Wednesday, 30 September 2015

ANPS gets close to L*ons and into Farrer

All of the group were close to the suburb of Lyons, while Kris, Jo and myself, coming through beautiful downtown Queanbeyan were close to the lions at the circus.

 OK.  Getting to the venue.  Here is the approximate route.
There were many good views to the West ...
 .. and North.

Once out of the worst depredations of the Sparks and Wildfires Service there were masses and masses of flowers.  This shows some Indigofera and Stypandra.
 OK, again, already!  Lets get up a bit closer to the plants.  Stackhousia monogyna was present in vast amounts: enough 'candles' to light up a Liberace concert!
 Leucopogon attenuatus was getting a tad over.
 On the other hand some L. fletcheri was very fresh looking.
Sticking with the white goods Drosera peltata had quite a few flowers.  Some of them were a tad pinker than this.
 Pimelea linifolia.
 Poranthera microphylla
 Stypandra glauca came in two flavours: large serves of the traditional blue ...
 ... and a sample of the new improved white!
 Kunzea parvifolia (plus bonus beetle)
 The beans are coming! The beans are coming!  Pultenaea procumbens leads the charge
 More big clumps: in this case Indigofera australis climbing into an Exocarpos cupressiformis.
The mauve beans were very evident: this is Glycine clandestina: note the brown fuzz on the calyx in the top right corner.
 Hardenbergia violacea is begining to hit its straps: I reckon a tad late.
 A closer view of Indigofera australis.
 Heading into the monocots, there were quite a lot of Thysanotus patersonii.
 This caused me some angst, but Jo correctly picked it as an odd Wurmbea dioica (Early Nancy)
A spider orchid - one of quite a nifty looking colony, although Julie reckoned it was less plants than in the past.
A very small greenhood. In the past I'd have called it Hymenochilus muticus but these days, who knows what it is?
This burl caused some fair amusement.  It was initially called a nose (yep, can see that); I reckoned it looked like a sheep (note the small black eye above); but IMHO the winner was a suggestion of dugong.
 Craspedia variabilis: single plant and ...
 .. lotsa plants.
 It was popular with fruit flies ...

 .. other unknown insects ...
 ... and conventional flies.
 The first insect I snapped on the day was this attractive cockroach on a Eucalyptus blakeleyi.
 A few birds were around.  A curious Red Wattlebird.
 Two Speckled Warblers were feeding close to our lunchtime nosh stop.

Monday, 28 September 2015

A few exotics from the garden

Some friends have surrendered their house to the ACT Government under the Mr Fluffy scheme. It is thus likely that the entire block will be graded to bedrock and their entire garden trashed.  Thus, before they moved out they invited friends and acquaintances to remove what they fancied from the garden.  We took a couple of boot loads of stuff.  Some of it hasn't survived my gentle ministrations but overall it is doing well.

I have been very surprised by the pretty flowers on the Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium).
The blueish berries will be a bonus later in the year.

The other real exotic, which was a surpise last year, is a Euphorbia (possibly E. wulfenii).

My previous encounters with this genus were in Tanzania, where they were more like moderate sized trees.  This one, a different and unknown to me species, was at Seronera Lodge in the Serengeti.
Slightly less uncommon, but really no less exotic to the Australian context, are the following 'pretties':

 Tulip 1
 Tulip 2
Our Wistaria has also bloomed - just in time to get beaten up by a hail storm.  I got a snap before that!

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Spring hits its straps in Carwoola

The Leucopogon fletcheri is is full flower now, forming drifts on the un-Kunzead slopes of our block.
In the cleared areas Early Nancys (Wurmbea dioica) have formed carpets.  Looking at the swollen gynaecia on this stalk of flowers they are getting close to the end of their cycle.
As noted, the little blue orchids (Cyanicula caerulens) have done their dash,  However the big mauve ones Glossodia major are taking up the slack.
I have struck out the "scientific names" for these two species of orchids because no one seems willing to make an authoritative statement as to what is which, so I'm sticking with what I can see.  (Of course, they don't concern themselves with vernacular  names, so there isn't a good set of them.)  If the scientists stop behaving like preschoolers perhaps I will revisit this situation.

I am monitoring the display of big mauve ones as I did last year.  That will result in a post in about 3 weeks time when they retire for the year.  On the way back from the count on 28 September I came across a small pink jobbie.
Several other families are also getting in on the act.

Representing the bean family (Fabaceae) we have Pultenaea procumbens and ...
 ... Bossiaea buxifolia.
 And in the pure yellow corner from the Asteraceae a daisy/aster in the form of Microseris lanceolata.

More Book Reviews

I seem to have been having a good run with books recently.  Possibly because Frances has been finding goodies and passing them on.

The first is "The Longest Climb" by Dominic Faulkner.  This is the story of an expedition he led to travel by human power from the lowest point on the (dry bit of) Earth's Surface to the highest point.  This went on mountain bikes from the Dead Sea via Syria, Iran, Pakistan and India to Nepal and obviously to Everest.  I gritted my teeth on seeing the endorsement by Bear Grylls (since I reckon him to be an onanist of the first order) but thought the forward by Sir Ranulph Fiennes was more promising.

In fact it is very good.  He makes it clear that he has the training to do this (via service in the UK SAS - surprisingly, with Mr Grylls) unlike Eric Newby in A Sort Walk in the hindu Kush who pretends to be a wimp but actually has a very tough background.

The bike riding bit is very interesting with all sorts of problems to be solved - mainly dealing with officialdom in the various countries they pass through.  The obvious contrast for this is with "Off the Rails" by Tim Cope: but Faulkner seems able to avoid the interpersonal warfare that made reading Cope's book as much of a mental epic as the journey itself.  This is I presume an outcome of his SAS background.

The climbing stuff is very interesting with more folk joining the team and the interactions with other groups on the mountain.  From looking more widely at his site (linked above), Faulkner has kept up an interest in Nepal and seems to be doing his bit to assist with relief from the earthquake.

Book 2 is The Butterfly Isles by Patrick Barkham.  This is ostensibly about Barkham's endeavour to see every species of butterfly in the UK in a single Summer.  It should be noted that the link is to a review in the Guardian, for whom Barkham writes.  But it is by Richard Mabey who has much cred!

As well as the travelogue there is a lot of information about the various species.of butterfly.  There are also a couple of subtexts.

One is relatively boring about his girlfriend, a party animal by the name of Lisa which fortunately doesn't take up too much space.

The second is about the need to manage habitats carefully to support a range of species.  Just fencing off an area and letter nature run rampant is not good enough when much of the environment has been completely changed so that the pre-technology ecology no longer works.  In particular he notes cases where controlled grazing keeps the pasture either the required length or the correct species mix to meet the butterfly's needs.  This calls to mind a few things:
  • The attempts to prevent kangaroos grazing the entire ACT down to bedrock (where it hasn't been covered with McMansions);
  • Comments made by a Leeton local about the benefits, for shorebirds, of cattle grazing the margins of Fivebough Swamp;
  • Control of gulls at Kennedy Airport in New York by managing the height of the grass ( they won't nest if it is too long as they can't see approaching predators).
Apart from subtext 1 (a trivial proportion of the book) I found it very interesting.  Despite him working for the Guardian there were very few typos!

However the book news isn't all good.  

From time to time I come across exhortations to follow some topic (for example sightings of unusual birds) on Facebook.  Every time I have thought about doing so I bump into some part of Mr Zuckerberg's plan to get rich at the expense of my privacy and bail out.   The success of his scheme is such that I feel guilty about this.  So when I came across a book in the ACT Library Service called "Facebook and Twitter for seniors for Dummies" I thought this might contain some some secrets that would let me join this world and borrowed it.

I'm glad I didn't buy it.  I have found some books in the Dummies series very helpful, especially where - like "Windows 8 for Dummies" the book tells you how to overcome the stupidities forced on you by (eg) Microsoft.  This one is a real fizzer.  The issues come in two groups: style and content.

With regard to style, I am pretty sure from some of the screenshots that the author, Marsha Collier, comes from California.  Now I like parts of California, but I do remember a comment that:
California is like muesli: take all the fruits and nuts out and all you have left is cracked corn.
She continually exhorts people to have "fun".  This is like talking to preschoolers not 'seniors' unless she is aiming at those in the 7th circle of dementia.  Rather than being appalled at the prospect of getting umpteen messages saying that people, you might remember from kindy, are eating donuts right now, she revels in this crap.

She also expresses a little concern about privacy (she says she won't put her address on Facebook - probably to avoid all the people coming round and asking for their $28.74 + postage back) and seems to cover this by showing grabs from her daughter's profile - at least this is why I assume that some shots are for "Claire Collier".

Getting to content she goes through what is needed to complete a Facebook profile suggesting that folk put up most of the stuff requested.  If I was going to let people know which school etc I went to, I'd follow the example of Damon Runyan (with an Australian twist) saying I had gone to Yatala College, the University of Pentridge and taken a post-doctoral position at Maconochie.  I'm not sure I want to reveal my age and gender: why make life easy for those marketing drugs?

I suppose the good thing I got out of this, before I flung it across the room (an honour previously only awarded to Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand) was confirmation of my concerns about Facebook.

But what about Twitter you say?  The answer is in the first 4 letters of the name.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Its Orchid-swapping time

About 3 weeks ago I posted about the emergence in 2015 of Cyanicula caerulens on our block.  I have been checking the number of flowers each day (that we have been around) since.  After our trip to Lake Cargelligo caused a brief hiatus, my visit to the orchids yesterday was the finale for the year: only about half the number found and quite a lot of them were very sorry.  So its time for a comparison with last year.

Before doing that here is a picture for those who don't know what a Cyanicula caerulens looks like!
There are 3 main sites for the plants on the block, plus a few outliers.  When I posted about these flowers last year an emailed comment was positive about it saying that it formed a good benchmark.

Once one has a benchmark, one compares things to it!  So, this chart shows the total number of flowers I counted in 2014 and 2015.
I have used a 4th order polynomial to summarise the data: the values of R2;above 0.9,  suggest the curve fits the data pretty well.  Several points emerge from this:
  • the first flowers were observed a little later in 2015;
  • the maximum number of flowers noted was a lot less in 2015; and 
  • the cessation was more 'gentle' in 2015.
As with last year the 'core' site presented the greatest number of flowers.  In the chart below I have used the concept of a flower-day, being 1 flower for 1 day - a flower that lasts for 10 days scores 10!
Although I don't have rigorous data on this aspect the extent of the core site was smaller in 2015 than in 2014.  It is approximated in this graphic with the red line bounding 2014 and the green line, 2015.
The area between the lines is much more densely covered with Kunzea ericoides than the 2015 area, but I think I would have noticed orchids in the fringe area (perhaps a core is like a promise, although a non-core-core sounds like a choking corvid).

I suspect trying to do more with these data would be going well beyond the limits of the data set.  Not to mention the limits of my ability!