Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Eve - sunset and evening sky

The sun has just started to move back from its southern most point, but on this New Year's Eve sunset, it is still close to its furthest most southerly point in the sky (at the Summer Solstice, 10 days ago).

Do I make myself clear? In winter, the sun does not pass anywhere close to this wonderful old tree, but sets well around to the right (further north). But tonight it was setting, just on the south-western side of the wonderful old Blackwood tree (when viewed from my back deck).
The sky had been clear during the day, but an afternoon sea-mist rolled in and formed a light cloud cover, enough to diffuse the sunset. The clouds sat above the horizon, so as the sun set, it came out more clearly than it had been shining, giving this golden light wash. The presence of the tree in silhouette makes the picture more dramatic.

To understand a bit more about my affection for this tree, you need to understand that I deliberately positioned my house, with this tree in mind. In fact it is blocking out a particularly large and ugly "mansion" which to my eyes is totally unsuited to the Southern Highlands. But in addition to using this old tree as a screen, I love its shape, and in this case, the way it filters the afternoon light from the setting sun.

Just a few minutes later, the sun had sunk into thicker cloud, and while there was still light, the sky changed to this blue and pink picture, just for a few moments. Then the colour faded. I love the way the soft light allows you to see the folds in the valley below, looking over Belmore Falls, towards the Shoalhaven Valley. The tall trees highlighted by the pink sky are along Myra Vale Road, towards Fitzroy Falls (from Robertson).

This image is a compound image, a "panorama". The "stitching" together of the three images is far from perfect, but if you click to enlarge the image, you will get a fair idea of the wider view out over Kangaroo Valley and the far distant Shoalhaven Valley.
The "Blackwood" in the first image is the open-crowned tree in the centre-right of this picture. The "solid" or darker trees (with pointed profiles) on the right hand side of the image, and just to the right of the Blackwood, are Sassafras trees. They grow very densely, and give a solid profile, unlike the Blackwood which grows into a more open crowned tree, as it matures.

Today I celebrated New Year's Eve with a luncheon meal for David and Petra (a visitor from Germany) and Captain Jim (who took me flying yesterday). Good honest plain food, with a roast leg of lamb, baked very slowly on the hooded gas BBQ, baked potatoes (fresh from Kim's vegie garden) and a salad courtesy of the new Fruit Shop in Robertson. (I haven't told you about this, but it is turning out to be a great asset to the village). Today, while I was in there buying the greens and stuff for the salad, and a lady came in and said to the shop owner: "Thank you so much for opening this shop". She speaks for many of us.

I might even start eating more vegetables from now on. If that passes for a New Year's Resolution (and I never make them) then so be it.

Happy New Year, everyone. Especially to Kevin Rudd and the new Australian Government, and hence to all the people of Australia (plus Leo in Nova Scotia, Canada). And to my loyal blogger colleagues, especially Miss Eagle, and Gaye from the Hunter, and David. And nice to meet you, Petra. And a special Happy New Year to George, and Lucy and her kids (George, Meg and Charlotte), Steve and Celeste and Jasper, Judy B. and Greg, Mike and the rest of the people of Robertson.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Flying over the Escarpment.

I went flying with Jim, late in the afternoon, today. It was very pleasant weather, with just a bit of "cotton-wool" cloud at first, but the fluffy clouds did not develop into solid cloud. Jim was keeping an anxious "weather eye" out, but the clouds which gave an indication of possibly developing, actually dispersed.We started by going over the escarpment, near Macquarie Pass. Jim had hoped to show me a small waterfall which he had spotted several days ago. But the late afternoon light did not assist is, as the shadows were very dark, in the deep gullies. So we could not see the falls. But from other landmarks, such as the old ruined farm-house nearby, we were able to identify that it must have been the Clover Hill Falls which Jim had seen.

Towering above Macquarie Pass one can see the clifflines of Mt Macquarie. Today I was able to take several images of this bluff, which I have pasted into a "panorama". The merged image is imperfect, but it does at least show the severe line of the cliffs under which the road line of Macquarie Pass runs. It also shows the prominent bluff (on the eastern end - right hand side) which is so prominent a part of the Escarpment skyline. This hill dominates the coastal plain below. This mountain outlines the deep valley which goes back towards Robertson from Albion Park.

We flew back towards Knights Hill (southern edge of the valley of Macquarie Pass). My friend Rose has a property which includes the two left-hand clearings which are visible in this image (centre and left). The TV towers on top of Knights Hill are visible to the right. Rose's property runs from the bluff at the far left, along the edge of the escarpment, (which runs from bottom left to centre-right, just beyond the first line of ridges), right up to the first TV tower. The forest is a combination of true rainforest, and heavy Eucalypt forest, with some rainforest undergrowth. Several other ridges are visible in the middle and far distance, which run down towards Albion Park. The very far distant horizon would be the ocean, on a clearer day. Today it is sea-mist and cloud.A small St. Andrew's Cross Spider chooses to live inside the heavy metal door of Jim's hangar. I'm not sure why, with all the trees around, just outside. But it seems happy on the door. But it has not built the trade-mark "diagonal cross" heavy reinforcing webs which is the feature which earns the spider its name. But its colouration, and the pale bands on its legs are distinctive. The way it is holding its left legs in "pairs" is also diagnostic.

Friday, December 28, 2007

A dam habitat

Some friends of mine invited me for dinner tonight, which was lovely. Fresh food, much of it grown by the lady of the house, in the vegie garden. The feature piece of the vegie garden is a "Lutyens" teak bench. But the real treasure is to be found in the vegetable gardens themselves.
Here are some photos taken around the dam, which is central to the habitat of the property.

The dam provides a place for water to drain, it acts as a filter (or rather a series of carefully constructed ponds, and water-courses do that). The dam also is home to a flock of Wood Ducks, and many other birds. Obviously, water is able to be pumped back up to the vegie garden, and other parts of the farm, as required.
Some birds, such as the Clamorous Reed Warblers, (Acrocephalus stentoreus) live exclusively in these reed beds.
Here is an Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra), a bird primarily of the open water, although it nests amongst reeds and rushes.
Here is a bed of Bulrushes (or "Cumbungi") Typha orientalis, (or other similar species.) The flower heads are in two distinct sections, with male flowers (which shed after dispensing their pollen) and the female flowers which stay on until they are matured, and the seeds then disperse on the wind. Click to see the enlarged image, to see the detail of the male flowers (mostly having shed) as residual flowers, above the fully formed female flowers.
Other birds, such as Latham's Snipe, (a summer migrant from Japan) hang out in the long grass around the dam, rather than amongst the reeds (where the water is too deep for their short legs). These photos were taken in Kangaloon, but the first photo is typical of where these birds hang out.
This second Snipe photo is typical of what one sees when a Snipe flies away suddenly, from "under your feet". Here is one Snipe, about 120 metres away, preparing to crash land in a reed-bed.
Secrecy (and surprise) is everything, for Snipe. Their survival depends upon it. In Europe they are regarded as a classic "game bird" for that very reason - for the "sport" (so-called) they provide by their sudden "rising", and fast flight to cover. I am pleased to report that these Snipe which I saw today, are safe at this farm dam.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Another day, another Cricket.

The "Cricket" is driving me nuts! Who really cares about how quickly we beat the Indians? Will it be 3 and a half days or 4, or will they drag it out to 5? Save me! It is boring stuff, and when the Cricket is on, all the other stations take that as a sign to show other uninteresting rubbish, like the Hopman Cup (which is an artificially contrived Tennis tournament, between teams no-one cares about, for a prize no-one knows about.) And the less said about Rich Men Showing off the Size of their Spinnakers, the better. The only good news on that front was that one contender's boat fell apart before it even got here.

So, lets talk about Crickets again - Real Crickets - Insects, Grasshopper relatives, sometimes winged, (but not in this Species), with strong legs, powerful jaws and huge antennae. It is the antennae which impressed me when I took these images, and I have marked in yellow the tips of the antennae. Click on the images to enlarge them, so you can see the very long, fine antennae properly.

These images were taken on 15 November, in a patch of warm weather we were having at the time. That was before the mist and drizzle (which is still with us) closed in on us. This Cricket had climbed up a stem of one of my Herbaceous Peonies (from which I had cut the flower).

In the top image, the antennae are spread - wide, left and right.
And in this second image, the antennae are held one up, one down. I am always impressed with an insect whose antennae are many times longer than its own body. And they are so completely adjustable. And this insect lives down a burrow, so what does it do with its antennae then? Another of the mysteries of the Nature of Robertson.
I didn't publish these images yesterday, as I thought that perhaps I had published them at the time they were taken, but events apparently overtook me, and I appear not to have published them before.

As with yesterday's images, this is the Illawarra Raspy Cricket, (Apotrechus illawarra).

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A visitor to my table

Last night an Illawarra Raspy Cricket (Apotrechus illawarra) appeared in my kitchen. No questions asked, and no excuses given.

I set it out on my 1970s style Laminex table - which explains the funny patterns in the background.This creature has wonderful antennae, approx 5 inches (approx 125mm) long. Very fine antennae indeed. It also has an extremely powerful set of pincers, as jaws. See the story of the Cricket vs the Spider below. There was no way I was going to allow it to get a grip of my fingers.
They have very powerful back legs, but although shaped superficially like a Grass Hopper, I have only ever seen them crawl about, not jump. They seem to use their very strong, grasping front legs to assist them in climbing, which is seemingly how this Cricket arrived in my kitchen. These creatures are known locally as "Tree Crickets", because of their prodigious climbing ability, even thought they dwell in burrows in the ground during the day.

When I first moved to Robertson, I was camping in a large shed, and I vividly remember one of these creatures climbing across the roof rafters above my bed - until the creature lost its upside-down grip - and fell straight on top of me. I have always been wary of them since that incident.

I know someone who was keeping Funnel-web Spiders (legitimately - for research purposes). He found one of these Crickets, and thought to feed it to a Funnel-web. In the morning there was no spider in the container, but the Cricket was still there. So, obviously those powerful jaws are very effective. That is a pretty impressive story, I think - but the person concerned is very authoritative, so I believe it totally.

"Gaye from the Hunter" has written about a similar sized Cricket, in its winged stage. Apparently hers was a "Striped Raspy Cricket". Her report is very thorough, with excellent close-up photography. Apparently all Illawarra Raspy Crickets are flightless (unlike the related species which Gaye wrote about). Both Gaye's creature, and mine are in the same family (Gryllacrididae), but they are in different genera (hence the difference of one being flightless, and the other having a strong set of wings).

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Full Church in Burrawang.

Last evening I went to the early Christmas Vigil Mass, with my friend Lucy, and her kids - and several hundred other members of the community.

St Peter's, Burrawang is a tiny country church, with two rows of pews (seen here on an earlier occasion, just prior to another Mass). Last night, the Church was full when I got there at quarter to Seven. It ended up being a "standing room only" situation, with a few people outside the side doors, where they could easily hear the ceremony, and take part, from a distance. This so impressed the priest, from the Pauline Fathers Monastery at Sutton Forest, that he commented that he had only seen full churches like that back in his native Poland.

Anyway, the service was enthusiastic, with the little kids providing a living pageant of shepherds, Kings, and (fortunately) a plastic "baby Jesus". I have seldom seen such a large queue for Communion in such a small Church.

After the Mass, we then gathered around outside the Church for a celebratory snack, and a glass of refreshment - which is a nice tradition, which I was not expecting. The church yard was full of cars, and trestle tables, and people. The old Blackwood tree (also seen from a previous event) was last night being climbed by numerous children, in their "Christmas best". The tree is seen here, complete with a wonderful old "prop" in the form of a forked trunk from another tree.
Happy Christmas everyone!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Christmas

Here is an image of the local Santa Pigeon, which hangs out at my friend George's place.
I am not sure quite how George manages to tie*** the little hat on this bird's head! I can't see any evidence of string, or rubber bands. And surely he would not glue it on with Super Glue, would he? It wouldn't fall off quickly enough after Christmas would it?

On second thoughts, it probably would stay on for the entire Twelve Days of Christmas.

Happy Christmas, and best wishes for a very good New Year to all my dedicated readers and friends.

(*** Ah, the wonders of Photoshop)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Summer Solstice - blue sky and clouds

After approximately 3 weeks of cloud, mist, fog, drizzle,
more mist and fog and threatening clouds ----- ------ Robertson has suddenly turned on a warm, mostly sunny day.
And the locals are ducking for cover.

Personally, if this is summer, I'm over it already.

The air is so humid (as the moisture in the soil evaporates out). Even just moving around outside causes one to break out in a sweat.
To the northern hemisphericals who might read this blog, on your cold, longest Midwinter night, I salute you all, with a warming glass of red.


To Leo, you have turned the corner. Your Peonies will start their long journey back towards Spring, in about two weeks time.

By the way, last night, I turned off the little room heater which has been on (gently) over the last 3 weeks, not so much to warm the room, but to keep the clothes and furnishings in the house from growing mould. And also to dry off Lena, whose feet, legs and the hair on her belly seemed to be perpetually wet, over the last few weeks.

Monday, December 17, 2007

An unusual plant leads me to Louisa Atkinson.

Louisa Atkinson,(first name Caroline) was born in 1834, at Oldbury, a well-known historic property in Sutton Forest. She is acknowledged as a pioneer botanist, and author, (and trail-blazer). It would be anachronistic to proclaim her to be a feminist, but none-the-less, it seems the title would suit her.

She discovered a number of new plant species in the Blue Mountains and Southern Highlands regions of New South Wales. She collected the first specimens of many species of plants, and these were sent to Reverend William Woolls, (a famous early colonial botanist) or to Baron Ferdinand von Mueller, the first Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, who named a number of species after her.

This plant Xanthosia atkinsoniana,
was named in Louisa's honour by Baron von Mueller.

I found this specimen growing in Medway, a small village on the sandstone plateau, about 5 Km south-west from Berrima. It is appropriate to note that Medway is located a mere 8 Km north-west from Oldbury, where Louisa Atkinson first learnt to explore the Australian bush, which she knew and loved so well.

Pink buds of Xanthosia atkinsoniana,
and white mature flowers.
When I eventually identified this unfamiliar plant (unfamiliar to me, at least) I was thrilled to realise that it was growing where Louisa might well have first stumbled upon it, some 150 years before me. For me it was like reaching out to touch a little piece of botanical history.

This is botanical illustration for Xanthosia atkinsoniana from PlantNet (from the website of the "Royal Botanic Gardens Trust" in Sydney).

Botanically, this plant is interesting, for its flower structure is characteristic of the Celery and Parsley group of plants (Apiaceae family). The umbel structure of the inflorescence are typical of this family. This plant has flattened bracts beneath the flowers, and leaves which are very similar to the most famous Australian member of this family, the Flannel Flower (Actinotus helianthi).

The flattened seed structure, which is divided laterally into two parts, is clearly illustrated. You can see in the single flower (below) the bulbous structure from which that dried seed will take its final shape. It was this diagnostic shape of the individual flower which led to my positive identification of this plant.Once I had a name for it, a quick Google Image search produced a definitive image, from the wonderful plant index and gallery for the Bega Valley (NSW). That image is so clear, that I was totally confident of my identification of my specimen. Thanks are due to Jackie Miles and Max Campbell for that wonderful plant photo gallery.

Gaye from the Hunter (and other readers) might well find this easy-to-use plant and fungi index to be useful for identifications, as I am sure I will, in future, now that I have found it. Some plants have localised distribution, but I am sure there will be many plants found in the Bega Valley which will also be found in the Southern Highlands, and the Hunter Valley. Such was the case with this Xanthosia species.

Epacris calvertiana var versicolor
, another local plant (from the Belmore Falls and Barren Grounds areas), is also named after Louisa (after her married name).

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Lyrebird in low branches

On Friday, the Robertson Environment Protection Society (REPS) had its Christmas Party at Fitzroy Falls. While we were having our snacks and nibbles in the carpark, a Lyrebird came close, sat in a low tree branch, and preened itself. Being a clever bird, it managed to obscure most of its body behind branches, so I did not get a single clear image. However, it appeared to be a male, with some creamy-white markings on its tail feathers, just visible in one image. Females do not have the "display feathers" in their tails.It then turned around on the branch, and then dropped off the branch, and was off, doing Lyrebird things. This was late in the afternoon, just before dark, when Lyrebirds seem to do a lot of feeding amongst the leaf-litter, looking for insects. You can see its powerful legs and feet with which the bird scratches around the ground.
Lyrebirds eyes reflect a flash as blue, unlike people who give "red eye" reflections, my dog, Lena, who has green eyes, and foxes which give yellow eyes.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Wollondilly River Valley - wild, wild country

I wrote about the visit to the Bullio area, and the Wollondilly River, last week, and also in February 2006. For those not familiar with these areas, they are about 40 Km west from Mittagong, along the road to Wombeyan Caves.

On the way back from Bullio I stopped at the Wollondilly Look Out. This is the very southern tip of the Southern Blue Mountains. It is part of the "Nattai Wilderness", itself part of the "Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area"As that website describes this region, "The area does not contain mountains in the conventional sense but is described as a deeply incised sandstone plateau rising from less than 100 metres above sea level to 1 300 metres at the highest point. There are basalt outcrops on the higher ridges." You can clearly see the sandstone strata of the entire plateau. What is less apparent is that the very far distant (blue) horizon is the far side of the same plateau (the "Lower Blue Mountains". The bit in the middle has been eroded over millions of years, by the Wollondilly, Nattai, Jamison and Cox's Rivers. If those river names are not familiar, they ought be, for they are the main rivers supplying Lake Burrogorang (the Warragamba Dam), which is out of sight from this position, around the corner past Bonum Pic, and about 30 Km away. It is shown on the map.One can see virtually all the way to Katoomba from here.
The sandstone cliff peak at the centre of the image below, is known as "Bonum Pic". It is slightly lower than Mt Wanganderry, (out of sight to the right) a basalt cap just east from Bonum Pic. The intergrade between the basalt and the sandstone is very marked in this district. This view is of classic sandstone plateaux and valleys, but it is only a few kilometres from Bullio, which is Granite country (as seen in the photos I published a few days ago). The Wollondilly valley has very complex geology. It also has some very determined settlers, if you click on the image above, you will see what I mean. Look for a rough track and houses amongst the trees, way down in the bottom of the valley.

Here is a gentler side to these wonderful mountains: Just past the Wollondilly Lookout, one goes through a "tunnel" - actually a hole cut through a very narrow sandstone ridge. As soon as you go through the tunnel, from east, heading west, you come into a patch of sheltered moist forest (protected from the heat of the northerly sun). There were many of these Blueberry Ash trees in full flower (Elaeocarpus reticulatus)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Robbo "missed out" - in every sense

Robertson, this forgotten corner of the Wingecarribee Shire, has "missed out" yet again. The Council has funded a Landscape Planner to develop a plan for our central area of playing fields - known as Hampden Park.

Here is a panoramic image of the Park being used
for a "Band" performance,
as part of the 2007 "Springtime in Robertson" Festival.

Most of the playing fields were developed by teams of locals, with their tractors, levelling the playing surfaces, etc. The Wingecarribee Shire Council is taking an interest in Hampden Park, and so the local community has assisted the planner to develop a formal plan for the Park. There are funds set aside for the development of the Park.

Sound good?
Oh, dear. How little you understand, dear reader.

The plot goes like this:
  1. Council wants to sell two blocks off the side of the park;
  2. Before it can do this, it has to vary the plan;
  3. But there is no "plan" (remember the locals built most of the park themselves, in true Aussie fashion).
  4. So, Council has commissioned a "Plan";
  5. So that they can then vary the "Plan",
  6. In order to sell off part of the Park.
  7. Proceeds of the sale of land are destined to fund an "Indoor Leisure Centre" in Bowral, which was "promised" by a leading Councillor - who is about to retire, and wishes to see his "Leisure Centre" approved before he steps down.
So. Robertson people, who have co-operated with Council on the formal Plan for Hampden Park, are about to be "dudded" again.

Oh, by the way, the funds set aside for the "development" of Hampden Park are likely to be used up in fixing "drainage problems" in the Park, which Council will be required to fix, before the land adjacent to the Park can be sold. The drainage problems are not from within the park, but come from residential land east (uphill) from the Park (and the two blocks of land concerned).

The Net Result is likely to be:
  • Some work might be done in the Park,
  • but only to fix problems created by Council's own poor standard of development work (i.e., lack of appropriate Storm Water controls).
  • Council will then sell the two blocks from the Park for "residential use",
  • it will pocket approximately $500, 000 and
  • use that money outside of Robertson - for a "leisure centre" 40 Km away, which is likely to be little used by Robertson people.
But don't worry, we will have a Plan for Hampden Park.

Robertson lives perpetually in the Mist. This time, Robertson is about to have "Missed Out" (mist-out) again.

We shall see if the people of Robertson care enough to make some noise on this issue. In every sense, it is up to them.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Australasian Native Orchid Society - Illawarra Branch

Tonight I attended the Christmas Party of the Illawarra Branch of the Australasian Native Orchid Society (ANOS). And a very pleasant function it was, indeed. It was good to catch up with Alan Stephenson, Graeme Bradburn and Barry Bush, and Chris - all of whom I have had the pleasure of meeting on outings, previously.

I had not attended any of their formal meetings, but I had gone on several field trips with their group.

We all hoped for winning raffle tickets. In my case I won a parcel which feels and weighs like a Christmas Cake. I shall hold on to it till the appropriate day.

We then had the "Lucky door prizes" - every member gets a ticket, and in due course, when our numbers were called, we were presented with an Orchid seedling. Mine is a small Dendrobium - presumably some form of D. kingianum hybrid. There is a name written on it, but I cannot recall it, at present (Well, part of the name is "salt and pepper" - which is suitable for a Schnauzer person).

After these rituals were over, we joined in a very convivial dinner.

I met Leo Cady for the first time. Leo is a living legend in the world of Orchids. We spoke about the difficulties I have in identifying some of the small Caladenias, and he dived into his bag and brought out two folders of his drawings - lovely botanical illustrations which he has drawn, from dissected specimens. He described minute differences of flower structures - the shape of the labellum, calli, etc. Then he very kindly offered to help identify any plants I am unsure about, from photographs. He is a lovely gentle guy, very keen to help a relative novice. I am sure I shall take up his offer, and will print up some photos to postcard size, for future identification.

I also met the Editor of "The Orchadian", Peter Eygelshoven, and several other members of the ANOS executive. It was good to meet these people.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Wollondilly River Gorge from Bullio

Further to yesterday's posting, here is the Red Door Gazebo, which sits on a rocky point, overlooking the steep gorge of the Wollondilly River. I love the touch of Japanese inspiration in the colouring of the door - reminiscent of the vermilion colour much used on gateways in Japanese temples and pavilions.
Here below is a panoramic view of from the Red Door Gazebo. It truly is an awesome location. Click on the image to enlarge it.

The river flows from left to right. It loops around a small ridge, in the centre of the gorge directly in front of the viewer. On the far right of the enlarged image, you will be able to discern a cultivated river flat, which is where a tributary creek flows down to join the Wollondilly River. The huge efforts which early settlers went to in order to access arable land amazes me. Even today this land is difficult to access. Imagine doing that work with bullock teams. And that land has to be accessed from the far side of the river, some 20 minutes drive away (on "modern roads" - well sort-of), even though it is "just down the hill".And here is a contrast of scale - from the macro views of the gorge, to a hand-held Grey Shrike-thrush (Colluricincla harmonica). I found this bird on the drive out to Bullio. It had been hit by a car just moments before I arrived, as there were feathers still floating in the air when I saw the bird on the road, and stopped to rescue it. It had to be moved off the road, if it was to have any chance.
In keeping with standard "wildlife rescue" techniques, I kept the bird quiet, in a dark position for a while. It did not have a broken wing (or other obvious structural damage), so it was most likely suffering from shock only. After about 45 minutes, it had recovered greatly from when I first rescued it, so I decided to liberate it. It was not able to fly (yet) but I decided to let it take its chances, seeing as it was actively contemplating this snail.
DJW Note: 12/12/07. I sought advice from the Canberra Ornithologist Group (COG) discussion group on sexual dimorphism in Grey Shrike-thrushes. The answer came back from immediately. Female, probably 2 year old. Immature birds have brown markings on their heads, and heavily striated chests. The striations gradually reduce, until 3 years of age, at which point, males have developed a fully white face. Males have a fully black beak, whereas females have a grey lower mandible (as does this bird). QED. Thanks to the COG discussion group people.

On the way back home, I spotted this lovely Common Bronzewing (Phaps calcoptera) - a Pigeon - beside a shallow pool in a parking area. The colour patches from which this bird takes its name are derived from an iridescent sheen on the wing feathers, which reflect light in tones ranging from green, to reddish-bronze. The colour patches on the wings appear to change, because it is a reflected light effect, rather than a "solid colour" based upon pigment (unlike the other colours on the head and breast - which are constant).Pigeons are quite thirsty birds, it seems. I have noticed before that Pigeons and parrots (both seed eaters) are often to be seen beside waterholes, and this bird is quite typical in that regard. The COG bird images gallery has fourteen images of this species, and four show them drinking from shallow pools, just like this bird.I was slightly unsure if this was a Common or Brush Bronzewing. But the COG photo gallery make it clear that it is the "Common Bronzewing". The white eye line is distinctive. By contrast, the Brush Bronzewing has a prominent dark line through the eye. This bird was very placid, and allowed me to take many images before it departed, after it had had its drink.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Eagles over the Wollondilly River

Today I went with the Southern Highlands Photographic Society, to visit a property of one of their members, in a district called "Bullio", overlooking the steep gorge through which the ancient Wollondilly River flows. I say ancient, for this is granite country - really hard rock. And yet the River has carved a really steep gorge, down about 300 metres, or more.

The view from the Red Door Gazebo.
The Wollondilly River is just visible in the dark line of vegetation
on the bottom right of the image. (Click to enlarge).Here is the Gazebo, (centre) seen from the highest point on the property.

This is Eagle country, out here. The Wedge-tailed Eagle (Aquila audax) is a large, powerful flier, but they love to revel in breezes and uplifts which steep gullies like this produce. Also, they like to build their nests in trees on the side of steep gullies, as the breezes allow the adult birds to leave the nest easily, by just catching the wind, and flying out away from the nest, without too much energy use. It also enables young birds to strengthen their flight muscles (in their chest) by practice flapping, while still in the nest. With the wind rushing through their feathers, but their powerful claws firmly gripping the nest structure, the chicks can "fly" without leaving the safety of the nest.
Soaring Eagle, with wedge-shaped tail visible.
One Eagle, in several frames, merged into a composite image. In the first frame, the bird is diving down (from the top of its flight path) by closing its wings tightly (dropping like a stone); then as it builds up speed it spreads wings slightly to regain control; then flattening out at the bottom of a dive; before arcing back up to the top level of the cliffs, and doing it all over again. This routine is "play" and both birds in the pair were doing similar manoeuvres. (Click on image, to enlarge it, and see this bird properly).
A pair of Eagles circling in alternate arcs (as they often do). Here I managed to get them in a single frame, with a cloud below them, for scale and "aspect" - so you can see the weather conditions, hot, humid, possible storm developing. At this point the birds were well above the cliff lines, but still riding the wind patterns generated by the steep valley below them.

Note the upturned wing tips of the top bird. It is flying directly away from me, with wings flat, except for the tips of the wings, which bend upwards, with the pressure of the wind. The lower bird is circling around in a clockwise pattern, as it turns to come back in my direction.
Here is another panoramic shot, to give you a sense of perspective again (after staring into the sky - looking at distant Eagles).
I like this image, for it shows the angular hillside, but the "wild tobacco plants" (Verbascum sp.) grow in stiff upright stalks, from a sloping base. So we have strong angles, contrasted with numerous vertical lines.

Thanks to Bruce and Carolyn for their generous hospitality, today.