Sunday, 27 November 2016

Collared Sparrowhawk dines out

The faint hearted should note this is a post about a bird of prey and some of the later photographs show it preying rather graphically.  The red colour is quite appropriate in that regard.

For the past several weeks we have had a pair of accipiters (the genus for Goshawks and Sparrowhawks) lurking around the trees near the Creek.  I am suspicious that they have nested there somewhere but have not yet found the nest tree.  I've also found them very uncooperative in waiting for me to have binoculars and/or camera to hand when they have appeared.

I haven't been game to make a definitive ID between Collared Sparrowhawk and Brown Goshawk, with an inclination to the former as one of the birds seems too small to be even a male Goshawk.

However today I heard the distinctive call and got down to the trees pdq, with my kit.  After a little bit of following the bird from tree to tree, with it carrying prey, it settled down for lunch.  A few photos were taken.

This photo shows the bird calling and also what I consider to be a square tail.  Indication: Sparrowhawk.

 To my mind this is a pretty long middle toe (of the hawk) again indicating Sparrowhawk.
 The toes of the  prey were interesting in that when dining started the hawk seemed very keen to rip the bloody legs off (obviously an Aunty Jack fan).  It then swallowed them whole, after first adjusting them so that the claws went down last.

A close up of the head.  The brows are pretty modest causing it to 'stare' rather than 'glare'. A further indication of Collared Sparrowhawk.  I am now prepared to call it that species.  It also seemed quite a fair sized bird which would make it a female of that species.
 The dinner bell rang.

 Comparing the size of the claws of the prey relative to the raptor's beak shows it to be quite a trick to swallow the leg whole.
 I thought this a good shot to finish with.

Rail trail evening

Some local residents have formed a group to turn the abandoned Bungendore to Captains Flat railway line into a 32km rail trail primarily for use by cyclists and walkers.

On 26 November they held a fundraising dinner/concert at Mulloon Creek Natural Farms a few kilometres East  of Bungendore.

I'll note that I have used yellow blobs to obfuscate faces in the images below: the group wasn't invaded by a Moonies convention).

There were several cars lined up when we got there (and a lot more when left) including this vehicle which I thought was a well kept up Valiant.  Then one of us looked more closely at the badege and realised it was a Roller.
This raised two thoughts in my mind:

  • a tale from the 1960s when RR dropped running boards and got a letter from an Australian pastoralist asking "Where do I tie the dead sheep?"; and
  • was Arthur Daley present?  Actually this was unlikely as George Cole died a while back.

Even in the absence of Arthur (and Terry McCann) the venue was excellent.

Here is the queue for dinner.  An excellent repast, catered by a business from Braidwood
This is the salad table.  Nicely cooked pork and beef roasts were also provided.
The owner of the property spoke briefly about the work of Mulloon Creek Natural Farms and the Mulloon Institute - both of which sounded highly admirable.
The warm up band was the J Waygood Band who played a wide range of material and did a find job of it.  We felt a tad sorry for them as most people were still outside while they did their work.
The main attraction was Luke O'Shea, a Golden Guitar winner.  As would be expected he was a country singer with most of his songs relating to his childhood and travels around the country.
Interestingly his attendance was arranged by one of the Rail-Trail Committee having put in a winning bid at a silent auction with the item being a performance by Luke at a venue to be nominated.  She thought he was surpised to find the venue was 300km from Sydney but it didn't deter him!

Saturday, 26 November 2016

A review of the Tile app

A year ago I was given a set of Tiles as a present, after a couple of episodes of searching frantically for lost things.  In the intervening year it has saved me a bit of time in tracking down keys and wallet put in strange places around our house.  However it has not been so useful in finding a misplaced wallet elsewhere in this wide brown land.  I will go into the reasons for this below.

What has actually caused this post was, out of the blue, getting a message that my tiles will stop working working soon unless I pay another fee.  This came as quite a shock since I thought they had been purchased rather than licenced.  Indeed looking at the website ...
... the words "Buy now" are pretty prominent.

Delving a little further into the website one comes across this:
 .. and, even, further down this
Now that a problemo has arisen I have followed the link to the reTile area.  Even there it isn't clear what is going on.
It talks about "... you can upgrade ...".  One could say that the words about "... designed to run a full year ..." give a hint that it will crap out, but don't say "...after a year it will stop working and you'll have to buy new ones." which seems to be the case.

My suspicion is that in a court of law they could argue that they have been quite clear about what is going on and that the purchaser should expect something to require refurbishment.  However in the court of my opinion - which is what is offered here - the product would never have been purchased knowing what is going to happen.

There are also a couple of operational issues which argue against the device.

Operational issue 1

Had the product been foolproof it would be possible to regard the $25 cost per tile as a reasonable insurance policy for my keys (replacement cost about $800 for two car keys) or my wallet (including a credit card).

However for the system to work "location services" and "Bluetooth" have to be turned on in the phone.  Do this and the whistling sound you hear is the phone battery running down.  My experiments suggests the phone goes from 100% charged to flat in about 5 hours with location services enabled and the phone not connected to a charger of some description.  Thus, when out and about,  I keep this off unless I am using it.  With some apps (eg eBird) you can set so that location services are only active when you are using the app but with Tile it is "on" or "off"all the time.

So the situation is that if you lose your tiled kit more than 100ft from where you are the app won't tell you where it is.  It will tell you where you last logged in to the tile - typically at home where the phone was charging.  If you had location services on, and your phone had enough battery life to operate, it would tell you where you lost contact, which would be a good place t  start looking.  

The fall back is that if you can't find the Tile when looked for, if some other Tile user gets within range you get a message.  On the one occasion I seriously lost my wallet no user went where I'd lost it.  Fortunately I retraced my steps and found it - but the place of loss was quite close to home (~40km away) and a clear site so I was able to spot it.  (In long grass or similar it would be very hard to spot and to retrace my steps within 30 feet.)

I have just realised that if someone nicks your wallet and takes it away on their toes, once they are 100 feet away your only chance of finding it is if you log it lost and another Tile user gets within range.  I'd suggest the chances are not good.

Thus it isn't as good an insurance as hoped for.

Operational issue 2

In recognition of my reaction to OI  #1 my phone has a constant message telling me to enable location services, which I find annoying. Equally annoying are the constant emails extolling the virtue of the device.

When it played a Tile tune, VERY loudly at 2130 to tell me it was going to cease functioning soon I was VERY ANNOYED.  However it has led me to look more closely at how the app works and thence to compose this so not all bad.


This device proves the old adage "If something seems too good to be true it probably is."  

I'm not quite sure how I thought it worked but it was something like the Tiles sending a constant message to a satellite or cell phone network.  In the cold hard light of day that is one of the least practical thoughts I have ever had.  The reality, that if you have really lost something outside your house or car you are reliant on someone - probably not you - walking past with Tile active on their phone, is very unappealing to me.

I will be deactivating the app and blocking their emails in a very short period of time.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

The (re)birth of the cool

One of the sayings about Victorian weather is "4 seasons in a day."   From my view that was the case on 23 November. Unfortunately all four seasons were Winter.   I am advised that statement makes no sense,  

So here are some facts:  After 34C on Monday we had no more than 15C on Wednesday.  Thus a better interpretation of them is that were  a Rural setting so things move a little slower than in a big city (or Melbourne) and thus it takes a week to get through all four seasons.  More commentary on the weather will come at the end of this post.

Getting back to the timeline of the 23rd, it was pretty dreary when we set off for the dog-walk.
This pedal-kayak fisherperson appeared well attired for the day. 
 After the dampish walk we scaled the mountain of Karbeethong Avenue to hear a strange sound behind us.  Never let it be said East Gippsland Shire isn't aware of what ratepayers really want.
Well swept streets must be at at least 11th priority on the top 10 items.  Especially when its micturating down.  I might be understating things there as it came past again on the 24th!

Mum Red Wattlebird was on the job of keeping the chicks dry(ish) and warm.
 I haven't photographed a Silver Gull for some time, and thi one displayed its red bits rather well.
While looking at a fledgling Masked Lapwing, and not having my phone adapter set up, this Eastern Yellow Robin came by and posed well enough to get a snap with just the phone.
 A Wonga Pigeon.
 As I was beginning to get Cabin Fever I went to the Powerlines track in the afternoon where the orchids were all finished but there was still quite a lot in flower.  I could readily identify Xanthorrhea resinifera ...
 .. and thought it deserved this closer, albeit somewhat phallic shot.
 The next few need some ID work which will occur in the next few days.  In the meantime, just enjoy.

Just before dark it was still pretty murky looking across the Inlet.  Thoughts of Brigadoon kept occurring 
After having trouble keeping any bedclothes on on Monday night, on Wednesday night I had two blankets over me.  It seemed to drizzle most of the night giving a total of 28mm in the Nylex for the event. 

We fiddled around a bit as it was still showery.  This gave me a chance to snap a Little Wattlebird in the raindrop-ridden Callistemeon outside the kitchen window.
We then set off on the traditional last-day dog walk to the Park boundary and then up to the start of Karbeethong Avenue.  Coming back down the road it was a bit warmer and the sky was blue, providing a pleasant backdrop to a (cultivated) Gymea Lily.
 By the time we'd packed the car it was raining again (another Victorian weather saying is "Don't like our weather?  Wait 5 minutes and it'll be different.")  However off we went and paused briefly to snap this friendly State Forest sign.  They are so much more sociable that the ideologues of the Sparks and Wildfires Service.
 Leptospermum was flowering vigorously along Imlay Rd, where the temperature hovered around 13oC.
Frances thought it might stay that high at Nimmitabel (at 1100m) but I thought it might drop to 10oC.  In fact it was down to 11oC.  We got a nice view of the Main Range covered in snow - much more than I had seen when flying down to Melbourne 3 weeks ago - from just outside Nimmitabel and again at Cooma.  

The last bit was gradually warming, getting to 20oC by te time we got home..

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

The Lord and Lady of the flies

Given the way our Federal Government is swaying to starboard it can only be a matter of time before the Honours system starts to go back to Knights and Dames and thence to Lords.  Today suggests that the system could get a bit of literary backing and appoint folk as {gender specific peer reference} of the Flies.  I'm sure the Estate of William Golding wouldn't mind,

This is what I had in mind: there were rather more around in the Heath at Shipwreck Creek,
 Last night was rather unusually warm - about 22C minimum-  but we got in our dog walk before it hit 30C and then headed off to Shipwreck Creek.  As we headed out we noticed that the temperature had dropped by about 8 degrees to a nice 23C.  It didn't slow the flies up too much.

Actually getting to Shipwreck had a moment as a tree had fallen across the road.  I drove round it through an erosion gully and planned to take a snap on the way back, but someone had come along with a chain saw in the interim.

Here is the woodland around the camp at Shipwreck.
 And here is the heath .
 I'm putting the habitat stuff first so here is part of the Mallcoota Water Treatment Works (ie poo pits) that feature later in the day.  Its the first time I have seen these wee fountains running (and the sprays operating in the surrounding woodland).
 Birds seen today included some New Holland Honeyeaters on Callistemons near town.
 A Sacred Kingfisher on Watertrust Road.
Inside the poo pits I found that waterbird numbers were building up again - possibly because of breeding activity such as these Pacific Black Ducks.
 I continued to experiment with my telescope and phone.  A Black-fronted Dotterel.
 A Wedge-tailed Eagle from 100m range after
 ... two of them at about 200m,
The avian biggie was a Southern Emu-wren in the Heath but it didn't pose for a photo (nor indeed for Frances to get a decent look at it, after she first spotted the movement in a clump of Hakea amidst the Allocasuarina nana).

There were quite a few plants in flower in the heath,  I'll take a guess following Frances suggestion and confirmed(ish) by Fairlie and Moore at this being Gompholobium minus ...
 .. Mirbelia rubifolia ...
 .. Bossiaea ensata ...
..  Patersonia sp. - interestingly they were absent from the woodland but as soon as we got to the lighter area near the heath they were everywhere)
 ... Pimelia sp.
 and Xanthorrhea resinfera.
 A very colourful spider from below ..
 .. and above.
 Late in the afternoon a storm looked to be brewing ... but it passed on by.