Thursday, March 25, 2010

On the road again

Going away again this Saturday.

Have to have an MRI and X-Ray studies of my left knee on Friday and anticipate a new titanium knee joint in May, so Saturday Rhonda and I are heading off for four days to explore the old gold trail from Boorowa through Frogmore and Reid's Flat to Darby's Falls and MacDonald's Mountain - will stop in at the observatory there, one of the largest remaining optical telescope observatories in the southern hemisphere - and spend a few nights at the Wyangala camp!

I know a little bistro tucked away at a golf club up that way that sells prime Angus Beef steaks that will melt in your mouth and locals who are the salt of the earth and very friendly towards visitors.

I have been given some vague directions to a remote cemetry deep in the bush that contains the graves of many early workers from last century, so we hope to locate that and see if we can trace any of the residents origins.

Stop The Presses:  Rhonda has told me that one of my favourite Bush Shirts did not go the distance in this weeks wash and I need to look at getting some replacement shirts. So a trip to Goulburn and a visit to Goulburn Workwear and Outdoor clothing is on the agenda for today.  May use the time to do some exploratory work out around the the old Kenmore Mental Asylum that I have heard is being redeveloped into a Bed & Breakfast accommodation resort.

Post script. - Have had the MRI and scans - don't look good - titanium knee coming up!  See the specialist tomorrow with Rhonda for the news.

Did find that cemetry - bit of a mystery bag  what was there. Some old pre-1900 graves but a few later roughly delineated and unmarked graves. Got a lead on two more graveyards in old church grounds, so maybe some church records as well.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Birds of our region

We have an abundance of colourful birdlife in this area, so I thought I would show a few images of those.

This is a crimson rosella, one of the many colourful parrots in this region. Sadly, the 'superb parrott', a close relative of it that was found in the Boorowa region has been almost completely wiped out by domestic ,cats, feral cats and foxes.

Correction offered following Steve Bennett's advice:

Noisy Miner, Scientific name: Manorina melanocephala, Family: Meliphagidae, Order: Passeriformes.

The Noisy Miner is a bold and curious bird. It is identified by its mostly grey body and black crown and cheeks. The bill is yellow, as are the legs and the naked skin behind the eye. The name is well suited as the common calls are uttered repeatedly by the members of the colony.

Similar species
The similar Yellow-throated Miner, Manorina flavigula, has a grey crown, white rump, and a line of bare yellow skin on the sides of the throat. People often confuse miners with the introduced Common Myna, Acridotheres tristis. The Common Myna is quite different in plumage (mostly dark brown) and, although it has similar facial markings, belongs to the starling family, while the miners are honeyeaters.

You have to look close to locate this dollar bird in the undergrowth of this bush where it is feeding on small insects. This bird type are very fussy about their nesting and hygeine and will find pools of water and wash themselves each afternoon. Leave out a basin of water for them and they will be regular attendants around your residence.

In the foreground is a black and white magpie - scientific name: Gymnorhina tibicen, Family: Artamidae, Order: Passeriformes.  The Australian Magpie is black and white, but the plumage pattern varies across its range. Its nape, upper tail and shoulder are white in males, grey in females. Across most of Australia, the remainder of the body is black. In the south-east, centre, extreme south-west and Tasmania, the back and rump are entirely white. The eye of adult birds is chestnut brown.

In breeding season the male magpie can become very aggressive and is known to 'swoop' and peck ferociously at passers-by. One way to avoid this is to regularly feed magpies near your residence so that they learn to trust you. Small pieces of minced meat are their favoured meal.

The ducks behind them are domestic ducks that have been released by their owners and taken up residence on the river pond at Yass. Visitors regularly feed the ducks bread and the magpies will also come in for some crumbs. They have been breeding and have largely learnt how to avoid the cats and foxes.

Correction as offered by Steve Bennett:

Red Wattlebird, Scientific name: Anthochaera carunculata, Family: Meliphagidae, Order: Passeriformes. The Red Wattlebird is a large, noisy honeyeater. The common name refers to the fleshy reddish wattle on the side of the neck. The plumage is grey-brown on the body, with prominent white streaks and yellow on the belly. The face is pale and the tail is long with a white-tip. Young Red Wattlebirds are duller than the adult and have a brown, rather than reddish, eye. The wattle is also very small and pale.

Similar species
The Red Wattlebird is among the largest of the Australian honeyeaters. In Tasmania it is replaced by the larger Yellow Wattlebird, Anthochaera paradoxa. This species is identified by its long, yellow wattle.

This particular type is identified by its shrill shreiking call. Aggressive to smaller birds it will gather in twos and threes and try to eat the young nestlings. 

The Australian White Ibis (Threskiornis molucca) is a wading bird of the ibis family Threskiornithidae, also known as the "Sheep bird". It is widespread across much of Australia. It has a predominantly white plumage with a bare, black head, long downcurved bill and black legs.

Historically rare in urban areas, the Australian White Ibis has immigrated to urban areas of the east coast in increasing numbers since the late 1970s; it is now commonly seen in Wollongong, Sydney, the Gold Coast, Brisbane and Townsville. Debate continues on whether to consider it a pest or vulnerable species. Populations have disappeared from natural breeding areas such as the Macquarie Marshes in northwestern New South Wales. Despite this, the species has been culled in parts of Sydney due to their smell and at times obtrusive nature.

Around urban areas they gather at garbage tips to scrounge for food.

This group of Ibises are nesting on stick and mud mounded nests in a ponded area.
The Laughing Kookaburra, scientific name: Dacelo novaeguineae, Family: Halcyonidae, Order: Coraciiformes. It is instantly recognisable in both plumage and voice. It is generally off-white below, faintly barred with dark brown, and brown on the back and wings. The tail is more rufous, broadly barred with black. There is a conspicuous dark brown eye-stripe through the face. It is one of the larger members of the kingfisher family.

Myth of "The Bush" has it that if the Kookaburras laugh before noon than rain will follow that afternoon.

A pair of magpies. Magpies keep the same mates, however, if one partner dies than the other, unless aged, will try to mate again with another magpie. They nurse their young, gathering food for them and teach them to fly and forage, however, when next breeding season arrives the young are summarilly evicted and made to fend for themselves and find their own mate at maturity.
Look closely on the rock and you will see a crested pigeon. Scientific name: Ocyphaps lophotes, Family: Columbidae, Order: Columbiformes. The Crested Pigeon is a stocky pigeon with a conspicuous thin black crest. Most of the plumage is grey-brown, becoming more pink on the underparts. The wings are barred with black, and are decorated with glossy green and purple patches. The head is grey, with an pinkish-red ring around the eye. If startled, this pigeon takes to the air with a characteristic whistling flight, and glides with down turned wings. The whistling sound is produced by the air passing over a modified primary feather on the wing. Upon landing, the pigeon swings its tail high in the air.

Their are 25 forms of doves and pigeons native to Australia.

A common native duck. Duck hunting was outlawed in the eastern states over a decade ago and since then their populations have flourished along the waterways. Many of the man-made pondages in rural towns will have resident duck populations.
Another variety of native ducks - this pair were photographed on a ponded creek at Boorowa where they have taken up residence and greatly enjoyed by the towns folk. They are breeding this current season.

The Emu, Dromaius novaehollandiae, is the largest bird native to Australia and the only extant member of the genus Dromaius. It is also the second-largest extant bird in the world by height, after its ratite relative, the ostrich. The soft-feathered, brown, flightless birds reach up to 2 metres (6.6 ft) in height. The Emu is common over most of mainland Australia, although it avoids heavily populated areas, dense forest, and arid areas.

This pair are breeding in captivity at the National Zoo and Aquarium in Canberra. Their chicks will be moved upon maturity to other Zoos in Australia and even overseas. They walk freely along the pathways and their keeper is seen just behind them.

The Spur-winged plover (Vanellus miles) is so named because it has a sharp, yellow, black-tipped spur on each wing. It is also known as the Masked lapwing and Masked plover. It is a long-legged wading bird with a black head, white belly and yellow facial wattles. Plovers are found Australia-wide. The Spur-winged plover is found mainly in South and Eastern Australia.

Spur-winged plovers are ground-nesting birds, and they usually have two chicks. These birds used to migrate from Australia to Siberia, where they could nest in peace without any predators around. However, they now breed in Australia, and have to constantly defend their chicks against intruders. This pair were part of a family of 5 that were also nesting in the Boorowa parklands. During nesting season they become very agressive and their spurs can inflict head and arm injuries on unwary pedestrians and cyclists who wander too close to their territory.

Adult Satin Bowerbirds, scientific name: Ptilonorhynchus violaceus, Family: Ptilonorhynchidae, Order: Passeriformes. Satin Bowerbirds are medium-sized birds. The adult male has striking glossy blue-black plumage, a pale bluish white bill and a violet-blue iris.

Younger males and females are similar in colour to each other, and are collectively referred to as 'green' birds. They are olive-green above, off-white with dark scalloping below and have brown wings and tail. The bill is browner in colour. Young males may begin to acquire their adult plumage in their fifth year and are not fully 'attired' until they are seven.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, scientific name: Cacatua galerita, Family: Cacatuidae, Order: Psittaciformes. The Sulphur-crested Cockatoo is a large white parrot. It has a dark grey-black bill, a distinctive sulphur-yellow crest and a yellow wash on the underside of the wings. Sexes are similar, although the female can be separated at close range by its red-brown eye (darker brown in the male). This is a noisy and conspicuous cockatoo, both at rest and in flight. Young Sulphur-crested Cockatoos resemble the adults. In urban areas they have become a pest and frequently attack the woodwork around guttering and eaves, destroying this for no apparent reason.

In rural areas they gather in large flocks of hundreds and even up to thousands. In such numbers they can be very destructive to crops.

The Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) is a bird in the Rail family with an almost worldwide distribution. It is often called the "Common Waterhen".

Waterhen with chicks (one obscured behind the reeds).
Willie Wagtail, scientific name: Rhipidura leucophrys, Family: Dicruridae, Order: Passeriformes. The Willie Wagtail is the largest, and most well-known, of the Australian fantails. The plumage is black above with a white belly. The Willie Wagtail can be distinguished from other similar-sized black and white birds by its black throat and white eyebrows and whisker marks. The name wagtail stems from the constant sideways wagging of the tail. Young birds resemble the adults, but have paler, slightly rusty edges to the feathers of the wings.

This wagtail was protecting his nest from a pair of cuckoo shrikes.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Boorowa - a pretty little old town

stled in the heart of my region is the Shire of Boorowa with its headquarters based in the town of Boorowa which is a very pretty town with many old buildings and a magnificant park and recreation area.

The Shire offices. With the centralisation of NSW government services many government departments closed their offices in regional areas. The role of providing those dervices locally devolved to Local Governement Areas who, with state assistance, set up Government Access Centres with in LGA Areas. Boorowa expanded its new shire offices to cater for this. One service it provides is for the local court hearings.

An older building in the commercial centre of town.

The old Boorowa courthouse which became a Craft Gallery after closing its doord as a judicial centre.

Part of the character of older rural towns is their eccentricities. This resident collects children's toys, especially stuffed toys, and has decorated the whole front fence and an old tree stump on the nature strip. On the day I took this photograph a neighbour appeared on their front verandah and was watching me. I do not think they are impressed by the attention their neighbours 'creative artistry' attracts.

Boorowa has a huge sporting and public recreation area, carefully landscaped and meticulously manicured. It provides for a large covered children's play gym equipped with devices aimed at stimulating children into athletic play.

Local lads use an open top wire cage which they drag the creek bed for yabbies.

Capable of living in virtually any body of fresh water including rivers and other streams, lakes, dams and even some temporary waters. Yabbies are active burrowers and are very hardy, able to withstand poor water quality and long periods of drought.

If a particular water course dries up, yabbies burrow deep into the bottom until they reach moist soil, where they presumably become very quiet. The scientific name destructor refers to the yabby's habit of burrowing into levee banks and dam walls where they can cause considerable damage.

Yabbies are excellent eating. They can be simply boiled for a few minutes in salted water or prepared in a variety of ways. They have a very sweet meat and the claws of larger specimens are particularly succulent. Compared to spiny freshwater crayfish, yabbies have much more meat for the size of the animal, although yabbies are much smaller than crays. A feed of yabbies is one of the most delicious meals you can try.

The park and recreation area has an Olympic sized swimming pool located within it as well as an adult 'fitness track' with strategically placed fitness equipment.

This very picturesque park and recreation area is a favourite with family groups for picnics and BBQ's, younger adults who use the fitness tracks, youths who make use of the rolling pathways for skateboard riding, the swimming pool for a summer dip, catching yabbies in the creek or for the littlies who enjoy the activities on the play gym which is covered by a massive sun shade sail.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Picnic amongst the resident wildlife

Rhonda and I took the city-grown grandsons (4 & 7) up to "the camp" at Wyangala.  It was the first time they had stayed overnight in a National Park, let alone slept in an on-site caravan.  It was a quite an experience for them and they enjoyed, immensely, having their own 'Pee Tree' in the shrubbery around the camp. LOL - being cautious on the internet I wont publish any of the 'Pee Tree' activities, nor the 'bathing in a tub outdoors' with water collected in the rainwater tank.

We did go down to a picnic area and had a Barbecue dinner at dusk as the local resident kangaroos moved into the shade at the end of a hot day to'graze and laze'.

As the evening progressed, more of our local 'grasshoppers' joined the group.

As time progressed a couple of young juveniles in the 'Mob' put on a Boxing Kangaroo display.

All of this caused a local Kookaburra (Kingfisher) to have a good laugh at them.

Meanwhile, Rhonda continued to prepare the BBQ hamburgers using the excellent facilities provided while Denny-the-Dog looked on waiting for his 'share' of the goodies on offer and the kids, being kids, took off to play at the play gym adjacent to the picnic area!

Some of the 'locals' came in for a closer look!

While the kids headed over to play on the play gym adjacent to the picnic area.

By the way - Kangaroos come in several varieties in Australia with the largest type over 2 metres in height and they can get quite aggressive at times. This story in today's ABC On-Line News (Australia) demonstrates this.

Kangaroo knocks runner unconscious

ABC News ON-line
Updated 41 minutes ago

A Canberra vet says a kangaroo that attacked and knocked unconscious a man out jogging was probably acting to protect his territory. A 25-year-old man from Macgregor was running during his lunch break on Thursday at Mt Ainslie when he was attacked by a kangaroo.

Canberra vet Michael Archinald says the case does not surprise him.

"They get very territorial at certain times of the year as well, they're protecting their flock," he said. "They get very antsy and of course this guy would have been running and that's quite a threatening thing to a roo and the roo is like, fight or flight, so in it goes."

There are over 60 different species of kangaroo and their close relatives, with all kangaroos belonging to the super family Macropodoidea (or macropods, meaning ‘great-footed’). The super family is divided into the Macropodidae and the Potoroidae families.

Current populations stand around the 25 million mark. This means there are similar numbers of kangaroos in Australia as there are cattle (28.7 million) (ABARE 2002).

The Macropodidae (macropod) family includes kangaroos, wallabies, wallaroos, pademelons, tree-kangaroos and forest wallabies. Species in the macropod family vary greatly in size and weight, ranging from 0.5 kilograms to 90 kilograms. The Potoroinae (potoroid) family of kangaroos includes the potoroo, bettong and rat-kangaroo, which live only in Australia.

Kangaroos of different types live in all areas of Australia, from cold-climate areas and desert plains, to tropical rainforests and beaches.

Kangaroos are herbivorous, eating a range of plants and, in some cases, fungi. Most are nocturnal but some are active in the early morning and late afternoon. Different kangaroo species live in a variety of habitats.

Kangaroos of all sizes have one thing in common: powerful back legs with long feet. Most kangaroos live on the ground and are distinguished from other animals by the way they hop on their strong back legs. A kangaroo’s tail is used to balance while hopping and as a fifth limb when moving slowly.

When chased by dogs it is not uncommon for kangaroos to enter any available water and wade out until the dog(s) have to swim to them. They then grab the dog with their forearms and push it under water while raising one of its feet, balancing on its tail and other foot, and use their large toe to disembowel the dog(s).

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Great Western Plains Zoo at Dubbo in New South Wales

We've been away for a few days - Rhonda and I took our grandsons up to Dubbo - about 370klms by road and a 4 hour drive - to The Great Western Plains Zoo, one of the best 'open enclosure' zoos in the world.  It takes 4 hours to just drive around it stopping at each exhibit area and trekking the paths to the animal viewing areas. I took heaps of photos.  Many of the animals, being 'nocturnal' by nature, were sleeping in the shade of the trees and bushes but if you were patient they would pop their heads up for a view and the curious ones would wander over for a bit of a look at the 'viewers'.

African Lion snoozing under a tree.

One of his two lioness mates - you can just see the other lioness stretched out in front of her.

The animal breeding program is going great, especially with the Giraffes, Sumatran Tigers, Elephants and Rhinos but also with most species.

The Giraffes:

The latest off-spring.

The Adults feeding high.

An African Elephant
The Bison - two males reclining while their partners and young grazed nearby.

Black Rhinos

The Black Rhino is different to the White ("Weit") Rhinos - so- called because of their 'Wide' bottom lip which in Affricans is 'Weit' and became corrupted into the English name of 'White Rhino'.

White Rhinos

A Sumatran Tiger - Juvenile female being fed by its 'patron' under the supervision of Park Ranger.

There were monkeys - the Lemur long tailed monkey

And there were apes - like the Siamang Gibbon - who were so hypeactively acrobatic.

And then from the sublime to the ridiculous, the Galapagos Tortoises who required you to stand there for minutes to see them make a movement.

There were so many types of gazelle, deer, antelope and elk, Ostriches and Emus, African dogs, hyenas and Australian dingoes, Kangaroos, wombats and wallabies that it would take for ever to put up images of them. Suffice to say it is a great Zoo and extemely educational for children who can see these magnificant creatures, up close,  in as close to their own domain as one can get.

On the elephants, Taronga Park Zoo on Sydney Harbour, the Zoo that owns The Great Western Plains Zoo, has now completed a rescue mission for a group of Asian elephants from the teak logging areas of Thailand that were to be put down if a suitable zoo placement could not be found for them. Apparently teak logs are now moved 'more efficiently' by machines (I think 'efficient' is an acronym for 'cheaper'). They have completed their quarantine period and are now adapting to their new environment at Taronga Zoo and somewill be moved to the The Great Western Plains Zoo in the near future. For a long time there was opposition to their being moved to a Zoo in Australia by animal liberation groups who, unbelievably, would have preferred these beautiful creatures to be put down rather than rescued.  High level diplomatic interactions between Australian and Thai governments eventually secured a plan for their rescue.  Firstly they spent months in a quarantine area in Thailand before Australian quarantine staff from Border patrol were satisfied that they were clear of any 'unwanted' pests or diseases, then they were flown to Australia and moved to Taronga by road transport to a further quarantine area which has just recently concluded.