Monday, 9 December 2013

What a big beak you have!

From my childhood comes this verse:

A wonderful bird is the pelican,
His bill will hold more than his belican,
He can take in his beak
Enough food for a week
But I'm damned if I see how the helican!
Pelicans have been few and far between in Canberra for the past few years as many of the birds have been visiting the flooded salt lakes in Central Australia to breed.  It has been a tad dry out there recently, as shown by the annual rainfall for Oodnadatta which is revealed a little further on..

"Oodna where?" I hear you say, and I reply "Oodna here!"
The red colour of this Google Earth image may be some artefact of remote sensing, but looks pretty close to what I see out of aircraft windows when it is dry.  To give a sense of scale from Oodnadatta to the highway junction to the South is 580km: those lakes are BIG.  They are also dry quite a bit of the time.

To the rainfall.  I have estimated the rain for December 2013 as the average of the last 15 Decembers (and out there it could be less than 2mm - quite possible as that has been recorded in 83 of the last 192 months! - or >100mm as was the case in 2001 ).  The variabilty is shown in this next chart of monthly rainfall since January 1998 (thanks Bureau of Metoerology).
The next chart clearly shows that the good times came to an abrupt halt in 2011.
It has taken the pelicans a while to get back here but this morning I counted 35 of them on Kelly's Swamp in Jerrabombera Wetlands.  Here are some images.   The logs and roost perchs are a great innovation by the Ranger for the Wetlands.

 Headless chooks are not uncommon round here when Parliament is sitting.  These two are from the Senate.
Two Yellow-billed Spoonbills, also braincase free might be Representatives of somewhere.
Of course the reason for visiting the Swamp was to check the Painted Snipe.  He was a little shy today but a hint is given by the red arrow!

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