Friday, 27 April 2012

In the matter of books

Most of this post will be about stuff I acquired at the Lifeline Bookfair on Friday.  Some of it will be nature related and other bits.not.

Before getting there however I will talk about "Green Philosophy" by Roger Scruton.  I became aware of this guy when he talked on Counterpoint on ABC Radio National.   He is a philosopher currently located at the American Enterprise Institute - which made me think of him as Paul Wolfowitz's new best friend forever.  Not so: while he wears the label conservative he doesn't like neocons as much as he doesn't like controlling statists from the Left.  His view is that local activity is what should drive policy and particularly preserving local beauty, which encourages conservation.  Seems good to me.  I have started reading the book, but it requires more attention than can be given to a library book so one is heading towards me via The Book Depository.

The Lifeline Book fair is a huge event in Canberra where people donate books to the organisation.  The books are sold ridiculously cheaply and the resulting funds used to fund the 'phone counselling service.  The difficulty is in not buying back the books one has donated through the year.  I got a good haul this year as did Frances, but I am not going to cover her selection.

Actually that isn't quite true, as she did find the first one, but I decided to buy it.  This is the biography of "P D Q Bach" by Peter Shiekele.  He is a true academic and a very funny guy.  We heard him speak to a large audience in St Barts on Park Avenue NYC during a Mozart series in 2006.  The book is hilarious as it pokes fun at music and academia.

The second choice is "Birdwatching with Bill Oddie" by Bill Oddie.  This is intended to be a book assisting birders - especially those in the UK - to develop their skills rather than a bundle of funny tales such as "Bill Oddie's Little Black Bird Book".  However still a very good read.

The major disappointment was one titled something like the "Psychoanalysis of Monty Python" (I seem to have stored it somewhere, and hope I can find it to re-donate to Lifeline).  It was promising as amusement since the editor had sought a contribution from Betty Windsor, but she had declined.  I should have read his letter on invitation more closely since he said that if she could fit the composition into her schedule he'd boot out an associate professor.  Unfortunately I think all the stuff was by Associate Professors and thus very average humour (but possibly good Jungian stuff)!

A couple of 1:25k topographic maps covering parts of the local area for $1 each were definitely good value.

A set of 7 books by Anne McAffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough are proving to be most entertaining.  (The only dud I have read by the former lady included her son as co-author.  It was tedious in the extreme.)  This set are full of innovative ideas - hybrid unicorns and telepathic cats included - and the stories keep moving right along.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

ANPS gets on the Trail, but not Corny

On 11 April the ANPS group took on the challenge of daring the top of the Corn Trail not to deposit liquid on us.  We won, with a great walk on a lovely day.  For those not familiar with the trail, we used the traditional start at the top of Clyde Mountain (between Braidwood and Nelligen) and did an out and back route.

This post starts with some habitat shots covering the whole walk and then gets into specifics of angiosperms followed by some shots of non-flowering plants.

This first image shows the general habitat at the start of the walk.
 After lunch the habitat changed a bit with many Xanthorrhoea australis being present.
 At least one of them seemed to be supporting a large termite mound.  Quite a few other ants were around but no-one, including this author, seemed keen to hang around bull-ant or jumping-ant nests to take snaps!
 A little further and we started to drop off the ridge with tree ferns and totally different ferns around.  While interesting, we'd done our distance and emulated Mr Whittington at this point.  (OK, we turned again: as far as I know we are not challenging Boris for his job, who'd want it?)
 Amongst the first flowers we saw were Epacris impressa.  They turned out to be everywhere and very charming they were.
 These seeds of Gahnia sp where quite attractive.
 There were lots of Banksias here and there.  This is B spinulosa.
 So is this, in an arty close-up
 B. paludosa was also common but in a slightly less lairy fashion.
 The other flowering heath today was this Monotoca scoparia.
 The only wattle in flower was Acacia terminalis.
 I always like to see Black-eyed Susans.  These are Tetratheca thymifolia.
 Pimelea linifolia
 Towards the end of the walk some Hybanthe sp were spotted flowering amongst the path-side vegetation.
 Let us now move away from the flowering plants into ferns and mosses.  This image is of some coiled fronds of Gleichenia sp.
 Club moss is an unusual on our walks but it was quite common on this trip.  This image - taken by Frances, mine were all useless - shows the fruiting bodies (?sporangia?).

Towards the end I spotted these interesting red fruiting bodies of a moss.  I failed to persuade my camera to take a closer image of the red bits.  See Denis's comment below for further information about these
 Some more moss!
 A bracket fungus.
 A big white fungus, growing in a clump against a very large eucalypt.
 A cluster of fungi a few centimetres up a eucalypt trunk.
An alert reader will have noted that there are no images of orchids in this post.  We saw no flowering orchids on the trip.  Roger spotted a large number of rosettes at one point and they pressed all the buttons for Chiloglottis trilabra leaves.  But why were there no flowers, nor remnants thereof?

Birds were also few and far between (10 species on the day) and insects (except the ants - see above) had largely given up the struggle against the decreasing temperature.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Fuschia movement and other winterisation

NB: all US and Brit readers should note Australia uses the Centigrade system where 0 degrees is freezing point not Fahrenheit in which freezing is +32. (The latter scale seemed quite sensible when I was growing up in the UK, but now seems totally daft.)

A few weeks back the ABC weather forecast suggested one night - about 4 days in the future would have a minimum of -4.  It was actually about +6 so I suspect someone in BoM got a sign wrong in their forecasting model.

However last night the forecast has been consistently for +1 in town which is equivalent to about-1 here.  So it was time to shift the fuschias into the shelter of the potting shed or into the house.  Here are a couple that came indoors.
Before the others went into the shed they were pruned, which apparently reduces stress on the plants.  It also provides some absolutely lovely vase flowers.

As there was a small amount of frost in the morning, I suspect the forecast was right on the money!

Other Winterising included lagging the pipes from our tank to the pump, in the hope that this will prevent them freezing when a -7 hits later in the year.  This was done with surprisingly little bad language.

Before moving on to the final item, which isn't really 'Winterising" but more like "recovering from non-Summer", here  is a small test.  How do you spell the name, which rhymes with "moose", of a large duck-like bird?  The answer is at the foot of the this post.

Our lawn has been rather soggy as a result of all the rain.  One patch seemed rather recalcitrant in staying wet, with water appearing to be draining out of a flower bed.  I was a tad curious about this until I found that one of our garden taps - a bit higher up the plot was not receiving any water.  Lower taps were still functioning so I calculated that soggy patch = burst pipe.  Our plumber couldn't come for a few days and I didn't want to excavate too far in advance in case I generated a flood which I couldn't control.

By the day before the plumber was due hardly any of the outdoor taps were working so I guessed a flood was unlikely and dug into the soggy patch.  Not a pipe in sight.  Que????

Down to the pump house (lower than any other tap) and run some water.  All good.  Then I suddenly realised that was not only good, but rather quiet: the pump hadn't cut in.  Drat - this could be expensive.    As I walked back to the house I suddenly remembered the marking on one of the circuit breakers in our main power board.  Oh faeces, and procreative verbs applied to a hot place.  One of the breakers - serving the pump had tripped.  Click it up and go to the highest tap: a sound of rushing air as the pipe refilled and then water, water everywhere.

One very embarrassed phone call to the plumber, who fortunately could fill his schedule with other work so didn't even charge us a call-out fee.

The answer to the quiz is M_A_R_T_I_N but you can still pronounce it "goose" if you wish.

Monday, 9 April 2012

From Easter (sic) Rosella to Easter(n) sky

Reasonably early on the morning of Easter Sunday a squeak from Frances' study alerted me to the presence of 2 Eastern Rosellas on our main lawn.  Of course, as I opened the door to snap them thy flew off.  One was kind enough to pause briefly on a branch.

 I reckon that beats an Easter Bunny hands down, even though it is a tad deficient in the chocolate egg department.

The upcoming flower images, from a snuffle round the block on the Sunday afternoon, are somewhat a repeat of other recent images, some from other places,  but are put here to record recent events on the block.  First is an archetypal Pultenaea procumbens.
 Then a Bossaea buxifolia
 I found 3 more colonies of Diplodium truncatum (Little Dumpies).  This colony had at least 25 flowers in it, and many rosettes.
 A somewhat fresher specimen from another colony.
 I had thought that our Eriochilus cuculatus (Parson's bands) had all finished flowering.  Not so: both pink and white forms available.

 As dusk fell I looked out the window to the East and saw this rather nice cloud effect. 
 While taking that image I spotted an even better show to the West so walked about 100m to take this snap in that direction.  By the time I turned back for home (perhaps 3 minutes) all colour had vanished from the Easter(n) sky.
I did think of the English saying 'Red sky at night, shepherd's delight.  Red sky in morning, shepherds warning."  This can be interpreted as follows
  1. English weather often comes from the West and thus if the clouds are lit by the setting sun rain will come over night;
  2. In the UK it rarely rains for more than 12 hours without a break so the next day will be fine;
  3. If the clouds are lit by the rising sun the rain will fall through the day.
Of course, this overlooks the fact that in the UK, for lambing season at least, and Palestine around late December, the shepherd is likely to be up for a fair bit of the night anyway watching his flocks so won't be too delighted to get wet as well as tired.  I also suspect it doesn't apply in Ireland, where the rumour is that it rains for 15 minutes every quarter of an hour!

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Never truly lost in Kowen Forest

The title of this post references the title of Paddy Pallins autobiography (as well as being a factual description of a walk).  It also links to a previous visit  - by coincidence at almost exactly the same time of year - to the area in which the members of ANPS became a little innovative in their navigation.

The earlier post includes a description of the landform: a very steep escarpment with many creeks running down it. A busy road runs along the bottom of the escarpment.  The top of the escarpment is pine plantation rather than eucalypt. It is probably not possible to get truly lost since:
  • going down will get you to the road eventually; or 
  • going up will get to the fire-trail along the edge of the pines. 
It is possible to get a tad misplaced if one doesn't pay attention however and this happened to  us this afternoon.  I will claim this was because I was paying too much attention to nature.  Combined with the steepness of the tracks this meant I misjudged how far we had travelled so where I thought we were on the map didn't fit reality.
The plan was to start at point 1 (did that) and pass on the tracks A, B (ibid), C and D.  The issue was that when we were at point 2, I thought we were at point 3. So we tried a bush bash downwards but that was getting unpleasantly steep by point 4 so had to retreat which was done successfully.  

On the previous visit my post noted that there were quite a few flowers around.  The same applies from this visit.  They were however a somewhat different set.  Before getting to that, here is the habitat in the eucalypt component.
 Once away from the road there were few weeds. although this native species (Pomaderris of some form) appears to be staging a take-over bid for the universe.
I have included photographs of Brachyscome rigidula a few times.  This lot earned a place by being a pretty clump, rather than a straggly individual plant.
I usually find that Calotis sp is very like Brachyscome.  However Calotis lappulacea is yellow!  Note the burrs in the background: the genus vernacular name is Yellow Burr Daisy.
 Styphelia triflora is always nice to see although in this case hard to photograph for some reason.
 We now move on to the Bean family which everyone insists on calling 'peas'.  They are usually thought of as Spring flowering, but we found 3 species with some blossom yesterday.  This first one is Bossiaea buxifolia.
 Then Dillwynia sieberi (note spike gorse-like leaves).
 This is probably Pultenaea microphylla.  It is apparently common on the Kowen escarpment but a species which readily jumps to my mind!
 I did wonder how, in this season, we were near pines without any Amanita muscaria.  Then we turned into a shadier area and they were everywhere.  I have included this image as this one was about 25cm across the cap, which would been spectacular in full flower.
 One small skink.  The red tail really stood out, but I suspect just means it is regrowing after a predator incident!
 There were few invertebrates around, but this moth displayed its pinnate antennae rather nicely.

Saturday, 7 April 2012


On Good Friday the full moon was rising just on dusk.  The condition of the moon was hardly surprising since the Full Moon defines the date of Easter.  However its time of rising was a matter of serendipity.  Quite a few photos were taken!

This is the first time I have managed to get images showing the detail of the moon: usually it is just a shiny white disc.  Presumably this is something to do with the amount of contrast with ambient light and the elevation of the moon.  Note that in the first 4 images much of the difference in light in the sky is an artefact of me playing around with exposure settings!

 A more traditional (by my standards) snap, taken about an hour after the others.  I like the silhouette effect.
The next night (Saturday 7 April) the moon was still full and a couple of shots with silhouetted trees were captured.