Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Cicada are back

One of the rights of passage through childhood for many boys ( and quite a few girls) in Australia is the catching of Cicada during the summertime.
These amazing creatures, after spending seven years or more underground, emerge to rejoice in the heatwave and produce a sound I have always associated with this time of year.

These coastal grasslands are home to one of the smallest of these insects I have seen to date.

Some cicada are easy to catch, some are harder.
These guys have eyes in the back of their heads ( it seems), as they are very small and very quick.
I was, after stalking on hands and knees like someone possessed, able to catch this insect pictured below - though only on film.
It took younger eyes, and quicker reflexes than mine, to help achieve this task.
Good to see that the youth of today still find excitement in the hunt of these elusive creatures.

The lads, who were down from Bateman's Bay for a cricket match in Bermagui, even managed to score a chrysalis from the creatures nymph stage.

I have a previous post, with a couple of pictures of cicada that show the difference in size.
One of my first posts was of a similar cicada, though those pictured above are marginally smaller.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Old man Goanna

Last weekend I took a drive to see the upper reaches of the Bermagui river.
Not a bad stretch of river at all.

On my return I climbed up into higher ground and a forest of spotted gum.
Crossing the road was this guy.

I approached him quickly enough to get him to climb.
At just under 2 meters, this gargantuan lizard is a fearsome piece of work indeed.

As scavenger hunter it will raid nests for eggs and make short work
of your rubbish bin given half a chance to do so.

These claws are great at climbing the smooth trunks of the Spotted Gum.
They are also make for great defense.
The Goanna is a fairly timid animal and will climb to escape predators.
If one comes running at you, you are best to lay down.
It wont think you are a tree then.
A friend of mine was thought of as a tree, by an animal half the size
of the one pictured here, and sports some great scars on his legs.
Luckily the animal didn't make it to perch on the top of his head.

One wonders how these, and many other creatures, are going during the
spotted gum selective felling going on down Bermagui way at the moment.
The areas where this is happening are entry prohibited, though that does not restrict a careful eye seeing ( from outside the zones) the apparent rip and tear
"selective" harvesting going on in one of the east coasts last great stands of these trees.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Whales playing in Bermagui

With many of the whales having made their journey down the NSW coastline on their way to Antarctic waters, I thought a little vid of some this years action was worth a post.

This whale, with her calf, are playing in Horseshoe bay, Bermagui.
Two weeks ago we saw a peak in numbers here and the occasional whale can still be seen, though it seems the bulk are south us now.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

South Coast Echidna

With warming weather, many animals have been making an appearance.

One of these is the Echidna.

This egg laying marsupial mammal is classed as a monotreme, the other is the Platypus.

Both are only found in Australia.

The offspring, usually one, is called a "Puggle" and it is carried in its mothers pouch until too spikey. When this happens the mother will dig a shallow hole, place the youngster in it, and return every few days to supply milk.

They can live up to 45 years eating termites and ants.

I saw many of these creatures while in Victoria recently, ranging all the way to Bermagui where I live.

Take care if you are driving through wild habitats at the moment, as Echidna seem to be out in great numbers, along with a variety of reptiles and kangaroos.

Your local area will have wildlife protection organisations that rescue injured animals and it makes sense to program this number into your mobile.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A few baby Pics

Spring is always a good time to show a few baby pics.

Young Sea Eagles have been cruising the skies, testing their aerobatic skills in dogfights with each other for prey.

This very active Koala posed for the camera in a rare period of daytime wakefulness .

Even the humble Seagull had a shot or two to offer.

This chick allowing a most comical shot.

And, last though by no means least, whales are well into their southern migration down the east coast of Australia.
This calf having playtime with its mum in Horseshoe Bay, Bermagui.

Yes, spring is a time of wonder and interesting photographic possibilities.
I am currently searching for sparring Red Bellied Black Snakes and hope to have some shots soon.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A change in the air

When I found that this years Blog Action Day was to be on climate change I was a little daunted.
Where do you start?
My life has been, from the time I was a small child, meshed with a conscious realisation that a peel thin atmospheric covering regulates our life on this planet.
From the early days of asthma each time the westerlies blew pollen to me, the trips with my father fishing in a small boat out wide in deep water, to my eventual study in Environmental Science in Wollongong University, it has been an envelope I have been aware of.
For over three decades I have seen the seasons unfold, and have studied ancient patterns in fields as diverse as magnetic field change and carbon dioxide levels recorded in ice.
It is with this long standing interest that I find this subject so daunting.
Ancient records will have us believe that we have been living in an almost unprecedented calm and regular period of climate for over the last 5000 years and, despite the fluctuations such as the "little Iceage" experienced over 500 years ago in Europe, things have been fairly reliable for activities such as growing crops and developing civilization, for it has been over this time that we have developed our modern age. Things haven't always been so regular.
11,000 years ago carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere spiked. Whether they did due to the release of gases from thawing bogs at the end of the last iceage, or whether they caused the end of the last iceage is debatable. Either way, there were no factories and cars that we know of to have caused this at the time.
The sun is known to work cyclically, ranging from sunspot activity to expulsions of gas and the sun is the ultimate climate control device.
In view of the magnitude of the system we live with, is it wise to be so human centric in believing we have such great impact on this world and its climate?
The climate, in my view, is a series of waves. Conditions move back and forth, within the bounds to sustain life, like a sine wave oscillation. Our activities just change the amplitude and wavelength.
The danger is that our changes to that wave may push it too far for human life to be sustained in the way we live now.
If we vary the conditions too much we will not grow our food or get our water.
Civilization would collapse, though humanity will survive having been regulated by this vast interconnected system and made live within its rhythms.
When looking at climate change, don't worry too much about the planet- it can look after itself.
The goal is to see we live within a large system that can, and will, survive quite well without us.
Adaptability and interconnectedness , not control, should be the goals.
We are not the centre of the universe.
I am proud to be part of Blog Action Day again this year. Lets live with our planet, not try to dominate it.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Three Years of Blogging

I was lucky enough to spend the anniversary for my third year of blogging down in Victoria, viewing the remaining Apostles along the Great Ocean Road.
Quite recently one fell into the sea, due to the fierce elemental action on Australia's southern coast, leaving now only seven of the original twelve.

These shots are testament to wind and wave action on this sandstone plateau which is constantly in a changing state.
I hope you have all enjoyed the last three years, with more yet to come.
Thank you all :)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Chill felt by big and small

The last week or so has been markedly cooler in the South Eastern states.
Antarctic air flows associated with strong low pressure systems have been lowering temps and producing wind gusts up to 125Km/h.
This has had effects ranging from the vast dust clouds experienced last week to the increase of snowfall in the Alps.
It has also had an effect on many creatures expecting the early warming of spring to continue.

I was working in the garden the other day, planting spring vegetables in an optimistic expectation of nature continuing its seasons in a somewhat normal fashion, when I observed these ants carrying larvae back underground.

Their nest had been disturbed by my pulling a few weeds.
Although rain is not expected, their larvae were positioned very close to the surface.
Perhaps this was to regulate their temperature.
With the last few weeks being cold, larvae positioned just under the surface would be afforded some warmth

The cold weather did not slow their activity, and a few bites were received for my trouble to get these shots.

These common black ants measure up at around 4mm in length.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Paint it Black

The skies have been otherworldly with the dust storms across NSW of late.
Although red during the day, as afternoon turned to dusk, I was able to capture this image below.

Bereft of colour, the view was a monochromatic display with the sun hanging pale in the sky.
Living far south of Sydney, the amount of dust we received was limited though enough to bring twilight many hours before the sun actually set.

The storms have not stopped the spread of the Black Swans as the weather warms.

While some remain in larger lake systems over winter, they spread to the many smaller systems during spring into summer, their numbers swelling into the thousands as they cross the sky in vast formations.

The warming weather has also seen the return of the Red Bellied Black Snake.
The photo below showing a sight all too common .
These males were in a sparring match that got carried a little to close to the traffic.

Care is required around this time as many reptiles are coming to grief in such a manner.
I was forced to dispatch the snake on the lower right, as its back was broken and was living still.
While repellent or a source of fear to some, their part in Australia's ecosystem makes them worth avoiding if possible. They eat the much more dangerous, and aggressive, Eastern Brown Snake.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Spring thaw at the Australian Alps

Spring is underway, be it slowly, at the Snowy Mountains.

Like a view springing from the Serengeti, the roof of Australia was under snow as the surrounds basked in warm, dry, Savannah.
I wanted to photograph some of the new spring flowers that pop through the snow in the melt.
After the unseasonal warm weather I thought I may have a chance, though the high country plays by its own rules.

The snow has retreated somewhat, with Perisher having enough of the white stuff to have a happy season for a little while yet.
Below that point the cover is scattered.

Areas of melt produce some amazing scenes, like the ones below.

This temporary pond (below) plays host to alpine frog species that wait for just such times.
The Eco system is incredibly fragile and scenes like this leave me to wonder as to the pressure that lack of snow, through global warming, may have on such tenuous relationships between species and their environmental habitats.

At higher altitudes the snow was still thick on the ground.

These alpine gums hang on to the boulders, their forms twisted and stunted by high altitude and the elements.

Winter hasn't given up hold of the high country just yet, with more snow on the way.

My hunt for wildflowers of the Australian Alps with have to wait a few more weeks.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Fires in NSW

Did we miss winter this year?
Tomorrow is the first day of spring in the southern hemisphere and in Australia it has been heralded by gale force winds, lack of rain, and temps in the mid 20's.
Local farmers lament the lack of rain that promotes healthy pasture for the months ahead with the forests tinder dry.
These conditions were answered by a number of fires across the state last week.
Eurobodalla, our local shire, has three fires going at the moment with the blaze at Dromedary being the largest having burnt some 2874 Ha ( and still going).
This was the scene last Friday afternoon...

Saturday morning, after gale force winds, it looked a little more intense....

Dromedary is under the big pall of smoke.

There was even a small fire upriver of Bermagui.

It was listed on the NSW Rural Fire Service site, though was small by comparison and seems to have been put out.

On Saturday afternoon a change came through with some rain, giving some relief to tireless firefighters. We still need much more though.
My thoughts go out to those in the Tilba area who are on alert as high winds continue from the South West.
With continuing high winds and temps, NSW is a tinderbox.
Consideration of the conditions and the consequences of ignoring them at the forefront of many living in the country as we leave winter today.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Just a theory

With things being busy of late, I have not had the time to go out there and take shots, let alone post them to this site.
Sure, I have a couple of things that have been floating around for a while I could post, though I thought it was high time to post a theory I have been floating for longer.
It involves life, the universe and everything (we miss you Douglas Adams) and was prompted to the forefront by a program I saw the other day.
The program was on the possibilities of life having existed on Mars.
Seems that the planet had a large moon that orbited with the effect that the core was rotated creating a magnetic field.
This is a good thing, as magnetic fields protect the atmosphere of a planet from erosion caused by solar wind from the sun as illustrated below. ( courtesy of Wikipedia)

Perhaps we owe a little more to the moon than the tides then?
Perhaps we need to look for life on planets with big satellites that churn their cores producing magnetic fields?
Anyway, mars is thought to have had a run in with its satellite- the collision warping the planet's shape- and, once alone in its orbit with the core not rotating, solar winds stripped off the remaining atmosphere giving us the atmosphere thin desert planet we have today.
All good, but what happened to the satellite?
Was it vaporized by the impact?
To churn the core of Mars it must have been fairly large.
Where did it go?
If you know what the plane of the ecliptic is, you would know that we (the planets) sit in a nice flat orbit around the sun (mostly). There is an exception.
Pluto(see article) is not part of that plane, nor is its orbit all that even.
This little "planet" zips around sometimes very distant and, at other times, is well within the orbit of the more regular true planet Neptune.

(Image of Pluto courtesy Wikipedia)

Seems to me that this little object is a johnny come lately to our planetary system.
It also has a satellite(of sorts) to call its own.
Charon (see article)is its name and, strangely enough, it is thought to consist mainly of ice.
Do you know what happens to water in zero gravity? it floats in little balls.

(Image of Charon courtesy Wikipedia)

When that zero gravity is cold enough you get ice.
Am I constructing a picture here? sure.
I propose that the "planet" known as Pluto was the satellite of Mars in some distant time, flung off into the outer solar system by the collision that took place between them.
As it left, its gravitational pull appropriated the water vapour that was generated from the seas of Mars, which condensed and formed Charon, the two destined to orbit oneanother in the far reaches of our system.

"Simulation work published in 2005 by Robin Canup suggested that Charon could have been formed by a giant impact around 4.5 billion years ago, much like the Earth and Moon. In this model a large Kuiper belt object struck Pluto at high velocity, destroying itself and blasting off much of Pluto's outer mantle, and Charon coalesced from the debris. However, such an impact should result in an icier Charon and rockier Pluto than what scientists have found. It is now thought that Pluto and Charon may have been two bodies that collided before going into orbit about each other. The collision would have been violent enough to boil off volatile ices like methane but not violent enough to have destroyed either body." (Wikipedia)

One good thing about a theory is that it cannot be proven or rejected without research.
I shall leave that to another.
I look forward to the results should I be here to see them.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

A coastal treck

It was good to have Denis come down for another visit last week.
It gave me an opportunity to share some of the wilder parts of the territory in which I live.

Hidden coves with mountainous surrounds, riddled with treacherous slippery rocks is where we went.
I'm sure the scenery was worth it :)

These rock pools, with vivid red anemone were a good find.
They show the way in which the creature retracts its tentacles when faced with violent seas and the waterless conditions that it endures.

This Striated ( or Mangrove) Heron was a little shy of the camera.
Possibly due to the fact that he usually seen this far down the NSW coast.

As was this White Faced Heron.

Though, with careful stalking, I was able to get close enough for this shot.

Yes, an eventful trip that saw two weary photographers glad to be home.

We have yet to track down the elusive Death Adders that live down here.
Perhaps that will have to wait for another visit :)

Friday, July 17, 2009

One small step

Well it has been 40 years since mankind, within the setting of a cold war , set off for the moon.
I remember being woken when the landing took place, being told that history was being made.
Sleepily I watched those first steps and went back to bed. It wasn't through lack of interest, though through lack of age.
It seems that I wasn't the only one( at the time) with a lack of interest in space travel.

"Everything we do ought to really be tied in to getting on to the moon ahead of the Russians [...] otherwise we shouldn't be spending that kind of money, because I'm not interested in space [...] The only justification for [the cost] is because we hope to beat [the USSR] to demonstrate that instead of being behind by a couple of years, by God, we passed them." said John F Kennedy to James E Webb ( head of NASA at the time). source

Many projects were proposed to prove American superiority over the Russians and going to the moon was chosen.
An alternative idea for the funds was to apply massive irrigation projects to the third world.

Dont get me wrong.
Many amazing discoveries and applications we use today have come from that program.
Those programs should be taken to the next step. It's just so expensive.
The costs should be shared, among all nations, along with the benefits.
I propose the time has come for a world space organization.
This, of course, requires a previously unknown degree of international cooperation which may spill over into the environmental field of play on good old mother earth as some big projects, with big scientific/material rewards, are completed.
Rewarded cooperation breeds a more stable future together.

The push into space is, I believe, an intergral piece of the puzzle we need to solve if we are to pull ourselves together as a species so as to maintain a healthy environment here at home.

Are we grown up enough to stop trying to beat each other to the toys in this little blue/green nursery of ours?

Or is this the case?