Friday, 28 February 2014

Bird-a-day rolls through February 2014

The background to this project is summarised in the January report.

At the start of the year I had an objective of getting to the end of the year.  With the help of a few rarities, that looked easy.  Early in February things began to look a tad bleak: would I have to start using my "savers" to get through this month?

The answer is fortunately 'No."

Before getting to what has been seen, I will note that I have changed the way I calculate my index, which guides me in choosing the bird I select each day,  For reasons which now escape me I had calculated the index as the product of scores for Carwoola and the COG Area of Interest (COGAOI).  Where the bird hadn't been recorded in Carwoola I gave it a notional score of 0.0001.  As time has progressed I realised that this gave very low indexes to birds that were unusual in Carwoola but very easy to get in Canberra.  For example:

  • Australasian Darter index 0.000018
  • Australian Pelican   index 0.007494
In both cases I'd rate these as a code 2 (Should get 80-100% of the time in area seen this time of year) for Bird-a day.  In so doing I'd actually be placing weight on the need to go 30km to Canberra to see them: in Canberra I'd think about giving them code 1.

I have therefore changed the scoring to make it the sum of the two scores: if a bird is relatively unusual in Canberra but common in Carwoola it gets a highish index as it does if common in Canberra but unusual in Carwoola. (Of course birds that are bog-common in both get very high scores and those rare in both get very low scores.)  Under the new scheme the two species above get scores that are considerably higher:

  • Australasian Darter index 0.178179
  • Australian Pelican   index 0.331629
The picture represented by the two scores over the year to date is below.
The index value seems to have plateaued a little at the end as I have been 'getting' birds away from home (Spotted quail-thrush and Red-browed Treecreeper in Tallaganda; and Sooty Oystercatcher and Long-billed Corella in the Illawarra).   Based on my experience of rarely observing the species I rate the Red-browed Treecreeper as the 'best' bird of the month, but I don't have an image of that.  To give some 'pretty' to the post I repeat the image of the Long-billed Corella from Kiama.
In terms of everyday birds I rated three species as Code 2: Noisy Miner and White-throated Gerygone from home and Australian Reed-warbler from Lake Tuggeranong.  The last species would have rated a code 3 in Carwoola but it's almost code 1 at a reedy waterbody in Canberra.

Beyond all the rigour implied above is a little fiddling.  This is exemplified by Tawny Frogmouth which have a low index score they are generally found easily at home.  So they are part of the safety regime and will be kept in my back pocket for a while.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Shellharbour trip part 1

As Frances had a week off guiding and the weather seemed reasonable we decided to take the camper for a trip to the Illawarra coast.  We wanted to visit the area and still need further practice in putting it up.  It turned out the reasonableness of the weather included strong winds, which made life a little tricky, but we did get it erected in 45 minutes, which was definitely a personal best.  Here it is.
The campground was pretty crowded ..
.. and the site we scored was about the smallest around, but we fitted.  I got a bit panicked that I was blocking the road while setting up, but it seems that everyone has to do that so people don't get agitated.

The other folk we spoke to were very pleasant, and all seemed much more experienced than us.  Many of them had small dogs which gave Tammy much to look, and occasionally sniff, at.

On the drive we were initially amused by the new road safety adverts "Keep your hand off it." followed by a second phrase referring to mobile phones.  Clearly someone in the RTA has a sense of humour (for the benefit of younger, or international, readers the phrase in question references onanism, a favourite topic of semi-risque jokes in Australia).  While the joke was a bit tired after the 20th repetition it was still better than the famous 'Pinkie' ad.

We chose to go via the Hume and Illawarra Highways.  The latter passes through Robertson where we found the price of diesel to be about 4 cents a litre less than anywhere else (even after shopper docket discounts).  This led on to the Macquarie Pass: a most scenic route.


One of the bends (15kph advisory) required a bit of thought and justified the warning signs about "beware of trucks on bends".  Towards the bottom we met a semi-trailer going up and expressed thanks we hadn't met it earlier.  (Our neighbours in the campground were going to head UP the pass with a much bigger van en route to Cowra.  I tried to explain to them about the easier route through Nerriga but it got too complicated: see the departure from Nowra in part 2 for more on this.)

Our first stop - more of an extended pause - was in Albion Park, at the foot of the escarpment.
 Having snapped the War Memorial we concluded that we had 'done' Albion Park and headed towards Shellharbour.  On arrival we were somewhat appalled at the look of the place.  Exactly what the late Pete Seeger had in mind when he sang "Little boxes".  As Frances said it was like Gungahlin with a better view!  It was interesting that although vegetation had been extirpated in the gardens the roads were flanked by high hedges so that the horror of what was inside was not apparent!
The Shellharbour Council was busy putting up signs banning dogs from most everywhere, but apparently it was OK to have a dog on lead on the beach despite what was suggested here.
A coment from Birdline NSW (21 January 2013), referring to Shellharbour Swamp.
"It is terrible that another good habitat is going to be lost for good. Hopefully this single Snipe can have something to say before that happens, and our environment minister will show some guts and actually protect the environment."
I like the sentiment but pity someone whose hopes must be dashed on a daily basis by what passes for Government in NSW.  Let us go and visit the burg and see what occurs!  The Swamp was thoroughly fenced off, with nasty warning signs, but work was still going on to build the unnecessary marina.
Not happy.

So we went off to Port Kembla, home of the steel works.  This was an intensely interesting place.  The works were most impressive- possibly what the brutalist architects were aiming for.
This building seemed have Jeffrey Smart's ideas all over it!
So if your entry is "Uncontrolled" its OK to go in?
I don't know if they still have a blast furnace there but this was an impressive industrial cloud!
We ended up at the outer harbour with a good view of the coast South.
And across the water to the industrial area..
A couple of Crested Terns were chilling on the rocks of the breakwater.
We walked along the breakwater (approximately 1.1km), presuming that the railway lines were installed to allow the deposition of the huge concrete blocks.    This was another area with signs which appeared to prohibit entry, but a local said it was OK and we did see others walking along or fishing.
On the subject of fishing these lads were having a good time at the ramp.  Note the angle of the rod held by the guy in the water.  He landed a rather nice fish shortly after I took this.
I gave obfuscated the faces in case any of the anglers had called in sick or taken leave to bury their granny.  The kite surfer's face cannot be seen, but I suspect from the skill he was showing he spends a lot of time here!  On occasion - I think when he hit a wave - he was getting about 4m up in the air, which I have not seen before.
A nearby hilltop was covered by these objects which turned out to be tetragonal tank traps laid on beaches during the Second Great Unpleasantness.  They would be ineffective if faced with a small dog invasion.
We then visited the RSL to photograph the War Memorial.  I was surprised about the condition of the place: falling to bits and the grass not mown.  
The words on the wall appeared ironic given the background available from the Illawarra Mercury about recent history of the club.  More recently the executive of the RSL sub-branch had been sacked for some silly business,  A great pity as a lot of work had gone into the layout of the memorial.

We proceeded back over the bridge at Windang and took a few snaps of the bus shelters around Shellharbour.

While excellently done they do seem to break the rule that getting locals to decorate such infrastructure keeps the talentless taggers away.

Other infrastructure int he area included  a very pleasant looking pool beside the sea ....
.. while the path - dare one call it a promenade - was well decorated with motifs about marine life.
The small park had good fig trees and a bandstand..
This sign was a bit of a worry.  It wasn't clear if the contamination was from what got washed off the sweaty bodies in the pool of an insufficiently deep discharge from the municipal effluent scheme,

Our fish and chips had no ill effects on us.  But then I suspect the barrmundi wasn't caught locally (although global warming ....).

The design of the pub was very pleasant.  Note the angle of the LH palm tree: the wind was still howling.
I had an ordinary nights sleep with the noise of the wind, waves, and some industrial pump noise.  When I went to check the latter item (mainly to check it wasn't the fridge in the camper having a moment) it seemed to be someone doing something in a grilled area adjacent to the pool.  Possibly this was something to do with the sign up above?

Anyhow, the next morning we walked up the main drag to acquire some baked material for breakfast and found the War Memorial.  Extremely well maintained and interesting.

I Googled the name of the ship mentioned in this memorial and found a very interesting tale.  You may read it yourself -it is well worthwhile - but the most interesting element is that the four dead soldiers were not from the ship, but a detachment of locals sent to assist in the rescue!

So we left Shellharbour and hit the Princes Highway heading for Kiama.
Step this way to part 2!

Shellharbour trip part 2

This follows on from part 1 of the report on this trip.  I hope that it isn't too linear to have part 2 following part 1!

Kiama was found easily and we swung into the town following signs marked to the Blowhole, which is the big tourist item in the area.  This was our first example of working out where to park a camper and was initially a bit fraught as no double length drive-through spots seemed available.  However we eventually found a parallel park from which we could walk back to the War Memorial.

En route we met some more marine-life themed pavement art.
This tin shed is attached to the old fire station (now an art gallery, see below) but no-one seemed to know anything about who painted the shed.
Here is the front of the fire station.  In contrast to the she d the painted cow (Daisy) has a webpage all about her.   Any students of bureaucratic OHAS obsessions are encouraged to read the PDF guidelines for painting her!
This is the basic war Memorial in Kiama.
Between the arch and the street is a large wall to which a few plaques have been affixed to honour veterans who are not listed on the arch.
Opposite the Arch, set in a pleasant, but surprisingly canophobic, park were a row of attractive older public buildings including the police station court house and Post Office.  It is interesting how the Post Offices are often among the best preserved buildings in country towns: let us hope this continues as Australia Post continues along the New World Order of focusing on bottom line..
When we visited the Shoalhaven area almost exactly a year ago we looked down on Kiama from the spot where Lloyd Rees painted the view.   That spot is indicated by the arrow in this image: we were standing just below the lighthouse just visible in the earlier image.
This is the blowhole.  As the swell was puny it wasn't functioning while we were there.
A longer view of the Point.  A fisherperson was on the first rocky headland but vanished when my camera pointed towards.  I guess he was definitely supposed to be at his grandmother's funeral
There was good mineralisation n the rocks.  Probably find Ms Rinehart (any of 'em)  or Palmer MP thinking - as much as that crew think about anything - about digging the place up and selling the result to China or India.
As we approached the fish shop this large pooch started jumping up and down with excitement.  Tammy was pleased to accommodate him but then he ran away!
I thought these spikes were to deter birds from perching and guano-ising the lights.
Nice try, no cigar.
Possibly it does stop pelicans from sitting on the lights themseleves and breaking them off - see below.  At this point Tammy and I were sent from the field to get the car while Frances waited for the fish shop to actually start trading.    We found this huge fig tree from which strange calls were emerging.
I thought it might be Channel-billed Cuckoos but in fact it turned out to be Long-billed Corellas.
This Pelican was in natural habitat out near the Blowhole,
while this one was conversing with a Little Black Cormorant on the gantry used by the Game Fishing Club.
The anglers in this snap wereunlikely to need th gantry.
On, on down the Highway to Nowra.  Whenever there are rumours that the Earth is to be given an enema, the citizens of Nowra start reading their flood emergency plans.  On this occasion the sin was that although the road from Nowra to Goulburn is pretty good, and far less hazardous that Macquarie Pass there is not a sign to Goulburn (or Nerriga) on the obvious turn-off from the Princes Hghway so we drove about 5km too far South and then returned.

Once on the correct road we went past HMAS Albatross where a pair of Bell 429 helicopters were having fun doing chicken runs
and formation flying backwards.  The most startling manoevre was when they went more or less vertically upwards and then flipped into vertically downwards: as they were only a couple of hundred metres (at most) up, there wasn't a great deal of time for the pilot to work out which lever to pull before a very expensive incident.  I think we sat and watched them for about 10 minutes (surprisingly, the forces of repression didn't appear to ask what we were doing).

As we went up the road we came across a lot of flowering plants in Parma Creek Nature Reserve.  For some reason, although declared in 2001 this Reserve isn't shown in the NSW OEH list of Parks and Reserves near Nowra. This first is a Persoonia but I am not sure which.
A Banksia
Lambertia formosa
A member of the Fabaceae.  I am tempted by Jacksonia scoparia but it is described as absent from the sandstone coast and flowers Oct -Nov.
A bug.
Tianjara Falls were trickling but the creek wasn't really flowing.
A final shot of the descent to the Endrick River!