Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Monday, April 30, 2012

Paul Robeson's immortal presentation of "Joe Hill"

For May Day (tomorrow).
Paul Robeson's spectacularly good voice singing this nostalgic song about Joe Hill.

It is an immortal voice (of a dead singer), singing about a dead worker (who never dies).

Turn up the volume.
The sound has been vastly improved ("cleaned") since I first heard this song.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Green Hills of Robertson

The late afternoon light, two days ago, shows the green fields of the local farms at their best.

I am almost immune to noticing "how green" Robertson is.
But in this case, even I could not ignore this amazing light effect.

Lena had decided she wanted to go for a walk down the middle of the road, but as she is nearly deaf, I could not bear to just let her go off by herself.
She often does go for "walkies" by herself - but at night, to check out the Wombat activity. My street is quiet enough that I do not worry about that. Anyway, in the last analysis, she deserves to be trusted. I cannot control her 24/7, as the phrase is.

But this was in the bright daylight of late afternoon, and there were people around.
So I decided to follow her on her little excursion, to see where she was off to.

She went down through a patch of trees overhanging the road, had a few sniffs, etc.
And she went further than I had realised she likes to go.
She got down to the large powerlines I see from my back deck. 
I decided that enough was enough, and ran down the road, and caught up to her, "to turn her head towards home".

"He followed like a bloodhound on their track,
Till they halted cowed and beaten, 
then he turned their heads for home,
And alone and unassisted brought them back."
And this was my reward.
The brightest light imaginable,
and the best and greenest fields one could hope for.
The green colour was so bright that it almost hurt my eyes. 

Afternoon light on fields
along Missingham Pde

A young Sassafras Tree
growing out in the open field.

Looking further across the fields.
You can just see several roofs and a shed.
The light is different because of the longer view.

In case my "vista" looks familiar to you, this might be why.
The Movie "Babe" was filmed down the end of the road (where Lena was heading). Here are several "screenshots" from the Preview of "Babe" which is
available to view on the Web. (Courtesy of Universal)

Screenshot from "Babe" Preview
Looking across Bell Farm
towards the Cemetery hill.

Screenshot from "Babe" Preview.
The grass and the trees in the background
are just as I saw them the other day.
The Pig "Babe" was in the film"
but is no longer here.

The flowers are fake (movie props).
Post script: Not wanting to boast, as I claim no credit for all this greenness, but I send a special message to my Blogging colleague Martin, to say, this is what real Australian greenness looks like.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Magnificent Grevillea Garden

On Sunday I had the pleasure of visiting Peter Olde's Grevillea garden at 140 Russell Lane, Oakdale, near Nattai. I went with fellow Orchid enthusiasts and Native plant lovers, Christine, and Ken and Leonie.

The display of plants was remarkable, consisting mostly of Grevilleas, but certainly not exclusively so. There were unusual Hakeas, and Banksias as well as many fine Eucalypts and many, many other unusual Native plants, and even some exotics.

Unfortunately, not many plants were labelled, or readily identifiable (to us) as many were hybrid varieties, it seems. However, a great garden can simply be enjoyed, just like an Art Gallery, by feasting one's eyes on the treasures on display.

One point to note was that native birds were everywhere.
Eastern Spinebill - a nice male bird.
A Red-browed Finch in a Grevillea bush.
There were many Red-browed Finches, Superb Fairy-wrens, and Honeyeaters, of at least 5 species (Eastern Spinebills, Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters, Noisy Miners, and Red Wattlebirds), Magpies, Mudlarks, Kookaburras, Scrubwrens, Willie Wagtails, Grey Fantails, plus some waterbirds on and around the dams. As Ken commented at the time, plant Natives and the birds will come.

A semi-prostrate shrub with great foliage.
A large spreading shrub, this one.

Hakea laurina
A lovely creamy yellow Grevillea

Interesting red Grevillea with greyish ferny foliage
We concluded this beautiful flower is a Hakea,
because of the shape of the seed capsules.

A fine dense Grevillea shrub

Add caption
A lovely golden flowering Grevillea

A bright red Grevillea.
I bought a plant similar to this one.

A stunning citron yellow Grevillea
Another Grevillea with similar colour,
but with extremely good "form"
of horizontally held branches and flowers.
A striking Banksia tree
with interesting foliage and
amazingly long, pointed cones.
Each cone was approximately 15 inches long.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Stick Insects "Doing what comes natur'lly"

When I was a youngster, in Melbourne, I remember this song as 
the "naughtiest" thing I had ever heard.

"Folks are dumb where I come from,
They ain't had any learning.
Still they're happy as can be
Doin' what comes naturally (doin' what comes naturally).
Folks like us could never fuss
With schools and books and learning.
Still we've gone from A to Z,
Doin' what comes naturally (doin' what comes naturally)
You don't have to know how to read or write
When you're out with a feller in the pale moonlight.
You don't have to look in a book to find out
What he thinks of the moon and what is on his mind.
That comes naturally (that comes naturally)."

For some reason, given the strict Catholic background of my family, we were allowed to sing this song around the house, seemingly without giving offence. Strange that. My Mother was tone deaf (seriously so) and maybe she liked Ethel Merman's slightly atonal singing? Who knows?
I fondly remember hearing that George Gershwin "made her promise never to work with a singing teacher" Good advice, that! If your voice has a unique tone, and style, exploit it, don't let someone train it out of you.

Anyway, what's all this about?
(Click on the images to enlarge them)
A mating pair of Robinson's Stick-insects
Note the dramatic size difference between
the small male and the large female.
That size difference between the sexes
is quite a common factor
in many species of Stick-insects.
(but not as obvious in

the Lord Howe Island Phasmids)

These Stick-insects (Phasmids) were mating on my friends Matt and Cat's front door last night, when I came to pick Matt up to go to our Tuesday night Trivia Session at Three Creeks Cafe. To explain, the glass door served to silhouette these Stick-insects, so although they are only quite small, they were clearly visible, even in the dark  (with the light on in the house behind them).

I noticed these insects when I knocked on the door, and as they were still "engaged" several hours later, when we came back from Trivia Night, I sought permission to get some shots. As that involved using the Flash outside their front door, I knew I needed to seek permission, lest I alarm Cat and the kiddies. Anyway, it was all pretty discrete, and no concern was expressed. Certainly, no harm was done to the Stick-insects. They were still "engaged" when I left.
Head and antennae of the female
Robinson's Stick-insect.
Note the orange mouth parts
and the long antennae
(with light bands across them)

This is a male which I had seen on my own front porch, earlier on during the day.
Male Robinson's Stick-insect
I would never have dared to ID this fellow from the poor quality photo I had of it. About the only detail I had been able to make out was the long antennae with faint banding evident. (In the picture, the two antennae are held together, between the two front legs. It makes it seem like it has 3 front legs, but that's never going to be right, is it?)

But with the much larger female turning up in the evening (three doors up the road) I had a bit more to work with.

I got out my copy of "The Complete Field Guide to Stick and Leaf Insects of Australia" by Paul D Brock and Jack W Hasenpusch and started to track through looking firstly at the illustrations and then the distribution maps (many tropical or West Australian species can easily be ruled out).
The Field Guide is also available in an eBook version.
You can even read a review of this Field Guide by "Snail" (my Blogging colleague) at her Blog site.

I was fortunate that after I had written about the Lord Howe Island Stick-insects, a few months ago, I had been contacted directly by Paul Brock. Paul works as a Scientific Associate at the Natural History Museum in London, and is a world authority on Stick and Leaf Insects. Anyway, with my mating pair I decided to follow up a comment Paul had made in his email to me, that he had visited Robertson several years ago and had found a number of specimens of Candovia robinsoni (which seem to have ended up in the Australian Museum). These (confusingly named - in the circumstances) - Robinson's Stick-insects in and around Robertson. He commented that they were "common" in the local Robertson Nature Reserve (which is just down the end of my street) and at the Barren Grounds Nature Reserve. He also commented that these insects could easily be found at night. (Yet another entomologist who swears that night time is the best time to chase insects!).
Anyway, I fired off a quick email this morning to Paul, in London, with two of these images, and got a reply back several hours later, confirming my tentative ID of my pair of Stick-insects as Candovia robinsoni.  

Yeah! Its always good to have got the ID right, and then to get it confirmed by an expert.

He also confirmed that this species does not have wings (for my pair are presumably both "mature" and yet neither has wings), unlike some Phasmids which have dramatic wings.
It is always appreciated when serious entomologists and other specialists are prepared to assist the likes of myself, an amateur naturalist, doing my best to get a decent ID (but I sometimes get it wrong). In this case, my thanks go to Paul Brock for his advice.

Incidentally, it seems to be a season for Stick-insects as Joy, another Blogger, (from the north coast of NSW) has just reported on finding a much larger Stick-insect than mine. And so has my Facebook friend Murray, from the South Coast of NSW.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Murray Darling River system is a living organism

This private Submission was sent by my friend Brigid,  a long-term campaigner for the Murray River, and friend of the River peoples - the Aboriginal people of the Murray Darling Basin.

  • "Firstly, I wish to complain about the way the MDBA authority has handled both the first and second iterations of the debate on the plan for the Murray Darling Basin.  On both occasions, irrigation interests in NSW have done their level best to hijack the debate in an attempt to make their voice the dominant voice, if it can’t drown out others altogether.
  • "It is clear to me that no time during either process did the MDBA attempt to make the debate a national issue for a national icon requiring a truly national voice.  It actually took an Aboriginal man to draw attention to the need for a national voice.
  • "It took an elderly Aboriginal man, Uncle William Riley – a Maljangapa Elder – to put it succinctly in his poem: Let’s do it as a nation.

As I sit here tonight thinking,
How our country’s drying out,
I fully know the reason being,
This ten year man made drought.

They’ve dammed our upper tributaries,
To make it right for cotton,
While smaller farmers further down,
are totally forgotten.

Inland rivers have stopped flowing,
With our livestock being bogged,
We curse the upstate irrigators,
Where our water’s being hogged.

But just look at what it’s doing,
To our fauna and our flora,
We’re heading down the poor road,
And getting even poorer.

They’ve killed our lakes and wetlands,
that used to feed the Murray.
So if we’re going to fix this problem,
SAY let’s do it in a hurry.

But to get things really moving,
And stop further degradation,
We must all rise get off our butts,
And do it as a Nation.

  • "This was published in A yarn on the river: getting Aboriginal voices into the Basin Plan.  Again, though, not good enough MDBA.  This came very late in the already high-jacked debate.  I wonder how many Australians understand the concept of ‘cultural flows’ which Aboriginal voices have put forward in this debate?
  • "Urban voices were vilified by agricultural lobby groups as not knowing where their food came from; not living within the Basin, etc.  I do not live within the Basin ... at this time in my life.  I have lived within the Basin in two states for periods which constitute a good bit of my life – and in places which are major agricultural centres.  I now live in regional Victoria, not too far from the Murray and its southern catchment and, in addition, I regularly visit the area.
  • "Agricultural lobby groups harped on about the economies of the towns within the basin as if they were walled around and no urban visitors ever came into the Basin catchments.  People on the urbanised fringes of this continent contribute significantly to the economies of MDB communities – most particularly through regional tourism.  In the main, when people from the continental fringe visit the MDB and adjacent areas it is to enjoy the natural features of the areas some of which are national parks, forest reserves or some other form of gazetted area.  I have recently returned from just such a visit to the Murray region between Barmah and Moama-Echuca with 25 friends.  We contributed significantly in a number of ways to the communities in the area.  When people visit the MDB to enjoy its natural features, do they hope to see an environment which is not respected, not appropriately maintained, and which is thirsty for appropriate quantities of water?  Of course they don’t.
  • "Gone are the days when major towns within and adjacent to the MDB were reliant only on agricultural production and services in relation to that industry.  Large centres seek to have a mixed economies which are not dependent on one product, one interest, or one service.  Regional tourism is part of a mixed economy in regional Australia and is supported to a very great degree from people not connected with agriculture and who share environmental appreciation and understand the need for water to maintain the physical heritage of Australia. 
  • "The MDB has failed to seek a national voice, a national constituency for the Murray Darling Basin and, by this sin of omission, a national feature of great importance to this heritage may be placed in danger as vested and aggressive interests seek to dominate the limited conversation.
  • "I am not going into detail about water requirements since voices from science and the environmental lobby will speak more convincingly than I.  I just wish to state that I support significant quantities of water – much more than the agricultural lobby groups wish to support – aside for maintaining the heritage of ALL Australians.  I don’t want to see the Murray Darling Basin deprived of water.  I don’t want to see the Murray Darling Basin further degraded by neglect of natural features and physical uniqueness.
  • "I am pleased to see the unique arguments of Aboriginal Australians in relation to ‘cultural flows’.  However, I must point out my sadness that the First Nations had to resort to such a distinctive.  Their culture and spirituality recognises land and water as inseparable ... but the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) put paid to this idea two decades ago to enable the commodification of water and the establishment of a virtual stock exchange for one of life’s essential requirements.  Any gain for the land and catchments of our nation through water trading is illusory.  In no way can benefit be of universal long term value.  Short-sighted long term greed will wreck the system.
  • "Which brings me to the whole point of the exercise.  The MDBA was established to bring some sense into the mess that is the water take from the MDB through illegal and undeclared diversions, over-allocation, and general environmental neglect and degradation to which agriculture has been a major contributor.  Because there has been no attempt at true consensus and instead a cacophony of fractured voices, I am pessimistic that anything will be achieved after the events of the last few years.
  • "If a decision is made that does not satisfy agricultural lobby groups – they will go to the High Court.
  • If a decision is made that does not satisfy South Australia – it will go to the High Court.
  • If a decision is made that does not satisfy science and environmental organisations – perhaps they will find a pathway to the High Court too.
  • "As for voices like mine and like the First Nations of Australia, I doubt they will be heard beyond this currently closing date for submissions on the Plan.
  • "I think the voices of environmental neglect and degradation; the voices of greed, corruption and every corporation for itself; the voices of self-interest and short-term thinking will dominate.  I don’t think right or common sense will win out any more than we will settle this in the best possible way as a cohesive nation.
  • "It has been an effort to write this because I am so pessimistic, so sad for the land, the water and my nation.  You see, I believe that my view – which is shared by many others – will be blowing in the wind, unseen, unheard, unheeded.  However, I have made the effort if only for the sake of this view being placed on record somewhere, somehow."
  •  Brigid  


 My own personal Submission is also attached:

"I wish to lodge a very simple Submission.
It might be regarded as "simplistic" but that would be your mistake, not mine.

"In essence I support the views of the Friends of the Earth and other environmental groups. Their point and mine, is that the Murray-Darling River system in its entirety ought be regarded as a River, not a canal system.

"It is a living entity, composed of innumerable living organisms - insects, fish, plants, algae, birds.

"The approach advocated by the irrigators, especially the group known as "Murrumbidgee Irrigation", and the Victorian Dairy Industry people, notably "Murray Dairy", have lost perspective on the River systems which feed them, and upon which they rely.

"Yes, they rely on the River, but they are not the only ones.

People, plants, fish, trees, all count.
Except that only some of these organisms vote.

"Also, when considering the economic importance of these organisations, it is worth asking the extent to which they have been captured by foreign investors (especially in the Victorian case).

"My personal opinion is that the entire "consultation" process (phase one and phase two) has been completely botched.

"The Draft MDB Plan, as it currently stands is a "
compromise based upon a compromise".
  • The authority reported that the number being as high as 7,600 gigalitres per year would bring long-term sustainability and would be the best scenario for the ecosystems of the basin but "would not be socially or economically viable"
  • Source: Wikipedia   
"As far as I can tell the best science in this entire process was in the first evaluation of the environmental needs of the Basin.
That figure was, as I understand it, approximately 4000 GL.
But that was scrubbed, prior to the original "consultation" by the MDBA

"Then that organisation's Chairman resigned, in a hasty reaction to political insurrection caused by the Irrigators of the Murray-Goulburn system (at Shepparton, and the NSW Irrigators, at Griffith.

"As far as I am concerned, since the new Chairman of the MDBA was appointed, by his former political "mate", Minister Burke, things have gone from bad to worse.
  • The Draft Plan simply does not meet the requirements of the Water Act.
"Craig Knowles ought stand down as Chairman, for having failed his charter."

Denis Wilson 

I am now adding an additional comment from one of my water campaigning colleagues, someone closely associated with the Murray River.


I have forgotten to make comment about my disappointment in Mr Craig Knowles, who as we all read about in the news, continually disparaging the previous MDBA and its chair, and the Guide (the guide probably could have been called a rough draft, maybe that would have been clearer to people). It is obvious to me that Mr Knowles' appointment was a political appointment and there is a lack of independence, which is clearly evident in the immediate shrinking of the cap from 4,000GL to 2,750GL with a massive increase of 2,600GL in groundwater extraction limits. There were no other figures vigorously contemplated, either lower and especially not higher. This figure was arrived at before community consultation and without application of ESD or the Precautionary Principle or the principle of inter-generational equity.

Mr Knowles constantly calls the plan 'his' plan whereas I thought that this was 'our' plan, because we are to have input. It is so much better practice ( and definitely democratic) to encourage participation in decision-making because the resulting decision is always more accepted by those it actually impacts upon.

During the consultation in Mildura, our questions, which we felt were important, were lumped together in groups of 4-5 questions, instead of being answered fully and individually, allowing us further input if we felt they were not answered and they failed to ask of our questions were answered, as if didn't matter anyway. Rather than the microphone coming to us, as it did at the first MDBA's consultations, we had to line up in front of one or two mikes standing there waiting our turn, feeling very uncomfortable and exposed.  Our questions were flubbed and not fully answered. The meeting was run by a consulting firm, who though was nice, put us at arms length from the MDBA and we were constantly cut off and told to finish up because we had used up enough time. This was totally unlike the previous Authority, who allowed us the time to speak and actually gave us the impression that they actually cared about our concerns and they would take note of them in their deliberations. They never got the chance. Mr Burke hopped up and flicked answers at us, but without any scientific evidence or real effort to inform us. I did not understand why he sat up front if the MDBA is independent. Though he needs to hear what we have to say, we were directing our questions at the Authority who gets to write the Draft Plan.

The whole process has been flawed. We were not given the in depth information prior to the consultation sessions, that the Authority relied on to make their decisions on the SDLs or even the increase in groundwater take, as an example. We had about 2 hours, there was no power point showing the difference between what this Authority was saying, to what was set out in the Guide. It sounded like Mr Knowles and the Authority had thrown the Guide on the heap, because it offended people, instead of discussing it with an open mind and pointing put the difference to us and how it had been changed and why, with what impacts.

The consultation sessions were held during harvest time, when people were busy getting ready to pick their fruit, which meant that a lot of people simply were unable to attend. This was totally inconsiderate of an Authority that knew that we needed to know what they proposed, and the Authority needed  to hear what our concerns were. Very badly planned, very. Almost as if it allowed them to escape criticism with less people in attendance. This does not reflect that we do not care, it is about timing, venue, the belief that what we say can make a difference and that you will inform and you will be quiet and listen. This is democracy. I included a copy of the Aarhus Convention in my attachments and perhaps it is time that Australia became a signatory so that we, the people who live in a supposedly democratic country are encouraged and allowed to take part in decision- making and have access to information, all the information that decision-makers have before them and finally access to environmental justice. Until politicians, whether ex or present implement this Convention we do not have a true democracy. We are excluded from decision-making and access to information and environmental justice because it will be considered here on Australia as "red tape"!!!

I have absolutely no confidence in this Authority actually taking into account any new evidence or reading our submissions with a view to taking into account what we say. I have a feeling that this Basin plan will be weak and ineffectual, that it will penalize states who are endeavoring to do the right thing and reward others who have developers and mining companies and others who will bring in money for all levels of government to the detriment of all of us who live in the MDB and rely on its health.

Piping water kilometers away from rivers and floodplains and Groundwater sources means that that water will no longer filter back into the MDB system. Instead it will go into another basin and create other impacts there. Has the MDBA thought this one through. Like taking the water from the Goulburn River, a tributary to the Murray to Melbourne, which is totally out of the catchment. At least Adelaide is at the end of the system!

Mr Knowles has stamped his foot on this draft plan, and as an ex politician I am very concerned that he is not independent of government. He kept telling us all the wonderful things he did in government. This Plan will not save the Murray-Darling Basin.

Perhaps we can have another Chair who follows the Water Act's objectives without a hidden agenda, and works with the MDBA coming up with a Plan that, when implemented, achieves what the Water Act and the NWI wants, to bring back the MDB to a sustainable healthy extraction level, whilst considering social and economic interests as well.

Submission ends.

These 3 separate comments show just some of the impressions of just how bad the Murray Darling Basin Authority's Draft Plan really is.

But (probably) Craig Knowles will be out there from tomorrow claiming it as a crowning achievement.

Denis Wilson

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Vintage Car display at the "Robertson Common".

The Robertson Common, adjacent to the Robertson Heritage Railway Station, was the scene of a great collection of "vintage" cars today.

The weather was pleasant, and a good crowd assembled and ate the caterers out of all their food.

Everybody seemed to enjoy themselves - car enthusiasts and the locals as well.
A very nice Classic Bentley
You've got to love a line up of Morris Minors
Judging by the Badge emblem
this is a very nice Chevvy Corvette

A fine early model Vauxhaul
Bonnet badge detail
A left-hand drive Ford GT 350 H
I assume this is an imported model.
Only 1000 made.

A restored Ford Utility

A 1949 Vanguard
My family owned a similar car
when I was very young.

A collection of enthusiasts vehicles
An early Mazda sport sedan

A classic Volvo sport sedan
Roger Moore (a.k.a, "The Saint")
where are you?
Hood ornament on the Chevrolet

A black Chevrolet

Grill badge for the Chevrolet - above
A red "Thunderbird"
A classic (if only because of the cartoon series)
But at least it is red one!

1960s Chevrolet
(See below to see the rear fins of this car)

Motor of the Crossley

An original (restored) Crossley

The Crossley seen from behind.
The 1960 Chevvy in the rear
(Seen 2 images above)
shows off the outrageous tail fins.
At least the horizontal tail fins were better than the
vertical ones much beloved of Cadillac.

A nice vintage hurse

A Mercury "Eight"

An enthusiast with a Jet Engine vehicle (a functioning model)
incredibly noisy when the turbine and after-burner kick in.

A shiny black Buick "Riviera"

A nice Ford Ute

A nice burgundy Merc, and my dirty little Daihatsu Feroza
which has now clocked over 300,000 Kms.
Does that make it Vintage?
Probably not.
Just as well, I would have to clean and polish it, then.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

"Paradise Lost" - a selection of Botanic Works

Today I attended the opening of a display of Botanic Works of Art, by the Millennium Artists, a group of artists led by Jennifer Small. Their exhibition is entitled "Paradise Lost".

I know a number of these artists having been invited to take them of a field trip last Spring, when we went down to Tourist Road, Kangaloon.

Their work is very fine indeed. That is something of an revelation to me. When I took them out into the field, I am afraid I had no idea quite how talented and experienced they were. No doubt some of them thought I was patronizing in my simplistic explanation of botanical parts of the flowers, etc. It was only at the end when some of them produced magnifying glasses and hand lenses, that I realised they already did know their stigmas from their styles.

Their exhibition is on at the Bowral and District Art Society (BDAS) Gallery, which is tucked around the back from the Library and past the Police Station, at 1 Short Street, Bowral.
(Corrected - originally posted as Berrima)

I was invited there by Dr Cathryn Coutts, one of the artists, and a personal friend of mine, and a Robertson resident. I also met up with Helen Moon, another talented artist and who is regarded as their Orchid specialist, appropriately enough, as I know Helen from the Illawarra Branch of the Australasian Native Orchid Society.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Swift Moths arrive

As with many things this season, in Robertson, the Swift Moths have emerged early. No doubt in my mind it is the recent cold snap which has triggered them to emerge.

These two individuals are less clearly marked than many of the others I have seen and photographed previously. However, I have no clear basis on which to declare them to be anything other than the species previously identified as occurring in Robertson.Oxycanus dirempta 

Oxycanus dirempta

This one snuck in past the insect screen
Oxycanus dirempta

Eyes and antennae of
Oxycanus dirempta

Hind wings and abdomen of
Oxycanus dirempta
No doubt this is just an early showing for these moths which frequently beat themselves against my winds, especially on cold wet nights. Tonight has been dry, not wet.