Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Friday, November 30, 2007

Snake, Dog Haircuts, and a big, big Fly

Thursday 29 November was a day of varied interests and activities. There was a male Satin Bowerbird calling actively, near its display "bower" in George's yard. It was carrying something in its beak, which I cannot identify. Presumably it is part of its "display" routine. Pardon the poor quality image, but it was photographed at long range, through a pane of glass. It is rare to get a chance to photograph a "blue bird" as they are pretty secretive. So this one, with some display material in its beak was definitely worth trying to record.
As you will know, I seldom publish photographs of "road kills". The following snake images are published not for "ghoulish" interest, but for educational purposes. It is to show that local Copperheads (a terrible misnomer, by the way) are distinguished by their small heads (relative to body size); the yellowish scales underneath, which can usually be glimpsed along the side of the snake, (i.e., when the snake is live, and normally lying flat on the ground). In the first image you can see the edges of the belly scales visible on the side, along the first one third of the body length. In the local Robertson Copperheads, the back (upper side of the snake) is usually a dark slatey grey, which is NOT SHINY. In the Southern Highlands, if you have a shiny "black" snake, it is likely to be a Red-bellied Black Snake.

Firstly, I discovered that a Copperhead Snake had managed to get itself run over in George's driveway. Seeing as the driveway is very short, and steep, (therefore it is a slow speed driveway) the Snake frankly must have been pretty careless in getting itself run over. I am sure my friend George is a careful driver (and unlike many locals, he respects Snakes), so the snake was probably killed by being backed over, at about 5kph, as George reversed out of his garage, and up the steep drive. As I said, probably a careless snake.

Then I went over to Steve and Celeste's place, to try and clip Lena, the Mini Schnauzer, and Edith, the Poodle Dog. We had some problems, as the clippers were not very sharp, and when we tried to change the blades, we could not get the new ones to "click into place" (as they are supposed to do). And the blades on my clippers are in need of sharpening, or replacing.
Anyway, Lena eventually got more or less "pruned". Edith got "Poodle Toes" (clipping around the feet, up to the ankles), and had her muzzle shaved. Suddenly she looked more like a"proper poodle". There had been some debate as to what her real breeding was, as she looks quite like a Bedlington Terrier, we think.
After the grooming session, both dogs went a bit crazy, dancing around, with Edie nipping at Lena's feet, or her bottom. Lena would then retaliate, and chase Edie, and so it would go on, round and round. Their "play" was quite good natured, despite appearances. Eventually we separated the dogs, just so Lena could rest in the car, free from hassles.Their chosen "playground" was an area of excavated Robertson red basalt soil, where Celeste and Steve are building a new studio. You can see why both dogs need the have their hairy feet trimmed, to minimise the amount of red dirt which they collect on their feet.

Earlier in the afternoon I took the opportunity to photograph a very large March Fly which was inside a window. From the look of this fly, it is what I would have called a March Fly. But the Museum Australia website indicates that this might be an Eastern Golden Haired Blowfly, Calliphora stygia (Family Calliphoridae).
From the underside you can see the huge mouth piece. True March Flies, (or Horse Flies) can inflict a painful bite with their mouths.
The Chew Family's website (from Brisbane) indicates it might in fact be a "Flower-feeding March Fly", not the blood sucker I had assumed. Either way, with the large mouthpiece, I would not trust this fly not to be a stinger. But, I am not an entomologist.

Incidentally, the silhouette photo shows remarkable detail of the legs and feet, the two antennae on the front of the head, and the wing pattern. (Click to enlarge).

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Robertson Village Music Society

Today I attended a very pleasant Chamber Music concert, put on by the Robertson Village Music Society.
The concert started with performances by Bellatrix (a recorder quartet) The members of the group are Alana Blackburn, Laura Bell, Alicia Crossley, and Felicity Clark. They performed a range of pieces from the baroque to modern.
Here is an image of Laura, playing a Bass Recorder.
They were followed by a violin duo - April Kelson and Jamie Pollock.
After an interval we heard Gabriella Pusner who performed Beethoven's Sonata in A Major for violin and piano (Op. 23), in conjunction with Jamie Pollock (on Violin).
Then Gabriella combined with April Kelson to perform Brahms' Sonata in D Minor for Violin and Piano (Op. 108).I found the Beethoven familiar (at least in style), but I was quite taken by the Brahms piece with which I was not familiar.

Robert Goldsack is very pleased with the sound of the Kawai Grand Piano, which the Society has acquired.
The Robertson Village Music Society will host visiting concert performers four times a year, on the last Wednesday of February, May, August and November. Inquiries may be made to Robert Goldsack, of Meryla St.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Still, foggy days again, or still "still, foggy days".

Well, how should one describe this weather? It is still and foggy outside. It was yesterday, and on Sunday, and on Saturday (election day), and probably was before that too. So I think I am entitled to declare that it is still "still and foggy". Apparently Melbourne has had some bright sunny weather, and even a bit of hot weather last week. Not here.
Melba the mobile grass-cutter, who lives in my bottom paddock does not seem to mind the weather. Fair enough, it makes the grass grow for her. She is a white Welsh Mountain Pony, stained to a very fetching "Champagne" colour, by the red soil of Robertson.
The birds are perfectly happy in this level of wetness. They seem quite able to keep up their feeding, and the Blackbirds (Turdus merula) and the Grey Shrike-thrush (Colluricincla harmonica) absolutely love it, judging by their loud and seemingly cheerful calling.

The Crimson Rosellas (Platycercus elegans) get a bit bedraggled, in the wet, as they are seed eaters, and spend a fair part of their day on the ground, or close to it. And they have silly short legs, and a long tail, which means their tail-feathers drag on the wet grass and get damp. Here are 2 Crimson Rosellas sheltering from the rain. The photo was taken last January, but the reality is the same.Yesterday a male Superb Fairy-wren ("Blue Wren") (Malurus cyaneus) was out and about, flitting through the shrubs, looking for food. I think there is very likely to be a nest down in the long weeds below the house.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Glenquarry Hall benefit concert

Yesterday, Sunday 25 November, the locals of Glenquarry put on their annual fund-raising concert at the Glenquarry Peace Memorial Hall (established 1919). It is a lovely hall, in bucolic surroundings, on the rolling hills of the basalt ridge which runs from Robertson to Mittagong. This spot is on the western end of Tourist Road. It is about 5Km from my regular stamping grounds along Tourist Road, Kangaloon.
There were dedicated local musicians, such as Bob McInnes present. Others came in from Wollongong (such as the group called "Crazy Creek"). Members of the audience came from Kangaroo Valley, as well as locals, and people from other areas of the Southern Highlands, and down towards Bargo.The a hall is a lovely country hall which dates from 1919, and is in good condition. The Musos love performing in this hall, because it has wooden floors, wooden walls and a lined ceiling. So its acoustics are terrific.
Some members of the crowd were inspired to do a bit of impromptu dancing, with the great music.

It was great to meet up again with some of the local people who had supported the work of the Save Water Alliance, in our campaign to protect the Kangaloon Aquifer. One of these people was the lady who drew the sign which became the Save Water Alliance T-Shirt design.
For it is in these very hills that the spring fed creeks begin, which flow down Menzies Creek, Doudle's Folly Creek and the Nepean River. It is also through this same area that the SCA transfers vast amounts of water from the Shoalhaven River, via the "Shoalhaven Transfers" scheme.
Shoalhaven Transfer water pouring into Menzies Creek, Glenquarry.
So, this peaceful area is right at the focal point of two different water schemes, both with significant environmental impacts. And why? To try to support the unsustainable use of water in Sydney. Its enough to make one angry!

But enough of that - the concert was a great success, on a lovely late-spring Sunday afternoon.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

First Communion for Lucy's kids.

On the Liturgical Calendar, today was the Feast of Christ the King. I happened to call in and visit Lucy, just in time to meet her taking the kids off to St Peter's Church, in Burrawang where the children were about to make their First Communion. That is an auspicious occasion, so I decided to tag along.

The kids were all dressed up (somehow it is more apparent with the girls).
Here is Meg, with her certificate, as presented by the priest.And Charlotte
And George.
After the mass was over, I took photos of each of the kids, before they ran off to eat the lollies and chocolates which kind members of the parish had given them. It was very interesting to note how supportive and encouraging the members of the Burrawang community were towards Lucy and the kids. I am not very familiar with this parish community, although I knew some of these people, from other community groups of which I am a member.

Here is Meg in all her finery. And Charlotte, looking sparkling, as usual.
And George.
Actually I think George had started on the chocolate already
and was trying not to choke, laughing, while I tried to take this photo.
Lucy rounded the kids up for a quiet moment,
when they laid some flowers on the grave of their father, Julian.Here is Julian's gravestone. He died in September 2001.
After the Mass, Lucy invited Mary and Trevor, and four of their kids, and me, back to her house, for a celebratory dinner, which was very pleasant.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Decision Day today

Good Morning, folks.
Today is the first day of the rest of your lives.

May I politely suggest that you do not waste the opportunity to make a difference - for justice, for decency and fairness.

Check out Tracee Hutchinson's article in "The Age" this morning: "Let this be an Epitaph for a Man of Shame".

And Miss Eagle's blog has the theme, John Howard's "Chooks are coming home to roost" (Miss Eagle is a country girl at heart).

Let this be the sunset of John Howard's career.
I am off to hand out "How to Vote" fliers for the Climate Change Coalition - suggesting that people support Patrice Newell and Dr Karl, in the Senate (in NSW). Most of my friends are voting Greens. Fair enough too. Control of the Senate will be terribly important for the future of Australia, and particularly for Environmental Issues.


Zoe reminds me that it is time to "Stand up and be counted".

Friday, November 23, 2007

Birthday celebrations - muted, but pleasant.

Zoe came up from Canberra this evening, to have dinner with me, for my Birthday.
We arranged to meet up at the Robbo Pub for dinner. It was very quiet in the back room there tonight (whereas, by all accounts, last night was a big night in the bar, despite the blackout). Anyway, we had dinner there tonight. We may have been the only people to eat there, tonight (or others must have eaten early on).
Zoe and me, about to have dinner in the Robbo Pub
(Photo: Peter Johnson).
I had their nice, but ridiculously large Roast Rack of Beef. They serve a single cut of what is effectively a huge bone with a sirloin cut attached (if it was Lamb, you would call it "a chop"). The food is good, but far more than I can ever eat, (and I am quite capable of eating a regular steak). But Lena does not mind my indulgence, as she gets the excess steak, and has the bone as souvenir (and then sleeps it off under the computer table, as I write this story).

(Photo by Peter Johnson)

Tonight the entertainment was provided by a clever musician, Joe, from Sydney. By day, he is an aero-space engineer, (would you believe), but by night he assumes the persona of a very accomplished "muso". He has considerable technological assistance, but he knows how to get the best out of his equipment, too. He also is a good judge of his audience, for he played a few numbers which were popular with both Zoe and myself, including "Sultans of Swing" which had Zoe and me reminiscing on having attended a famously wet concert by "Dire Straights" and "Hothouse Flowers", at the Bruce Stadium in Canberra many, many years ago.
Peter joined us for dinner, and a bit of a giggle. He was keen to take a photograph or two, and to re-live his moments as an assistant director on the shooting of Babe, in Robbo (also many years ago). Everyone had a few memories to re-live tonight, it seems.

Here is Peter "framing" a shot with his hands, showing us how it is done "in the movies".
Tomorrow I shall be handing out "How to Vote" slips for the Climate Change Coalition. Patrice Newell and Dr Karl Kruszelnicki are both standing for the Senate in NSW. I have no idea how successful they will be, but I certainly feel determined to help them both in their campaign. And that is not the least because of the support which Patrice has shown the Save Water Alliance in our fight to protect the Kangaloon Aquifer. It turns out that protection of rivers, (and Aquifers) is a State wide battle, in the face of the onslaught of Coal Mining, both Open Cut mining, and the insidious "Longwall Mining", which although conducted very deep underground, can crack rivers, and even risk damaging roads and bridges (such as the Douglas Dark Twin Bridges), as discussed recently.

Anyway, I am hoping for a Birthday Present tomorrow night, in the form of a certain result in tomorrow's election. Time will tell.

What type of Insect is this?

Can anyone help me put a general name on this insect? (See Update below)
Please email me via the address in the "My Profile" facility, or leave a comment.

I have never seen anything like it, before.
It is not a "bug", nor a beetle. Clearly it is not a "fly" of any type. Unfortunately I did not get a photo of the mouth parts, but you can clearly see there is a long nose of some description. But I could not see the mouth parts, unfortunately.

It has antennae like a Longicorn Beetle (which at its larval stage, is a wood borer) but the wings are not right for a "beetle".

Its wings were about 2 inches long. Clearly the body underneath the wings was long. but I could not see it well. I was reluctant to interfere with it too much, so just "shot" it, where it was sitting, on a Leptospermum branch (Tea Tree), in a swampy area.
The wide shot (when expanded to full size) shows the insect at about full size. My fingers are a little closer to the camera than the insect is, so they appear slightly larger than is real, but the insect is about right. You can judge the size best by the Tea Tree flowers.

UPDATE: It appears to be a "Stonefly". I learnt this from a useful line drawing on the Australian Faunal Directory website - "Groups" section. Scroll down to "Insects - Miscellaneous". The line drawing shows the wings and antennae very accurately. Stoneflies are in the Order "Plecoptera".

I did a Google Image Search on "Stonefly", with excellent results.
Check out this image from an American website.
This link will take you to a full page of information about Stoneflies - which is easy to follow.
  • Stonefly, freshwater aquatic insect, the larvae of which occur on rocks in streams. Stonefly larvae live in cold, gravelly or mucky stream bottoms and are a key food for trout and other fish. Approximately 1600 species of stoneflies are found throughout the world, and more than 450 species occur in North America.
  • Adult stone flies range from 6 to 50 mm (0.25 to 2.0 inches) long. They are dull-colored, commonly gray, brown, green, or yellowish. Adult stoneflies have two pair of membranous wings that fold over the back when at rest. The wings have many veins, and the hind wing is broad at the base and fanlike.
Importantly, for nervous novices like myself, Stoneflies, in the aquatic larval stage, are said to be carnivorous, but as adults they appear to feed on rotten vegetable material. There is no mention of them having any stinging capability. This is borne out by a photo on one of those links (above) of a Stonefly on someone's hand. I was not that brave (not knowing what I was dealing with, at that stage).

Stoneflies appear to be related to Mayflies and Dragonflies, with which they share their aquatic larval development stage, and winged adult stage. But I risk getting out of my depth, at this point, so I shall stop.
Today it was a total grey-out. Tonight it has been raining. We had a black-out (power failure) for about 4 hours tonight, for as yet unexplained reasons. A rainy day, but no wind whatsoever. Very dull weather. Visibility is about 60 metres, at the time of this photograph, which was 11:06am. So you can see how dull the fog makes it, here, on occasions. Pretty remarkable.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Blue-tongued Lizard.

On Saturday, about lunchtime, the sun was shining strongly, and a silly Eastern Blue-tongued Lizard (Tiliqua scincoides scincoides) was lying in the middle of the bitumen road just beyond Carrington Falls. Naturally I stopped, and urged it to get off the road, where it would almost certainly have been run over. (Squashed Blue-tongues are an all too common sight around Robertson in November.)
I also took the opportunity to take some photographs, as the Lizard was not in a hurry to go anywhere.

Note the backward pointing position of the legs of this lizard (see below for detail). It is the same pose as I observed with a Water Dragon, several weeks ago. It must be a "lizard thing". It seems odd to me, a human, who is more familiar with the posture used by mammals such as cats and dogs. I would expect them to lie with legs poised ready to "push off". But two specimens of very different lizard species, in two weeks, were lying with their legs in just this position. Maybe our local lizards are very "laid back".
I also wondered if this lizard's tail had re-grown. It seems to be very different in texture from the body of the lizard - much duller. I do not know if this is normal, or not. I have checked the Museum Victoria Bioinformatics site on Victorian Lizards. They had several sub-species of Blue-tongues, but all had more evenly matched tail and body colouring than this specimen. The specimen linked here is closest to the Lizard in these photographs.

I was expecting that it would hiss at me (as they are supposed to do), but this one did not. I wanted to photograph its tongue (of course). It started to move off through the grass, flicking its tongue very rapidly, but infrequently (i.e., a quick flick of the tongue, every now and then). It took me quite some time, and lots of shots to get one fully exposed tongue shot.The surprise for me was that the tongue was nearly all pink, with a blue band, or should I say blue dots on either side of the tongue, in a prominent position just behind the tip.

By contrast, here is the tongue of another Blue-tongue which I came across down on Tourist Road, Kangaloon, back in February 2007. Its tongue was fully blue, with a strong bright blue colour.I wonder if this is an individual difference, age difference (though both specimens were fully grown), or a sexual distinction? I do not know. Any advice from experienced Lizard wranglers would be appreciated.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Brilliant Sunset.

While ignoring the long-anticipated sunset of a career of a certain dominant politician, I feel obliged to post these photos of a wonderful sunset.
I was working inside the house (on the 'puter, of course) yesterday (19 November 2007) when I became aware of a warm pinkish-orange glow permeating the room, from the windows at the back of the house. These photos were taken between 7:36 pm and 7:46 pm (Eastern Australian Summer Time). Which reminds me, I ought re-set the clock in my camera! Anyway, as you can see, it was a busy ten minutes. Photos, phone calls, photos, dog barking, photos and a visitor.
Straight away I went to the back door of my house (which opens from my lounge-room, in fact). I stepped out onto the deck, to be struck by the most stunning sunset. I grabbed the camera (changing the macro lens to the regular lens, and then to the telephoto, in quick succession).
I had snapped a few photos when the phone rang. Damn! Such bad timing. Quick (hopefuly polite) discussion. Then back to the camera. Then I heard a car door slam. Beth had arrived. Quickly greeted her, and explained what I was doing, and how little time was left to get another shot. She understood, fortunately. Beth is like that!
Beth suggested that I take one of the sunset over the house through the Moongate. Why didn't I think of that? Its part of why I put the thing there, after all. In fact I was just a little late, but you will get the general idea. This is the view of my little cottage which visitors receive, if like Beth, they arrive just at sunset.