Saturday, 26 October 2013

Plenty of Blitzen' but no Donder

Also MIA were Dasher, Dancer, Comet, Cupid, Prancer and Vixen.

Those who know the rituals of COG will expect that the annual Blitz (apparently the German word may have a terminal 'en' in which case it is neuter - tough luck, reindeer - or not, in which case it is masculine) is undertaken in the last weekend of October.  (The linguisticc stuff there came from the internet.  More reliable information came from a German friend who advised that "blitz" is a noun for the lightning flash wile "blitzen" is a verb meaning to flash - like lightning not the trench-coat brigade.) Organising this is done by our friend Barbara Allen, and the success of the exercise is a tribute to her. The aims are to

  • cover as many of the 5' grid cells of the COG Area of Interest within the ACT as possible; and
  • focus on breeding activity.
For reasons that escape me now I have taken to reporting on the Kowen Forest area to the East of Queanbeyan (but still in the ACT.  This year I was aiming to do 6 sites, but ended up covering 7 as shown below.  The wobbly white line is the Kings Highway and yellow lines are the grid cell boundaries.

I left home just after 6 and was serenaded by the pings of the low-temperature warning as the temperature dropped to 2 degrees.  It did mean the mist was rising scenically when I got to the first site at Blue Tiles Picnic Area.
 The first bird I saw was Eopsaltria australis cauta (the Eastern Shy Yellow Robin - and if anyone wants to argue about the Latin I refer them to page 183 of the useful little book by Fraser and Gray!
Looking away from the Molonglo at this point and the habitat is a tad sparse - which is perhaps over-emphasised in this image.
 At the next site, quite close to Blue Tiles the main part of the site is a promontory poking across the cell boundary where the Molonglo does a sharp turn.  Close to the river the vegetation is quite dense combining Kunzea ericoides and Lomandra longifolia in the ground layer
 There were also some Stellaria pungens in the clearer areas ...
 .. and a little blossom on Eucalyptus meliodora. This didn't seem to have attracted many nectivorous birds.
The river had a good flow which was celebrated by some Maned Gooses (also known as Australian Wood Ducks) but not platypussies.
A Common Bronzewing decided to debate right of way with me, but in the end photosensitivty won over bolshiness and it flew off before I could get a good image.
At the third site, on a creek flowing into the Molonglo, a Pacific Black Duck was, on reflection, doing a shag imitation.
Leaving this part of the forest -and having no grief with the padlock codes for the first time in 4 visits - I rumbled down the Highway to Millpost road and headed across a paddock full of sheep.  Out of respect for the sheep I drove slowly and thus noticed the White-browed Woodswallows ...
 .. and Masked Woodswallows feeding on the ground.  This caused the rapid creation of a 7th site!
 Some (much more common) Dusky Woodswallows were sitting looking grumpy on a wore fence.
 As an added bonus a male Scarlet Robin and
 .. a somewhat more scarlet than usual female perched within photo range.
 Getting into site 4 a bonus Jacky Winter (another Australo-Papuan Robin) was seen hunting from some Acacias.
 2 Laughing Kookaburras peered down at me.
 Or possibly they were looking at the pretty Coronidium scorpiodes?
This is pretty much an overview of site 4,  The open area is a geophysics monitoring site into which I don't go, but walking round the outside gives a good idea of the birds in there.
 Back to the car and out to the Highway, having a further look at the Woodswallows on the way.  A short drive followed back to the parking area for the Sparrow Hill Mountain Bike area.
I have never fully followed the genesis of this area but somehow the Canberra Off-road cyclists club have struck a deal with the ACT Government to set up a network of tracks through the pine forest.  It is a brilliant idea, and very well executed.

When the new alignment of the Kings Highway was put in they managed to get a couple of underpasses put in and they now have nice little ramps etc so one doesn't need to get off the bike to go through.
I dread to think how much they cost if valued using the ACT Government pricing model!  I'm just glad I don't pay tax in the ACT!

A main reason for going here was to visit the 5th site.  This used to be a grassy glade in the pine forest which often had a few interesting species of birds.  No more: it has been completely cleared and ripped for replanting.  
However it is a great shame that it has been replanted with pines.  If I was running the defence establishment at the bottom of the hill I would be enquiring why some other, less combustible, species wasn't used.  Perhaps because soldier beetles use it human soldiers think its OK?
I then moved into site 6 which is a nice Travelling Stock Reserve (although following the realignment of the Highway it now has no link to the roads) of the Kowen Pound.  Here I scored the first reptile of the day: a Shingleback.
Bulbine lilies (Bulbine bulbosa) were in profusion which is much better that what is to come when the rampant St John's Wort struts its stuff a little later.
A dam on the edge of the TSR included an Australasian Grebe, which unlike mst other birds swam across to have its portrait taken,
Overall in the formal blitz I wrote down 43 species of birds which I rate as pretty reasonable given that much of the area is Pinus radiata forest.

On the way home I came across this Bearded Dragon (Pogona barbata) absorbing a few rays on Widgiewa Rd.
 Getting to Whiskers Creek Rd another dragon scampered up a tree.  The difference in colour between the two specimens ifs quite noticeable and is I am sure due to their ability to shuffle melanin around to provide camouflage.
A good day, which I hope will enhance the COG data set.


Denis Wilson said...

I enjoyed your post and photos. I am jealous of your Shinglebacks.
Scarlet Robin photo is excellent.
I fear your spelling has slipped since I sent you an item on Spelling Reform a few days ago.

Flabmeister said...

Thanks Denis.

I am unsure if the possums my linguistic efforts are meant to stir will notice my endeavours. Or realise that they are being stirred!

I didn't notice the Shingleback until I almost stood on it. I'm glad it wasn't some other, less leg-enhanced, reptiles!