Friday, November 28, 2008

Look, What's That...

…up there near the top of that precipitous rocky cliff face?

No, not the Peregrine Falcon chick.

There, look, through those brambles.

I think it’s that old guy who has a 105 year old mother in law!

Yeah, it’s only Duncan. Onya DF, hows the hip?

PS: As I'm about to upload this, the rain on the roof is deafening - oh bliss!

Core Blimey!

G'day Folks,
Once each year, the golf club engages a team of contractors to core our greens. Yesterday was the day. The process is something like this...

Step 1 - The coring machine runs over the green, extracting a 'core' of soil about 12mm diameter and 60mm long.

Step 2 - The cores are swept up and dumped somewhere nearby. They are used later to fill in low spots, cover bare places. etc.

The surface now look like this..

Step 3 - Another machine then comes along and spreads a fine sand across the green. This is a fairly critical step, as too much or too little sand can create problems later.

Step 4 - 'Verti-draining' is an additional step that involves another machine punching a spike about 30mm long into the green and vibrating the area to loosen the sub soil layer a bit.

Step 5 - Once the sand has dried out thoroughly, it is then 'swept' into the holes by dragging a metal mat around. By now, the grass is probably feeling a bit stressed, so we try to do this process as little as possible.

Step 6 - Finally, the greens are given well earned drink of water. Last night's 5mm thunderstorm was a big help too.

This morning, they look something like this...

Once the sand dries properly again today, a decision will be made whether to sweep them again or not. They'll be watered well for a day or so and any open holes will soon close up. They won't be cut for 4 or 5 days, and when they are, the height of cut will be adjusted to about 5mm, and on subsequent cuts be lowered gradually back down to the current height of 2.5mm.

Now we just have to 'nurse' them along for a bit. The soil should be well aerated, and should absorb water, fertilizers etc really well. Hopefully we can look forward to some nice greens to putt on throughout summer.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

20 Lovely Millimetres.

Only a few days ago I was whingeing about 35 degree heat and hot northerly winds. It doesn’t take very long at this time of year, in this corner of the world, for conditions to turn around. Yesterday we only got up to 15 degrees and had cold southerly blasts all day.

Today’s surface chart from the Bureau of Meteorology shows a low centered just off the Gippsland coast. Air movement around a low is clockwise, (here in the southern hemisphere), so it is coming up from the Antarctic regions.

The satellite image below, clearly shows the centre of the low and how the air is dragged up from the south. The light blue colour is the cold Antarctic air sweeping up toward us.

The sky today is still very leaden, and the wind is cold. One of my favourite weather observations is to look almost due west down the 2nd fairway, and this morning there is even a puddle in the foreground!
There is 20mm in the rain gauge too. I haven’t seen anything over 10mm in 24 hours for months. According to the BoM radar there is another band of moisture on the way too.
We even had to get the wood barrow out again, and light the fire.

Little old Skip, (very old and very blind), even knew where the warmth was when he came back inside after his morning constitutional.

Ah, good old Victorian weather patterns – they sure can vary. Some leaden skies have a silver lining though – I’m hoping for a couple of easier days on the golf course. How’d you go in Tassie Mosura?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Wolf Spider

Yesterday I got stuck into a little bit of weed pulling in the garden, (think I just heard – “About time too”, in the background).

In the process I came across this gorgeous female Wolf Spider attached to her egg sac. (Really Mick, she is attractive). By the time I’d got the camera, she’d detached herself from the egg sac and moved away from it.

(Note: This is actually a Shield Spider, not a Wolf Spider. Mosura, see comments, has put me right. I think the rest of this entry is correct).

Wolf Spiders are great hunters with excellent eyesight, and they can move rapidly across the ground. They don’t spin a web, but live in a burrow in the ground. Their toxicity is fairly mild.

Last season, I got the picture below of a male that dashed away from the mower when I was cutting the grass. He was relatively large, with a body about the size of a twenty cent piece.

Isn’t it amazing what weeding the garden and mowing the grass can lead to?


Monday, November 17, 2008

A Minor Drama

We’ve been ‘off the air’ for a short while. 35 degrees and hot northerly winds have been a bit of a bother, then next door’s calf got its head stuck in our fence, and Glen decided to try and extricate it. G had hold of the wires as the calf pulled back and suddenly released itself, and the fence returned to its original position like a slingshot. Result?

Fractured wrist, ouch! Must have hurt like h… I was away with Duncan doing a bird survey when it happened. (We’ll finish the last 3 sites soon DF). In the meantime, it’s been domestic duties a bit for me – gulp!

Anyway, just before all this, I was cruising G’s roses one day and was drawn to the amount of insect life on them.

Glen is pretty assiduous with keeping the aphids at bay, but there was a small contingent of hover flies in attendance.

This unknown specimen was checking out the roses too. I have no idea what it is....

We’re getting back to some sort of routine again now. Normal service should resume shortly.

PS: Thanks Denis, (see comments), you were not far off. It seems that last insect is the nymph form of the Gum Leaf Katydid. The link is to a page from 'Brisbane Insects and Spiders Daily', a fascinating site. Once you have the Katydid page open, click on home page and blog for an excellent record of invertebrates by Peter and Tony Chew.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

HBW - Glenaladale, November '08

Today was the November outing of the Heyfield Birdwatchers, and we had a beauty!

Just four of us set off from Stratford at 830. The plan was to head for the Mitchell River and the Den of Nargun, on the way calling in and checking a couple of known favourite spots.

We turned off the highway at the eastern end of Providence Ponds and ambled slowly through some bushland toward Fernbank. The Callistemons were in flower and were attended here and there by some various honeyeaters. Three Emus plodded along the track ahead of us for a short time. We could hear Orioles, Choughs, Thrushes, Whistlers and Pardalotes calling throughout this section of bush, but we were a long way from the Mitchell River at this stage, so we pressed on.

My reason for taking this particular route was so I could check out a favourite wildflower spot at Fernbank. We didn't even get out of the cars. It’s sure been a bad year for wildflowers in this little corner of Gippsland. ‘Not looking good so far’, I thought.

Our spirits lifted a little at the Glenaladale Pumping Station. My plan was to have a cuppa here, spend 5 minutes checking out the surrounding bush and head on up to the Nargun’s Den for lunch. We didn’t get to see if the Nargun was in.

During morning tea at a particularly pleasant spot on the river bank, a Rufous Whistler entertained us with some great close up views and it’s wonderful repertoire of calls. Things were beginning to look a bit brighter.

There’s an old eucalypt at this site, with an exposed root system that I’ve admired before and wondered how the heck this individual could still be alive.

The thermos’s went back into the cars and we headed upstream briefly to see what was about. Eastern Yellow Robins, Yellow-faced Honeyeaters and a few others were ticked pretty quickly.

We began to hear a duck like call coming from high in the tree tops. This was beginning to refresh my memory of a bird we once saw fairly regularly on the golf course each year, but it has been noticeably absent for some time now. Suddenly we all got splendid views of a pair of Dollarbirds hawking for insects high above the trees.
This was a rewarding sighting because it was a first for John, Nancy and Marg. The birds would characteristically return to a high bare branch and allow us some beaut views with the binoculars.

A little further on, we discovered the Dollarbirds had a nest hollow they were returning to on a regular basis. I clambered up the slope to sit for a while in the hope the birds might return for a photo opportunity. The others proceeded on down the track for a bit.
The Dollarbirds didn’t return for some time, and eventually John reappeared on the track below me and suggested I hurry on down and see what they’d found – without my help!

First was a juvenile Brown Falcon.

This bird was ‘stumbling’ about in a tree just beside the track. It didn’t seem to mind our presence too much, so we fired away with the cameras.

Then came the extraordinary. There seems to be some debate about whoever saw what first. I wasn’t there, so I’ll leave well enough alone!

Some Peregrine Falcons at nest.

High up on a rock ledge, three little heads could be seen and the parent birds kept buzzing us and keeping close watch on our activities. It’s times like this I wish I could talk birdspeak and say, “It’s OK mum and dad, I just want to get a little higher up the rocks so I can see your babies better. I won’t hurt them, I promise”.

I got back down onto the track, joined the others and we waxed lyrical about the sightings. Then someone said, “Oh, we saw a Black-faced Monarch too”. Sure enough, we just started to head back to the cars and the Monarch was there beside the track.

A Gippsland Water Dragon and a beautiful coppery Skink, both a bit too quick for pictures, completed a wonderful session.

We enjoyed our lunch on a grassy bank above the river and decided the walk down into Nargun’s Den was not going to be as rewarding as the morning session. We opted for a ‘touristy’ drive home, including an ice-cream and more sightings of Dollarbirds at Briagolong.

One out of the box.

Monday, November 3, 2008


G’day Blogworld,
Saturday was another warm and windy day, so to get away from watching the golf course drying out while the members were playing, I ducked up into the Seaton hills, Springs Rd, for a bit – no log trucks this time, it was the weekend.

I found an old log snigging track and descended it toward the floor of the valley, intending to get down where it was cool and perhaps even moist.

The regrowth from the ‘Coopers Creek’ fire in December 2006 was very evident along this track.
The birds were calling but mostly staying out of sight. At one point I got the two local species of Pardalotes calling together virtually from the treetops on opposite sides of the track – ‘widdyup, widdyup’ from the Striated on one side and ‘sweet dee-dee’ from the Spotted on the other. All the time there were wailing Currawong calls echoing across the gully and a Spotted Quail-thrush made a sudden dash across the track in front of me. This was more like it.

Here and there some colourful wildflowers were putting on a show, and in the case of this Prickly Parrot-pea species, attracting the local insects.

On the upper side of the track, in the disturbed ground that the bulldozer had created when the track was made, a profusion of overhanging plants had taken over.

A flash of the colourful wings of a butterfly caught my eye and I thought if Duncan was here, he’d keep tracking the insect until it settled long enough for a picture, I wonder should I try? I kept an eye on it and eventually it decided to sit still long enough for me to get a shot or two.

I think it’s a Caper White, a migrant from northern Australia. This species can sometimes migrate in large numbers and although the Caper plant is its preferred host, it will often make do with Banksias, Correas and Zieria species during migration.

I didn’t get to the bottom of the gully. Time was against me. I had to be back to quench those thirsty greens. I’ll just have to go back and do it all again.


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Ringtail #2

Last night I had another encounter with a Ringtail Possum. This is a different animal to the one I met a few nights ago. This one is considerably smaller and lighter in colour than the previous one.
This fellow was in a young Elm tree just outside my 'computer room', begging to be photographed, so I obliged. He was down fairly low and gave me an opportunity to get a shot of his foreclaws being used like a hand.
When I tried for some shots of his classic 'ring' tail in action, he ran out of patience. Next time maybe.