Tag Archives: arid

Horses and Beef also cause extinction

Here’s a little (unfinished) video which I shot and edited on the run in the Northern Territory, Australia.  The location is about one hour drive east of Alice Springs, known as Ross Creek.  “Arid” is a description which covers more than 90% of this country, water is the most precious commodity.

We call places where water naturally occurs a rock-hole, a waterhole, a soak or a well. They were revered and cared for for thousands of years by the first Australians. In the middle east they would be called oases. What WE do is use them to water stock (and make money). This is achieved by simply running stock on land with unrestricted access to natural waterholes. This video is an attempt to show the results of this practice. Native species have to cope with what is left, a stinking brew of warm mud, urine and faeces.

One can only wonder how much of our wonderful wildlife is slowly being poisoned on a daily basis.  They have no choice but to drink what is left.

Homesteaders proudly describe their properties by the square kilometer, holdings are huge by any standard. Beef cattle raising is one of very few ways money can be made from these arid lands, but at what cost?

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Arid Australia at the Garden Show, video

Our arid garden installation at the Melbourne International Garden Show seemed to be the only ‘garden’ example not related to people and their leisure activities. We noticed it was those people who had travelled to inland Australia who most appreciated our efforts and who had an interest in how many of our small mammal species are under threat.

 

Do You See Jesus in your morning toast?

Do you see Jesus in your morning toast?

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Monsters in floorboard woodgrain?  “Researchers used MRI technology to monitor brain activity and determined that the frontal cortex, where expectations are generated, sent signals to the posterior visual cortex, which processes the…” blah blah… it’s just letting imagination flow. Nothing abnormal about this, artists (and scientists) should use this ability daily.

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I’m waiting to hear of a robot which has…. imagination.

Today I’m making arid-land escarpment ‘rocks’ for our MIFGS installation, from cardboard. How? By using my imagination. Children with instruction do this all the time.

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Sadly most people seem to lose this ability as they age. Adults these days require computer generated props or gaming software in order to learn to play. Commercial game makers have become a billion dollar industry by usurping adult imagination.

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Life generally is governed by silent rules e.g. choosing which side of the road to drive, how to speak in a civil way, how to eat with ‘manners.’

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This is something which is governed very much by culture. In China slurping as you eat and messing the table is considered appreciative of a meal, not so in the West. Nose blowing with handkerchief however, is not considered etiquette in the East. I sometimes think a lack of understanding of ‘foreign’ body language is an under-examined cause of conflict.

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Making artwork is one happy place where rules do not apply, in fact artists have a habit of purposefully abandoning accepted ‘rules ‘or ‘manners’ to extend an idea, or experiment on audience reaction. The naked human body is an example of this and has been used by generations of artists in every conceivable manifestation. e.g. Stelarc hangs his naked body on hooks http://stelarc.org/?catID=20325

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If asked how I make or why use a particular method, my answer is inevitably; I use what works for me. Power-saws, hammers and even boots are used to achieve shape. Or, how to determine shape, colour or surface?

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Look at nature; it’s there for the asking.

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So if you see Jesus in your morning toast, don’t despair, you may be an afflicted artist too.

MIFGS, Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show opens at Exhibition Buildings Melbourne, and surrounding gardens, 16th  – 20th March 2016. We will be in the Boutique Garden section.

Remote north-western South Australia

Dr John Read and I entered APY Lands in early November 2015. This was a routine trip for him but was a first for me. Very few people in Australia will have been to this part of the country, a permit is required on entry.camel3It didn’t take me long to realize  was in a different country from the one I was used to.  John allowed me to spend some free time wandering across huge ancient boulders of the Musgrave Range. 393A2794

As I neared the top of the range the silence and remoteness seemed almost palpable. The danger of losing direction in unfamiliar country was both clear and frightening.

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Yet the rugged beauty was enticing,  I wanted to see a little more of what lay beyond, but had only two hours and we had work to do.

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Dragon lizards are always present,

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Crested bellbird glimpse, a bird of arid mulga and…

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Splendid Fairy-wren, turquoise form…

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Western bower-bird, a fig eater with  habitat in north-western SouthAustralia.

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Ubiquitious white-plumed honeyeater, the inland bird seems finer to me and has more yellow on face.

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Rufous whistler and..

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Singing honeyeater made their presence known with song.

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Desert oak (note the bottle-brush shaped young trees behind)

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and even ferns!

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and lichen! Enormous lichen.This was something I hadn’t expected. It seemed that at every turn I was seeing something new.

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This native with succulent leaves

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turns the plain purple, but I have lost its name. So if you recognize it please inform me.

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Hakea shedding seeds

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Figs which grow on bare hot rock, roots not touching the ground,  a bonsai in a desert with no water. All a bit astounding.

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John was more interested in the termites which ate this patch of grass to the ground. More about this shortly.

 

 

 

 

 

Twitching in arid South Australia

I don’t really see myself as a ‘twitcher’ but I admit to spending time observing birds with camera in hand. My recordings are logged to the Atlas of Living Australia at http://www.ala.org.au/    ALA records  all Australian species and is used for research etc.

Birds can be viewed as the canary in the coalmine, they readily indicate how habitat is being altered or alternately, conserved for future generations.

Travelling north in South Australia means moving into arid country,  a landscape type called Mallee. 100 kms north of Port Augusta I made camp but soon had my camera operational. In the following hour I photographed what I think was a mixed species flock. Small bush birds in Australia sometimes travel this way maybe as a protection strategy. black-capped sitella female

Sitella (male) Daphoenositta (Neositta) chrysoptera pileata is now listed as threatened in NSW due to habitat loss. This widespread but not often seen species is a very active tree trunk forager so tree loss means no food.black-capped sittella

The female Daphoenositta (Neositta) chrysoptera pileata with a black cap seems a more striking bird to me, but I don’t see the world in ultraviolet as birds do, their colour receptors are much more advanced than our mammal eyesight.

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Variegated Fairy-wren Malurus (Leggeornis) lamberti was in on the fun, as was his missus with that strange eye make-up…purple backed wren female

Malurus (Leggeornis) lamberti (female)

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This LBJ (little brown job) is the Inland Thornbill Acanthiza (Acanthiza) apicalis but  I could be mistaken. This thornbill was feeding on the ground and in low bushes, behaviour which together with light eye-colour,  helps in identification.

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If you look hard you will see a crested bellbird running across the sand, this was my first sighting of this inland bird hence the poor quality photo. According to Birdlife Australia ” Sometimes they occur in mixed feeding flocks with Chestnut-rumped Thornbills and Red-capped Robins.” So it seems I was right. This species is listed as now endangered in Victoria where it should inhabit the Big Desert.

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The Mulga Parrot Psephotus (Psephotus) varius also made its presence known.

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I was heading to Coober, so soon I was to enter true arid Australia.

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From here on its a good idea to carry extra water!

Bird observations in southern Flinders Ranges, South Australia

 

November is nesting season in the southern Flinders Ranges, so almost all the following observations included adults and juveniles in various stages of fledging.

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Rainbow bee-eater Merops (Merops) ornatus , a most beautiful bird

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Brown tree-creeper Climacteris (Climacteris) picumnus

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Adelaide or western rosella Platycercus adelaidae up there with the most beautiful parrots…. and young below

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White-browed Babbler Pomatostomus (Morganornis) superciliosus…. and teaching feeding to young below

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Dusky Woodswallow Artamus (Angroyan) cyanopterus…… and young below

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Willie wagtail Rhipidura leucophrys

Willie wagtail Rhipidura leucophrys…… and nestlings below

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From the Flinders I travelled up to Coober Pedy where I was to meet Dr John Read.

Storm north of Port Augusta

North of the gulf and Port Augusta the weather was unusually wet and stormy, and the vegetation  reduced to  treeless arid. The normally dry salt lakes contained water!

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To be continued..

 

Sniffing out Warru (black flanked rock wallaby) poo, Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands

I’m on my way home from Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara or ‘APY’ Lands in northern South Australia after spending a week working with Dr John Read counting warru cuna (scats). John’s ongoing research is the fine thread securing isolated populations of this threatened South Australian species. 

I first had to learn how to identify warru from euro scat, then learn to climb the rocky summits with a heavy lensed camera in one hand. EJohn and Delek

Dr John Read records scats with Delek. 

The Musgrave Range appears as a series of rock outcrops studded into an enormous plain, the sense of timelessness is overwhelming. We were climbing the ancient bones of an even more ancient mountain range.

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I was glad I wasn’t there by myself. Climb one peak and there’s another the same behind and another in the distance. Get lost here and whiteboy is cactus.

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But to the people who live here it’s their backyard. Climb into the Toyota they’ll take you around any of the Musgrave features. Our last scat count took us to the West Australian border and spitting distance to the Northern Territory.

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Try gowing your veges in this….

 

 

Ewurra habitat

Prime Warru habitat

Warru live in rock crevices away from plains predators such as cats. Try climbing this on a cool 36 degree day!  Understanding and documenting Petrogale lateralis is not for the faint hearted.

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Me with daypack & enthusiasm, but not much breath

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John and Matthew exchanging notes…I’ve no idea what about

 

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Jacob takes a picture with West Australia as a background.

Thanks to the people of APY who kindly allowed me to see their country first hand, also to John Read my host. Helen, Jacob and Matthew at Kalka I will definitely not forget, and a special thanks.