Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Friday, April 28, 2006

News from Denis, via Zoe.

Hi all, it's Zoe here. Denis has asked me to do his blogging for him. He spent a large part of yesterday writing out the blog instructions (4 pages of them) and his blog entry for me. Something to keep him from going mad with boredom, as he is still feeling quite well.

Anyway, here's Denis:-

Yesterday the Howard government killed off the last dream of the Whitlam government - Medibank.

Of course it has changed over the years, and Medicare has partly replaced the original idea. But the "fear and loathing" school of politicians, who have made the decision, reveal themselves as shallow reactionaries with long memories.

Except, they can't abandon those memories when it comes to introducing a national "identity card" - albeit under a new name. Where is Peter Reith now? a footnote in history.

I shall have to cease listening to the news.

I am now on a "rest day" between the last of the chemotherapy treatments, and the "stem cell" re-transplant. This is the return to me of my own "stem cells" harvested from bone marrow last year - so it's called an "autologous transplant" - meaning back to the "same place".

So far I am feeling fine. Eventually this will change (for a while). But so far, so good. That's all I can say for now.

Love to all.

P.S. Missing Robertson


Zoe here again. Dad had his transplant today. It was an easy procedure, it took about 30 minutes. He has been moved to the High Dependancy Unit of the cancer ward. But he is still feeling ok(ish). A bit queezy and tired, but mainy bored and I think slightly apprehensious. The nursing staff in ward 14B are all wonderful, and he amususes himself by being cheeky to them all day long.
Denis and I will be in touch again soon.
Love Zoe.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

So long, and thanks for all the Fish

In the immortal words of "The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy"


"So long and thanks for all the fish!"

(Meanwhile, a photo of a Crested Pigeon, seen when walking from the hospital in Canberra).



Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Eastern Rosellas and Crimson Rosellas

Around the Canberra Hospital, in Garran, A.C.T. is a large area of short-mown grassland. This land passes for a park, in Canberra. Much of it is roadside verge, but a large area is primary school grounds, too. I aroused some consternation last week, when taking photographs of the ground-feeding birds, behind the school, after hours. I suddenly realised that the managers of a local child-care centre were apprehensive about "a man" in a car, with a camera, (seemingly) taking photos (presumably - to their point of view) of their precious charges. Innocent, Your Honour - it was the "birdie" in the grass which I was photographing. Anyway, I will cease "prowling" their yard, during their business hours, in future. Such an innocent pass-time, so easily misunderstood, in this suspicious age.

Give me the tranquil innocence of Robertson's Hampden Park, any day.


The photo above is of a slightly camera-shy adult male Eastern Rosella, Platycercus eximius in stunningly beautiful plumage.

Here is a slightly "desperate" shot of an Eastern Rosella, (up in a Gum tree) which I have published, to contrast with another slightly more "artistic" shot of a Crimson Rosella (below).

The E. R. (a male - with a clearly marked red head, is the iconic parrot of commerce in Australia, thanks to "Rosella" brand products, notably Tomato Sauce. This little web site, proudly boasts that an Australian company has rescued the brand name, from foreign hands, after more than 50 years. Well done them!)

Here is a link to an illustration which clearly shows the 2 main species of Rosellas in Eastern Australia (unfortunately, without mentioning the red bird, at all - it is a Kiddies site).

The taxonomists have simplified a range of these Rosella into these two super-species, based upon whether they have white cheeks (Eastern Rosella), or blue cheeks (Crimson Rosella) (Platycercus elegans) . The reason is that there is an enormous colour gradient amongst these birds, which early ornithologists had conveniently separated into "good species", because of their geographical spread. In fact, CSIRO has demonstrated that the gradient of forms is virtually continuous, with overlapping characteristics (in both species groups) to be found along their parallel ranges. While the Eastern Rosella group mature to a fixed colour in a single season, the Crimson Rosellas start with a green and blue juvenile plumage, and slowly develop the brilliant dark red colouration, after some time - which time might vary with the locality.

Tasmania's "Green Rosella", and the Murray River region's "Yellow Rosella" never make the transition to a red bird. I believe that they might still be "lumped" within the Crimson Rosella species, yet. (not absolutely sure, folks. But certainly, they are within the super-species group. The reason? The Green Rosella and the Yellow Rosella have the same pattern of blue cheek patches as the Crimson Rosella.

So, no matter the main body colour of the bird, think, blue cheek patches (Crimson Rosella group) or white cheek patches (Eastern Rosella group).

Here is a link to the strongly divergent Pale-headed Rosella of Queensland and northern NSW, with a yellow, not red head, but, white cheek patches (although, disturbingly, blue underneath the cheek). It is within the Eastern Rosella (white cheek patches) group. Life is never simple!

For the record, in Robertson, green birds with blue cheek patches are commonly seen. They are immature birds, probably in their first year of life. These changes are recorded beautifully in the Gould illustrations published atthe link above. At all stages of maturity of this species, their wings are blue-marked, and their tails are always tw0-toned blue. The tail feathers are popular as ornamentation in the "Bowers" of Satin Bower Birds, in Robertson.

A Google "Image" search reveals a group of varied birds which will easily enough illustrate this discussion for you. Here is a link to a messy-looking changeling bird: a half red, and half-green, Crimson Rosella (nice photo, scruffy bird). Such birds are commonly seen in Robertson. In general, the Crimson Rosella is a bird fond of heavy cover, and wet districts (i.e., Robertson, in general). It is the commonest Rosella of Robertson (found nearly everywhere about the village). They love Blackwood Wattles, and Sassafras, as well as adjacent grasslands, but they happily live in the rainforest.

The Eastern Rosella loves grasslands and, in particular, large Eucalypt trees. So, in Robertson, it will be found occasionally near Hampden Park, but certainly at the Show Grounds. It becomes increasingly more common towards Moss Vale and Bowral - not for reasons of snobbery - but because that country is more open, more farmed, and has more natural gum trees.

The Nature of Anzac Day - an abomination.

Well, I have published my opinion on Miss Eagle's Blog, so I ought do it here, too. Her tribute and comment on Anzac Day is far more considered, and more erudite than mine - I recommend it to all readers.

I was saddened to hear of the accidental death of a young Australian Soldier in Iraq (no doubt we all were).

The most tragic thing is - he should not have been there in the first place. All other circumstances aside, that is the responsibility of the Government of Mr John Howard!

I accept responsibility for that comment.

I am sitting here, being made ill by listening to the televised Anzac Day service from Kokoda Trail. Those who know me from years ago will recall that I lived (for 27 years) on Anzac Parade, Reid, Canberra - half-way down the processional avenue where Anzac Day is "celebrated".

I cannot bear to hear an Anzac Day Ceremony begin with the words from the Religious Celebrant (who is this person?) starting with these words: "The world has drunk deep of Australian Blood".

A direct quote --- A direct quote!

Very simply, the young Australian who died in Iraq ought not have been there.

Some of us said the young soldiers should not go there - in the first place. We were ignored by our Government.


Too many "burn-offs" by F111s, and FA18s. Too many Tanks thundering up the Parade, at full speed. The endless drubbing of Helicopter blades is etched in my mind. And I have never seen a moment's "Service". Anzac Day has been done to death - quite literally.

Tools of death on display do not represent any kind of tribute to Peace - they are a display of determined, aggressive posturing. These displays are designed, psychologically, to "egg on" the young and the naive. And our politicians are always there - overseeing everything. Funding everything. Promoting everything. And the Generals smile benignly, knowing each resounding successful show (records* reported every year) it assures them of years' worth of future funding.

Even today, I saw Joe Hockey and Kevin Rudd, out-competing eachother in reciting the nauseating "I am, You are, We are Australians" - well, at least nauseating when used in those circumstances. Apparently it is officially known as "I am Australian", but the first site I found attributed it to "The Seekers" back in the 60s. I thought it was written later, by Bruce Woodley. Enough of that!

I am scarred by memories of my former neighbour (an ex-Colonel) bragging to me at how he and some of him "mates" had jeered at the "Women against Rape in War", and chased them down the road - for "dishonouring Anzac Day". One of the more memorable Anzac Day Ceremonies (disasters) I managed to miss. Who dishonoured it, I ask?

And more harrowing still is the memory of a man of my own age "howling at the moon", at the (then) newly inaugurated Vietnam War memorial. A man of my own age, and position in society - totally losing it, in public, in the middle of the night. There before the harsh flood-lights, reflected in the polished granite wall with the image of the Bell Iroquios Helicopter, and the names of the dead. No wonder they hate the sound of those Machines of Death.

I have the greatest sympathy for the family of the young soldier who died in Iraq. I do not mean to dishonour his memory. Far from it. Would it not have been better that he were alive, today with his family, still in Australia? Who can tell me otherwise?

Denis Wilson

* Footnote: I wrote Press Releases for a living for years, for Government Departments and other Agencies. I would love to know when the "record attendances at Anzac Day" press reports are written. I would guess they change last year's numbers about Thursday of the week before - based upon the weather forecasts. The media gratefully accept the published figures - they love a "record" story to run with. The Police concur politely. It helps their overtime budget too, you know.

The Commercial Media are fully "on board" with this jingoism, as evidenced by this morning's bit of Show Biz on Kokoda Trail. The Military/Industrial complex has merged interests with the Commercial Media, I fear.


Monday, April 24, 2006

Zoe's Joey.

Zoe liberated me from the hospital about 4:30 this afternoon, and with roughly 30 minutes of light left, we headed to Yarralumla Bay (actually, to the Peninsula, beside the Lake, in the centre of Canberra).

We were in luck with a few birds, some of those large white Parrots (who dare not utter their name) and some Spur-winged Plovers (Masked Lapwings to those who keep up to date with bird names), a glimpse of a very nice male Scarlet Robin, and a Little (Yellow) Thornbill, a few Red-rumped Grass Parrots, a couple of camera-shy Eastern Rosellas, more of those large white Parrots hanging from trees, eating their fat-faces full. And, of course, the mandatory Eastern Swamphens (a.k.a., Purple Gallinules) Can you believe these modern Bird Names?

We were lucky enough with a nice Mum and Bub, Grey Kangaroo, (Macropus giganteus) who were obviously rostered onto the afternoon shift to keep the tourists happy. This one earned the name of Zoe's Joey, as Zoe got to take the shot. of this "cute as button" little joey.

We tried a few other photos, without much luck, some "just for the record types" - nice to have but not worth publishing. Maybe, just maybe this image is worth trying.

It is a collage of 3 separate shots which I have tried to fuse into a "cartoon" of this funny bird (Cacatua galerita) being so obviously please with itself having found a late afternoon snack of the cone of an Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica) which is a common tree in this park, in Canberra.

Step 1: What's this over here?

Step 2: Oh, this looks OK. I'll pick it up with my right foot, first, just to test it out.

Step 3: Oh, Yes, Dinner! Cedrus atlantica, how I like you.

Zoe has reminded me that she took the 3 "cartoon" images of the large white parrot - how soon they get jealous of their "credits"! Simple mistake, dear daughter. Yes, the bird was on the left hand side of the car. DJW

The next photo is a of a lovely pair of Red-rumped Grass Parrots, charming little seed-eaters, which love Canberra's open grassland parks. Each is roughly twice the size of a Budgerigah, for those of you not familiar with this species. A small Parrot. Half the size of a Rosella, for example. Despite their brilliant green chest and head feathers, and blue wings and back, the males blend into the grass beautifully. The females, (always more important to the species survival, are drab little creatures, to make them less susceptible to attack. Well, that's my theory, anyway. I know some tropical parrots reverse the trend, but not many.)

The males have the trade-mark red rump, but it is often not visible till they fly away, chirruping, into the nearest Gum Tree, for shelter. I got lucky, with this shot.


Also, for the record, I am still doing all right, and am facing up to being admitted on Wednesday. Not sure if this is because the stuff, which is already in my system, will have kicked in by then or they have some more serious stuff to give me yet.

So, in a word, I am not scared yet, but I reserve (to myself) the right to get scared. OK? Thanks for the messages of support, folks. Much appreciated.

Anyway, that's why I am playing around with a few photos, to amuse, or more precisely, divert myself. Diversion therapy, a la Nikon - much recommended.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

C.o.c.k.a.t.o.o.s blocked by Net Nanny

These wonderful parrots are not allowed to be named on the Computer where I am staying. If I try to type in normal manner the name (in the title line) it appears as a series of ######### marks. Presumably this is because their name starts with the same four letters as the well-known name for the male organ. If I try to use Google to search for an image of the same group of birds, I get denied access when I click on a particular thumbnail image. Spare me the well-meaning, but oh-so-stupid Net Nanny.


Here are several images of White C.o.c.k.a.t.o.o.s and a Galah - exceedingly common birds in Canberra. No wonder this place has such a terrible reputation, if it is populated by birds which dare not speak their name! This censorship is so silly, that the wonderful Photo Gallery of the Canberrra Ornithologists Group has the section on c.o.c.k.a.t.o.o.s omited from its index (courtesy of Net Nanny). I have never encountered this on my own computer, or at the CTC at Robertson. Hopefully it will not happen to you, dear reader, if you try that link.

The White C.o.c.k.i.e.s. (Cacatua galerita) were feeding in a deciduous conifer (possibly a Swamp Cypress - Taxodium). Anyway, they love to feed on these trees and similar small-sized Conifer cones, such as the Pencil Pine (Roman Cypress). They easily tear these hard cones apart, then with perfectly precise control of their beak tips and the tongue, they delicately prise out the individual seeds and eat them.

Parrots are unique in the world of birds by having flexible upper mandibles. Their top beaks are jointed. This means that not only can they wave their lower beaks around (as we can do with our lower jaws), but they can manouevre their top beak around, back and forwards, and sideways (limited movement).

Amazingly, this piece of information is omitted from an otherwise interesting article on the different functions of the beaks of birds from the Queensland Museum web site. It does include good photos of the skulls and beaks of a range of bird groups - including a Galah's beak, which it describes as having the multi functionality of a Swiss Army Knife. Interesting analogy. Shame they missed the critical detail of the flexible upper mandible - unique to Parrots.

This level of control is unparalled in the avian world. So it means that not only can they exercise huge power with their large beaks, such as tearing a cone off a tree, but they can bite into it, rip it open, then delicately prise out the seed. Wonderful control.

White C.....s also feed on the ground, which is the preferred feeding place for Galahs (Cacatua roseicapilla). They are a related bird, but smaller than their White cousins. They tend to eat grass seeds, and also plant roots. That is, except when the small acorned Oaks, known as Pin Oaks come into season. These Oaks have an acorn about the size of a Hazel Nut. When they are ripe, the Galahs of Canberra have a field day (or month). They eat them in the trees, as they ripen; then they eat them from the ground below the trees, when the little acorns fall. Pin Oaks are an introduced tree, native to the USA. From memory their name is Quercus palustris. At least than name has not been blocked.

I have finally managed to link to Anni's post of several months ago, where she showed some photos of the wonderful Yellow-tailed Black C.o.c.k.a.t.o.o.s (Calyptorhynchus funereus) feeding on some Banksias opposite her yard. Unfortunately, I could not find that post via a search, as - you guessed it - Net Nanny was protecting me from myself, again. Fortunately, a scroll through her posts produced the result. Anni, cannily headed the post: "On Big Black Birds" - which they are. (Look for March 15's post.) That way, happily you will be free of Net Nanny's inquisitorial eye.

Anni's post has some photo of these huge members of the Parrot clan. In Robertson, their most popular food although not strictly a "natural diet" is the cone of the introduced Pinus radiata tree - the Monterey Pine. These medium-sized Pine Cones (as pine cones go, many are larger) are comfortably torn off Pine trees, chewed open, then delicately stripped of individual seeds. You have to have a huge beak, and wonderful control to do that. I happen to know how hard these cones are to open, as I have attempted the same feat myself, using a pair of pointy-nosed pliers, in order to collect seeds, for propagation purposes. It is not easy.

Friday, April 21, 2006

My favourite Tree trunks; and on village life.

OK, I know it is a bit weird to have favourite tree trunks, but bear with me.

The Botanic Gardens (ANBG) is housed within a natural forest, (see photo at left) of mixed Eucalyptus tree species. In simple terms they are smooth barked "gum" trees and rough barked, "stringybarks". They look completely different, but they are all related - part of a huge and varied genus of plants.

Please don't try and tie me up with the details of the species, (I am not a specialist). There are a many endemic (local, natually occurring) species on Black Mountain, the site of these Gardens, in Canberra. But in reality, the dominant species are probably only 4 or 5 in number. Over the last 57 years, hundreds of other Australian Eucalypt species have been plants throughout the Gardens (they were not officially opened till 1967 - see this link for the chronology of the Gardens).

But my favourite trees are the really old, gnarled natural trees, especially this huge old "Brittle Gum" - (Eucalyptus maculata).

It is about 20 metres tall, and close to 35 metres wide. To me, it is the treasure of the Gardens. And it is simply an old tree, growing where it always has done so.

This particular tree has been shaped by the forces of nature. It is also a favourite with kids, and its bark has been rubbed smooth, low down, where thousands of kids have "patted" this tree. I like that kids "relate" to Nature in this way. Technically, they are not allowed to, but the guides and explainers never really seem to manage to see it happening!

The tree's trunk has been been split, probably by lightning, at some stage after it had matured. This is not clearly visible in this photo - the damage is at the far side of the base of the trunk. but, the whole tree is out of balance, and it must have leaned over at some satage, till it propped itself up with its lower branches.

I would acknowledge that the tree has shaped and modified by "arborists" - in the interest of "public liability", etc, no doubt. In fact, they have removed most of those branches which were once propping up the tilted tree. But it is surviving well.But it beauty is entirely Natural.

Many of these trees have remarkable individual variation between them, in shape and colouration of bark.

When I was volunteering here, as a guide, I was frequently asked by North American visitors, (especially) why our trees were "naked". To people familiar with Pines, Elms, Oaks, etc they obviously seems that way.

In fact these smooth barked "gums" (and some of the related "Angopheras") shed their "outer bark" on an annual basis. The bark tends to fall away in smallish chunks, and the new bark (underneath) is often stained or coloured for a time (see next photo), before resuming the more normal white, silvery or pink colouration.

Here is another of my favourite trees - a classic tall, open specimen, in an area of lawn known as the Eucalypt Lawn. This area is very popular with visitors for summer picnics, and concerts are often held in this area, over the summer.

And now for something mischievous! I call this photo the "old man's pyjamas". Of course I have posted this photo upside down. The tree is growing normally. But the stained colour is completely natural.

Kindly allow me one little visual joke!

I decided to do this today, to allow my mind some relaxation from the Chemotherapy treatment I started this morning. Everything is fine, so far.


Thanks for the emailed wishes of support, especially from my friends at Robertson. I really value that friendly aspect of the Nature Of Robertson. It is a small township, a village, really, but the size of the settlement allows people to get to know eachother, through casual meeting at the Supermarket, at the Newsagency, at Churches, or, my favourite meeting place, the CTC.

Our society has lost so much through the formation of huge, anonymous cities. I believe the scale of villages suits humans better.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Choughs of the Botanic Gardens

Regular readers (and I do so hope you are all regular!) will realise that when in Canberra, I like to hang out at the Australian National Botanic Gardens (ANBG). I once was a Volunteer guide here, and those times were particularly happy for me. But when I left for Robertson I had to give up that service.

This autumn has been blessed with bluer than blue skies. There is not much else going on, in the world of birds, apart from lots and lots of White-winged Choughs (Corcorax melanorhamphos) scavenging for potato chips around Hudsons Cafe. And Crimson Rosellas, of course, but I shall leave them for another time.

These crazy Choughs look entirely black, until they spread their wings. When they are flying their two large wing patches are really obvious, and totally distinctive.

The other time they show their wing patches is when "displaying". Not only do they spread their wings wide, but they also do a weird thing with their eyes.

Their eye colour (the iris) is dark red as shown in Photo 3, (left). But they have pinkish skin around their eyes, and when displaying they somehow make their eyes bulge, and the skin around the eye gets enlarged, making the apparent eye size nearly treble the actual size of the eye. It is quite an effective display technique, even if it makes them appear stranger than normal to this human observer.

This behaviour is caught in one of my photos (below) but, as usual Geoffrey Dabb on the Canberra Ornithologists Group photo gallery has an excellent shot showing this display behaviour, complete with open beak, indicating the bird was clearly squarking, (as they do). My bird was stuffing its face, but still "displaying".

The Choughs of the Botanic Gardens have been particularly closely studied, possibly because their fondness for scraps of food from visitors to the Cafe makes them easy to observe. More likely it is because of their proximity to the Biology Department at the ANU.

In many respect they behave like "chooks", scratching around in the tan bark at the Gardens. But they are regarded as related to Crows and Ravens. They have many distinctive behavioural characterstics, such as "communal nesting", when 3 or more females lay eggs in the one nest, and a clan group collectively raise the young. The birds at the ANBG have been studied intensively, and many are banded with either colour bands, or, as in this photo, large numbered rings which are able to be read at a distance by field workers studying them.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Welcome to Squeaky Oscar

I have a brand new nephew, Oscar Alexander Finn. Actually I have a seemingly inexhaustable supply of nephews, but this one is precocious. He has his own blog site - at 9 days of age. Not bad going, Oscar! (tasteful photo courtesy of his blog site). Hope he does no have a team of copyright lawyers, already!

Have a look folks, at the hot-link above, and it is now linked in the side-bar as well! (the green writing on the side of the blog.) ("The Squeaky View")

Anyway, welcome to the world of blogging, Oscar, and welcome to the World, kid. You have a bright future ahead of you.

Canberra continues to turn on brilliant autumn weather, and the deciduous trees are beautiful - not that I am taking any photographs of them. After all, the official raison d'etre is "The Nature of Robertson" and deciduous trees in Canberra do not qualify - on any basis.

I have been hanging out at the Australian National Botanic Gardens this week, and have enjoyed nice lunches there - today will Gillian. It was good to catch up with her. Gill was armed with photos of her new grandchildren. We appear to be in an age of grand-child breeding.

While at the Gardens, this week, I have also been tracking down several of those unusual plants which I commented about last week.

It turns out that one is Pomaderris glauca - the specific name means grey, or dusty, or something simlar. Certainly it has that grey appearance on its leaves. It was good to be able to see the plant "in the flesh" at the Gardens, and to be able to confirm the identification which was at best "probable" from the botanical descriptions and line drawings. Strangely, this species does not make it to the (otherwise wonderful) PlantNET site, but it is clearly described in Gwen Harden's Flora of NSW.

The other plant I saw last week, and photographed, is Eriostemon trachyphyllus (in the old books), now probably Philotheca trachyphyllus. The main identifying characteristic was, as I observed at the time, its size. It grows to a large shrub, almost a small tree. That alone makes it quite distinctive in that family of small to medium shrubs. This boring photo (at left) is just there to demonstrate that this plant has a definite "trunk". Technical photos are sometimes necessary, no matter how boring.

Other photos (not good ones, unfortunately) were displayed last week in the Bodalla State Forest blog.
Incidentally, for those of you who understand these things, my brand new Macro Lens (actally a Nikon "Micro" lens) is back with the company for servicing, or replacement, as it would not "register" that the lens was connected, all the time. For the money I payed, that is not good enough!

It ought click into position positively, and be ready to work. I ought not have to hold the lens in a particular position, to make it work!. I do hope "Fletchers Fotographics" are reading this blog (and Maxwells, the Australian Agents for Nikon). After all, what's the point of running a blog, if you cannot give someone a hard time, occasionally?

I promise to thank them all, most humbly, in due course, when I hear that the problem has been solved! Smile for the Birdie! Click! :-))

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A story from my father - and a photo essay

My father is not given to telling stories, so I will record here a story he told me today. (Anni, this might have some resonance with your recent post about cutbacks in funding for positions of Library Manager and the Cultural Officer in our own beloved Wingecarribee Shire).

In the Borough of Port Fairy, back in the bad old days, (my father is 93 after all), there was a Councillor who always opposed spending Council's money on new, fancy projects.

One such idea which he opposed time and time again, was the building of a "public urinal" in the main street. Eventually, this annoyed his fellow Councillors so much that they cornered him and asked why he kept objecting to this proposal. It turned out that the worthy Civic Elder did not know what a "public urinal" was. This was quickly explained to him, and the great light dawned on him.

Sure enough at the very next meeting of Council this worthy citizen got up and proposed that Council build a "public urinal" in the main street. Everyone cheered and clapped.

Overwhelmed by his triumph, the Councillor rose to his feet again, and added: And I think we should also build an "Arsenal".


And by contrast to that story, here is a photo of Mt Dromedary, taken from Montague Island, near Narooma (when I was there 2 weeks ago). The link (above) will tell you interesting details of its volcanic origins, and former huge size. This mountain was the product of some serious volcanic activity, folks (and indeed, Montague Island was an offshoot from it). The strait is 6Km wide, and the mountain is a further 16 Kms inland. It is about 1000 metres high, but it is a large lump of a mountain, by Australian standards.

And, finally, to the point of this photo essay.

On my visit to the island, two young women chose not to go onto the island, but opted to swim with the seals which have a "haul-out" point on the rocks on the northern tip of the island. I did not know that this was an option, but I probably would not have done this anyway, as it is well known that White-pointer Sharks are very fond of seals.

Anyway, while we climbed the island, to inspect the lighthouse, and learn about its bleak history these young women went swimming with the seals. One particularly adventurous seal pup swam very closely with them, it seems - played with them. Secretly, I was just a little bit jealous.

For the record, while the women swam with the seals, the Captain of the boat kept watch, from the boat, close by.

Anyway, tonight I was editing a series of photos (thanks to Photoshop) and noticed something odd in the photo I have published above. Can you see where I have pasted a circle in the water?

This is a cropped image of the original photo (at maximum resolution). It is not doctored up in any way. The photo was taken with a long lens, from about 50 metres altitude, about one third of the way up the track to the lighthouse. I would estimate the range of the object in the water to be about 200 to 250 metres out to sea. But, remember, I was using a fairly long lens.

Make up your own mind!

My advice is don't go mucking around in waters you do not understand.

As usual, click on these photos for larger resolution images.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

High Range - water investigations

I have received a comment tonight responding to a Blog entry I posted on 14 March. It is interesting, and I invite readers to visit this page, and see what is happening over on the far side of the Southern Highlands plateau (the High Range area). This water sampling might be related to the same thirst for water for Sydney as is driving the Kangaloon Aquifer issue.

As this inquirer asks: Who do you trust?

When it comes to water issues, it is hard to say.

Any other experiences with the Department of Natural Resources asking to test bore water would make interesting reading.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Another Eagle

I have finally succeeded in downloading all the photos from my camera, and burning copies onto a CD. This is not normally a big deal, but I have been operating on borrowed computers (thanks Brendan).

When one is operating with familar equipment, with the usual "USB Drivers", etc, necessary for one's camera, this is not a problem. However, with a new camera, and on borrowed computers, it has all been a bit of a worry.

But now I can safely delete all the photo files from the memory of the camera. I have been terrified that I would somehow manage to "lose" these files before I could safely store them.

I can now relax about that, and over the next few weeks, I should be able to show you a few more photos from my recent trip to Narooma.

Tonight, I will settle with a single photo of another Sea Eagle. It is the same species as the "silhouette" photo from the other day. White-breasted Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster)

This photo was taken out on Montague Island, on a day when the sky was particularly clear. The Sea Eagles out there are not too shy of people, I am pleased to say.

Truly wonderful creatures. Their relaxed manner of flight makes them look majestic.

To my astonishment, on the full pixel resolution on the original photo I can even see the blue eyes of this bird.
That file size is far too large to "upload" onto the blog, I am afraid.

However, I have saved this file at a much larger size than normal, so I hope you can appreciate the elegance of this bird. (Click on the photo to open the larger size image).

Another photo for Miss Eagle. You might read her comments the other day, to understand why I have gone with the Eagle again.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Bodalla State Forest - plants at risk.

There are rare and unusual plants which survive in the Bodalla State Forest - but they are at great risk.

I wrote the other day of the policy of Forests NSW of burning the forest regularly (and often). That policy keeps the forest floor clear of too much "fuel". OK, understood.

However, that "fuel" is what makes up a real forest. It is the understorey of living plants, the key to "biodiversity" - the vast, diverse, rich regime of plants of different types which provide food, and shelter for all the birds and animals of the forest. A canopy of Eucalypt trees which stretches for 4o Kms in any direction is not necessarily a healthy forest.

If everything is burnt too often, eventually the seed bank of other species is exhausted, and the Eucalypts and Cycads which can regenerate after a fire will be the only plants left. (See top photo. An example of what I have referred to as a "treed desert". That is pretty much how this forest is being "managed".

Fire is natural within a forest like this. I accept that. What is at question is the repeated burning of forests before plants have had the chance to germinate after a fire, grow to maturity, flower and set seed successfully - all before the next scheduled "burn off". For many species that will be a minimum of seven years, maybe more.

There is a pocket-handkerchief sized patch of forest, called the Silvestris Flora Reserve which appears not to have been burnt too often (yet). I worry about its future, though. It is a patch of forest about 4 Square Kms. Sounds a lot? It could burn within a single hour, in a fierce bushfire.

It is surrounded by at least 40 Km by 40 Km of forest (1600 sq Km). OK, I know I have complained that this forest appears to have been over-burnt. They say that cool burns reduce the risk of hot fires - devastating "wild fires". Probably correct. But what guarantees are there that the patches of rare and endangered species which are hanging on, in these "token" Flora Reserves, will not also be burnt too often?

There are no signs proclaiming these Flora Reserves - just marks on obscure maps.

The Forest NSW website makes no mention of the particular site I referred to. I can find no literature about it. If they are really preserving rare and endangered plants, why not boast about the fine job they are doing? I would support that policy.

Just casually wandering around in this particular reserve, I found 3 varieties of plants which I could identify down to genus level (only), and which I cannot find on the "Plantnet" site from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney website (and they include rare and endangered plants on their data base). There were several other plants which I am totally unfamiliar with, which I can only guess at the genus, or family. Presumably the fact that it has been declared a "Flora Reserve" means that some botanists have at least reviewed the species which live there. But is that it? I have attached photos of a large growing Eriostemon (now Philotheca), which grows to about 4 metres tall (mostly they are small shrubs). Its typical "warty-looking" leaves and stems are visible on this photo. These are oil glands, and are totally typical of this genus.

Also, here is a photo of a distinctively grey-leaved Pomaderris.

If I can find plants like that in a cursory examination - here - but not elsewhere in the vast treed desert of the Bodalla, Dampier and Moruya State Forests, then this place really is a little gem within the bush. It really needs proper protection.


Addendum - written in Canberra at 11:00pm.

Owing to the Tyranny of Telstra's Thin, Thin Copper Wires on the far South Coast, the photographs which I alluded to are missing. I tried 4 times to upload photos to the blog (from Narooma, this morning) , and the process dropped out each and every time, before I lost patience. Nearly 45 minutes of frustration, for zero result. I shall try to remedy the situation tomorrow.

I hope Senator the Hon. Helen Coonan, Federal Minister for Communications, takes a holiday in Narooma soon, so she can experience first hand what Telstra's service in "the bush" is really like.

Incidentally, as far as Telstra is concerned, it seems "the bush" translates as everywhere outside of a major capital city. It has nothing to do with the great Aussie bushman, and other heroic legends. I has everything to do with maximising profits, by concentrating exclusively on the corporate "big spenders", in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and the politicians in Canberra. The rest of the country might as well not exist (well, nearly so, anyway. You know what I mean.)


Finally, the photos are posted! Going to sleep now. Sunday 1:15 am.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

A special photo for Miss Eagle

A special photo for Miss Eagle, who sent me a special message the other day. (Thanks) This is a shot I took just after sunset, several evenings ago.

It is a White-breasted Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster) just taking off from its perch on a dead tree, overlooking a long strip of ocean beach.

Forgive the dull light, please. But the silhouette works well enough.


And life is going on well at Dalmeny. So much "Nature" to see, to observe and to marvel at.

I know that hand feeding Possums and Rainbow Lorikeets is not the "high end" of nature observing, but I love the opportunity to unwind, doing it.

For Jim, a special note, that I have been doing some walking, and getting out in the real bush behind Narooma.

It is wild, wild country, but it is unfortunately being "tamed" by the people of "Forests NSW".

I am not a forester; neither am I a local (in Narooma). I know fires are a real problem in this country, but to me, it seems as if they are creating a "treed desert", with their program of burn-offs in the forest country behind Bombala, Moruya and Mogo.

There is so little of this wonderful forest which has not been burnt in the last few years. So the natural understorey of shrubs has mostly gone. Disappeared. Empty. Trees alone do not constitute a forest environment.

I have really enjoyed the visit to Dalmeny (and Narooma). Thanks to Brendan and Beth for the use of their lovely house.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Heaven and Hell - Montague Island

Life on Montague Island (6 Kms off the coast from Narooma, NSW) must have been hell for the Lighthouse Keeper his 2 assistants, and more especially for the women and children who shared their bleak island abode.

Today, with a powerful, modern boat to get us to the island in about 25 minutes, and in mild, warm autumn weather, the place looked picuresque, almost idyllic. Certainly, it is worth a vist, as a tourist.

But, I had feeling not unlike that which I experienced a few years ago, when visiting Port Arthur, in Tasmania. This place could have been hell on earth.

In part this feeling is confirmed by the small graveyard on the island. But it is more confirmed by the plaque which described the "attributes" required of a Light House Keeper, according to the regulations of the day. "Lightkeepers should be sober, industrious and non-enquiring (sic)".

I love that last part. Clearly it means, they must be totally subservient to authority. As an attribute for an Assistant Lighthouse Keeper, it must have meant that the boss had virtual power of life or death over the junior (and his family too).

A precurser of things to come under the modern Industrial Relations policy?


And now for some light relief. Here is photo of a lizard with the best view in the world! He lives in a crevice in a huge granite boulder. His "room with a view" faces west, to catch the afternoon sun, which is perfect for a creature with his metabolism. His view faces directly across to Mt Dromedary, on the mainland.

That mountain is the main original volcano in the area, and apparently, Montague Island was formed from a smaller "vent", off the side of the main volcano.

Both the mountain and the island are formed with similar rock, a granite with large crystals visible in the rock, which apparently indicates it was formed deep under the surface of the earth, and so, consequently, the rock cooled very slowly, allowing the formation of these crystals.

What a funny old bird is the Pelican?

"What a funny old bird is the Pelican?

Its beak can hold more than its belly can." (trad)

This bird certainly meets that description. (Sorry about the tiny image, folks - click on the photo for a larger view.)

The Pelican was attempting to swallow a large portion of a deep sea fish, caught by a (successful) fisherman, and cleaned in the Wagonga Inlet at Narooma. Unfortunately for this Pelican (Pelicanus conspicillatus), the portion of fish was too large for its throat to allow it to swallow. But it was not for a want of trying! Nor for a want of "urging" by its fellows, either.

I managed to wet a line today, but all I achieved was to feed my bait to some tiny little "small fry". My neighbouring fishermen, on the rock wall, at the inlet, did manage to catch several ridiculously small fishettes. Then one of them landed a plate-sized fish - a small Trevalley. As this was their only real "catch", between the two of them, they decided to liberate it. Before doing so, they asked me if I wanted to keep the fish. Very generous of them, I thought. Anyway, I also decided to give the fish its freedom. Splash, flip, flip.... gone!

My reward for that noble gesture came just a few minutes later, when a Seal swam past us, relaxing in the warm waters of the Wagonga Inlet. I was so excited by that unexpected sight that I took a few too many moments to reach my camera, and the seal had dived, only to re-surface way up stream, about one minute later. Still, it was great to see such a creature at quite close quarters, and so close to people.

I just hope that my recently "liberated" fish saw the Seal coming. Its a tough world, out there folks!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Ghostly "Ghost Fungus" - lives up to its name

Roy Freere has advised me that a piece of Ghost Fungus we collected on a recent vist we made to a private property at Canyonleigh did the right thing, and "luminesced" nicely, after dark, on the first night, and then again on the second night.

Here is a photo of the same species of Ghost Fungus, which I photographed on the walk over Bells Hill.

It is so satisfying when something as "bland looking" as that particular fungus does turn out to have a hidden secret, just like the books say it does.

I have refrained from "massacreing" any innocent fish, down here on the South Coast (myself), although I confess that the fresh fish from the Bermagui Fisherman's Co-op is of top quality. I can personally recommend the Flathead!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Tooth Fairy and Denis.

The Tooth Fairy visited Denis, yesterday, and gave him a holiday. It happened like this:

Once upon a time, Denis was about to have some nasty old chemicals pumped into his body. But the Tooth Fairy decided that he needed to be more relaxed before that happened. So she made his silly old tooth ache, just before he visited the nice nurse, Liz, in the Hospital. She said: "Goodness, what a nasty old tooth you have - Why not have the Dentist take a look at it?" The Dentist said - "What a nasty old tooth you have - Why not let me take it out, and give it to the Tooth Fairy, who needs it to make some Baby Piano keys." (That was after the nice Dentist had given Denis some funny stuff in his mouth, to make his mouth feel all happy, of course.) Naturally, Denis could not resist such a charming request from the Tooth Fairy.

After that happened, Nurse Liz said: "Goodness, what a great big hole you have in your jaw, now. The Doctors won't be able to give you the nasty old Chemicals till that has healed over."

And so it came to pass that Denis ended up having a totally unplanned trip to the Coast.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Love to Grow - Grow to Love

To my friends in Robertson (specifically) I am going to receive further Chemotherapy treatment. Consequently, my ability to continue posting these blogs will be interrupted, temporarily.
However, I shall be back!
Zoe will be coming and going between Robertson and the hospital. She will also be checking my email box for me.
Phone calls will be welcomed - via my mobile number - 0413 056 431. If I cannot answer at the time, please leave a message on the voicemail.
Meanwhile, please bear in mind my personal Motto:
Love to Grow: Grow to Love
Rest assured, it is engraved on my heart.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Sydney's Water Problems - You Can't Fill a Leaking Bucket!

Today's Blog is an extract from the most recent "Eucryphia" magazine, Number 83 – March 2006, published by the Robertson Environment Protection Society (REPS).

This is once more an item about the threat to the local environment posed by the proposal to drain the Kangaloon Aquifer. This issue is serious, but I am concerned that so little has been heard about it in recent weeks. So, tonight I am re-publishing an article by Leon Hall, and a comment by the Editor of Eucryphia, Lyndon Stanley.

You Can’t Fill a Leaking Bucket

by Leon Hall – REPS President

The Sydney Catchment Authority (SCA) wants to use a local underground aquifer to supply water to the Sydney region. This action could have a devastating effect on the farming community with the potential loss of their water supplies. It is also another SCA ecological disaster about to happen. <P>

Underground aquifers can be enclosed (geological water, no recharge) or can be connected to other aquifers and the surface with recharge sites. The Kangaloon bores drilled by SCA show that there is some recharge after test extractions. This could indicate a connection to the underground hydrology of our local area and our springs.

Obviously if massive amounts of water are extracted this will have the effect of sucking the water from elsewhere. Are our spring fed creeks safe? Are farmers’ water entitlements safe? We may not know until it is too late.

After a little bit of investigation (just scratching the surface) it was found that Butlers Swamp on Tourist road is classified as a Wetland of National Significance. This is where there are a number of test bores and the map shows a large diameter production bore on this site. Surely this wetland of National Significance deserves a better fate than a potential production bore and associated infrastructure? This Temperate Highland Peat Swamp on Sandstone is listed as an endangered ecological community under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and is also listed as endangered under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995.

Denis Wilson, a REPS member, has discovered an endangered plant growing within 50 metres of a bore. This is the Mittagong Geebung (

Persoonia glaucescens

) and information on this plant states that recent surveys have indicated that the species no longer extends to Fitzroy Falls or Kangaloon. The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service are joint managers of this catchment land (since the Sydney Water Enquiry) and must also actively oppose these bores.

The problem faced by SCA is that Sydney’s dam levels are at record lows and action needs to be taken. At the recent Robertson meeting about the bores, Peta Seaton briefly mentioned that 18% of water distributed, is lost through leaking pipes. This is a massive waste and equates to more than one drop in 6 being lost. The action that needs to be taken by a responsible government is to fix this "leaking bucket" to secure Sydney’s water supply.

This could be done over time, progressively increasing the states revenue due to more water being available for use. There is also the opportunity to retrofit existing pipe systems to enhance the use of our water. Empowering Sydneysiders with their own water collection options within Sydney’s catchments is also needed now.

You can’t fill a "leaking bucket" even by trying to drain half the countryside. The precautionary principle appears to have been ignored here with another grab to try and fill Sydney’s "leaking bucket". New innovative ideas are being developed to use sea water (ECOS 122, Nov-Dec 2004, (CSIRO) The Aqua Dam) and recycled water very efficiently. By concentrating on restoring the integrity of the pipe infrastructure the government has time to see these new technologies come to fruition for Sydney’s use.

The only use I can see for the bores already drilled is for emergency bushfire fighting in their vicinity.

Please write your own letter of protest about this unsustainable and dangerous proposal. REPS will be writing to a number of people about this subject.

Editor’s Note:

The specific issue of using water from aquifers deep below our homes, as well as the larger issue of Sydney’s troubled water supply is clearly one that will be debated for some time to come.

Having spent most of my life in Sydney, receiving water that had been collected for me by Sydney Water – I am now in the position where I collect rain water for myself. This water is the cleanest, purest water I have ever seen and tasted from a tap, and with 70,000 litres of capacity, I never expect to exceed my supply. It occurs to me (and many others) that the simple solution to Sydney’s water supply problem is above our heads. If all new homes were designed to collect, store and filter water to provide for all the household needs, over time this issue would disappear.

Please send a letter with your ideas and opinions about this interesting and controversial issue. It will be published in the next edition of Eucryphia.

Editor – Lyndon Stanley,

Robertson Environment Protection Society

PO Box 45, Robertson NSW 2577