About Me

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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'.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Farewell to 2016!

As is my wont, I am going to celebrate my minuscule part in the great drama of 2016 by choosing just one photo from each month of the year - not for their non-existent photographic excellence, but because they remind me of some highlights, large and small, from my year.

Orchard Butterfly Papilio aegeus, inserting its proboscis into the wet soil to take up water and perhaps nutrients.
We were at Rosedale on the New South Wales south coast where we retreat for a couple of weekends a year to relax.
This is a common big butterfly from the entire east coast of Australia and New Guinea, which visits our yard in
inland Canberra fairly regularly. They evolved to feed their larvae on native shrubs of the family Rutaceae,
which pre-adapts them to citrus trees, hence the alternative name of Citrus Butterfly.
I am intrigued by the fact that butterflies' proboscises evolved long before the rise of flowering plants,
presumably for purposes such as this; when flowers came along, butterflies were pre-prepared!
Bull Ant (or Bulldog Ant, or Inch Ant according to my father), Myrmecia sp.
Another insect, and another from the NSW south coast, this time at Currarong where we went to
help celebrate a friend's birthday.
This is a genus of nearly 100 large, primitive Australian ants, with extremely painful stings.
I like this photo because of the reminder that the jaws are pretty impressive too, especially if you're of its
size range. (I also liked the fact that I manged to take the pic without being stung!)
Diamond Python Morelia spilota, a subspecies of the more widespread Carpet Python.
It is found further south than any other python in the world, in southern NSW and (marginally) in Victoria.
This lovely animal, which had recently shed its skin (the eye scales have still not dropped) was relaxing in a pond the back yard of friends in the Kangaroo Valley, north-east of Canberra.

Australian Pelican Pelecanus conspicillauts, bathing at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve near Canberra.
To be honest I didn't have a lot of April photos to choose from, but I like the evening light and
the splashy enthusiasm of the bird at its ablutions
Young Bornean Orangutan Pongo pygmaeus, Gomantong Caves, Sabah.
It's not very hard to see orangutans in Malaysian Borneo, with rehabilitation centres such as at Sepilok
featuring rescued animals in the process of being returned to the wild.
It is always exciting to see them in the wild even in such situations, but this youngster and its more
circumspect mother were an unexpected bonus, entirely wild and unhabituated animals on the forest
walk into the famous caves. 

Spinifex (Triodia sp.) at sunset, Great Sandy Desert, Western Australia.
I had the good fortune to be invited to assist in a biological survey of this remote and little-known
part of Australia. It was a memorable experience indeed - and as I seem not to have taken any photos
in June (!), I'm going to indulge in a second one from here.
Male Rufous-crowned Emuwren Stipiturus ruficeps, Great Sandy Desert.
I had only seen this tiny bird (reputedly Australia's smallest) once before, and had never
succeeded in laying lens on any of the three species, so was quietly pleased with this stroke of luck.

In August we set out on a five week trip to tropical northern Australia, so I have a real wealth of options for the next two months!
Darwin Woollybutt Eucalyptus miniata, among the sandstone outcrops of the 'Southern Lost City'
in the relatively little known, but very large, Limmen National Park, in the eastern Top End
of the Northern Territory. We did a memorable walk through the stacks and across the plateau.
Baobabs Adansonia gregorii Gregory National Park, western Top End.
I love these splendid old arthritic giants which only come this far east. This is the only baobab
outside of Africa. Deciduous, they lose their leaves in the dry winter months.

Canberra Spider Orchid Caladenia (or Arachnorchis) actensis, Mount Majura, Canberra Nature Park.
This little spider orchid is listed as Critically Endangered at a national level, being found only in a small area
of the lower slopes of the suburban Mt Majura - Mt Ainslie forests.
I was honoured to have been directed to this newly-found population.
Hoverfly (family Syrphidae) on Yam Daisy or Murnong Microseris lanceolata, Aranda Ridge,
Canberra Nature Park. This was a remarkable season for the delightful hoverflies, which seemed to be
everywhere in Canberra and beyond. This picture is also a souvenir of a very pleasant morning flower walk
with good friends Jeanie and David.

Leafy Bossiaea B. foliosa under Snow Gums, Mount Ginini, Namadgi National Park above Canberra.
I can't imagine not going into the mountains near Canberra at least once every December.
Over the past 30 years I've seen the flowering get steadily earlier until these bossiaeas (a pea) now flower
regularly in November, where they used to peak in the first or second week of December.
This year however spring was unusually cold and wet, and flowering was delayed to the tine that
it used to be; I'm sure that next year however things will be back to the new 'normal'. 
And so, that was my year, or at least one version of it. Overall it wasn't a great year for the world, but we've probably been luckier than most, as we have mostly good memories of it. I hope it was OK for you too, and that next year brings us all some joy. Nature can be pretty instrumental in that.


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Kath H said...

Thanks for all your interesting posts during 2016. I look forward to following your blog again in 2017.

Susan said...

Very nice series.

November's hoverfly could be Simosyrphus grandiconis, based on the notopleural stripes, but I'm a bit worried about the black face stripe.

Wildlife wise 2016 was a year of two halves in France -- endless rain, no sunshine, no warmth in the first half; endless sunshine, lots of warmth, no rain in the second. An interesting year nature-wise.

Politically it sucked, and 2017 is likely to be suckier. You may see us back in Australia as refugees.

Ian Fraser said...

Hi there Kath and Susan, and thank you both for being such loyal readers - I am flattered.
I can't disagree re your analysis of 2016 Susan, nor your prognosis for 2017. France doesn't look very hopeful from the outside I must confess - bonne chance!!