Saturday, 31 October 2015

Australia Post overachieves

Unfortunately the competition was for "Least Competent Provider of Client Service"!

It is rumoured that this is going to be an Olympic event in Rio and I would have to say that if Australia Post can get a team together (a most unlikely occurence) they would be a lay-down misere for the podium.

(As an aside Australia could get 2 of 3 medals if the Passport Office enters: while I was in the PO, the staff were trying to take an acceptable photo of a 2 year old.  This, totally unreasonably, for a 2 yo required the photograph: 

  • to only include the kid; 
  • mouth must be shut, 
  • must be looking full face at the camera; 
  • ears must be showing, 
  • no hands near face etc etc.  

After 2 of the 3 staff on duty had put in 20 minutes on this task the queue for other services was out the door.  The patience of the staff, the mum with the kid and indeed the kid himself was brilliant. )

In my previous post about this odious organisation I dealt with the process of trying to cancel a mail hold.  Now I have tried to start a new hold and find that their site can't verify my identity, despite my carefully typing in my Drivers licence and passport details.  I tried their help line but the female there said "Ohhh - that is a technical issue so I will refer it to them by email."

Knowing that to be hopeless I have just had to drive to Queanbeyan to put in the hard copy.

Having achieved that I thought I would try the help line again.  Unfortunately this was on a Saturday and even the AP hotline doesn't take calls on weekends!  Watch this space.

So, still on the Saturday, I put in a message to their feedback line explaining the problem.  Obviously as it was Saturday I got no response until Monday.   About 4 pm on the Monday I got a call from someone on the helpline and we spent about 15 minutes trying to see what could be done.  The short answer was "nothing": I am locked out of the system and the nice lady had nothing in her manual as to how to deal with this situation.  She will refer to their technical area for resolution.

I did comment that I could only see two possible causes:

  1. their verification system has suffered a catastrophic failure; or
  2. as a result of my complaint last time someone has put a block on my account.

The nice lady assured me that option 2 was not possible.  Either she hasn't read any Stieg Larsson books (or she thinks I haven't!)

I should expect it to take 10 days, yes count them, 10 - that is 1 more than 9 - days to explore this and fix it.  And I presume that means 10 AP working days or 14 proper days.  Far canal: for this their CEO has been pulling down millions of bucks a year since 2012?

I also took the chance to ask why it takes 3 days for a redirection or hold to become effective.  Apparently the shop has to transmit it to the Mail Centre: given the mail centre works non normal hours I can see a lag coming in there.  The Mail Centre has to log it (should take no time, as it is already in a computer) then they have to print some labels - if there is a big queue that should introduce a delay of up to 5 minutes and the Mail Centre has to tell the administrators (should take no time, as it is already in a computer).  However given their competence level each step here probably requires an overnight update ......

As before watch this space.

Now 16 November and absolutely no response from AP.  They have just got a polite reminder - a less polite one is being composed.  Here is the tale of November 23.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Insects and their food

As 30 October was moderately warm and sunny I thought there was a chance of insects being around.   It was also a bit windy which made photography tricky (as did the constant swooping of a Pied Currawong) but I got a few snaps.  I need to do a bit more work on ID, but here is a work-in-progress.

Photinia has got a lot of blossom.  I think this is a beetle, rather than a bug.
 A scarab of some sort .
 This is a hoverfly: a different species to the very common ones around the place which I have snapped many times already.
 I took a picture of this pretty Leptospermum flower.  Only when looking at the image did I realise there is an insect down in the bottom of the flower!
The next day some livelier insects were in there!

 A Cabbage White dining on a Kiss-me-quick (possibly Centranthus alba) rather than dumpoing eggs on our brassica!
 A day-flying moth: I'll get the Latin later.
 A caterpillar on a Eucalyptus viminalis leaf
 A small Eucalyptus meliodora in flower, suggesting there will be lots for insects to munch when the big trees get going!

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

ANPS gets some unusualness at Lake Bathurst

This outing was advertised as showing some unusual plants on the dried out bed of Lake Bathurst.  And so it was made (probably more unusual than advertised in fact).

The Lake is best known to me as a site of great importance for birds, especially when it has some water in it.  We'll get to them a tad later, but it also has a number of unusual/threatened plants which are easier to get at when it is dry.

9 members turned up for the outing and I hope that those who dipped out feel a tad sorry for themselves.  Again, a lessee was kind enough to give permission to enter the area.

As would be expected from a dry lake flat, it is pretty flat and devoid of trees.
The trees on the fringing hill seemed well supplied with birds, including nesting Common Starlings and Tree Martins.  We soon found our first unusual plant in Wilsonia rotundifolia.  We have not recorded this before on a Wednesday Walk and it is rated as Endangered in NSW.
It was far from uncommon in this site!  The word 'carpet' springs to mind.

This is a Dodder, Cuscuta tasmanica.  Aswould be expected of a Dodder it is parasitic on plants including species of Wilsonia: no wonder it is doing well here!
This is a Ranunculus - which initially surprised me as the petals looked too narrow.  I think it is R. diminutus.
A sedge: Schoenus nitens
This one is only 'nearly open': Convolvulus graminetinus.  It is not officially endangered in NSW, but according to Plantnet is normally found on the NW Slopes and Plains, rather than the Southern Tablelands.
This was referred to as a Cranesbill - as someone said its a pity that vernacular names are more stable than the binomials!  The scientific name is Pelargonium sp GW Carr 10345, and the sp indicates (in this case) that it just hasn't yet been described, rather than there being doubt about identitiy.,
This is a Cynoglossum - I think C. australe.
Dodonea procumbens always gets this group excited.  It is rated as Vulnerable in NSW.  This colony had male plants ....
... female plants, with the red bits being styles, ...
.. and fruits.
There were some other unusual plants around, but not in flower and I decided not to spend your bandwidth on pictures of leaves!  Their presence will - like the foregoing pretties - be loaded to the Atlas of Living Australia in due course

Our local herpetologist found a Blotched Blue-tongued lizard.  These are far less common (at least where we live) than the Eastern Blue-tongue.
The prominent pinkish-orange colour of the blotches has not come out very well in this image.
There were a few birds around on the lake bed but I was surprised when a member drew my attention to this pretty little specimen - a Red-capped Plover -  running about some 5m from us.  It had included a broken-wing routine (they are also called Dotterels) in its repertoire.
It then went and sat down and looked at us.  I am very sure there were eggs under it.  However it is described as a non-breeding visitor to the COG Area of Interest (of which Lake Bathurst is at the Eastern extreme) so that makes this a very unusual record!

The surrounding paddocks were well endowed with beasts of which these were the laggards..
I had things to do at home so departed just before noon: other attendees were heading in the general direction of a very large clump of Pelargonium  and then, after lunch, to  a TSR between Tarago and Bungendore.  I look forward to hearing how they get on.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Blitzing Kowen and nearby places

Each year COG mounts a Blitz to cover as many areas in the ACT as possible, with an emphasis on recording birds undertaking breeding activities.  I have focused on the Kowen pine forest area (although this year I pretty much covered native vegetation patches lurking within the pines).  The following snip shows the places I visited: the red line on the Eastern side is the position of the Whiskers Fault (purely for interest - it doesn't seem to affect the birds).
This image shows the Molonglo at Blue Tiles picnic area.  At this point it is the border between NSW on the left and the ACT.  At one stage this was a popular spot for picnics on the weekend, but as it is now only reachable (without specific official permission to drive in, which I had) by a fairly rugged 3km walk it is rarely visited.  I recorded 14 common species here in 20 minutes.
Very close to Blue Tiles is a peninsula with rather different habitat - mainly a dry rocky ridge.  I recorded 14 species here - some different to the picnic area, including a Sacred Kingfisher.
I also walked along the first half of the rugged hike.  I was somewhat surprised, but pleased, at the number of other folks doing so.  Its known as the Molonglo Gorge and as the next image shows, the name is quite appropriate.  The wider stretches of the watercourse can be good for Platypus but I didn't see any.  In 73 minutes I recorded 23 species of birds: none particularly unusual.
There was a good flow in the Molonglo.
A nice breeding record from the Gorge.  Mr Pacific Black Duck was lagging a tad so just out of shot.
Having a few minutes to spare I swung by the Queanbeyan Sewage Ponds (which are, strangely, in the ACT not the NSW City of Queanbeyan) and got my best bird of the day in the form of a male Musk Duck.  Not a great photo - one duck, about 100m away against the backlit water can be a tad tricky to take - but it clearly shows the diagnostic sac under the bill.
Most of the action here was Eurasian Coots.  I counted 387 of them!  A week earlier I estimated 600, as I'd got over 400 and there were still a lot to count when my attention span died.
Crested Pigeons are far from uncommon but I like the colours, especially the iridescent patches on the shoulders.  (I was also experimenting with the IA setting on my camera and it seemed to do a good job in this and many other circumstances.)
Going back in time there were a lot of flowers around along the Molonglo including these white asters (ie members of the Asteraceae - the family isn't called the Daisiaceae) and Stackhousia.
This small orchid had me bluffed as there is no purple on the labellum on calli (aka teeth).  I have received expert advice that it is an albino form of Caladenia cucculata.

Now, I don't want anyone to get too excited, but here is a Pomaderris betulina (?) flower!
This mass of blossom is on Eucalyptus dives at the peninsula
Here is a snap of the patootie of a hoverfly - which seem to be in vast numbers this year - on the Euc blossom.
A small dipterid sucking on a Craspedia variabilis.
Another hoverfly - about 400m from the euc one so I am pretty sure it is a different individual  - on an aster.
This is a dragonfly and from using an online key have come up with it possibly being a Bronze Needle (Synlestes weyersii).
That was my first go at using the IA function and as the dragonfly was about 4m away and the camera handheld, I reckoned it was a pretty impressive snap.

As I drove out from Blue Tiles this dirty-nosed chap was checking out the termite habitat.
So that is all from the Saturday.  I totaled up to 48 species.

The Sunday started rather early.
 My first site was at the Eastern end of Kowen and is a Commonwealth Geophysics site.  As the place is well decked out with threatening signs about surveillance etc I just walk around the track outside.  (I suspect the surveillance isn't that heavy: some years ago a very large Yellow Box had fallen, taking out the perimeter fence, and when I reported this no-one knew about it.  Apart from the alleged security cameras, I'd have though the falling tree would have registered at about Richter 4 on their seismometers!)

I recorded 23 species here, adding several to the Blitzlist started the previous day.  I scored 3 breeding recording (Cockie (nest hollow), Pied Currawong nest with young and Common Starling nest with young.).

My next stop was the Pound, a sometime Travelling Stock Reserve (plus area for strayed beasts) but now a nice woodland Reserve.  Many nice old trees and a magnificent display of herbs (see below, but most  weren't open as it was still pretty cool).  I recorded 20 species here adding a few more to the list and recording breeding for Pallid Cuckoo (display: call by male and response by female), and Common Starling (nest with noisy young).
The reason for the early start was because I had to attend the Veteran Athletics monthly handicap at Mount Ainslie.  Here are the assembled hordes (obfuscated to defeat face recognition).  Note also the large trees in the background.  After my waddle I recorded 13 species here included Bird of the Day in the shape of a Dollarbird (see below) and Dependent Young Noisy Miner.  The latter will probably be regarded with horror by some readers as it seems to be becoming fashionable to object to this species.  (From my reading, the objections should be to Homo (non)sapiens who has cleared the understorey, rather than the birds that have taken advantage of same.)
My final stop was at the lane down to Newline Quarry, with the objective of riding my bike down the lane.  I made it so and recorded 21 species (a low haul for this trip - it was getting pretty warm and I probably hurried a bit much).  There were few additions to the list and breeding was recorded for Common Starling (nest with young - again!!!) and Crimson Rosella inspecting Hollow.
Here is the Dollarbird.  It seemed to be showing a lot of fidelity to pone dead tree, but I didn't see any overt indications of fecundity.
Some Bulbine lilies at the Pound.
Leucochrysum albicans and Dillwynnia sericea at the Pound.
An Australian Painted Lady at the Pound.
Another, somewhat battered Painted Lady but I like the detail of the head that shows here - image taken about 3m away on hefty zoom.
I totaled 67 species for the event.