Saturday, 25 February 2017

A second walk even more in the black

After having our breakfast we decided the time had come to visit the top of the block to see what had happened up there.

As we went up we couldn't avoid the sight of our good neighbour's and friends house in a twisted heap. I'm not putting anything more about that.

Soon after we moved here I found a stump with roots attached that looked very like a Baobab tree from East Africa.  They are known as Upside-down trees, so I planted it that way.  Here it is, very happy in its position!
 RFS were here .
 This is our top dam with many less brambles than there were 10 days ago.
 There are still a few left unfortunately and I'm sure they will regrow, but we will deal with that when it happens.  Blackberry jam is nice but these weeds need stomping more seriously than I have been able to do in the past.
A little later Wildcare provided us with a bit more hay for roo feed which I have put up near the dam so the roos which come to drink can find it.
 There was also some pellets which the roos should find palatable.
There were no roos in the area when I dropping the fodder off, biut a small flock of Australian Wood Ducks were walking around on the dam wall.

On our secondary creek we have been expecting this tree to get washed into the creek by the next flood for 10 years.  Having its roots burnt may be what finally gets it.
Right back near our house was another example of "Why didn't that burn?".
Frances and her sister painted these poles several years ago and they aren't even scorched.

A short walk in the light black

I hope John Schumann won't mind me adapting his alternate song title.  Apart from anything else some elements of the lyrics to "I was only nineteen" are pretty appropriate.

What I am basically on about is our first walk with Tammy through the fire affected Whiskers Creek Rd and Widgiewa Rd area this morning.

When we got to the Creek Tammy's nose started twitching violently.  On going to check we found this sad sight.
As it seemed to have potential to block the culvert (if it ever rains again) on returning from our walk I donned gloves and a face mask  and removed the corpse.

All our gates are decorated with tapes showing that the various emergency services have entered to check things. Well done those folk.
 The line of light dots here is a Wildcare (well done those folk as well) fodder drop for the animals.
They have put a few bales on our place which will hopefully assist survival of a few 'roos.

On our first return to the area we were struck by the way the guideposts beside the road had melted.  This is a fairly mild example.
All the really droopy ones have been removed and replaced by nice new ones.  Well done whoever did that (QPRC?).
With all the vegetation removed it is apparent how much infrastructure was lurking behind it.  In this case we have a nice new Telstra junction (I call them daleks as I don't know the technical name) with the old cover - well tesselated - in the foreground.
 Here is a teenage (half way between new and old) dalek.
 And here is a Telstra techie on the job before 8am on a Saturday morning.  Well done indeed!
They get a special thank you as our landline and ADSL are back in business so I am no longer relying on my mobile phone reception and download limit!

A nice new power pole.  Apparently they only lost 8 poles in the whole area, which I find astonishing.
Finally a view across the Plain to the hills on Carwoola Station.  The area on the hills in the mid-ground had been specifically set aside as native habitat.  Now its been burnt.
As well as seeing how the recovery was going this gave a chance for chats with a few more neighbours, who seemed to be in about the same state as ourselves. We'll get there.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Progress report 2

After a very rough start, today improved a lot.

The rough start came about because as I was walking Tammy at about 6:45 I got a text to say the plumber had been called to an emergency and wouldn’t be at our place until 4pm.  Some fairly terse SMS then flew around.  I thought “What could be a bigger emergency than us not being able to wash or use the toilets?”   Myself and Frances were both pretty upset as we drove back towards home.

Now, you should remember that yesterday two plumbers were involved: our usual guy who we cancelled and the insurance company’s guy.  As all I’d got this morning was an unfamiliar number, I assumed it was the latter, who still had a live job with us, who had rearranged things.

In fact it was the “practice manager” of our usual guy who had sent her message to the wrong phone.  She only realised this about 9am when the guy who had him booked rang to find out where the he was! What a relief!

The first person to front was a loss adjuster from A J Grant looking at the property side of things, including the plumbing situation.  He immediately checked on his plumber who was still getting parts  in Fyshwick, which is quite OK.

About 5 minutes later a small ute turned up with some wood in the back and two guys I’d never seen before got out.  They had been sent along by A J Grant to do a make safe on the purling post.  Unexpected but brilliantly helpful.  here is what we had ended up with yesterday (note wooden wedge):
I then spent about an hour with the loss adjuster going around and looking at what had been damaged.  The process is that he writes a report detailing what has been damaged and recommending what to do about it which is agreed by us (or at least seen by us) reviewed by and signed off by the insurance company and then the assessor’s company use their contractors to fix everything according to the resulting contract.

In the course of this I commented that one problem was the sheets of iron on the (former) roof of the big shed banging in the wind.  Not a problem.  The two guys doing make safe on the deck which has involved lots of bolts being drilled into things to hold it all together)
were pointed up there and asked to get the sheets of iron off and put them on the ground with something heavy on them so they didn’t blow around.
This they did and it is all very neat and quiet.

The plumber has now turned up and is working on the septic.  I am following the example quoted somewhere of a tradesmen – I think in the UK - whose scale of fees was something like £50.00 per hour or, with assistance from owner of premises,  £75.00 per hour.  Thus I’m staying right out of his way.  He has now done his stuff, tested it and gone away.  There are a few jobs still on his sheet and he’ll do them on Monday.

Next folk along were two nice ladies from Capital Restorations.  They were the representatives of the company looking after the contents claim.  Again very helpful in explaining what was going on and how we needed to proceed.

So we are back in the house.  There are some strange sights around the place such as this watering can (still with some water in it) and milk crate.
One of our snake repellers also looks as though Dali has had a go at it, in the absence of a pocket watch, but it is still beeping away.

Thursday, 23 February 2017


We are now back after a couple of days mental health break at Mallacoota.

This was necessary as we needed to get power back on to the house and the pipes around the septic tank repaired.  Major advances occurred on both those fronts today but we aren't quite there yet.

The first advance was that a Carwoola resident not affected by the fire runs an air conditioning business (Heating and Cooling Services of Fyshwick)  and offered all those affected by the fire a free system check.  I signed up for this and asked if we had to have the power on - if so I'd need to find an electrician.  Not surprisingly they had such tradesmen on deck and one was organised to come to our place this morning.  At 7:30  - so an early start for me.

Jesse and his offsider from Harris and Williams were very prompt in turning up and very efficient in testing all the circuits and making sure that everything worked.  Well done guys.

Then the air-con techo arrived and was able to confirm that the system was working well and didn't need repair.  Excellent: as it was 36+C today it was SOOOO good to have the AC going.

We had arranged for our plumber to do the septic stuff but this seems to have got lost in the cascade of insurance company assessors and fixers so another guy turned up from a company engaged by the assessors.  We were able to sort that confusion out and the septic will be fixed tomorrow morning when the full assessments will start.

We were also visited by a local friend who helped shore up a purling that was floating with the universe (and in bad weather could lead to issues with the roof).  His wife gave Frances some very sound advice about garden restoration.

I'd have to say the many offers of help we have received are very touching.  Some are personal, from people we know, and others are community wide.  Great team spirit.

Monday, 20 February 2017

A few photos

Rather than update the previous post I have decided to put some photos here.

This was the view from Canberra, about 3pm.  The hill in the foreground is in Canberra - the ones on the horizon have all been burnt out.  By this stage it was well past our place.
 Here is the house.  Notice the burnt ground beside the drive.
 My metal tool shed to the left.  Frances corrugated-plastic potting shed was to the right.
 Looking up the hill to the water tanks.  A slight scorch mark but otherwise undamaged.  This hillside was covered with Kunzea scrub.
My weather station still looks to be functional, unless the heat stuffed the operating system, which I won't know until we get power back.
 Our former camper.  Insurance is good.
On the subject of insurance the efficiency of the NRMA Insurance system is very good.  I put in a couple of claims - over the phone having no doco - on Saturday and was told two assessor businesses would be in touch.  They have both done so by 1430 on Monday, and their reps , and someone from NRMA will be visiting the property later in the week.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Dodging a bullet (mainly)

I haven't posted for a couple of days as we have been preoccupied with a huge bush fire and its impact on us.  Cutting to the chase we're all (me, Frances and Tammy) OK, and the house is OK, but all our sheds are gone and the property is basically a black moonscape.

I will add some photos and more commentary to this later, but here is the timeline.

Last Friday 17 February at 1215 Frances had gone to her gym class and I was doing stuff at home when my mobile phone rang.  My friend from the Hoskinstown Plain said "There is a lot of smoke rising behind the hills behind you place.  Check it out."

I did so and saw saw a huge column of smoke.  I rang the Queanbeyan RFS who said they were on to it and suggested it was time for my Bushfire Survival Plan.  I said that was "Run for it." and she agreed this was a good option.  I rang our next door neighbours and suggested they also got out.  (They did - thank God - see below)

So I put binoculars telescope and passports in my car with Tammy and headed off.  I decided I didn't want to spend 10 minutes hooking up the camper as I wanted to get to Frances gym before she started to come home.

As I got to the end of the drive I remembered Frances' iPad and the birth certificates etc.  Looking back at the hills the smoke was now a black mass pouring down the face of the hills.  Should I go back?  Bugger that, pedal to the metal.

I made it into town and Frances'car was where I expected so I got into the gym where she was Pilaticising and explained what I was doing there.

Rang daughter in case she saw about this on the news and decided to go to her place and wait for developments.  From her place at  about 1330 - ie about an hour after I was alerted, which I have only just realised -  we could see the Eastern side of the hills which were totally black.  Helicopters etc were zooming around.

Not really possible to stay with her so rang friends who immediately agreed to host us and Tammy so we headed off there.  Via the chemist as I had also forgotten to bring our regular medications.  By the time we got to therir place Facebook was rife with discussion and questions from Friends, which our host was fielding as well as he could.  Many many thanks for this Rob.

The rest of that day was trying to work out where the fireground was in relation to our house. By about 9pm it seemed the house was right in the middle.  So f*ck it, can't do anything now and go to bed.  Neither sleeping nor, perchance, dreaming really happened for me.

Next morning (18 Feb) rang the RFS about 0630 and the duty dude had just come on and wasn't yet up to speed (fair enough - he didn't tell me to sod off, which would have been a temptation if our positions had been reversed) and suggested I ring back about 10.

I rang a little before that and got some positive vibrations about our area.  So we headed out and got to a road block at Widgiewa.  There a bunch of residents were briefed very professionally by the Incident Controller from the RFS.  (As an aside, this was filmed by ABC TV and others and my red t-shirt really stood out.)  Basic story was hot wires and falling trees all over the place so go away for a while.  Again fair enough.

Assuming we'd lost everything we went to buy socks and jocks.  (I hadn't included them - or rather I had included them in the list of things I'd overlooked.)

Somewhere in this process someone told me to go and register at Queanbeyan Police Station which I did.  The nice cop said the best info was at The Q Theatre which was the central point.  They said the road was open so out we went again and after showing our drivers license we were allowed ito the disaster area. After about 400m just black on both sides of the road.

I parked at the end of the road and walked down, passing some RFS guys busy dropping a burnt tree and there was our house.  All of it.  Sheds burnt out and lots of other things gone but we're OK and the house is 99.5% OK.

More detail to come.  The only house in Whiskers Creek Rd I know to have gone was our lovely next door neighbours.  They must have taken my advice as they are physically OK.

(Much) More to come.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Invertebrates of February

Due possibly to dryness leading to most flowers giving up the struggle I have found relatively few invertebrates this month.  However there have been a few so I thought I'd gather the images here rather than leaving them scattered on Facebook and sundry other posts on a range of themes.

The first is a potter wasp (Sceliphron laetum)
Two butterflies from ANBG:
Dainty Swallowtail
 Spotted Brown
Grasshoppers: the first two are from around home ...
.. whereas this one is from high in the Brindabellas.
Two flies.  This first is  a Grass Fly Apotropina sp.  
 This is a more substantial beast: Prodiaphania sp (a tachnid fly, parasitic on scarabs)
 This shield bug is climbing on some flyscreen, so it isn't very big!

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

COG Wednesday Warks

12 members gathered at Stromlo Forest Park for carpooling on the outing to Warks Rd and nearby spots in Namadgi National Park.  Some very early starters looked around the Park but Double-barred fnches were the reported highlight.  No White-fronted Chats.

After some initial confusion - more serious for some members than others - caused by a huge group from Walking for Pleasure we set off as advertised for the Brindabellas.

As often the case we paused to check out the big dam at Urriarra Homestead and scored 26 species as a result.  This included a tightly knit squad of 18 Hoary-headed Grebes and an overflight of 6 Gang-gangs.

We moved on to Blundells Creek Rd where we had an involuntary pause due to a fallen tree across the road.  
While that was being disposed of, members spotted the first of several Rufous Fantails beside the road.  

After parking and heading up Warks Rd enjoying the nice habitat  ...
 .. and trying not to think about fallen trees ...
.. which made a nice change from not thinking about Tiger Snakes,  3 Red-browed Treecreepers were observed.  The next highlight was a Rufous Fantail on a nest: everyone got good looks. (Second photo by Duncan).

One of several Sacred Kingfishers was seen.
After another bit of axe-work ..
 We proceeded.  Rumours of 2 Tree Martins were not confirmed despite Matthew's photo (one of them is a Martyn).
We continued to not think about fallen trees - or at least those without an axe in the boot so continued.  We paused for a pre-prandial stroll up another trail.  A very alert member spotted a small bird on a branch close to ground level.  It eventually scuttled off, but had given good enough looks for identification as a very recently fledged Pilotbird.  This was confirmed when an adult of the species was seen on the far side of the track.  We hurriedly left the area and on turning to watch saw the adult fly across in the direction of the fledgling and then then both fly across the track.  Possibly the first breeding record of Pilotbird since the 2003 fires?

Two further stops were made on the way home.  Moonlight Hollow Road delivered a Brush Cuckoo – after much deliberation and examination of images by me and Duncan .  

A very spiffy grasshopper was briefly restrained for photographic purposes.
Going to Bulls Head Picnic area , several Flame Robins were seen (and photographed by Duncan) ...
...and a Fan-tailed Cuckoo heard.

All up we recorded 54 species for the day.  Individual site records are available from eBird and a complete list follows:
Australian Wood Duck
Pacific Black Duck
Australasian Grebe
Hoary-headed Grebe
Little Pied Cormorant
White-faced Heron
Wedge-tailed Eagle
Eurasian Coot
Masked Lapwing
Fan-tailed Cuckoo
Brush Cuckoo
Laughing Kookaburra
Sacred Kingfisher
Nankeen Kestrel
Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo
Gang-gang Cockatoo
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
Crimson Rosella
Red-rumped Parrot
Superb Lyrebird
Satin Bowerbird
White-throated Treecreeper
Red-browed Treecreeper
Superb Fairywren - Malurus cyaneus
Yellow-faced Honeyeater
White-eared Honeyeater
White-naped Honeyeater
Noisy Friarbird
Spotted Pardalote
Striated Pardalote
White-browed Scrubwren
Brown Thornbill
Striated Thornbill
Eastern Whipbird
Australian Magpie
Grey Currawong
Grey Shrikethrush
Golden Whistler
Willie Wagtail
Rufous Fantail
Grey Fantail
Satin Flycatcher
Australian Raven
Scarlet Robin
Flame Robin
Rose Robin
Eastern Yellow Robin
European Goldfinch
House Sparrow

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

A few birds at Kellys Swamp

On our way home from Quidditch we called in to Kellys Swamp to look for Egrets.  The photos to satisfy that objective are included in this post in another blog.  However we saw a couple of other interesting birds also.

European Goldfinches are always a delight to see, even when they are spreading Scotch thistle seeds.
Freckled Ducks don't spread seeds, and much less common than the Goldfinches.  In this snap the male shows his red beak!