Monday, 30 December 2013

Assorted avian images

As the year gets close to finishing I found a few interesting birds on 29 December.  As I happened to be passing close to Kelly's Swamp I thought to check it out for unusual birds.

There were none of the really unusual ones present but the sighting of 3 Royal Spoonbills was a pleasant reward.

A report to the COG chatline from earlier in the day covered 31 Lathams Snipe present on the swamp, including 23 in an area cleared of reeds in front of a hide.  Such numbers were not visible at mid-day when I was present - much hotter - but one posed very cooperatively close to the hide I was using.

At home there were a couple of interesting interactions between birds and exotic plants.  We are developing some borders of lavender and this was popular with Crimson Rosellas.
I have included a second zoomed image showing that the lavender was being eaten, not just used as a cool roost on a warm day.
In the same bed the Kniphofia (red hot pokers) are starting to hit their straps,
and are being well visited by honeyeaters.  The image below shows a Yellow-faced Honeyeater
During the day I also saw Eastern Spinebills and White-eared Honeyeater dining .  Photos have been  added to a January post.

If you have got this far you might also be interested in a couple of posts made today on other blogs.

Friday, 27 December 2013

The pelicans of Eden (and the Highways)

This is the first post of four covering our Christmas visit to Mallacoota.  Links to the other posts are at the end of this one.

After a very hot night we got up on time, did a few chores and were heading off towards Mallacoota by 9:20.  After a stop in Queanbeyan to refuel we hit the Monaro Highway heading to Cooma. 

The traffic seemed heavier than we expected in both directions and some drivers seemed very slow, even allowing for people wanting to stick to the speed limit.  Eventually we got some clean air and decided it was three proto-pelicans that had caused the blockage. 

We took the usual Polo Flat bypass around Cooma and headed out towards Nimmitabel.  As always the scenery was barren and we wondered if it was ever green.  This trip some new powerlines, looking like the Martians in H G Wells “War of the Worlds”gave us something to look at. 
Then we had the North end of a queue of three cars heading South to look at.  And at and at and at.  They were driving well below the limit and due to the density of cars coming towards us I couldn't overtake all three in a swoop.  Why wouldn't the others do their share?

The front vehicle was an Avis rental vehicle and I concluded that at least one of the others - a green Hyundai -  was related to that.  When we got to Nimmitabel the green car pulled off.  As we were planning to stop at Lake Williams
for comfort purposes I didn't bother about the Avismobile.   To my surprise Mr Plod was running a breathalyser operation
at the Lake: this wouldn't be a problem for me  but as it turned out we got to the entrance to the parking area before the cop so turned in.  I noticed that the green car pulled in behind me, but the driver didn't get out to use the facilities.  After a minute or so they drove off again, coming out on the far side of the cops.  Que?  Frances solved it:  they didn't wish to offer their breath  to Mr Plod and thought it would be a bit obvious to just drive straight through!  Socially a pelican – or possibly a vulture – but at least part of their cortex was still functional.

By the time we got to Brown Mountain the Northern side of the road before the top is State Forest and has been pretty much 'harvested'- read trashed by the timber industry – but at least they had left a few trees.  we had caught up to the Avismobile but it pulled over before starting the descent.  This was National Park and as enjoyable as ever: I do like tree ferns.   

At the bottom we stopped at the Bemboka Pie Shop for bread and a pepper steak pie.  Yummy!

The scenery on the coastal plain was a great contrast to the Nimmi desert.  Green, lush and low cloud.  
The next stop was the traditional visit to Eden Smokehouse for various fish products that will  be taken home (apart from the ones we scoffed for Christmas dinner).  Other traditions followed were calling in at the wharf to look for seals (and as traditions demands) not seeing any.  We saw a Silver Gull which had chosen to camouflage itself on a car which matched the colour of its legs.
We also saw colourful fishing nets 
and pelicans (the original model).  

Frances was told of a plan to rejuvenate Eden by building a wharf to accommodate cruise ships.  The proponents of such a scheme possibly haven't realised that
  • what is needed to attract cruise ships is something for the passengers to do.  I can't imagine the Killer Whale Museum being enough (or being able) to accommodate a couple of thousand curious party people; or
  •  people on cruise ships don't spend a lot on shore as they get most things they need (eg meals and booze) free on the ship.

 Just about as we left Eden the low cloud started to deliver rain, through which tradition we were driving when we entered the Great State of Victoria. 


As we entered the final leg we saw the sign warning of lyrebirds and, as we now expect, saw a lyrebird running for cover almost immediately. 


Unloading occurred and we decided to wait for the rain to stop before going for a walk along the Inlet bike path.  This provided a brief look at an Azure Kingfisher and a surprisingly good look at a pair of Eastern Whipbirds.  A couple of patches of exotic vegetation were attractive (don't worry, you'll get plenty of native stuff later in this series).

Our evening meal was (another tradition!) barramundi and chips courtesy of Lee's Takeaway.  
Although the food on offer is mainly pizza and Fish'n'chips all the junior staff are of the Chinese persuasion both in appearance and strong accent.  The exception is Lee himself, who looks like Genghiz Khan and sounds like Crocodile Dundee!  (Click on the image to check out the amusing sign on the butchery next door.)

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Some musings from the Institute for Bloke Studies (IBS)

There will be some natural history reports before getting to the more academic material inferred in the title of this post.  Hope you don't mind.

A pretty reasonable night's sleep with a slight interruption when a possum gallumphed along the deck.  At least it couldn't get down the chimney this time!

The day dawned
somewhat before I woke up and looked as though fine weather was a possibility, but I am aware that in Victoria:
    If you don't like the weather, wait 5 minutes and it will change; and
    In this State you get 4 seasons in a day.

A Whistling Kite was enjoying the view from a dead tree below the block.
Off for a very pleasant walk along the multi-use track by the Inlet, heading upstream.  We came back through the houses observing the lush gardens.

Several birds added to the trip list, including a Rose Robin which was most surprising at this time of year.  We met some pleasant folk with a Chihuahua named Poppie: one of the few dogs smaller than Tammie.  Surprisingly Poppie didn't want to play.

I had breakfast and noticed a boat returning from an early fishing expedition.
Judging by the wake they'd be coming through the parking lot at Lake Williams, and clearly believed you didn't just have beer for breakfast (OP Bundy chasers being the probable supplement).  This was followed up later in the day by 30 minutes amusement at the ramp watching amazing ineptitude as people launched and retrieved boats.
In fairness the people in this boat were competent, and the reason for the image was to show the dog.  Quite a few boats seemed to take their mutts with them.  Others use the wee jetties.
We then drove off to the edge of Croajingolong Canophobia Park, walking along the beaches we could get at as we went and keeping an eye open for interesting flowers in the bush as we drove past.  

This was quite common but I have no idea of its identity!
 Pigface: Disphyma crassifolium
 A burr seedhead
A plant with an unusual petal arrangement that makes it look (to me at least) like a rotating propellor.  I now know it to be Alysia buxifolia - sea box.
 Definitely a member of Asteraceae.
 Sap emerging from a bloodwood.  Perhaps reflecting a dry year there wasn't the abundance of this which we saw on our last visit.
 Glycine clandestina
 Scaevola calendulacea
 Brachyscome spathulata (a white version)
Three species of plant growing on a rock in the spray zone.  Are they lithophytes or halophytes?  Very tough, whichever they are!
 Also this grass!
The undoubted highlight was a huge crop of Hyancinth Orchids (Dipodium roseum) which were everywhere in the bush
and with some very large flowerheads.
On the beaches the greatest interest was the stratification in the rocks both the small outcrops on the  water's edge
and the cliffs at Quarry Beach.

Other items seen today included cormorants on the rocks
more pelicans
and some fungi in the bush.
There are many lizards around the house.  I will rate this one as a skink and take a punt on Lampropholis guichenoti.
Getting back to the IBS.  This is a little known Department of the School of Hard Knocks within the Mens Shed of the University of Gungahlin.  Sort of like Wimmins Studies but with a different conceptual base.  This afternoon included the field work for a Doctorate if I can come up with the admissions fee (a slab of VB and a bottle of the aforementioned OP).

The case study was my desire to mow the lawn for our friends.  On previous visits it has looked OK but this time a session with a motorised panga was definitely in order.  The problem was that while I found the mower (Basic Bloke 101 – its in the shed) what fuel did I use?  As the mower had two holes in the top, one for fuel and one for oil, a serve of unmodified unleaded was the go.  The trouble was that there were two fuel cans in the shed and if I chose wrong putting 2 stroke fuel through a 4 stroke motor would be a mess.

Now a real man would simply do a taste test.  If your palate can't pick up the nuances of Bunnings 2-stroke oil you've obviously dipped on the Y chromosome.  However I am on a diet so had to pass this obvious route. 

My first guess (Basic Bloke 102 provides detail on when to rely on that but cutting to the chase, the answer is always) was that the old metal can had been around a while and probably went with the venerable chainsaw, while the new plastic can probably matched the new lawn mower.  I then looked at a sample of the contents of the two containers and concluded that the metal can looked a tad green.  This might have been algal bloom but I assumed it was oil additive and went for the plastic.   This was an application of the methods covered in Very Advanced Bloke 305).

The fuel added to the mower lasted for the job so I think I got it right.  Here is a snap from early in the piece
 ... and this is the finished job.

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