Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas Holidays on the South Coast

Most of the year we have access to plenty of deserted beaches within twenty minutes drive of us, the closest a few minutes across the main road. During school and public holidays there is an influx of visitors and we see more people on the beach. The "worst" time is the Christmas break where our population quadruples with temporary residents and visitors on summer holiday. Apart from crowded beaches, the roads are jammed with sometimes long delays, parking and shopping in town becomes a nightmare and prices increase. The normal lay back nature of the area seems to disappear with a more "frantic" atmosphere prevailing. I guess people from the city want to wring every second of leisure time out of their 3 -4 weeks annual leave. But when this translates into someone behind you continually bumping their cart into your legs in a supermarket check out line going nowhere it does test your patience a little.

video

We try not to be selfish and are greatly aware that the area needs this annual economic boost to get through the leaner times of the year. So we grit our teeth as we head to our favourite beaches and try to avoid the masses and their beach tents, umbrellas, beach chairs, screaming kids, football, cricket and volley ball games, kite flying, boom boxes, empty bottles and rubbish left as well as unattended dogs that crap everywhere. And why, when you do find a relatively secluded spot at the furthest end of the beach, does a family arrive and park themselves a metre from you? But it's only for a month or so. By mid February they will all be gone leaving all those tourist dollars behind. OK, have had my annual whinge and leave you with a video view of a couple of our beaches, pre Christmas holiday rush, and best wishes for 2009.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Lizards

There are five families of lizards living in Australia. These include monitors, geckos, legless, skinks and dragons.
By far the biggest family is skinks (Scincidae) which has well over 300 species in it. Skinks make up over 50% of all Australian lizards.
We believe we have what are Eastern Water Skinks (Eulamprus quoyii) living around the house. They grow to about 30cm (1 ft) long and eat a whole range of insects.
They have been breeding quite well over the years and are quite numerous and like to lie on the warm verandas, steps and footpaths especially in the afternoon. Once you are used to them (and know that sudden scuttle is not a snake), it's nice to have them around. They seem to be used to us too either completely ignoring us or pretending they are invisible when we step over them.

Yesterday some movement in the backyard caught my eye. At first I thought it was a small dog , cat or possum in the garden but then it "took off" when I approached.
It was a huge goanna or monitor lizard about 2m (6ft) long that had been eating a dead bird in the garden. He ran up the nearest tree, their normal defence mechanism.

I have seen many in the bush around us as well as racing across the road (or worse, squashed onto it) but this was the first one I had seen so close to the house.
The co driver was NOT impressed! But I thought she had been here long enough now to know about such things and did not keep it a secret (like the 3m (9ft) python I came across in the shed a few years ago).
Goannas are predatory lizards with sharp teeth and claws. They prey on small animals; insects, lizards, snakes, mammals, birds and eggs and are eaters of carrion and are attracted to rotting meat.
They are not really dangerous, preferring to escape than attack but when cornered can be a bit of a problem.
For more info (and a great picture) on Goannas click on: http://www.walkaboutpark.com.au/index.php?id=228

Monday, December 15, 2008

Surf

We were promised a 4 metre swell as the intense low pressure system that caused all our wind problems moved east over the Tasman Sea towards New Zealand. This would have meant some of the big wave breaks in our area would have started working which is always exciting. Many previous unridable breaks have now been conquered due to the advent of "tow in" surfing and it is amazing to watch these brave if somewhat foolhardy souls pull into some pretty big waves.

video

But it was not to be. The waves were a fair size but not the giants expected. The above video was shot at a place called "Guillotines" near us. Shallow and rocky but capable of holding a good sized swell this break is for experienced sufers only. A small group of board riders and belly boarders were enjoying themselves before the holiday crowds hit the coast next week.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Unseasonal Gales

An intense low pressure cell developed over the south east of Australia during the weekend and we copped some pretty severe winds.
Victoria bore the brunt of it but we on the south coast of New South Wales had 12 hours of westerly gales with gusts reaching 80km/hr at times.

There was a lot of tree damage in the area.
I did a quick inspection of my boundary late on Saturday evening when it was safe to venture out and found a number of trees down over fences.

The tree damage around the house was quite extensive as well. It was surprising to see some trees had been snapped off well up the trunk.

So this will mean a day out repairing broken wire and posts as well as cleaning up and piling for next winter's burn off.

Thankfully there was no house damage although there were some strange noises emanating from the roof during the day at the height of the gale.
Grape vine damage seems minimal with the odd shoot or two ripped off.
And all the animals are fine as well.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Turtle or Tortoise

The Eastern snake necked turtle or long necked tortoise (Chelodina longicollis) is a semi aquatic freshwater tortoise. It is distinguished from a marine turtle by distinct ankle joints and broadly webbed feet each with 4 or 5 claws.
I came across one near our upper dam the other day. First time I had ever seen one in our area.
The dam was almost dry so I guess he was off to look for a more suitable home. They have a reputation for travelling long distances over land.
They eat crustaceans, tadpoles, small fish and molluscs and find their food using their sight and their sense of smell.
To capture their prey they hold their neck sideways and then extend it, striking like a snake. They then swallow it whole, breaking up larger victims with the powerful claws on their front feet.
Their main predators are large birds, large fish and foxes.
To reproduce, the turtles lay about ten eggs each breeding season in early summer.
Obviously he was a a bit shy and hid well down in his shell so I didn't get to see his long neck.
And they can produce an awful smelling liquid when frightened or disturbed so didn't want to tempt fate too much.
But there are some great pictures on the net of this reptile and I have "stolen" one.
photo: © John Wombey
They are also apparently popular pets in Australia but I think I prefer to see them in the wild.