Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Some late Summer invertebrates

As will be revealed when I analyse the March weather records I have decided that in this area Summer ends at the end of March rather than the beginning.  Thus taking the following photos on 31 March was doing the business in Summer rather than Autumn.

It is often said that Buddleia is the Butterfly Bush.  We have a couple of specimens of that genus which are just about 'over' at present.  However we have some Westringia which is proving very attractive.

Australian Painted Lady
Always good to see Cabbage Whites doing something other than laying eggs on Brassica!
 The image shows how a Common Blue resembles the flowers on Westringia.
Meadow Argus
 A day flying moth.
This red and blue beetle was in the house.  I have taken many images of them on plants but thought this one with its shadow was quite amusing.
I have posted a couple of times about the swarming flies, which I first noticed on 13 January.  They are still going most evenings!

Monday, 30 March 2015

Birds flock up

Today I decided to go for a cruise to a few birdie spots.  The weather was OK, but allegedly 'cloudy'.  Now my understanding of  'cloud' is water droplets.  This view of the dirty 'cloud' trapped in the Murrumbidgee Valley by an inversion suggests that if there is water in it, it has coalesced around the smoke particles generated by State-sponsored vandalism in the form of huge habitat reduction burns.
It bewilders me that we have just had the fire season extended because of elevated risk levels while the RFS are carbonising everything they can apply a match to.

The overcast - whatever its cause - made the light rather polarised and thus difficult to get acceptable snaps.  However there are a few which might be of interest in what follows.

I began by heading east to check a few dams near the Mills Cross Telescope in case the Plumed Whistling Ducks had returned there.  They hadn't, but there were 13 Australasian Shovelers - a high number for this area -  on a dam.
It is now the official Hawthorn fruit season.  ( I am not implying that the Hawthorn Football club are a bunch of fruits: that would probably get David Pocock annoyed with me.)  In stead I am referring to the roads of the area being replete with haws (I am not implying that the Hawthorn FC  .....) which are a popular dietary item for Gang-gang Cockatoos. In this case the male is above the female.
This image shows 11 of the flock of 21.  Again a high number for the area, although in the past a flock of 100 has been seen at this time of the year.
This gets in under the spiffy image rule.  Also, the pose is very typical for the species.
A pair of Red-rumped Parrots were nearby.  Here is a very colourful male, showing the red rump!
 Moving a tad North to Bungendore Meadow Dam there were 100 (and that is a count not an estimate)  Australian Shelduck on the dam or spread around the surrounding paddock feeding.  At one time this would have been a "rip your shirt off and dance in the street" exciting sighting.  However there have been a couple of sightings recently of up to 150 of the species in this locale.  So it is just a good sighting.  There were also about 150 Sulphur-crested Cockatoos around the cattle feeders.

Ducking around the corner to Trucking Yard Lane I initially though there were very few Plumed Whistling Duck present.  Then I counted and got to 52: well below maximum counts for this season but two years ago the thorax would have been bared for a flock this size.
 This image includes a couple of Grey Teal and Pacific Black Ducks for comparison
 There were also another 50 Sulphur-crested Cockatoos in the background and then at least 100 Galahs flew in.
 My main intention had been to go to the Newline Paddocks close to Canberra Airport.  The primary paddock was as dry and dismal as I have ever seen it, with very few birds.  However going down the lane leading to the quarry improved things rather well.  The first exciting bird was a Black-shouldered Kite (which I suspect is an immature bird as some buff colouring can be picked up on the breast).
A pair of Rainbow Lorikeets have been seen in this area for some years.  This is, I believe, the only example in this sub-region of them setting up residence outside the Canberra urban area.  On this visit I initially spotted 1 ....
 ... then it was joined by a friend ...
.. and I could hear another pair calling nearby, so that is 4, suggesting a successful nesting

Other largish groups seen along the Lane were 20 Eastern Rosellas; 53 Starlings; 10 Dusky Woodswallows; 10 Noisy Friarbirds and 10 Red-rumped Parrots.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Election "Day"

I have put quotes around the word 'day' as in modern times a fair proportion of voters will already have voted.  This makes it doubly annoying to have got a phone call at about 9:45 from the NSW Electoral Commission (I presume) urging me to go and have my say!

At least that is less annoying than it would have been to get an SMS from Mike Baird while I was watching the footy last night.  According to the SMH many folk weren't as lucky.  If they were Rabbitoh supporters they'd have been really gutted: your team gets flogged and you cop a spam text!

The current sportsbet market on the election is $1.01 for the Coalition and $21.00 for Labour.  (By the way I do know the Party spells its name without a 'u' but that is merely an example of the impact of a poor education system so I ignore it!)  In the same way that I regarded an earlier price of $12 as good value but essentially meant you'd do your dough, I reckon only the numerator in the fraction changes -  the answer is still that you'd do your dough.

And so it was.

To some extent it was a contest between two invisible men.

  • Baird did a brilliant job of keeping the Monk out of the campaign - apparently the latter was too busy signing cheques to fund the campaign promises. (I don't think Harry Lee's funeral was timed precisely to have his Speedoness out of the country for the final day.)  
  • Unfortunately the other MIA was the Leader of the Opposition, Luke - Who? - Foley.   
If he is still Leader in 4 years time I will be amazed.  By way of example consider this quote:
Opposition Leader Luke Foley's declaration that "normal service had to be returned" in NSW politics.
So getting thumped by the Coalition is now normal?

There were a dense crop of a-frames outside the booth where I was handing things out:
I was intrigued by the colours chosen by the Nationals: green for their posters and yellow with green writing for the t-shirts.
The red spots above are obfuscation not acne (although most of the volunteers at this booth (central Queanbeyan) were of a dermatologically-challenged age.  By contrast in this illustration of a Steve Whan t, the red eye indicates that I had seen the early results coming through:
The shirt is actually redder than it appears.

By about midnight on the day the swing in our electorate was a whole 0.1% to the ALP!  This probably reflects the efforts of John Barilaro over the past 4 years (as well as the two factors mentioned above). If he keeps that up he has probably got a job for life.  It will be interesting how many of the promised loin chops:
  • New Police Station for Queanbeyan

  • a squillion dollars spent on the local roads ...
 ... actually emerge from the pork barrel.

The biggest loser is the environment.  No ban on CSG but land clearance gets a big go ahead.  While the Greens seem to have done OK, their presence in the Chamber will do nothing to upset the greedy sods on the Government benches.  To make matters worse it looks as though the Shooters and Fishers Party will have at least one of their troglodytic members back in the Council.

Grrrrrr!

Having raised the minor partis this article about the No Land Tax Party is amusing.  I seem to recall tales in the Frank Hardy book "Power without glory" about the dead voting, but this is the first time I can recall hearing of them being a candidate.  Perhaps this will be a knew source of feigned indignation - concern about Dead People's Rights!

Friday, 27 March 2015

Geology Field trip 3 Wee Jasper

An excellent day!

We had a very easy drive in to Deakin, despite the early start and set off on time.  It was a tad disquieting to find a couple of overweight cyclists taking up the whole road going down into Urriara Crossing.  There were quite a lot more of them just over the Crossing.
Apparently they were heading for Sydney, and had chosen a scenic route.  Some of them must have been from overseas as they didn't which side of the road to ride.
Others were on the right side of the road (just) but averse to the soft shoulder.
Stone the crows - at the end of Fairlight Rd (about 5km after the Crossing) they all seemed to be having another rest period.  Fortunately we were able to get past them all and head off to Taemas.

The business there was spotting the limestone outcrops, forming the eastern side of the anticline of which we were to see the Western side at Wee Jasper.
After Crossing Mountain Creek many more outcrops were visible  on the lower LHS of the road towards Wee Jasper.  I really like the interaction of the outcrops with the interlocking spurs here.
After a morning tea break at the Fitzpatrick trailhead we moved to the vicinity of Carey's Caves.  Here we could see red soil (and pebbles in a watercourse) in front of dark limestone outcrops going up the hillside.
The red coloured material is of a Silurian nature, while the limestone is the last marine deposits of the Devonian period.

Here is some more of the limestone decorated with Kurrajong trees.
The Kurrajongs seem capable of getting into small fractures in the limestone, despite the apparent lack of a sol substrate.
And then they might form interesting shapes ....
.. while dropping seed pods all over the place.
Many of the limestone outcrops showed this grooved, or pleated, weathering.  This is due to slightly acid rain carving small channels.  The white colour is lichen rather than as I suspected guano from raptors using the rock as a launch site.
Here are some joints in the rock.  They are probably future habitat for Kurrajongs!
We then moved on to Cooradigbee Station where fossils were on the menu.  As revealed on this piece of butchers paper the area was a shallow sea in the Devonian period (about 400 million years ago).
Sediment dropped into the sea but water remained above leading to the build up of about 1200m of sediment.  This took about 16 million years.    As well as what was in the sediment, it covered and preserved corals on the sea bed.
This is the imprint of an armoured fish's (Placoderm) eyeball.
The owner of Cooradigbee (Ian Cathles) provided us with a wealth of information about the nature of the fossils found on the property and how they are handled.
  • A key factor is that the fossils are mainly bone (calcium phosphate) whereas limestone is calcium carbonate.  This enables acetic acid (ie vinegar) to be used to dissolve the rock but not the fossil.  
  • The fossils can then be scanned using a CAT scanner.  The ones used at ANU take 200 scans per mm (while a human CAT scanner takes a shot every mm). 
  • This enables the development of 3D prints of the objects such as this resin form of a Placoderm eyeball.
Another real fossil of a nautiloid,
Out to the rocks.  The white lines represent cracks in the rocks into which water later with dissolve d minerals has run.  When the water evaporates the mineral material crystallises out.  This might form calcite (if the mineral is calcium based) or quartz if silicon.
Here is a coral fossil in situ.
And a nautiloid.
This is looking South down the Goodradigbee River.  It is the back end of Burrinjuck Dam which started to be built in 1907: well before the Snowy scheme.   When the dam is full the water reaches the tide mark visible on the RH bank.  In the most recent wet period it reached the top of the green patch on the left.  The trees were all dead when Ian's family arrived in 1948
Looking downstream the triangular outcrop is a hard sandstone layer, which is unusual in the area.
As we walked a number of pebbles like this were seen.  The stone is sourced from about 15km away and if peered at closely it could be seen that they had been worked by human efforts.  In other words they were Aboriginal tools: a hammer on the left and an axe head on the right.  They had almost certainly been carried there by a human.
There were a good number of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos at the homestead ...
... and surprisingly Australian Pelicans on, and above the River.
At the invertebrate level this wasp was running about in the paddocks, probably looking for a tasty spider.
Near the homestead there was evidence of elm leaf beetles.
They had basically defoliated some very large trees in a year.  Ian was investigating how to react to this, with banding the trees being a likely outcome.