Sunday, March 22, 2009

Daffodil #1

When we moved here 20+ years ago, there was only one type of daffodil; it was a small white daffodil that blooms late in the season. We have planted a number of different daffodils over the years. Some have done well; others haven’t. The weather here is generally a little warm for daffodils and bulbs in general.

Several years
ago, I planted bulbs of three different daffodils; two did well and the third didn’t. W and J planted a large assortment of bulbs last fall. This winter past has been cooler than in previous years with multiple cold fronts. Most of the daffodils have done well this year.

This daffodil was the first to bloom this year; it
began blooming on February 20th.

Zen: Sunset

The sunset last Friday night was striking. The sky was filled with brilliant reds and oranges and lasted for a considerable length of time. I was in the parking lot of a local supermarket when it occurred. Not long enough to get to a more scenic location. But the power pole provides an intriguing focal point for the photo.

We went to gas up the truck and were facing the east. The colors in the night sky were intriguing; mauve fading to blue. The beauty was not just in the western sky.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Oil Spill: Yaroomba Beach, Queensland, Australia

News of this oil spill at Yaroomba saddens me. We purchased land when the area was first offered for sale. We built a beach house on the ocean front and I spent many happy hours on the beach. I don’t think the beach had a name in those days. The name Yaroomba came much later; we just called it 'The Beach.'

The only access to Yaroomba at that time was by a sandy road – at times little more than two ruts through the bush – that winded around from the Yandina-Coolum Road. There was no direct connecting road between Yaroomba and Coolum. There was no running water; we collected rain water in a couple of 1,000-gallon tanks. There was no power either. We kept perishable foods on ice. It was a quite a trek to get into Coolum and back; we didn’t make that trip every day if we could avoid it. It was big deal when that section of the David Low Highway was built.

The beach between Yaroomba and the Maroochy River was pristine for many years. There was no development along this stretch of beach. Ma
rcoola did not exist. The only access to the beach was by sandy tracks through the bush. Connecting tracks – if you knew where to find them - would start off from the beach parking areas as brave little tracks only, depending on how frequently they were used, to become ruts and then less and less detectable until they become totally overgrown. Only the locals knew where they went and could navigate them when they appeared overgrown. Once, I walked one of these tracks with a local who was familiar with them. I would never have tried to follow one alone if I was not prepared to cross-country to the beach and go back home along the beach.

I walked the beach between Yaroomba and Mudjimba Island many times; Mudjimba was my trigger to turn around and walk back. Only once did I walk all the way down to the spit on the north shore of the Maroochy River. I clearly remember arriving at the spit, frustrated that I couldn’t cross the very narrow but deep channel to the south spit. So near and yet so far. And I had a long trek back home.

I would often meet surf fishermen at a few spots along the beach but, otherwise, the beach was empty. If I wanted to fish, I would just go down to the edge of the surf and dig pipis (eugarie; Plebidonax deltoides) for bait.

A photo gallery shows graphic pictures of the spill on Moreton Island. BBC
video footage of the recovery efforts shows front loaders scooping contaminated sand from a contaminated beach and removing it by truck. Additional video footage of the cleanup is available at the BBC. If the contaminated material can be removed from the beaches before the oil soaks down into the sand, the long-term damage to the beaches may be limited. But 60 kilometers is a long distance; it seems inevitable that oil will soak in before recovery teams arrive. Some beaches may not be as lucky as others.

While the beaches are relatively open, uncomplicated areas to clean, it will be much more challenging and, perhaps, impossible to clean the oil from the tidal pools on rocky shores around Caloundra and between Point Arkwright and Coolum, the inter-tidal mangrove swamps, and the rivers where the oil will penetrate vegetation and may have a much more damaging effect on wildlife.

We can only hope.

Photos: House: Google Maps; Map: BBC
Photo galleries:
- ABC news

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Upland Chorus Frog (Pseudacris feriarum)

He turned up at the house – at least we think it’s the same frog – several years ago and lives in one of the water-filled planters on the patio. He and his friends probably made their way from the small pools that survive after the stream on the neighboring property dry up each year and which have served as breeding pools. His friends took up residence in a water-filled bathtub that serves as a planter in the greenhouse. Some came over to the house one year but seem to have left. He is alone.

He calls every year – as early as January – until the end of the breeding season in March. At the moment, he is calling during the warm of the afternoon and often into the evening. Not continuously, but in ‘waves’ – calling for a while, taking a break, and then calling again. I have also heard him calling in the early morning as I leave for work in the dark.

He usually stops calling when we walk out the front door and doesn’t start again until we have left the area. If we tried to walk over to the planter, he would bob under the water. This afternoon was different. I walked over to the planter and peered all around the edge of the planter, not expecting to see him. But there he was. His body was half out of the water. Maybe he thought I couldn’t see him if he didn’t call.

I had my camera with me, so I took a few photos using the zoom lens. Then I tried a shot with the flash, fully expecting that the light would be reflected and show nothing. Having taken all the shots I planned, I took a chance and switched to the macro setting. I leaned all the way down to him and took another shot. To my surprise, he stayed above water. Surprisingly, the shot taken with the flash didn’t reflect the light but showed his body underwater.


Pseudacris feriarum (Upland Chorus Frog; now called Southeastern Chorus Frog) is found in the Southeastern United States. It's range and call can be found here.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Snow Day, 2009

I love Snow Days. I love to go out and see the countryside covered with snow. Usually, it is sunny and the colors are more intense than normal.

First, a walk around the field following the same route as the day before. The freezing temperatures had transformed the compressed snow by the cars into a treacherous ice field that had to be cros
sed with much care. Where the snow had not been compressed, a firm crust had formed. It was safer to walk on the snow than on the car tracks that were covered with slick ice. It took some effort to break through the crust but then my feet easily sank down to hard ground underneath and then considerable effort to pull them out again. A great workout.

The weight of the snow had bent the bamboo over completely. Culms that were normally 20-30 feet high were bent over and were barely 4 feet ‘high.’ The tops of the fence posts and bird nest boxes had 4 inches of snow perched on top of them. One of the Loropetalum bushes had snapped off; hopefully it will sprout again. The butterfly bush had also bent over flat to the ground.

Then venturing out to see the countryside. There is a practical side to going out. What are the road conditions like? Could I have gone to work or was the decision not to go a good one? What will the conditions be like the next day when I will go to work? Will there still be ice on the roads? What route will I use?

Our local road still had thick patches of ice that cracked loudly under the tires. The roads over to the local highway were mostly clear. A lone snowplow was still working clearing the edges of the highway. The back roads over to the main highway still had thick patches of ice that extended on to the road, leaving only a single car-width of clear pavement in some sections. A large pine tree had fallen across the road; crews had just cleared the road as we arrived around noon. Wouldn’t have gotten through on my usual route.

The Alcovy River was running high; it had flooded the river bottom just upstream from where I cross it. Guess this shouldn’t have been surprising given that we had had the equivalent of 3 inches of rain. The nearby reservoir on Beaverdam Creek was muddy from the fresh inflow of water. A lone pair of mallards was swimming and feeding close to the road. On the other side of the road a few small grebes were bobbing up and down on the waves.

A least half a dozen cars had been abandoned by the side of the road – testimony to the slippery conditions the night before or early this morning. Some appeared to have been driven off the pavement and parked deliberately. Others had obviously spun out and become stuck. One was sitting perpendicular to the road and straddling the ditch. That must have been an exciting ride.

Conclusion: The decision to declare a Snow Day this year was a wise one.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Snow Day!

We don’t get snow very often down here. It can be a treat because we don't get it that often. It can also be a curse because it is disruptive. This one was a curse. We were told this was coming. But we don’t always believe it. In most cases, we get some snow that sticks but melts out quickly either because the ground is warm enough or because the snowfall is followed immediately by a warning trend that melts it quite quickly.

The worst possible scenario is that we have a snowfall that accumulates and is followed by a cold front that freezes everythi
ng solid. Sunday’s snowfall was one of those.

The rain started on Saturday – about 2 inches during the day and overnight. The snow started just after noon on Sunday. Big, big flakes. Wet and heavy. Bending boughs on pines and cedars. Bending the bamboo canes down to the ground. Flattening daffodils that had just started to bloom. Breaking limbs from trees. Weighing down power and telephone lines. Shorting power lines. An accumulation of 4-5 inches; equivalent to another inch of rain. Flickering lights threatening power outages. Loss of phone service for 24 hours.

Since I have to leave for work at 5:00 am, I have to decide the night before whether to go to work in the morning. It’s not a problem getting out of here but the condition of the roads getting to ‘work’ an hours drive away. All roads around ‘work’ involve negotiating at least one steep hill and a parking lot at ‘work’ can be also be slippery.

The major highways are plowed but local governments don't have the equipment to keep the minor highways and side roads plowed and sanded. W and I normally go out and check the road conditions late afternoon to decide if I should think about trying to get to work in the morning. Sunday’s run was made in 4-wheel drive. It was mushy and slippery in places. The local sheriff’s department had closed the highway north of us. Not sure why. Just north of us, however, the highway winds down a long, not-to-steep but winding road to the county line. The fact that an 18-wheeler detoured and took another road back to the south suggests that the road conditions were not good.

Snow Day!