Friday’s Feathers; Spinifex Pigeon


One of the crested pigeons, the Spinifex pigeon has adapted to the general red colour of the desert and so makes it that little bit harder for the hawks and falcons.

They are very nervous birds and they do a lot of running along the ground. When they fly, it is for short, up to 100 metres, distances. They flap noisily to take off and then glide with stiff wings outstretched. These flights are fast and low.

That red eye patch makes them look quite fierce.

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Sky Watch Friday


Here in the desert, heat is a way of life.

We are always aware of the temperature. Yesterday was a little cooler, it maxed out at about 41C.

Yet around midday our very dry lake looked to be full of water.

In fact it was full of sky. The biggest mirage I have ever seen on the lake.

The shimmer from the heat haze has blurred everything in the distance.

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Odd Shot #18; Out Of My Way!


Out of the mirages and heat hazes of Outback Australia equipment for the mining industry can suddenly appear.

BIG equipment.

The sort of big where you don’t even try to share the road.

The sort of big which would appear odd to many city dwellers.

Drop on over to Katney’s Kaboodle to see more of us odd oddshotters.

Camera Critters #10; Donkeys


My apologies to all who have tried to view this before now – somehow I managed to empty this post before storing it. I put it down to utter stupidity, sheer carelessness and an attack of Daddy Papersurferitis.

Anyways, these are donkeys, as if you hadn’t noticed, and they are just one more of the introduced species which compete with the native wild life in the fragile landscape of Australia’s outback. Along with sheep, cattle and horses, donkeys have hard hooves which damage the vegetation and the topsoil. Australia’s marsupials all have soft feet.

This little family had decided they owned the road and so I had to stop and wait for them to move over.

Camera Critters #8; Thorny Devil


He sure looks scary. All those spikes and thorns.

Although they are quite sharp to touch, the base of the spikes just push into his skin and the pointy ends don’t go into yours.

They sit in the middle of open spaces such as gravel roads to gather warmth and get quite defensive if their space is invaded – even if it is a large 4×4 which does the invading.

Approaching them on foot will cause them to rear up in mock attack and they only run, at the last moment, for just a couple of yards. Then you can scoop them up and show them off.

The colours seem to vary with the area, or maybe they change colours a little. I have never seen two which look exactly alike.

It is very nice if you return this scary critter to a safe place when you have finished admiring him.

Photo Hunt #115; Water


The outback of Australia is normally dry.  Very dry!

April 2006 was near the end of the “Wet” and the Shaw River was becoming shallower.

We were unsure of the condition of the road surface beneath the water and I wanted some photographs. So I went through first.

Very cautiously.

Then I set up and watched the rest of the convoy come through.

It wasn’t really deep but the flow was definitely dragging the wheels downstream. I was standing in the water and even at ankle depth there was power in the water.

And so we all got through – and as the lead car reached shallower water, the driver speeded up, successfully splashing me!

I was able to shield the camera.

Strange, Very Strange


I set out to take a photo of an attractive coastal/desert type of flower.

Its “webbed” petals and delicate veins along with the colour made it quite attractive.

The dusty grey-green foliage wasn’t bad, either so I pulled back for another shot.

It wasn’t until I downloaded the image that I realised I may have found something else as well.

Or is it just a trick of the perspective?

The human eye insists on creating patterns and my eyes are sure trying to make this into a weirdly camouflaged alien bug.

This could be the stuff of nightmares.

It may be one of those mysteries which is never resolved.

So Not Back in Civilisation Tonight


Yesterday I posted a short video of my house being struck by lightning. I found it amusing and laughed about it. The rain stopped, the storm went on its way and I thought only a little about the fact that it was moving along the road I was due to travel on this afternoon.

The nearest  good airstrip with planes flying to Perth is at a big mine site just over 100 Km away, along a fairly rough bush track. I was booked to fly out this afternoon at 5pm. Knowing I had a hard drive ahead of me, I went to bed early-ish. Around 11pm. The plan was to leave around noon and allow about four hours for the trip. Just in case.

About half past midnight I was jolted into full and complete wakefulness by a huge crash of thunder. Rain was falling. A full cloudburst. Lightning was splitting the desert darkness in an almost continual show. I reached under my pillow and confirmed that my torch was to hand. The sudden quiet as the air conditioners died confirmed that the power station had been hit and the power was off.

I opened the curtains and watched the display. After counting over thirty flashes in one minute I ran out of count. The rain became heavier and the time between lightning and thunder became shorter. I went back to bed but couldn’t sleep because of the combined noise of thunder and rain.

As the rain continued I began worrying about the track I had to drive along. Once I travelled that road and there was a ten kilometre lake along it. Luckily it was only a little more than axle deep but at 3am (Is THAT the Time? I MUST get some sleep!) one worries about finding the road beneath the water. Eventually the rain eased after a torrential 100-200 mm and the thunder moved away.

I woke late, at around 7.30. I knew the mail plane was due just after 8am so I skipped breakfast and settled for a quick coffee. I had drunk about half of it when the plane flew overhead. Peter, one of the teachers was first on the road and led the way. I was in second place and the nurse, with lab samples to send off for testing was in third place. We passed through several quite large puddles and then reached the “causeway”.

A small explanation. There is a river which runs between the Community and the road out to civilisation and the road to the airstrip. There are three large pipes beneath the road to carry away the water.

We reached where we knew the causeway lay but it was invisible beneath a couple of feet of rapidly flowing muddy water. Peter stopped to drop into 4wheel drive, I did the same. The nurse had to get out to turn her hubs to get into 4 wheel drive. I failed to realise that she hadn’t been able to turn those hubs. I followed where Peter had driven, partly through the broken water on the downstream side because I felt the road, while rough, may have been a little more solid than on the upstream side. I got through and looked in my rear view mirror and saw the nurse’s car at a 45 degree angle. She had fallen off the road on the upstream side.

Turning around, I went back and she was able to throw her postal packages across into my car and then she was able to step from her passenger’s side door onto my running board and then into the car. Understandably, she was a little shaken. Had her car tipped just a little more it would have gone right over on the driver’s side and she could easily have drowned!

We did the mail plane thing and then went back to look at the damage.

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About this time I began to consider my own trip in the afternoon. This was deeper water than I had ever seen on the causeway and that began to seem a bad omen for what may lie out on the road. Especially since I would be travelling alone. I decided that the Red-Back beer I was looking forward to was not all that important. So I phoned the relevant person and cancelled my flight! When the boss returns on Monday we can sort out how I get out of the desert. He is driving back in. I may fly out on Tuesday’s mail plane. Providing he gets here.

After several hours and the use of a front end loader we got the Toyota out of its predicament. Then we headed off to the School Principal’s home which had caught fire after being struck by lightning. But that is another story.

Unusually, the skies were clear this afternoon. We have had both afternoon and night storms for the past three days. Which bodes well for the state of the roads after the weekend. A couple of dry days and the roads will be quite usable. The boss will have it easy.

Except, that at sunset tonight, I noticed a gathering of clouds all around the horizon with some rising thunderheads and falling showers of rain.

It is now an hour after sunset and I can hear the distant growls of thunder moving closer. The TV reception has died and I think I hear the rain beginning to ping on my roof.

 

Survival Mode


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Actually, this isn’t that funny out here in the desert.
Every year we lose some inexperienced people because they do not have the survival skills.

This place is so unforgiving that even experienced bushmen can die if their luck runs out.

Next week I am taking a trip East from here. Further into the desert. Actually, I go so far that I change deserts; from the Great Sandy Desert to the Gibson Desert. To a settlement named Kiwirrkura. Out past Jupiter Wells. Around 500Km there and another 500Km back. I have to pick up some goods for the store. It is one of those “Halfway trips”. Kiwirrkura is getting a truckload of supplies in from Alice Springs and I have organised a couple of pallets of needed goods so I will meet the truck there.

I should be OK. A good vehicle, a satellite phone and lots of water. Around half a dozen vehicles travel this unmade road each day. Oh, OK! Most days. And I will be letting people know my departure and estimated arrival times as I begin each stage of the trip. I’m allowing a little time for photography although I will be unable to take the 50Km side trip to visit the meteorite crater just to the East of the Canning Stock Route.

This 16 hour trip should be yet another great desert adventure for me.

Photo Hunt #85, Hot


The Australian deserts are not, in general, the sand-duney, completely bare Sahara style of desert.

They get too much tropical rain for that. But they do have very high temperatures. During January and February, those temperatures can reach into the high 50C’s. The highest I’ve experienced is 58C ( 136F).

This dries out any moisture in the soil very quickly. The grass has had to develop a wax which hold in the moisture. This wax was very useful to the nomads who roamed the land. It is “thermoplastic” which means it softens with heat, making it ideal for use as a glue to hold stone spear-heads onto wooden spears.

The problem is that it makes spinifex, the species of Australian grass which survives on a month’s moisture in a year, very very flammable.

When it catches fire it burns very fast and very hot.

When the ambient temperature is already over 50C, that makes things VERY hot!

And dangerous if there is a wind shift.

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Just behind me, as the photo was taken was a settlement. The fire was about 400 metres away.

Luckily the wind did not shift.

After the fire has passed, it becomes apparent why this desert is called the Great Sandy Desert. This was after a different fire, on a different dune, same desert and the result was the same.

 

Spinifex was also a major source of edible seeds for the nomads.

As a part of its survival strategy, spinifex, a grass, has very hard leaves. Hard AND needle-sharp. Very similar to an inside out pin-cushion! Newcomers to the Outback often touch the plant and draw blood.

I know someone (no, not me) who tripped and sat on a plant! Accidentally. And hard! He was picking bits of spinifex out of his backside for a week!

Photo Hunt #84; I Love – - -


Grandchildren and children and their mother.   But no photographs because some of them are shy.

So I thought long and hard about other things I love.

I love the Swan River and I love my city.   I love dolphins and birds and flowers.

I finally decided to try to show a state of mind.

I love travelling. Forget from where and forget to where.

Travelling. Between far horizons

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Along roads without towns. Half a mile down this road is another sign. It says “No Water Past This Point.”

I love seeing an empty road ahead with a full tank of fuel, plenty of spare tyres and lots of water on board.

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Distant hills coming closer.

I love the everchanging sameness of the Australian outback.

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Darwin Award Entrant


Kalgoorlie in Western Australia’s goldfields region, 2:00am AWST. Police are chasing a car.

Remember that this is 2 AM; it is dark!

The driver, in his attempt to escape, veers off the road into bushland.

The man jumps out of his car and tries to hide from police by lying on the ground. Quite understandable as there are no trees to hide behind or to imitate.

Excepting that a little bush-bashing is kinda fun out there. Everyone does it. Even the Police, in hot pursuit.

Yes, the obvious happens. In the dark, looking for a vertical human, a horizontal log in their path is ignored. More than that, it is driven over!

That sucker ain’t never gonna try to run away from the cops again!

The funeral will be sometime soon and the gene pool has been improved just a little!

Darwin wins again.

Drop Bears, Desert Sharks, and Now Camels!


Australia is a dangerous place.

I have warned before of the little known, but widespread Drop Bear and of the unexpected Desert Shark.

Now Camels have turned dangerous.

I’ve just had a thought, unusual as that is at this time of the morning.

The camels in Australia came with their Afghan drivers during the 1800′s.

Perhaps the following story is the first sign of a terror cell amongst these Afghan quadrupeds! Someone should let John Howard know.

Anyway, here is a news report from a couple of days ago.

Camels in Australia - file photo

Camels were brought to Australia in the 1840s for transportation

A woman in Australia has been killed by her pet camel after the animal may have tried to mate with her.

The woman was found dead at the family’s sheep and cattle ranch near the town of Mitchell in Queensland.

The woman had been given the camel as a 60th birthday present earlier this year because of her love of exotic pets.

The camel was just 10 months old but already weighed 152kg (336lbs) and had come close to suffocating the family’s pet goat on a number of occasions.

On Saturday, the woman apparently became the object of the male camel’s desire.

It knocked her to the ground, lay on top of her and displayed what the police delicately described as possible mating behaviour.

“I’d say it’s probably been playing, or it may be even a sexual sort of thing,” the Associated Press news agency quoted Queensland police Detective Senior Constable Craig Gregory as saying.

Young camels are not normally aggressive but can become more threatening if treated and raised as pets.

ABC Newsonline.

PhotoHunt 71: Two


A pair of White-Flashed Honey-Eaters.

Sitting on a rusty wire.

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In the Great Sandy Desert of Western Australia, on a warm summer day which was 55C ( 131F) in the shade.

Any shade was good.

Photo Hunt 68: Creative


 This week’s Photo Hunt subject is “Creative”.

I only wish this was creative. I risked life and limb to get this shot.

It is a very rare photograph of the dangerous Australian Desert Shark.

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This was taken some 2,000 Km North of Perth, in the Great Sandy Desert. The line of White Gums at the base of the sand dune indicates an underground stream. Always a likely spot to lose a travelling companion or two to this lttle known but greatly feared desert denizen.

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