Friday, 29 April 2016

Psittaciformid Psensations

I hope you are reading this in the morning as I feel you should always start the day with a couple of silent ps.

The post may well get augmented as/if I get further images of members of the Cockatoo and Parrot family in the next few days.

This group of Australian King-parrots were on a power line reserve between the Canberra suburbs of Chifley and Pearce.   Of this group I think the upper one is a juvenile male (on bill colour ) and the other two females.

Clearly an adult male.
A Sulphur-crested Cockatoo destroying a twig.
Two Galahs grazing for rhizomes.
A rear view of two Red-rumped parrots (male on left, female on right).
Anotherpair with male on right.
An Eastern Rosella apparently deciding if a 30 kilovolt power ine is edible!

Thursday, 28 April 2016

"Move along, there's nothing to see here" (not)

We were returning from a stroll in North Canberra, and as we passed the Australian War Memorial noticed a very dark plume of smoke rising into the sky.  There were no National Parks in that direction so it was unlikely to be the ACT Government caring for the environment.

The colour of the smoke made it look like a fire with some oil in it.  As it was directly in line with the airport (but at the opposite end to where the fire crews do their training) this was a worry.  However as we got on to Pialligo Avenue it was clearly beyond the airport and either:

  • the concrete recyclers (bad); or
  • the explosives magazine near the quarry (very bad).

It turned out to be the first of these.

The firies - apparently 15 units - were on the job.

My guess is the guys on the right are Mr Plod.  The body language of the bloke on the far right is almost pure channel of Dixon of Dock Green.

When we left - there were quite a few cars parked on the bike lane by then, leading me to think of the title for the post - water was being applied, so I hope it was mainly the old pallets visible above, rather than a few kilolitres of sump oil.
The Canberra Times had fair coverage of the event.  Possibly some of the more serious photographers  parked beside the road were getting images for them.  The ABC has subsequently confirmed my view that a similar fire had happened quite recently.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

ANPS rediscovers Mount Clifford Nature Reserve

The locality we visited is named Chakola.   I have been unable to find out a meaning of the name but every time we see it on a road sign I think of 'chakula" the Kiswahili word for food.  (In practice it was a euphemism for a bribe!)  Murray is better at this sort of stuff than me and has found that "The Manaro Mercury and Cooma and Bombala Advertiser 4 February 1921 Page 2 col b states that Chakola is the native name of the lyre bird".  Many thanks Murray!  (Interestingly, the wonderful Trove service from NLA cites the name of the paper using both "Manaro" and the more usual "Monaro".)

At one stage in the day, as we visited various rubbish tips disguised as hobby farms, it seemed unlikely we would find the Reserve.  Indeed some views were expressed that we might have to flee under adverse circumstances (think banjo players and Deliverance).  However we eventually happened on the right road goat track and entered the Reserve.

En route we came across this marker.  Using Google Earth it appears that in flood the Numeralla River must be at least 500m wide to achieve this outcome.
Today, after some very dry weather, we were basically pleased to see some flow in the 10m wide stream under the low-level crossing.

As we progressed towards the Reserve it was clear that the current climax vegetation in the farmland was African Lovegrass. What a mess.
 Here is a view back down to and across the Murrumbidgee.
 This looks across to Mount Clifford with a good crop of Eucalypts and the occasional Callitris.
As we started our walk it was definitely uphill through Eucalyptus rossii with very little understorey.
 I offered a prize for the first flower seen on the walk.  It was almost immediately won by Melichrus urceolatus.  Some members suggested that Monotoca scoparia rated a mention, but it was pointed out that buds, even in profusion, didn't count.
I had never before encountered Acacia aureocrinita but, after we had descended a few metres at the end of the ridge, it was definitely a contender in the flower stakes.
So, rather earlier than I would have expected, was A. genistifolia.   However I disqualified it as being too aggressive after it stabbed my carefree hands a few times.
 Continuing to move down a gully we got to some quite impressive E. viminalis.
 Unfortunately they were devoid of the hoped for Koalas.

About this point the light started to take on a strange orange hue and our noses picked up the unfortunately familiar scent of habitat destruction.  That is smoke haze not lack of focus.
 After we left the Reserve the thickness of the smoke became apparent.  Yes, someone had lit something up across the 'bidgee. This was interesting as I thought a wildfire had burnt out the Mt Clear area earlier in the year.
 At some point, just before we got back to Bredbo we got to the edge of the pall of smoke
Birding was quite good with 21 species recorded.  The highlight was a mixed flock including at least 3 Varied Sittellas but I had already taken then as Bird of the Day so Superb Lyrebirds calling from sundry gullies assumed that mantle for today.  I know, I have no shame taking a 'heard' record, but the birds were there so I count 'em.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

A couple of birdie outings

I had a while to fill in in South Canberra today so went to look at a new Water Quality pond in the WETO (Western Township) of Molonglo where others have found some good birds.  I didn't do that well but it is a place of great potential.

The quality of housing is not that great with much high density stuff around.  Possibly these are single units, but they are so close together they might as well be apartments.
However some land appears to have been set aside for a Reserve and the walk out to look over the Molonglo has potential.
 It was good to find several Black-fronted Plovers in attendance.
 A good bunch of finches and White-fronted Chats were investigated the grassland and Coots and Wood Ducks were on the water.
In the afternoon my mate Garry took me for a walk up a ridge to try to relocate some Southern Whitefaces he had encountered recently.  We did that and also saw a good lot of Australasian Pipits (at least 10) and Flame Robins (at least 7 brown birds).

In addition to the birds the views were magnificent.  This first shot looks across the Molonglo Valley to our house, which is hidden by the trees roughly where the yellow line is.  The yellow trees are the willows in Whiskers Creek where it crosses our drive.
 Garry took a breather to suck in the view over the Plain towards the Tinderries.
 In this image the meanders of the Molonglo are clearly visible.
 We could see the bed of Lake George, the Tinderry mountains at Michelgo and the ridge of the Brindabellas.  From Google Earth I take a rough guess we could see about 3,000 square kilometres which equates to an average of 54kms in every direction: possibly a little over the top.

ACT Parks are still preserving nature.
When Garry looked at this post he pointed out a detail I had not aimed for:
The plane is on final approach to Canberra Airport.

The white dot well down the hill in the distance was Garry's ute.
 The route back wasn't all downhill!
 This white dot is my car: I'm glad we drove part of the way up the hill.

Electoral Matters

Although the Member for Wentworth is refraining from actually lighting the touchpaper, we seem to be heading for an election in July.  So I thought I'd get in early with a few thoughts.  I'll start with some humour from past elections.
  • At some point in the 1960s  Private Eye had two alternate images on the cover of the edition prior to a UK General Election.  Both featured Jo Grimmond the leader of the Liberals with a speech bubble saying "I don't believe it.".  One showed Jo smiling broadly with a stamp saying 'Liberals lose election'.  The other showing him in total despair with a stamp saying 'Liberals win election'.
  • A second British joke was a bumper sticker for an election on March 14.  It said "Vote Labour March 15".
  • In the 1980s I worked for an Independent candidate in the first ACT election for self Government and handed out "How to vote" cards for him at a local booth.   At one point Al Grassby, a former Federal Minister who lived nearby turned up and chatted to anyone who'd listen.  He commented about an Irish election in which one of the card distributors appeared to be missing a lot of punters as they went in.  Someone said to him "Seamus, you're missing half the folk!"  His response was  "To be sure it doesn't matter at all.  I'll get them on the way out."
Out constituency is marginal as always.  It is also seen as a bellwether seat since it always goes with the Government.  That possibly reflects it having a fair cross section of the social characteristics as much as anything else.  The three main parties have all announced their candidates and some comments follow on each of them.
  • Liberal have the sitting member Dr Peter Hendy.  After a year of the Abbott rule of terror-of-terrorism he became very constituent focused as he could see his job going along with the Monk's.  He offered to do a lot of stuff to help us get better mobile phone and internet services.  Unfortunately before the community could do much about that Hendy led the charge to install Moderate sized Mal as PM (that is Mr Turnbull: Big Mal is Meninga, Large Mal is the late Fraser and Little Mal is the recently sacked Brough).  It looked as though Hendy's job was safe so constituents returned to the bottom of the pecking order.  Unfortunately Moderate-sized Mal has declined in popularity more than somewhat so possibly that Doctor is Out!
  • Labour have re-endorsed the previous Member Dr Mike Kelly.  He is very active around the electorate and - like Al Grassby - will always talk to anyone if there is half a chance they might vote for him (or if they might know someone who will vote for him).  I have worked for Mike in the last two elections, primarily because he spoke to me when I was handing out cards (for the Green candidate) in 2007.  I reckon he has a really good chance.
  • The Greens have snatched humiliation from the jaws of defeat.  Their candidate is a nice young woman - I assume she is nice despite being a lawyer - who has been interviewed by one of the local newspapers.  Apparently her main goal is to stop the rule of middle aged male politicians.  There is a fair chance that she has just alienated about 40% of the electorate in that one sentence.  I know many good Greens in this electorate: how could they endorse this air-head?
Picking the results is tricky.  12 months ago I would have said Labour both overall and locally.  Six months ago I would said Liberal nationally and probably local.  Now I suspect the Coalition will hold on overall (subject to a few several points to be discussed below) but reckon the disillusionment with Turnbull will make it harder for Hendy to maintain the bellwether status and rate Labour as a possibility locally.  There has been mention in the local media that a few fully corroded-on Monkites  will vote for someone other than Hendy because of his role in rolling said Friar, but just means their second preference will go to Hendy (after whichever bunch of right-wing extremists run a candidate get the first).

The issues that I see potentially causing Turnbull difficulty are:
  • the activities of the Abbott 'loyalists' in coming up with comments designed to destabilise Turnbull and give us back the Monk.  The recent activities of Sophie Mirabella are possibly an indicator of the Shape of Things to come which cause issues.  Also any time the Monk, George Brandis or Peter Dutton open their mouths a PR disaster is likely to emerge.  Did someone mention Barnaby?
  • He is going to announce his Budget a day or two before the last date for the GG to call the election.  Most of the main points have already been announced, but there is always the chance that something in that will bite him in the bum and time is just long enough for antipathy to build up, but not long enough for a Government in caretaker mode to fix anything.
  • The High Court are currently looking to hear a case about the validity of some legislation (IMHO very good legislation in most regards) and if they decide to boot the laws I think there will be much difficulty in running the election.  And the Government will have two or three omelettes on their faces.
  • I didn't expect the PNG High Court to lob in a hand-grenade but they seem to have done just that.  The question is really will Peter Dutton handle this well  - see first bullet above.  However, the decision will also let Sarah Hanson-Young off the leash, so the news isn't all bad for the Government.  The Left of the ALP have also made a contribution towards returning the Government.
  • Question: How do you make Peter Dutton look like an asset?  Answer: Let Christopher Pyne hold a Press Conference.
  • I am unsure whether naughty funding stuff in NSW will have an impact.  It is after all "business as usual"  in that State and the major parties are equally tainted.  However most of the Labour people have been weeded out so it is unfortunate for the Coalition to have Senator Sinodinos' situation prominently in the media. 
  • I am unsure what impact the RBA dropping interest rates on Budget day will have.  My first thought is that it looks like a bit of a friendly fire situation.
.What does Sportsbet have to say?  At the moment they have the Coalition at $1.30 and ALP at $3.50, but the big money is still in its owners Panamanian Bank accounts.  They also have some special markets:
  • for Melbourne Adam Bandt (Greens) is unbackable at $1.10;
  • In Fairfax the sitting member  - Clive Palmer - is written down at $21.00 (Liberal win is $1.01).  They don't yet have a market on Clive going to the slammer for dodgy things but I'd rate it somewhat less than a 20:1 shot.
  • New England has the Coalition at $1.70 (g'day Barnaby) and Tony Windsor - an excellent independent former Member - at $2.05.  That will be the most interesting seat around!

Monday, 25 April 2016

An ANZAC Day Post

A good summary of the National ANZAC Day rituals is in this ABC item.  Wanting to do something to commemorate the day (but not wanting to get up at 4:30 to go to the Dawn Service  - although with 55,000 present I reckon it would be pretty hopeless anyway - or to battle the traffic chaos for the mid-morning event) I came up with a plan to walk up Mt Ainslie and look down at the War Memorial and ANZAC Parade.

Here is a map, courtesy of Google Earth:
The yellow line with red way-points marks our route.  Approximately 2.7km in length and gaining 240m.  When we set off we met either a large training group or a small Fun Run.  The later snaps were taken at the blue triangle with the War Memorial just above the orange circle. 
Once we left the power lines and started up the Old Tip Track things got a bit rocky and also a bit steep.  I think I used to be able to run up this thing about 25 years ago! (As may be gathered from the direction of the small dog I actually took this snap on the way back down.)
Towards the summit the Old Tip Trail joins the Canberra Centennial Trail.  This is the steps on the final push up to the summit car park.
Loking out over North Canberra one can see the environmental mess of Gungahlin.  Rooves everywhere and not a tree in sight.
In contrast the houses of Reid, in Central Canberra can barely be seen for the foliage.  Of course the rooves will be more visible once the leaves fall (and it is a pity there is such a high proportion of exotics, but I know where I would rather live!
Here is the basic scene that greeted us.  The marchers form up in the middle of ANZAC Parade so the ones at the front only have to travel a very short distance.
A bit of a closer view.  We were a bit worried about all the empty seats in the stands but it turned out they were for the marchers to sit in, to listen to the PM and various other dignitaries burble on.
A closer view of marchers on the hoof
I was intrigued about this group.  The I checked the flags and realised they were the winners at Gallipolli.  It's not really surprising they are there as the closest memorial to the big building is actually to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk  who was a very honorable opponent.
I had hoped to see the flypast but it turned out that wasn't due until 12:20 and we didn't feel like hanging around for 80 minutes to see it.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

NGA gets it together!

It has been sometime since we have visited the National Gallery of Australia (mainly because the place has been totally rearranged so that for a fair time there was little, other than the Indigenous collection to see).  As a new exhibition showcasing the Australian Pavillion at the Venice Biennale had just opened it seemed that now was a good time to go.

The good news started before we entered the Gallery.  The ban on photography had been lifted for personal-use photographs.  So my phone got a fair workout.  One security guard chatted me about using a flash - quite reasonably as that would be a pain for other punters as well being ungood for the art - but they all seem to have got the message.

This is the entrance to the work by Fiona Hall and colleagues from Venice  ...
... and this explains what it is all about.
Various dictionaries offer "Cabinet of curiosities" as a translation of 'wunderkammer'.  However I had literally translated it as "room of wonders" and I think that is a far better description of this installation.  Just about every item - and there are '00s - makes one wonder.
  • What does it mean?
  • Why is this here?
  • How on earth did she/they make that?
You may gather I was pretty impressed with this exhibition.

This collection of woven animals, positioned on piles of books, was created with a group of indigenous ladies from the Central and Western Deserts
The public face of the show - or at least what has been chosen as the atavar by the media - is one of these heads.  I think they are basically woven.

This collection of driftwood comes from the North Island of New Zealand.  One of the few wall cards in the show explained how the stuff gets washed down a river and then drifts on to the shore.  The random action of weathering has created these shapes which look a bit like animals.
In keeping with the name of the exhibition there were a lot of clocks in part of it.  I liked this pair of bonies.  One of the clocks kept cuckooing, but I could never work out which.  I suspect that it was the the left hand one of this pair.
The next room had a general exhibition of Fiona Hall's work, mainly from the stuff held by the NGA, but also quite a few on loan from the artist and her Sydney Gallery.  This group were called 'Leaf litter" and the artist started her comments with "Money doesn't grow on trees ...." but went on to comment on the importance of trees as crops.
Here is one of her detailed drawings of a leaf on a substrate of some currency.
Even looking at the full size image I can't work out the ethnicity of the script or the people depicted on the notes.  My guess at the script is Burmese, but welcome suggestions.
A good sized bug!
Another exhibition was of the prints from the workshop of Kenneth Tyler.  Again fascinating but I couldn't work out how to really photograph them, so you'll just have to make do with this long view.
For those familiar with the former layout of NGA this area was a series of small cubbies full of Colonial art .  This show is Far Better!

There was also an exhibition of photographs held by NGA which was pleasant but we were starting to reach our use-by time by that point.

From upstairs, to which the foreign stuff has been banished, one could look down into the Australian collection.  I liked this contrast between a woven cop and a live security guard.
A look down from another spot.
Entering from the direction of the High Court (ie the old front door) takes you into this room: far more exciting than a couple of Impressionist haystacks.  The 'LOVE' item is by Kate Just, who despite being born in the US has worked in Melbourne since 1996 so gets a ticket for the Australian rooms.
Those with long memories - OK only about 3 years - will remember Skywhale.  This work is by the same sculptor, Patricia Piccinini, and depicts a guy holding a fish found off NZ called a blobfish.
Apparently it is getting close to extinction and has no commercial value (the latter because it is ugly).
I reckon it looks like the lovechild of Skywhale and a coelocanth.  (Hmmm: Tony Abbott described himself as the lovechild of Howard and Bronnie.  Perhaps this needs a pair of Speedos to bring out the resemblance?)

The sculpture garden is still excellent ...
... especially when the fog is happening.