All activities at Casuarina Library (17 Bradshaw Terrace, Casuarina NT) unless otherwise stated.

Bits and Pieces
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Friday, 01 August 2014 00:00

Part twenty-eight : The Winter Freeze

The cooler months, June to August, are called Wurrgeng in the Aboriginal calendar. The chilly nights and humidity-free days cool us down – just enough to prepare us to cope with the slowly rising temperatures (albeit still very dry) of the season of Gurrung – August to October.

The sometimes frenetic wet season plant growth has slowed to practically zero; annuals perceptibly fade to yellow; grass, no longer green unless regularly watered, turns a sandy beige colour giving the appearance of being crispy thin and fragile, crackling and snapping underfoot. Overcast skies with ripple-like clouds and windy days are not uncommon.

The scarlet gum, endemic to the sandstone country around Kakadu but occasionally seen in the Darwin area, flowers profusely at this time of the year providing plenty of food for the nectar-loving friarbirds – all three vociferous varieties ! One of the species is called the noisy Friarbird for a very good reason ! These birds are very possessive of precious food sources and will attempt to keep all other birds from cashing in on 'their bounty' with loud vocal protestations and frenzied wing-flapping. Quite often, after I set the morning sprinkler going, they will start a loud, cheerful exchange of views about ownership rights to my banana flowers and/or any other flowering shrubs or trees that take their fancy.

Also flowering at this time is the Darwin woollybutt. Often mistaken for the scarlet gum, they both have golden to deep orange powder puff-like flowers that produce bird-edible fruit and nectar, and also those intriguing urn-shaped, pipe-like seed pods. Other dry season colours seen at this time in the woodlands around Darwin (but less and less in the town precinct) are the yellow kapok bush, the mauve (and white) turkey bush (calytrix) and the orange northern grevilleas – all very necessary for our native birds. And the fluffy white flowers of the Darwin stringybark tree offer an interesting contrast to the woollybutt as they usually grow in close proximity to one another. My favourite is the Darwin City floral emblem, the northern kurrajong. With its beautiful soft red bell-shaped flowers seemingly growing on dead sticks, it is now seldom seen anywhere north of the Berrimah Line thanks to developers whose motto seems to be " that a tree ?...then knock it down !".

On the home front, we have recently had our marauding once-a-year visitors return to the park area. A small bevy of orange-tailed cockatoos appears at this time of the year flopping heavily (and screeching loudly to advertise their over-the-top presence) onto the tip end of branches of the eucalypt near my back fence. They would arrive at that really still, quiet time just before dusk, shrieking fortissimo, and proceed to strip the tree of its seed pods. These are the edible bits left over from the nectar-raiding Fat Francis the flying fox, after his nightly forays earlier in the year. As I stood and watched this birdfest I could distinctly hear the crack as the cockies split these woody capsules open with their powerful beaks to retrieve the soft kernels within. After three of these evening visitations, they were seen no more, presumably having stripped the tree bare of edible nuts and moving on to another restaurant.

Now for the disappearing ibis. Whereas in previous years they seemed to have taken up permanent residence in this enclave, they now only appear on a very spasmodic basis. The odd three or five are sometimes perched, hunched and sentinel-like, high in the branches of the old black wattle. Occasionally they descend to stroll the roads, paths and grassy areas searching for edible titbits. But, perhaps because of "austerity" measures imposed by the present government on various Departments, the cessation of the watering system in the public areas of this complex has rendered the ground rock hard and depleted the numbers of worms, crickets and grasshoppers to almost non-existence (in fact these insect nasties have migrated to our individual private gardens !). The ibis find it very difficult to get their long, sensitive beaks through the hard surface, much preferring soft, muddy patches to probe for their luckless, invisible prey. Ibis generally live in colonies, sharing with spoonbills and herons, and will sometimes travel thirty to forty kilometres searching for food. I'm afraid it is very 'bare pickings' here at the moment so 'elsewhere' seems to be a better alternative for the hungry ibis !

At this time of the year, all the frogs have 'gone to ground' so to speak, hiding away in cool, dank places that only frogs are able to find ! There they stay, snugged away until they sense climate changes heralding Gunumeleng – the pre-monsoon season of October and November. I have placed hollow logs and plumbers' pipes, as well as the odd cement pagoda in suitable spots throughout the garden where frogs can sleep dreamlessly, safe from predators during these hot, dry days and cold nights until the rising humidity brings them out of hiding. Food, of course, is then a priority and woe betide any unwary bug, beetle, fly or caterpillar. But hopefully, some of those big wolf and huntsman spiders will fall prey to the humble frog diet !

Hope you all have a good Seniors' Month

Gayle Carroll

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award 2014 Print E-mail
Friday, 01 August 2014 00:00

With the aim of recognising the important contribution of Indigenous artists and promoting appreciation and understanding of the quality and diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, the Award has, over the last 31 years, become an important showcase for both established and emerging artists. The entries selected for this year's competition are on display from 8 August to 26 October at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Conacher Stret.

Talking Territorians Print E-mail
Friday, 01 August 2014 00:00

Quite a few of our members attended the talks organised in March and April by the Genealogical Society of the NT, and the Society has another series of lectures, entitled Talking Territorians, coming up as part of Seniors' Month:

  • 7 August - Trevor Horman: The Overland Telegraph: reducing the gap from 100 days to just 7 hours.
  • 14 August - Bloo Campbell: Antarctica – A Territorian's five trips as an Aircraft Ground Support Officer
  • 21 August - Jacqueline O'Brian: Early nursing in Territory hospitals and some of the nursing personalities of the past
  • 28 August - June Tomlinson: Meet some of the NT Suffragettes, a walk through the early electoral system

The meetings take place at 9.45 for a 10.00 start in the Conference Room, National Archives of Australia and Northern Territory Archives, Kelsey Street, Millner. Bookings are essential; call 0412 018 015 or contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Vitamin D Health Trial Print E-mail
Friday, 01 August 2014 00:00

Vitamin D in our bodies comes from exposure to sunlight and from our diets. Having a sufficient amount of vitamin D in our blood stream is important for maintaining healthy bones, and there is some evidence that it might also reduce the risks of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, multiple sclerosis and some cancers, but this is uncertain. To understand fully the effects of increasing blood levels of vitamin D through supplements, the QIMR Berghofer Institute has instigated the D-Health Trial which aims to recruit 25,000 Australians aged between 60 and 84; so far 5,000 people have joined the project.

The Queensland Institute of Medical Research was established in 1945 by the Queensland government. In 2013 it was renamed QIMR Berghofer to acknowledge a donation of more than $50 million by Clive Berghofer, a Toowoomba-based philanthropist. To find out more about the research being undertaken by the Institute go to If you would like to take part in the trial call 1300 735 920 or contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Can you help? Print E-mail
Friday, 01 August 2014 00:00

Angela Pattison, a project officer for the new Darwin Prison which will be opening shortly, is looking for volunteers who may feel they can help support a variety of educational, religious, sporting and/or mentoring programmes within Darwin Correctional Centre. The programmes, which aim to respond to the NT Correctional Department's mission statement 'Delivering Justice and Changing Attitudes', cover all categories of detainees. If you are able to help, please contact Angela on 8935 7734 or at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Countries Study Group Print E-mail
Friday, 01 August 2014 00:00

In July we had a fascinating trip to Ghana presented by Anne Taylor. We not only learnt interesting facts but also had colourful displays of Ghanaian textiles. Ghana, formerly the Gold Coast, was the first country in Africa to gain independence from colonial rule. It is now, to a large extent, the most stable and well-governed country in Africa. The former head of the U.N., Kofi Annan, is from Ghana. It has a wealth of resources with oil and gas reserves and is the world's largest producer of cocoa. It is a colourful, friendly and happy country.

There will be no meeting in August but we will meet again in September.

Tuesday Topics in July Print E-mail
Wednesday, 02 July 2014 23:26

1 July: Come one, come all to our annual Trivia Fun Day. Bring your thinking caps and biros, and have a laugh.

8 July: The NT Government's 'crocodile coordinator' is back, this time to speak about honey production and bee disease control measures in the Territory.

15 July: Former Administrator and Chief Justice, Austin Asche will speak about one of his interests – poetry in Australia after Banjo Patterson.

22 July: Ian Badham, founder of Careflight, will give us an overview of the organisation's history, and of operational matters in the Territory.

29 July: The Environmental Advisor for Inpex, Mark Nolen will speak on the company's views and practices for the protection of mangroves and wildlife in Darwin harbour.

Countries Study Group Print E-mail
Wednesday, 02 July 2014 23:25

In May we had a very interesting presentation about Argentina given by Chris Marshall. Argentina has a very varied geography from Mount Aconcagua in the high Andes to the grasslands of the Pampas and the semi-desert plateaux of Patagonia. It has a very complicated history with large numbers of migrants overwhelming the sparse indigenous peoples.

The largest numbers were from Spain but there are significant numbers from Italy, Germany and other European countries. Now the population is around 41 million, somewhat less than double Australia's population. It is still claiming the Falkland Islands (known as Islas Malvinas). The economy is largely agricultural with major exports of beef, maize, wheat and soy. The largest dinosaur which ever existed has been found in Patagonia, equal in size to 14 elephants.

The next session will be at Lorna's house on Friday, July 4 at 3pm.It will be about Ghana in West Africa and will be presented by Anne Taylor.

Can you help? Print E-mail
Wednesday, 02 July 2014 23:23

With several volunteer bus drivers taking holidays during the Dry, COTA is rather short on volunteer drivers, who collect groups of seniors on Mondays and Thursdays (excluding school holidays) and take them to activities within Darwin. Without transport, these seniors would be unable to meet and would be house-bound all week. COTA would be very grateful if any U3A members were able to assist. Bus drivers need: a LR licence, Ochre card and police check. (COTA can assist with all three requirements.).

For further information contact Stephanie Kendall on 8941 1004 or at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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Wednesday, 02 July 2014 23:22

Part twenty- seven : Family Matters

Well, here we are in the latter part of June and several momentous (and some perhaps not so momentous) events are occurring. To start with, we are experiencing our first cold snap of the year and the temperature has dropped to a freezing 21?C, with the accompanying equally freezing, gusting Antarctic winds.

Of course we have totally forgotten how we sweltered, and whinged about excessive heat and humidity, only six months ago ! But then that's our seniors' prerogative, isn't it ?

Meanwhile, back in my garden, the large deciduous 'ant tree' with ten million leaves, has just started the annual process of shedding them willy-nilly onto my lawn and into my pot plants, filling them to the brim thus preventing water from reaching the plants' roots. With a thousand or more leaves dropping every day, my lawn resembles a rough-cut greenish carpet overlaid with a random design of untidily placed reddish-brown leafy splotches. After raking my pocket-handkerchief sized lawn, I manage to fill at least one large garbag every day !

Now to the birdlife, and I have a new update on my last month's mention of the nesting dusky honey-eaters. I did predict Mother's day as the EDA, but I was actually one day early in that prediction. The whole process took about forty days – from start of nest building to desertion. It was only after I saw the male dusky flying off with an empty eggshell that I knew I was about to become a doting grand-mother ! And yes, I was really happy when I realised it was twins cuddling down in the nest.

But these babies needed constant, daylight-to-dark, non-stop feeding and attention from both parents. While Mr Dusky was quite skittish and never really keen on my presence, Mrs Dusky was totally blasι and had no qualms at all. She even tolerated my reaching for the tap situated just under the nest. It was fascinating to watch the parents rock up and see two little wide-open beaks appear above the rim of the nest, and listen to the muted bird chirpings – no doubt translating into words like "feed me, and make it quick".

Recently there was a viewer-submitted photo on the ABC (pre-weather report at 7.25pm) showing, in full colour, two tiny honey-eater nestlings with mouths wide open begging for food. The photo was an exact replica of the twins hatched on my patio.

But the best thing was actually being present late one afternoon to see the twins emerge from the nest to take their first 'baby steps'. Mum and Poppa Dusky were close by, chirping encouragement as the twins walked around the edge of the nest and even climbed onto the arms of the fuzzy-wuzzy air plant. As they spread and flexed their wings, I noted that they seemed not to have any tail feathers. This was a bit of a worry in case they tried to fly without being correctly balanced.

However, as they sat side-by-side for a couple of hours in the warm late afternoon sun, happy to be out of their tiny, cramped nest and able to perch safely on a friendly plant surveying their small corner of the universe, I surmised they were actually waiting for their full-feathered coat to unfold and fluff up ready for flight – similar to the way a butterfly emerges from its chrysalis. Otherwise how would that ultra-minute nest accommodate two growing baby birds plus two long, strong tail feathers ?

Checking on them periodically, I was at one stage attracted by some furious tweeting. I found the Dusky parents, in turn, dive-bombing a large friar bird who was only trying to feed from a nearby banana flower. He was obviously not welcome so close to the Dusky twins, so I helped to send him on his way. Just after dark I found that the family had decamped –flown away to start life elsewhere. I was sad, but pleased that I had been allowed to share their lives over the last six weeks.

Gayle Carroll

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Thursday, 01 May 2014 09:00

Part twenty-five – The Weather and Effects

Well, what a strange wet season we have had. First there was nothing, then came the deluge and finally the explosive, intermittent, short-lived thunder storms with magnificent lightning displays.

The Yolnu of east Arnhemland often refer to this "midway to end" of the wet season time as Gunmul. It is a transitional period and the late afternoon cloud build-up sometimes produces stunning sunsets. Dragonflies hover on gossamer wings before darting off to avoid a hungry bee-eater. Their appearance signals the start of Banggerreng – the beginning of Harvest Time – in the aboriginal seasonal calendar. When the rain clouds begin to disperse, clear blue skies prevail and along come the last of the violent south-east storms known locally as the "knock-em-downs".

Closer to home, I'm sad to report that the dwindling number of ibis, which once regarded this small enclave as their adopted home over the last few years, have actually shrunk to nil, nought, zero, zilch – absolutely none at all. I must say that I do miss their constant insect-eating patrols, and hope that their disappearance is only temporary.

Out on the floodplains at this time of high temperature and humidity, the rapidly receding water hastens the decomposition of the grasses and other plants, creating a haven for all the waterbirds to feast in. Vegetation, small fish and other aquatic creatures are all very desirable. Hopefully the ibis will remember their good times here and return when the Arnhem floodplain dries up. As the huge expanse of water begins its run-off, forming into streams and rivulets which sweep out to the coast, it uncovers vast swathes of land that, over the wet season, have developed abundant food sources for all the wildlife. While surface water still remains, humidity is high and food is plentiful, the ibis will probably only return to urban life when these things are no longer available on the floodplains.

Back at home base again and I have noticed that one or two of the endemic eucalypt tree species produce flowers at this time, and I have recently been entranced by the antics of a fruit bat (flying fox) which visits one such tree nearby. After flitting from one flower cluster to another seeking sustenance, or more precisely weaving its way wingtip claw by wingtip claw (similar to a monkey's mode of progression through the treetops), he pauses a while and partakes of an ablution break. It is a sort of all-over lick and scratch for every inch of each extended wing as he hangs by one end-claw, swinging lazily in circles while executing all sorts of intriguing contortions to complete his interesting cleansing performance. He does not appreciate any kindred observers, stopping his wash routine just long enough to send any bat interlopers off with a small screech before resuming his bath-time. He usually arrives just on dusk, spends quality time there and then leaves for parts unknown. He occasionally stops again for replenishment just after sun-up on his return journey back to his daytime treehouse hotel somewhere in the West. The same fruit bat every time? Who knows! But I like to think so.

Countries Study Group Print E-mail
Thursday, 01 May 2014 09:00

The Group held its first meeting in April. It was a success and aroused much interest in exploring new countries.

The first session was about Kazakhstan and was presented by Lorna. Kazakhstan is a fascinating country about which we knew nothing and now we know quite a lot. It is a country the size of Western Europe with a population of about 17 million. It has similarities with Australia in being a large area with few people, being rich in minerals, having similar problems of extreme climate, drought and salinity, having had nuclear testing against the will of the local inhabitants, and having a multi-ethnic population, tolerant of all religious beliefs. There are also many huge differences especially being surrounded by five different countries, not sea, and having been invaded so many times in history rather than being isolated.

The next meeting on 9 May will be about Ethiopia and will be researched by Margaret Murray. For further information, call Lorna on 8948 0411.

Postage News Print E-mail
Thursday, 01 May 2014 09:00

The cost of sending a standard letter rose from 60cents to 70cents on 31 March. However, some 5.7 million people will be exempt form the increase and will be able to continue to pay 60cents by setting up a MyPost concession account. To qualify for this reduced rate, you need to hold a concession card issued by the Federal Government, such as a Pensioner Concession Card. Application forms are available at any Post Office (or online: Once your application is accepted, you will receive in the post a free booklet of five stamps and a MyPost concession card which you will need to show for future purchases - of up to 50 stamps a year.

The price increase of more than 16% means that we shall have to distribute as many copies as possible of the Newsletter by email. It will in future be sent out in pdf format which can be opened on iPads and other tablets.

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