26 September 2009

Beauty's double meaning

The front page of today's Advertiser (prominently) and the Adelaide Now website ( less prominently) print this photo taken by a reader at Gawler earlier this week on a sunny day.


It shows a red-bellied black snake approaching a duck (identified as a "Moscovy " by the paper at p14 and a " Muscovy" by the website) .

Snake-Away snake catcher Ian Renton said it was likely the snake was feasting on ducklings and was chasing the mother duck away.

"The duck is way too big for the snake to eat so it probably would not be entertaining that side of things," he said.

Or was the mother duck attempting to interpose herself between the reptile and her brood? The Advertiser published a couple of other photos which are clearly part of a sequence taken in quick succession. It would be good to see more of them or to hear what happened.

While red-bellied black snakes are venomous their venom is (I believe) not normally strong enough to kill a human. They are also very attractive, as Judith Wright put it so succinctly in her poem "The Cedars":

The snake, the fang of summer, beauty's double meaning,
shifts his slow coils and feels his springtime hunger.

As I recently posted my most recent snake sighting was on 20 July this year in the Adelaide Hills (near Tungkillo) when it was much warmer than it's been for the last couple of days. If, as I hope to, I get out and about when the springlike weather returns, I'll expect to come across other snakes. When I do so I'll keep my distance but also try to take a photo or two.

24 September 2009


When I heard on the radio that a Catalina was going to fly over Adelaide I ventured on to my roof with camera. This was the best photo I could take with the 42-150 mm zoom on my Olympus E410 DSLR at its max focal length. My photoshopping skills are deficient so I've not been game enough to tinker with the raw material, but if you're interested you can enlarge it by clicking on the image, when you'll be able to see the characteristic (and quite elegant) outline of the plane, even if this one lacks the floats suspended from each (high) wing which I'd assumed was one of the model's defining characteristics.

11 September 2009

After warm winter, early taste of summer

Today's estimated max temp is 29deg C, 10 deg above the September average.

The BOM records that it's already reached 27 at 10.27 though it's fallen to about 25 at noon.

Climatologist Blair Trewin in The Punch reflects on the warm August many Australians have just experienced:

August 2009 was Australia’s warmest on record. Temperatures averaged over the country were 2.47C above the long-term average, nearly a degree above the previous August record set in 1998, and 25% of the country had its hottest August day on record at some stage during the month.

Trewin points out

Average temperatures in Australia have warmed by about 0.8C over the last 100 years, most of it in the last 50.

and concludes

...while we can’t blame global warming for any individual extreme warm event it is certainly making these events more common.

The entire piece, which includes several graphs, is worth reading.

03 September 2009

Seventy years on

Today is the 70th anniversary of Australia's entry into the conflict which is now known as World War 2.

At the time Prime Minister Menzies explained the reasons in a broadcast.

Here's what he said. I've emphasised the key words:

Fellow Australians,
It is my melancholy duty to inform you officially that in consequence of a persistence by Germany in her invasion of Poland,
Great Britain has declared war upon her and that, as a result, Australia is also at war.
No harder task can fall to the lot of a democratic leader than to make such an announcement.

Great Britain and France with the cooperation of the British Dominions have struggled to avoid this tragedy. They have, as I firmly believe, been patient. They have kept the door of negotiation open. They have given no cause for aggression.

But in the result their efforts have failed and we are therefore, as a great family of nations, involved in a struggle which we must at all costs win and which we believe in our hearts we will win.

01 September 2009


Today is the first day of spring. With very little assistance from me (I didn't prune the bush during winter) this rose bloomed right on time for the official opening of the season.

Not everything is rosy in our national garden, though, as today's Australian reports

Australia has just experienced its warmest winter on record.

While the claim won't be official until data for August 31 is collected from the nation's 850 temperature observing stations, yesterday's relatively warm temperatures across the country should see the winter of 2009 rewrite the record books.

The Bureau of Meteorology's National Climate Centre has produced a Special Climate Statement whose title " Exceptional winter heat over large parts of Australia" is self-explanatory.

South Australia appears to have had its warmest winter on record. This doesn't surprise me as I saw a snake in the Adelaide Hills on 20 July when the max temp in the city was a springlike 21.7 deg C (today it was 18.0).

Detailed records for Adelaide and other weather stations can be found here