Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas in Victoria

Rain Hail Snow! Not the summer Christmas conditions I remember as a child.

On the week before Christmas we stayed with family in Geelong and visited the fairy park in Anakie.

Fairy park

This place is like a time capsule stolen from some sparsely forested hillside in Bavaria and teleported to a tinder dry and fire scarred rural town in drought stricken Victoria.
I remember visiting there years ago when I was a kid. I think it was already quite old back in the seventies bypassed by the major tourist routs, I expected it to have become run down and neglected since then.
It was a pleasant supprize to find the park had been well maintained despite apparent lack of visitors.


Although there were some very obvious characters peering at us from various vantage points I had a sense of unseen presence amongst the rocks on this hill. Maybe the accumulation of mythical european stories were mingling with indigenous forces?


The surrounding countryside had been burned and there was little cover of edible foliage for Koalas on any of the surrounding hills. I thought this was a result of the recent fires but was told the fire had been over one year ago!
The land is so dry that the plant life hadn't even begun to recover and much of the land looked charred. No wonder this little fella was hanging around so close to people.

Dry lake

The belarine countryside has been well affected by drought and the abundance of empty lakes and dams makes this quite obvious.
Some of Geelongs storm water flows into the Barwon River via a lake which is usually full of water fowl of all sorts. Unfortunately the extended dry spell has caused the lake to dry out leaving some very deep cracks in the hard mud and much of the local wildlife without a home. (We nearly skittled a snake necked turtle as we drove by the lake).

Dry lake mud

Grass tree

A pretty consequence of recent fires was this lovely display of Grass trees which burst into flower about a month ago and are still sporting some magnificent spikes.

Grass trees amongst the regrowth

Remnant grass trees

In contrast to my home in Darwin where schools grounds keepers pump megalitres of water through 6ft high sprinklers on hot windy days; The people of Victoria are now well aware of the effects of our changing climate. There is no denying the lack of water down here. People can be seen carrying tubs of bath water which they pour carefully on to their favorite plants in the hope of saving them from a dehydrated death.
Water is scarce and food production is suffering but still the urban sprawl continues as our government presses on with it's policy of population growth for the sake of the economy.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Christmas is coming!
With a Two and a Half year old our home is alive with the mystery and magic of Christmas.

Christmas lights - Darwin winner

Last night we escaped the heat of our claustrophobic unit in search of *CHRISTMAS LIGHTS*

What a relief it was to be in the air-conditioned car after a sticky cranky day at home. We took the list of prize winning lights from the paper and headed for the winner of the Power and Water Christmas lights competition. (My feelings about wise use of electricity and the evils of power generation on hold for the night, surely the spread of joy and good will worthy of the extra power consumption!?)
There was a real festive feel in the neighbourhood, people had set up tables and chairs in the park opposite the winners house and families mingled happily as children ran around in the street and through the yard of the house which took the form of an open playground.

Books I haven't read

I don't know why but this year I have accumulated a pile of books that will likely take me several years to read. I am a slow reader but I've traded bloging for reading in the mornings and it has been a great boost to my sluggish imagination which often flounders in the tepid shallows of my own inadequate reserves of original thought. !


Oh yeh and after the Christmas Lights we continued on for a cruise through town and down to the Wharf where we discovered that 100's of frogs had invaded the muddy flats of the newly reclaimed development site. We must have heard about four species and 100's of individuals. The sound of the amphibious chorus was thrilling

Monday, December 11, 2006

Unusual bird sighting at Nightcliff foreshore

Nightcliff foreshore

On Sunday afternoon the family and I went down to Nightcliff foreshore for a picnic after a fantastic rainstorm. The sky was clearing and the atmosphere charged with activity as the birds all came out to take advantage of the pleasant conditions and abundance of food. We parked the car under Casuarina trees bursting with Red-tailed Black Cockatoos, Lorikeets, Friarbirds and Torres Straight (Torresian) or (Pied Imperial) Pigeons. There were Bar-shouldered and Peaceful doves all over the ground and a variety of Honeyeaters in the bushes. Amongst the squawking of the cockatoos and the screeching Lorikeets I heard the familiar gentle whistle of a Cockatiel (I used to breed them in cages). I looked around for a while and before too long found one solitary bird picking at the cracked Casuarina nuts that the huge black cockatoos had dropped.

The Wild male bird perched close to where we were sitting

A pair of Cockatiels
The Male and most likely a Female feeding on the ground (the second bird appeared to be immature).

I gathered that the bird was an aviary escapee but who knows how long an escaped Cockatiel could survive so far from any wild flocks. Soon after I could hear another one in the trees nearby. I watched for a while and discovered them feeding amongst the Barshouldered doves on the ground right at the edge of the cliffs. Wow I never expected to see two of them! They were both grey birds (The natural colour of wild Cockatiels) so I'm still not sure if they were wayward wild birds or escaped pets.

Since I have lived in Darwin I have seen quite a few stray Cockatiels and I often wonder if they could possibly all be escapees. Generaly speaking pet birds don't last too long in the wild but it could be possible that these birds are able to survive for extended periods if the conditions are suitable. Having said that their natural habitat is in arid regions and these birds are in the Tropical North during the Wet Season! They must be recent escapees!????

Nightcliff jetti 12.06

Bowerbird update...

Bowerbird chick
Chicks wait

Bowerbird mother
Mother approaches

Mother Bowerbird feeding chick
Feeding success

Last week the 2 eggs hatched and the mother bird has been very active keeping the chicks well fed and clean. When I visited this morning I was lucky enough to see her feeding the two plump chicks and removing all their waste from the nest. Unfortunately it's a little dificulut to get a decent photo of them because my camera doesn't have much of a zoom and I find it dificult to focus when shooting out of a grubby window.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

First week in December....

Had a nice weekend at the Casino Hotel (great pool) . Caught a cold last week and have spent the past two days laid-up.

Curious Monitor

Saw a curious Pool Monitor

Geese on the lawn

MP geese

Some Magpie Geese cruising the proposed development site nextdoor

The State of the Environment Report was released this week.
Although the outlook is bleak and the report most likely has understated the threats, I think it is good that we have these 5 yearly updates to remind us that there is an environment and it is in quite a sorry state....
I heard it may be dropped for a regularly updated online version Hopefully I am jumping to conclusions and this is not the case.