Sunday, 30 April 2017

A look down at Foxlow Lagoon

As it was a nice sunny day and there was no wind I thought I'd finish my birding for April with a look down into Foxlow Lagoon.

There was quite a lot of water in the Lagoon (more than when I last looked, at the start of the month. There were also quite a few common waterbirds, but as the sunlight was reflecting off the water it was very hard to pick up detail.  So largely estimated numbers.

Land birds were easier to get a good look at and also a little more exciting.  Bird of the Day was Southern Whiteface: not the most excitingly coloured bird (basically small and brown, with a dob of white on the face) but quite nusual in the Carwoola area.  There were at least four present muddled in with a mixed flock including Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Australasian Pipit, Diamond Firetail, Willie Wagtail  and Flame Robins.

The only one of those I managed to get a snap of was a female Flame Robin.
 There were a couple of the more spectacular (OK, simply spectacular) males present but they were either flighty or hid behind fence posts so no photo.

Welcome Swallows were more cooperative.
 Indeed while I walked a few metres down the road to investigate the Whiteface situation theyproved why roof rails are a Good Thing.  Note that on this trip I did not hit a single Cassowary.
 This is a snip from the previous photo as I thought the flight shot was rather spiffy.
 The roadside veg here is snow gum (Eucalyptus pauciflora).  The new growth was very attractive - I'm glad we have planted a few as part of our recovery effort.

Vale Robin Millhouse

I read on the ABC site today of the death of Robin Millhouse, sometime Attorney-General for South Australia and Justice of the Supreme Court of South Australia.

The obituary on the ABC site mentions quite a bit about him but doesn't make a few links between the different parts of his principles that tended to go against each other.  Before getting to those it should be noted that he did stick to what he believed in.  After the Liberal Movement (of which he and Steele Hall were founders) morphed into the Australian Democrats, Millhouse stuck with the Democrats whereas most others went back to the Liberals.

The ABC mentions that he was a committed Christian so it wasn't that surprising that my first memory of him was when he led protests against the performance of Jesus Christ Superstar in Adelaide in 1972.  This was during the Dunstan years so it also isn't surprising that a member of the Liberals wasn't well known to me.

However it is unusual to find a person with such a role introducing a bill to legalise prostitution and to champion the nudist beach at Maslin's Beach in South Australia.

With regards to the latter some of my friends used to run with him on weekend mornings using a course that included Maslins.  He was a good runner and would apparently sprint to the start of the unclothed area rip off his shorts and singlet, carry them through the unclothed area and put them on again at the far side!

His running also (indirectly) contributed to the resolution of a question I had developed about why few runners in Sydney ever greeted one another while in Canberra and Adelaide runners were very convivial..  I was in Sydney one weekend in the mid 1980s to run the City to Surf and on the day before did my usual run from Hyde Park through the CBD and over the Harbour Bridge.  On this day just about everyone said "G'day" which was most unusual for that area.  Then I came across Millhouse, running past the Opera House and greeting everyone, and suddenly I twigged: all the greeters were people from interstate.

Straying from the core subject of this post my conclusion got slightly modified in the 1990s when we stayed in Marrickville.  On runs there, everyone greeted me (usually with very thick accents indicating Greek, Russian or Lebanese ancestry).  It was the wealth of the Anglos in central Sydney that was the issue not geography.

Finishing off this side issue, we were in New York in 1997 and I found that running Central Park I also got very little interaction with other runners (nearly all of whom were anglos); from memory 80% of runners totally ignored everyone else; 20% responded to a greeting and 0% initiated an exchange.  That had changed in 2005-06 - everyone greeted one another (apart from the dweets running with earphones playing Kurt Cobain rubbish).  One of the small ways 11 September 2001 changed people in that city.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Any arachnologists around?

This afternoon Frances noticed a bunch of tiny red spiders on the track heading further up our block.  I went to take some photos and eventually re-located them. I have included the more interesting images here in the hope that someone can identify them.- that has happened - see below.

I'm reasonably sure they are spiders but they are very small - no more than 5mm across the legs, and some considerably smaller than that.  So are they mites?  Yes: my friend Penny has identified them as Red Velvet Mites.

 I wondered if that big red blob was a coloured pebble

 But here the blob is clearly another arachnid.  Possibly a gravid female?

 An ant eventually wandered by and seemed to ignore most of the arachnids.  However this one got in the way and was attacked.
It didn't lookwell afterwards, but to my surprise the ant didn't take the corpse away for eating but just went on its way.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

An outing for two purposes

The first purpose, in the sense of the one I thought of first, is actually the second one covered in this post.  That because it suited me to go to Yerrabi Pond at Gungahlinand then come back to Lyons for a run, rather than vice versa.

The reason for going to Yerrabi was to tick the Great Crested Grebe which has been hanging out there for several days (if not weeks by now).  Fortunately the viewing point - Soroptimist Point - was well defined.  There were quite a few waterbirds around but initially no sign of the Grebe. So I scanned the Pond through my telescope and soon spotted the required bird.
I'm sorry that is such a crappy photo, but the light was very poor and the bird was on the far side of the Pond.  I had forgotten to take my scope/phone adapter!  The red arrow indicates the Grebe in this un-zoomed image
The grebe seemed to coexist peacefully with the various other fowl around the place.  Perhaps it took the hint after getting a stern talking to by a Dusky Moorhen the day before?

In that image note the greyness of the sky.  It was actually a lot darker than it appears, and as I drove down to Woden the skies opened and a fair serve of rain came down.  It was still coming down when I started the race.
 In the official report on the event mention was made of a participant starting carrying an umbrella.  Here is the proof.
 The track was a tad damp and slippery.
 A pair of participants were striding manfully along.  I joined them as I have a sore back from gardening and a jog/walk outing was just what I needed.  Again the going was, what the horse racing fraternity would describe as, heavy: on that scale I'd rate it as level 9.
 Someone's Mum won't be happy about the washing.
 Due to the weather adminstration had moved to the tunnel under Melrose Drive.  I suspect this shifted both the start and the finsh so the distance was constant.  I was inclined to label this image as "Gimme She;lter".
 The usual suspect  - actually quite a few less than usual - assembled t hear the results.
Presumably if the rain had still been coming down we'd all had snuggled in the underpass.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Some assembly required.....

This extract from a Bloom County cartoon gives the background to the title.
 Such instruction is of course meat and potatoes to Ikea shoppers.  I recall spending a morning in New York building furniture from flatpacks until the person in the apartment below objected - quite reasonably - to the constant tapping of the hammer.  The item covered by this post was from Aldi rather than Ikea, and came in a cuboid rather than flatpack.
 Here is the list of parts!
Here they are out of the pack and ready for assembly.  It was a bit of a surprise to find them to be plastic rather than metal but it seems to work OK
 Halfway there!
 Given that I have 5 (~85%) of the 6 surfaces complete an inexperienced assembler might wonder about the use of the word 'half'.  Building the doors was a major task, not least because each of the 4 panels had two hinges with two screws.  Because the basic material is plastic the instructions prohibit use of drills to drive them - I ended with a nice blister from the handle of the screwdriver!
Here is the finished article: building the first one took close to 2 hours, and the second about 1 hour largely because I knew how to follow the instructions.
 I had planned to use a junior assistant but she was busy decorating the empty carton of cupboard 1.
 A bit later she converted the second carton to a car - or possibly chariot, with herself channeling Charlton Heston and wombats positioned to provide the horse-power.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Dawn of 21-4-2017

For readers in North America: we haven't invented a 21st month. it's still April.

From looking out my study window and spotting the colour of the sky to everthing washingout was no more that 5 minutes.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

COG Gigerline 2017

The COG Wednesday Walk for April 2017 was to Gigerline Nature Reserve at Williamsdale.  30 members and guests gathered on a brilliant Autumn day. Pleasantly warm, no wind and bright sunshine. 

We started from the highway, recently a site of sadness as a competitor in a bike race from Perth to Sydney died near our meeting point.  The circumstances around the death are still subject to investigation, but it was notable that a few days later the Australian commentators on the Tour of Flanders were advocating for rules to ensure people in such events got at least some sleep.  There is a small roadside memorial.

We meet at the site of a former service station (a 'servo' in Strine) where a solar farm has been constructed in the 2 years since we were last there.
 We moved about 1km up the highway and queued politely to cross a fence or two.  I have done a little obfuscation to prevent face recognition (although I don't think anyone present was wagging work).
Throughout the walk flocks of Yellow-faced Honeyeaters with a few White-naped Honeyeaters mixed in were overflying us, heading more or less for the Tinderries. It would be impossible to get a precise count but the group agreed that estimates of 2,000 Yellow-faced Honeyeaters and 50 White-naped Honeyeaters were conservative.

A side trip to a small dam produced a single Grey Teal  Somewhat easier to photograph than a flock of migrating Honeyeaters.
 As we descended to the Murrumbidgee a group of 5 Red Wattlebirds appeared to be joining in the rush. One White-eared Honeyeater seen early in proceedings also appeared to be caught up in the excitement, while a couple more were calling during the walk. When we arrived at the River ...
.. a single Yellow-tufted Honeyeater was seen briefly browsing in the canopy. It dived lower and was not relocated.
A mixed flock including Buff-rumped and Yellow-rumped Thornbills, 2 Scarlet Robins and a Grey Shrike hinted at the shape of things to come as the weather cools down. In much the same area a flock of 12 Varied Sittellas were feeding in the canopy.
Overhead, three young Wedge-tailed Eagles were seen at one time soaring over the woodland and another much darker bird was seen shortly afterwards soaring towards the River. They were the only raptors seen on the outing.
I hope no-one was really expecting the Yellow-plumed Honeyeater I burbled about on the website!  The total species count for the day was 38. A full species list is in this eBird checklist. This is well down on our Summer counts of over 50 species but the decrease was almost entirely due to the absence of migratory species.

Acacias get in on the act

I have banged on a bit about the epicormic growth on the Eucalypts in our area since the fire.
However this afternoon I noticed what seems to be epicormic growth on some Acacias which surprises me more than somewhat. It doesn't seem to be as high a proportion of trees/shrubs as with the eucs but (assuming I have understood what is going on correctly) it is evident in at least 4 species.

I am now even less confident that this is epicormic growth.  On looking closely at an Acacia dealbata it appeared that all the sprouts were coming out of axils (ie where twigs join branches) rather than free-standing buds as is the case with epicormic growth,  It is currently raining, but when it stops I will revisit the sprouts.

The images are:
 A. dealbata; 

A. pravissima  

A. falicformis.  

and A. rubida 
Not all Acacias are sprouting.  A row of Acacia pravissima beside our drive took the full brunt of the fire and were incinerated.  No epicormic growth there!
 However, on looking down, under the trees ...
As our neighbour Michaela says "Nature finds a way".

I was in this part of the block (which we used to refer to as the Bald Hill, because it had been grazed to bedrock) planting some more of our trees.  To give them some protection I put a fence  around them.
I have put red dots on the top of the fence posts.  Looking at the full sized picture, it is obvious that as a fencing contractor, I'd make a pretty fair bird-watcher.

Monday, 17 April 2017

The work continues

Part of my efforts yesterday concluded with a large pile of brush beside the drive.  It was to say the least unsightly and inconvenient so job #1 today was to remove it.  Here is the first load ready to roll.
 Rather than go to the tip at Bungendore  I decided to go a somewhat shorter distance to an erosion gully in the top of the block.  The trailer is empty, the gully less so.
 After 3 loads the gully is rather more full.  This will hopefully reduce erosion and provide some nice habitat for resting reptiles and possibly little birds (to the extent that they compatible).
A Pajero is useful for things other than towing a trailer.  Some of the Photinia look very unlikely to rejuvenate and would be a bugger to dig out.  A length of rope and steady acceleration do a better job.  (For subsequent efforts 4WD prevented the wheelspin!)
 This also gave a nice hole ...
 .. into which a Callistemon (I think) fitted nicely.
Other holes were created down the drive and filled with Eucalyptus pauciflora (Snow Gum)  or E. stellulata (Black Sallee).
 The brickie's hammer in action digging the small hole.
 As an aside I needed to use my drill to reattach the number plate to the trailer.  Look what I found sitting on top of the drill bag!  It was completely torpid but moved a little when I took it out intothe sunshine.