Monday, 27 October 2008

I'm on a learning curve

Well, I've learned something today. Denis Wilson commented on my last post that I had photographed ladybird larvae, and he's right. What I thought were different insects turns out to be mostly different stages of the ladybird cycle. This is a link to more information about the stages of the Common Spotted Ladybird Harmonia conformis that is on my shrub. And here is another photo as well as one of the 'thrips' or 'aphids' that are covering the shrub, mostly underneath the leaves. Now I have to find out exactly what they are - I've emailed photos to an entomologist friend for help.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Time to party

I've been a bit busy. We've had a party to celebrate two of us turning sixty, I'm not saying who. Our daughter and her husband from Airlie Beach and daughter #2 from Geraldton came home for the occasion, and lots of others came to share the day. I didn't think I wanted a party but it was a lot of fun.

I haven't had time to get out to explore the natural world but I did find that the Kangaroo Apple in my garden is absolutely covered in thrip and their predators are having a party as well. Ladybirds, and several other creatures I haven't had time to identify, are having a fine time.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Halladale Point

We walked out to Halladale Point on the Great Ocean Road, and admired the ocean swirling around the rocks.

And when we saw the information board we looked at the scene with fresh eyes. The Falls of Halladale was wrecked at this place, and remained stuck on the rocks long enough to draw a crowd of spectators. What a sight. The sea was relatively calm the day we were there but the whole stretch of coastline is known as the 'shipwreck coast' because of the number of ships that came to grief there in the 1800s.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Keeping us in our place

Port Campbell National Park attracts thousands of visitors each year, but we were very impressed with the infrastructure built to direct the hoards away from the precious environment. At Princetown we found this stylish boardwalk, and enjoyed very close encounters with Golden-headed Cisticolas as a result.

At all the attractions there were proper carparks, good signage, well-constructed paths, steps and lookouts. This is The Arch and the one below is a boardwalk at the Twelve Apostles that I though was a bit close to a mighty cliff for my comfort.


And these two photos are tourist shots, taken in Bay of Islands and Loch Ard, just to show that it really is an impressive bit of coastline.


Roosting in a public space

When it comes to the annual Challenge Bird Count in December we know where to look for the Nankeen Night Heron. Without fail we find several at their daytime roost in this group of trees, Stone Pines, in a public space in Geelong. (There are several Night Herons in the photo below.) We tick them off and quickly move on to find the next species. Bird-watching on the run but a lot of fun.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Touring the coast

Last weekend I was a tourist - in my own patch. Four of us explored some of the Otway National Park, the Great Ocean Road near Port Campbell and the volcanic landscape at Camperdown and Colac. The weather was calm, warm and sunny, we saw lots of tourists, we saw some beautiful farming country, ferny gullies, tall forests and spectacular landscapes. We were in one of the most popular tourist destinations in Australia.

But it was only at The Twelve Apostles, Loch Ard and London Bridge that we really felt like we were in a crowd. There are lots of places that are not visited by the bulk of the tourists and in a number of spots we were the only people there.

One of the quiet places was Moonlight Head, and it was in the nearby cemetery that we found the Twisted Sun Orchid Thelymitra flexuosa. It's reluctant to flower, even on warm days, but we were lucky to find it open. There were a lot of heath plants coming up to flower and flowering in the mown sections of the cemetery and it's well worth a visit. And so is Moonlight Head as well -it's one of the highest cliffs on the coastline.

Another sun orchid was flowering at London Bridge. Metallic Sun Orchid Thelymitra epipactoides was growing next to a path and I stopped to take its photo - and discovered that someone had broken it off and it was just propped up in the surrounding foliage. At that stage I didn't know what it was, so I decided to take it with me back to the car where I had a reference book - and felt decidedly guilty as we passed groups of tourists and National Park staff disguised as tourists. I had to hide it under my shirt! Me, in court, "No way! I didn't pick it - it was just lying there. Really." Anyway, it turned out to be an Endangered species. Which made it even worse than I'd imagined. It is a very beautiful orchid that grows on the exposed cliff tops in Port Campbell National Park.

And just for a change of scene, this was my lunch on Sunday. A delightful Fetta Salad, eaten in the garden at the Timboon Farmhouse Cheese. It looked too good to eat but was delicious. We bought a jar of the fetta so we could relive the taste at home.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Bottlemania

Water went on sale and we bought it. Remember the time when we didn't carry water in labelled plastic bottles?
I nearly always have a bottle of water with me, but at least I can say that I only bought the bottle once and have refilled it from the tap numerous times. The bottled water industry has already passed milk and beer in sales (in the US at least), the empty bottles are fodder for land fill and cost a lot (environmentally) in transport and manufacture terms. And where does the water come from? Who owns the water?
At our last Eco Book Group we discussed Bottlemania: how water went on sale and why we bought it by Elizabeth Royte. Most of Royte's examples are US based, but the same principles apply world wide. The success of the commercialisation of the water industry when people already had good water to drink is a phenomenon that she tries to explore. She discovers that not all tap water is perfect. And, that bottled water does have its place but it's often no better than tap water.
Why would you pay some multinational company a lot more for a litre of the stuff?

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Solitaire

It was a beautiful day today, I didn't have any commitments, I knew the grasslands would be starting to flower - so off to Bannockburn cemetery I went.

This little treasure holds remnant volcanic plains grassland plants, including the endangered Large-fruit Groundsel Senecio macrocarpus. There are moves afoot to set up a new cemetery so that this one can stay as it is, with large open spaces beyond the graves. DSE keeps an eye on the population of this plant here and monitors the threats - encroaching suburbia, weeds, mowing practices - but it will be a miracle if this patch survives in good condition. I noticed yesterday that several of the new houses on the boundary have pushed building rubble onto the site and a couple of the neighbours have dumped garden pruning over the fence.




Then I went to Inverleigh Common - a very large reserve. It's a bit early yet to see very much in the way of flowers but there were Gold Moth orchids everywhere so it was worth visiting just to see that. There was one patch of Dillwynia hispida, the Red Parrot-pea. The local rabbits and kangaroos give the vegetation a hard time - a Friends group is trialling fenced-off areas and getting good results - and the parrot-pea was a prostrate instead of the normal metre or so high bush.

I didn't meet anyone else at all in my travels - the bush was mine for the day. Oh, what a feeling.

Get a grip

This little creature was flying around the grassland at Bannockburn today. I've no idea what it is, but don't you love the way he holds on to that grass stalk? The bottom legs crack me up. (I'm easily amused).

Progress

Mt Pollock isn't very high, but it is noticeable. It's an old volcano on the Barrabool Hills west of Geelong, and can be seen from a great distance because the volcanic plain is so flat. The canola crops on its flanks were blindingly yellow today. It will be a GM crop probably because the moratorium has been lifted.

The mountain has been in the news this week because of an application to put wind generators there. Locals are objecting (on aesthetic grounds, and they don't want tourists driving around their quiet rural area) and the issue will go to a hearing in March next year.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

A survivor


Just because it's pretty. Melaleuca wilsonii doesn't have a common name, but this paperbark grows very well in one of the driest parts of my garden, and I saw it growing well and flowering prolifically in the sandy Little Desert three years ago.

Yesterday I had a look at the trend maps on the Bureau of Meteorology webpage. This is the mean temperature graph for my area. They paint a scary picture and I think I'm going to need more plants like this in my garden in the future.

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