About Me

My photo

I've been a Canberran since moving here from Adelaide on the first day of 1980. I now live in suburban Duffy with my partner Louise Maher, ABC 666 radio and on-line journalist. Among my early memories is following Sleepy Lizards (Shinglebacks) around the paddocks north of Adelaide, guarded by the faithful bull terrier. I have always been passionate about the natural world, trying to understand how it works, how the nature of Australia came to be, and sharing those understandings. My especial passions are birds, orchids and mammals. For much of my life I have been a full-time naturalist, running bush tours, writing books etc, doing consultancies, presenting a regular radio slot on local ABC, chairing a government environment advisory committee and running adult education classes. Recently I have eased back somewhat, but am still writing, teaching, doing some radio work and running overseas tours - as part of my fascination with our Gondwanan origins I've been running tours to South America for the past decade. I was awarded the Australian Plants Society Award in 2001 and the Australian Natural History Medallion in 2006, both for services to education and conservation. In January 2018 I was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for 'service to conservation and the environment'.

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Farewell to 2014!

Continuing an old tradition (well OK, 12 months old...), I'm going to celebrate the last day of 2014 by selecting just one photo taken in each month of the year. I never make any claims of artistry or anything beyond basic competence for my photos; these are chosen because they bring back particular memories (and to be honest in a couple of instances because I didn't take many photos in that month!). In general too I've tried to select photos I've not otherwise featured this year.

At a personal level it's been a good year - I'm at an age where I need to make sure that every year's a good one - and these photos reflect that. More broadly it's been a bad year to be Australian, having to take responsibility for a government which despises (and/or doesn't understand) science, has dumped on its head our self-image as a compassionate welcoming country to those in need, and which is insisting that the poorest members of society take brutal economic cuts so that big business need take no responsibility at all. This is not the time or place for a rant beyond that; just bear in mind that we're not all like that...

Yellow-billed Spoonbill Platalea flavipes, Jerrabomberra Wetlands Nature Reserve, Canberra.
Taken on a morning visit to one of my favourite local sites, where this beautiful bird had finished feeding for the
time being and was carefully cleaning and aligning each feather in turn.
Another favourite pic from January can be seen here, in the form of a lovely cicada.
Lowland Copperhead Austrelaps superbus, Bruny Island, Tasmania.
Our trip to Tasmania (just us!) was one of the year's highlights and I could have chosen any of dozens
of pics, but the detail of this, especially its air-tasting tongue, appeals to me, as does the memory of this attractive,
venomous but generally very amiable snake crossing a country road.

Well OK, this is one month when I seem not to have taken many pics! (Perhaps I was busy working to make up for the holiday.) However this unusual aggregation of Meat Ants Iridomyrmex purpureus on a morning walk (a training session for volunteer guides) at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve did catch my attention.
I still can't really explain it, unless a nest had been flooded or otherwise destroyed.
Rosy Rozites Cortinarius roseolilacinus, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. Good memories of another walk at Tidbinbilla,
this one an evening stroll when fungi were abundant following good late summer rains. I could have offered a dozen
different fungi here from that walk but I love the colour (and the associated species name) of this, the soil still sitting on the surface from where it forced its way upward, and the tantalising nibble taken from the edge. My bet would be on a wallaby, but I can't be sure; whatever it was, it was clearly not inspired to finish the cap off!
Sunset on the domes of Kata Tjuta, central Australia, through flowering spinifex Triodia sp.
I am spoilt for choice of pics from May, as we took a tour to central Australia and these deserts inspire me
as few other environments can. I could have offered you many animal and plant photos, and
lots of other scenery, but I love watching the sun rise and set over these magnificent domes,
and spinifex hummocks are a key part of arid Australia.
Australasian Bittern Botaurus poiciloptilus, McKellar Wetlands, Canberra.
This one was easy to choose (though I like some taken in the snowy Brindabellas too), as I can claim
it as the first photo taken in the ACT ever published of this very cryptic and threatened species.
('Published' in this case, on the Canberra Ornithologists' Group email discussion group line.)
The last sighting here was 70 years ago, so no living birder had ever seen one here.
Eastern Yellow Robin Eopsaltria australis, Deua National Park, New South Wales.
A common bird in this part of the world, but a wholly engaging one; this one was very much a part
of our now-annual getaway to a lovely little cabin (no electricity or phone available) on the edge of this
big wild park in the mountains between here and the coast. This stance is typical of this robin,
as it 'perch and pounce' hunts. It was quite uninterested in us sitting outside just a couple of metres away.
Platypus Ornithorhynchus anatinus, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve.
The only half-decent picture I've ever managed of the marvellous monotreme;
the Sanctuary wetlands at Tidbinbilla are the local hotspot for them.
Hoverfly, Family Syrphidae, at Grasstree, Xanthorrhoea glauca, Goobang NP, New South Wales.
One of my personal highlights of the year was being invited to be the after-dinner speaker at the
Fifth Annual Malleefowl Forum in Dubbo, 400k from here (no, the audience comprised people
who are studying the wonderful birds, not the Malleefowl themselves!). En route we drove through Goobang NP,
an important reserve in the Hervey Range. The Xanthorrhoeas were flowering profusely, huge
spikes two or three metres high, and pollinators were excited, especially the abundant hoverflies.
I've actually got a better pic of the fly perched on the flower, but I like the fact that
this one is doing what it does best - hovering.
Anaconda Eunectes murinus, Napo Lodge, Yasuní NP, Ecuador.
A difficult month for which to select just one photo, as I spent it accompanying a group
of naturalists through Ecuador. However I'd never seen this superb animal in half a dozen visits
to Amazonia and this was a real thrill; it was estimated by the locals as 3-4 metres long
and was admired from a canoe as it rested on floating vegetation. Note the head in the centre.
Speckled Warbler Chthonicola sagittatus, Narrabundah Hill, Canberra.
This month provided the opposite problem for me, in that I hardly took any photos
in the four weeks I was home between South American trips. It's fair to say that this little chap
probably wouldn't have got a guernsey in other circumstances, but I'm glad it did. We went for a walk on our
local hill and were very pleased to see a pair of this pretty little threatened woodland species
(albeit it in exotic pines); eventually one paused for just long enough to enable me to get one snap in.
Currently it is regarded as the only member of its genus.
Marine Otter Lontra felina (and lunch), Puñihuil, Isla de Chiloé, Chile.
Patagonia offers amazing scenic photography opportunities, but in the end I settled on this
fortuitous shot of a rare species from a small boat off the Puñihuil Islands.
Marine Otters are found along the southern west coast of South America and just around the corner
into Argentina. They are essentially a fresh-water otter which has evolved to a marine lifestyle;
they are not at all the same as the big Sea Otters of western North America.
So, that's one view of my year; I hope yours was as happy and naturally enriched. I thank you for taking the trouble to read some of my musings over the year; on Boxing Day I was astonished to note that 100,000 people have visited these pages over the past couple of years. I realise that this is a modest number by blogging standards, but I am humbled and amazed by it.

May your 2015 open brightly and happily, and I hope to share some of it with you.



The happy wanderer. said...

Sounds like an a year to remember. I share the view that we're not all like our top politicians!

Ian Fraser said...

Thanks for that HW; I try not to bore people too much with my opinions, but sometimes it feels a bit much. Thanks too for being a regular reader; that means a lot to me. Happy Wandering in 2015!

Denis Wilson said...

Nice wrap up of your year, Ian.
I started to write Nice Round-Up, but thought better of it.

Susan said...

Best wishes for 2015 and I hope it brings many great natural highlights like these.

If you want to find out more about the ants try Alex Wild (Myrmecos blog). His wife is Australian so he knows the Australian species. He's currently moving house I assume so you may not get a very speedy response, but it's worth a try.