Tuesday, 28 June 2016

A cool morning

We had arranged to go for a family walk in Canberra this morning and even though it was only -4oC we headed off.  As we drove in to Queanbeyan it was still -2.5oC when we got to the road 'works'.  (At least the bogans were present this morning, although opening a thermos seemed to be the main activity.)

On getting to the objective of the walk (the Boundless Playground) it was still very cold, with a good serve of hoar frost on parts of the equipment.
Some comments were made about feeling cold so a fleece was transferred across a couple of generations.
Near the playground is the Workers Memorial.  This obviously doesn't apply to anybody involved in the project on Captains Flat Road since they are not dead (the usual requirement for a Memorial) and are rarely observed working.
 The Carillion with a misty Lake to the right.
 More misty Lake.
 Several years ago I was involved in organising a cycle race in which the recumbent riders got bolshy as they didn't have an event.  So one was added to the event and the (then) cycling columnist for the Canberra Times annoyed them by referring to it as a 'novelty event'.  So here we have a novelty cyclist!

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Bird-A-Day for January 2016 is done (for me)

As expected my final bird in the Bird-a-day competition starting in January 2016 was Australian Magpie, on June 23.  This meant I had got 8 days further than last year.  As that was also an improvement on the previous year I have 3 observations, which means it is mechanically possible to construct a trendline.  Whether it is sensible to do so is another matter but, with that available EXCEL, enables me to project forward 190 periods (thus ending on 31 December) which shows I will complete the BaD year in 2045!  Something to look forward to!

I should note that on June 24 a Yellow-billed Spoonbill was briefly apparent at Jerrabombera Wetlands so I did an 80km, and 3 hour, round trip to fail to see it.  At least I didn't wimp out of trying.

The pattern I have previously reported of keeping both my index score and my BaD rating a little on the rarer side of last year has continued.  This means that my running average BaD rating was a little higher ....
 ... and my average Index score a little lower than in 2015.
I recorded 35 birds in 2016 that I didn't use in 2015 and (as arithmetic would suggest) in 2016 I failed to find 26 birds used in 2015.  

Several of the additions this year (eg Grey-crowned Babbler, Plum-headed Finch and Bluebonnet) , come from trips to the Western Slopes or to Mallacoota.  The main source of missing in action for 2016 (birds such as Chirruping Wedgebill and Purple-crowned Lorikeet) was a set logged on a 2015 trip to South Australia via Broken Hill.

The most annoying 'not-counted' birds in 2016 were:
  • the Hudsonian Godwit at Woolumboola Lake (beaten out by the Paradise Shelduck at the same venue on the same day); and 
  • White throated Needletail, seen on several days in March at Mallacoota but always beaten out by 'better' birds.  I spent a lot of time looking at storm clouds in Carwoola but it was a poor year for swifts in this area.
I have previously commented on the most annoying recorded bird being Southern Whiteface.  Just after finding a flock of them a Brown Falcon went by but wasn't preferred.  A few days later I found another group of Whiteface which I couldn't use.   Ethics are terrible things.  It looked as though I was going to dip on the Falcon - until I happened to look at a photo of a flock of panic-stricken Galahs and realised I had captured a Brown Falcon ripping through the flock.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Land of (no) hope and (former) glory.

There are some interesting updates at the foot of this.  (I would have put in a link here but that bit of HTML no longer works in Blogger: apparently ity is a known problem, but their doesn't seem to be a known solution!)

I will start by noting that I used to really like the Pomp and Circumstance March No 1 until I saw Maggie Thatcher singing it after the sinking of the General Belgrano.  Since then it makes me chunder.

How could a country have come to such a stupid decision as to leave Europe?  The following graphics come from the Guardian website.

The map says it all, with yellow being sensible and blue being Nigel Farage's preference.  Cornwall is grey as they haven't decided yet - probably still looking for the 'secession' option.

Why is this so?  Again the Guardian is helpful.

The first two graphs show opposite trends - which is fortunate as they cover opposite ends of the educational spectrum.

 In looking at the second of those graphs you may recall The Donald's comment "We love the undereducated."  In both cases it means the group in question are daft enough to fall for the smoke and mirrors on offer from The Donald in the US or Farage and The Boris in the UK.

I hope that "more highly educated" and "higher income" are correlated so it isn't a great surprise to find that the graph below is consistent with the two above.

 I'd be surprised if this showed a statistically significant trend.
However the following day a YouGov poll (I can't get a link to the results on You Gov - presumably that is paywalled - so have snipped a table from the Canberra Times) showed a very definite pattern.
So not only do I have my former countrypersons to worry about, but also my generation!

I have fiddled with the next one as the colours used by the Guardian didn't show up at all well, especially the pale yellow (for a narrow 'remain' vote).  Possibly the result of my effort overemphasises the number of  units with a relatively high % of migrants.  The title has also  taken some damage in the process but it reads "% residents not born in the UK".
Basically it shows how the xenophobes took over the "Leave" campaign.  This reminds me of how the lovely Pauline Hanson got elected on a racist vote from Ipswich (Qld not Suffolk UK - although looking at the map above there ain't much difference) when there was hardly a non-British migrant in her electorate.

As I commented in a different context recently "The problem with idiot proofing is that they keep inventing bigger idiots."

I am thinking of taking my UK passport (expired since 1970) in to the UK High Commission and igniting it in protest.  (The big problem with that is that the Poms are located next door to the Chinese Embassy and the latter may think it is some weird escalation by Falun Gong and thus over-react.)


Commentary in the New Statesman!
The second go petition!  It was meant as insurance by the 'Leave ' mob.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

A couple of observations about the Australian elections

The first is the current market for Eden-Monaro (our electorate) from Sportsbet.
Noting that when they first fielded, both candidates for the 2 biggies were at $1.87, I reckon a few folk have punted their superannuation funds on Mike Kelly.

However I am conscious that there is still over a week to go!

My second obsevation is that our landline rang this evening as I was watching the TV news.  I expected this to be someone with a South Asian accent trying to sell me an investment (unlikely to have a better payout than Sportsbet) or someone with a South Asian accent trying to get me to give them access to my computer.  In fact it was worse: the call began "Hello I'm Julie Bishop and I want to ....".  I guess she didn't want to offer investments or fix my computer but as I'd hung up I will never know.

However, if I had been thinking about voting for the Liberal candidate - and the odds on that are worse than those offered above by Sportsbet for the Animal Justice Party - getting a cold call from a recording would have resolved that matter in the negative!

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

A morning in the life

Sorry about the generic title but this post covers a few things that mainly happened before noon.

The first of these was going for our usual dog walk and noticing the sun rising behind clouds giving a nice effect.  The reflection in our neighbour's dam was also quite scenic.
 As we were returning, about 400m from Captains Flat Rd, Frances noticed these Amanita muscaria growing near some pines.  They are the first I have noticed this year, although the timing is about normal.  Presumably good rain and somewhat warmer weather has induced fruiting.
Rain has also left this pool of water near a new driveway.  It covers the concept of a 'witch pool' rather well, although I suspect no-one, witch or otherwise, would like to be dunked in water with the apparent temperature today.  Very strong winds so it felt very cold, even though the actual temperature wasn't that low.
The wind largely left people's placard stands erect, although the Liberals did give up on keeping their tall ones standing.
 There was a lot of chatting today amongst the handers-out.  These two were both good value, althiough I reckoned it was a bit rough wearing fur trim while standing alongside ....
 ... the guy from ...
There was quite a crowd of volunteers.  At one stage I counted 6 people supporting Mike and theere might have been more.
 A steady steam of punters came through.  I reckon I handed out close to 40 leaflets in my 2 hours and many of the voters were 'looked after' by others.

As I walked back to pick up the Pajero from its visit to the wheel alignment place I noticed a lot of folk preparing to play lawn bowls.  Very brave at these temperatures.
Some folk from Mike Kelly's Office had dropped off a poster at home so I have installed it on a fence.

An aftermath

We seemed to pick up 24mm of rain from the storm that arrived yesterday.  As the media reports have said, everywhere was sodden from the big low pressure system 2 weeks ago so there has been lots of run off.

That of course leads to mist, as seen here behind our big Yellow Box, with the sun trying to break through.
The house dam is a complete brimmer with water still running in one end and out the other.  Note the little blob in the bottom centre.
That is the knob on the hilt of the sword embedded in the pond.  Three weeks ago about 90cm of blade was also visible.
At the top of the block the view towards Balcombe Hill was very picturesque.  This also shows the water in our top dam, which is in fact over full ...
 ... as evidenced by the run off into Canyon Creek.
 That Creek was also getting plenty of liquid running down from Taliesin Station.
 Here is the flow through the Canyon (OK, at 3m deep x 5m wide x 50m long "canyon" is a bit of an exaggeration).
 Whiskers Creek seems not to have gone over the crossing, but both pipes were running well this morning.
 The same applies to the Queanbeyan River at the Morrisset St bridge.
 Here is the weir.
 Finally a couple of snaps of the Molonglo going over the low-level crossing on Briars Sharrow Rd.  I was pleased to see this guy turn and go back.  I don't think he would have made it.
 The black lump was a worry but I decided it was a lump of tree, not a dead cow!
 The bird of the morning walk was a Grey Currawong - a much nicer species than the Pied monsters!

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Is technology a good thing?

Lets begin with a definition.. Dictionary.com offers a 5-part definition of which I think
5. the sum of the ways in which social groups provide themselves with the material
objects of their civilization.
is a pretty relevant summary of what I am on about in this post.  It has arisen as we have had a couple of interfaces with technology recently.  In both cases the outcome has, I think at this stage, been positive but some fraughtedness has been evident along the way.

Mobile Phones

The first of these related to a venerable mobile phone which had got to the stage that it would just about only hold a charge while connected to a mains supply.  There seemed no point in getting a new battery - if one was available - as it would likely cost as much as a new phone.  So we went to get a cheap new phone from the Good Guys to use the SIM card from her old phone and thus keep her very cost-efficient Virgin plan.  It seemed that a ZTE Blade 2 was the go, so the plastic was flashed and we got a phone.

Then we had to get a new SIM card.  On talking to Virgin they asked whether it too a mini, micro or nano SIM.  I didn't know so the Virgin-person looked the model up and said it was a micro and they arranged to send it.  Then I found a comment in the brochure that said nano-SIM.  So back to Virgin and arrange for a second, micro, SIM to be sent.  Both of them arrived together and the nano was duly installed.

Then came the fun.  On trying to turn the phone off it went to a graphics app and refused to shut down.  The brochure (and the ZTE website) gave no guidance on how to overcome this.  Eventually - by holding the power button down for about a decade - it seemed to switch off but then sprang to life again.  This was some Chinese characters (with a bit of Anglo (such as GPS) from time to time.  That refused to stop.  So back to the Good Guys .

They agreed that this was no good at all and were happy to sell us a Motorola motoE for a small amount more.  Back on the phone to Virgin to get the micro SIM activated.  Then I looked up the website to get the full manual - which is actually quite extensive and helpful -for the phone .  On first trying to use the phone we couldn't get a connection but as that has resolved itself and we have now managed to use the phone we are happy.

In this process I award a bouquet for Virgin for the way they dealt with my enquiries, and possibly a posey to the Good Guys (an average of a modest brickbat for selling the crap ZTE and a bouquet for the way they dealt with the replacement).  It is a bit too early to make an award to Motorola but the scent is more towards the violet end of the spectrum than the fox poo.  On the subject of fox poo and brickbats the latter is awarded to ZTE and if can find a recent sample of the former - not too hard round here - and a snail mail address for ZTE (likely to be more difficult) I shall also pass that along.

Weather Station

I was a bit surprised that it was raining recently but my weather station was not recording anything.  I went to check the strainer on the rain inlet and found a few small gum nuts had got trapped there and removed them.  Going against the central tenets of Bloke Theory I then read the very comprehensive manual provided by Davis.  This said to also check the tipping mechanism.

On checking the mechanism it turned out one of the nuts had got inside and jammed the cup in the "empty" position .  As the idea is that when it tips, it taps a couple of contacts together, being jammed it didn't record.  Nut removed and we are back in business.  I also emptied out the Nylex as a check and after a couple of showers they were both reading a tad over 10mm.

A(nother)  bouquet for Davis.

Awaiting the next downpour

Today (19 June) was forecast to be damp again.  I'll note in passing that in the Carwoola area this month has already achieved the most rain recorded since community recording began in 1983!

I was getting fed up with sitting indoors waiting for it to start so thought I'd go for a stroll up the block to see if I could find some fungus for Frances to draw.  When I got back near the house I noticed spots on the rather full dam, and on getting to my computer found a half full radar.
I think that counts as just in time!

No Agaric or Bolete fungi were found, in a walk of about 2km.  Not even Omphalina chromacea, although that may have refused to fruit in protest about the forces of evil - you do remember taxonomists don't you - apparently renaming it to the genus Lichenomphalia!  However right at the start I did find some paint fungus on a fallen log.
 On the homeward leg I noticed that a stringybark had self-bonsaied.  Memo to self: that needs a little pruning.
Noticing the fungus on the fallen part I found a matching deposit on that which had remained upright.  I wold be surprised if this was not largely responsible for the descent.
 I was hoping to find a Bird of Day which I did in the form of an Australian Raven.  Things are getting grim!  Much less grim - unless you are a small invertebrate was this very spiffy male Scarlet Robin.
If Australia really wished to have a good citizenship they could include the question "which of these birds is more Robin-like?" and include the images above and below.
Anyone that nominates the latter bird gets a free ticket back to Brum (ie Birmingham UK, and nothing to do with a Danish word apparently meaning 'bud')

By 1550 we had received 4.2mm and the radar was about 80% full.
A little later, with 9mm in the gauge, it looked though the centre was passing by.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

COG checks the Infrastructure and McMansions of Molonglo

18 members and guests gathered at the North Weston Ponds and sorted ourselves into a small number of cars for the short drive to Edgeworth Pond to start the walk.  It was still cool, but bright sunshine and no wind made for pleasant walking conditions.

Crossing the street to look at the ponds a few Coots and Australasian Grebes were seen on the water before attention was grabbed by a flock of birds feeding on a grassed area.  
While the birds were rather nervous it was concluded that there were at least 12 Australasian Pipits (Bird of the Day - finally), 8 Flame Robins and 15 White-fronted Chats in the flock.  A number of Superb Fairy-wrens and 2 Golden-headed Cisticolas were foraging in flax plants a little further on.

As we crossed the wall at the end of the pond a further group of 10 Flame Robins were seen perched on a fence.  We walked out to a lookout over the Molonglo Valley ...
 ... watching 2 immature Black-shouldered Kites flying between perches.  
While the adult birds are very spiffy I like the buffy colours in the immature birds so here is a second photo.
At least 15 Red-browed finches were feeding in a creek bed below the walkway.  A total of 26 species were recorded for this site.

After crossing a small creek with a well-eroded (buggered is another appropriate word) bridge over the recently-troubled waters ...
.... we re-joined the road around the outside of the suburb but soon dropped back down to the fire trail (since there was no room for birds between the McMansions).  
As well as marvelling at the size of the residence, how many galahs can you see?  My count is 5 - don't be misled by shed hi-vis.  

In the next stretch some totally unwarranted allegations were made that the walk was entirely structured to enable walkers to marvel at this street sign.
I am unsure whether these allegations were a reflection on people's eyesight or literacy.  Whatever: I am pleased to say I have no connection with Senator Dame Nancy and our political allegiances are completely different!

There was not surprisingly a good flow in the Molonglo
 but few birds.  3 Double-barred Finches were seen in a deciduous tree and 2 White-faced Herons were exploring a small pond.  Another water quality control pond, alongside Annabelle View 
was checked, but again there were few waterbirds present.  15 species were recorded on this sector.

A short stroll along the road brought us back to the North Weston Ponds.  At the risk of repeating myself there were few waterbirds present. 

3 Hardheads were the only ducks and a highlight was a decision that the grebes present here were Hoary-headed Grebes.  Four more White-fronted Chats were seen, first feeding on the ground and then perching conveniently for photos on a fence.  
14 species were recorded here.

We totalled  36 species for the outing.