Bits and Pieces
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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 blasé 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: www.auspost.com.au). 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.

 
Tuesday Topics in April Print E-mail
Monday, 31 March 2014 14:33

John Bloomfield gives us another of his enlightening talks on 1 April; this time the subject is the history of ballooning from France in 1783 to the stratosphere in 1961. Let's hope it's not an April Fool's Day deflatable joke.

The recently released master plan for the growth of Darwin over the next twenty years is the theme of Alderman Allan Mitchell's presentation on 8 April.

Brian Radunz, the speaker on 15 April, has experienced a lot and visited a lot of the Territory in his forty years as a veterinarian for the NT Government.

On 22 April, Natasha Fyles, MLA for Nightcliff, will hopefully have a little more information about the (unwanted?) Ludmilla island project.

Finally, on 29 April, Margaret Clinch will talk about planning for the future use of land and facilities in such a way as to benefit the whole community.

 
Countries Study Group Print E-mail
Monday, 31 March 2014 14:32

The Countries Study Group, mentioned in last month's Newsletter, is in an embryonic state with a few potential members. Countries so far suggested for exploration and investigation include Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Tanzania and Venezuela. New members are welcome to join the meetings which take place once a month at Lorna Hansen's house. For further details call Lorna on 8948 0411.

 
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Monday, 31 March 2014 14:31

The Genealogical Society of the Northern Territory's short series of talks concludes this month.

On 10 April, the speaker will be Sergeant John Pini from the Police Museum and Historical Society.

On 24 April, Adam Lowe will be talking about the Chinese in the NT since the 1880s; his presentation will include the Chung Wah Society, the Chinese Museum and the Chinese Temple.

The talks will be at 9.30am for a 10am start and finish at about 11.30am, and will be given in the Conference Room of the National and NT Archives, Kelsey Crescent, Millner. Entry is free and morning tea is provided, but bookings are appreciated. To book or for further information call 8981 7383 (on Monday, Tuesday or Saturday) or contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 
Calling interstate? Print E-mail
Monday, 31 March 2014 14:31

Those States having Daylight Saving Time put their clocks back an hour at 3am on 6 April.

 
Upcoming election Print E-mail
Monday, 31 March 2014 14:30

This month's by-election will be taking place in the Palmerston electorate of Blain which was named for Adair Macalister 'Chill' Blain who was elected to the House of Representatives in 1934 as independent member for the Division of Northern Territory. Blair enrolled in the army in World War II and was taken prisoner by the Japanese after the fall of Singapore in 1942, thus becoming the only serving Representative to be a prisoner of war. While serving as a POW, Blain was re-elected unopposed in the 1943 election, and was elected again in 1946. He lost his seat in the 1949 election to the Labor candidate, Jock Nelson, and then moved to New South Wales to resume his work as a surveyor. Blain died in 1983.

 
Beagle Connections Print E-mail
Monday, 31 March 2014 14:29

As part of CDU's 25th Anniversary celebrations, the University has recently launched an information kiosk providing a one-stop shop for people seeking information on Charles Darwin and the connection to his namesake Charles Darwin University. The 'Beagle Kiosk', situated in the Library Foyer in Casuarina campus, and the associated website 'Beagle Connections' bring together information about the scientist himself, his place in history and his connections to both the city and the university which were named for him. For further information go to www.cdu.edu.au/beagle-kiosk.

 
A new scam Print E-mail
Monday, 31 March 2014 14:28

Last month I had a call from someone who introduced himself as Gary although he had a very strong Indian accent. He said he was ringing from the Visa/MasterCard control centre to let me know that unusual activity had been reported on my internet bank account. I had not noticed any anomalies and I let him continue, after all it was his time he was wasting. Eventually I asked him which account was involved: the one with bank A or the one with bank B. When 'Gary' told me that it was with bank B, my suspicions were confirmed as I have accounts with neither bank. He then asked me whether he should authorise the 'transactions' or be given access my computer to sort out the problem once and for all.

I have no idea whether he wanted to hijack my PC or to get me to pay for a clean out, but it was clear that this was a scam. I told him that he could do whatever he liked as I had an account with neither bank I had mentioned. He immediately hung up.

 
Broadband for Seniors Print E-mail
Monday, 31 March 2014 14:27

Broadband for Seniors is a program through which the NT Library in Parliament House offers seniors free access to computers, internet and basic training in skills needed to use new technology. Participants may choose to learn computing skills on the Library's computers or take along their own laptop or iPad for training purposes. For further information call Freecall 1800 019 155.

 
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Monday, 31 March 2014 14:26

Part twenty-four : RAIN and now SUNSHINE

Well, I'll eat my words! In the January/February Newsletter I queried the FULL ON wet season, or lack thereof, and now in the April edition I can confirm that we have been blessed this year with adequate wetness (the mould in our cupboards and on our walls and clothes comes for free, along with the damp air!). Although daffy Dylan did not eventuate as a cyclone, he maybe helped to draw the recalcitrant monsoon down to our part of the tropics. We have had a really wonderful six weeks of rain, rain and more rain*. (Is it only that long? It seems to have been wet forever! How soon we forget!!).
* This was actually written on 5 March.

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