Wednesday, 30 January 2013

ANPS does party

This was a Christmas Party.  Some may say it is closer to Easter than Christmas but they fail 'rithmetic and will therefore be ignored.

The plan for this year's event was proposed by Frances and was to do a shortish walk in Stony Creek Nature Reserve and then retire to Stony Creek Community Hall for lunch.  This had the advantage of being indoors and thus not influenced by the weather.

The plants in the Reserve were definitely influenced by the weather with very few in flower and most of those that did deign to put forward their reproductive apparatus did so in a very weary fashion - thus not earning  themselves a photo.  The one exception was a Blue Devil (Eryngium ovinum) which more into stamen-flaunting than I have previously noticed.
Quite a few insects, at various stages of development were seen.  If I have this correct this first invertebrate image shows ants tending some aphid larvae.
 Roger identified this as an assassin bug and I believe it to be Scipinia arenacea.
 Under a stem I found this relative of a scale insect from the family Margarodidae.
 I will go no further than "Woolly Bear" for the ID of this very hairy caterpillar.
 A shield bug possibly from the genus Poecilometis was one of three insects fussing around in some Cassinia longifolia (which I can never tell if it is in flower or not).
 Processionary caterpillars were living up to their name.
 Roger has very good eyes, not only for spotting this bush-cricket ...
 .. but also noticing some mites on it.
 A lurid cup moth larva busy munching on a eucalypt leaf.
 This leaf beetle, dining on Acacia dealbata, is of the genus Calomela but does not match well the illustration I have of the Silver Wattle Leaf Beetle (C. ioptera)
 The only reptile seen today was a very dark Bearded Dragon well up a tree.
 Here is the Community Hall with a selection of the cars: pooling didn't seem to be a big thrust for the day.
 A very large spread of food was a big thrust, especially as another table had the desserts!

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Indoor(ish) plants and a beetle

As a result of the hot dry weather native flowers have been few and far between on our property recently.  The Garden flowers have also been a bit keen on giving up the struggle.  However we have been able to keep some container plants (were I to call them pot plants I might attract some attention from NSW's finest).

This bebonia flower is 16cm diameter which I feel is rather fine.
Another, smaller, but more complex Begonia.

This pineapple lily greets people coming to our back door (which is the way everyone enters the house because that is by the driveway)!
 It is possibly unusual to think of insects as pretty, but I reckon this one qualifies.  It was taken by flash on the window of my study one evening.  I suspect it is a longicorn.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

The BoM gets it mostly right

In a recent post I followed the non-fulfillment of the official Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) weather forecast for the last week.  For the Saturday - the day after the series of forecasts ended - the forecast mentioned the possibility of Storms and a fall of 10-25mm.

By 1500 there had not been a drop of rain and according to the radar the nearest storm appeared to be about 150km away, and slipping to the South.  References to followers of Onan were heard to pass from my lips.

By 1605 the situation was a little different:

By 1700 it seemed quite likely we were going to get a drop ....
 and by 1815 it looked as though we were going to get rather more than a drop as BoM issued a local SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING.
No rain has fallen at 1815 but the text said the storm would hit Queanbeyan at 1900.  The rain started about 1850 and about 1905 the Heavens opened,
the lightning flashed, the thunder roared and the power went off.  It continued to pour like that for the next 45 minutes.  Our drive was awash up by the house (note the brown torrent over by the bushes) and was pretty eroded by 1945.
Whiskers Creek had given up the fight with the culvert by that time and it will be interesting to see what shape it is in when daylight returns.
Our nearest dam,; which at 1800 was 50cm lower than it was about 2 months ago, is now fuller than I have ever seen it.

My weather station couldn't keep up with this downpour, recording 32mm in the period.  The old rain gauge, which is still in situ, recorded 55mm in that period. so  an adjustment will have to be made to my weather station records.  We have totaled 63mm by 0500 on the 27th.

I rang Country Energy (using an old keypad phone) about 9:30 and they said there were multiple problems being worked on and no time of renewed service was available.  In fact it came back on at 0430 (and the resultant lights going on etc woke me which is why I am doing this now.  So the guys worked through the night fixing stuff: big bouquet to them.

The Canberra Times article gives a wider perspective.

Early in the morning of the 27th it seemed that another serve was geading our way
Fortunately it stayed out to sea!

On going down to the Creek the culvert was invisible.
After about an hour of use of various tools and letting the torrent wash the detritus (a key strategy to let the water do the work) through the pipe to the lower reaches of the creek ...
 ... flow was re-established.
 Amongst the tools used was my chainsaw.  The size of this tree trunk is indicated by comparison with my hat!
Here is some more of the stuff I pulled out: after it has dried I estimate there is about a week of firewood in this heap.
Having got that (related to a remnant of a WA cyclone) out of the way 2 days later the BoM promised - or at least forecast - more showers, related to an ex-cyclone from Queensland.  That led to it raining more or less lightly, more or less continually from about 1830 on 28 February until 0630 on the 29th.  We only scored 29mm out of that and not much erosion.  I did go and open all the gutters to let the water run away as I could see no point in using electricity to pump it up to the main tank and have it simply overflow and run back down.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Summer Mixed feeding flock

In Winter it is quite common to find mixed feeding flocks comprising birds of many species apparently travelling around together.  There seem to be two aspects to this phenomenon:
  • many eyes find more food; and
  • as one species finds food items not to its liking, they become available to other species with different preferences.
This morning at the end of our dog/exercise walk we encountered a Summer Mixed Feeding Flock in the North Eastern corner of the place.  As I had committed a Major Sin (going round the property without binoculars) I had to jog back to get bins and camera.  In the next 10 minutes I observed these birds:
Brown-headed Honeyeater 2
White-naped Honeyeater 2
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike 4
White-winged Triller 3
Red-browed Finch 4
Diamond Firetail 1
Yellow-rumped Thornbill 8
White-throated Gerygone 1
Rufous Whistler 2
Superb Fairy-wren 3
Dusky Woodswallow 8
I am working on a theory that the prolonged dry weather is having a similar effect as Winter, in that food resources are scarce and thus the benefits of a mixed flock are obtained at 30C as well as 30F.

It was interesting that these birds were moving along the ridge of a spur between two creek lines.  This seems to be a reasonably commonly used passage for birds moving from the Molonglo Valley and the higher country to the West.

The White-winged Trillers were a male and 2 Dependent Young (DY) revealed by the young birds being fed by the adult.  Here is an image of one of the juveniles (the adult was too active, having to search for food for the kids).
The Dusky Woodswallows were also feeding dependent young.  Here is an adult.
 The Yellow-rumped Thornbills were very obliging in posing for photographs in various positions.

This final thornbill image is included as showing the thorn-like shape of the bill:
It would also show the facial pattern rather well, if some Kunzea ericoides hadn't got in the way.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

ANPS does the Tinderries (part 1)

On 23 January we finally made it to the Tinderries after a delay due to concerns about heat and fire risk the previous week.  It was a top walk (in the sense of being very enjoyable as well as covering the top of the range).  This post covers plants, birds and general topics while the insects use up so many images they have earned their own post.  As this one still ends up with 22 images I shall try to cut down the blather and let you look at some flowers etc.

I was going to say "pretty flowers" but then looked at this first image of the surrounds of Michelago Railway Station where we met for car pooling.  Some contractors were spraying noxious weeds along the railway line  but the fire hazard of this metre high grass appears to be ongoing.
 On the matter of fires, the area we were visiting was obliterated by a huge fire in December 2009.  As shown below much of the bush is regenerating both through germination in the soil and epicormic growth.

On the granite tops, without much top soil (there never was, and I suspect the fires and wind removed a fair bit of what was there) a moonscape is still available!
 Despite the impact of the fires and the dry period we are currently enduring, there was still water running out of the hanging swamp we visited near the top, and in the second swamp on Round Flat Fire Trail.
On to the plants.  These are pretty much in the order in which we saw them, starting with some roadside specimens on the highest point.
Lomatia myricoides

 Stylidium graminifolium 
Platysace lanceolata 
 Baeckea utilis
 Moving into the swamp a little further down the road there was (almost) a carpet of Utricularia dichotoma.
 Arthropodium milleflorum (aka Vanilla lily)
The only orchids seen today were some Microtis sp.  I am not game to try to add a species name to them!.  
 Drosera peltata
 Getting back to the roadside we found many Wahlenbergia gloriosa, the so-called "Royal Bluebell".   These were quite small specimens but still attractive.  You may well ask why the floral emblem of the ACT is growing some kilometres out of that Territory!  The answer appears to be that its shape was easy for logo designers to work with!  (Although apparently it is a bugger to try to match the colour precisely.)
 We then transported ourselves a few kms down the road to the Round Flat Fire Trail.  This Ozomanthus stirlingii was an addition to the site list.
 The flat bit of this trail is occupied by a swamp.  If there was a Committee for UnAustralian Activities going out into a swamp with metre high vegetation in mid Summer would probably earn a major award (the Gold Crossed Reptiles?)  from them.  However only one snake was seen and - more importantly - none were felt.

Geranium neglectum
 Olearia glandulosa
Olearia ramulosa var. stricta (This is open to a little doubt and a sample has been submitted to the Herbarium for a definitive word.)
 Some seed heads of some monocotyledon with a ghostly goat (a ghoat? goast?) behind it, showing a nice pair of horns.
A fungus has set up home on/in a burnt trunk.
There weren't a lot of birds around but the Dusky Woodswallows on the Round Flat trail were good.  One member of the group reported seeing them entering a nest hollow which is good!
The strangest avian interlude was the behaviour of 4 Pallid Cuckoos.  Which were flying around calling loudly at each other.  Such behaviour could be considered breeding display but it seems a bit late in the year, even allowing for the later season at 1200m elevation.  Here is a back view of one participant ...
 .. and a front-on, open beak, view of another.