Tuesday, 31 January 2017

It's hard to get good Kingfisher

A friend reported that she had seen two Azure Kingfishers on the Queanbeyan Escarpment on 29 January.  On being (politely) questioned she was certain that is what she had seen and noted the site wasn't too far from Wanna Wanna Creek.  I commented that this was quite extraordinary as the birds are rated as rare in the ACT, usually only being reported from Jerrabomberra Wetlands and the Molonglo.  They are also reported from other rivers in the hinterland however, as shown in this map from the COG Bird Info facility.
The approximate location of this sighting is given by the green dot.  As shown on this topographic map, by the red box,was on the right track  it is pretty much in the middle of nowhere.  My first thought was get in from a nearby road near point a (but just North of the boundary of this map).
Unfortunately I couldn't get on to the recommended landholders.  So plan B was implemented as I had a memory of accessing the area through the tracks at point b.  That went down like a Trump executive order as the tracks are now clearly marked Private Property.  Thus Plan C was fired up: go to the main entrance to Cuumbeun NR and walk about 4km passing through point c.  (Fortunately I didn't have to resort to Plan D - which is to quickly develop Plans E through G!)

It wasn't too hot and I found that my friends horse had left a marker on the trail, so I
I had thought about taking my mountain bike but my friend had advised that it was pretty hilly. What an understatement!  This image gives no idea of how steep this gully was.  Not only would I have had to walk up the far side (due to lack of fitness) but down this side (due to lack of skill and presence of much fear).
There were two others this size, and about three others just as steep but not so deep.  All the bike would have done for the second half of the trip would have been to add to the amount of weight to schlep.  Getting to the edge of the boxed area I found the Creek was very dry.  No trace of a Kingfisher.
 As I scaled the far side of the gully I noticed a side track and noticed a bit of water.  This is the blue square marked on the topo map: presumably a water supply for fire-fighting.  This was good Kingfisher habitat but not today, Josephine.
After a small amount of ferreting around I became aware that as a result of having to change plans my schedule was getting a bit tight.  Having told Frances I'd be back home at noon I didn't want to be too late as she might get concerned about me wandering about at 30oC in a snake enhanced area (I didn't see any snakes, but I'm sure they were there).

On the return trip the clouds broke up and the hills got longer and steeper than they had been on the way out.  I was pleased I had a bottle of water and wondering why I didn't take two when I nearly stepped on this person.
 Here is a close up of his back claws.  No wonder they can dig well.
 He could dig down into the fire trail but scuttled off letting me get a fleeting snap of his face.  I didn't want to spend too long getting a great shot - remember the schedule.
I actually got home at 1209 - not too bad considering the number of variables.!

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Glads 1 Carnies 0

For the benefit of young persons (and others not familiar with the early works of Dame Edna Everage) the shows by his alter ego, Bazza Humphries used to feature a lot of floral art, mainly around Gladioli and Carnations.  As I have commented elsewhere, in Strine those big words get shortened to 'glads' and 'carnies'.

A little more Ocker nostalgia before we get to the meat of the post.  Gladys Moncrieff was a rather famous Australian singer inn the mid 20th Century.  She was known as "Our Glad" and since she shuffled off the ultimate stage in 1976 this title is now available for use by Gladys Berejiklian, the current Premier of NSW.  (At least one commentator has described being appointed to this position as " being handed the poisoned chalice".)

Anyway she has decided to hose out the scuppers of her Cabinet and replace some of the denizens with others.  It being NSW Parliament this probably just means "same-same but different". However the SMH had a story on 29 January that she was going to announce the outcome of this process at an event in Queanbeyan - but they didn't give any details.

I consulted her website, and that of our local member Giovanni Domenico (John) Barilaro (who is also the Deputy Premier and Leader of the NSW Nationals).  Neither gave a clue, so I rang the Queanbeyan Visitor Information Centre (QVIC) where a nice lady said she'd noticed the story but hadn't been given any information.  She gave me the number of Barilaro's office to try.  I tried both his Office and his Ministerial Office (and the electorate office of the Premier).  All voicemail!

Then the nice lady rang me back (at her own initiative: thank you Ursula) to say she'd gone lateral and rung the cops who had told her it was on in Queanbeyan Park between 1100 and 1130.  I thanked her and commented that I'd decided not to ring them as knowing the attitude of most NSW cops to have done so would have got me on a terrorist watchlist.   She said she was careful to say she was from QVIC.  (This does dispel my thoughts that a possible reason for the silence on the location was Plod-induced security.  So it's a choice between they:
  1. hadn't worked out the venue until the last minute; or
  2. have been to the Luke Foley School of Political Invisibility.)
Having been told where to go (a common occurrence) I thought it would be interesting to see what was on offer and went in to town.  As I drove in I heard the ABC News saying that the Premier was about to make an announcement having chosen to do so  ".. in National Party territory."  That made it sound as though the Nationals were her enemy, rather than members of her Government.

The first sight in the park was a cricket match.
Then I found the event happening at the bandstand.  Here are the Premier and Deputy Premier talking to the media.
It was hard to hear what was being said as they had no public address system - it seemed to be purely a media event.  I didn't want to get too close but here is what I think is a nice snap of the Premier.
Now a bit more Strine for you.  As well as being the abbreviation for 'carnation' the word 'carnie' is also used to save breath when talking about 'carnival workers'.  The next snap shows a media circus - which is probably different to a carnival. Thus Carnies still 0.
 A good carnival would include a freak show.  However I prefer to regard this as merely a leftist 'rent a (small) crowd' and thus maintain a ducks egg for Carnies.
The most interesting aspect of this was that as far as I could see there was no-one from the Liberal or National Parties present.  Could they not round up 50 folk in a few hours - perhaps the cell-block leader approach is too reminiscent of Socialists such as Julius Nyere, Ho Chi Minh or Mao Tse Tong?  A second point of interest is how the rent a crowd found out about the venue to get there when I and the QVIC lady had difficulty? Do they have comrades constantly shadowing John Barilaro?.

Having fulfilled my objective of seeing Glad in operation I then went for a prowl around the weir to log a few birds.  I meant to focus on this pooch which was having a lovely swim in the waters behind the weir, but when looked at on the 'pooter my camera had decided the grass had was more important!.
 I don't know what this farm duck had bred with but it seems to have turned out chicks very like Mum.  The dog was removed from the water as they hove into view.
 A pair of Kayakers were enjoying the River ..
 ... and a young person was enjoying the new water play area.
At 30oC I was tempted to join him.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Barrer Hill

There was recently some debate on the COG Chatline about the appearance of a number of odd structures in part of the Green Hills pine plantation.  It turns out they are part of a PhD research project by a student from the Fenner School at ANU.  The particular aspect going on here is to contrast the reaction of wildlife to nest boxes stuck on (what appear to be) trees and structures more like power poles.

Here is one of the trees:
 The 'tree'is not a former tree that has just died, but one that has been mounted on a concrete base!
Possibly birds will get the hint that all is not natural because they expect to find a few leaves on a tree?  Whatever - if the research gives some evidence that having dead trees around that would be good evidence with which to beat anal-retentive lawyers and engineers over the head.

There is a very well marked walking trail.
I suspect the ACT Government is looking for a sign-making led economic recovery in the Territory Budget.  They always seem to be able to find funding - and I expect it is not cheap - for some very flashy signage when ever they open a new trail.  In this case the trail goes to the end of a spur and just stops.  There is another sign on the opposite side of the Molonglo but the required bridge would be cheap.

Here is one of the poles.  Note that there is no solar panel/WiFi connection on this.
We decided there were 10 edifices in total.  As well as those close to the track there were others down towards the River.  In the image the tree is yellow arrow and the two poles in green.  There are no nest boxws on the structure marked with a red arrow.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Fireworks etc

We were invited into Canberra to watch the fireworks on Australia Day.  We got in before the show started so looked at the view first.
 As the evening deepened Parliament House looked very good.
This was about as good as the sunset got: I had expected it to be spectacular but somehow the setting sun didn't really fire up the clouds.
Once the fireworks started they were very good.  I had to remind myself to look at them and not just take photos.  So a lot of what I took were hopeless as I wasn't really looking at the camera.  These are pretty attractive.

Once they finished we bolted for home.  We had a very easy drive home but got a text at 10:15 saying people were still stuck in jams back in the City.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Filling in more time

This week seems to be rather busy with off-block things to do , which involve periods of inactivity that need to be filled in.

On 24 January the gap appeared due to needing to get a couple of new tyres on the Jetta.  The old ones had done 60,000kms so not too bad.  I decided to walk from the tyre supplier (Goodyear on Yass Rd Queanbeyan) to a couple of dams just across the ACT border.  This went past a sacred site: Yass Rd Takeaway - purveyors of the best hamburgers in Australia.
I then left NSW by going under the railway and crossed the Molonglo, feeling the bridge bounce as trucks passed over.  Here is the view upstream  - the crossing used to be the main road!
 And this is downstream, heading for the junction with the Mighty Queanbeyan River.
 A few birds then began to appear: Eastern Rosella ...
 .. Noisy Miner (living up to its name); and ...
 .. Galah.
 This dam was a target as it sometimes has some interesting birds but today had only a few very common ducks.  The ring of dry mud does illustrate how much water has gone in the last 2 months: when really full the water reaches up to the brambles on the RHS.
In the afternoon I went out to the Plain to check on the Whiskered Terns.  It was very windy so I couldn't get a clear image but this does show a chick to be nearly as big as the adult bird.
There were a lot of recently hatched Hoary-headed Grebes around.  I couldn't get a photo of them riding on their mum's back but this shows the stripey heads.  (The 'scope/phone combo was at a different angle to the wind so it seemed to give a far better result.)
Today (25 January) I had a dental appointment scheduled early and then a BBQ Stakes run at noon.  I decided to fill in the time by going to Giralang Pond primarily to twitch a Glossy Ibis. Of course I started at the wrong end of the pond and then moved further away to McKellar Pond.  That wasn't all bad as I scored a Lathams's Snipe and this Intermediate Egret.  Note the greenish facial skin and the gape only just reaching the eye.
 This shows the bird (bottom right) is about the same size as the White-faced Heron (top left).
Here is the target bird - Glossy Ibis - looking glossy while probing sludge for brunch.  This was Bird of the Day.
 I don't know how many ducklings this Pacific Black started with, but she only has one now.
Heading back I still had a few minutes so swung by the car park at Bruce Stadium to check the Superb Parrot situation.  It was excellent with at least 10 birds present.  This is a male ...
 ... and this an indolent juvenile, begging for food but quite capable of fending for itself
A good couple of trips.

The sunset at home was particularly spiffy tonight so here is an image from 2030 looking East ..
.. and 3 - 4 minutes later looking West.

You have to be quick with this stuff.  After taking the last two images (perhaps 6 minutes in total from the first Eastwards snap) I turned to face East and it was just drab greyness.