Sunday, 23 December 2007

A new page

My trusty friend, the Nikon Coolpix 995, is out of action because I carelessly dropped it. I'm told it may not be a fatal condition but because it's Christmas, and even camera repairers take holidays, I have to wait to find out. So there was the horrible possibility of going away for two weeks without a camera!! So I bought a Sony W55.

I haven't had a chance to play with it much yet but the photo (above) of the grevillea in my garden is very sharp so I think all will be well. I'm looking forward to tesing it out. Happy Christmas.

Monday, 17 December 2007

A productive hybrid?

Fifteen years ago I planted Grevillea 'Winpara Gem' in my garden. This grevillea is a hybrid, a cross between G. olivacea and G. thelemanniana. It has flowered prolifically every year and has never set seed. I thought that was because it's a hybrid. So why has it set seed this year? The bush is covered in fruit, beautiful little shapes with long tails. I wonder if the seed will be viable and if so which parent will it follow?

Friday, 14 December 2007

A rescued plant

When my daughter moved interstate a year ago some (OK, a lot) of her stuff ended up in storage in our house and garage. And I also inherited her pot plants, including delightful Chocolate Lillies and a Flax-lily. She had rescued the Flax-lily from a housing development site, legitimately, because it's a Threatened Species. Dianella amoena Matted Flax-lily grows in grassland and grassy woodlands in the Latrobe Valley, Gippsland Plains and around Melbourne and is under constant threat from land clearing, urban development and grazing.

Dianella amoena

'My' Flax-lily is currently flowering beautifully, and seems to thrive on greywater. I'm wondering whether to plant it in the garden but in its natural state it can spread quite a bit so I'm hesitant.

Last summer I caught these two butterflies from the Skipper family, Yellow-banded Darts Ocybadistes walkeri , 'in the act' on a leaf of the Flax-lily. In fact, the Flax-lily is one of the food plants of the caterpillar of this species. As you can see, the butterflies are tiny. This particular species can be identifed by the little hook on the tip of the antenna and, in common with other Skippers, often bask in sunlight with the forewings open over the body and the forewings held flat (see second photo below).

Mating Yellow-banded Darts

Yellow-banded Darts

Reference: Geelong Naturalist, May 2007, p 3

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Just bluffing

It seemed that I'd chosen the wrong time to go out to the Bannockburn Cemetery (see previous post), but this threatening cloud came and went without leaving a drop of rain. I haven't absorbed enough information from my new cloud book yet to be able to identify it. (Did you know that clouds have scientific names like plants and animals? It could be a Cumulus congestus, for example.) It was good to see the Richard's Pipit on the gravel road, the White-necked Heron on the dam bank, and hear the Stubble Quails calling from the wheat crop. It's summer.

Monday, 10 December 2007

A plot reserved for the future

This afternoon I went out to the Bannockburn Cemetery, west of Geelong, to see what was flowering. The cemetery land was reserved in the 1800s, a large block for what turned out to be a small population, and most of the land remains as a remnant patch of what the volcanic plains grassland once was. It is now a protected flora reserve as well as a cemetery. All the vegetation in the photo below is natural to the area and the reserve is almost weed free.

I was very pleased to see Blue Devil was flowering, also Pink Bindweed and Lemon Beautyheads as well as wallaby grass and kangaroo grass - all are plants typical of the plains.

Blue Devil

Pink Bindweed

Beetle on Wallaby-grass

Saturday, 8 December 2007


My friend Marilyn suggested I read The Cloudspotter's Guide by Gavin Pretor-Pinney. I resisted for a while because since she read it earlier this year she's become besotted by clouds and has neglected her older passions for birds, butterflies, orchids, rocks, stars and bullants (to mention a few). As I, too, tend to unexpectedly head off in new directions I thought I could do without having to read up on yet another subject in the natural world.

But then a few weeks ago I posted a blog about a beautiful cloud I had seen, and Marilyn sent me several photos of clouds she was excited about, and when I was in the bookshop the other day looking for Christmas presents I bought the book on the spur of the moment. I'm glad I did.

Gavin Pretor-Pinney runs a webpage for cloudspotters and his book about clouds is amusing and informative. It has become a Sunday Times bestseller. One reviewer wrote: 'It is possibly the most entertaining textbook ever written.'

Here are several examples of Gavin's style.

Compared with the frenetic and capricious convection clouds, the Stratus is a ponderous individual. It rarely bothers to shed much of its moisture – never managing more than a light drizzle or gentle snow. It takes its time arriving, and generally outstays its welcome when it does. This is not a cloud known for its spontaneity – it isn't the type to cause a commotion at picnics with a sudden downpour the moment the sandwiches are out of their foil. When there is a thick layer of Stratus above, people are just more likely to forget the picnic and opt for the cinema instead.

…the Nimbostratus is quite simply a thick, wet blanket, whose base is ragged and indistinct on account of its continually falling precipitation. It might be able to beat most of the other types in a fight, but it wouldn't get far in a cloud beauty contest.

Marilyn also gave me a software program that stitches photos together to make a panorama. She said that sometimes the full scale of a cloud can't be encompassed in one photo so several have to be taken and combined. Oh dear. I'm already torn between flowers and insects at eye level, and birds above my head. Now I have to look to the sky as well. And spend even more time on my computer playing around with images. There goes the ironing. The floors went long ago.

And I'll have to find time to check out the Cloud Appreciation Society's webpage

Sunday, 2 December 2007

See through to the sea

Yesterday I was part of a team trying to find as many bird species in one day as we could. We were competing in the annual Challenge Bird Count against other teams in other areas doing the same thing.

At Point Addis, while my team members were trying to locate the Rufous Bristlebird, I got distracted by the metal, two-dimensional, see-through sculpture on the information board. It depicted Victoria's floral emblem Pink Heath Epacris impressa.

Epacris impressa

Point Addis

Recently we visited Geraldton, Western Australia and I was very taken with three instances using the same technique. One was of a wall depicting a school of fish on the boardwalk on the sea side of the Geraldton Museum. Another was the memorial to the ship Sydney that went down with all hands off the coast near Geraldton in World War 2. On the dome there is a bird for every lost sailor. And the third was a lookout that had been installed at Greenough in memory of a child who had drowned.


Sydney Memorial, Geraldton


By the way, my team found the Bristlebird. It called beautifully for us and wandered out onto the carpark. What a stunning bird it is.