Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Few cyclists on West Basin?

We have done a lap of the West Basin of Lake Burley Griffin a few times recently.  Frances felt like a longer walk, and suggested that the weather on 31 December would be pretty good, if we started early.  She also thought that as the Public Service shuts down over Christmas (and most of Canberra heads for the South Coast) there would be few other users of the track.

So we arrived at Black Mountain Peninsula at 8:05 and took off.  At the foot of the Peninsula a fmily was spending a peaceful time fishing off the launching pontoon of one of the boat clubs.
 People were also paddling canoes, rowing shells and sailing on the Lake.  Very good to see it getting used in such peaceful ways.

After about 500m we came across this colourful entity sitting on a rock.
It was a Gippsland Water Dragon.  The Dragon bit is pretty straightforward, and the water was soon proven,
 .. but we are about 200km in a straight line from the nearest part of Gippsland.

A good few steps later we got a nice view of the infrastructure of the National Arboretum.  I wonder if the trees in front of buildings will ever block this view?
Another chunk of scenery.  This looks down on Scrivener Dam and across through the haze to the Brindabella Range.
 The title of this post includes a question mark. In fact there were possibly more cyclists than we usually see.  While several of them were advanced in years (like us) quite a bunch were family groups or young persons out on training rides.  The youngest  bike rider was the one here wearing a red bone-dome.  They didn't seem to be doing much on the pedals
At times - like this bit crossing the dam - the track was pretty crowded, but everyone seemed to fit in pretty well.  A greeting of "Morning" was common - as Frances said, tomorrow it would be the lengthier "Happy New Year".
There is a pretty fair crop of weeds here and there and this Crimson Rosella was having a nice breakfast of thistle seeds.

About half way Frances went to check out the Yarralumla Nursery while I took Tammy to explore the dog run.  She had a great time with the other small dogs including Herman the micro-Chihuahua who was way smaller than her.
Our route crosses back over Commonwealth Avenue bridge, and just before we got there I manged to line up three sights in one shot.  In the background we have the Black Mountain telecom tower which was a source of great controversy in the 1970s and opened in 1980.  Mid-ground is the National Museum of Australia, which is reasonably un-controversial.  The rock in the foreground is the memorial to Katie Bender who was killed during the botched demolition of the Canberra Hospital, which formerly occupied the Museum site.
 The edifice below has arisen rather quickly, and we first noticed it when visiting a high-rise apartment in the CBD.  Apparently it is planned to be a set of funky restaurants and entertainment places with the design referencing the use of shipping containers in the 3rd World.  (When we lived in Dar-es-Salaam I used to take lunch in a restaurant made from two containers stacked on top of each other: cooking below, eating above - I reckon OHAS would have a cow about that!)
Back to the car after 3:05 walking, plus 30 minutes at the dog run.  Not bad for 16km.  At one point a couple of runners commented that they were impressed with the way our little one was keepig up the pace!

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Christmas 2014 Beer Report

As is becoming a tradition part of my present-set this year was a visit to plonk to acquire some interesting beers.  It was enhanced by Frances joining me and - after I had made some selections - drawing my attention to a pre-packed 'hamper'.  She then suggested that I get this as well.  What a clever girl!

So here come some tasting notes (I think there will be about a dozen of them - I'm not sure how many duplicates I have).  I have decided to start after five samples, so watch this space....
  • Ogham Oak: this is from Caerphilly, in Wales.  I am basically approving of the Welsh (apart from a bastard who played breakaway for Thanet RFC and punched me in the nose in 1969) and indeed this sample adds to my positive view.  Added orange peel and cinnamon gets a nice seasonal tang, while 8.5% alcohol gives some glow.  This turned out to be the only one I doubled up on:  The second sample was as tasty as the first!  Excellent!
  • Ringwood Old Thumper: tastefully decorated with a picture of a well-tusked porker.  This emanates from Hampshire and is basically a good example of a full-bodied ale, weighing in at 5.1%
  • Black Sheep Brewery Imperial Russian: what stout should taste like.  A touch bitter but also creamy and very complex.  At 8.5% not to be trifled with but I'd go to Masham Yorkshire, let alone Fyshwick, for more of this.
  • 2 brothers Brewery Taxi Pilsner.  A bit lighter than the preceding samples at 4.7%.  A very refreshing citrus taste.  Could be supped in large quantities if not watched carefully.  They brew in Moorabbin, and kick more goals than the AFL team that used to play there!
  • Back to the UK for Wychwood (from Oxfordshire).  Dr Thirsty's No 4 Blonde is a very tasty beer with what an onanist might refer to as "citrus notes".  At 4.1% it isn't too dangerous but is still well above love-in-a-canoe.
  • Wales again, for 'The Rev. James" brewed in Cardiff.  Unfortunately this doesn't have the full appeal of the most famous aspect of the area around Tiger Bay.  OK but I wouldn't drive to Fyshwick just for this - a tad bland.
  • Och aye the noo!  Off to Scotland for the Brew Dogs of Ellon in Aberdeenshire.  They offered Santa Paws Christmas Scotch Ale.  This was a surprisingly dark beer and very full bodied.  Almost like a porter, and very surprising to find it was only 4.5% ABV.  Recommended.
  • Feral Brewery from the Swan River in WA.  Described as having a citrusy flavour.  That was certainly what was delivered.  Approach with caution at 5.8%, but definitely a refreshing drop.
  • Ridgeway of Oxfordshire perpetrated  'Querkus".  They describe this as a smoked oaked porter, and appear to involve old French Oak in the brewing process.  Something has certainly provided a very smoky flavour and at 4.5% not too dangerous.  .Recommended.
  • Brains SA Gold.  I had assumed from the reference to 'SA' this came from somewhere close to Adelaide: not so, it is made by S A Brian and Co of Cardiff.  A golden ale with a very refreshing citrusy tang, derived from the hops I presume.  Very pleasant and 4.7%
  • Burleigh Heads Brewing HEF: This is nothing to do with the Playboy Club - which would probably be banned in sunny Queensland -  but a lot to do with Hefweizen which is, subject to my crappy spelling, a lot to do with German Wheat Beer.  I was surprised to find that we have got this far down the list before the Plonk hamper delivered a wheat beer.  A very nice one it was too: I'd certainly allow my choice of beers to be price driven when choosing between this and imports..
  • Hop Dog Beer Works of South Nowra offer All Hallowed Ale at 7.3%.  I thought it had a bit of power behind it and then read the label.  Rather hoppy ale indeed and almost certainly the best thing to come out of South Nowra (except the Princes Highway)!  Recommended.
  • Cavalier Brewing Company of Brunswick West (which has been accused of being somewhere in Melbourne I believe), Brown Ale.  A very tasty drop somewhere between a Red Ale and a porter.  Certainly the chocolate promised on the label was evident.  Good.5%.
  • Kooinda Black IPA, brewed by the Happy Place Brewing Co of West Heidelberg (Victoria, not the haunt of the Student Prince).  By chance I may have saved the best 'til last.  A very good IPA style with great complexity.  At 7% a bit dangerous, but regard it as the equivalent of a good glass of red rather than equivalent to a slab of VB, and it is manageable.  Excellent stuff.
That is, as Peter Cundall used to say, yer bloomin' lot.  At least until next October!

Progress on New Years's Resos

Just in case you're wondering, this is a report on my NY resolutions (shortened in Ocker as she is spoke - or blogged - to 'resos) from 1 January 2014.  In fact it should be reso as there was only 1: to keep my shed in better nick.

Up until about 10am on 30 December that had to be rated a 'fail'.

However it is not yet 23:59:59 on 31 December so there is still time!

  • schlepping a set of shelves down from the top shed; 
  • filling two large plastic bags with grot - who brings all this stuff into my shed? and 
  • deciding that a few bulky items no longer have even a potential role to play in my life
things had improved quite a bit.
Tomorrow is also a day and I might give a bit more attention to the main work bench.  Watch this post.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Invertebrates pt 2 (with some wotsits)

Arachnophobes should note the use of the term 'invertebrate' rather than 'insect' and either dodge this post or check their prescription!

'Wotsit' is a technical term used on the COG chatline to refer to photographs in which crucial identification features are missing.  That is to be distinguished from photographs of an entire specimen are given, but I cannot identify below about family level (which is situation normal).

A cicada taking a rather unhealthy rest on Widgiewa Rd.
 This is a shield bug, possibly Nezora viridula.
 I believe this to be an fly (Order Diptera) rather than a bee (Order Hymenoptera ) as it appears not to have an obvious waist and only forewings.  I will take a punt on it being a member of the family Muscidae.
This is a spider.  I thought it rather attractive but thus far haven't managed to confirm its identity. Referring to my new acquisition "A guide to the Spiders of Australia" by Framenau, Baehr and Zborowski it seems this is Backobourkia sp.  There appear to be 3 species in the genus and the range maps in the Atlas of Living Australia suggest that B. brouni is the most likely here.
I thought this close-up of its eyes and bitey parts might assist me when I go through the reference books.
In fact a distinguishing feature of the genus is "strong abdominal spines" and these appear to fit the bill.
Wotsit 1.  I suspect this is some form of beetle, on the assumption that I have an image of the abdomen!
Wotsit 2.  Possibly a small sticky spider or possibly a case moth starting its collection of material for a case.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

2014 in Review

As the year nears its end I will cast an eye back over what has happened, highlighting changes.

As would be expected the biggest changes have been with grand-daughter Arabella.  She has gone from a nearly 1 year-old baby to a nearly 2 year-old little girl.  Here she is on Christmas Day.
At the other end of the age scale is the small dog, Tammy.  She is beginning to slow down a bit, not surprising at about 12 years old ( I suspect equivalent to about 84 human years) but has still got plenty of bounce when bouncing is needed.  Here she is, later on Christmas Day, about to offer necessary guidance to Boson, our friends Whippet Cross.
Watching them sort out their relationship was hilarious, especially as Boson invites play by bouncing his front feet up and down and then waving a paw in the air.

As a result of having Tammy we acquired, very late in 2013 our camper-trailer.  This made it relatively easy for us to take trips away.  Initially it took a bit of gritting of teeth but we now have the process down pretty much to routine.  We have done 7 trips this year totaling to about 9,000km.  The biggest trip had us away from Carwoola for nearly all of July visiting Western NSW and the North Coast.

We have also taken several short trips to beautiful Mallacoota just in Victoria.  Here we stay in a house owned by friends whose work has taken them out of the country.  Apart from the scenery ...
.. we also get to receive visitors of a marsupial nature.
While we are at home Frances has entered the realm of U3A (University of the Third Age) doing a shortish course on English Cathedrals and an ongoing Latin course.  She has maintained her interest in music and acquired a ukelele,attending another U3A course to get into the basics of the instrument of George Formby.  She continues.with piano, tin whistle and accordion!

Frances is also the project manager for various bits of our garden which continue to give us great pleasure and, for about half the year, quite a bit of food.  We ended getting a very good crop of tomatoes last year which were cropped made into pasta sauce which was then frozen.  This has been eaten throughout the year.  

Strawberries have also been frozen and towards the end of the year have been replaced as pickables by raspberries and loganberries.   In October 2013 a late and very nasty frost meant we got no apples last year: that didn't occur in 2014 so a good crop looks likely in 2015.  
Also looking better than usual is the crop of plums: as long as they get the right amount of water we should get a good crop of them towards the end of Summer.

Mentioning climate gets us to the weather.  I will be doing a special report on the year's weather when the year is complete, so will suffice for now to say that our rain was about average, after a very dry January.  We have only had the Creek flood once this year - partly due to restrained rainfall and partly to having added an extra 1 metre pipe.

Our interests in things natural has continued with us going on quite a few ANPS Wednesday walks when we have been home and they haven't clashed with the bird walks I lead one Wednesday a month.  On the block we had a pretty good orchid season with lots of Cyanicula and Glossodia.  

My main entertainment in the birding sphere has been a 'game' moderated from the US in which one tries to add a new species every day.  My first effort, starting on 1 January, bit the dust after 162 days and my second go beginning on 1 July lasted 173 days.  Definitely good fun and I look forward to starting again on 1 January.  I managed to add 2 birds to my life list in the year: Grey Falcon and Plum-headed Finch. Both of these additions occurred on our big trip.  The former is a very rare bird and was definitely a target for the trip.  The latter has been a target species for years, so it was very nice to realise that I wasn't looking at mutated House Sparrows when I finally nailed it.

Although not unusual to me, as I spend a lot of time looking for and at the family of Tawny Frogmouths that share our block I can report that they raised two chicks to independence this year.
Of course I spend a fair bit of time composing these blogs.  I've added 267 posts to this blog and probably another 50 to the various 'special blogs'.  For this blog there have been about 12,000 visits (averaging 32 visits per day) covering 48,000 post accesses, so someone reads the stuff!

The final topic is of exercise.  At one point we - mainly Frances - were thinking of doing some serious multi-day walks so started training for this by extending our morning dog walks.  The longer term objective has faded but we have kept up the longer walks, going about 8km (rather than 4km) 4 mornings a week.  This seems to have caused my waistline to be a little more evident and has helped my fitness a bit.  

Overall, by the end of the year I will have achieved about  200km running equivalents more than 2013.  140 of these km will come from extra walking, 40 from mountain bike riding and 20 from actual running.

My main achievement in the year was winning another gold medal in the ACT Veterans monthly handicap events.  This was an honest run, as I was very surprised to come first on a pretty tough course.  It did help that as a result of getting rather unfit mid-year my handicap had been eased out a few groups.

Everything else is pretty much chugging along as it should.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Kniphofia weaves its magic.

The Canberra Spinners and Weavers use the title "Warped and Twisted" for their Annual Exhibition.  Given the contorted bird-shapes in the following images I thought a reference to weaving in the title of this post quite appropriate.

Kniphofia is the genus name for the garden plant "Red-hot pokers".  There are many species but I suspect those below are K. uvaria.
We have two differing varieties - or possibly species - which flower at different times.  In the bed outside our sun-room we have the Summer flowering example, while on the Western part of the garden we have a couple of clumps which flower in Winter.  (Usually the emergence of the flowers on these is the signal for a hard frost (-5oC or below) which tends to disimprove them a bit.)

The flowers are very attractive to honeyeaters.  This is a Noisy Friarbird, also known as a Leatherhead.  This is the first twister.
 This image isn't as sharp as I like but is included to show the yellow pollen all over the bill and face.
The second bird species is the another big aggressive honeyeater, the Red-wattlebird.
Sometimes they are stretched as well as twisted.  This shot does show the red wattles, as well as the yellow belly.

 That is what I call twisted.
A few days later we received our annual visit from a New Holland Honeyeater.  They are regular at various Grevillea enriched spots around the area but only come here when the pokers are full of it.

A little later an Eastern Spinebill decided to make nice.  I liked this image because of the shape made by the feet, and spotting the red eye.
 After gorging, the bird went and recuperated ni the shade of a crab-apple tree.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Where is Mr Tray?

It being Christmas Day I thought you might like a small game to play while the Christmas pud, turkey, ham and sundry beverages slump to the base of your abdomen.  Or, if in a less happy situation, to distract you from not having the above.

We got two presents from a member of the family.

One was a coffee pot, complete with armouring vaguely along the lines of chook wire.  Interesting in and of itself but it turns out to have been manufactured by R Bourne and Son Ltd in 1947 (as were myself and Frances).  The date is substantiated by a stamp of "G VI R".  Unfortunately Google knows nothing about this bunch of Bournes - possibly they are from Denby in Derbyshire?   So if you want a really tough game, try to find out about this mob of potters!

For a simpler game, along the lines of "Where's Wally?"  I offer the following set of snaps including the second present described as "good for a garden party".  Possible this comment is based on the difficulty of losing it in a garden.

The product was subject to scrutiny by our garden's quality controller.
 Most of our garden parties are on the lawn, and Mr Tray is easy to find there.
 Also easy to track if leant against a clump of daisies!
 Don't let the fruiting tomatoes distract you!
 Honeysuckle is obvious but Mr T is a little subtle here.
 OK.  Earn your next glass of brandy: this features a chook house, some raspberry canes and Mr T!

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

A new feral?

I went for a drive through Hoskinstown in the direction of Rossi on 23 December.  Just outside of the first-named village are some blocks of land which were up for sale a few months ago.  I don't know if the sale went through, or was part of the sale of the whole of Foxlow Station.

On several recent occasions I have noticed some colourful; cattle on the property.  They have long, upthrust horns so I have called them Texas Longhorns (I can't see why anyone would have the alternative breed Ayrshires, as they are a dairy breed).

On this outing they had a new Best Friend Forever.
What on earth is a camel doing out here?  Obviously, in this case, eating hawthorn so it isn't all bad!
However the damage it could cause if it escapes is definitely a worry!

A further thought is that the combination of beasts from Texas and Arabia causes me to wonder if there was a link to other common factor of those locations: oil.  Is there fracking in Hoskinstown's future?

Monday, 22 December 2014

A three roo day

Apparently the American band Three Dog Night took their name from the custom of Australian indigenees (presumably the desert mob, not the salt water people) of stacking an extra dog on the bed when it gets cold.  It was quite warm on our walk this morning so we were happy with our single (small) dog.

However we did come across three species of macropod. (A 4th - the Wallaroo (Macropus robustus) is possible, but I have never identified one on the property.)

I didn't manage to get a photo of the Swampie (Wallabia bicolor) as it crashed away through the Kunzea.

The first sighting was of a red-necked Wallaby (Macropus rufogriseus).
It is interesting that the genus is Macropus - a common genus of Kangaroos - rather than Wallabia.  This must imply that the 'Wallaby' is used in the vernacular sense of 'small kangaroo' rather than whatever science underlies the taxonomy.

They are very pretty animals so I don't apologise for a couple of extra images.  This one also posed nicely, about 10m away, for quite a time - and in fact was still static when I walked away.

A bit further on a couple of the common Eastern Grey Kangaroos (Macropus giganteus) displayed the usual amount of terror at the sight of the small dog.  (They had hopped out of the way, and she had lunged briefly in their general direction, so protocol was satisfied.)
 Having a bouncing dog - with places to go and things to sniff - did mean this image isn't as sharp as the ones of the red-neck.
As well as the red on the shoulders of the roo the sky was a trifle colourful at dawn today.