Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Sayings of Mr John Ross - Part 3 - DELETED




Monday, April 28, 2008

The sayings of Mr John Ross - Part 2 - DELETED




Sunday, April 27, 2008

The sayings of Mr John Ross - Part 1 - DELETED




Saturday, April 26, 2008

Public Meeting - next Saturday, 3 May 2008




What the
will not tell you!



Meeting is convened by Save Water Alliance

for more information contact B.Eddy on ph 4861 4122

Friday, April 25, 2008

The cost of the Kangaloon Borefield revealed

For several years, the community has been trying to get from the SCA the real cost of the Kangaloon Borefield. As recently as this week the Project Manager, Mr John Ross told some people that it was "about $10 million".

Oh, yeah?

Our own estimates were of the order of about $80 to $100 million, but that figure was ridiculed by the SCA representatives, including Mr Ross, in private discussions.

The members of the Upper Nepean Groundwater Community Reference Group (the "CRG") have been denied any hard figures on the costing, over 3 years of an intensive "consultation" process.

Well, wonder of wonders, look what has now turned up in public:
On 7 December 2006, a Major Project Application was received by the Dept of Planning for the project to be considered under Part 3A listed the project at an estimated cost of $60 million to $80 million.
I ask, what does Mr John Ross say to that? I stand ready to publish any reply from Mr Ross, or Mr Tanner, the Acting Chief Executive of the SCA.

The application was lodged by Mr Tanner, and is personally signed by him, as A/Chief Executive. dated 4.12 06.
So I wonder how much that cost has blown out since then?
  • Consider the extra testing done.
  • All the expensive consultants hired since then.
  • The expanded borefield (eg, 75 bores now planned, vs the 50 - 60 originally planned).
  • And what about inflations since Dec 2006?
  • And just consider the impact of fuel cost explosion since 2006.
  • Etc, etc.
At long last, we have some real figures to work on, now.

It is absolutely necessary that the SCA conduct a cost-benefit analysis of this ridiculous project before a single tree is felled to clear way for pipes and powerlines.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hilltop and Thirlmere Lakes trip

After supporting the local residents of Hilltop in their opposition to the expanded Regional Shooting Centre at Hilltop, I went down into the Bargo State Conservation Area, to have a closer look-see in the bush down that way.

There were some examples of the lovely Eriostemon australasius in flower. This plant is a left over from a revision of the genus Eriostemon. Nearly all the others (if not all of the original members of that genus) are now classed as "Philotheca". This plant is known from other areas, but apparently the Hilltop to Thirlmere area is one of its strongholds. A lovely clear flower.

A related plant is the Boronia ledifolia. Boronias have 4 petals, the Eriostemon has 5 petals. But both are in the Rutaceae family. This is the first time I have seen this plant. It does not seem to be common south of Sydney. Both these plants were flowering happily at Hilltop, just near the proposed Regional Shooting Centre. Unfortunately I did not find any Orchids in this part of the trip.

So I decided to follow a lead I had been given by Colin and Mischa Rowan, and went a little further along the Bargo Road to Thirlmere Lakes. The weather was lousy. Overcast, damp and miserable weather, interspersed with steady rain.

Anyway, along Slades Road, I did find some interesting Orchids. In places, masses of them. This was my first visit to Thirlmere Lakes. I met a (former) German gentleman, who now resides in Stanthorpe, Queensland, and who is obviously a keen bushwalker. We passed a few interesting minutes chatting about the countryside here. He had been out at the end of the road which leads into the South Colong Wilderness (part of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area).

Some of the Orchids which were in flower were these Chiloglottis diphylla plants. They have unusually shaped "clubs" which I found myself describing to Colin by email tonight as "like a pair of yellow slippers tucked under a bed". Odd reference, I know, but it seems a fair enough description, if you look closely at the pair of parallel yellow structures tucked horizontally under the dark red labellum.
In this image (a bit blurry, sorry, but I refused to lie down in the mud to photograph these plants more closely) you can see the clubs bent down, then forward underneath the body of the flower. Other Chiloglottis I have seen this autumn have their clubs bent out wide and backwards, or straight down. Also this one has clubs which are clearly yellow for most of their length. Previously published photos of Ch. seminuda and Ch. reflexa may be found at those individual links. Another intriguing plant group is these Greenhoods, which I am as yet unable to identify.Clearly they are a type of Greenhood, but what? Tiny thin buds, but very small. They are only on stems about 2 inches high. Even though they are not fully expanded, it looks like they are going to be only small flowers. A 20 cent coin is there for scale. I spoke with a local Macarthur Branch ANOS member, Wally Southwell about them tonight, but he did not know what they were likely to be (from my vague description over the phone). I have sent him several photographs, and hope to hear back from him.

I shall go back to check these plants again, to monitor their progress and to identify them. I shall report on how these plants develop.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Hilltop Rifle Range Facility opposed

Today the people of Hilltop (and many others) voiced their opposition to the expansion of the Southern Highlands Rifle Club (SHRC) into a Regional Shooting Complex. Instead of being a weekend facility as at present, it is intended that it would operate 7 days a week, and with two nights up until 10:00pm.

No wonder many people think that is unreasonable.Today there were people shooting, and I could hear the rifle cracks from about 2 Km away from their front gate. The expected impact of noise from a greatly increased operation, and the long operating hours, especially at night has many people worried.
Many groups, including the National Parks Association (of which I am a member) supported the locals. Here Tony Hill, NPA Chairman is speaking. He was critical that the area for the expanded shooting facility has been excised from the Bargo State Conservation Area. Also there are significant environmental issues, especially associated with the effects of lead which will be released into the local environment as a result of the shooting.Councillor Malcolm Murray spoke against the proposal, mostly being very critical of the fact that Minister Frank Sartor has deemed the project a State Significant Project, thus removing any rights of appeal from the local community, and also removing any authority the Council might have normally had. Lee Rhiannon, Greens MLC member (in the background in this image) also spoke against the proposal.Jan (a member of NPA) was there supporting John, a local horse-rider, and child with his pony, all bearing signs protesting against the expansion of the SHRC facility. Locals are concerned primarily about the noise, and safety issues, and the horse-riders are concerned about horses getting "spooked", with resultant risks to riders, especially young children.Will Frank Sartor take any notice? If Lee Rhiannon's theory that it is a deal stitched up with the Shooters' Party, then it is unlikely that he will.

Friday, April 18, 2008

2020 Summit imposter

Nobody in the Media appears willing to take this issue on - not even
I have tried to raise this as an issue before, and nobody will pick it up. Why not?
Marius Kloppers, head of BHP Billiton, is on the invite list to the 2020 Summit. He is South African, not Australian.

I simply ask by which criteria does he qualify as one of "Australia's Best and Brightest"? He is not an Australian citizen, nor does he reside here.

He ought go and host his own summit either in London , where he resides, as head of BHP Billiton, or South Africa, his country of birth, which is still his country of citizenship.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Wingecarribee Shire Council - Extraordinary General Meeting

An Extra-ordinary General meeting of Wingecarribee Shire Council was held this afternoon, in the Bowral Memorial Hall. And extraordinary it certainly was.

Photo courtesy of Cam. Ford - "Save the Highlands"

The public was invited to attend, but we were not allowed to say anything (well, nearly). We did have "NO" signs, which could conveniently be reversed to read "ON". And these were frequently held up, "en masse". It made it resemble a silent movie scene, perhaps a Charlie Chaplin movie?

To read more about the background of this event, read the Save the Highlands website.

It was a closely scripted event. Clr. Larry Whipper proposed and moved an amendment, but from the outset it was obvious that the Campbell-Jones group had caucused. They were "all singing from the same song sheet", and had no intention of wavering from their position. Numerous innuendos were delivered about "elections in the air".

The most ludicrous moment was when Clr Penny George included in her speech elaborate references to a speech by Martin Luther King about distinguishing between things which were right, good or populist. Oh, please, Penny! The audience started to giggle, and we earned our first Mayoral rebuke.

That's the wrong Martin Luther King speech to quote. Try the "I have a dream" speech.
Except Penny, however nice, and well-meaning, just isn't that kind of Councillor.

Much was made about certain Councillors coming to the debate with "pre-conceived philosophical positions" (as if it was only the ones opposed to selling Public Park lands who have a "philosophical" position). Wasn't "Gordon Gekko" driven by a "philosophy". As I recall it was "greed is good". But Clr. Nick Campell-Jones and Clr. Malcolm Murray seem to think that having a view about not selling Public Parks is a "philosophy" (and that's something one ought be ashamed of, apparently); but having a firmly held view on privatisation of Public Parks is "good public policy", and nothing to do with a conservative economic "philosophy". Did you get that?

Wake up, Malcolm and Nick. You may have the balance of power in Council, but you do not have right on your side.This was an exercise in futility, from the start, to the finish.

I must commend Clr Yeo for proposing an important motion to include a parcel of land on Oxley Drive, Bowral (on Mt. Gibraltar) into the Mt. Gibraltar Reserve. Then the Councillors voted on the most important motion, to consolidate all the various parcels of land which make up the current Mt. Gibraltar Reserve into a single parcel of land. That is most important, for it will make it exceedingly difficult for a future Council to remove small parcels of land from the Reserve (as this Council has been trying to do with small parcels of Public Parks land so recently).

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Midge Orchids - reviewing my Corunastylis finds.

For the amateur Orchid enthusiast, the greatest problem is finding "oddities" - flowers which do not seem to "fit" the description of any known species. A variant of this is slightly worse. It involves finding something which appears to fit exactly with a plant which is not supposed to be where you found it. That one raises questions of one's "credibility" as an Orchid enthusiast. Not one's personal veracity, I stress, just one's reliability to identify "rare" finds.

The best example of this is the group of plants known as Midge Orchids: "Corunastylis" (formerly classed as Genoplesium). These tiny flowers are very difficult to identify, and the published texts have photographs which are frequently inadequate (mostly because of the small flower size) and the fact that the distinguishing characteristics are frequently microscopic. The PlantNET website offers botanical drawings, which are drawn by botanists who have dissected the flower, and have examined it with a laboratory microscope. I do not have those facilities.

The digital camera is the best asset for the likes of myself. However, you still need to have taken about 10 photos from all the right angles, to get the full details of the plant, including the leaves. And that assumes that your photos are perfect (they seldom are, when taken out in the field).

Exhibit A: - a dark Corunastylis, with hairy labellum and fringed dorsal sepal. In consultation with fellow Orchid enthusiast Colin Rowan, I concluded the best "fit" I could find was Corunastylis morrisii. His response was: "If I found them in Victoria I would certainly call them C. morrisii". One of Colin's photos of this species in Victoria may be found by using this link.
As you will realise if you visit Colin and Mischa's Retired Aussies website, these people are greatly experienced Orchadians, and I value their advice greatly. According to PlantNET, this species is only known in NSW from Braidwood and Nerriga area. My plant was found at Tourist Road, Kangaloon - 150 Km out of the known range for that species. See my difficulty?

Corunastylis morrisii
Exhibit B: Corunastylis species, probably C. oligantha. This species is newly classified, and the name does not appear on PlantNET, and a Google image search draws a blank. That makes it hard. The only reference I have, so far, is David Jones's book. Tony Bishop's book had good photos of this plant, but the species had not been named when his book was published. Good as the Jones book is, the photos are not really enough for me to make an absolute identification. I hope to print these images, and show them to some Orchid experts shortly.

Corunastylis oligantha (probably)
C. oligantha is recorded as occurring in the Braidwood/Mongarlowe area, 200 Km south from here. Again, I am faced with the same difficulty as with the previous species - it looks right. It fits the descriptions, except for the location. I found this species at Medway village, and Tourist Road, Kangaloon. Below is a closer photo of the same species, with the flower tilted back slightly, to reveal the dorsal sepal (at the bottom of the flower). The lateral sepals (above the flower) are very obviously rounded in their shape - in contrast to the next species, below.

Corunastylis oligantha (probably)

Here is a comparison photo of the dorsal sepal of the two species mentioned above. The Medway plant C. oligantha (?) is on the right. Clearly the dorsal sepal does not have fringed edges. Whereas the other plant does. The reason I stress this is that I was told, originally, that based upon the locality, the flowers I had found were likely to be C. fimbriata. Clearly the plant on the right is not "fringed " on the dorsal sepal (which is a definite feature for that species). So, that rules out C. fimbriata. The next best "fit" is C. oligantha, but it is not recorded from anywhere near here. See my problem?

Comparison of dorsal sepals of two species.
Corunastylis morrisii (left) and Corunastylis oligantha (right)
I subsequently went with Alan Stephenson, to Tallong, in search of C. plumosa, a geographically restricted (endemic) species. We did not find that species, but we did find this next plant (below).

Exhibit C:
This plant differs from C. oligantha in the shaping (angle) of the lateral sepals. These ones look like a goat's horns, held out prominently either side of the top of the flower. The labellum (pointing straight forward , towards the lens, and slightly out of focus in this image) is extremely hairy (fringed) as is the dorsal sepal. The dorsal sepal lacks the purple stripes of C. oligantha (?) above. I conclude that this plant is likely to be the true species C. fimbriata which I had been told to expect to find at Tourist Road. I found it at Tallong, but of course, it might occur at Kangaloon (as well). The close-up photo of the Medway plant (second image above) shows significant differences in the angle of the lateral sepals, and the fringed vs not-fringed dorsal sepals, between these two species. Their colours are basically similar, but this one is more "muddy" in its green/yellow colour, and lacks the purple stripes of the other plant.
Corunastylis fimbriata

Exhibit D: And here is my most interesting photo of this group of plants. This is C. apostasioides. I would have to say it is a very unattractive flower, aesthetically. For a member of this genus, it is a relatively tall flower (on a tall stem, at least 30cm high, usually). However, the flowers themselves are tiny. The lateral sepals, on all the other species above, are held widely set, and often reflexed. By contrast, on this plant, the lateral sepals are drooping down, either side of the labellum which is very strongly reflexed. The dorsal sepal is very small, and very narrow, and is held closely between the low-set lateral sepals. Both the labellum (the upward-lifted part of the flower) and the dorsal sepal, are both extremely "furry". "Fringed" does not begin to describe it, compared to the other species. It really is an oddity compared to the other Corunastylis species shown. The other feature is simply the small size of the flowers, compared to the other species. The stem is relatively tall, as I mentioned, and the ovary (the green part below the flower proper) is relatively large and bulbous, but the sepals and petals are very small. Even the prominent reflexed labellum is only 3 or 4 mm long. In the field, it looks like the tiny flower of a wild grass, sticking out from a small Orchid. Honestly, unless you knew it was an Orchid, you would hardly recognise it as such.

Corunastylis apostasioides
These flowers seldom open. The books refer to it as self-pollinating. I happened to find a few open flowers late on several warm afternoons, in early March. There were many "Crane Flies" (quite a large fly, which looks like an awkward, long-legged mosquito) around. Perhaps they pollinate this flower, when the weather is right. Who knows? Most of the members of this species of Midge Orchid which one finds are closed. I published a photo of this plant, closed, last year. Their little flowers look odd, with the green bulbous ovary prominently set on the stem but the closed flowers themselves bent downwards. This species is, in fact, very common on Tourist Road, Kangaloon, despite what I was initially told (by a well-meaning friend).

This report of mine is intended to record what I have found in the Southern Highlands region of NSW this year. It also tends to demonstrate how little is actually known about the actual distribution of these plants. What is recorded in the books tells us where the botanists have found these plants, rather than where the plants are actually located.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Anni's book launch went off well, last week.

Today I received a nice folio of photos taken at the CTC@ Robertson last Thursday night, which was the local launch of "Talking to Kinky and Karlheinz" - Anni Heino's new book. The photos were sent to me by Sally McLaughlin. Thanks Sally.

The evening started with Andy Ford giving a talk about the Music Show, which is the background to the book, for Anni was the editor of transcripts from a thousand hours or more of Andy's interviews with guest on the ABC's Music Show. The background is explained more fully in my earlier blog about the book launch (see the link above). Anni also talked a little about her role as editor of the book, but she was a little shy, on the night. I think she also knew that a lot of people wanted to sing and play music, to welcome the new book.

The first shows a local "a capella" group. I would call them a "Barbershop Quartet", except for the fact of their number, and "Barbershop Sextet" is far too controversial a term for this family-friendly blog! I think they might be called the "Highland-Aires" or "Highland-Dares", but I could not confirm either name in a quick Google search. There are international groups which use the first name, and I don't wish to start a legal battle over names. Sally's dad, Graeme (hope the spelling is correct, mate) is one of the singers (second from right).After the boys in red jackets finished warming up the crowd, the wild boys hit the stage. Nick Rheinberger got them going with some old fashioned rock 'n roll. He invited Andy Ford to join the band in a rendition of Van Morrison's "Gloria". That was a natural choice, for Andy has co-authored a book on the songs of "Van the Man". It is called "Speaking in Tongues"
The CTC had hosted a book launch by Andy Ford and Martin Buzacott on 26 May 2005. Gosh, it hardly seems that long ago. Photos of that event are on the CTC website - News Archive for that date. Here you can see the band winding up for a big finale at the end of "Gloria". Nick is about to bring it a big conclusion, and Andy is getting into it pretty seriously, too.Here are two of the members of the CTC house band. Richard, who is one of the co-ordinators of the CTC Music Nights, and Brian, who is a regular performer. Brian was also the stand-in conductor for the "Highland-Dares" as seen in the first photo, above. (He changed out of the red jacket.)Thanks again to Sally, for sending me the photos, as I had come rushing back from Canberra for the book launch, and I did not have my own camera with me.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A big day in Robbo. Crowds, trains, cars and mist.

Today, the Robertson Heritage Railway Station (RHRS) hosted a vintage car display (on the "Robertson Common"). There were crowds of people all over the place.The RHRS also hosted a visit by the Historic Rail Motor CPH 18, which ran 6 short trips, back and forth to Mt Murray Station (to the east of Robertson) and to Calwalla (to the west). In addition, the regular "Cockatoo Run" train visit to Robertson is now linked to a bus connection to Knights Hill, for persons wishing to make the trip from Sydney via train, and to include a visit to the Illawarra Fly.

The Robertson Markets were also on, at the School of Arts building. So there were people all over Robertson today. There were traffic jams, even! A rare event for our little village.After clear weather in the middle of the day, in the late afternoon the sky darkened out over the Macquarie Pass escarpment. I decided to go and shoot the threatening clouds.

As a matter of interest, this photo is taken at exactly the same place as the "morning light" photo on the mast-head of my blog. In this photo am looking just slightly further north from the mast-head photo, which naturally was taken looking east, to catch the rising sun.Out on the Mt Murray Road there is a little-known place where there is an amazing perspective on the cliffs over the top of the Macquarie Pass. You can literally see the clouds forming, as the moist afternoon air rose over the rocks, just in front of my camera. And the late afternoon skies were even more dramatic as the lights came on down in Albion Park, way below me. More mist-forming is evident in this image, too.My favourite shot of the very top of Macquarie Pass. The trees on these cliffs overlook the last stretch of the Pass (the Illawarra Highway passes directly below that point). A steep and somewhat dangerous place to visit, but it looked very striking with the threatening clouds.I love the way the changing light makes the whole world look different, minute by minute. Here I was in a different place, a different world even, from the hurly-burly of the afternoon. But I was just 5 kilometres away from Robertson.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Musk Ducks - or were they Loch Ness Monsters?

Today I went to the Boxvale Track, near Welby (just south from Mittagong). I went looking for Orchids, as I know there are some spring-flowering Greenhoods there, but I thought I might find some others at this time of year. You never know till you look.

As it turned out I found few Orchids (none in flower), but lots of birds. For me the least expected birds were Musk Ducks. For that I must thank a delightful encounter with a fellow birdwatcher, who told me about the Musk Ducks up on a reservoir (which I did not know existed, even thought it is barely 50 metres metres from the Boxvale Track, behind a rocky outcrop). So, tipped off to look for them I went there, and sure enough, a male Musk Duck was there, displaying aggressively.

Male Muck Duck, beak held high in the air,
with the pouch under his beak clearly visible,
is doing his "splash display"
In typical Musk Duck fashion, this bird was making loud splashing noises (with its feet) and creating very obvious splashes of water, while circling out in the middle of the reservoir. (Musk Ducks are typically "deep water" ducks, as they dive for their food, not dabbling upside down, in shallow water, like many Ducks.)
A big double splash, and a very noisy one.
Anyway, after just a few minutes of this performance, the male had some success, for a female paddled very directly across the reservoir from the reed-bank on the far side of the reservoir.

Here she comes.
It looks as if she is pale grey coloured on the chest, but
it is a "bow wave" created by her swimming so fast.
She is in fact sitting very low in the water,
with head and back (only) out of the water. That is normal for Musk Ducks.

She then circled around the male several times, and then moved in close to him. She then seemed to disappear. The light was not very good, so it was hard for me to see exactly what was going on, but there was a lot of water disturbance, so I believe they mated.

I have seen Swans mating, and the process involved the female being virtually completely submerged. Muck Ducks swim very low in the water anyway, so it really was very hard to tell exactly what was going on.
Male visible, possibly mating with the female (not visible).
That is partly based upon the amount of water disturbance.
There is a lot of paddling going on out there!

But shortly after the "disturbance of the water", the female reappeared, and swam off by herself (to the right). The male is bending his head (and beak pouch) down (to the right), but his rear end is sitting very high in the water (unusually), and his stiff tail seems to be held past the upright. It seems that it is being fanned up over his back, in a rapid movement. At this stage, the male was making his extraordinarily penetrating shrill whistle call, interspersed by deep clunking noises.
If you did not know that you were looking at Musk Ducks, you could be forgiven for thinking you had seen a very small, Southern Highlands version of the Loch Ness Monster.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Further evidence of negligence of the SCA

Today I had the opportunity to see from the air the negligence of the SCA in their recent burning of the Kangaloon Aquifer area. I have reported on this previously - but only in regard to what I could see from Tourist Road. This is what it is actually like, when seen from the air.

The main area in this photo has actually been burnt correctly, using a "cool burn" technique, in accordance with correct fuel reduction protocols. However, the "obviously burnt" areas of forest have been burnt by a fire which was "too hot", either as a result of poor planning, or by loss of control over the fire. The burnt forest trees themselves will almost certainly recover, especially as we have had rain since the burn-off. However, the small animals resident in the entire burnt area, and the understory plants are at severe risk because of the intensity of that burning. And the fact that there are not "refugia" (areas which were not burnt off) is the most damaging part of this entire process. These areas which are supposed to be left unburnt, are meant to serve not only as "refuges" for animals (especially small animals), but also as "seed banks " for plants. I remind you that along Tourist Road, roughly 9 Km of forest was burnt, with only three small gaps adjacent to creeks, which were not burnt.

Of far more significance is the fact that the SCA have burnt out several "Upland Swamps". This is absolutely outside the protocols laid down by the Dept of Environment and Climate Change - protocols prepared specifically for the "Special Areas" controlled by the SCA. It is also directly in contradiction to what I was personally told about this "burn-off" by the SCA's own Regional Manager, Mr Kelvin Lambkin - that they kept the fire away from rivers and they never allow the swamps to burn. (Discussion on 24 March 2008, in Kirkland Road, Kangaloon)
a burnt-out swamp
detail of burnt-out swampnorthern end of same swamp, burnt out
In case you think I am imagining how contrary this is to the protocols, let me quote:
1.4 Fire Management and Fauna
  • Fire management should aim for a mosaic of fire regimes.
  • Mosaic burning should aim to retain some examples of all fauna habitats (including the highly flammable Upland Swamps) in a long unburnt state.
  • Fire planning should recognise the role of unburnt refugia have in the recolonisation of burnt landscapes particularly after extensive and intense wildfire. Unburnt refugia should remain unburnt for more than four years following extensive and intense wildfire. Special consideration should be given toward fire management of the Priority Fauna Habitats as these environments support a large proportion of the areas threatened fauna. Carefully considered fire management should be given to isolated populations of very rare species, particularly the Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby and Stuttering Frog.
  • Source: DECC (2007) Terrestrial Vertebrate Fauna of the Greater Southern Sydney Region: Volume 4 – The Fauna of the Metropolitan, O’Hares Creek and Woronora Special Areas. A joint project between the Sydney Catchment Authority and the Department of Environment and Climate Change (NSW) (DECC) under the Special Areas Strategic Plan of Management (SASPoM) by the Information and Assessment Section, Metropolitan Branch, Climate Change and Environment Protection Group, DECC, Hurstville.
Another Burnt Swamp in the Kangaloon Aquifer area.
If, as I was told by Mr Lambkin on 24 March, it is the SCA's policy that they never burn the swamps, I can only conclude that this was a burn-off which got out of control. The facts are clearly evident - Upland Swamps have been burnt by the SCA.

Is the SCA answerable for its negligence?

And what about its failure to protect the numerous endangered species in this area?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

"Possum Magic"

Last night, while I was working in my study, writing last night's blog, I heard an amazing squabbling noise outside my window. The tree outside was shaking, and I heard thumping noises on the roof. Obviously Possums, I thought (I do not have cats around my house - the next most obvious cause of such "caterwauling" noises).

Anyway, I went out onto the back deck to look around the edge of the house, to see what I could find out about what exactly was going on. This is what I saw - from just a few feet away.
Two Brush-tailed Possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) hanging upside down (courtesy of their prehensile tails). They were gripping eachother, with their rear legs, or are they holding eachother "at arms length"? I was seriously puzzled (at first). Were they fighting? Or were they locked together in an embrace?

I took several photos, and they did not move. That gave me a clue. Surely, if they were two males fighting, they would have cut and run, or one at least would have taken the opportunity created by my distracting "flashes", to have escaped (assuming they were fighting).

I took another photo in the dark, of the area over their bodies, to try and determine exactly how they were hanging on. It worked. The answer is one has its tail wrapped over a tree branch, and the other had its tail curled over the edge of the gutter. (You can see a line on the underneath of the tail (of the animal on the left), where the prehensile tail has no fur on it. With the underside of that tail facing us, that means that the tail curls up and over towards the camera, i.e., the tail is hooked over the gutter.) So that explains the different angles of their bodies. It probably also explained some of the crashing noises and movement in the trees, as somehow one was in the tree, and the other one not quite in the tree, but actually suspended from the house gutter. Surely this is a precarious arrangement? The two animals were clearly gripping each other with their back legs, or rather holding eachother at a fixed distance. I left them to it (whatever it was they were doing).

Here is a photo of the head of the smaller Possum - (the one on the right). You can see the very large eyes, typical of Possums. The large ears, and the pink nose (with wiry whiskers) is also clearly visible. Their faces are generally regarded as being "cute". (Mind you, the much smaller "Ring-tailed Possums" are definitely cuter, in my opinion.)
A close-up image of the "hands" of the possum on the right of the photo clearly shows two "handfuls of fur" - so there had been some fairly active scratching and scrabbling going on there. The pad on the paw on the right hand side of the photo (the left paw) has also been scratched.
A few minutes later, there was another burst of squawking noises, followed by noises of feet thumping on the roof.

I went outside again, and they had left their hanging position (which I sort of knew, because of the thumping sounds). I looked around, and found this scene, up on the roof, overlooking the back deck.
Aaah, Mystery solved. Its "Possum Magic".
Clearly they had not been "fighting" - well, just a bit.

The two Possums, totally relaxed, were cuddling up closely, sitting on the edge of the roof, as if admiring the view of the night sky, together (until I appeared under their noses). Somehow, one feels inclined to caption this: "Did the earth move for you, Darling?"

I guess that some time in the winter, I can expect to hear the "pitter-patter of little feet" (on the roof).

Perhaps I should also acknowledge the title of Mem Fox's best-selling book - "Possum Magic"?

"Red-eye effect"
The severe "red-eye effect" is common with nocturnal animals, when photographed with "flash-lighting". I could have removed it, or adjusted it, but it seemed more normal to leave it as it is, as it is how we see them, when illuminated by car lights, or torches. In daylight, the Possum's natural eye colour is dark brown. But nocturnal animals have developed strong "lenses" in their eyes which accentuates the refracted light effect. Owls, perhaps the most extreme example, have bright yellow eyes, when seen with artificial light.