Monday, 31 December 2012

2012 Annual Report on Family Matters

I decided that rather than send round an annual report just before Christmas I would wait until the year was finished and cover the whole year.  (Those of a questioning frame of mind might like to consider why we of  Christian origins have the solstice, Christmas and New Year so close together but not all on the same day.  Watch for a blog post on this topic!)

I should warn that this is most likely to be mainly a report on matters  Martin, but I am writing the post so that is fair dos.

The biggest event of this year is a forecast of a bigger event next year, in that we are expected to become grandparents about 21 January.  The current planning is that Ingrid and Alex will become the subjects of a daughter on that date.    Our efforts at parenting have worked out very well, so now we go for the grandparenting award!

Generally our lives move on in the same pleasant way as they have in the past.  In addition to our work around the block Frances does her guiding at the National Gallery, I do a lot of birding and we both do stuff with the native plant people. 

We took our overseas trip a little early this year, going to Sri Lanka.  
We chose that country as being somewhere with excellent birding that wasn’t too far away.  That trip has got its own blog which you may wish to peruse.  
A great trip and we thoroughly recommend the country as a destination.  A big thank you to Reedy Creek Kennels for looking after the third member of our family!

We still needed to escape (or at least get a respite from)  the cold of Winter in Canberra  so in July took a driving trip to South Australia, going to Eyre Peninsula.  

That foray is covered extensively in a set of posts  about travelling with Tammie.  Again an excellent trip and we thoroughly recommend the Coffin Bay area for those interested in nature.   (For those more interested in 1000 dB disco music, excessive substance abuse and such like, the area is not so good, but there are still good opportunities for fun.  Try the cheap version without a cage!)

Weather

For 2012 anything factual is about rainfall, and I will return to that in a wee while.  On a subjective note the year seemed distinctly cool: Summer was about 2 days in January and Winter seemed to run from mid-April to late October.    As I am now the owner of a nifty weather station I hope to be able to provide some further and better particulars about things like temperatures and wind next year.

Getting back to rain, we have scored 902 mm this year, our second highest since we moved here 6 years ago.  February (198mm) and March (220mm) were particularly soggy.   Despite BoM prophesying that we were not moving back into El Nino conditions it has been pretty dry here since early October with a few days of heavy rain interspersed with several weeks of no rain.  The sprinkler system is getting a workout after being on pause for about 10 months.

Birding

My life list got a tidy boost, to 1941 species, with our trip to Sri Lanka returning 190 species of which 104 were lifers.  I now rate the Sri Lankan Blue Magpie as bird of the trip.
In Australia 214 species were observed and, deleting a few species seen in both countries, overall I scored 390 species.   For Australia "Bird of the Year" goes to the Banded Lapwing.
While not as dramatically colourful as many of the birds in Sri Lanka for many years these were a bogey bird for me (and thought to be extinct in the ACT).  So finding up to 40 feeding in a friends brassica paddock was very exciting!

As usual I have compiled a couple of articles for the local birding group’s more scientific bulletin and one for the local newspaper.  In addition I have created an additional blog on which I write reports about the local birds, taking up the slack left by a reduction in size of our community newsletter.  It seems to be building up a bit of readership in the area with some folk from elsewhere also taking a look.

Plants and orchids

This is beginning to assume a major part of our lives, but I haven’t yet got to recording them with the same about of seriousness as I have birds.  Since I am developing a recording system for the ANPS Wednesday Walks that may all change by this time next year.  I find that my skills in plant – especially orchid – identification are increasing, but I am still a long way behind Frances.    It is unlikely I will catch her up as she is getting interested in drawing things and is thus reinforcing her knowledge through that process!

I’ve written a couple of articles for the Journal of the ANPS and they publish a few of my less bad photographs from time to time.  This one got on the front cover of the Journal:  Woo Hoooo!

Blogging and such like.

I continue to blather through various blogs about places we’ve been and things we’ve seen.  The posts I put up on the Wednesday Walks (both bird and plant) attract a good number of readers.

On the main blog this year has seen my ‘usual’ number of hits per day rise from about 28 to about 35 with occasional posts getting into triple digits. Over the year I received 13,000 hits which is rather pleasing.

Running etc 

At the start of the year I decided that I was going to run the Melbourne Marathon again  so as to get back on the ACT Veterans ‘all time best for age’ list when I turned 65.  I managed to finish in 4:06 
which was good enough for 10th place on the target list. 

As a result of preparing for the marathon I got a good bit fitter, reducing my weight by some 5kgs in the process.  As a result I did quite well in the ACT Veterans handicap series but mucked up my handicap by doing too well in the October event so couldn’t score enough points in the December event to win.  Overall I came third over the year.

Overall I ran 1378km this year and adjusting for the effort of walking a riding got a total Cooper distance of 1846 km (averaging 5.3km per day – this is the best I have managed since 2008).

Driving

We covered 27,795 kms this year and used 9.6l/100km (or 29.16 mpg for traditionalists).  Fuel prices continue to be rip offs for the fuel companies, only slightly mitigated by discounts through the Supermarkets: we paid on average 13,4 cents per km for fuel!  It will be interesting – but not pleasant - to see what happens when the Australian dollar drops in value.

Politics

There were no elections at State or Federal level affecting us this year.  The Federal scene continues to be toxic due to the Mad Monk leading the opposition and the State Government seems to be intent on alienating everyone (but as the State Opposition is not heard from – other than the utterances of former members appearing at  various corruption enquiries - they will probably get re‑elected).

A bright point was the local Government elections which resulted in a reduced development Council getting elected.  Thus far they seem to be trying to deliver what they promised.

NSW towns

In the middle of the year Frances was reading something about the town of Hill End and realised she hadn’t been there.  This led her to think of how many other towns in NSW remained to be graced by our presence, and whether we shouldn’t do something about reducing the number thereof!  Thus was born our new project of trying to visit every town in NSW. 

I decided to use, as a starting point, a list of towns with War Memorials from the NSW Register of War Memorials.  The Register has 2111 entries but many towns have several memorials so the list of ‘unique’ names is much shorter, coming in at  813.  (Of these, 95 are suburbs of Sydney which I have thus far discounted.)  By the end of the year we had visited 40 towns

through day trips from Canberra and a couple of more extended trips. 

We have added several new memorials to the Register, 
including a few cases in which the town wasn’t on the Register at all.  We are getting some overall views about the meaning of the word ‘town’ and enjoying looking at the buildings and finding out the history of areas.  It has also been a revelation how many memorials are due to airmen killed on training missions in Australia: this is an aspect of WWII of which I was previously unaware.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Trip to Tumut and Tumbarumba plus

This blog has been a little quiet recently, partly due to:
  • a storm just before Christmas causing some internet difficulties (this is coming via an Optus dongle as ADSL is still not available);and 
  • our subsequent town collecting trip to the Western Slopes area.
The latter trip had a specific objective of seeing how the small dog enjoyed a camping trip.  She'd never experienced this before and it would seem to optionate us somewhat for other trips.  In fact it was a great success and it written up in 2 posts on my 'Travels with a Tick Magnet' blog.

The first post covers Tumut and the campground on the banks of the mighty Goobarragandra River.  The second deals with Tumbarumba (and Macropeus cruentus); Batlow; Adelong and Tumblong.

Note that there is relatively little natural history in this, more travelogue and settlement history with a liberal dollop of War Memorials.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Sunday not too far away

I hope people will forgive the wordplay about a great movie.  We got a bit away from home today, but definitely not too far.  Before getting to that here are a couple of snaps from home.

As it was early in the morning a White-eared Honeyeater was looking a tad bedraggled after its bath,
 On the other side of the house some 'roos were reacting to the heat in the maner of the small dog.  Totally sacked out.
They probably felt safe because the neighbours were keeping an eye on things (without getting too carried away in the activity department).
 Anyhow, about noon we had decided to go for a trip, following up on a report in the Canberra Times about an interesting sounding Gallery near Braidwood.  I had rung the owner of the Millpond Farm, Anthony Davies to check it was open, and he had given easy to follow directions to the place.

We combined the outing with a visit to the Bungendore cultural centre.  Obviously a popular venue but the bulldozer has obviously been on other duties!
So we went through Braidwood and out to Jembaicumbene.  The final track on to the property was a tad average in quality but Anthony - the owner - explained that it had been inundated for a long while after the rain of early 2012.  Here is the mill building, with sculptures as part of the "Best in Show" exhibition of dog art out the front.  

Anthony soon appeared and enthusiastically and expertly explained to us about the history of the building, the property and the area.  (Anthony To say he has much energy is a major understatement.  The news page of the Mill website shows some of the information.

I didn't take photos inside the mill as that seemed a bit rude with the art all around, but Anthony took us over to the barn to look at their carriages.  They restore these as a business, many being imported from Pennsylvania.  The barn itself was a restoration with a major part of that work being straightening it up by putting a rope around it and pulling with a tractor!

The soda wagon here came from Glenelg (SA) jetty.  Frances was impressed to think that her Dad might well have bought a drink from it if it was still going in the 1930s!
This carriage seems to have been mainly rebuilt around a set of metal bits.  The wheels are made by the Amish in Pennsylvania and assembled on site.  The shafts are also made on site from imported hickory.
There are also a lot of vintage cars being restored.  This de Dion Bouton was obviously towards the end of that process.
A nest-full of swallows looked down on proceedings.
Overall, the place is an astonishing undertaking with an amazing array of interesting projects in hand.  I'm sure we will be going back to look at their later exhibitions, and wish them success.

As we headed back towards Braidwood there was obviously a lot of rain happening in the surrounding hills.
Once on the Kings Highway (the main road from Canberra to the Coast) we were astonished at the amount of traffic in both directions.  It seems strange that there was a heavy flow of ACT registered vehicles heading down at 3pm on a Sunday: presumably folk spending the next week there.  Some of the driving was very low grade covering the disassociated passive - too slow - and disassociated active - too fast - categories.  A few sightings of Mr Plod were made as expected.

We got rain as we went through Bungendore but there had been none at home.  Then the heavens opened and we got 15mm in about 30 minutes.  Another 16mm came through the evening.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

A spectacular set of storm clouds

While watching TV tonight I became aware of the sound of thunder.  On quickly checking the local weather radar I found that that there was a huge thunderstorm (considerable red in the radar image) just to the East of Bungendore.  I took a couple of quick photographs from the deck....

 .. and returned to watch the rest of the TV show.  (An excellent documentary about NASA - this episode covering the Gemini missions.)  Once that was done I walked up our drive to the end of Whiskers Creek Rd taking photos as I went.
 The moon got into the act.
 I recall a flight into Johannesburg where the pilot said that Summer thunderheads there go up to 60,000 feet (say 20km).  This one might be of that order.
 At my level the sunset had vanished behind the Taliesin Hills but it was still hitting the high clouds.  This is my favourite shot.
 A couple of detail shots for the Cloud Appreciation Society if they happen to swing by!

We got no rain at all, and there wasn't a severe thunderstorm warning on the BoM site!

Friday, 21 December 2012

Weather watching continues

After my previous post I concluded that the position in which I had placed the new station was slightly under-recording rain and was also rather sheltered from Northerly winds.  Thus a move was needed.

In deciding where to move it, I was a tad restricted (I thought) by the advertised range of the station: 50m.  However on contemplating what was involved I decided it should be quite easy to shift the whole device about 10m to the location of the old rain gauge and see if communication continued.  It did!

There has only been one rain shower thus far which seemed to record a little over 0.5mm (ie 3/7 of 5/8 of sod-all) in the old rain guage and 0.6mm in the new one.  Close enough I think.  [On 23 December we had a heavy thnderstorm in the afternoon which recorded a bit over 15mm in the old gauge and 15.3mm in the new one.  Confirms reliability.]

There has also been quite a bit more recording of Northerly wind (matching the basic weather technique of "looking out the window") so the shelter issue also seems to have been resolved.

I have played about with the data a little more to compare Indoor and Outdoor temperatures in a few ways and have a think about how to record/present wind.

The first graph plots indoor (blue line) and outdoor (maroon line) temperatures each hour.  The pattern is quite similar but the level of variation far less for indoors.
 The next graph shows the average temperature recorded for each hour.  The extra cooling outdoors overnight was as expected but the relatively high average temperatures indoors during the day were a surprise.  This suggests that my mental image of what has gone on doesn't allow enough for the days when the house stays warmer than outside manages.
A graph of maximum temperatures recorded for each hour over a 12 day period shows more like the expected pattern.
 WRT to wind the station generates two measurements: the wind speed at 9 minutes past the hour (because I originally connected it up at 9 minutes past some hour or another) and the maximum gust of wind in that hour.        I added the hourly readings for a day together to get a number resembling the windrun. Looking at 310 observations the windrun and maximum gust per day correlate quite well (R=0.81).  It would appear, on this small sample, either measure would serve as an indicative answer to the question "Was it windy recently?"

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Christmas in Canberra

Today 19 December I was in central Canberra acquiring a Christmas present or so.  The first thing I noticed was that there were heaps of folk around in various watering holes, often clutching small, Secret Santa type, objets (sic).

Outside the Canberra Centre there was a nice bit of public art (the young lady doesn't have severe hepatitis but merely a good serve of privacy inducing Photoshop obfuscation).
On going in to the place (at about 2pm) there were hordes of folk present.  I needed to find and do a transaction in the Apple Store.  It was hopping:
In terms of lively spots I would rate it right up there with B&H Photovideo on 9 Avenue in Hells Kitchen.  Some points to note from the image are that the punters in red shirts are not activists for a Thai Political party but the help for the store.  They all seemed to be busy helping other folk but before I became annoyed a voice said over my shoulder "You look as though you need help!".  This turned out to be a black shirted guy with a badge saying "Dugald' Manager".

In a very short fashion he produced just what I needed and produced - from his pocket - something very like an iPhone which handled my credit card and emailed me a receipt!  Now that is what a technology store should do!!

Several bouquets to Apple for at least getting the store right.  There will be updates on how the product goes.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

COG goes to the Australian Institute of Superb Parrots

30 members and guests came to the AIS and after a little trial and error all gathered at the intended place.  The day was warming up but by the time those with stamina adjourned to the coffee shop we had recorded a rather good 45 species of which 8 generated breeding records.  Thanks to Sandra for suggesting and leading this outing.

The signature bird of the AIS recently has been Superb Parrot and they were present in large and noisy numbers.  


 As a conservative estimate there were 30 birds present including several dependent young.

 The lower bird in the last image was begging loudly and we concluded that this meant the upper bird was an adult, since another juvenile would be a poor target for indolent behaviour.


One bird (not photographed) was observed to have a very short tail, suggesting it might have have come from a nest in the near vicinity.  While most of the birds seemed to be shifting from tree to tree in the car parks some appeared to fly off into Bruce Ridge.  It would seem very useful if the setters of 'controlled' burns avoided doing this in the Bruce Ridge area while there might be Superb Parrots in nest hollows.

The signature bird of the AIS used to be the Australian Hobby seen hawking moths in the evenings during Brumbies matches.  They haven't been seen so much since the Gregan-Larkham era, but one turned up today at high altitude joining 2 Nankeen Kestrels and a couple of Australian Ravens in harassing 2 overflying Wedge-tailed Eagles.  A Black-shouldered Kite remained on its perch oblivious to this display of aerial excellence.
The other more exciting bird seen was a Buff-banded Rail skulking along the wetlands against the bicycle path on the Northern end of our route. A full list of birds seen will be posted to the COG website in the near future.

Other breeding records were Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (ON), 
Noisy Miner (DY), Eurasian Coot (DY), Striated Pardalote (ON), Crested Pigeon (ON) 
Noisy Friarbird (NY) and Common Starling (CF).

The following images are of other birds which posed more or less conveniently for photographing by me.

 Noisy Miner
 Great Cormorant checking the coefficient of friction between  power lines and webbed feet. 
 Great Egret 
Great Egret detail (at full zoom but showing the gape going past the eye and the convoluted bends of the neck).
 Red-rumped Parrot
Having mentioned the Gregan-Larkham era it behooved me to visit Bay 13B adjacent to the GDE (Ghastly Dumb Extension) to check the current view.  Not bad, but would still benefit from George and Bernie strutting their stuff. 

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Insects past and present

This year seems to be building up into a year with many insects around, specifically the annoying little bush flies.  Care is taken to avoid dark clothes on our morning walks to minimise their presence.  Presumably this is because dung beetles have been slack on the job (all drowned last Autumn and CSIRO hasn't redistributed them?)

There are also beginning to be a few other, more interesting insects around.

This first one was present, but certainly past its use-by date.  It has probably met a parasitic wasp.
The next candidate is certainly a member of the Diptera (fly) Order and I believe a Tachinid (ie Family Tachinidae).  The subfamily is variously called Dexiinae (Brisbane Insects) or Proseninae in some other classifications (the taxonomic tree in ANIC appeared to be based on different concepts and I couldn't line them up at all).  It appears to be Senostoma sp, which according to my Field Guide are often found on flowers.
 These two are beetles (Coleoptera) possibly Phyllotocus sp.
Passing by our middle dam I noticed a pair of red Damselflies behaving in a strange way.  My first thought was that it was a re-enactment of a famous cartoon  .....
.... but on getting a better shot realised they were head to tail.
Reading a little more about this it turns out my first thought was correct!  Isn't Google wunnerful!

Their blue congener was just chilling on a lilypad.
A moth has finally paused long enough for a snap (which just meets my quality std of showing the proboscis).  I have managed to identify it as Glyphiterix chrysoplanetis.