Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Tour de Plain November 2013

I took my Mountain Bike for a circuit of the Hoskinstown Plain this morning both to see what was there in the way of birds (and anything else interesting) and to get some exercise.

The ride down was pleasant (the words 'down' and 'pleasant' are almost tautologous when riding  bike) and uneventful.  When I announced this plan Frances commented that the wind was sufficiently strong for this to be a traditional ride in the locale.  The wind was coming from the SE so I decided to ride in a clockwise direction (Briars-Sharrow Rd first) thus having a tail wind on the final leg.
The solid red line is the part I do in both directions, dotted red is the actual tour and the blue line is an add-on described below.

I have been checking a small swamp beside the road for Latham's Snipe without success.  Despite the good rain last week, on this trip the lack of Snipe was matched by a lack of water and mud.  However some nearby elm trees were occupied by a Rufous Songlark.  Skylarks were also evident warbling invisibly from on high.

Moving right along. towards the NE end of this road the Mills Cross Radio telescope (run by Sydney U) is visible.
In following that link I was intrigued to find that the name Mills Cross is local vernacular for the Molonglo Observatory Synthesis Telescope.  It also emerged that the site is being significantly enhanced as part of the Square Kilometre Array project.  However, I couldn't find anything on the 'net about this covering the last year.

The array is again visible in the background of this shot.
 Riding along the dirt road to Hoskinstown a few more birds were seen, notably a Black-fronted Dotterel cowering on the banks of a dam.  European Goldfinches were very common,and have obviously recovered from the severe decline in numbers in the drought of the noughties. Despite much scanning of the paddocks no Banded Lapwings were seen.

After passing the Fairy Martin culvert on Plains Rd I decided I had enough time to divert up Pollock Rd to check the Snow Gum remnant for breeding activity.  This part of the route is the blue line in the map above.  As I ascended the road I got to the first Snow Gums (Eucalyptus pauciflora) which were well endowed with Plague Soldier Beetles (Chauligognathus lugubris).  This is the first major infestation of these I have found this year.
 Here are some capsules of the gums.
The bird life in the area was still good although the heron nest was empty (but the guano pile still evident on the ground).  Several Diamond Firetails were calling from the trees as were White-winged Trillers.  I couldn't find nests of either species.  Common Starlings (boo, hiss) and Tree Martins were entering the many hollows in both the Snow Gums and - a little further up the slope - Brittle Gums (E. Mannifera).

Back on the treadlie and down to Plains Rd.  Notable birdie things along there were Australian Pipits and a Yellow-rumped Thornbill being fed.  As I got close to the end/start (depends which way you are going) of the road I heard movement in the grass beside the bitumen.  It wasn't a Tiger Snake but a very active Echidna.  Always nice to see.
 As I started the ascent of Mt Widgiewa I noticed the soil profile in a cutting.  What is this thing called soil?  This shot explains why the crucial gardening tool in Carwoola is a crowbar!
A very enjoyable 32km ride, even with the wind and the slog back up the hill.  Probably did me some good.

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