Townsville takes part in the Global day of Climate Action

crowd with placards

The obligatory crowd photo

Today’s global day of climate action represents a remarkable collaboration of environmental and community groups around the world, led by Here in Townsville, NQCC provided the leadership and a sizeable crowd assembled on the Strand for music, face-painting and speeches from Wendy Tubman and Sandy McCathie. Rather than a march we had a staged photo-op: dozens of people on the beach with their heads in the sand in imitation of a certain Mr Abbott (certain, that is, that climate change is crap and that he doesn’t need to listen to anyone who thinks otherwise; he’s wrong on both counts, of course).

It was a positive event in the same style as the National Day of Climate Action in June: a gathering of like-minded people for a good cause, having fun in beautiful surroundings as well as making a serious point. is assembling a photo gallery on flickr; Australian images are here. I haven’t yet seen photos of the completed heads-in-the-sand panorama but here’s one showing people beginning to get ready for it.

preparing to  dig

Playing on the beach – seriously

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A Brown Honeyeater takes a bath

small brown bird perching on twig

When you’re this wet …

brown bird flapping wings

… you’ve got to shake yourself this hard to dry off

The birdbath in our back garden is well used by a variety of local wildlife. Mud-wasps use it to moisten their nesting material, mosquitoes use it for breeding (unless we keep on flushing and replacing the water), the local frogs use it as a swimming hole and of course birds often come to it for a bath.

This Brown Honeyeater is a regular late-afternoon patron and I was ready with my camera when he (or she – the sexes are similarly coloured) called in last week.

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Sustainable House Day 2014

sustainablility house flyerHere are two sustainability events in our region on Sunday:

(1) Sustainable House Day at TCC’s Rowes Bay Sustainability Centre

Their invitation reads:

Hello Everyone,

We would like you to join us in celebrating our beautiful environment and lifestyle for Sustainable House Day 2014

This year we are opening up the Rowes Bay Sustainability Centre to the community – with coral reefs at the front door and wetlands at the back, you can discover how small things can make not only a big difference to your house and garden, but also how your house and garden can make a big difference to our surrounding environments.

Where: Rowes Bay Sustainability Centre (56 Cape Pallarenda Rd, Rowes Bay)
When: Sunday 14th September (10am – 2pm)

Entry is free, so just come along and you can discover how:

• Our homes can behave like coral reefs;
• Some turf can save you 13 Sundays per year;
• A car can run on sunlight;
• You can have a safari park in your own backyard;
• You can choose 240 ways to save energy in the home;
• You can be the sheriff just by planting a tree;
• Residents of the wetlands can tell a story about their home;
• The sun can shine on your home at night.

And the first 100 people to bring in your old sprinkler can swap it for a brand new water efficient one.

(2) Sustainable Gardens Day on Magnetic Island

The “Sustainable House Day” on Sunday 14th September, part of the Magnetic Island Festival (5th Sept to 5th Oct) at, is in fact going to be a “Sustainable Gardens Day”.

  • When: 10am to 3pm
  • Visit this page to download a pdf with a full list of locations and the details.
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A riverside ramble


Damselfly resting on a creeper on the ground.

Yesterday afternoon’s beautiful weather persuaded me to leave my useful-but-tedious work for an hour or two to ride to Aplin’s Weir, leave the bike under a tree and walk upstream between the bike path and the water (still on the Mundingburra side of the river). It’s quite a wide, rich zone in that stretch of Ross River’s parkland, with a broad backwater, swampy areas and an unmade walking track under mature trees – a bit of everything for the local wildlife and (therefore) for a casual naturalist/photographer like myself. I came home relaxed and with a good haul of photos. I have started with an insect so I will continue with invertebrates before getting to the birds.

Purple dragonfly perching on a tangle of dead creepers

Purple dragonfly perching on a tangle of dead creepers

These gorgeous purple dragonflies, Rhyothemis princeps, were abundant in sunlit spots along the path, and I saw quite a few smaller blue dragonflies as well as damselfllies like the one at the top of the page.

brown butterfly on dead leaves

A Bush-brown butterfly well disguised in the leaf litter

blue-black butterflies

Blue Tigers in deep shade

Butterflies were also abundant. Smaller species like this Orange Bush Brown (“Bush Brown” is a family name; there is also a “Dingy Bush Brown”) and the bright Grass Yellows (Eurema species) were flitting about at shin height, with Crows (Euploea) and others at head height and above. I walked through one large aggregation of Blue Tigers (Tirumala hamata) over-wintering in the kind of moist, shady area they like, and was reminded of a similar group of Crows I found on the Town Common at this time of year in 2012 – see this photo on Flickr. There were far more than I caught in my photo, by the way – they were scattered over a few square metres.

long-legged fly on leaf


This cranefly is not the species I’m most familiar with, the Tiger Cranefly (Nephrotoma australasiae) but one of the other 700-odd (!) species in the family Tipulidae. It’s just a little larger than the Tiger Cranefly, meaning it has a body length of about 15mm and a leg span of perhaps 60 – 80 mm. I didn’t see as many birds as I had expected but enjoyed watching the Jacana foraging on the backwater. I have not zoomed in on it in the photo below because I wanted to show just how mucky its preferred habitat can be: near-stagnant water full of rotting lilies and other plants, algae and all sorts of things we would generally not want to wade around in or (if we had feet like a jacana) on. It’s full of highly nutritious food, though, and that counts for a lot.

small brown bird on weedy lagoon

Comb-crested Jacana foraging on the backwater

Other birds sighted on the walk were a Brown Honeyeater, a Pied Cormorant on the river, Welcome Swallows hunting over the water and a Forest Kingfisher looking for a late-afernoon snack:

kingfisher on paperbark branch

Forest Kingfisher

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Facing the Fallout: Naoto Kan in Townsville

flyer for Kan's Australian tour
Naoto Kan, who was Prime Minister of Japan when the tsunami struck in March 2011 and knocked out the Fukushima nuclear power plant, visited Townsville last week on his Australian tour. His theme was that nuclear energy is inherently, unavoidably, dangerous and that we should learn from the near-catastrophe three years ago and pursue renewables instead.

There was nothing new in his message but it was especially sobering when heard directly from the man who was ultimately in charge of handling the Fukushima crisis. His own change of heart about nuclear power came, by his own account, with the realisation that the whole of Tokyo – 50 million people – may have had to be evacuated and that such an undertaking would have led to the end of Japan as a functioning society. In the event, the worst was averted but the reality was still grim: thousands evacuated, families broken up, farms destroyed for years to come, and a damage-control project which is still in progress and, by some accounts, still in dire trouble (e.g. CBSNew Scientist, The Guardian)

The Townsville Bulletin interviewed Mr Kan while he was in town (click here to see their article) and ABC News covered his meeting with indigenous people near the Ranger mine and spoke to him about the Australian uranium trade; SBS also covered his visit.

After Mr Kan spoke to his attentive Townsville audience, local people took the lectern to talk about the nearby Ben Lomond uranium mine and why re-opening it was such a bad idea. Bill Laing, Managing Director of Laing Exploration Pty Ltd, Townsville-based international mining consulting company, presented an expert overview of the mining technology and concentrating process, with special attention to the risks in relation to the Burdekin River catchment; David Sewell of CAMBL then spoke about the political side of things.

The audience didn’t need much convincing, actually: common sense and common local knowledge are enough to tell us that a tailings dam 50km from Townsville is clearly very risky in the light of our frequent cyclones and the regular problems with Ranger mine’s dam (and the nickel refinery’s tailings dam at Yabulu, for that matter). The fact that any leaked radioactive material will be carried down Keelbottom Creek into the Burdekin, the main water supply for Charters Towers and the backup water supply for Townsville, merely adds weight to the obvious conclusion that the mine should never re-open.

NQCC was the host for the event and was supported by CAMBL, Citizens Against Mining Ben Lomond. NQCC has a uranium mining page here and will no doubt have more to say on these issues, as will CAMBL.

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