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.

Continue reading “Winter Solstice”

Winter is here

wattle in flower
Winter arrived yesterday, with its usual suddenness.

As in most years, a big weather pattern somewhere down South pushed cold, dry air from Central Australia out over the ranges to Townsville. Overnight temperatures dropped, and the humidity crashed. Last year I reckoned the Dry arrived at the end of April, as it did in 2014 and 2015 so we’re running a couple of weeks late this year.

In numbers, the changes are from overnight minimums of 18 – 21 C for the beginning of May down to 13.4 and 10.6 on the nights of the 12th and 13th, and humidity from 55 – 90% down to 16 – 19%.

In daily life that means the cat becomes a permanent lap-rug, if he can get away with it, but we’re not permitted to stroke him because sparks leap painfully from the tips of his ears and tail. Meanwhile, we search for windcheaters we haven’t worn for six months and seek out patches of sunshine in the morning instead of drifting automatically into shade.

Let me be clear, however: I am not complaining. I love this weather, and after a good Wet season I really look forward to it.

The Town Common after rain

I’m not going to claim credit for it, of course, but my post about rainwater tanks was followed almost immediately by the best rain Townsville has had for years, with totals like 250 to 600 mm over a week or so, depending on exactly where you looked. Ross Dam went from about 15% to over 80% – but I will say more about that in another post.

I visited the Town Common yesterday, very briefly, to see the difference the rain had made there. Continue reading “The Town Common after rain”

Bali Botanical Gardens

bali botanical garden
Formal gardens in the European style

The Bali Botanical Garden is up in the mountains, near Mount Batur, an hour or so from Ubud by car. Its altitude makes its climate significantly cooler than the lowlands and the day we visited was overcast with intermittent rain but we had a wonderful time anyway. The orchids and ferns were particularly good, and we would have spent far more time in the Taman Usada or Continue reading “Bali Botanical Gardens”

Leafcutter Bees

Ants, wasps and bees (Hymenoptera) create a stunning range of nests, many of them so specific to the species that they can be used to identify their makers, as Mike Downes said in his article about black weaver ants.

That’s certainly true of Leafcutter bees (Megachile spp., Megachilidae, Apoidea) and we might even go one step further and identify them by the marks they leave behind when harvesting their nest-building material.

Leafcutter Bee
Signs of a Leafcutter

Leafcutters are solitary, not social like Continue reading “Leafcutter Bees”