon.
While I regret that it is State Forest and thus these trees are likely to be subject to the tender ministrations of businesses servicing the insatiable Japanese need for toilet paper and the Chinese need for cardboard (to ship stuff back to Australia) at least we can walk here with the small dog.  So that is a temporary positive.

The only orchid we saw on the walk was a Dipodium roseum (Hyacinth orchid) which was well past its use-by date.  At about 1100m it was also above the described elevation.

Once we got to a level bit of terrain (actually on Bald Hill Fire Trail) we came across a flowering epacrid.  This is Monotoca scoparia.

A bigger flower was that of Xerochrysum viscosum.  These are also well used but would have been spectacular a few weeks ago.
Birds were few and far between but on the way back down Frances used her new binoculars to good advantage and picked up two male Flame Robins.  Always a beautiful sight.  Less attractive but still good to see at this stage of the season was a Fan-tailed Cuckoo perched quietly nearby. Decent photographs were not available.

On getting home I had a cleansing glass of red wine.  On getting up from this Frances noticed that I had a large red patch on the back of my grey shirt, which nicely matched the red patch on the beige cover of the chair in which I had been ensconced.  The usual suspect was located on my strides and transferred briefly  to our deck.
It may appear flat in that image, but it soon became a lot flatter!

There were quite a few fungi around, but not the profusion evident on our place.  As they were all variations on the theme of light brown agarics or boletes no images were taken. 

So basically a very pleasant quiet walk, which we will do again.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Negative on the ladybird (plus a couple of other things)

Most of the ladybirds I see around here are yellow to red, with a variable number of black spots on them.  It was thus interesting to find one today with the opposite situation: black with orange spots.
 It appears to match the images of Parapriasus australasiae shown on Brisbane insects.

In an earlier post I showed a strange looking larval insect which Denis Wilson identified as a ladybird larva.  A very similar mini-beast was also present this morning and in this case I will take a punt that it is the offspring of the adult lower down the twig..
Here is a closeup of the larva.
The text on Brisbane insects notes that these ladybirds predate scale insects. Thus they are a Good Thing. If only they predated Cherry Slugs (sawfly larvae)!

I haven't said much about our frogmouths recently.  They are back, and I am finding them more frequently this year than in the past.  Today I didn't find them initially but went looking for some noisy Scarlet Robins.  It emerged the Robins were harassing the Froggies in a previously unknown roost (about 15m from one of their current favourites)
An interesting point was that later in the day the female had moved up a bit so was level with, but still on a different branch to, the male.  It is quite unusual for this pair to shift branches during a day.  By 31 March I had found them on 80% of days in that month: in contrast in March last year I could only find them on 50% of days.  I suspect that this reflects them fairly frequently using a roost I only discovered later in 2011.

A bit later we were shifting some stuff around and found this unusual looking spider in the middle of a pile.
Not only was it an unusual shape (for an arachnid) but the white palps were extremely obvious when seen in the flesh(?).  I will say it is a jumping spider (family Salticidae) but at this stage go no further.


Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Wanna Wanna Wanna Walk ... Now!

The first "Wanna" in the title was inspired by a young child in Terry Pratchetts  tome "The Wee Free Men".  The child's dialogue is limited to phrases such as " Wanna sweetie.  Wanna Sweetie now!".   Perhaps the phrase "young child" could be replaced by "spoilt brat"?

So one could express the title of this post as " I wish to go for a walk in Wanna Wanna Nature Reserve, even though the ANPS outing has been called due to rain". 

Whatever I really wanted to go to see if I could find some orchids,  This desire was strengthened when our friend Jean called in to Stony Creek NR (very close to Wanna Wanna) and found several colonies of Diplodium truncatum.  So I put on some wet weather kit and toddled off,

This is a Google Earth image of the Reserve, with my approximate route marked in yellow.  North is pretty much at the top of the image.  The Reserve appears to be about 750m E-W and 400m N-S (amounting to about 30Ha.
This first image shows the general habitat through the Reserve.  In a few places, and more generally along the Northern boundary, there are Joycea pallida tussocks with other species growing through them, but this is fairly typical of most of the Reserve
The good stuff started almost as soon as I was over the gate and into the access path.  Lots of Eriochilus cuculatus - Parson's Bands.  Unfortunately this was the only orchid species I was able to find today: a challenge for the ANPS when they get there.

At about the same time I was aware of the call of a Scarlet Robin plus another buzzy call.  It then turned out that the buzzy call was a response by another male Scarlet Robin to the typical call.  In fact there were 3 male Robins - presumably undertaking some sort of territorial dispute over Winter quarters.

Moving through the Reserve I noticed a few plants in flower.  Many were closed over, presumably as an outcome of the rain but quite a few Brachysome rigidula  were on display.
 In many places fallen eucalypt blossom was on the ground .  These were still attached but the tree itself was 'unwell' as another larger one had fallen on it.
 There were a lot of fungi throughout the reserve.  Many were the Russula rosea which has been springing up all over the place and others were a common brown agaric with yellow gills which I cannot identify,  (Having heard a mycologist speaking on the radio since I got home I am no longer unhappy about my poor fungal ID skills.  He said that guesstimates of the total number of fungal species range from 1.5 million to 5 million, and only some 92,000 (2 - 6%) have been formally described.)

Here are some of the more interesting ones.  The first two are possibly Clavaria sp.

 Possibly Podoscypha petalodes.
 Possibly Russula lenkunya.
 With the amount of rain we have this month (218mm and counting) it is not surprising there was a whole lotta fruiting going on in the moss and lichen department.
 I was beginning to wonder if the insects had all voted with their wings.  Then several mosquito-like animals began trying to feed on me.  Life got a bit better when I spotted this Lycid beetle.
 Then a very attractive moth posed nicely, but has thus far resisted my efforts to identify it!  I thank Denis for his comment naming it as a 'Forester moth' and I really can't get any further that it seeming to be in the family ZYGAENIDAE subfamily tribe: Artonini.  That tribe has 9 genera and I can't work things out that far, let alone to species.

 Of course, while in the Reserve I visited the mullock heap and obtained these two photos of mineralised rocks.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Passing clouds

Tonight the small dog needed to go out on the lawn to clear off the wabbits.  After she had done so I glanced up and noticed the wispy clouds.  I normally notice the big lumpy cumulo-nimbus in front of thunderstorms but these seemed really pretty.

 This last shot was particularly appealing as Frances had noticed that one of Sidney Nolan's 'Ned Kelly' series features brown clouds.  Here they are above the hills of Taliesin!
As Joy has commented the Cloud Appreciation Society has many interesting and beautiful pictures of clouds.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Walks near Lake George

In my post about a drive to Sydney I commented about the apparent increase in water in Lake George.  Today we walked along Lake road (North of Bungendore) to see the water and its wildlife.

Given the lake was effectively dry a couple of years ago the amount of water today was quite striking.  It is still a lot lower than it was in the late 1980s but a lot fuller than when I last went to this area.  The extra water became apparent when passing the dam on Lake Road: this was a great birding spot in the 1990s but has been as dry as a dead dingo for some time.  Here is the situation in March 2012.
Not many birds (although a flock of Double-barred Finches flew in front of the car on the drive out) but a lot of water.

One of the interesting aspects of the water in the lake was the reflections of the windmills.  Although quite sensible according to the laws of physics, it seemed bizarre that the towers could be reflected in the water some kilometres away.  Here are a couple of snaps.

The water was still a long way (probably at least 1km)  from the road, and as we were basically there for a walk we didn't have a telescope, so couldn't identify most of the birds in or near the Lake.  There were a lot of White-faced Herons (18 in one flock) and masked lapwings (40 in one flock and at least 20 a bit further along).  However the only birds I photographed were these Red-browed Finches.  My count is 11 birds in this image (click to enlarge) - but there were at least 40 in the flock, picking up seed from the roadside while flying up into the hawthorns when disturbed by a small dog.
Insects were also present.  This bug was walking around on the road.  Our friend Roger Farrow has suggested it may be a "a nymph of the harlequin bug Dindymus versicolor".
This butterfly - probably a Jezabel - was on an Acacia...
rather than joining many other Lepidopterids on a flowering Eucalyptus viminalis.
I intend to revisit the area with my telescope to sort out the water birds a bit better, but believe we recorded about 25 species today.

Yes, "been there, done that" on the Monday morning.  It was rather hazy but the reflections of the trubines were still visible.
Birding started with a more careful look at the big dam (or as suggested later, the large wetland).  This showed that quite a few species of waterbirds are using the resource.  The most surprising was a Musk Duck
while the cutest was a young - not quite yet in adult plumage - Australasian Grebe.
Having cleared this with the landholder I walked out on the lake bed.  The most astonishing aspect of this was the cloud of insects that were stirred up.  They seemed to look like mosquitoes
but fortunately didn't bite.  Going out from the shore with my telescope let me get a bit of a look at the nearer ducks etc on the Lake, and they seemed to be (as expected) Grey Teal and Pacific Black Duck.  A pair of Australian Shelduck seemed to be sentinels and fllew away honking (thus causing everyone else to panic) and a few Chestnut teal were also mixed in.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Jackass and various parts of a small dog

This afternoon a Laughing Kookaburra (also known, at least in the past, as a Laughing Jackass) perched in one of the Yellow Box trees on the fringes of our lawn.  I suspect it was looking for grasshoppers or frogs.
A little later on the small dog came into our garage and became extremely interested in what was going on behind a bunch of paintings that are stacked there.  In watching her I spotted an old beer bottle lying on the floor, which explained the rattle which woke me at 5am this morning.  The small dog completely ignored the enticing scent of some garlic bulbs nearby but stuck her nose in and her tail (and a few other bits) out.  There is a rodent under there somewhere!!
"I can't get at it from that side, so lets try the other side of the wardrobe!"
"Nope, I have been looking behind there for 30 minutes and not found anything to play with, so I will go and find himself.  Perhaps there will be a Wascally Wabbit out on the lawn - or at least I can display my 'better' side to the camera."
The next night she was up in the lounge when Wabbits were available.  First they were given a steely gaze.
When that didn't deter them, some jumping and yelping did the job.

A Day trip to Sydney

We are taking a birding trip soon and Frances had been thinking about getting a new pair of binoculars so that she can see the birds properly!  Unfortunately there is nowhere in Canberra to buy good quality binoculars and it is more or less essential to put one's hands (and eyes) on the product before purchasing.  So a trip to Bintel Sydney seemed to be indicated.

Although quite a long way (about 290km in each direction) it is either quiet country road or 4-lane highway until very close to our destination.  Thus a day trip seems quite feasible.

I checked the RTA site and the track seemed clear(ish)  of road works  - see below- and flooding.  The one possible bit of flooding was a reference to closure of the Currawang Road Bridge near Goulburn.  I didn't know where that was so rang the Council, where the lady I spoke to didn't know either.  She thought the road I was proposing to use (through Tarago) was clear, but suggested I ring the Tarago pub to check!  (I then found Currawang Road on Google and it was parallel to our route.)

The drive to the Hume Highway was fine, with the most interesting sight being a huge sheet of water in Lake George which was officially dry a year or so back.  Watch this blog for more on that after the weekend.   A brief comfort stop was made at a rest stop.
The route from Canberra to Sydney is named the Remembrance Drive and all the rest areas along the way are named after Australian winners of the Victoria Cross.  A sign gives some details about the events leading to that award.
The Highway traffic was quite light: European visitors have been known to marvel at the very long multilane roads with (by their standards) no traffic.  (Frances took the most of the following photos.  They aren't magnificent as she took them through the windscreen which was smeary due to the weather, but I thought they illustrate the required points.)
 The traffic built up of course as we got closer to Sydney.  This shot was taken in the long tunnel under the SW suburbs.  I believe the truck in the outside lane was there to ensure it cleared the roof.
Getting right into the CBD I thought these towers on the Grace Bros building (Paramatta Rd at City Rd) were fascinating.
 On getting to Bintel I thought this view of part of the ANZAC bridge with an old wharf in the foreground was an interesing shot.  Note the dreary grey sky - not at all a nice Sydney day.
Having the done the business with the extremely good folk at Bintel we headed off to visit another emporium (Peters) in Kensington.  We have done business with them on line and as we were more or less in the area thought we'd go and visit.   The physical experience was not as good as the on-line one, primarily because some of the stuff they displayed prominently was not to our taste.  So off back towards the Highway.

En route we passed this interesting building, which turned out to be a Greek Orthodox Church of St Spyridon.
Getting back to the tunnel - after an interesting tour of SE Sydney - we found it to be chock-a-block with traffic.  Not good for claustrophobes.  It emerged that the problem was a ute broken down about halfway through, converting 2 lanes to one.  Getting past that, and out in the air again, the traffic on the highway was very slow.  Eventually the reason for this appeared: it was the famous 'gawp effect!  Two notable manifestations of this in the past have been:
  • the Autostrada del Sole in Italy where a minor prang on the North-bound lane caused a 16km tailback on the South-bound lanes; and 
  • the road out of Queanbeyan towards Canberra airport where a 5km traffic jam was due to folk looking at a turbanned Sikh driving a ride-on mower.
In this case some vehicle inspectors were giving a truck a thorough going-over and everyone was slowing down to have a look: the result was a 5km tailback! 

Back up to cruising speed and then we saw a police car parked in the central reservation.  There was a line of text on his roof sign which was something about hazard and then I realised that a truck's tyre had exploded leaving big chunks of rubber all over the road.  About 5km further down the road the RTA hazard warning signs told us about this!  Nice try cop, no cigar RTA!

As we got to Marulan I was intrigued to find one lane blocked off for road 'works'.  This was supposed to have been finished a week ago (after causing chaos with a 14km tailback) and as shown below there was no obvious evidence of "work" being undertaken.  Not even a fluoro-jacketed dude leaning on a shovel.  Then I noticed patches of different textured concrete - highlighted in the image.  They must be just patching incipient potholes and then need a lot of dry weather - not available recently - to cure the new stuff.
The final shot is on the road towards Lake George showing a few of the magnificent wind farm along there.
We rather like these as sculptural forms as well as supporting the renewable energy push (as opposed to Halliburtonesque destruction for oil and gas).