Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Plants that are about to be bulldozed

On 29 August I had to take the Pajero in for a recall so had a couple of hours to fill.  I decided that a walk along the proposed route of the Queanbeyan bypass would fit the bill rather well.

Strolling through the streets of Queanbeyan to get to the area I recorded 14 species of birds.  The most interesting were Straw-necked Ibis on the sports fields on Old Sydney Rd.
These birds can be common, and in large flocks but in the recent past have not been so.  I suspect they have all been out west, taking advantage of the floods from 2016.  Neither of these two have the eponymous straws on the breast and they look glossy (but not Glossy).

Once in to the base of the escarpment I found quite a bit of stuff in flower.  The most obvious species was Acacia genistifolia.

 Acacia dealbata (Silver wattle) was also evident but I didn't photograph it.  I am pretty sure  - based on the juvenile leaves - that this was Acacia rubida.
 Definitely a bean, (family Fabaceae) possibly Dillwynia sericea.
 This is definitely a Leucopogon (Beard Heath) possibly L. attenuatus.
 Another heath, Melichrys urceolatus.
 The first Glycine clandestina of the year creeping up ...
 .. Cryptandra amara.
 This area is very well endowed with mistletoe and in one area the Ameyena pendula had a mountain of fruit.
After walking for close to 2km I suddenly found myself bracketed by orange tape.  The sign might say something like "construction site keep out" but I couldn't read it from this side.
While the work for the bypass will knock over a lot of vegetation it should also do a lot of good in getting the traffic out of Monaro street in the centre of Queanbeyan. Thus I don't get too agitated about the bypass per se.

The real problem is that once the bypass is in place it will facilitate some housing development going well up the escarpment to the edge of Cuumbeun NR.  Those of a cynical frame of mind have been known to say that this is the real purpose of the bypass.  Apart from anything else the slope is so steep I can't see how house sites can be constructed on the area without the approach used in Wellington NZ where many houses have funiculars to get from the street to the front door!

Some residences have already been constructed.  The only way of entry is through a slot in  the base (indicated by the arrow).  I assume that these are meant for bats rather than birds or possums.
Walking back through the streets on a slightly different route I recorded 18 species of birds.  On this leg the most interesting were 36 Red-rumped Parrots grazing in David Campese Field (a rugby union ground).  The parrots seemed unaffected by the famous person whose paddock they were using and were not at all like mad chooks in their demeanour.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Why you need a 4x4 (and other environmental problems).

I took the Pajero in to Queanbeyan today to get the passenger air bag replaced under a recall due to some Japanese mob building them so that could explode.  That was done so that to quote the fixer "You can do a few ram-raids now.".  My response was that it was more like I won't get killed if I hit a roo.

When I got home Frances reported that a willow had fallen across Whiskers Creek.  Yes, good eyes that woman!
After a bit of chainsaw reconstruction (see below) I shortened the trunk a bit and positioned the Pajero.  With my trusty rope (found at the Captains Flat tip many years ago) I channelled my inner Boy Scout and remembered how to do a clove hitch.
Actually I have just recalled that the official Boy Scout  knot for dragging timber is a round turn and two half hitches.  Whatever  - I did a clove hitch.

In fact I did two: one around the log and the other around the towbar.
 In case you wonder about the spiffy shirt it came from Aldi.  Hi-vis is all the go out here.  As the area I ad driven on was pretty much a layer of silt, low-range 4WD was engaged and out popped the trunk.
 The chain saw was then wielded ..
 .. with the third member of the household looking from the back window.
You'll notice the bar on the chainsaw looks new.  That is because it is.  I was doing some work yesterday and discovered some fencing wire in an Acacia.  The bar didn't like that: as the guy at the Stihl shop in Fyshwick said "That bar has gone to a better place." It was commented that he'd once found a star picket in the middle of a tree: buggered the bar and shed bits if chain here and there..  Whatever:this went very well.
 All of this activity was going on under a pall of smoke coming from Kowen Forest in the ACT.  How unusual for hot air and smuts to be coming from the ACT!
It was a controlled burn  of windrows after forestry operations.  Of course this didn't appear on the NSW fire alert website as it was in the ACT!  Fortunately the Captain of the local brigade advised the community of what was going on.
 Here are a couple of shots from the Kings Highway.

The Hoskinstown plain was pretty much full of smoke as a consequence.  As indeed was the highway - at least they had warning signs up there.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Snow and other unusual weather

The Administrator of our Community Facebook Group posted a warning about the forecast weather for today.  She included mention of snow down to 800m.   In fact it made it down to at least 780m.
 The area of precipitation was quite extensive as shown on the BoM radar image ...
  ... and even more so on this Weatherzone image.
 Interestingly with the weather coming from the SW(ish) the Victorian selection on that site was more informative today, than the NSW/ACT selection.

As well as the snow the drop in temperature after 11am was quite pronounced.
  So was the switch in wind direction and pick up in speed through the late morning.
I'm normally a bit cautious about wind data from my site but those data match pretty well what I had noticed on the Plain mid morning.

So far we have scored 2.6mm of rain equivalent in total.  It is now 1320 the temperature has soared to +3oC and it is back snowing again.

By 1350 the precipitation was up to 3.6mm and the temperature had slumped back to 2oC.  Although the minimum temperature on the 28th was +1oC (at780m) there was still a fair cover of snow on Mount Molonglo (1140m,part of the Tailesin Hills) at 0745.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Progress report (n +x)

Over the past couple of days some tradesmen from ACT Trade Services have been doing the painting and deck oiling required on the house.

They have done a very fine job.

They were also tasked to replace the burnt sleepers in the vegie garden.  Again very well done.
As well as being very competent at their trades the guys were very pleasant people!

Daffodil Day

With today being Daffodil Day I thought I'd get out early (ish - 0615) and see if the daffodils down our drive were emulating a Flame Robin ...
... in being bright-eyed and bushy tailed.  (Truth in advertising: that photo was taken a couple of days ago at about 0800.)

Unfortunately they were instead copying Mr Sun, or Old Man Kangaroo ...
... (ibid) in still stacking a few zeds.
Perhaps they didn't appreciate the overnight low of -3oC?

An hour later the thermometer had risen to 0oC but the jonquils were still frosty, and looking a tad unhappy.
 By 9:300 the basic Daffodils (King Alfreds) were looking more as flowers should on their Day.
 So were a couple of a flamboyant variety down by the Creek.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Egg-layers seen on a trip to Bungendore

After visiting the tip to make a deposit I swung by the big dam on Lake Road.

In view of the very dry year we are experiencing I was intrigued to find that the Big Dam on Lake Rd has still got a lot of water in it.  This image shows the smaller section of the dam and the start of the berm under the fenceline.
I also found this morning that the grass on the roadside has died down (or been mown) so that I was possible to park  level with the end of the bank through the middle of the dam (as shown in the image).  This meant I got much better views along the fence line than are possible from the traditional spot opposite The Lake.

There were at least 6 groups of Freckled Ducks which I counted up to 112 birds - and I suspect there were a few more.  I also counted 116 Pink-eared Ducks some of which were chilling out on the banks while others were feeding in a big group or in pairs doing synchronised spinning.  This next image shows part of one of the flocks.
The other big flock were 89 Eurasian Coots.  On the edge of the water I noticed 3 Black-fronted Dotterels and 2 Red-kneed Dotterels.  This is the latter species:
At Trucking Yard Lane there were still 24 Plumed Whistling Ducks which seems to be the size of a locally resident flock.  Some of them were having a Bad Plume Day due to the gusting breeze.

82 Grey Teal and 38 Pacific Black Ducks were the other sizable flocks.  I was able to definitely identify 6 Chestnut Teal amongst the Grey Teal: its a bit easier to split them out when they are breeding males.
After the huge flocks of cockatoos seen recently there were only a handful each of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and Galahs today.

Very few fowl at the Sewage Works; Trucking Yard Lane Dam #2; Bungendore Meadow Dam and Burrows Lane Dam.

Near the high point of Widgiewa Rd an Echidna (also an egg layer) was snuffling around.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

COG looks for fast flying birds at London Bridge

Do not panic: this post will get to some birding stuff eventually.

That blog title was adopted before the walk, as a consequence of the forecast strong winds.
In fact the BoM Extreme weather warning indicated the Canberra area was going to miss the worst of the winds (average 60-70 kph, gusting to 90kph).
However it still seemed likely that any birds coming from the Burra direction would be going at a fair clip.  Rain was forecast for the early morning and it was, like the trains on the Rock Island Island Line "right on time" such as 0430.
Hopefully it will be done and dusted by the time we start walking.

Of course the weather was the second "adventure" in getting this outing on the track.  The first was an article in the Canberra Times by Bryan Pratt saying that the London Bridge entrance to Googong was to be closed at the gate, thus saving the cost of opening and locking the gate each night.  However that turns out to just have been a brain explosion by someone in the ACT Government and the idea had been abandoned.  I initially thought that using an outmoded idea was nominative determinism, but that relates to jobs fitting names (eg if Mr Baker makes bread) and it is simply an aptronym.

This blog exists purely to expand your vocabulary!

In fact there were two gates to navigate: the first more or less a stock container ...
 .. whereas the second was definitely a bogan excluder.  I understand this will eventually be set to open and close automatically.
Note the blue sky!  After a couple of messages from me commenting on the weather - plus evidence from looking out the window that it was in fact pretty ordinary - I wasn't surprised that there were only 2 cars evident when I arrived.  3 other brave souls were in them.  We agreed that it was a good idea to visit the homestead as planned  and headed off.  (The fifth brave soul had been held by traffic in Civic and pursued us in that direction.)

So it must be noted that Margaret Robertson still holds the WW record of 4 people on a walk.  To the Pryor Arboretum, and I think they actually got some snow!
The very ordinary weather  had some impact on the avifauna with very few smaller birds seen on the walk to the homestead.  Good numbers of Australian Magpies, Eastern Rosellas and particularly Crimson Rosellas were evident at this stage.  3 Grey Currawongs were a less common species observed.
On arrival at the Homestead area 4 Flame Robins (2 of each sex) were flying around from perch to perch (and thus impossible to photograph.  The birds were also a lot quieter than those of this species I have been seeing and hearing around Whiskers Creek recently with only one burst of territorial heard.

At least 6 Southern Whiteface were observed feeding on the ground before flying off downwind at fair speed.  The classic descending call of a Horsfield's Bronze Cuckoo alerted us to the presence of this species and 2 birds were observed together 
with one fluttering its wings in an obvious display activity.  Thanks for the photograph Lindell!

A female Hooded Robin then appeared with a male of that species seen soon after.  They were observed over quite some time but again the wind kept them moving.  I failed to get a photograph but here is another small black and white bird.  

We followed the creek back down .. the Bridge itself.

..  where a large(ish) flock of 26 European Goldfinches were seen.  The final excitement was a flock of hirundines flying low over an open area.  It was concluded that most (15) of these birds  were Tree Martins - migrants are returning.
In total we recorded 31 species plus a  distant accipiter and we couldn't decide whether it was a Collared Sparrowhawk or Brown Goshawk.

In the mammal department it is always good to see a Red-necked Wallaby (in fact two were seen).
 .. as well as quite a lot of Eastern Grey Kangaroos
A very enjoyable stroll and the weather was not as bad as feared.