Winter Solstice

Midwinter, the winter solstice, doesn’t mean as much here in the tropics as it does further from the Equator but it’s still a significant turning point.

The winter solstice is always close to June 21 – 22, and this year’s was yesterday, June 21, according to this lovely site. (I chose it partly in memory of a warung (restaurant/cafe/bar) owner’s patient explanation of an amazingly detailed Hindu astrological calendar to me in Bali a year ago.)

According to this site, the solstice was not just generally “June 21” but specifically at 20:06:39. Sunrise was at 06:45:29 and Sunset at 17:43:38, for a Day Duration of 10 Hours 58 Mins 09 Secs. The previous day was 1 second longer and today was the same length as the solstice day.

The same site gave me similar statistics for the Summer Solstice, 22nd
December 2018:

Summer Solstice Time = 08:21:42
Sunrise = 05:32:26
Sunset = 18:50:14Day Duration = 13 Hours 17 Mins 47 Secs
Previous Day Duration = 13 Hours 17 Mins 47 Secs
Next Day Duration = 13 Hours 17 Mins 46 Secs

So our day is 2 hrs 20 minutes shorter now than at midsummer. Most of us do notice the slow changes (just under 1 minute per day) but I was surprised and mildly amused to find that some Townsville eight-year-olds were completely unaware of it; as a child in Victoria, I couldn’t have remained unaware of it no matter how hard I tried. There, of course, the difference is far greater – 5 hours 15 minutes – and is exaggerated by the contrast between gloomy skies in winter and clear skies in summer. is a more conventional Western site offering similar statistics; it’s not as much fun to explore as but does note that “the Winter solstice is the shortest day of the year in terms of daylight but does not have the latest sunrise nor the earliest sunset of the year,” and that our earliest sunset was on 5 or 6 June.

Why? Because of “a discrepancy between our modern-day timekeeping methods and how time is measured using the Sun known as the equation of time.” Their full explanation is here and it’s quite complicated.

Perhaps the science is as much fun as the Hindu calendar after all. Nearly.

baby Ganesha playing the veena

Tawny Frogmouth

A couple of Tawny Frogmouths (Podargus strigoides) have been spending their days resting in the backyard banana patch of a friend of a friend in Kelso, and we were invited to see them and take photos last weekend. Life here has been busier than usual and it has taken me nearly a week to upload the results but here they are.

Tawny Frogmouth
Our first sight of each other
Tawny Frogmouth
Not impressed
Tawny Frogmouth

Lorraine, whose banana patch it was, told us that there were usually two birds here but that the bigger was away when we visited. She also told us that we could stroke the bird – which we did, gently.

Are they owls?

Tawny Frogmouths are not owls but are more closely related to other insectivorous nocturnal birds (other frogmouths in India and Southeast Asia and (probably) nightjars) but according to Wikipedia no-one is really sure.

Townsville’s 2018 Wet Season and what comes after

We’re officially in Winter now and I reckon we moved definitively into the Dry season a fortnight ago, so it’s worth looking back at the Wet and seeing what’s likely to happen to our water supply in the Dry.

Wet season rainfall and the year to come

Herveys Range rain radar
Here comes the rain! Hervey’s Range rain radar, 9.15 pm on Feb 20, 2018

BoM climate data reveals that our rainfall so far this year, Jan – Feb – Mar – April – May, was 118 – 285 – 343 – 10 – 2 mm, for a total of 760 mm.

Of that, 435 mm fell in the last week of February and the first two days of March when a rain depression was trapped over the city; an unusual but very welcome event which made the difference between another really  weak Wet and a nearly-average one. Continue reading “Townsville’s 2018 Wet Season and what comes after”

A Guide to Wildlife and protected areas of the Top End

cover - A Guide to Wildlife and protected areas of the Top End A Guide to Wildlife and protected areas of the Top End

Lindley McKay

Environment Centre NT, 2017

This handsomely produced book is the result of an ambitious project undertaken by the Environment Centre of the Northern Territory. It will be a valuable resource for years to come, not only for Territorians but for anyone living in, or visiting, North Queensland and Northern WA.

Continue reading “A Guide to Wildlife and protected areas of the Top End”

Walking the foothills of Mount Stuart

A week ago I joined my first Wildlife Queensland walk for the year, having missed an expedition to their Mahogany Glider Project Area in March and the branch’s 50th birthday party in April.

Their May walk took us up into the foothills of Mount Stuart behind the Western Campus of James Cook University. It began on a purpose-built walking track but quickly led us onto an impressive network of mountain bike trails, all new to me and a very easy way to “go bush” just a few minutes from suburban Townsville. Continue reading “Walking the foothills of Mount Stuart”