Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Friday, January 31, 2014

Flowers of Leptomeria acida (Native Currant)

When I went to photograph the NSW Christmas Bush in flower
on Barrengarry Mountain the other day
I noticed a number of stiff, erect shrubs growing amongst the Christmas Bushes.
They had tiny red flowers, with contrasting white stamens.
The whole flower had a definite geometric formation about it.
I have seen the flower before, but was never quite sure about its ID
That is because PlantNET has a very poor description.
That is probably because they have tried to describe it from dried specimens.
There are perfectly good photos of the flowers of this plant taken by
Alan Page of Waratah Software.

Seen in hand, the tiny flowers are barely visible.
This twiggy shrub has few true leaves.
Add caption

Fruit of Leptomeria acida
This photo was taken on a trip to Nerriga,
in February 2012.
If these bushes I was looking at on Barrengarry had
been bearing fruit (at the time)
I would have recognised them instantly.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

NSW Christmas Bush on edge of Barrengarry Mountain

The NSW Christmas Bush Ceratopetalum gummiferum is not rare, but it is certainly not common in this Southern Highlands district. I have seen a dense stand of these trees out on Meryla Pass Road, way out along that road, some 8 kms beyond "Manchester Square". But this season I have seen these NSW Christmas Bushes flowering at the top of the Barrengarry Mountain pass (on the Nowra to Fitzroy Falls road). These plants are growing on each side of the council border, between Wingecarribee Shire and Shoalhaven Shire. So, some of them are clearly within the Southern Highlands region.

NSW Christmas bush in full colour
on the top edge of Barrengarry Mountain
Most of the Barrengarry climb takes you through dense, wet rainforest. There the dominant trees (the noticeable ones in flower at present, anyway, are Coachwoods. Their reddish-brown "flowers" (bracts actually) make these huge trees clearly visible at present. However, as one approaches the top of the hill, one gets to a shelf, where you are above the rainforest, and starting to enter the drier Eucalypt and Hakea forest. And there is a power line easement where the larger Eucalypts have been removed, but the mid-sized Christmas Bushes have not been removed. So they are receiving full sun, which they obviously love, and they are in full colour at present.
A low growing branch of NSW Christmas Bush
at eye height.
The 6 to 9 inch thick trunk is visible behind the "flowers".
So, by my reckoning these would be classed as small trees.

Their fruiting bodies (the calyx and the nut which forms once the flowers have finished) are bright red. Their calyxes are considerable redder than the closely related Coachwood trees, growing at a lower level in the wet forest. The area where these Christmas Bushes are growing has large sandstone rocky outcrops. But the edge of the sandstone escarpment is blunted here. It is not a cliff line (that is below). So the simplest way to describe where they are growing is to refer to it as a shelf, just above the Kangaroo Valley (Barrengarry) escarpment. 

Sepals and the nut of NSW Christmas Bush
showing its true, bright colour.
This shows small whispy "petals"
surrounding the "nut"
- a feature missing in the
related plant - the Coachwood.

The leaf of the NSW Christmas Bush is trifoliate.
Each leaflet has a prominent rib
which is set in a channel.
Leaflet edges are finely toothed.
By contrast, the Coachwood is classed as 1-foliate.
It has a much larger, longer single-bladed leaf.

The under-side of the NSW Christmas Bush leaf.
It shows distinct, fine venations
with a central rib clearly prominent on each leaflet.
The leaf edges are finely toothed.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Yellow-throated Scrubwren nesting record

Several days ago I was with Allan Styles in the Robertson Nature Reserve. We were photographing ferns and Allan was helping me with correct IDs for them. He is very experienced with Ferns, and more generally with the plants of the Robertson Rainforest. He was one of the lead authors in compiling the "A Guide to the Yarrawa Brush".

Anyway, while we were looking there for ferns I happened to notice a pendant nest, which I knew to be a nest of one of the Scrubwren species. I actually thought it was likely to be the nest of the Large-billed Scrubwren, which I have seen nesting high in a pendant Dagger Orchid plant, growing on a tall Coachwood tree. I have seen nests of the Yellow-throated Scrubwren before, but usually in wet gullies, often suspended over a creek.

Anyway, I resolved to go back today, in the hope that, with the cool moist weather, I might find the parent birds at home. I got lucky.

It turned out to be a Yellow-throated Scrubwren. Sericornis citreogularis
Yellow-throated Scrubwren
in her pendant nest.
It surprised me, as I have not seen that species up here in Robertson. I have found nests of that species lower down in the wet forest close to Tourist Road, in East Kangaloon. But not up here in Robertson - until today. This species is commonly found in the wet coastal forests. As far as I know, this is a first record for the Robertson Nature Reserve. I would welcome any advice of other records from birdwatchers.

I have reported this find to the Robertson Environment Protection Society, as their Journal "Eucryphia" is a journal of record, as far as reports of such items.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Foggy Day in Robbo

These photos were taken at 12:15 PM (lunchtime, or after breakfast, if you keep the same hours as I do).

They were taken at the bottom end of the Old Road, Robertson, where it links back to the Illawarra Highway. This is about 500 metres from the Pie Shop. 

This is about 60 metres from the Illawarra Highway.
The sign ahead (on left) is close to the corner.
I could hear cars and trucks driving past,
on the highway,
but I could not see them through the fog.
Taken at the corner, looking back to my parked car.
The head lights are on, but barely visible.
The car is about 60 metres away.
Looking down the Illawarra Highway.
There is a  car with lights on approaching.
My concern is that to drive back into the village,
I had to be sure there was no traffic coming
either way.
Best way to do that was to open left and right windows,
and listen closely for any road sounds.

This shot shows a car and trailer having passed me.
Another car passed me,
closely followed by a second car (clearly visible)

In hazardous driving conditions like this, my advice is 
As described above,
wind down left and right door windows
and listen for road noises,
before deciding to enter fast-moving traffic.
This works surprisingly well on wet roads.

50 metres visibility, or 60 or even 70 is just not enough to be completely safe.
The road safety people say the three second rule should apply.
In difficult conditions, I would extend that interval (gap between cars).

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Local Land Services - elections require us to "register".

Such is the state of democracy in NSW that we are now required to register to vote for the people who will stand as Board Members of the newly created Local Land Services Board.
The inaugural Local Land Services Board Member elections will take place on 12 March 2014. Ratepayers will elect 34 board members across the 11 regions. There are three members to be elected to each region, except for the Western region where four members are to be elected. The elections will bring the LLS leadership team one critical step closer to full strength.
Nominations open
Nominations for Board member positions are now open. Occupiers of rateable land are eligible to nominate a candidate. Anyone 18 years of age or older can be nominated for elections provided their normal place of residence is in the region.
Nominations close 5pm 31 January 2014.
Enrol to vote
Only persons on the Local Land Services electoral roll for the region will be eligible to vote. Ratepayers across the State are encouraged to enrol to vote by lodging an enrolment form to be eligible to vote in the 2014 LLS elections.
Persons who have been on the electoral rolls of Livestock Health and Pest Authorities will not have their names automatically transferred to the electoral roll of Local Land Services.
Only one occupier per land holding can enrol to vote. In the case of multiple occupiers per holding, only one occupier can be enrolled to vote.
Enrolments close 5pm 17 February 2014.
Please submit your form at a Local Land Services office. Application forms are also available at your Local Land Services office.
Electoral roll
A copy of the electoral roll for each region is available for inspection at the regional Local Land Services offices.
How to vote
Once enrolled, all persons on the electoral roll will receive their ballot papers in the mail. All instructions and details will be provided on your ballot paper. Once the ballot papers are filled out, they can be mailed out or hand delivered to your local LLS office.
Voting closes 5pm 12 March 2014.
Election results
Election results will be announced on 14 March 2014.


I went to that website, and immediately discovered the following unanswerable questions:
  • Holding reference number .............
  • Contact ID number ............

I would dearly love to enrol (my Democratic Urge is sadly unfulfilled these days), but WTF?

Without an explanation of where I can find that information, looks like I will be reduced to my position as a lonely by-stander in this exciting new democratic experience.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Coachwood trees offer fantastic display

I was about to write Coachwod trees look fantastic in "full bloom", but I realised that would be technically incorrect. They colour up when their flowers are finished and the sepals are maturing. "The flower colour is actually in the sepals, as there are no real petals (Ceratopetalum apetalum)"

A Coachwood along Pearsons Lane
Growing amongst Blackwood Wattles
 and other rainforest plants
There are masses of these trees in full flower just below the cliff level, along the Illawarra Escarpment.
View from the Jamberoo Lookout
off Jamberoo Mountain Road.
The lookout is excellent (on a clear day)
but the road sign has been removed by the RMS.
Look for a driveway on the east, just below
a serious rise in the road, on the Budderoo Plateau.
It is well worth a stop.
Easy parking, and a walk to a high tech platform
built by the National Parks and Wildlife Service people.
One of their best lookouts.

A zoomed shot of Coachwoods contrasting with
a bright green canopy of a very large "Pencil Cedar" tree.
Here are some close-up shots of the coloured sepals of the Coachwoods.

This shot shows the variation in form of the sepals
Some have 4 "calyx lobes" some have 5.

This shows the developing "Nut"
Within the "persistent calyx".
See this page of PlantNET

Friday, January 03, 2014

"Dorrigo Waratahs" in Robertson

The "Dorrigo Waratahs" (Alloxylon pinnatum) have been grown in Robertson by Dr David Tranter. He planted them at the Railway Station where they make a marvellous display at Christmas and New Year. 

"Dorrigo Waratahs" (Alloxylon pinnatum)

There is a set of photos on my Facebook page,
These photos are publicly accessible. You do not have to join Facebook.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Summer flowers along Kirkland Road, Kangaloon.

Here are some flowers from along Kirkland Road, Kangaloon.
Bauera rubioides
This is a naturally occurring "double" variety of this plant.
There are a  number of such plants with double flowers
growing in this area.
Normally the plants have single flowers.
(Meaning just a single row of petals,
and stamens in the centre.)
This plant appears to have staminodes, not normal stamens.
There is an open album on Facebook, which anyone can see.
You do not have to be a member of Facebook to see these photos.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

New Years Day 2014

Well, firstly let me wish all readers a Happy New Year and a great 2014 to come.

The rainfall figures (by month) for 2013 were:

January 196; February 270; March 124.5; April 159.25; May 106; June 428;
Then it seemed as if the world had forgotten how to rain in Robertson.
July 17; August 1.5; September 189; October 10.2; November 202; December 60.5.
That gave us a total annual rainfall of 1763.95 mm.

That is a very close result compared to the official Bureau's Weather Station which recorded 1777.4 mm

This is the Bureau's Plot for 2014 and all years.
It shows 2014 and median and mean records.

You do not need me to tell you that 2013 was both very uneven in the spread of rainfall, and that June was a spectacularly wet month. More significantly, as far as the local plants are concerned, late winter was very, very dry,

As a result, the late-winter flowering Greenhoods had a fabulous season, and the spring-flowering Orchids performed very poorly. The early summer Orchids, Dipodium and Cryptostylis, are flowering reasonably well at present.