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'.

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Farewell to 2015!

As I have made traditional, to mark the changing of years I've selected just one photo from each month of 2015 to commemorate the year past. As ever I don't make any pretences to photographic excellence, but have chosen the pictures because of their associations, and in most cases they are ones I've not previously used this year in a blog posting.

It's been a busy and enjoyable year - as all years should be as far as we can make them so - and I hope this selection of photos reflects this.

Chestnut-quilled Rock Pigeon Petrophassa rufipennis, Burrunggui
(formerly known, erroneously, as Nourlangie Rock), Kakadu National Park.
We spent a week visiting my sister and brother-in-law in Darwin in 'the Wet', an experience in itself.
The highlight however was a couple of nights in Kakadu, one of the world's great parks.
This beautiful pigeon is endemic to the Top End sandstone, almost exclusively within Kakadu.
It is hard to see without climbing into the escarpment, but this one emerged almost at our feet. Very special.

Tall Wasp Orchid Chiloglottis trilabra, Mongarlowe, New South Wales.
I made a specific trip to a grassy site here, about an hour east of Canberra, to look for some orchids, including
this one. It's one of those which fool male wasps into attempted mating by simulating a female, both
in appearance and scent. I found the resemblance of the remarkable structure on the labellum to an insect
surprisingly compelling.
Highland Copperhead Austrelaps ramsayi, south of Canberra.
For some reason March was a quiet month photographically - I always seem to have one of those -
but I like the scale detail and colouring of this beautiful, venomous but amiable frog-specialist.

Brolgas Grus rubicunda near Clermont, inland central Queensland.
In late April I drove a bus north to Cairns in tropical Queensland to meet a tour group.
It was a long drive with limited stops, but early one morning I was stopped by a series of small
groups of Brolgas, one of our two native cranes, flying in from the west, passing low over the road
and landing to feed in the sorghum. I watched for some 20 minutes, by which time there were hundreds
on the ground, but still they came. Many, including these, were young birds.

Frill-necked Lizard Chlamydosaurus kingii, Mareeba Wetlands, north Queensland.
Not easy picking just one photo from the richness of the Wet Tropics, but this is it. Nearly a metre long,
I've long wanted to see this magnificent lizard, but it's only possible in summer - in winter it goes into a torpor in
the tree canopies. It was a specific goal in January in Kakadu, but no luck. This one was a complete surprise;
I have no idea why it was active in May, but I am very glad it was!

Sunda Colugo Galeopterus variegatus, Bako National Park, Sarawak.
Another difficult month to decide on just one photo, because this was when I was 'sent' to Malaysian
Borneo to do some reconnaissance for a potential future tour. This is another animal I'd long wanted to see,
but never hoped to actually to do so. Also called a 'flying lemur' (though it doesn't fly and is absolutely
not a lemur!) it is an accomplished glider, roosting during the day on a tree trunk. Two species
are recognised, though this one may well be divided into three. It has no close relatives, but is
distantly related to the primates.
Morning frost on a native daisy bush in our Canberra garden.
Another quiet month for photography - a lull between periods of frenetic activity.
Though this was yet another record-breaking warm year (does any sane person still not accept that
we're warming the place up?!), we had some hard winter frosts.
Lago Miscanti, Atacama Desert, northern Chile, at 4,100 metres above sea level.
Travelling again, this time to northern Chile and southern Peru, again accompanying a group.
The Atacama has long been on my must-see list, so another special trip. Despite a distinct shortage of oxygen in the air
and bitter cold, this was one of the most stunning scenes I'd ever seen.

Marvellous Spatuletail Loddigesia mirabilis, Huembo Lodge, northern Peru. Northern Peru (a post-tour reconnaissance for the future) was another eye-opener. Again I could have offered any of dozens of pictures, but this extraordinary hummingbird was yet another on my wish-list since seeing it featured in an Attenborough series. This picture doesn't
do justice to the surreal tail, but you get the idea. It is limited to a very small area on the eastern slopes
of the Andes in north Peru.
Shingleback Lizard Tiliqua rugosa amid Hoary Sunrays Leucochrysum albicans, Forbes Creek near Canberra.
Back home for the year and glad to be. I've been a fan of Sleepy Lizards (as we called them in South Australia) since
I was a child, and I couldn't resist this one ambling insouciantly through the daisies on a warm afternoon.
Native Bee at (exotic) Passiflora flower, Nowra.
One of my great pleasures when we visit my partner's parents on the edge of Nowra, near the coast a couple
of hours to the north of Canberra, is to wander the extensive gardens looking for both birds and smaller
animals, both of which abound. I was fascinated by the parade of tiny native bees (which were avoiding
the far bigger exotic Honeybees) attracted to these passionfruit flowers.
Diphucephala sp. (a scarab beetle), fly and flower spider sharing a Billy Button Daisy Craspedia sp. head,
Mount Ginini, Namadgi National Park above Canberra.
It was an excellent flower day, but it was this little grouping which really caught my attention.
I don't think the beetle was at risk, but I'm not nearly so sure about the fly!
So, that was my 2015 (or at least one version of it); I hope you got as much fleeting pleasure from rewalking it with me as I did in putting it together. I hope too that your year will also live on in happy memories for you, and that 2016 can bring us all more of the joys of nature, and a more peaceful planet.


1 comment:

Susan said...

Many thanks for this nice romp through your year. Best wishes for the coming one too. The fly in the last photo might be Tephritidae.