Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Lunar Eclipse

The 28th August was the warmest winter's day in 10 years with the temperature reaching 26C. It was also the day of a full lunar eclipse. So we headed down to Bawley Point just before sunset.

It was a magical evening. Hardly a breath of wind, a smooth sea and a slight swell.

As the sun set in the west, the full moon rose out of the sea to the east.
We watched it for a while then headed home for dinner.

Around 7pm the eclipse started. The earth's shadow gradually crept over the moon's surface.

An hour later it was completely covered

It was difficult to get a good picture with my small digital camera and standard lens as the two pictures above demonstrate. So I have 'borrowed' a picture from the local paper to show how the moon turned a brilliant red at the moment of the full eclipse.
Truly a great sight in the clear country sky.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

100th Post!

It's taken a few years but I have made it.
For those that post every day I guess this is not such a milestone.
I have had fun writing about my travels and my work on the farm as well as life and the natural environment on the south coast in general.
I know from that I don't have a lot of readers but at least those who do bother to take the time to log on keep coming back.
Hopefully there will more than a few more hundred posts to come.
There are many more exciting places to visit!
For those demanding a picture I submit the one below.

And that's all you are getting for the time being!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Nasties at the Beach

Due to unprecedented requests, I am continuing with my story on local "nasties", this time at the beach.
We must have our fair share of sharks in the ocean around here. But I have to say I have never seen one. In fact over 40 years of surfing the east coast of Australia I have only seen three up close and personal. That is three too many but they say it’s the one you don’t see that gets you.
From reports of local fishermen and abalone as well as recreational divers we know we have the white pointer, the bronze whaler, the hammerhead, bullshark, and tiger shark as well as the grey nurse in our waters.

Generally sharks stay well off shore but they do come in with the warmer currents and when bait fish are on the run. Common sense tells us not to swim early in the morning or late in the evening. Swimming near or in river mouths and estuaries is also a 'no no' but you see hundreds of people doing this during the holiday season.
In Sydney I have seen sharks 50km up the St.Georges River at the Liverpool weir in what is basically fresh water. So you know it's really never safe to go back in the water!
We do not have saltwater crocodiles, thank goodness. These live in tropical waters up north and are the ones Steve Irwin used to "play" with.
We do have stingrays. Steve played with one too many of these. They can live close to shore and we see them often especially around rocky headlands. Some can be nearly 2m across. They do not attack but it is just as well to keep clear of them as they keep a nasty barb on their tail and this can do some damage. Sometimes smaller ones bury themselves in the sand on the water’s edge and can easily be stepped on.

I have had manta rays swim under me while on my board. These are huge, up to 4m across but are not considered dangerous.
Another nasty to keep clear of is the bluebottle or Portuguese man of war. These get blown into shore usually with strong nor’ easters and can be in plague proportions. Stings from them are
very painful.

Less painful are stings from the jelly blubber, a blue jelly fish, which can suddenly appear in thick swarms if the tides and wind is right.
Luckily we are too far south for the box jelly fish or sea wasp which is a killer.
But we have a killer in the rock pools on the many headlands of the area. This is the blue ringed octopus. This creature is only around 12cm long and weighs less than 90g

When threatened flourescent blue spots appear on its body. The beak can inject enough venom to paralyse 10 adult males and an untreated bite can be fatal. So it's one to keep an eye out for and be especially concerned about when children are exploring rock pools at low tide.
There are supposed to be 20 species of sea snakes in Australian waters. I think we maybe too far south to be concerned with them which is good because I think we have enough to deal with.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Satin Bower Bird

There is a considerable amount of birdlife in the area. Most are native species such as kookaburras, currawongs, finches, honeyeaters and numerous species of parrots. We do get various migratory birds during the year.
One permanent resident is the satin bowerbird.
Bower birds are the scourge of any gardener and especially grapegrowers as they have a love of green vegetables and fruit and can strip a crop bare in a few days.
But we have overcome this by netting.
A male satin bowerbird has taken up residence under our huge bottlebrush (callistemon sp.) tree in the back yard. He has been there many years now.
He is a striking dark blue color.
The immature males and females look very much alike and are a grey green color.

The male builds a bower from twigs and grass and covers the surrounds in all sorts of blue objects like bottle tops, pegs and pieces of plastic.

Here he courts and mates with the female. During courting the male prances and struts around his bower offering the female items from his collection of blue objects, while making a series of hissing, chattering and scolding noises. Mating takes place in the avenue of the bower and the male may mate with several females in a single season.
Only the female builds a nest. This is a shallow, saucer-shaped construction of twigs and dry leaves above the ground in the upright outer branches of a tree. The nest is lined with fine dry leaves. The female lays one to three eggs, which she incubates.
She then raises the young on her own.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Wattle

There are nearly 1000 species of wattle (Acacia) in Australia. In fact one, the Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha), is Australia's national flower. They grow in almost all regions of the continent and come in many forms, from ground cover to shrubs to large trees.
In our area, wattles come into bloom during winter and continue throughout spring into summer.
There is a wattle blooming somewhere in Australia every month of the year.
Foliage is varied both in shape and color from long deep green leathery leaves to fine ferny purple fronds.

Individual flowers are arranged in inflorescences that are either globular heads or cylindrical spikes. Each inflorescence may comprise as few as three individual flowers or as many as one hundred and thirty or more.

Flowers can vary in colour through cream, pale yellow to gold. One species has purple flowers whilst another has red. The flowers of many species are delicately perfumed and they are said to cause all sorts of hay fever symptoms during the flowering season.
Acacias are also found in Africa, Madagascar, throughout the Asia - Pacific region and in the Americas.