Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Australian Bushfire Sunsets

Living amongst bushland in Australia is one of the most pleasurable places to be as a nature photographer though, as the tragic fires in Victoria have shown, conditions can change quickly.

I live more than 500Km from the areas still under threat and was woken around 4am EST Yesterday to the strong smell of smoke.
Checking the house first, I then surveyed the surrounding bushland for any signs of fire.
As the sun rose, the surrounds thick with smoke haze, visibility was down to under a kilometer.
Later that day I saw the "chopper report" for traffic in Sydney.
Located some 1000Km from the fires, prevailing winds had carried the smoke as far as there, with reduced visibility on the motorways.

These following photos demonstrate, to some degree, the extent of those fires.
This first photo was taken on Sun afternoon before the prevailing winds brought the smoke haze in, though some smoke particles are evident in the "raying" of the light.

This next shot was taken on the Tuesday afternoon showing the redness of the sky, the sun setting through thick haze from those distant fires.

With tomorrow predicted to be a bad day for containment of the fires in Victoria, my thoughts and best wishes go out to all concerned in battling those blazes.
With changes in environmental conditions, bad fire days are expected to become more frequent in the following years and decades.
Investigations into how the toll on life and property could be reduced will follow soon.
Two incredible survival stories that came to light involved the survivors taking refuge in "bunkers" of sorts. One was located alongside a concrete water tank of some size. The water would have acted as a heat buffer I imagine.
With fires as ferocious as the ones we have seen in Victoria, a suitable place of shelter may be a good legislative change when escape is not an option.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Magpie Antics

Magpies are known for their antics ( and occasional swooping), so I was glad to get these shots the other day.
The post in the picture is a star picket with a plastic tube around it.
Grass is growing through the top.

One magpie stands atop the post, with casual interest to his mate and then seems to keep watch.
The other Magpie flies up and grabs the grass in its beak.
With nothing to hold on to ( the plastic tube is quite slippery) it hangs there by its beak swinging on the grass.
It did this for some time and, if it was attempting to catch a meal, would have found it most unsuccessful with a mouth full of lawn .
It did not attempt to remove any of the grass, nor did it seem to catch anything.

I had the impression it was mucking around.

With young Magpies having flown the coop, I have seen many experimenting with hunting methods.
Perhaps this was play with a purpose.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Environmental Changes afoot

This post is in reply to a comment made by Denis Wilson recently, which raises the subject of shifting environmental patterns - a subject of interest to me, as I have moved to a new set of climatic conditions of late.

The section of his comment bearing relevance to this post is:

"........Its still dry in Robbo (well, mists, but no rain. Hillsides around Roboo have gone brown, would you believe it?
So too dry for much fungal activity here. You must have caught some local thunderstorm activity. Dry to the south (Victoria) and to the north. Interesting." Denis Wilson

I feel it is very interesting also.
Please look at the map provided below.
It comes from the D.T. Brown seed company (hey,I'm using their image..A free add for their seeds is no problem).

Look at the climatic "interchange" on the NSW / Vict East coast ( purple/blue).

It is my belief that this interchange existed, some 30 years ago, around Wollongong.
I believe it to exist around Batemans Bay at the present time.

This interchange does not rely on geographic situations to manifest itself, it relies on weather patterns involving subtleties including, though not limited to, ice sheet sizes in Antarctica and coastal water temperatures.

One important piece of evidence to support this idea, of a shifted interchange, is the spectacular event known as a "Southerly Buster" - a wave of cloud, moving at incredible speeds from South to North, bringing cool air and relief from high temperatures.
It has been 30 years since I have seen a good one in the Wollongong area...whereas, in my new location south of Batemans bay, I have seen 2 good ones in a 6 month period and a handful of smaller events.
Another event sadly missing north of me is the afternoon thunder storm.
As a child in Wollongong you could expect that a huge, though short lived, thunderstorm would give a cooling end to a hot sunny day...not as regular any more, though still a regular event down south.

Why do I believe this interchange to be situated around Batemans Bay?
Move south of there and early summer can be raging NE winds...not so further north.
Observed cloud patterns on BOM showing interchange events.
Temp differences noticeable North and south of that area.
I would even suggest that rainfall in the Batemans Bay area, on average, has decreased less over the last 30 years in relation to areas further north, keeping in mind that rainfall has been decreasing statewide for many years.

There is a red section on the map (in SA and WA)..this is a different climatic condition again.
I believe it to have spread across southern Victoria providing the hotter, drier conditions experienced there of late.

So, what does it all mean?

Climatic changes and less stability within those climates.
Adapt or perish cry the evolutionists.
Sadly much will perish.
New environments are being created all over the world within lifetimes.
With new climatic conditions must come new solutions.
Oh to live in interesting times.

UPDATE (16.02.09):
Recently Robertson, and surrounding areas got some rain (see Post by Denis Wilson)
I was able to monitor this activity, courtesy of the BOM website located here.
I have included a few shots, taken over nearly a 3 hour period, of the storm.
I found it interesting that the activity was limited to a little north of Batemans Bay and that the storm remained basically stationary during that time.
Also look at the way the storm moved at its South Western end.
It seems that an air flow drove the storm, at that point, to the east while the rest of the storm remained stationary. This looks to me like a classic "eddy" with a flow of air to the south, around Batemans Bay, helping to contain the storm within the area.
I would suggest that a similar situation existed above the storm north of Port Macquarie.
Credit, and thanks, to the BOM for the following shots.

I will monitor this area for the proposed interchange event I have suggested and make additions to this post as material supporting this theory presents itself.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Humid weather sparks fungal growth

Humid weather following rain has brought forth a variety of fungi this week and, since it has been a while, I thought a couple of posts on these strange and varied lifeforms would not go astray.

These varieties pictured below are particularly fond of the litter at the base of pine trees, so it is no surprise that I saw them amongst pine bark chips today.

Looking quite decayed, these flies thought it a good place to reproduce.

This form has also appeared after the rains.

Seems that the weather is just right for fungi of many types.