Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Monday, July 31, 2006

A day is along decade ..... in politics

Well, the Prime Minister has put some of us out of some of our misery - maybe, possibly, but I doubt it.

Confused? Well, so am I.

John Howard has announced that he will stay on to fight the next election. This is entirely predictable, because it is the one thing which John Howard really likes doing - beating Kim Beazley.

"Flubber" has completely managed to rub off even the "rusted on" traditional supporters of the Labor Party. First there was the shameful failure to stand on principle, regarding the Tampa refugees. And then, last week there was the double-backflip, when he decided to endorse Uranium mining. And so, he has destroyed the basic constituency of his support. How could Howard resist?

Besides, it is apparent that Howard has little concept of how to stabilise the economy, or the "mood of the nation" regarding Industrial Relations. And as for Foreign Affairs .......with troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who knows, Lebanon tomorrow, not to mention East Timor, and other places which I cannot now recall - our Defence and Foreign Policy is a complete basket case. Even the politics of water is now out of control.

However, if Howard now goes into Election Mode, then he can legitimately ignore all those issues, and just concentrate on criticising the Labor Party. How easy is that.

The fact that will create a giant distraction from the real issues of the state of rot of the country, will only be more attractive to Howard than having to do anything about those issues.

God Help us.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Nature of mountain springs.

The SCA keeps repeating the mantra that the basalt hills have springs at the lower levels, where the basalt caps meet the underlying (impermeable) shale layer. This is yet another of the SCA's half truths.

There are indeed springs at that level, but they are not the important springs. They are not the ones which create the mountain streams which dominate the Robertson environment. It is self-evident that they are not.
Take a look.

The line of trees - Sassafras and Blackwood, mostly - typical Robertson Rainforest trees, run down that hillside. They are following a stream.

A what? A stream - permanent water. How does it get there? From a spring close to the top of the mountain.

See how the trees turns at nearly a right angle, most of the way up the hillside. That is not just because of a property boundary - it is because they are following a creek line, running from one of several springs at the top of the hill.

This hill is entirely made of a basalt cap. The "basalt-shale interface" is hundreds of feet below this level, on the black soil level, where the land flattens out below the hills. This spring is not at the junction point between the basalt and the shale. It is way, way above it.

Halfway down the hill, there is a dam - the first dam in a series.

According to the SCA's simplistic geological model, this mountain stream ought not exist.

They refuse to acknowledge that there is a problem, because they say that all water runs downhill. That is why they keep talking about springs at the junction between the basalt and the shale. That is too simplistic.

I have seen springs on top of local hills, and many hills have springs very close to the top, as in this one.

Lower down the hill there is a second dam.

And then the stream runs out onto the much lower level of flat dairy-farming land a the bottom of the hillside. At that point it becomes the Nepean River - one of the legendary rivers of the Sydney Basin - the progenitor of the mighty Hawksbury River. It all starts here.

These photos were all taken from the one point, two thirds of the way up the hill from East Kangaloon. This is very close to being the highest point in the Nepean River catchment. The very start of the chain of waters which supply Sydney. The first shots were looking up to the ridge opposite. The last shot is looking down over the distant Nepean River catchment. Ground water responds to pressure. It is entirely possible that a spring on top of a mountain is forced upwards by the pressure of the entire body of water in the hillside, forcing water up through a mini fault line, or fracture in the rocks. How far below the point of the spring does this pressure find its way back up the hill? Could it come from the sandstone aquifer? The SCA says no. Time alone will tell.

According to the SCA theory, the springs start another kilometre (distance) away, further down the slope. This is a graphic illustration of the nonsense they want us to believe.


If this permanent creek dries up, after the pumping starts - we will know the truth of their great lie, (or their incompetence).

We are engaged in a great gamble - for the future of the natural environment in Robertson. I am not prepared to risk the future survival of entire ecosystems. They are. That's the basic difference in our approaches to this issue.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Kangaloon Aquifer - the false Nature of the SCA replies

Karen, over at the "Kangaloon Aquifer Issues" blog has been doing a valiant job of posting the questions which the local consultative committee have raised, regarding the Kangaloon Aquifer proposal. She has posted the SCA answers as well.

Butler's Swamp -
endangered, but supposedly protected
under Federal and NSW laws
I was fuming when I got to the answers relating to several questions which I had drafted.
"The “depth to water table” column in Table 5.1 (P. 29) at sites # 2, #3, #4, #5, #8, #9,
Stockyard Swamp and site #12 (East Kangaloon) all report water table depths of less than 20 metres. That puts the pre-pumping water table at all those sites within the reported range of Eucalyptus roots (Scoping Study, 5.2.3 p 24). Consequently, to commence pumping, and hence to knowingly draw-down water levels, in any of those areas, would threaten the survival of the key species within this environment. Many of these areas support Endangered Ecological Communities, protected under NSW and Federal legislation.
To draw-down the water table in any of these areas, with a time frame of up to 10 years, would be unconscionable.

Their answer was partially correct, but entirely misleading:-
"The Scoping Study was not an assertion that Eucalypts in this area have tap roots to 20m in solid sandstone. The scoping study suggested that this was a possibility (based on rooting depths in unconsolidated formations elsewhere) and that this should be looked at. It is generally agreed that these species are principally sustained by rainfall
and the groundwater component is much less important. Further information will be available in the upcoming SMEC study."

Who is talking about "tap roots"? Feeder roots are the key to plant survival. Tap roots are critical at seedling stage, and help physically stabilise the plant in the soil. But feeder roots do the work for which they are named. They can easily reach down to the water table, especially in sandstone, where the bedrock is so heavily cracked.

Also, may I ask "It is generally agreed" - by whom? Those words are meaningless - an argument to an unstated, unwritten authority. It is merely an assertion, without any evidence.

In an earlier question I had asked:
The “supply” of water in the aquifer might be renewable, over up to seven years (Pp 33, & 40), but as water is integral to the environment, and as a number of ecosystems are acknowledged as being ground-water dependent, it is surely not “sustainable” to draw down water from the root zone of plants, for up to ten years (a 3 year pumping cycle, plus up to 7 years recovery to pre-pumping levels). This would surely threaten the survival of plants and, consequently other fauna types, within large portions of the study area.

The SCA answer is a nonsense:
Also water is NOT being drawn from the root zone of plants – the average depth to water table is around 15m and is in the sandstone bedrock well below the rooting depth of most species.

Butler's Swamp - woodland.
There is a "Threatened Species" of Persoonia here, growing beside a huge Eucalypt. The water table here is measured at 4 or 5 metres.
Where are the roots of this Eucalypt going?

To average the depth of the water table across the borefield is a statistical nonsense, when we are talking about survival of trees in specific habitats. Their own papers report water tables as shallow as 4-5 metres, in some testing bores. You cannot say to the plants living there - "Sorry, plant - the average depth is supposed to be 15 metres - you should not be drinking this nice shallow groundwater". Plants live where they live. It is called a micro-environment.

For example, the 2 photographed areas have totally different habitats. They are less than 100 metres apart. You simply cannot average them - for example, they have totally different plant forms, with different soil conditions, different everything.

Studies like this have to deal with reality, not statistical nonsenses, such as water table depth averages over a huge area of a borefield.

Lies, damned lies and statistics.

Also, their reply that "water is NOT being drawn from the root zones of plants" is absolutely contradicted by the studies themselves.

In one part of the report, they comment on microscopic crustaceans found in the aquifer, which feed on tree roots. OK - which tree roots, if there are no plants with their roots in the aquifer?

In another part of the studies, they acknowledge some loss of water from the aquifer, by transpiration. How else does that occur except from plants having their roots in the aquifer?

False statement after false statement. That is what the SCA produces.




Friday, July 28, 2006

The Nature of a skulker - the Bassian Thrush

This bird was originally known as the Ground (or Mountain) Thrush. More recently it has been called White’s Thrush, and now it is known as the Bassian Thrush (Zoothera lunulata). I mention all of these names, in case you wish to refer to any older Bird Books which you might have.

I have seen this bird in the Robertson Nature Reserve, usually late in the afternoon, which is a time of day when it seems to be quite active. The first time I saw it, two years ago, it walked ahead of me, along one of the paths. It was difficult to see in detail, but its shape and behaviour is distinctively "thrush-like" - a bird which runs along the ground, stops, looks around, and then runs again (like the much more common "Blackbird").

Recently I observed two Bassian Thrushes at the Robertson Cemetery, in the heavy brush, just at the end of the road leading to the Cemetery. They are a bird of the heavy cover. They search for worms and ground-dwelling insects, under the leaves on the ground. Consequently, it is likely that, as with the Whipbird, you will hear the bird searching through the leaves on the ground, looking for food, before you will see it appear under some vines or other low growing plants.

To observe these birds, I found it necessary to sit perfectly still, underneath a bush. I tried to photograph them, but with little success, as they are quite shy, and they like to come out to play, late in the afternoon, when the light is poor. (Sorry about the poor quality image.)

They are extremely well camouflaged. It is for this reason that this bird is easily overlooked. It is not a common bird, but it is not regarded as rare. From my experience, you could expect to find this bird in any local patch of heavy rainforest around Robertson. I have also heard it calling, just on dusk, in the dense scrub along the Belmore Falls Road, but I have not actually seen it there.

In its behaviour the Bassian Thrush is very similar to the introduced "Common Blackbird" - to which it is related. The call of the Bassian Thrush is a thin whistle, not dissimilar to the Blackbird. It is known to call at night, and at "first light", and at dusk.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Kim Beazley - a political obituary.

At the ripe old age of whatever I am, now, I can vividly remember participating in the 1972 Election which saw Gough Whitlam sweep into power. Indeed it was "Time"!

I remember a chap called Kim Beazley, Minister for Education in the Whitlam Government. He was swathed in an aura of decency. He was something of a committed Christian, which seemed slightly odd, even back then. But decent? There was never any doubt he was decent, respectable and a "True Believer" - in the Labor Party ethos.

Time passed by, and young Kim turned up in Parliament, and I was prepared to welcome him.

But I remember the "M.V. Tampa" affair. A boat load of 433 refugees, having been rescued by a Norwegian vessel, at sea, were then turned away by the Australian Government (29/8/2001). Kim Beazley Jnr capitulated to the pressure of the Government - frightened of being seen as "soft on border security". Dear me!

Kim went on to lose that election - not just a personal loss, but a loss for the Labor Party.
Why? He had compromised his social values, and disgusted the last of the Labor Party's "true believers". There have been many other things along the way, smaller ones, which I do not remember.

But this week, there has been another ground-breaking capitulation. Kim Beazley has announced this week that he will overturn the "3 mines policy". Oh good, I thought. No more Uranium mining - he's going to close them down. How wrong I was!

He has announced that he will allow (if he ever gets into office - which I now sincerely doubt) open slather on uranium mining in Australia. No artificial limits which the Labor Government (under Bob Hawke) had accepted, under a kind of "grandfather clause", whereby exisiting mines would be allowed, but no new ones. There is no logic to that position, but it is at least understandable - a typical Hawke compromise.

But, now all bets are off. The Uranium mining companies have all received a kick in their share prices. The gloves are off, boys - go for it. All down to Kim Beazley having opened his stupid mouth.

This at a stage when we are all being told that there is something of a problem
with international security. The Isrealis, (supposedly a nuclear power) are blowing up their near neighbours. The Americans have been blowing up their distant neighbours in Iraq. Pakistan and India, (both with nuclear capability) are still rattling sabres at each other. The last vestiges of the old Soviet establishment are said to be slowly pilfering off the remains of their nuclear facilities, and selling them on the black market.

Yet everyone is supposed to be worried that North Korea and Iran are developing nuclear weapons - to threaten the world! I do feel threatened - but by the rightwing nutters in Washington, and in Jerusalem - not by North Korea and Iran.

But do I want Australia to add to the mess? Certainly not.

The companies which will mine the Uranium are large multinationals and, in general I do not trust them. And I do not believe that selling lots more Uranium is a good thing, either for the global environment, or for international security.

And I refuse to vote for a pathetic politician who no longer believes in anything.
That's you, Kim Beazley.

You are drowning at sea, as certainly as those people were, who the Captain of the Tampa rescued - and who you rejected from Australia, by supporting Howard.

Where's the Tampa now, Kim?


And to any other remaining Labor Party "True Believers" out there - Ben Chifley's "Light on the Hill" has just gone out!

"We have a great objective - the light on the hill - which we aim to reach by working for the betterment of mankind not only here but anywhere we may give a helping hand. If it were not for that, the Labour movement would not be worth fighting for."
J.B. (Ben) Chifley 12 June 1949

What has the Labor Party come to?

I accept responsibility for any political comment in this blog. Denis Wilson

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Nature of Anticipation

My friend and active Bloggista "Miss Eagle" has several blog posts she runs, on different themes. On one of her blogs, "The Trad Pad", is themed around: "Things that make life worth living: books and beautiful things, movies and music, furry things and gardens".

Several days ago "Miss Eagle" (over at "The Trad Pad") posted a blog around a poem by Catherine Helen Spence, a leading Suffragette and the face on the $5 note. The theme of the post was
a search for a suitable name for the in-between season, after the depth of the Australian winter, but long before Spring officially starts. The point is that Miss Eagle is seeing Wattles, Jonquils and early Fruit Trees in flower, in Melbourne - in July.

The issue Miss Eagle was addressing is the appearance of Spring,
without any cultural recognition of this reality (this in-between season lacking a name of its own). So, she set out to create a suitable name for this in-between season.

Anni has also posted about a similar seasonal confusion (under the heading: "As giddy as a baby on a swing" - a lovely poetic title).
Anyway, to the issue at hand - the search for a name for this season. "Miss Eagle" suggested several possibilities: "The Harbinger" (which sounds nicely poetic) and "Newness" (which doesn't).

I suggested to Miss Eagle that a suitable word might be
"Risorgimento" an Italian word, which historically is used to refer to the re-building of the Italian nation. but the word itself means "resurgence". - which I think has the right "feel" to it for this season.

Anyway, I was teasing "Miss Eagle" (privately) about a phenomenon known only to Peony
growers (such as myself). But Miss Eagle has challenged me to publish what I told her. So, here goes.

Peonies are plants which are totally dominated by the seasonal change which occurs immediately after the Winter Solstice. As soon as the days start to get longer, the Peonies burst into invisible growth of their roots. Then, 4 weeks later (in Australia) they poke their shoots through the soil. There is an amazing sense of anticipation associated with this burst of growth.

Every year, when this event occurs in America, the lady Peony growers, on email chat lines, etc, get very excited and refer to the Peonies "poking their little pink noses through the soil".

Come on ladies, you can do better than that!!!

There is a certain shyness on my part about publicly giving this bud the most appropriate name, which would definitely be gynaecological.

Suffice to say that I am posting a somewhat "
clitoral" image to illustrate this story. I am being careful with my words, as I don't want to get "black listed" by "Net Nanny" (again).

I like the term
"Anticipation" for this season. If you wish to contribute your experience of this in-between season, or come up with a name for it, feel free to post a comment here, or better still, add your comment at The Trad Pad, where Miss Eagle originally raised the challenge.

Here is the finished product - flowers of "Coral Charm". This is what the sense of "anticipation" is all about. (Photos from my "Peony Diary" which Anni kindly hosted for me last year, on her website.)

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Nature of Jim's Red Boxing-glove Lichens

When bushwalking with Jim, recently I found a clump of tiny lichens with brilliant red fruiting bodies. I nick-named these lichens as Jim's "Red Boxing-glove Lichens". These tiny Lichens are a maximum of 1 cm high.
(Click on the photos to enlarge them.)

Lichens are complex organisms. They are not plants, but are fungi,
living in a symbiotic relationship with either an alga or a cyanobacteria (depending on the type of lichen).

If you wish to see more photos of the world of Cryptogams (mosses, liverworts, hornworts and lichens) visit this link .

Some of the photography is stunning, and this is a world which few of us ever get to see in detail. This is part of the Australian National Botanic Gardens website - one of my favourite websites.

Quoting from the ANBG page on Cryptogams: "The non-fungal partner (or photobiont) contains chlorophyll and produces its own food. The fungus provides structural support and a fairly stable microenvironment for the non-fungal partner. Most lichens derive their shape from the fungal partner with the non-fungal cells often confined to a single layer just below the exposed surface of the lichen. The lichens also vary greatly in size, from tiny species to long, trailing species." (Cryptogams - panel 3)

My little red boxing glove Lichens, are seemingly close to the purple-topped species illustrated towards the bottom of page 9 of the Cryptogams site (scroll down the page).

So I (over-confidently) proclaim my specimens also to be in the "Metus" genus of lichens. (How would I really know?)

But I still think of them as Jim's Red Boxing-Glove Lichens.


These are just some of the joys of going bushwalking in the local (Robertson) area. If you are interested to learn more about bushwalking - contact me, directly, ( or check out the National Parks Association's Program of scheduled bushwalks for July and August 2006.
This Program covers bushwalks for all of NSW, but it includes walks in the Southern Highlands, and the Illawarra.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Nature of birds in grazing lands

This winter has seen a lot of gentle rain falling over the Robertson area. One group of birds which have benefitted are the birds which hang out in the grazing lands around the district.

Ibises (mostly the Straw-necked Ibis) have been seen regularly, this year, on the dairy farming properties along the Belmore Falls Road, just down the valley from my house. They also have been seen on the Hindmarsh Dairy, past the Robertson Show Grounds, and in East Kangaloon, (also on dairy farming properties).

This closer shot was taken in Canberra, several months ago.

These birds have long curved beaks and they spend hours at a time searching for grubs (in particular) in grassed paddocks, especially where cattle are to be found.

They force their long beaks into the soft ground, in search of these grubs. Their hearing is apparently very sensitive allowing them to track the grubs.

Other species are seen here too. I have seen just a few White Ibis on these paddocks. There is a White Ibis in this flock, and a White-faced Heron, (the grey bird standing upright).

But last week there were 2 Cattle Egrets there. This is the first time I have seen Cattle Egrets in the Robertson area. I have seen them routinely in the much warmer Kangaroo Valley, just 10 Km away (directly), but an area with a "coastal climate", not a "mountain climate" as in Robertson. Unlike the Ibises, these particular Egrets hang out very closely with cattle, which disturb insects as they graze, and the Egrets pounce on the insects.

Last week I also saw a Pacific Heron (White-necked Heron) in the same paddock as the Straw-necked Ibis flock. I was interested to note that this bird is considerable taller than those Ibises.

I know it has a more upright stance than the Ibis, but it has a very large wing-span. It is close to twice the size of the White-faced Heron - (the regular heron of the area).
This bird is quite distinctive in flight, flapping very slowly, and with very dark wings, and a white chest and neck. But like most herons, it flies with its neck folded back into its body. Ibises fly with necks fully extended (plus their long beaks), so their flight profile is very different from this bird.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Nature of weather closing in


Last Thursday afternoon (and I'm writing on Saturday evening) I looked out the windows to the south and this is what I could see.

This is weather "closing in" on Robertson.


The sky was relatively bright (the sun being behind us, not yet masked by this wall of cloud).

The rain was sweeping up the hill, from the south, out of Kangaroo Valley.

The light was definitely unusual.

The fluffy grey clouds were masking the tops of the ridge opposite me (where Pearson's Lane runs). Giving it a flat topped appearance.

And looking down the valley, the world appears to stop beyond the cemetery (yes, I'm resisting those bad "dead end" jokes).

The tall trees on the "far hill" are at the cemetery - a mere 1 Km away.

They are clearly visible in my other distance shots, but with the wall of cloud beyond the hill, it suddenly stands out as the "end of the earth".

I just love the way clouds change one's perspective on the view, from day to day, or even from hour to hour. That's why I keep posting new inages of the same view - because it is never the same.

As it turned out, this cloud hung over us for 48 hours, and dropped a reasonable amount of gentle soft rain on us. We got 24 mm of rain out of this. It was during this episode of soft rain that I photographed those Black Cockies - the ones eating Pine seeds in the rain.

Today it cleared off, and Celeste, Ian, Jane and I planted a whole bunch of plants at the CTC. Jane donated the plants which she had raised herself, which is a great achievement (spoken as a some-time plant propagator).

There is nothing better than planting plants at the end of winter, after a week of rain (we also had 38 mm earlier in the week). These plants, (and some which I will plant tomorrow, of my own collection of seedlings) will positively jump out of the ground over the next 2 months, as the weather warms up.

Friday, July 21, 2006

A Cockie has to eat - even on a wet day.

A "Black Cockie" settling in for lunch
Even on a damp wet day, a Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo has to eat.

These birds (Calytorhynchus funereus) love to eat the seeds of the Monterey Pine (Pinus Radiata). Those trees were planted heavily around Robertson, by the early settlers here, and so, there are great food resources here for the Black Cockies.

In fact the Black Cockies spread the seeds of the Pine trees, so successfully that the pines are something of a weed around Robertson. The Cockies spread the seed not by ingesting the seeds and passing them through. When a Cockatoo eats a seed like that, it is chewed very badly and damaged.
Getting down to Lunch
No, what the Cockies do is steadily work on an entire pine cone, and then chew it off at the stalk, and often a bird will carry an entire cone away,
holding it in its beak. That is a fair achievement by a bird. It also makes them look very front-heavy when in flight - an odd sight indeed. Eventually, the Cockie gets fed up, literally, and will drop the cone, wherever it landed to eat it's "take-away" lunch. That is how such heavy cones get spread around Robertson, allowing seedling pine trees to sprout in new locations.

This bird is an adult female - with a pale brown beak.

"Can we go, now?"
The second bird in this pair, was sitting above the "busy" one, totally bored, and soaked.

If ever I saw a bird wanting to say "Can we go now?" it is this bird.

This bird is an adult male, with a dark brown-black beak, and a red eye ring.

The light was very poor, because of the rain. But the details of the bird's beak and eye ring are visible if you click on the photo to enlarge the image.

Thursday, July 20, 2006



Woodland near
Butler's Swamp, which
has endangered species
The Sydney Catchment Authority has now made available the electronic response forum, via their website. Now you can easily have your say on the proposal to drain the Kangaloon Aquifer, by clicking on this link:

It is easy to fill in the boxes required, to register your interest and submit your views.

I would recommend this, particularly if you have land in the Robertson area.

It appears that the persons with most to lose are residents of the lower parts of East Kangaloon, Kangaloon and Glenquarry, along Tourist Road.

If pumping is allowed to commence, the bores will pump water out, which causes an effect known as "drawdown", where a funnel-shaped area around the bore is drained of water. It is drained most deeply at the bore, and progressively the water draining effect spreads out wider and wider. Although the SCA is talking about areas of 500 metres diameter from each bore, they acknowledge some likely impact up to 2 Kms distant.

And that is only what they say, officially. Who knows what will really happen, if they are allowed to pump?


The Upper Nepean Catchment Area
Tourist Road runs along the southern bounday


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Nature of Children's Graves - bulletin 2

There is a lovely, elegant grave in the the Robertson Cemetery, where a child of 5 weeks and 2 days has been laid to rest. As with all children's graves, it is quite small.

This grave is moderately old (1925), and it is in a partially overgrown corner of the cemetery.

It is my favourite grave.

Stairway to Heaven?
The grave is covered with a series of moss-covered stone slabs, each one rising over the one below. There are just 3 levels visible, but possibly another is now covered by soil.

To me, this appears to represent a series of steps - possibly the symbolic "Stairway to Heaven"
(see Genesis 28: 10 - 15). This refers to Jacob's dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.

It is otherwise known as "Jacob's Ladder".

These days, the symbolism of "Stairway to Heaven" is totally debased, owing to the over-riding influence of the Led Zeppelin song of the same name, with very un-religious connotations. (see the full lyrics here).

Not everybody agrees with my interpretation, indeed some people think the slabs have sunk, naturally, over time. But I am convinced that the grave was built this way.


The text of the Headstone
loving memory of
Joseph Dixon
beloved infant son of
Thomas and Frieda
Died April 29, 1925
Aged 5 weeks & 2 days
Our little darling
has gone to

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Nature of Children's Graves - bulletin 1

The Robertson Cemetery is found at the end of Missingham Parade - the road on which I live.

View south, over Kangaroo Valley

It is in a wonderful place. It has fantastic views out over Kangaroo Valley (see my photo at left). It is exposed to the south, so it is often windy, (but only on windy days!)

It also has great views across to the ridge where Pearson's Lane runs. That view is captured well on the photo gallery of the Robertson Chamber of Commerce.

A child's grave, with steel cage and headplate

I am fascinated with the children's graves which may be found here. All old country town graveyards have many children's graves - a fact which all modern parents of young children ought realise, when debating the merits or demerits of vaccination.

In the "bad old days" young children died routinely of diphtheria, whooping cough and measles, as well as other diseases which we now readily control with antibiotics. But the communicable viral diseases were the real child killers. They still are, potentially.

All expectant parents ought visit a country graveyard, I think.

Some diseases of childhood, namely: Diphtheria, Tetanus and Whooping Cough are covered by the "Triple Antigen" vaccination for children. Hepatitus B, and oral (Sabin) Polio vaccinations are being encouraged to be given to all children. Pre-pubescent girls are routinely given the Rubella vaccination, to prevent the terribly damaging effects on the foetus, should a woman contract Rubella during pregnancy.

Anyway, grave stones seldom give the cause of death - it is just the fact of the death which is left with us, because of the grave.

Detail of Iron work on "cage"

This little grave intrigues me greatly.

The "cage" over the grave is in good condition, but the steel plate which acts as the "head stone" is heavily rusted, and sadly, no inscription is visible now.

The ironwork in the "cage" is very high quality work, and has lasted very well. It is rusted, superficially, but in Robertson Cemetery, that looks completely natural. To me the whole grave looks like a work of love - for the little child beneath.

The rear view of the steel"headstone"

The steel plate which acts as the "head stone" is heavily rusted, and sadly, no inscription is visible now. But what is the shape of the "cutout" symbolising?

Is it meant to be a guardian angel?

To me, it actually resembles a bat, but that is such an unlikely image. I hope that no-one regards my interpretation as disrespectful - no such thought is intended.

I would love to know the history of this grave.
Tomorrow, I shall show you another Robertson grave - my personal favourite.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Nature of Eagle Flight

A moderate, but steady wind was blowing from the south-west at my place, today. As I am near the top of a ridge, with a valley facing south-west, below me, this means that the wind was running straight up my valley, creating wonderful "uplift", just above my house. This is a perfect situation for the Little Eagle (Hieraaetus morphnoides). This bird did a number of "passes" up and down the valley, today.


The bird would circle around to gain height, as it came back up the valley (photo 1).

Clearly it was hunting, for it was not just "making lazy circles in the sky" (to quote from the song in "Oklahoma"). Once the bird has got high enough up the valley, to get the desired "uplift" from the ridge below, ti would "freeze" (hover). But although it was perfectly stationery, it was working very hard, adjusting its wings and tail constantly, in order to keep its head absolutely still. On several occasions, it would hold the one position (relative to the ground) for a minute or more, at a time, before moving off a little further, then holding position again - but it was working hard to achieve this "fixed" position.

See the various photos below, to observe the different wing and tail "settings" the bird was using.


Medium-large birds of prey, such as this Little Eagle rely on using "uplifts" to achieve their hovering effect. Hence today's demonstration, just over the back of my deck.

This shows perfect balance of uplift against gravity, with wingtip control.

Having circled back up from the bottom of the valley, when it found a position high enough in the valley to get the "uplift" again, it then "froze" in the sky, looking for prey. Rabbits and lizards are its main food, but this species has been recorded taking birds, and insects. Apparently it has a preference for young rabbits (which would suit its size).


On several occasions it had to spread its wings and tail to the fullest possible extent, in order to "hold position" - but it was not flapping. It was still stationary in the sky.

Presumably this is in response to a momentary drop in the wind strength, requiring the bird to maximimise its wind resistance (for just a second or two), to hold its position, before the wind picked up again.

Note the "concentration" evident from the positon of its head. This bird was actively hunting. It is scanning the ground below, for a careless rabbit, or possibly a bush rat.


The bird was constantly adjusting the settings of its wings and its tail, to keep its head stationary. It is not moving across the sky - it was stationary, relative to the ground.


Then it would move to a new position, a little further away, across the valley, and repeat the process.

Having moved perhaps as little as 50 metres, it would resume the previous hovering stance, with just wingtip control being used to keep its position in the sky.

What a wonderful demonstration of flight control. My thanks to the Little Eagle, and the wind conditions which made this display possible.

It is great to be alive - to appreciate these special Nature of Robertson moments.

In the great Aussie vernacular: "Ya wouldn't be dead for quids".