Sunday, 30 June 2013

"Wrens" get damp

Today turned out to be mixed bathing day in our red birdbath.  None of the birds are any close relative to the Northern Hemisphere Wrens.

The first three shots are of a White-browed scrubwren.  The first shot interested me in showing the "about to dive pose" with what could be anthropomorphised as an expression of great determination.
 A very average snap, but it does show the white brow and the white patch on the wing very clearly.
This fascinates me because of what it appears to show of the position of the bird.  I had always assumed they jumped in and then splashed water up on to their backs.  Unless this one has remarkable cervical articulation it is lying flat on its back!
Finally a post bath zoom on a Superb Fairy-wren. Iinclude this one because it gives a good look at the red around the eyes.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Tradition: and a New Prize

Each year that we have been out here I have lit up a pile of weeds (that are too virulent to compost -  eg ivy), prunings and other stuff flammable outdoors but not in an enclosed fire.  That is constrained to Winter months by bush fire risk and is often difficult to pick exactly the right day to avoid strong winds and/or dry periods.

The forecast for 29 June looked brilliant: not long after some good rain, light winds but not actually honking down with rain.  In fact there was slight drizzle in the morning making it even less likely that a frisky ember could light up the Shire.
The pile looked a bit damp, but I was optimistic that once I got it going it would generate enough heat to keep going. At 9:14 that was looking optimistic, even though I had gone for a Baden-Powell Prize by putting some kindling in there as well.  (OK, I had some paper rather than dry leaves to start it off, but I reckon any woodland in the UK would have as much waste paper as dry leaves, so I was just Being Flexible as well as Being Prepared!)
 Then I went for a West Newlands (the farm I worked on in England about 50 years ago) Prize.  Stick an old tyre - in this case a bike inner tube - under there and apply another match.  In terms of the BP Award an old tyre is justified in the same way as the paper!  By 9:28 we have lift-off.
 Yep, that got things going: in a way which might annoy the Butcher of Carbon Trading.

However eventually (by 9:50) I qualified for a Bishop Prize - given to those who generate a lot of hot air but shed little light.
This is the state of affairs by 10:00am.  The flames are about 75% of the way through the pile and looking good.
By noon things had really got consumed.
The drizzle had returned by noon, and apart from dampening down the ashes formed an interesting effect where the coalescing drops lined up on a climbing rose.  Check the magnification through the drops on top of the stem and the inverted image in the drips below.
Check the magnification through the drops on top of the stem and the inverted image in the drips below!

By noon on the next day there was not much left, but there was still warmth radiating from the ashes.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Winter garden flowers

It is coincidental that the day after the Kevster is reincarnated I noticed some nice flowers in our garden.

From memory, these jonquils seem a bit earlier than in the past.

Snowdrops are by definition to be expected in Winter.
These red hot pokers (Kniphofia sp.) always seem to flower in Winter.  This is bit contra-indicated because they usually get to about this stage and then meet a minimum of -7C and all die before setting any seed!

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Now that the dust has settled ...

.. from yesterdays momentous events in politics I will pass a few thoughts on the way forward.

First up, for me the disappointment of the day was seeing Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor bow out.  They were both brilliant for the past three years.

Moving on to the ALP  it seems quite clear that the Kevster is more popular with the electorate than was Julia Gillard.  While there is probably an element of misogynism underlying this, our local MP - Mike Kelly (ALP) - in a interview with ABC, commented that
"The community was very strongly saying to me in no uncertain terms that they felt it was wrong to have deposed Kevin Rudd in 2010.“People knew exactly where I stood in relation to that and certainly they have demanded that he be returned."
I expect to be doing a bit to help Mike get re-elected, including being seen running around the streets of Queanbeyan wearing a "Mike Kelly gets the job done" T-shirt.
The shirt got its first airing this morning and a few people peered at it.  One lady was heard to say "What a great shirt."  

A 'reader poll in the Fairfax press this morning rated it as 60:40 that Labour could (note, not will) win the election.  On the other hand a comment on ABC TV last evening referred back to a comment by the lovely and adorable John Howard in saying Rudd was like "Lazarus with a triple bypass and a few limbs missing".
So what of the other political parties?  
Let me start by shooting a large fish in a very small barrel. The United Australia Party sponsored by Clive Palmer has got to be a joke.  Apart from their views, which can only appeal to a special group of punters, having a leader who makes Chris Christie's weight issues seem miniscule should prohibit them serious consideration.  Sportsbet are offering a miserable $1.18 on the proposition that they will win no seats (roughly 55/10 ON).
Moving slightly closer to sanity - or at least a lower BMI - we have another redhead in Pauline Hanson.  Sportsbet are offering $5 as their measure of her getting a Senate seat.  I suspect this is unfortunately the best value they are offering as she came very close to jagging a NSW Upper House seat  for herself a couple of years ago.  However, one can pray that commonsense will prevail!
Next up we have the Coalition of the Liberal Party of Australia and the National Party.  Sportsbet are still being miserable offering $1.18 (again) on them forming a Government by 30 September.  The big worry  (for them = hope for Australia) is that one of their senior members (eg Abbot, Hockey, Morrison, Pyne, or either of the Mesdames.Bishop) really offends the public by introducing a really offensive policy.  The big worry for the ALP would be if the rest of parties note the risks of that happening and brings back big Mal.  (Turnbull that is, rather than Fraser. Really Big Mal (Meninga) is a patriotic Queenslander so probably supports Kev.)
Last we have the Greens.  In the ACT they had 4 members in the Assembly until the last election when this dropped to 1.  My suspicion is that much the same might happen Nationally at the upcoming election.  I an see several reasons for this:
  • They have lost their founding leader, Bob Brown who would have attracted a huge vote across the country;
  • Some of their elected Senators - and I will single out Sarah Hanson-Young - are the most annoying pedants ever encountered; and
  • Hopefully people will remember them not supporting the initial carbon reduction scheme (which was the initial step towards Rudd's downfall) because it wasn't pure enough.  A statement this morning by their current leader suggests that they are likely to try similar garbage again.
  • They have generally adopted a "no surrender" approach, demanding their entire package or nothing (and very frequently got nothing).

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

A short-lived flood here

The rain in this area (by which I mean within 20km of our house) has not been any where near as bad as reported by Denis from Robertson.  It was raining when we drove from Mallacoota but basically a quite gentle fall.  However shortly after we got back Denis enquired what was going on at Captains Flat as the radar based near there was showing a huge spinning yellow mass (ie very heavy rain).

The next morning there was a band of rain going diagonally across the Tablelands but keeping about 15km East of us.  As a result of this I wasn't surprised to find, when I went out to take Tammy to the vet (annual shots, no drama) that Briars Sharrow Rd was cut by the Molonglo (which has its source upstream from The Flat.  I tried to take a photo on my phone but the light was too poor.

So today I went back .  The road was open but the water was not far below the crossing:
When the water was over the crossing on Tuesday these trees were in the middle of the road!   Well done Palerang Shire for cleaning them up.
Elsewhere in the general area things are a tad diabolical.  The Kings Hwy has been shut 3 days a week for some time to allow an area prone to landslides to be stabilised.  I think that finished last week.  Whatever: there was a slide in that vicinity yesterday so the road is now closed for 36 hours to clean that up.
In the past the diversion has been by Nerriga and Braidwood, adding about 2 hours to the trip from Canberra to Batemans Bay.  As the options now are to go via

  • Picton Rd (because Nerriga Rd is flooded and Macquarie Pass dodgy) which adds about 300 km and at least 3.5 hours or 
  • Cooma and Bega (praying that Brown Mountain stays open) which adds about 200 km and 2.5 hours.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

A damp drive home.

So the last day dawned.  Sort of: the cloud and drizzle were so pervasive it might have been better had it stayed dark!
 We packed up and tidied the house and took off just after 9.  It was raining more or less all the time, and with the road to Genoa being rather wet and twisty I moved very moderately.  This also averted a visit from Chunderpooch.  We paused briefly in Eden to acquire some smoked fish from an excellent purveyor of same and had a quick look in the port for any seals.  As usual, there were none we could see,

On to Merimbula, our first addition to the NSW Towns project for this trip.  It was interesting that when I asked if there was a War memorial in the town I was told no, but there is an RSL one.  It seems that to some people 'proper' War Memorials must be administered by the State or Local Government.  I disagree, and rated this an excellent specimen.
 The diggers commemorated also have a nice view out over the harbour and oyster leases.  (An oysterperson was trying to decide whether to engage in some toil or if the colour of the sky suggested alternative employment - possibly involving a warm pub - was better!)
We tend to find Merimbula a somewhat artificial place in that it is mainly a tourist town like Bateman's Bay, rather than a proper town like Bega or Moruya.  Most of this housing is multiple dwelling stuff, primarly aimed at visitors.
 We drove on through the soggy, coming to Tathra which had a somewhat more modest memorial.
 We drove down to the wharf where the sea was very rough
 which had the great benefit of bringing some seabirds close in.  Unfortunately I don't know seabirds at all well but I think we saw a couple of White-chinned Petrels and some Fairy Prions.  They seem to fit for timing and behaviour.  Gannets were al;so close in and we saw a Great Cormorant swallow a very large fish!

The final town was Bega.  Despite having been there many many times when we owned a weekender (cottage or bach for those in other colonies or former colonies) I didn't know where the War Memorial was. I thought the area around the show grounds might prove fruitful.  The first thin seen there was a mural on the swimming pool.
 Nearby was the Boer War Memorial!
Having ticked that off we headed down the main street, in the car, it being too wet and rainy to walk anywhere.  I commented t Frances that I had always thought of Bega as having a very modern and tacky main drag, but as a result of our project I now tend to look above the modern hoardings and often spot some rather interesting designs.
As we left we suddenly spotted this huge memorial.  That would undoubtedly keep the people in merimbula happy!



So we headed off to home.  Frances suggested we try to guess the coldest temperature that would be recorded on the way home.  I won with a guess of +5C which occurred at the top of Brown Mountain.  The drive up the mountain was in cloud and rain but next to no traffic on our side of the road.  Heading down was a parade of big trucks which would have made a very slow trip.  Nimmitabel was again 6C, where the thermometer stayed pretty much until we got home, where it was as shown in his image +7C.
The main reason for the image of the information display is the graph of fuel consumption.  Note the big dip in the middle where we came up the mountain.  The lesser dip at the end was due to appalling traffic in Queanbeyan (for no reason that we could establish, but we wondered about people picking up kids from school and the rain interacting).

That's all folks: I get back to where I started: I love Mallacoota

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Drive home in the rain.

Call this weather?

Our dog walk this morning was mainly along Karbethong Rd (as opposed to Karbethong Avenue which is our base).  Lots of Correa reflexa, Epacris impressa andAcacia suaveolens.  Also a fair bit of calling by Superb Lyrebirds: one was obviously displaying close to the road but fled – unfortunately, into the bush rather than out across the road - as we approached.  The sign is true:
There were a few interesting looking fungi beside the road ....

... and much Acacia terminalis in the bush.
The view across the Inlet was rather attenuated because of low cloud and/or the drizzle emanating from same.  In Melbourne the rule of thumb is “Don't like our weather?  No worries, it'll change in 5 minutes.”   I have a suspicion that may not apply in Mallacoota.  In fact it did: it is important to remember that not all change is for the better – by 2pm it was micturating down, and we were very pleased that we had done our “pleasure walk” in the morning.

At some point I remembered to have a look at the chimney, to see Peter's fix of the possum problem from our previous visit.
Much more elegant than the plastic milk crate I had installed!

We drove to Quarry Beach, on the road to Shipwreck Creek, and then took the Coastal walk to Pebbly Beach.  I'm pretty sure this was a Council undertaking as it wasn't canophobic, unlike the approach of a certain State Government organ   The walk started off through a dense stand of Melaleuca
with a few plants (eg Solanum aviculare)
growing where the ground had been disturbed.  It gradually became a more diverse community with Banksias and Eucalypts taking over.

Just before we got to Secret Beach (1.2km) Frances spotted a Bassian Thrush snuffling around: I haven't seen one of those for many years.  It nicked off PDQ but here is a snap of the branch it was sitting on 0.5 seconds before the shutter went.
We also saw a few waterfowl sitting on offshore rocks: from an idiomatic Australian perspective it would be nice to say “they were as lonely as a shag on a rock”
  but in each case at least one other member of the family was present.

As we passed down into Pebbly Beach we finally found some orchids.  Fairley and Moore show these to be “Cobra Greenhoods” giving the Latin as Pterostylis grandiflora.  (They come from NSW so don't believe in the Jones and Clements rejigging of orchid families (but then I have heard that Jones and Clements no longer believe in it either!)  I do believe in Jones and Clements so it's real name is Diplodium grandiflora.
As we left the beach – having decided to walk back along the road for a change of scenery - we found a second orchid species (very close to the site of the great Red-bellied Black Snake episode of 2 years ago).  I think this one was Pterostylis  nutans, but will have to check as we don't have an orchid reference book with us.
Before leaving the beach we noticed the large kelp which had been washed up. One of the wide‑bladed specimens still had some rock attached to its sucker (sorry about the technical term), demonstrating the power of the waves acting on a few square metres of tough plant material. 
A Sooty Oystercatcher (another threatened species) was checking things out.
We found a few other flowers along the way back to Quarry Beach.
Caprobrotus glaucescens (aka pigface)
 Dampiera stricta
 Goodenia sp.
Back at the house I put out some more apple as bowerbird bait and found that a beautiful black male bird came in a few times.  By chance I had just been reading “Australian Bird Names” by Ian Fraser and Jeannie Gray in which they explain that the genus name for these birds (Ptilonorhyncus) means feather-bill so it nice to observe the patch of feathers over the base of the bill!
I decided that another dose of fish and chips was needed (excellent again) and was surprised to find that it wasn't really raining in the town centre but reasonably steady at Karbethong. In the evening the rain really set in, and seemed to go for most of the night.  I will be most interested to see how much we got. The answer to that rhetorical question was 30mm.

Of course with a cool wet night the Swift Moths were out.
Putting up that image has caused me to realise that we saw hardly any insects.  Given that quite a few of them (eg mozzies, sandflies and ticks) are undesirable that was a Good Thing.

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Drive home in the rain.