Bird photo walk

Today I wanted to get out of the house and get some exercise, but I didn’t just want to walk around the local neighbourhood, because it’s so familiar and I see it all the time. So I decided to hop in the car and drive a few suburbs away to Cremorne Point.

The point is a peninsula jutting south into Sydney Harbour. There is a walking path all the way around the shore of the point, and it has both beautiful scenery and amazing fancy houses. The shore is covered with trees and so there are also many birds in the area. I took both my phone and my dSLR with bird lens.

A rainbow lorikeet:

Rainbow lorikeet

Sulphur-crested cockatoos:

Sulphur-crested cockatoos

Silver gull, with an interesting Sydney background:

Gull and Opera House

A panorama of the lighthouse at the end of the point, and the city:

Cremorne Point walk

The MacCallum Seawater pool. This is a completely free public swimming pool, with an amazing view:

Cremorne Point walk

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Middle Head walk

The cool wet weather continues. I managed to get out for a decent walk during a break in the rain, driving over to the suburb of Mosman with my wife and Scully at lunch time. We did roughly this walk from Balmoral Beach up to Headland Park and back. There are some excellent views of Sydney Harbour from the top of the hill:

Middle Head panorama

Apart from that I tried to write Irregular Webcomic! scripts, but wasn’t in the groove, so didn’t get many done. More tomorrow!!

(I’m actually writing Friday 1 January’s entry on Saturday morning, because last night was fortnightly games night with my friends. With COVID raging in Sydney again, we did it virtually, playing games on Board Game Arena, followed by the traditional Sketchful.)

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Boxing Day relaxation

It’s Boxing Day, and that means sport. Unfortunately the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race has been cancelled this year due to COVID, but the Boxing Day Test Match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground began on schedule. India are here this year, and this game is the 100th Test match between Australia and India. It’s the second game of the series, and Australia won the first easily, but today India looked well on top, so it might turn into an interesting series.

Other than watch the game on TV, I didn’t do much else. My wife and I took Scully on a walk during the lunch break, and we waked along the creek near our place all the way down to the harbour. It’s an amazing urban bushwalk, through fairly dense wet sclerophyll forest, tall eucalypts overhead and ferns at ground level. Although it’s surrounded by houses, it’s difficult to see them, and you can in many places easily believe you’re in a wilderness.

At one point we saw a couple of kookaburras on a tree limb, and they stayed there as we moved closer. I managed to get remarkably close and took the following photo, with my phone! – not even an SLR with a long lens:

Laughing kookaburra

I think they were young ones, waiting for their parents to come back with food. Pretty cool. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten that close to a wild kookaburra before.

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Greenwich Arts Trail

A few days ago my wife mentioned a thing she’d discovered via a local community Instagram account that she started following. A suburb over from us is holding the Greenwich Village Arts Trail this weekend.

This is a group of local artists who live in the suburb, and who have their homes, gardens, and/or studios open for visitors to come and see their work. The organisers published a map showing the locations and a suggested walking route leading past all 22 of the participants.

Since we live walking distance from the area, we sent a few hours today (with Scully) waking from house to house, checking out the art and the talking to the artists. There were a couple of photographers, several painters, a wood sculptor, jewellery and textiles crafters, and a few ceramics sculptors and pottery makers. The whole vibe was very local and friendly, with only up to a dozen or so people at each location at a time, so it was easy to have a chat with the artists. I picked up a bunch of business cards and handed out several of my own with my photography details on them.

I mentioned to some of the artists that I live just in the next suburb – in fact literally across the street from Greenwich – and maybe next year I could get involved and display some of my photography as well. I don’t think they’ll stretch as far as including a non-Greenwich location on the trail, but I may be able to arrange a display space in Greenwich somewhere and participate that way. We’ll see – I’ll contact the organisers and see what they say.

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Bit of a lazy Sunday

It was almost a lazy Sunday. Except for my wife rousing me to go with her and Scully for a walk this morning. We did our usual weekend circuit, around to our favourite local bakery and back via the marina and Berry Island. It’s about 4.5 km, a good solid walk. Scully was still a bit tired after yesterday’s big day out, so she slept a lot of this afternoon.

I made a comic, but mostly I worked on processing some old photos from our trip to Tasmania in 2000. I have a bunch of photos taken in King Solomon’s Cave in Mole Creek Karst National Park.

King Solomon's Cave

Oh, and I wrote up a new Snot Block & Roll review from yesterday, plus an older one that I’d had waiting for a few months.

And… that’s about it.

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A nice day for a ferry trip

Today I went on a Saturday outing with my wife and Scully. We walked down to Greenwich Point wharf, which is a decent walk in itself from our place.

Greenwich Point

From here we caught a ferry across the harbour to Balmain, home of many Victorian era terrace houses.

Keyhole doorway duplex

We walked up and down the main street, checking out food places and shops, and grabbing a few little bites to eat here and there to make up an overall lunch. The Balmain Post Office is an interesting structure, built in 1886-7. The writing on it still proclaims it to be the “Post and Telegraph Office”.

Balmain Post Office

There are also old sandstone churches. The St Andrew’s Congregational Church, 1854 (with Scully):

Scully at St Andrew's Congregational Church, Balmain

And the Campbell Street Presbyterian Church, 1867:

Campbell Street Presbyterian Church

After a few hours of enjoying the warm spring sunshine and visiting a suburb we don’t go to very much, we headed back home on the ferry.

Ferry wake, heading home

This afternoon my wife and I played a few games of Codenames Duet, and finally completed the 11th city in our campaign. Sydney, as it happened. 😀

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Exploring Barangaroo

I did a lot of walking today. This morning I went with my wife and Scully on our regular weekend walk, over to the bakery and back via a circuit route. We stop along the way to buy bread and my wife gets coffee, and then we stop by the water on a grassy area so I can throw a ball and Scully can chase and retrieve it. The route covers about 5.5 km.

After lunch, we dropped Scully off at the dog groomer for her wash and grooming session. With a few hours alone to do stuff, my wife and I decided to head into the city to check out the new(ish) Barangaroo development. Neither of us have been there before – it’s a former industrial site now converted to parkland, office, retail, and dining space. The park and a dining district are finished, but there is still construction work going on at the new casino complex.

To avoid public transport, we drove in. I found a park on the street, with metered parking at $4.40 an hour. We only needed two hours. The user interface of the parking meter started with a maximum four hours, and I had to press the minus button a few times to set the required time to two hours, then I tried to pay by tapping my credit card on the contactless payment pad. The screen informed me that the tap didn’t work, so please insert my card. I inserted my card so it could read the chip… but I hadn’t noticed that in between it had reverted back to the default four hours! So I ended up paying $17.60 instead of $8.80 for two hours parking! Very annoying.

Anyway, after parking we walked around the park area, which was very nice. It’s situated on a point facing north and west into the harbour, away from the city centre. This photo is looking north-east towards the Bridge.

Barangaroo Reserve

And this is looking north across the harbour to North Sydney.

Barangaroo Reserve

I expect on a normal Saturday this place would be packed with people, and many of them tourists. But at the moment there aren’t any tourists and locals aren’t really travelling around much either, so it was sparsely populated, although there were several groups of people out and about enjoying the fresh air and the warm winter afternoon. It definitely felt like spring was in the air, with flowers out and bees buzzing around.

Bee and pigface, Barangaroo Reserve

The park is nice to sit and enjoy the view, but there’s not much else there, so we walked south past the casino construction site to south Barangaroo, where there are lots of shops and restaurants. We tried to find a simple cafe to sit and have a drink, but everything that was open was a fancy bar/restaurant, with people having meals and glasses of wine. A lot of the smaller establishments were closed – I expect for lack of tourist business at the moment. So we just looked around before walking back to the park for a bit more and then back to the car to head home.

It was a nice outing, and I’m glad to finally have had a look at this new public space that hasn’t been open for very long.

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Pre-rain bakery walk

The forecast for today was heavy rain and strong winds, beginning from late morning. The early morning was nice and sunny, so my wife and I made use of it to take Scully on a long walk to the bakery. There was a long queue of people waiting outside at socially distanced 1.5 metres intervals, and I joined on the back. I bought a loaf of black Russian rye bread, and my wife wanted to get a challah but they didn’t have any today, so I got a loaf of fig and walnut sourdough, which makes a delicious fruity toast.

For lunch today, I decided to use some leftover buttermilk from the other day when I made mushroom pancakes for dinner, and made myself chocolate pancakes with banana and bush honey.

Chocolate pancakes with banana and bush honey

Bush honey is a blend of honey from various Australian bush flowers, mostly various species of eucalyptus. It’s the name used when the bees visit a bunch of different species of tree and they can’t really be sure of what’s in it. I prefer a richer, more complex and toasty taste in honey, to light floral ones. I usually try to get honeys made from trees like stringybark, leatherwood, or grey gum, but they are not very common or easy to find. Most people seem to prefer lighter honeys from trees such as yellow box, blue gum, ironbark, or red box, which are often easier to find in shops. Bush honey is a richer, more “unrefined” blend than these, so it’s okay if I can’t get the more intense flavoured honeys that I prefer.

Now that I’m writing this, I’m curious about what sorts of honeys are common overseas, and which are the lighter flavoured ones and which ones the rich and complex types.

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Exploring Hunters Hill

It was a rainy, grey Saturday morning. Weather forecasters are telling us that an east coast low pressure system is developing, and we’ll be experiencing heavy rain and gale force winds on Monday and Tuesday, and it seems to be ramping up towards that already. There wasn’t a lot of rain today though – just some showers interspersed with long breaks.

We decided to go out and find a new bakery to have lunch at today. I checked Google Maps for somewhere not too far away, and find a likely looking spot about 10 minutes drive away. My wife and I went with Scully and managed to get an outside table at Stoneground Bakery in the suburb of Hunters Hill. It seems like a nice bakery and we also bought a loaf of sourdough bread to take home and have with dinner tonight.

After eating, we decided to take a walk around a few of the back streets to give Scully some exercise and loop back the long way to the car. We passed a few interesting places on the way:

St Kevin's. Hunters Hill walk

This is St Kevin’s, an old sandstone cottage, now being used as a solicitor’s office. It’s listed on the NSW heritage register as a significant historical building. Hunters Hill was one of the earliest areas of Sydney to be settled by the wealthier free settlers in the colony, and there are a lot of old houses in the area.

St Joseph's. Hunters Hill walk

This was actually originally a school, known as “Toronto”, but it’s now been converted into the St Jospeh’s Aged Care facility.

Hunters Hill walk

Down the hill from here is Tarban Creek, which flows under the Tarban Creek Bridge (visible in this photo) into Sydney Harbour. The creek is rather wide at this point! You can also see how grey the weather was today.

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Flat Rock Creek walk

A friend contacted me this morning and suggested we meet up for lunch, at a Japanese place a couple of suburbs over from where I live. I walked there (3.26 km according to Strava).

Sushi Taro

I got there a bit early and was really hungry, so I ordered some gyoza to eat while I waited.

Gyoza

I would have taken a photo of my main dish too, but I forgot in my hunger to get started when it arrived! After lunch, my plan was to walk home the long way, via a walking track that I noticed a while ago on Google Maps, which I’ve never walked before.

And so I set off to the Flat Rock Gully Walking Track. I had a little bit of a walk to get to the starting point. The first part of the walk was paved, and seemed popular with locals out for some exercise.

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After crossing under a main road, the path became more of a bushwalk.

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The walk followed Flat Rock Creek downstream, which was beautiful in places.

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Eventually the creek spills into this cove on Middle Harbour.

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This was the ending point of the walk that I wanted to do, but I still had a long walk back home! All together, the post-lunch walk was 9.12 km, for a total walking distance of 12.38 km. I was fairly worn out by the time I got home!

In other happenings, a friend commented on our group chat that he was watching a YouTube video of “stuff that kids are taught that is wrong”, and told us that it mentioned chameleons, and that—unlike what kids are told—they don’t change colour for camouflage, but rather to communicate and find mates. Someone else pointed out that Wikipedia disagrees, as its article on chameleons says they change colour for camouflage as well as those other purposes.

This began a half hour discussion over whether Wikipedia or a random YouTube video is more reliable. Rather than just haggle over it, I decided to check the literature, and quickly found:

  • Stuart-Fox, D., Moussalli, A., Whiting, M. J. “Predator-specific camouflage in chameleons”, Biology Letters (2008) 4, 326–329. doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2008.0173
  • Stuart-Fox, D., Whiting, M. J., Moussalli, A. “Camouflage and colour change: antipredator responses to bird and snake predators across multiple populations in a dwarf chameleon”, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society (2006) 88, 437–446. doi.org/10.1111/j.1095-8312.2006.00631.x

These papers indicate clearly that at least some chameleons do in fact change colour for the purpose of camouflage. I was awarded the win for the conversation. Not only this, but these papers also found another very cool result. The chameleons they studied are hunted by both birds and snakes. Interestingly, when a chameleon sees a bird, it changes colour for camouflage in one way, but when it sees a snake, it changes colour in a different way. It turns out that birds and snakes have different colour vision receptors and see colour in different ways. (Bird vision is very similar to human colour vision, but snakes have less colour discrimination, similar to dogs.) So when a chameleon fears a bird, it changes colour to match its surroundings in a way that makes sense to humans. But when it fears a snake, it changes colour in a different way, which seems less well camouflaged to our human eyes (and to birds), but to a snake’s relatively colour-deficient vision it is actually better camouflaged.

This would be astonishing is it wasn’t actually just a simple consequence of evolution in action. But it’s still very cool.

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