Saturday, January 24, 2009


The windy weather didn't last long, and at this rate neither will the remains. Disposing of garden waste is always a problem, but we deal with ours mostly with an electric muncher. So the nectarine and the other branches are disappearing as I write into the maw of the chipper, and the product goes on the garden to mulch the vegies.

Jeannie and the muncher

Wasted nectarines!
Too early to ripen. Boo hoo.

But there are still the peaches.
If the wattlebirds don't get them all.

Now I'm sure you have all noted that it's Jeannie dealing with the fearsome machine. True, but what you haven't seen is me doing manly work with the chainsaw to reduce the larger branches to lengths small enough to go in the stove later on.

(I'll bet you think I carve the meat too...... wrong).

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Stormy Day

We don't get much severe weather here (nothing to compare to Texas), but today would rank amongst the most horrid.

When deep depressions pass south of Tasmania in the summer they generate savage winds as the cold front approaches, and those winds come from the north or north west, so they bring hot air from the mainland. That was the case today, and by late morning wind gusts of up to 200 kph had been recorded!

Stormy Derwent River, from our window.

Probably not quite up to that here, but enough to snap off our poor old nectarine tree. I was working at the window just above, but never heard it go, because the windows were rattling so much. The tree has produced huge crops of fruit for about 30 years, but that looks like the end of it, and the fruit was a month away from being ripe.

Death of a nectarine!

There wasn't much holding it up.

No other serious damage here, though my runner beans have taken a bashing, but we shall wait to hear the story from elsewhere in the state. Certainly there was a horrible cloud of dust blowing out of the drought-ridden pastures in the southern inland.

Dust clouds over the Derwent.
Better than smoke, I suppose.

As I write (2.30 pm) the pre-frontal trough has passed and the winds have eased. I happened to leave the car in the road because Jean was out when I got home, Just as well, since a branch came off the neighbour's tree where the car usually sits!

And I spoke too soon! A wander round the garden revealed several branches off trees and a section of fence more or less laid flat.

Debris from various trees

Later..... we heard on the news tonight that there had been quite a lot of structural damage in our area, including a tree through the roof of Illawarra Primary School, a couple of kilometres away in Blackmans Bay. And the Midlands Highway was cut by a bushfire at Epping Forest.

So we do get some weather.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Clearing the Lab

"What do people do all day?" asked Richard Scarry in the title of one of his children's picture books, and it's a question that regularly haunts the newly-retired. So I thought I'd give you an idea of what's keeping me busy at the moment.

I used to have a lab, which housed my microscopes and other gear, any current research assistants and, in a side room, my collections. These are mainly made up of freshwater crayfish, upwards of 1200 bottles of them, and since each was hard-earned they represent a considerable financial investment. Think "replacement value". But that's far outweighed by their scientific value, and it's important to get them all to somewhere that will look after them, i.e. a museum.

The old lab
Boxes and boxes and boxes. Dust too.

The crayfish collection
Over 1200 bottles!

Dead souls to haunt me

I've cleared out most of the rest of the lab (and it's a testimony to the School of Zoology's patience that I'm still doing it over 12 months after retiring), but now I must face the crayfish (all those little dead souls). The snag is that the museum wants them all in their own special bottles, but I've got to get the room cleared pronto, so I'll have to pack and ship them and them re-bottle them down at the museum.

All to be packed and catalogued

It's very nostalgic working through the bottles and record books. All the specimens have date, habitat etc recorded with them, but also the names of the collectors, and they bring back happy memories of field trips to the wilder parts of Tasmania.

Every bottle has a label.
A little bit of history.

I'm trying to cram the rest of the stuff into my new office-cum-lab, which is a fraction of the space.

The new office/lab.
A bit squeezy.

So that's what I do; maybe not all day, but it's the main thing at the moment.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

This is a record

We really hate it when the Last Day at the shack is clear, blue and glittering, as it is this morning, so we are dragging the chain: breakfast on the deck, then a walk on the beach, and now some blogging. Anything rather than settling down to cleaning up and packing.

Breakfast on the deck
You can't see the dolphins in this shot, but they were there.

But I must record a Special Event. This morning we completed The Australian (aka The Times) cryptic crossword for the third day in a row!! All done. No electronic aids. Well, the dictionary and the atlas, but surely everyone uses them? Not a bad way to finish up our week here.

Three in a row!
Note the jottings.

For those of you unlucky enough not to have been to Boat Harbour Beach a few pics follow; for those of you who have: eat your hearts out.

Steps to the beach.
How will we find a spot amongst those crowds?

Shacks at Boat Harbour.
The older, traditional ones

Boat Harbour rock pool.
Table Cape in the distance

But now gotta go home. Back soon.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Caves & Fires

As JFK might have said "Ich bin ein Berlogger"!

So you might like to hear about yesterday's adventures, as we continue our holiday at Boat Harbour on the warm and sunny North West coast of Tasmania.

Right next door is Rocky Cape National Park, one of Tassie's least known parks, but a little gem in many ways. It's mostly covered in florally rich coastal heathland, and is the only locality in Tas for Serrated Banksia, a wonderfully gnarled small tree with bad banksia men cones. But the trouble with coastal heath is that is catches fire at the drop of a........ match. And that's what happened back in November to the eastern end of the park. It'll be OK again in a couple of years, but right now it looks more than a bit devastated.
East end of Rocky Cape NP after the November fires.
Those are wallaby tracks.

But it's wonderful to see the shoots and seedlings springing up.

Fresh shoot on a scorched serrated banksia.

Fresh shoots on a scorched gum tree.

The plants are all fire-resistant, with their buds well-protected below ground or in the centre of the plant. The grass trees neatly record the amount of growth since their leaves were scorched.

Grass tree shooting after fire.
All the green growth has appeared since the November fire.

Jean and I have recently read Beyond Awakening, a book by Ian McFarlane on the sad story of the aboriginal tribes of north west Tas after European "contact". It's hardly conceivable that the native tribes were gone from this region just 40 years after Europeans settled here, but as a consequence we know so little about how they lived. I always try to picture the original inhabitants in this landscape, and their presence is felt particularly strongly at the caves in the park.

Wet Cave is just above Sisters Beach, a steep climb from the shore and facing south, so perhaps not the best real estate. It's quite a deep cave and usually full of water, but perhaps because of the fire the water level was really low yesterday, two metres or more below normal. We could go some way in but even then my head torch wasn't strong enough to illuminate the back of the cave. I'll have to come back with something stronger (and a little boat, and a ring, precious.....).

Wet Cave from the inside.

The other site at the eastern end of the park is Lee Archer Cave, which is drier, more open, closer to the sea and faces northeast. Much more of a des res, as shown by the larger midden deposit of shells at the entrance. Mr Lee Archer was a local magistrate in the early 1800s, and he was probably responsible for a couple of test digs into the greenish, coppery-looking vein of rock below the cave that are marked as a "mine" on some maps.

The entrance of Lee Archer Cave.

There are a couple of other caves in the park, including one secret one that I haven't found yet. Watch this space!

Monday, January 12, 2009

For the Birds

This may be blog-post 1 (if I'm doing this right).

Yesterday was the North West Tasmania summer wader count (I'll bet many of you guys missed that, didn't you?). This involves several groups of hardy birdwatchers trekking to remote locations in NW Tas, waiting for high tide and then counting the shorebirds at their roosts. For Jean and I, the site was the eastern end of Anthony's Beach, just west of Stanley. Anthony's Beach is about 13 km long and the only road access is more or less in the middle......

Anthony's Beach.
Our destination was the vanishingly small point at the end

We set off at 9.00, with another counter, and to our surprise the walk took a mere hour and three quarters, giving us plenty of time to set up and reconnoitre before the hour of counting from 12.30 to 1.30. It was a glorious day, and that made up for the lack of exotica in the bird line; only one migratory wader, Red-necked Stints, tiny little chaps who breed in Siberia and then show their good sense by flying to Tassie for (our) summer.

Red-necked Stints
As seen down the scope. They are tiny!

We saw 50-odd of them, plus many of the more usual suspects: oystercatchers, gulls, terns, 15 pelicans and hundreds of hysterical masked lapwings.

The walk back to the car was whole lot tougher, into the teeth of a strong westerly, but we made it, and today we're having some feet-up to recover.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

At my age!

I suppose there could be older bloggers out there than me, but I feel unprepared for this new medium. Others (Jac, for example) have set such a high standard, but I guess there might be one or two people out there who will read our meanderings.

Don't Panic!

This is not Big A, but Jac the Invader setting him up with a new home here in cyberspace.  It really isn't that scary here!

Welcome to the blogsphere :D