Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Orange Moon for Celeste

Tonight was Celeste's actual birthday, and after dark an amazing orange-red moon rose through a pall of smoke over the ocean beyond Shellharbour - as visible from the top of Mount Murray, where she lives.

It is eerie looking down over the moon, rising through what I assume was a line of smoke from a bushfire, or a "burn-off". It was truly wonderful but unfortunately, although I had my camera with me, I failed to get a good shot. But these snaps will give you some idea of the colour.

The moon rose clearly enough, but it does not stay still. So, after it rose, it went through a line of cloud, which blocked it; then it reappeared, higher in the sky and a little clearer. But, of course, it had lost most of the wonderful colour, by then. In general, one has less than a minute to get a good shot of the moon, if there is a special light effect, or some other feature of the moon against a tree or hill, or other natural feature.

It was two days past the full moon (by my reckoning) so it is seen against a black sky, but slightly deformed, showing the shadow of darkness in its upper quadrant.

Anyway, Happy Birthday, Celeste.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

A Froggy visitor to my window

I love enthusiasts - genuine enthusiasts. There are people who one is lucky enough to meet, from time to time, who are genuine enthusiasts about their hobbies, or more probably, their overwhelming obsessions. I have found them in the world of Native Orchids. I grew up amongst such people in the world of bird watching. I have met them from around the world, as Peony growers. Of course, they exist as Butterfly and Moth experts.

I am stating the obvious, I guess, for in every one of life's endeavours, there are people who become totally immersed in their subject. Good for them.

The really good ones that I have met are always generous with their time and knowledge; they share information with others; and specially they encourage the young.

There are other people who regard their knowledge as a "possession", to be jealously guarded.
Once you find such a person - move on. They are a waste of space, and even if you learn something, you will not learn very much. Worse, you might even pick up some of their bad habits.
***** ***** *****

Here is a good story, of people being generous with their time and their knowledge.

My Blogging friend, Gaye from the Hunter, has written a frog story recently (after the Hunter Floods, of course, you can imaging her world filled with frogs). Anyway, Gaye put up a story about frogs, and a link to a comprehensive frog website. ("FrogsAustralia Network")

Here is a link to another Frog site "Frogs of Australia". This has loads of amazing stuff. All regions of Australia are broken down with frog lists, and then there are pages for each species, with descriptions and call descriptions, and in most cases, joy, oh joy, recorded frog calls you can easily play just by clicking on the "Hear it now" icon. Unlike some sites, the call plays immediately, not via a separate download.

The "frog freaks" have done a terrific job on this website. Congratulations to them.
***** ***** *****

Then, following a comment I made on Gaye's blog, a young frog enthusiast contacted me, and offered to help me identify my one and only frog photo. On 8 March, on a wet and windy night, I was working at the computer when I noticed that a Tree Frog had climbed up onto my window to snaffle some juicy moths which were attracted to the light from the window.

Naturally I grabbed my camera, but I would have to say, photographing a frog through a window is not as easy as it might seem. Anyway, I got one half-way decent photo before the flash scared it away.

My problem was that I had a photo of the underside of a frog. But most frog markings are described from above - that's where most of the colourful bits are.

So, the young Science Student, came into his own, and quickly told me what I had seen - Peron's Tree Frog. Good one. well done that man. Now, using the Frogs of the Southern Highlands and Illawarra web page, I can listen to the sounds, so I can identify this frog by call, when I hear it.

My frog-enthusiast friend has a photo library on the web, under the name of "Liquid_Ghoul". He has great photos of frogs, and lizards on his "Flickr" site.

This is the underneath view of a Peron's Tree Frog, on my study window, as identified by "Liquid_Ghoul". Thanks to him and to Gaye for sharing their knowledge. 'Tis a wonderful thing they do.

And thanks also to all those other "enthusiasts" behind these two different Frog websites.

By the way, is it just me, or do frogs look particularly "naked" when seen through a window, like this? I guess it is just that we seldom see them this close, and from this "intimate" angle. With fingers like this, these guys would make great "Basketball" players

Friday, July 27, 2007

A brief moment of joyous colour.

Between 5:19 and 5;24 pm this afternoon, the sky turned on a wonderful display of light, colour, and texture. (No Eagles - they had gone home.)

I noticed the pink light coming through the computer-room window, and rushed out to behold this view from my back deck. This is looking south-east, with the sun setting to my right. It is "washing" the clouds with afternoon light. This is a wide shot to capture the scene fully.

Here is a zoomed in shot, using my "standard lens" (28-80mm).

One minute later, looking north-west, the main feature of the sky was these delightful clouds, just being coloured, against a blue sky background.

And then two minutes later, the setting sun lit up the edge of a dominant dark cloud.

That was an ominous moment, for shortly afterwards, the colour disappeared, and darkness fell upon the world.

And I look back with thanks for the brief but glorious display.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Eagles in flight - wing and tail control perfect.

My friend Jim (a licensed small plane pilot) will be envious of the flight control demonstrated by these Eagles, which as I mentioned yesterday, were flying around my home , yesterday.
Before I forget, it is of course the Wedge-tailed Eagle (Aquila audax).

In this photo, the bird is flying past, in a wide arc, as it circles anti-clockwise past me. Right wing higher than the left. but all controls more-or-less in "neutral".

Here, the other bird in the pair, is circling (further away), but with the left wing tip swept back, and the right wing tips raised, and slightly flared ("feathered") showing that that wing tip is under greater atmospheric pressure, as it is doing more "work". This is keeping the bird on a steady circling pattern.
The same bird has now abandoned its circling pattern, and is heading away - travelling in a straight line. The two wings are more-or-less equally set, but the central panels of the right wing are being lifted a little by wind pressure. Such subtle controls - much more adjustability than Jim has on his plane.

With fully outstretched wings, this bird is not "flapping" just using the maximum surface area of its wings, by spreading its "fingertips" to open the wings fully, to gain maximum "lift". Also, note that the tail is a deep "V", not just in "shape" (see yesterday's photo - taken from underneath the bird), but also, in sideways profile. In other words the edges of the "V" are higher than the long feathers in the centre of the tail. So, it is using the tail as a rudder, to gain maximum control and "lift".

For the several minutes that these birds were circling around my home, they never actually flapped - they just adjusted their wings and tails, ever so subtly. They adjust them according to the wind conditions, to achieve the desired changes in direction.

Then, they just drifted away, to the east, out over the Escarpment - and away!

Eagle Moon - taken at 4:02 pm, against the wonderful clear sky. It was the perfect complement to these Eagles circling under the brilliant blue sky.

A truly stunning afternoon, on which to watch these wonderful creatures flying around - so free.

Why did they not provide the perfect shot, and fly across the face of the moon? Now, that would have been a Art Photograph! Alas, I shall settle for the experience they did provide me.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Eagles chased the Whale away.

Forgive the oblique title, but it will become clear, very soon.

I have been writing for days and days, drafting submissions to the Inquiry into the NSW Southern Coalfield - to express concern about the possibility that coal mining will be allowed to expand directly under the Kangaloon Aquifer. Of course, it worries me that coal mining might wreck the Aquifer, which we have been fighting to protect from the ravages of the SCA's Engineers.

Furthermore, as I mentioned yesterday, it also weighs heavily on my mind that it is such a nonsense for the SCA to invest upwards of $100 million in capital in a borefield, only to have the Dept. of Planning allow coal miners to crack the Aquifer, from below, and watch the precious water drain away, into the mines below.

Regular readers will know I am a bit of a "big picture" guy, and so I am subject to feeling the futility of all of this. Especially when the local Robertson and Mt Murray population appears to not show any interest in what I am going on about.

Anyway, my good Pal, Bernie knows me well enough to ask about my welfare today, and I nearly wept with frustration. Bernie refers to this mood of mine, as the "Whales of Doom" consuming me. Don't quite know what it means, but it feels right. Churchill's "Black Dog" is not as evocative, even if it is more easily imagined. But "Whales of Doom" - the image is so big, they can easily swallow one up. And they do - sometimes.

We had a cup of tea, here, with the sun poring into my lounge-room, and I was starting to feel better. Then Kim rang up, and that cheered us all up, and then Mim, and that was great too. Suddenly, while Kim was on the phone, I saw a Wedge-tailed Eagle fly past outside. I grabbed the camera (hooray, it was in reach). I stepped out onto the back deck and there were two eagles flying together above my house. They were "making lazy circles in the sky" (for Oklahoma fans). Oh joy.

I love Eagles, and my good friend Miss Eagle, in Melbourne is nearly obsessed with them. She will tell you all about their almost totemic significance for her - personally (I think it comes from living in the Outback for so long). Also they are very significant for many Aboriginal people - it is known by the name of "Bunjil". It is the symbol for Knox City, in eastern Melbourne, near where M.E. lives. It also features in a huge statue in the Docklands Precinct, near the Spencer Street Station, in Melbourne. I always look out for it when on a train, arriving in Melbourne.

The circle in this photo is my photoshop adjustment -
to show the head a little more clearly.

Look at the white beak (reflected light) but check out
the huge staring eye looking straight down my lens.
(Click on photo to enlarge it.)

Presumably, checking out whether I had a camera, or a gun.
Relax, majestic bird. I love you.

Anyway, to wind up this rambling story, I will simple conclude by saying the "Eagles chased the Whale of Doom away" today.

Tomorrow I shall post some more photos of the Eagles in flight, changing their wing positions, by minute adjustments etc. They understand flying in a way we can barely imagine. It is a glory to watch them.

I shall mark this experience for my "Sense of Wonder" label. I find them truly "awesome" - in a spiritual way.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Subsidence Issues in the Aquifer?

Is the Sydney Catchment Authority (SCA) in a time warp?
Word has it that the SCA referred to one of the local Community Reference Group members, (a geologist), something which Patrice Newell issued as a Press Statement on - wait for it - 25 January 2007. Patrice posted this statement on her "Climate Change Coalition" website that day - some eight months ago.

What is going on here?
Why would the SCA now "discover" Patrice's Press release, which got State wide coverage at the time, prior to the last election. I should mention that Patrice stood as a candidate in the Upper House election in March 2007. She set up a website, but she never registered the CCC as a political party.

Secondly, what is the ethics involved in the SCA getting a tame, private Geologist to do its dirty political jobs for them?

If there is a political point to be made, then surely the SCA ought push the issue up the line of its Political masters, and let them answer, within the political fray - that would have been the appropriate way to handle this issue. Bob Debus was Minister at the time the Press Release was issued, and Bob Debus was never shy of a bit of a scrap.

So why is this person being used to attack a politician, who, at this stage is not a politician at all - but a private citizen?

The Climate Change Coalition is not registered as a Political Party. It exists as a website only, and an idea. But our friendly geologist cannot be expected to understand the subtleties of that situation. He is, after all, a geologist, not a political scientist.

There is an issue about likely subsidence under the Kangaloon Aquifer - from coal mining by Gujarat NRE which has bought up the old Huntley and Avondale Coal mining leases. That allows them to mine directly under significant parts of the Kangaloon Aquifer - including Stockyard Swamp and North Pole Swamp.

Why does the geologist on the CRG not talk about that issue? Is he, in fact being used by the SCA to create a smokescreen? That might be to avoid scrutiny of the SCA's failure to defend the Kangaloon Aquifer from the inundations by coal mining.

After all, they will not wish to have to admit that they are about to invest more than $100 million worth of taxpayers money, when in two years time, the resource which they intend to harvest might be cracked, from below, by coal mining. If that were to occur, it would prove to be a total waste of their time and our money.
Graeme Head
CEO of the
Sydney Catchment Authority
It is not good public policy to allow two conflicting activities to run in parallel. Frankly, I would have expected better than this from Graeme Head, the Chief Executive of the SCA.

It smacks of something cooked up by the Project Manger for the Upper Nepean Borefield, John Ross - trying to be clever. Politics is not your forte, John.

You should have let Graeme Head know what you were cooking up with your little mate on the CRG. He might have been able to prevent this pathetic, demeaning debacle.

Engineers playing politics? Now I've seen everything.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Peter's "clean-up" - of broken trees

Kim and Peter came over to Robertson today, and we had "breakfast" at the "Three Creeks Cafe" (see their spot on the Robbo Village Website) with Bernie and Olivia, which was very pleasant.

The real purpose of their visit was for Peter to wield his chainsaws. After the wind damage earlier in the month, there were many trees, mostly the fast-growing "ferny-leaved Wattles" - Acacia mearnsii and Acacia decurrens - which had suffered extreme wind damage.
The thin tree above is merely half a tree, you can just see the raw wood, about 1.5 metres from the ground, where an entire trunk split away - tearing the tree in half.

The tree below was snapped in half - a trunk about 6 inches (12 cm in diameter), at above head height. It takes immense power in the wind to snap a tree like this. That requires much greater force than splitting or tearing branches away from a weak joint, as in the other photos.

See the photo below, the day these trees were planted - 17 May 2004.

Peter firstly cut one tree - probably the largest of them - which had been badly split at the base, and half of the tree was lying flat on the ground. (Click on those "hot links" to see the images of this tree, as described.)
Below is the clean cut base where the tree was removed entirely.

Then, with me steadying the ladder, Peter "carefully" trimmed a number of sapling wattles, some of which were nearly touching the overhead powerlines. It is worth noting that the tallest
trees had already been "pruned by the winds", but some of the stems were still too tall for safety, being under the powerlines.

These wattle trees, in the foreground (above - already cut in half by Peter, today) were planted by Zoe and me, on 17 May 2004 - a mere 3 years, two months and 5 days ago. Incredible growth, which is directly attributable to the rich red basalt soil, and of course, Robertson's rain.

See the matching photo below, taken from the back of the house - the same place as the photo above.

Below is all that remains of the tall thin wattle tree near the front gate, which was split earlier in the month. This is the same tree as in the top photograph, taken on 4 July 2007.

Below is a ready-made bonfire pile, of the trees cut today, and also some prunings done two weeks ago. It needs to dry out for a while, but a fine late afternoon bonfire beckons. I have a hose line adjacent - having learnt something from previous mistakes of burn-offs which got a little bit out of hand. This fire will be well within reach of a hose.

It is remiss of me to not mention Kim, who jumped in and weeded several rows of my Peonies growing in the long weeds, below the house. Then, not content with that, helped Peter and me drag the cut trees down the hill to the bonfire pile.
She also fed Melba (the Welsh Mountain Pony) with a carrot and some slices of bread - for which Melba is deeply appreciative.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Reverse Sunsets - Blue evening skies.

On Wednesday evening, as I drove back into Robertson, the sun was dropping in the sky behind me. Our location high on the escarpment produces some lovely evening skies. The aspect I am talking about is what I refer to as the "reverse sunset". Looking out over the coast (east) with the sun setting behind me (west). The pink sky is caused by the last rays of the Sun's light. The blue line just above the horizon is caused by the Earth's own shadow. As the Sun sets lower behind us, the blue band rises, until it becomes the night sky.

One can see Port Kembla in this picture, (click on the photo below to enlarge it - you can just make out the Chimney Stack of the main blast furnace) to the left of the sand dunes which enclose Lake Illawarra. The hill on the left is Mt Macquarie.

For those not familiar with this spot, we are looking out over the Macquarie Pass, approximately 5 Kms east of the village of Robertson. The coastline is a mere 20 Km away. Wollongong is out of view, just around the corner to the left. Port Kembla, is the harbour for Wollongong and the industrial heart of the Illawarra, and is part of the Wollongong urban complex. It is of course, the main steel manufacturing centre in Australia - the home of the former "Big Australian" company BHP (now BHP-Billiton and "Bluescope Steel").

This viewing point is named after one of the early pioneer properties in the district, settled by the Gay family, and known as "Ocean View". No quibble there.

Here is a photo taken from a similar position, in August 2006. Obviously an early morning shot, with the sun rising behind the early morning clouds.

The Lake in the foreground is Lake Illawarra. The strip of land runs to the left, to the mouth of the lake, at Windang. Shell Harbour is to the right.

These photos are taken from a key point on the Illawarra Escarpment. From down on the coast the escarpment looks like a jagged line of cliffs, which dominates the entire skyline.

Readers of Greg Chapman's blog will know that he lives just out of Robertson. Greg's family's property is close to where these photos were taken, and so they pretty much share this view. Good for them, I say. It is a magic view, and a great place to live, I'm sure.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Kangaloon Aquifer - A Round One victory

We have had a Round One victory on the Kangaloon Aquifer issue. Thanks are due to the Mr Malcolm Turnbull MP for having the courage and determination to make this decision. The issue has been carried mostly by the combined efforts of the Save Water Alliance, the Robertson Environment Protection Society and the NSW Farmers Association - who have all contributed to joint presentations to the Department of Environment and Water Resources. Also many local individuals have made personal representations to Mr Turnbull, for which we are deeply appreciative.
This afternoon, Federal Minister for the Environment, Mr Malcolm Turnbull, announced that he has decided that the issues raised with his Departmental Officers, to do with Kangaloon Aquifer, were indeed "Matters of National Environmental Significance" - as defined under the Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC ) Act. Furthermore, this amounts to a "prima facie" decision that the Sydney Catchment Authority's borefield proposal posed a significant threat to endangered ecological communities and other "listed" species.

Photo of the leaves and flower of the Mittagong Geebung (Persoonia glaucescens) - one of the EPBC Act listed species found in the Kangaloon Aquifer area.

As Mr Turnbull's statements says:
“The Kangaloon area supports the listed "Temperate Highland Peat Swamps on Sandstone" ecological community. Following the results of trial pumping earlier this year, and review by a number of respected hydrologists, I have deemed that significant impacts on this listed ecological community could not be ruled out at this stage.”

Butler's Swamp - one of the "listed" Endangered Ecological Communities mentioned by Mr Turnbull.

This is a wonderful decision for the environment, and thanks are due to all of our loyal, local supporters. The members of the Save Water Alliance have done a terrific amount of work on this issue, and I wish to particularly thank Bernard Eddy for all his work, enthusiasm and encouragement (and for the funny moments too).

I wish to make special mention of the local potato farmers and dairy farmers and the "Friends of the NSW Farmers Association", without whose support we would not have been able to commission the respected consultant hydrologist, Mr Ray Evans, of Salient Solutions. His contribution was extremely significant.

Leon Hall, Bernard Eddy, Prof. Gavan McDonell, & Ray Evans
outside the Environment Department last month.
Jonathan Bell had been with us,
but had left before I grabbed my camera.

Thanks to the NSW Farmers Association, especially Mr Jonathan Bell. I also wish to mention Mr Phil Herd, the founding Chairman of the Save Water Alliance, without whose determination and drive, especially in those early days, we would not be in this position today.

The President of the Robertson Environment Protection Society, Leon Hall has done a huge amount of work in opposing this proposal, and congratulations are due to him for his efforts, and also his personal encouragement of my efforts in identifying local rare and endangered plants.

Professor Gavan McDonell gave us sound advice on the specific issues to address in our approach to the key decision-makers in Canberra.

The list of other supporters is nearly endless, but financial supporters, people from the local Southern Highlands community, well-wishers, and our group of trusty volunteers, have all been a terrific support. Olivia Isherwood, Mim Merrick and Kim Martin warrant special mention, as does David Thompson, in particular for his vision for our Website.

Thanks to all the people who turned up to our Public Meetings in Robertson and Bowral, for their moral support too.

Thanks also to the local political candidates in the recent State Election who also offered their support against the pumping of the Kangaloon Aquifer - Pru Goward, Paul Stephenson, Anne Sudmalis, Ben van der Wijngaart and Sonya Mackay.

This is a Round One victory only, in that the matter will now go back to the NSW Government for a genuine Environmental Assessment. Hopefully that will be more scientific and more rigorous than the superficial statements which the Sydney Catchment Authority presented to the Federal Government in the initial submission, accompanying "Referral No 2006/3209".

That document from the SCA was a disgrace, and its deceptive and misleading statements are largely responsible for the failure of their original proposal. It is no surprise that their facile assertions that damage to the environment would be "minimal" failed to convince the Federal decision-makers.

Proper environmental assessments (conducted across a full year, and including accurate study of the status of all known threatened species in the area) will be the minimum requirement, if the required Environmental Assessment (EA) is to have any credibility.

The professionalism of the Sydney Catchment Authority is now under public scrutiny. We know they take great pride in their work - largely with good reason. However, when it comes to the preparation of the Environment Assessment, as now required under the EPBC Act, it is time for them to match their rhetoric. They need to undertake a genuine scientific analysis of the Kangaloon Aquifer, and the environment which it supports. They ought also establish a genuine, inclusive process of community consultation, in preparation of their Environment Assessment for the Upper Nepean Borefield proposal.

Furthermore, a thorough assessment of the impacts of the proposed borefield on matters of Aboriginal heritage (in the full borefield - not just along roadsides) ought be presented to the Minister for Planning, Mr Frank Sartor, as an integral part of the Environmental Assessment.

If the EA does not meet these basic requirements, then we will be pressing the Federal Minister for Environment to reject the NSW Government's Environmental Assessment, when that document is submitted back to the Federal Authorities.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Douglas Park Bridges - possible problems ahead.

Is the Douglas Park Bridge in trouble?
If so, then the likely cause is longwall mining in the nearby coal mines.

Douglas Park Bridge - northbound

Douglas Park Bridge - southbound

Drilling Rig - in situ,
under the Twin Bridges

Official Job Number and description

Core Sample - trays - various marked depths

As you can see, the RTA has hired a drilling company to test the rock base under these Twin Bridges, at Douglas Park. Why?

Well, there has already been longwall mining conducted in the area. There is further longwall mining likely to commence in several months time. So, it would appear that they are checking to see if fracturing of the bedrock foundations of the Bridge has already occurred. Has it? I understand that it is very likely that it has occurred - but I am not an engineer.

Alternatively, they are assessing the risk of future fracturing of the bedrock foundations, once the new longwall mining commences.

Meanwhile, from what you can see, in today's traffic flow restrictions, it is reasonable to assume that the RTA is sufficiently worried about its Douglas Park Bridges to limit the traffic loading on the Twin Bridges.

Let us hope that they can exert enough influence on the mining companies to prevent longwall mining in the area. For subsidence, should it occur, could render this bridge unsafe. The social, physical and economic costs of these Bridges, should they need to be to be closed for repairs could be extraordinary. These bridges are an enormously critical part of the Australian road infrastructure.

Do you think I am kidding? You do the sums on how much freight goes over these Twin Bridges, each day, going to and from Sydney from Melbourne and Canberra, and other parts of the country.

Further damage to the Twin Bridges is surely preventable. It just requires the NSW Minister for Transport to step in to prevent further mining in the area. He just needs the balls to stand up to Frank Sartor, Minister for Planning, who is the guy who authorises these longwall mining activities. No worries.

These Twin Bridges span the Nepean River, at Douglas Park. The Nepean River rises at Kangaloon, just south of Robertson

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Is a new day dawning?

After sunset, on Sunday evening, I sit here hoping that a New Day will dawn tomorrow. Will there be, perhaps, a rainbow to follow a storm, over the lush green hills of Kangaloon, as with this photo which I took some months before I ever moved to Robertson.

Oblique? Yes! But I have heard strange reports of birds singing in the middle of the night, in Kangaloon. Perhaps a Nightingale? From Kangaloon? Could it be so?

Or was it a lost Stone-Curlew, whose mournful cries echo through the lonely night?

Time alone shall unravel this little mystery.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Twin Falls at Fitzroy Falls

I have been to "Twin Falls" several times before, and never knew why it was called Twin Falls. Today I found out. You can see the second, small waterfall to the left.

The streams of the district are still running heavily, (after recent rain) and lo and behold, there is indeed a second creek which plunges into the valley, just about 200 metres south of the main waterfall at Twin Falls. Of course, there is a much larger waterfall - the main waterfall at Fitzroy Falls, about 500 metres east from here. But I like these little waterfalls. Somehow their scale is more approachable, and not too daunting.

A few weeks ago I was here and took another photo from the far side of this waterfall, looking down into the rocky face, on which this water pours. Today, this was the best view of this pretty waterfall. I went there, to show Zoe and Tim around some of my favourite haunts, including Mannings Lookout and these falls.

Fitzroy Falls is the best known waterfall in our district - the Southern Highlands. It might not be the biggest waterfall, in terms of flow (maybe it is, I am not sure). Certainly the valley into which it plunges is the largest, widest valley. Carrington Falls and Belmore Falls both plunge into relatively narrow valleys. Of course, this valley opens out into the extremely large valley of the Shoalhaven River. The water which falls here, flows to the Tallowa Dam, which is below Kangaroo Valley (but in the same district as that well known area).

In fact, you pass Fitzroy Falls as you drive from Moss Vale to Kangaroo Valley. Unfortunately, many people drive straight past this interesting area, (crossing the stream, just 100 metres from the Fitzroy Falls), without seeing the Falls. That is a shame. It is well worth a visit.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service insists on charging for parking and "park access" - it is responsible for discouraging so many people who would otherwise appreciate this beautiful spot.
Revenue takes precedence over education and appreciation of the beauty of nature, apparently. What a shame.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Kangaloon Aquifer update - surveyors in the forests

Recently we have been observing the Surveyors working for the SCA along Tourist Road. That was not entirely unexpected. Recently, however, they have been working along Kirkland Road and Moresby Hill Road, in East Kangaloon.

They are marking out pipelines from bores which were installed as "monitoring bores", which means that they have secretly been converted into planned "Production Bores".
(Adapted from photo by David Thompson)

The planned borefield apparently requires a pipeline to be buried underground, and that will require a bulldozer to fell thousands of trees from here (Moresby Hill Road) to Tourist Road.

As you can see from this photo of a marker stake, and the blue flag tapes, they apparently intend to push through the tall forest here.
(Adapted from photo by David Thompson)

The frustrating thing is that the SCA is required, under its own guidelines to consult with the community. They have not done that since January this year. Despite that failure of Policy and of the SCA's management, the operational side of their activities is pressing ahead full steam.

Well, it is time this nonsense stopped.

For one thing, this area is outside the area which was surveyed by SMEC, the environmental Consultants for the SCA. So, the "E.I.S." prepared by the SCA, on the basis of the SMEC report is totally inadequate - for they have strayed into different ecological systems from the original Borefield assessment. They have no right to do that. There ought be an entirely new EIS requirted to be prepared, on this basis alone.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Sunset glows

A few evenings ago, the wind dropped, just around Sunset, leaving a perfectly clear sky.

There is nothing like the clarity of vision one gets after rain. Dust particles, and gases emitted by the Eucalypt forest, have all been washed out of the air - leaving it prism-clear.

Even at Sunset, the far distant ranges, south of the Shoalhaven Valley, form the far-distant southern horizon. This is the view from my back deck - a clear view of some 60 Kms distance. (On other days, the same view is reduced to 60 metres - on other days it looks like this)

Forgive the Power Pole. I have planted a young Hoop Pine directly in line with the stanchion, but it might take 30 years till it blocks that part of the view. I live here, and I totally ignore the electrical services, but whenever I publish a photo, I realise quite how visible it is. I could "Photoshop" it out, but that would be creating a false impression.

I love my view, no matter what.

Here is another clear, bright vision. One of my neighbours has this small Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum) which gives such a lovely autumn colour. This photo was taken on 10 June - just about a month ago.

Just part of the Nature of Robertson - occasional clear skies, and bright colours. Makes a change from grey skies, rain and wind. We do have bright moments too.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Rainbow over Mittagong.

Rainbow over Mittagong
This afternoon, I had to go to Welby, to renew my car registration. Not wanting to waste all the expensive, fossilised Dinosaur blood (petrol) which I use to power my little vehicle, I decided to drive up to Mt Alexandra, overlooking Mittagong (it is not far from Welby).

In truth I thought it a good opportunity to check out the rocky hillside there, for any likely Greenhood Orchids. I did not find any of those, in flower. I did see some "Wasp Orchid" (Chiloglottis) leaves, but no flowers.

looking north-east
from Mt Alexandra
Lena and I love clambering over the rocky outcrops near the car park, at the end of the official road up Mt Alexandra. I think this place is known as "Katoomba Lookout", but I have never been able to see as far as that. Obviously I have not ever chosen the appropriate weather conditions. I can say, however, that I know that one can see Mt Gibraltar (the next hill to the east) from Echo Point, at Leura, in the Blue Mountains. That is probably 80 Km away. So, I do know it is possible to see that far, across the Lower Blue Mountains, over the Cox's River valley - but only on a clear day (or night).

Today, instead of a distant view, I was rewarded with a wonderful rainbow. It was late afternoon, and a brief shower of rain passed over Mittagong, while the sun was shining strongly behind me. Perfect conditions for rainbows.

This rainbow is seen looking out over Mittagong, towards Mt Gibraltar and the ridge east of that town, where the Old South Road passes along.
reflected rainbow
(top left, to lower right)

Lena was taken with the little rock pools which she thinks were there for her benefit (for "drinkies"). Remember, we have had heavy rain recently, and these natural rock pools hold water very well.
These are reflections on pure, natural water, not oil slicks on contaminated water, as one might see in water near a Mechanic's Garage.

Reflected rainbow
(lower left to mid right)
To me, instead of offering "drinkies", these pools provided wonderful reflections, and I was able to find the right angles to capture the faintest of rainbow reflections in this pool. The different angles show the left and right hand ends of the rainbow - as its arc passed low in the sky, to the left and to the right - on the opposite ends of the rainbow.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Aboriginal Flag raised with the National Flag

WSC Council Chambers today
Today the Aboriginal Flag and the Australian "Blue Ensign" flew side by side over the Wingecarribee Shire Council Chambers, to mark NAIDOC Day.

This follows the Council resolution of 27 June, that the Aboriginal Flag should fly on a permanent basis side by side with the national flag.
Mayor Lewis
There was a ceremony to mark this flag raising and then several speeches were made by Councillor Larry Whipper (who was MC for the function), Val Mulcahy, who gave the "Welcome to Country" and also spoke well about the plight of the Aboriginal women in the local Berrima gaol, Mayor Gordon Lewis who spoke about the recognition of Aboriginal people and the 40 year anniversary of the Constitutional referendum of 1967. Peter Falk gave a keynote speech.

Val Mulcahy
In the morning, Val Mulcahy had visited the Aboriginal women at the local gaol, in Berrima. She was angry at the treatment of these people, and commented that she knows they had done wrong things, but why were they treated so badly in there? No Aboriginal education resources. Many of these women come from distant areas, and are not used to the cold. Val collected a bunch of jumpers to give the women, but the authorities would not allow her to give them to the women, because they were not green. It seems there is a dress code for inmates at the gaol. The fact that these women were feeling the cold badly gets overlooked.
Val stunned us by reporting that today the inmates had sausages to eat today - the first meat they had been given to eat in seven months, apparently. What? What does the Department of Corrective Services use to justify that particular dietary regime?
Peter Falk
Peter Falk relaxed into his speech, after a few minutes. Mind you, his re-telling of some of the local history of the European settlement of the district covered some serious issues, of a war between the Gundungarra people and Governor Macquarie's troopers, which occurred west of the Wollondilly River, in 1816.
Peter also spoke about the Aboriginal story of how the Waratah turned red.
Peter has spent a lot of time and energy getting the Council to come to the point where they have recognised the Aboriginal people, by deciding to fly their flag.

Councillor Nick Campbell-Jones, the Deputy Mayor, was conspicuous in his absence on this significant day.
Young dancers
Young kids from the local Aboriginal community gave a display of their dances, some seemingly based on traditional dance themes, and some obviously modern.
It was good to see the kids enjoying giving their performance, as much as we enjoyed watching them.