Wednesday, 16 August 2017

COG looks for fast flying birds at London Bridge

Do not panic: this post will get to some birding stuff eventually.

That blog title was adopted before the walk, as a consequence of the forecast strong winds.
In fact the BoM Extreme weather warning indicated the Canberra area was going to miss the worst of the winds (average 60-70 kph, gusting to 90kph).
However it still seemed likely that any birds coming from the Burra direction would be going at a fair clip.  Rain was forecast for the early morning and it was, like the trains on the Rock Island Island Line "right on time" such as 0430.
Hopefully it will be done and dusted by the time we start walking.

Of course the weather was the second "adventure" in getting this outing on the track.  The first was an article in the Canberra Times by Bryan Pratt saying that the London Bridge entrance to Googong was to be closed at the gate, thus saving the cost of opening and locking the gate each night.  However that turns out to just have been a brain explosion by someone in the ACT Government and the idea had been abandoned.  I initially thought that using an outmoded idea was nominative determinism, but that relates to jobs fitting names (eg if Mr Baker makes bread) and it is simply an aptronym.

This blog exists purely to expand your vocabulary!

In fact there were two gates to navigate: the first more or less a stock container ...
 .. whereas the second was definitely a bogan excluder.  I understand this will eventually be set to open and close automatically.
Note the blue sky!  After a couple of messages from me commenting on the weather - plus evidence from looking out the window that it was in fact pretty ordinary - I wasn't surprised that there were only 2 cars evident when I arrived.  3 other brave souls were in them.  We agreed that it was a good idea to visit the homestead as planned  and headed off.  (The fifth brave soul had been held by traffic in Civic and pursued us in that direction.)

So it must be noted that Margaret Robertson still holds the WW record of 4 people on a walk.  To the Pryor Arboretum, and I think they actually got some snow!
The very ordinary weather  had some impact on the avifauna with very few smaller birds seen on the walk to the homestead.  Good numbers of Australian Magpies, Eastern Rosellas and particularly Crimson Rosellas were evident at this stage.  3 Grey Currawongs were a less common species observed.
On arrival at the Homestead area 4 Flame Robins (2 of each sex) were flying around from perch to perch (and thus impossible to photograph.  The birds were also a lot quieter than those of this species I have been seeing and hearing around Whiskers Creek recently with only one burst of territorial heard.

At least 6 Southern Whiteface were observed feeding on the ground before flying off downwind at fair speed.  The classic descending call of a Horsfield's Bronze Cuckoo alerted us to the presence of this species and 2 birds were observed together 
with one fluttering its wings in an obvious display activity.  Thanks for the photograph Lindell!

A female Hooded Robin then appeared with a male of that species seen soon after.  They were observed over quite some time but again the wind kept them moving.  I failed to get a photograph but here is another small black and white bird.  

We followed the creek back down ..
 ..to the Bridge itself.

..  where a large(ish) flock of 26 European Goldfinches were seen.  The final excitement was a flock of hirundines flying low over an open area.  It was concluded that most (15) of these birds  were Tree Martins - migrants are returning.
In total we recorded 31 species plus a  distant accipiter and we couldn't decide whether it was a Collared Sparrowhawk or Brown Goshawk.

In the mammal department it is always good to see a Red-necked Wallaby (in fact two were seen).
 .. as well as quite a lot of Eastern Grey Kangaroos
A very enjoyable stroll and the weather was not as bad as feared.  

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Fixing up the tank Parts 2 and 3

This post will cover both part 2 (removing the old tank) and part 3 (installing the new one).

David and his offsider arrived right on time and within a very short time had the old tank heading downwards.  This image also suggests why doing the job is not possible in strong winds (unless the dismantler feels like a bit of paragliding).
I hadn't realised there was a join halfway up the tank.
Here is the bare site after about 4 hours yakka.
David said they'd try to start a bit earlier on the construction the following day so as to have the new tank built before the strong winds start up.  We have got about 2,000 litres of water in our small tank which I'll pump up as soon as they've built the new tank, to anchor it in place.  Some truckloads of water have been ordered for the afternoon.

I didn't take any photos of the construction phase, being cognisant of a joke I read somewhere about a plumber who quoted his rate as "$75 an hour.  With assistance from owner $100 an hour".  However here is a distant shot of David installing the inspection ladder.  The image doesn't capture the wind which had just started to blow - but there are no paragliding options by this stage!
By then the pump at our catch tank was running and shifting the water in there up to the main tank.  Frances and I decided as a matter of policy that we wouldn't open up the valves on the main tank or at the house until the truck has been and delivered at least one load of water.

That was important to hold the tank in place against strong winds. The truck arrived and had no trouble accessing the tank (after a small amount of bonsai on an Acacia dealbata).


15 minutes later 14,000 litres of water had been added to the tank and I turned on all the things that had been turned off.  I'm really looking forward to my shower!

As part of this exercise we have been disconnected from water inside the house and had watering cans and bottles of water all over the place.  Most of which we didn't need..  This did cause another thought back to Tanzania.

One of the more distressing sights there was after rain in the rural areas, when some locals would be seen scooping water out of roadside puddles into buckets, jars and such like.  The worst instance of this was in Chalinze, about 100km West of Dar es Salaam, where the roads West to Morogoro (and on to Malawi) and North (to Arusha and Kenya) met.  The puddles there, particularly those near a bus stop where the many long distance buses hauled in, were about 33% water, 33% mud and 34% spilled diesel and abraded rubber.  The mamas collecting the water looked very old but if you drank that stuff I reckon you'd look very old soon after puberty.

Thinking about those observations, the fact that my shower was a tad tepid this evening (I had turned off the heater for about 48 hours as a safety precaution while the water supply was disconnected) seems to require the comment "Toughen up Princess."

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Fixing up the tank part 1

One of the effects of the bushfire was that our water tank got fried.  At a glance it looked OK apart from a scorched overflow pipe.
However the NRMA Insurance assessor (from A J Grant) said that at a later stage we needed to get the tank checked as the liner may have been damaged by the heat.  On getting it checked by the tank installer (David Robinson of Region Tanks of Cooma) he found that not only was the liner damaged but the tank infrastructure was heat affected.  He felt that the tank was not not likely to last long and recommended it be replaced.  This was accepted by NRMA and the demolition of the old tank starts tomorrow.

Before that be done the water has to be drained out of the tank.  The essential aspect of this was to get the water well away from the work area, and preferably without creating an erosion gully the size of the Grand Canyon.  Ideally we'd to get it down near our dam roughly along the yellow line shown here. (The vegetation in that image is no longer there!)
But how?  While I used to have some poly pipe that did not survive the fire.  Fortunately David - very helpful as always - was able to supply some hoses.
 Not only did they fit nicely on my sack trolley but they also reached nicely to the target area.

Checking the distance from tank to dam on Google Earth, knowing that the hoses are close to 60m long and making a guess at how much I strayed from a straight line I was able to enlist Uncle Pythagorus to calculate that the vertical distance from the tank to the dam was 22m.  (Google Earth suggests its only 8m but I think it unreasonable to expect much precision over a short distance when being measured from a satellite.  Later, I looked back and the tank is lower than the huge Yellow Box on the lawn, so 22m is too much - perhaps split the difference and say 15m!

Here is the outlet from the tank.
Here is the outlet again, slightly modified by the alloy coupling being installed and the flat hose connected.
It was a tad fiddly to get the clips shut due to the nearness of the inlet pipe, but nothing some lubricant (thanks David) and a tap with the stilsons couldn't fix.

Then it was "hi ho, go with the flow"!
It did need a bit of walking up and down the hill to remove kinks from the hose but by about 1630 it was running very well.

About 20:45 I went to check on things and it was still running well.
On going up to the tank the hose was looking a little flatter than it had earlier but the tank was about half empty after 4 hours.  Its got another 11 hours to finish the job!

By 0645 on 14 August there was no water coming out of the hose.  On going up to the tank the float was still at about half full, which was a worry.  However tapping the float dropped it down.
Looking inside the tank a few holes were visible and I suspect those creases were probably not intentional.
Whatever: it is as required for Dave to work his wonders on Monday.

This has caused us to think back to our time in Tanzania.  There was a block next to us in which some locals were living.  I suspect they were squatting and certainly didn't have water connected.  Whenever it rained they'd put a large number of buckets out to catch the run off from the roof.  Unfortunately I couldn't find a photo of this, but when it didn't rain they had to buy water from a barrow boy.
If they could live like that permanently I reckon we can get by for a couple of days.  Of course in Tanzania we mzungu didn't have a great issue as our landlord sent a truck round with water every couple of days!


Saturday, 12 August 2017

Is Spring in the background?

Certainly our garden flowers are adding a bit of colour.  The daffodils are mainly a bit away yet
An alert reader will notice that most of the daffodils are outside the 'roo-proof fence!

However the winter-flowering plants are still keeping up their end.  As the weather has had the complete mank recently I thought some pictures of pretty flowers would be a pleasant thing.

These are Hellebores ...

 ... and here are some Polyanthus.



On the following a couple of daffodils seem to have recognised that rude things were being written about them and produced flowers.

Friday, 11 August 2017

TAMLaPS Rools!

I have just read a very interesting article by Peter Martin about the ABS new responsibilities.  I went to check the ABS website to see what they have to say about it there: in terms of a media release etc there is, as Peter Martin suggests, nothing.  Nada.  Zilch. Hakuna habari (I just thought I'd chuck in a bit of Kiswahili for fun: it means "We have no news." and is totally different to the Lion King's motto of  Hakuna matata).

However they do have some acknowledgement of the role in the form of this notice on the home page:
That is too big a mouthful to swallow so I have come up with the acronym shown in the title of this post.  I've included the lower case 'a' to make it pronounceable even though it is now one character more than LBGTIQ, which is another unduly long but possibly relevant acronym in this context.

Now that we have come down to admitting the damn thing is a Survey why can't the Government recognise that there are already lots of Surveys on this topic showing clearly that the Public support changing the law?  OK, answered in two words: Mad Monk!

What is interesting is that the Government would probably claim that the sample size of the existing polls is too small.  That should be able to be analysed by the sampling error of the surveys.  The big problem with TAMLaPS is that while sampling error should be low (because it is (pause for laughter) a full enumeration) there will be massive - and IMHO unmeasurable - non sampling error!  Oh dear, oh dear I foresee months of fun as the various pressure groups try to argue about what the results of TAMLaPS actually mean!  I hope the High Court leaves a few gaps in their schedule around Christmas.

The ABS has now published a media release It doesn't bode well that they say "All Australians on the roll (or those who've made a valid request for enrolment) by 24 August 2017 will receive the necessary documentation to enable them to participate." while Minister Corman is quoted as saying "The survey instruments will be sent to those who are on the roll;"..." thus excluding those who have only made a valid request.

There is now a statement on the ABS site which offers a good bit more information.  For some reason  (eg they are waiting to get their snouts in the trough of a paid advertising campaign) it hasn't been covered by mainstream media.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

This weeks Stakes

For some reason I had a bad nights sleep last night but being a fanatic rocked off to the BBQ Stakes at the Woden BBQ pit.  I thought it unlikely I was going to break any records, except for the greatest amount of time to complete the course, so set off early.

Another pooch had entered under the name of Molly.  Here she is snuffling at a Wabbit (sans ears at this stage of the event).
 A little bit into the run and another quadruped was seen.  I am reasonably sure that it would be against the rules to hijack it.
 As we went under Hindmarsh Drive there was clear evidence that a horse had been on the course but being dedicated to momentum (and good taste) I didn't snap that.  Going up to Oakey Hill I was travelling at such a velocity as to be able to take a snap of less substantial indications of cavalry.
On the general subject of indications, the Acacia dealbata along the back of the Chifley houses  was certainly making a loud announcement about Spring.
Coming back through Lyons I noticed this block being developed.  I assume it is a Fluffy knock-down, of which there are several on the course.  Was the man himself a stakester or did his victims just like houses we run past?
Driving home, as I left the Yass Rd takeaway in Queanbeyan (home of the worlds best hamburgers) i felt a stinging pain on my thigh.  It seemed to go away until I was well down Captains Flat Rd when it returned.  The Princess toughened himself up until I got home and found it to be a second indicator of Spring in the shape of a meat ant.  No idea where that leapt aboard.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Winter running and weather

When I went out for my run today I thought of a couple of other bits of crummy weather in which I have run.

Possibly the worst was a 5km run in Ottawa in February 1991.  It was snowing and the wind chill was something like -35oC.  I was wearing:
  • Above the clavicles: head band; baseball cap; toque; and neck warmer;
  • Waist to neck: short-sleeved tee; long sleeved tee; fleece jacket; rain jacket;
  • Below the waist: jockettes; thermals; shorts; gore-tex rain pants; two pairs of socks; shoes.
  • Gloves; ski mitts.
I got home and had a cup of coffee and a hot shower.  Then looked in the mirror and I still had lumps of ice in my beard from breath condensation.

A competitor was a day in March 2006 in New York.  It was a Sunday and my practice was to go for a 12km run from our apartment round the Reservoir in Central Park.
  • I can't remember what the temperature was - probably about -5oC - but it was snowing heavily.  The wind didn't seem too bad until I got up to 5th Avenue, where I realised how the spine of Manhattan sheltered Turtle Bay.  
  • I wasn't wearing as much as in Ottawa and had my spray jacket in a bum bag.  At about 56th St. I pulled into a doorway and "adjusted my clothing".  Probably the only time I have thought well of the Trump Tower!  
  • As I got to the Reservoir there was a loud clap of thunder and I decided I wasn't going to tun on the exposed track up there.  
  • I do recall the guys in the bagel shop looked at me as though I was nuts when I called in to pick up breakfast on the way home.
At 10am today it wasn't as cold as yesterday but I still had three long sleeved layers on the top and a pair of thermals.  Also gloves.  The wind was foul but it was nicely clear as shown in this image from near Captains Flat Rd.
 The Taliesin hills are very clear today  ...
 .. but this is what they are predicted to look like tomorrow morning.
At 1320 on 6 August the first lot of precipitation that might cause this is near Tumbarumba (in a straight line about 150km SW of Carwoola).  That might be going a bit South.  A second line of rain on the radar is closer to 400km West (near Deniliquin).

2 hours later the first front was near Cabramurra - about 50km closer to Carwoola (where the sky was getting much cloudier).  According to the Meteye BoM automatic forecast it is already raining here - and overlaying the radar does show a couple of showers here and there in the neighbourhood.

The system seems to have sped up!  After another 2 hours the front of the front is at Michelago, a mere 40kms away!
The first sound of rain on the galvo was at 1815
We ended up with much less rain than forecast (the front seemed to split up into little showers with random impact).  It was also quite warm (minimum  +4oC) so no snow - just a howling gale.