Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Wonga Pigeon RIP

As should be evident from the title of this post, it contains images of a freshly deceased bird.
There is no better opportunity to study details of birds which one can not normally see.
If this is likely to offend you, please come back to this blog on another occasion.
One of my local Wonga Pigeons flew into a window on my back deck. It died almost instantly - it fell just 2 metres from the window, but off to the side. So clearly it was flying across the back deck and I stood where it had apparently come from, and clearly it was confused by the reflection of some flowering wattle trees below the house. In other words, it did not see the window, and instead thought it was flying towards those trees. Bang. Dead. Stone dead.

The strongly marked belly and under-tail coverts
(feathers of the underneath side of the bird)
apparently act to camouflage the bird when it is nesting,
as Wonga Pigeons raise their tails when nesting,
and when they land on a branch.
(HJ Frith "Pigeons and Doves of Australia" P.285)
Wonga Pigeons walk just about everywhere. So it is hardly surprising that its feet are well adapted to that lifestyle. The toes are spread wide, and they have nails which are strong, but not grasping claws. These are "walking feet",

As such the structure of the Wonga's feet is quite unlike "perching birds" (passerines) and very different from the grasping toes and talons of Owls or Hawks. This Pigeon's toes are strong, individual toes, in a 3 forward: 1 hind toe arrangement which is a classic bird arrangement (think of a Chook's feet).
Toe structure of a Wonga Pigeon.
In that sense, they differ from Parrots. "Parrots have two forward pointing toes (which are relatively long), and two thicker, stronger, backward pointing toes ("zygodactyly"). When the foot is closed, the forward pointing toes nestle in between the two rear toes. The claws on the rear toes are very powerful." See this image by way of contrast.

Here is a close-up of the head of the Wonga Pigeon.
The beak is that of a seed eater. The soft tissues around the nostrils and the eyes are a delicate pink flesh. as are the legs.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Wet week in August 2014 in Robertson

Here is a video taken at Carrington Falls by Benjamin Hansen.
Click on the word "post" - it is a hot link and will open the video of Carrington Falls in full flood on 18 August 2014.
Post by Benjamin Hansen.

Fitzroy Falls in full flood.
19 August 2014
Photo by Beth Boughton
The reason there is so much water is because of the rainfall we got: 54mm, 162mm, and then 108mm. It has been raining a bit since then, but not nearly as much.

Here is another link to a video from Fitzroy Falls also posted by Beth Boughton on 19 August 2014.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Great sunset colours this evening Monday 28 July 2014

While working on my computer, this afternoon,
I noticed an eerie pinkish glow in the western sky.
Of course, it was sunset.
But such rich colours, with a distinct purplish tinge.

Looking to the far-south-west.
Main patch of colour around to the right (west).

The tall conical tree is the Sassafras I regularly photograph.
The light changes, the range of visibility changes,
depending on conditions.

Similar angle, slight change in light as sun set changes colour.

Taken from the western side of my house.
Looking through deciduous trees.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Bassian Thrush near Carrington Falls

Yesterday I went to visit my friend Jim Foran, who lives at the end of Cloonty Road, which runs out beyond Carrington Falls.

As I drove there, I saw a Bassian Thrush beside the road. just past the Kangaroo River crossing (the main bridge) on the Carrington Falls road. It was between the Bridge and the turn in to the main parking area leading down to the main lookouts. This is across the River, not the popular swimming hole used by the locals, which is accessed by veering right, before the River crossing.

The Bassian Thrush is a fairly secretive bird, a little smaller than a female Bowerbird (which looks somewhat similar). Bowerbirds hop with both legs simultaneously (they "bounce") whereas the thrush runs low to the ground and moves quickly, once it decides to go. When I flies it has a faint light stripe along the wing. It has a mottled chest, and a dark olive/brown back. It has a large dark eye, with a pale ring of feathers around the eye.

Bassian Thrush
Formerly known as "Ground Thrush"
I seldom see these birds around Robertson and never seem to get a decent photo of them. They seem to like dense thickets of vegetation, not necessarily rainforest. But I have seen them at the Robertson Cemetery where there is a dense patch of remnant rainforest.

However, I have more frequently seen them in wet sclerophyll forests around the bottom of Fountaindale Road (which is taller forest than at Carrington Falls, but not far away, "as the Thrush flies". I have also heard them and occasionally seen them beside the road to Belmore Falls, in what I refer to as sandstone scrub below Eucalypt forest, with many Banksias present in the vegetation mix. I know it is a very imprecise description, but it does not fit the classic definition of "wet sclerophyll forest" (as described by NSW Office of Environment - well certainly not the "grassy sub-formation") This is typical wet forest on sandstone around the southern Nepean River catchment and the northern end of the Shoalhaven River. 

I drove on to Jim's place, where there has been a lot of clearing, and saw another Bassian Thrush beside the road beside a stand of remnant (maybe regrowth) forest on black soil, over shallow sandstone.

Then as I drove back several hours later, I saw another Bassian Thrush, not far past the entrance to the Carrington Falls picnic area. Possibly the same bird as previously sighted.

From notes i have been receiving from the Canberra Ornithologists group, it seems Bassian thrushes are starting to breed in and around Canberra, so this seasonal factor might explain their apparent more obvious feeding beside roadways around the local sandstone forests.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

The mystery of the Acacia longifolia in my yard continues

I have written something about this plant, previously, although it is not apparent from the title.
My Bad!
This year it is flowering even more early in the season.

Flowers starting to open yesterday 8 July 2014
Flowers of Acacia longifolia
Thing is, this plant occurs below Robertson, on the Sandstone Plateau. But it does not occur naturally up here on the basalt soil. I know I did not plant this plant here. In fact, I was tempted to remove it, but decided to leave it to grow, when I first recognised that it was not a Blackwood Wattle (which is completely normal here). I decided to let it grow, to see what species it is. Now that I know, do I let it grow on?
Flowers of Acacia longifolia.
This is one of the Acacias with flowers on "rods"
not in a ball-like structure.
It is now taller than the adjacent Blackwood self-planted seedling. It will probably grow quickly, and then die off. I hope so. Whereas Blackwoods are huge trees, and they live a long time. Landscape trees.
But I do not want two huge trees growing side by side, directly in front of my house. They will cut off the natural light in the house.

"Leaf " (phyllode) of Acacia longifolia
Note veins and short stem (pulvinus)
and location of the "gland"
close to the stem. (top right)

Pulvinus (stem) of the "phyllode"
(swollen stem which acts as a leaf)
Note the gland on lower edge of phyllode
and the slight change in angle of the edge of the phyllode.
Most of the Wattles with phyllodes have these glands.
The theory is that they are there to attract ants
which in turn would protect the Wattle from insects.
Possibly a remnant (archaic) structure.

Two main veins running more or less parallel,
Several minor veins also apparent.

In this photo, the two dominant veins are clearly evident.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Camellia williamsii hybrid Jamie

I bought my plant from Camellia Grove Nursery when they were in Mona Vale, or on Mona Vale Road, somewhere in northern Sydney. I fear the continuity of that fine nursery has been lost.

However, I still an happily growing this beautiful hybrid.
It was a chance seedling, raised by Professor E.G. Waterhouse, at his garden in Gordon. He named it after a grandson, I believe, from memory of what I was told on one of the Open Days at "Eryldene".

Here is a link to one from a New Zealand Nursery

Unusually for one of the many "williamsii hybrids" bred by Prof. Waterhouse, it is a brilliant scarlet red colour. Most of the other Waterhouse X williamsii hybrids are "fuchsine pink"

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Soft sunset over Robertson

Soft Sunset reflected in Bird Bath

Looking west, first shot

Looking south to general glowing sky.

Light changes, and as it does, one adjusts the camera

Sunsets are beautiful, but transient.
My last shot of sunset tonight.