Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Pacific Baza found at Calderwood (near Albion Park) NOW UPDATED


Image warning:  This post contains several images of a road-killed bird.
My reason is to record the fact of  this species existence in the area.
But if you find such images unpleasant, please skip tonight's post and please come back to my Blog again tomorrow night. 
My friend Kirsten rang me yesterday in a state of high confusion and high excitement, about an unusual bird she had found as a road kill, at Calderwood, near Albion Park.
Her confusion and her excitement turned out to be fully justified.

It turned out to be an immature Pacific Baza (the so-called "Crested Hawk") It is formally known as Aviceda subcristata. Unfortunately this bird was somewhat damaged and had been damaged on the back of the head (so no crest was evident), and it had lost most of its tail feathers.

On its supposed distribution, the easily searchable sources say: "The Pacific Baza is found in tropical and subtropical forest and woodland in northern and eastern Australia, but rarely south of Sydney." (Source: Birds in Backyards). So, at first we ruled out the Pacific Baza as an option (as to what species we were dealing with)..

Just a word of explanation, it is often surprising how hard it can be to recognise an unfamiliar bird species when one finds one "out of context" such as a road kill.We are simply not used to seeing these things up close and personal. Of course, there is another factor, many species of Birds of Prey undergo significant changes in plumage. In this case, I first thought it might have been a juvenile Brown Goshawk, which are famous for having strong markings on the chest. This turned out to be a red herring  for me, in trying to work out what it was. 

Moral for the day: Just because the references say some bird ought not be where you are does not mean it is not that species. Global Warming (and also changed land use) are clearly changing the distribution of certain species.I mention here two species - the Noisy Pitta, which I have reported from Berrima, NSW (way out of its normal range) and the Rainbow Lorikeet, which has undergone an explosion of its range along the east coast of Australia in the last 20 years. 

Please also see the note below about the Birdata mapping tool to which I was referred by Martin.

Back to the bird in the hand.
Pacific Baza - head with caterpillars in beak (its last meal)
I sought assistance in identifying this bird from the Canberra Ornithologists Group email forum. Part of what was puzzling me is the fact that this bird had clearly been eating caterpillars, probably of grass moths. Such a diet would appear unusual for a Goshawk, as seemingly it had been eating from the ground, not catching its prey on the wing. But the same comment might equally well apply to the Baza.

Anyway, one of the COG people suggest that perhaps my "supposed Goshawk" might in fact be a Pacific Baza. With that thought having been raised, I reviewed the evidence.

What about it supposedly being out of range"?
Unlike what was reported on the Birds in Backyards site, it turns out that Pacific Bazas have been recorded from the Illawarra Region. In fact, near by at Tullimbah. OK - so the Pacific Baza theory is no longer out of the question.

I started to look more closely.
Check out the diagonal nostril line - an unusual feature.
I checked out what the nostril of Goshawk looks like. Geoffrey Dabb has a wonderful shot of  a Brown Goshawk (on the COG Bird Image Gallery) which clearly shows that it has a round nostril hole. OK - so that confirms it is definitely not a Brown Goshawk.

What else can I check out? 
The legs are worth looking at.
Feet and legs are grey; under-tail coverts are pale chestnut colour
Lets look more broadly. The underwings have this colour (which I had previously overlooked). Silly me. 
Under-wing colour and black and white marking on wing tips
Here is the image of a Pacific Baza in flight, from Simpson and Day - "Field Guide to the Birds of Australia" (6th edition).It is blindingly obvious to me - now - that what I have is a Pacific Baza. 

Simpson and Day - illustration of Pacific Baza in flight.
Suddenly it all becomes clear. It is the difference between seeing the details and the overall picture.

The throat colour of my bird is not grey - because it is not an adult - it is immature.

Let me put on record the assistance of several members of the COG chat line,and my Blogging colleague, Martin referring to the HANZAB guide, for sorting out some of these finer details.


Since posting that original Blog item on 28 July, I have followed up a suggestion from a COG member, Philip Veerman, to try to get better images of the beak. He has some experience with this species and told me that a Pacific Baza has a distinctive "double tooth" structure on the beak.

That turned out to be absolutely accurate, and a lovely diagnostic point to confirm the ID by (apart from the unusual shaped nostril already mentioned).

Detail of the beak of the Pacific Baza. Note the double "teeth" notches.
Oh, for the record, yes the dead Pacific Baza had 7 Caterpillars in its beak at the time a car hit it.
7 grass-feeding caterpillars found in the beak of the Baza.
Bazas are well known to be insectivorous. My Blogging colleague, and retired CSIRO Entomologist, Dave Rentz tells me Bazas favour Stick insects found in tree canopies, mostly. And further, he notes that, in the tropics, Lizards and Tree Frogs are also popular food items, normally.
However, these caterpillars are almost certainly grass feeding caterpillars, most likely of the Moth family Noctuidae. I am seeking assistance with confirmation of the caterpillar ID.
If I am correct in them being grass-feeding caterpillars, then obviously such grubs are only found from the ground, by searching closely amongst the lush grasses.
It could not have been flying to pick out these caterpillars from within grass leaves. And surely it would not have achieved catching 7 as yet undigested caterpillars, if flying.
The bird was found adjacent to lush dairy farming country in a district known as Calderwood, close to Albion Park.

So if nothing else that tells us something interesting about the feeding habits of the Pacific Baza.

Another note of interest, another Blogging colleague, Martin, who is also a fellow member of the COG Chat Line helped me greatly by resolving the accurate distribution (range) of the Pacific Baza. He referred me to this site: Birdata - Atlas Distribution Maps. Note: It is "birdata" not bird data. Type in Pacific Baza. 

Obviously you can use any recognised name for Australian birds. The search is not even case sensitive, which is good. It also suggests options, eg, to test it, I typed in Starling, and it offered me 6 alternative species to select from.

I strongly recommend you visit that site and then "Bookmark it" or save it to your "Favourites".

I often comment on how I greatly appreciate collaboration in getting IDs of unfamiliar species, be they plants or moths, or in this case, birds. I have mentioned a number of collaborators in this "quest" by name, above. Kirsten, Geoffrey, Martin and Philip. There were other suggestions and comments offered too along the way. Thanks to them all.

Long may the spirit of collaboration reign - sharing of knowledge is a great gift. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

Signs of Spring (in late Winter)

Every year, about this time, I start to kid myself that Spring is coming - soon.

It is happening again, and not just to me.
  • The little birds are very active - Red-browed Finches are massing in the grass heads which pass for a lawn at my place. 
  • Bowerbirds were singing in a new area where there has never been a Bower before. 
  • Wombats and Swamp Wallabies have been active on the roads in the early evenings - risking their lives. One has taken to marking its territory (see last image).
  • Foxes also are active on roads, but I am happy for them to risk their lives.
And in the Garden, my Camellias are now blooming freely. Actually, the Sasanquas have been going for a month or more, but the larger flowered hybrid Camellias are going now. The "Japonicas" (the large flowered forms most people know) are a few weeks off, yet). But I happen to favour the "Williamsii" hybrids and they're the ones which are kicking in now.

Here is one of my all-time favourite Camellias. Camellia "Brian" (a Williamsii X Reticulata Hybrid) I love this particular colour, which has just a hint of cyan in the mix of pinks. I grew this plant in Canberra, beside my driveway, so I could see it every time I drove back home. It flowers early, for a large Camellia, and flowers for several months. It is easy care, and the spent flowers simply fall apart, shedding their petals like pink snow, on the ground below. That is a much better result than some of the old-fashioned Camellias (Japonicas), especially the fully double ones, where the old flowers remain on the bush, looking untidy.
Camellia "Brian" - a Williamsii x Reticulata hybrid
 And as  a surprise, I found a clump of true Snowdrops (Galanthus elwesii) which I planted many years ago - and had seen in flower only once - well, they are blooming happily again this year. Note the 3 large "tepals" which frame the flower. They are pure snowy white. The inner 3 tepals each have a green mark towards the bottom.
Galanthus elwesii - note the 3 pure white outer tepals
 And another shot of one of the Galanthus flowers.

By contrast here is the more familiar "Snowflake" (although there is much confusion in the use of that name). To clarify, this plant is Leucojum aestivum To make the naming confusion worse, this plant bears the popular name of "Summer Snowflake".It flowers well for me (and it did so in Canberra too) in the middle of the Australian Winter. I have never had a garden without Snowflakes growing, preferably near a front door, where I see them come up each year - at the coldest time, just to cheer me up.
Leucojum aestivum - "Snowflake"

And as a celebration of Spring coming, one of my local Wombats has offered me this spectacular "Poo" - which is something of a work of art, compared to their normal offerings. 

A spectacular Wombat Poo. Territorial marking beside my driveway, on a mound.
The sap must be flowing freely through the plants to make the quality of the Wombat's poo this good. It is not very clear from this angle, but in keeping with Wombat tradition, it has left its dropping on a rock, or beside a rock. It really is a process of "marking territory". 

It is on a mound of soil, beside my driveway. Obviously, my driveway is its front entrance-way too, it seems. Fair enough. It is also where the Rural Fire Service guys placed my street number marker too. So everyone/everything recognises this an the Entrance way to the property.
This is posted here, in recognition of Snail's fine post on Marsu-poo-pals

A good frost was recorded last night, so Roll on, Spring, I say.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Vale Margaret Olley

Margaret Olley, famous artist, has died.

She was recently the subject of Ben Quilty's 2011 Archibald Prize winning Portrait. Ben is perhaps Robertson's most illustrious resident (though, of course, he would deny that).
Margaret Olley - portrait by Ben Quilty (Channel 9 News)
As this Channel 9 report mentions, Margaret Olley was the only person to have ever been the subject of two portraits to win the Archibald Prize.

The first portrait of her to win the Archibald, was a 1949 portrait of a much younger Margaret Olley, by William Dobell. The illustration and text from the Art Gallery NSW is linked here.

As usual the ABC has a good review of her life, with an excellent round-up of reports and old interviews with Margaret Olley.: 
You can hear a brief interview with Ben Quilty here - on the night he won the Archibald Prize - courtesy of ABC TV. He talks both about the portrait itself and briefly, about Margaret Olley.

Monday, July 25, 2011

From Paris to Robertson - via a bicycle

Despite a long history of largely ignoring cycling, Australian followers of sport, and the media generally are going crazy tonight because Cadel Evans is leading the Tour De France. As long as he stays upright on his bike and finishes the Tour, he will be declared the winner of the Tour de France tonight. If and when that occurs he will make history as the first Australian to win the Tour. Tradition has it that the wearer of the Yellow Jersey - the "Maillot Jaune" is not challenged in the final stage of the Tour.

My favourite barrista in Robertson, Daniel, who works at Cafe Pirouette is a keen cyclist. I mean a serious cyclist. His favourite ride is to go from north of Wollongong up into the Royal National Park, and back again, He loves the climbs up past Stanwell Tops, and then to rush back down again. We often talk about his rides. And we have, of course, been discussing Cadel's chances in the Tour this year. Daniel has never wavered in his belief that Cadel can do it.

By contrast to our faith in Cadel, my peony-growing friend Leo, (a fellow Blogger) in Canada is also a crazed cycling enthusiast. So much so that he has named a Peony after Alberto Contador. It is called Peony "Contador's Triple Crown". Leo had been actively supporting Contador's rides, but even Leo acknowledged that the great man had a hard task to beat Cadel this year. And, in fairness, Contador has had a tough season (having nearly exhausting himself earlier in the season, in winning the Giro d'Italia , and then some bad luck in the early stages. But even I was impressed (vastly impressed) with Contador's heroic ride in the last Alpine stage. Eventually Cadel and others caught up with him, and he was not quite able to hold on to the lead in the final few kilometres. But what a gutsy and honourable ride. I finally saw what my friend Leo has always seen in Contador - his champion qualities. He received official recognition as the "most combattive rider" on Stage 19 (the right to wear a red square with a white number on it - in his case number 1 - as winner from last year). Anyway, two days ago Leo told me that he thought Cadel Evans would win this years Tour de France.

But back to Cadel and Australia. 
What is the Robertson connection? 
Well, Daniel bought himself a new bike this last year. And he bought it from Brad McGee's bike shop, in Bowral. Brad McGee is currently a directeur sportif for Team Saxo Bank-SunGard. That happens to be Contador's team.

None-the-less Australian loyalties come to the fore tonight. So lets focus on the "Six Degrees of Separation" theme here.
  1. Daniel pours my morning Coffee at Cafe Pirouette in Robertson.
  2. He bought his bike from Brad McGee's bike shop in Bowral.
  3. Brad McGee is a sporting Director of Saxo Bank team.
  4. Alberto Contador rides for that team.
  5. My fellow Peony enthusiast Leo has named  a Peony after Contador.
  6. Contador's greatest rival this year has been Cadel Evans - an Aussie.
  7. Cadel Evans is about to win the Tour de France.
Lets wish Cadel Evans all the best in the final stage of the 2011 Tour de France.

Influence of the Tour de France. There has been a noticeable increase in the number of cyclists riding about in the Southern Highlands in the last few weeks. And the new Pharmacist in town, Nick has been known to ride to Robertson on his road bike too.

Personal Disclaimer: Although I own a bicycle, I seldom ride it. It does feature on my Blog masthead, though - with a pair of Brown Cuckoo-doves sitting on the handlebars.

PS: I have written to Leo advising him that I have mentioned him in my Blog (I try to warn my friends if I do that) Blogging etiquette.
I have mentioned to Leo that everything I know about the Tour (admittedly not much) I have learnt because of him - over the years.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Carrington Falls - after a wet week

Here is a shot of Carrington Falls taken today.
We have had 173mm of rain over the last 4 days. With a very small catchment (a mere 3 Km to Knights Hill) - it probably would have been more spectacular if I had braved the driving rain on Tuesday when we got 62 mm in 24 hours. But some times I lack the determination necessary to get the ultimate shot. It was a cold wet week, so I stayed inside as much as possible.

But Kirsten told me on the phone this morning that after a week of not getting out and about, she wanted to go for a walk somewhere, and I  know she is fond of Carrington Falls. Why not check it out after a decent rainfall?

Carrington Falls after four days of rain.

Today, the most noticeable feature was the roar coming from the water rushing over the falls, and down into the narrow canyon below. You could hear the Falls - loudly - from the car park at "Thomas's Place" - the main carpark near the Falls.

There were many trees down, because of the wind we have experienced recently.

There are some forest dwellers which thrive in the rain. 

This Jelly Fungus is obviously one such entity.

Orange Jelly Fungus (Probably Tremella mesenterica)
This fungus was growing on a fallen branch of a Hakea, in the wet forest just near the main lookout - the one opposite the Falls. The area was clouded in spray mist and low cloud. You can see the drop of moisture collected, as if it was on someone's runny nose.

The next species I noticed which also grows happily on the floor of the wet forest there is the "Tall Greenhood" (Bunochilus longifolius).

Note the long leaves on Bunochilus longifolius

That is not a great shot, but it was across a fence, and in amongst a patch of wet ferns, so I chose not to get "down and dirty" for a closer shot. This link above takes you to a much better close-up of mine.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Santos knows how to "spin a good yarn" about Coal Seam Gas

Santos has been busy promoting itself and Coal Seam Gas on our TVs recently.

Have you wondered how genuine it all is?
There is this happy farmer, singing the praises of Santos.
He looks genuine enough.
But have a listen to what the Happy Farmer says (in the first video on their webpage) (the one marked "Santos and CSG"): 
"They've been working on my place for a while now"

The following exchange of information started with my good friend Penny, a local farmer, with a strong social conscience and an even stronger love of the land.

After Santos started running their ads on Television, Penny got annoyed and posted the following comment on their website - as follows"

"We object to your ad showing a happy beef farmer. We have a farm and know the danger your gas extraction poses to aquifers, soil and air. The ad is misleading, NO GAS PIPES, TANKS, ROADS, TRUCKS ARE SHOWN. Resale of his farm for agriculture would be difficult."

Jeremy Milne from Santos replied to my friend:

"On Mon, Jul 18, 2011 at 6:43 PM, Santos Media Centre <> wrote:

Dear Penny,

Thank you for your email - I'm sorry it has taken so long to reply.

The television commercial is an accurate example of our many strong relationships with landholders, and, more broadly, the communities in which we operate.

It shows a landholder from Wallumbilla in Queensland, upon whose land Santos has been operating for about two years. We currently have on that property
three water monitoring bores and five wells that are ready to enter the pilot production phase. In addition, we will be constructing a water holding dam and subsurface pipelines.

The surface infrastructure on the wells is minimal. In production, well heads are about the size of a motor cycle and the area fenced off from livestock and other agriculture activites about the size of an average tool shed. The land around that will be returned to agricultural use. The ad simply demonstrates that farming activity is not adversely impacted by Santos' coal seam gas operations.



Jeremy Milne | Assistant Media Adviser | Public Affairs
Santos Limited, 60 Flinders Street, Adelaide SA 5000
t: +61 8 8116 5529 |  f: +61 8 8116 5429 | m: +61 438 803 549  |

My friend has now replied to Jeremy of Santos:

Dear Jeremy
Can you tell me  
  • a/ exactly what will be in the ponds when the water is returned to the surface ie, a list of the chemicals and how much salt , and where does this water end up ?
  • b/can you guarantee the aquifers won't be endangered with leakage when thousands of bores are drilled through them, and what measures, financial and agricultural are taken to remedy any damage. The money for gas might seem attractive but when our food production is destroyed can we eat dirt ?
  • c/Industrial land, which is what will be left after all the roads, underground pipes, sheds, spillage, gas leakage above and below ground are finished with, is never going to be returned to healthy soils and productive grazing/cropping. The farmer might have a marginally better bank balance but his farm will be unsaleable.
Your company, and others like it, are 'wedging' some farmers, as is happening in productive farmland in the US, so that gradually successful farmers become surrounded and in the end give up the fight.


What I notice about the Santos reply is that they only have monitoring bores, and "five wells that are ready to enter the pilot production phase
." on the farmer's property.

In other words the "Happy Farmer" does not have any production bores on his property. 

That hardly makes him representative of farmers living with coal seam gas wells on farms, pumping out saline water, which is also contaminated with coal chemicals, into holding tanks on their properties. He is also not dealing with the CSG industry lowering the water levels in his bores in the Great Artesian Basin. The whole thing is, of course, a PR Spin. 

Do you remember what he actually said - in the Ad? 
  • "They've been working on my place for a while now"
They may have been working on his land, but they have not yet started producing any gas from his property. 

Nor are they yet dumping onto his land any of the heavily polluted "produced water" - full of salt, and contaminated with chemicals from the coal seam.

Santos specifically states:  "In addition, we will be constructing a water holding dam and subsurface pipelines." 
Note the use of the future tense - "will be constructing..."

In other words, Santos is not yet producing anything on the "Happy Farmer's property"

The "Happy Farmer's testamonial" is meaningless, in my opinion.

If the rumours of the "Happy Farmer" being
well paid by Santos to appear in the ad are true (this was raised as a question in the "draft" Senate Committee transcripts) that further diminishes the credibilty of the advertisement, and of Santos. 
That is also my personal opinion.

I am endebted to Jeremy Milne, Assistant Media Adviser, Public Affairs, Santos Limited, for being so forthcoming in his reply to my friend Penny. 
It is called "shooting yourself in the foot," Jeremy.

I take this opportunity to wish Jeremy all the best in hunting for a new job in the Oil and Gas industry - or if nobody in that industry will have him, then elsewhere in the PR industry.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

New way of "laying" hedges.

The old ways of "laying" hedges, much approved of by the early settlers of the Southern Highlands (and traditionalists in Britain), involved planting Hawthorn hedges, and regularly trimming them and or layering low branches to form a dense thicket, impenetrable to cattle and other farm animals. One of the former owners of Whitley, on Oldbury Road, Sutton Forest, employed an English-trained Hawthorn "Hedge Layer" specifically to help restore the original Hawthorn hedges which, over the years, had been allowed to "grow out" of shape and form.

This is a new and as yet unproven method of laying hedges. It is a "Leylandii Cypress" hedge, blown over in the storms of early July 2011.

This shot shows how tall the hedge was at first, before most of it blew over.
The cattle were in the paddock the day the hedge came down (not when I went back to photograph it) and they were busy trimming the tips of the hedge. Chewing on the lush new growth which normally they could not reach. Saves employing a "Hedge Layer".

Leylandii Hedge partially blown over.

The source of the problem, was of course, the secret of the success of the hedge in the first place. The rich red basalt soil, washed down from the nighbouring basalt hills above Burrawang, make this ground very fertile. The presence of a small but permannet stream (also fed by the springs in the neighbouring basalt ridge above Burrawang) meant that the soil here is constantly moist. The trees grew well for a number of years, but eventually a stronger than normal (a "one in twenty year" storm) tore the roots of most of the Leylandii hedge trees out of the ground.

The hedge came down (not just because of the wind) because of the permanently moist soil.

It remains to be seen whether the hedge will continue to grow. It might well do so, as probably about 30% the roots of the hedge trees are still in contact with the soil, and may well allow the trees to stay alive. They are sufficiently wide as to form a decent hedge, even when bent over flat. And if they do grow, the new growth will probably start to rise vertically anyway.

If it were my paddock, I would leave the trees there, and let them take their chances to regenerate. Besides, it is a reminder of the storm of July 2011.

Friday, July 15, 2011

More on the winds of the last week, in Robbo

We have had a beating over the last 10 days or so, with the winds. (And it has been cold too).

However, it is the wind on which I wish to focus.

There has been a sad event in the cemetery, which I am confident is wind-related, not a result of mindless vandalism. I am recording this, in the hope that at some stage in the future, grieving relatives do not get the wrong idea about the damage to the Head Stone.

This perfectly lovely head stone has blown over, and in so doing has cracked and been chipped. You can see the fresh flakes and you can see how it hit one side of the grave edge and that caused it to split on the diagonal.

In the same windy week, half of one of the huge Sally Wattles (Blackwood Wattles) in the Cemetery grounds also came down. This tree was noted for the huge load of vines which were growing over the tree, and they acted like a spinnaker, trapping the wind and greatly increasing the loading on the tree. A neighbouring Blackwood Wattle, whch did not have so many vines, survived the winds just fine.

Fallen branches and vines from Blackwood Wattle in Cemetery
You can see the amount of foliage and extraneous vegetation which has come down. I have marked it with a yellow line on the image. I would guess that his tree (half of which is still there), is probably 100 years old. It has certainly seen many storms before.

It was noted for the massive growth of Pyrrosia (Rock Felt Fern) growing all over the branches of the tree. That only happens on really old Blackwood Wattles. The younger trees usually have clean branches.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Southern Right Whales at Dalmeny (near Narooma, NSW)

Regular readers will know that I am fond of "threatened species" - even big, fat, wet and slippery ones. So, as with other "out of area" reports I will post this, even thought they are not from Robertson. They are probably moving north up along the Shoalhaven or Illawarra Coast as I write - and that's close enough for me. 
Special pleading for a rare sighting.

My brother, Brendan has sent me a set of images of three Southern Right Whales, close in to the shore, at a place he refers to as "Josh's Beach" at Dalmeny, near Narooma, NSW.
Close to shore - a Southern Right Whale just visible here.
As explained on that linked site (above) these Whales were nearly hunted to extinction in Australian waters by the 1840s, and have only recovered in numbers slowly since we decided to protect them. These days they are on the "IUCN Red List" of endangered species (albeit in the "of least concern" category),

Brendan's accompanying note explains the background to his "sighting" and why he was excited by the "encounter". Fair enough, too!
  • "Three Southern Right Whales took up station (on Monday 11 July 2011) off the northern rocks at Josh's beach for a couple of hours late this morning.  They were as close as 30 metres off the rocks and they stayed there for a couple of hours - more than enough time for me to go home, get binoculas and a camera and get a couple of shots.  Not good enough for Australian Geographic but good enough to identify the animals.
  • "I have never seen Southern Right Whales before.  They are quite different to Humpbacks.  In fact the photos I sent you are good enough to identify the species.  The shape of the side fin and the bump on the nose are visible and diagnostic. There are heaps of data and photos on the Net. 
Click on the image to see the details.
Southern Right Whales (3). (Note the lumps on the nose)
  • "They are large (16 m or 60 foot) and fat and go up to 80 tonnes.  They only swim about 3 km/hour and because of their lack of speed, because they swim inshore and because they had a high oil content they were the "Right" whale to hunt.  As a result "we" pushed them to the brink of extinction by 1835.  They were one of the first animals ever to be protected by law - Tasmania - if you can call that law, in 1840.
  • "They were in close.  In fact (back in March) Lindsay and I snorkelled pretty much where the Whales were (this week)."
Plant branch on lower right of image shows how close they were.
Three Southern Right Whales - one waving its flipper.
Here is another link to show you more information about these Southern Right Whales.

A strange little Pimelea in Albion Park

My friend Kirsten has done a lot of work in Croom Regional Park, at Albion Park. Amongst the treasures (and huge banks of weeds there), she has found an unusual little plant.
It turns out to be a red-flowered Pimelea - well sort of. Rusty brown is closer to it, in my mind. To add insult to injury, it has very few flowers per flower head. It is temporarily identified as being likely to be Pimelea curviflora var curviflora.
Pimelea curviflora var curviflora.
The NSW Scientific Committee lists this species as "vulnerable" in the Sydney Region. It does not appear to be reported (officially) from the Illawarra, which is where Kirsten comes in. She is in the process of getting this record officially verified and reported. Botanist have their own way of doing these things, properly, and getting the records officially established.
I was keen to see this red Pimelea, as they are often attractive plants. I grow a lovely pink shrubby Pimelea from Western Australia. It is a lovely plant. Wow, I was in for a shock with Kirsten's plant.
The NSW Threatened Species listing refers to this plant in the following terms: "Has an inconspicuous cryptic habit as it is fine and scraggly and often grows amongst dense grasses and sedges."
Right on.
I would describe it as an inconspicuous herb.

If you click on this image (to enlarge it),
you will see a series of yellow outlines 
(ovals and a rectangle) which I have added 
to indicate where the flowers are located in the image.
please ignore the Fireweed flowers.
By contrast, this is a common white Pimelea linifolia ssp linifolia, from Welby, photographed this afternoon. It shows a much more typical form of Pimelea flower - at least the east coast forms of the genus. (There are some showy Western Australian ones which look quite different to this, especially the one known as the "Qualup Bell").

This lovely pink tinged form is an immature flower, just opening. The buds are a delightful blush pink prior to opening.
Half-opened flower of Pimelea linifolia ssp linifolia
And here is a fully mature flower -  
a lovely pure white rounded head of flowers.
Pimelea linifolia ssp linifolia

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Vale Anders Bofeldt - rare plant specialist - Illawarra

A memorial tree planting service was to be held in Wollongong this morning, to honour the life of Anders Bofeldt - a legend amongst the native plant enthusiasts of the Illawarra Region. 

Unfortunately I never met the man, but I have heard much about him - from the founding members of the Robertson Environment Protection Society (REPS)

Anders assisted them with plant surveys of the Cool Temperate Rainforest which makes up what is left of the Yarrawa Brush. Although the locals did an enormous amount of researching, physical searching, writing and illustrating to produce that booklet, Anders' authoritative knowledge underpinned the scientific accuracy of the book which became "The Guide to the Yarrawa Brush". It was published by REPS, and is now available on the web.

Anders worked as a botanist at the Wollongong Botanic Gardens. He was a contributer to the Illawarra  Biodiversity Strategy. He also contributed to many Species profiles on the Threatened Species of NSW Plants. He prepared the species list for Bellambi Lagoon

This is the cached version of the Funeral notice published by H. Parsons Funeral Directors.
"Taken from us suddenly on June 30, 2011 of Balgownie.  Beloved son of Birgite and the late Leif.  Loved brother & brother-in-law of John and Kim.   Loved uncle of Amielle, Jaylen.  Loving partner of Natalie. Anders will be sadly missed by his loving family and many dear friends here, in Sweden and  New Zealand.
Aged 46 Years.
Anders is now at peace and Forever in our Hearts.
Relatives and friends are invited to attend Anders funeral service to be held in the chapel, Parsons Funeral Home, 34 Belmore St Wollongong on Tuesday at 10:00am.   In lieu of flowers donations to Rainforest Rescue Daintree buy- back would be appreciated."

Apparently the ceremony this morning was to include a planting of a "White Beech" Gmelina leichhardtii one of Anders' favourite rare native trees of the Illawarra region. 

Thanks to Nick Rheinberger for broadcasting an interview about Anders this morning on ABC Local Radio 97.3.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Robertson - an island in a sea of broken trees

Last night saw record winds blow down trees all around the place.
The Illawarra Highway, linking Robertson to Moss Vale and Bowral and the rest of the world (to the west), was closed.
The Illawarra Highway, to the east, going down Macquarie Pass, towards the coast, and Wollongong, still remains closed.
The Jamberoo Mountain Road, linking Robertson with Jamberoo and Kiama, still remains closed as I write.
We are in effect an island, cut off from the rest of the world.

The wind has been extraordinarily strong.
The local "Firies" (Rural Fire Service) weather station reports the highest gust - 90.1 km/h at 20:51 on 05.07.2011.

The Blue Mountains, (further west and higher) have dominated the News reports with their number of trees down, and power outages. But this storm has been pretty severe locally, too.

Several local businesses are closed, for reasons to do with power brown-outs affecting their security systems, apparently. The Robertson Inn (the "Robbo Pub" had a problem with their historic roof trying to lift off. A team of builders from Wollongong, who happened to be staying there last night got the job of providing a temporary "fix". But they wisely decided not to try anything heroic in the middle of the night. But they were up on the roof this morning.

The wind affected me last night, in a small way, by having brought down a large Pittosporum tree across the road, just outside my place. I was due to drive to the Pub for a regular Trivia night, but the road was completely blocked. This is what it looked like this morning.

Tree across my road (from the downhill side)

This is the view from the other side.
This is the road to the local Cemetery, 
and there are a few properties along that road too.
So it is not just me who was cut off.
The trunk of the tree was about 600mm in diameter
Fortunately the Council emergency services road clearing team turned up this morning with 6 blokes, chain saws, a large backhoe and a truck to clear the road. For once, let me say I am happy to pay my rates.

The Council guys were surprised that a Pittosporum would grow so large. But I know that there are far larger ones in the local Robertson Rain Forest.

The neighbouring village of Burrawang (home of the largest Eucalypt trees in the district) was without power from 4:00pm, The Burrawang Pub was closed, so the Robbo Pub had a few stragglers visit for tea and they stayed to join our Trivia Night event.

As far as I know, the only damage to trees on my own block is minimal. But I will wait till the wind dies down completely before doing a full patrol.

The Wattle trees which Zoe and I planted, below my house in May 2004 have had their heads snapped off (again). But I regard that as mere pruning. It saves the power company guys from having to cut the heads off these trees, to ensure the Power Lines are not likely to be touched anyway.

This is a good reminder that the famous "August Winds" do not just blow in August. In 2006 I wrote about them on 11 July.

Last night's winds equate to Force 10 on the Beaufort Scale: Technically, a "Storm" which is two steps up from a "Gale" (techo speak is different from our general usage of those words.

10  Storm  
48-55 knots Seldom experienced inland; trees uprooted; considerable structural damage.

Our local reports fit their description perfectly.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Shoo Cockatoo at the Australian One Day Eventing Championships

The "Australian One Day Eventing Championships" were held at the Araluen property at Sutton Forest on Saturday.

In an classically cynical action, these national horse trials were sponsored by Hume Coal (and Posco, a huge Korean steel manufacturer). Ironic, that, as the threat of a coal mine hangs over the local community. Their lush green paddocks might well turn to dry dust if the water courses and groundwater in the district are interfered with by underground mining directly underneath this property and neighbouring properties. Wells Creek, a key local waterway, runs right though this property.

As the event was held on the property of one of the most staunch supporters of the Southern Highlands Coal Action Group, the SHCAG sought the approval of the property owner to hold one of their "Shoo Cockatoo" promotional displays on site too.

They set up adjacent to the Hume Coal promotional tent.
Oh dear - the poor Cockatoos took flight.
You can read the local paper's story here.

Then the SHCAG supporters mingled amongst the crowd of horse owners and signed up another 150 supporters, taking their mailing list to over 3500 members now.
Everybody was showing their allegiances
This is the real message from the property owner.
Shoo Cockatoo sign proudly displayed on the fence of Araluen.

You would think that Hume Coal outsmarted themselves by this cyncial attempt to buy favour in the community. But that's typical of the way Mining Companies behave, right around Australia. They pretend to care for the locals, but they just want your coal, and they do not want local community groups standing in their way.

One would have to ask if Julie Gander the company's Community Liaison Officer is doing a good job, picking this event to sponsor? I don't think so, as, on the day, she headed off to hide her embarrasment - leaving the company's promotional tent abandoned.
Hume Coal's abandoned promotional tent
Oh dear!