Monday, 1 February 2016

2 strolls and a chat

I had about 3 hours to do what I wanted in Canberra this morning.  I started with a visit to Kelly's Swamp in Jerrabomberra Wetlands.

Given recent weather in the ACT it was not surprising to find it was raining when I got there.  Getting Bird-of-the-day was not hard as an Intermediate Egret was sitting right outside the hide/blind,
The rain had slicked down the nuptial plumes (or aigrettes) on the breast but those on the back are more visible.  The red legs and bill are also signs that the bird is in the mood for multiplication.  All of these are good field marks as is the length of the neck relative to the body.  The final field mark is not related to hormonal cycles, but the fact that the yellow facial skin doesn't extend past the eye.
Having got that dealt with I got a small surprise to find a (normally skulking) Lathams Snipe  walking up and down a log in the water!
 An Australian Pelican imitating a headless chook!
 A somewhat distant Freckled Duck.  The red patch just visible at the base of the bill indicates this is a male.  Field marks for this species are the overall colouration, the'ski-jump' bill and the wee crest.
There were about 39 Welcome Swallows (subspecies 'soggy') perched on this fallen tree.
 My next port of call was the lecture theatre at ANBG for a talk to the Science Group about the value of continuing to collect Herbarium specimens.  The presenter's point was illustrated by a graph showing a massive amount of herbarium specimens collected in the period 1950 to 2000 but a very steep drop off since then. She then talked about 2 of her projects:

  • a trip to the Simpson Desert; and
  • work to rediscover the plants listed in 1969 on Black Mountain, Canberra.

Both had good outcomes for recording the biodiversity of the areas (the former rarely visited while the latter is on the doorstep of National scientific institutions in Canberra).

However I found the talk a little disappointing since she didn't explain - strongly enough to convince me - why the collection of physical specimens was more effective than good (ie not mine) photographs or collection of tissue samples  for DNA analysis.  To my mind the physical specimens are much harder to access (basically one has to be in a Herbarium to access them) and she admitted that Herbaria are very expensive operations.  The drop-off of 'collection' appears to coincide with widespread use of digital photography and the current fad for taxonomists to base their arcana around DNA rather than morphology (plus stringent bean-counter crackdowns on public expenditure).

Whatever, it was a worthwhile investment of an hour.

I then went for a stroll round the Gardens to see what was around.  I was hoping for butterflies, but although the rain had stopped it wasn't really good flutterby weather. It did mean this fallen tree in the rainforest gully looked spiffy.
 This Grevillea 'Masons Hybrid' looked very attractive but had no takers when I passed by.
The most interest (I only had 30 minutes or so and thus couldn't spend a lot of time hunting for birds) was in the Gippsland Water Dragons.  The usual spot for seeing them is the waterfall in the Rock Garden and they were there in numbers.  There are 8 in this image and many more in others spots nearby.
I have included these two for the contrast in colour.  I have not noticed one with such a brown colour before.
This very colourful gent is obviously hafway through a moult.
Towards the end of my stroll I passed through the Tasmanian garden.  Blow me dead there were a heap more Water Dragons.  I think my total count here was 15!
It appears that some entities can't read the "Keep off the garden beds" signs.
My recollection is that in the past kangaroos were strictly unwelcome in the gardens.  I saw at least 6 in my short stroll this morning.

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