Dry season – fire season

Castle Hill viewed from the Common
Castle Hill from the Common

Looking back across the Town Common to Castle Hill I saw a plume of smoke rising from beyond its lower slopes. It was my second fire for the day, and a reminder that we are well into our dry season.

As the season advances, all the grass and other low growth that was so lush in the Wet dries out, dies and becomes fuel for any spark. We get a series of grass fires around the city – on Castle Hill itself, on Mount Stuart and its foothills, in road reserves and beside railway lines, and on private property. They are not usually much of a threat to life and property – most of them are quickly contained, and others in rough country can be allowed to burn themselves out – but they are always of some concern.

My first for the day was on Cape Pallarenda just a few hours earlier. I mentioned turning back from the Cape track to explore the Common, and the grass fire (below) which had started near the track not long before was the deciding factor. I considered walking around it, but the small risk seemed unnecessary with so many other places to explore. I didn’t hear any more about it, so I assume it didn’t do too much damage.

Grass fire on Cape Pallarenda
Grass fire on Cape Pallarenda

Butterflies on the Common

In an afterword to my previous post I mentioned an afternoon on Cape Pallarenda and the Town Common. Here are some of the butterflies I saw on that walk. First, along the track over the cape towards Shelly Beach (as usual, click on the image to go to a larger one):

Common Crow butterfly on snakeweed
Common Crow, Euploea core, on snakeweed
Eastern Brown Crow butterfly
Eastern Brown Crow, Euploea tulliolus
Blue Tiger butterfly on snakeweed
Blue Tiger, Tirumala hamata, on snakeweed







They are all about the same size in real life, and the first two are quite closely related (they are in the same genus, Euploea).

I turned back from the Shelly Beach track to walk along the edge of the swampy Town Common. Most of the water has gone at this time of year but there are still open pools between boggy patches of grass and reeds. There were lots of dragonflies (as compared to almost none up on the high ground) and a different collection of butterflies – quite a lot of Lesser Wanderers, Danaus chrysippus, and even more of their near relations the Swamp Tiger, Danaus affinis. Here’s a pair of them enjoying the last of the afternoon sunshine:

Mating pair of Swamp Tiger butterflies
Mating pair of Swamp Tigers

Rainbow bee-eater

Rainbow Bee-eater perched on power line
Rainbow Bee-eater, Merops ornatus

The Rainbow Bee-eater is a beautiful bird whose closest relations in Australia are Kingfishers and Kookaburras. (There are other bee-eaters overseas, but not here.) It is rather smaller than the Kookaburra but has similarly predatory habits – as its name suggests, it specialises in flying insects, which it takes on the wing.

I have seen them quite often in parklands near home but this, the first good photo I have obtained, was taken from my front gate; the bird was perching on our power line to eat his prey. (I saw him spit out the crackly bits afterwards, too, but just missed the shot!)

When I uploaded my picture of the Brown Honeyeater I mentioned the need for longer lenses for bird photography, and this and my recent Flying Fox photos are proof – taken with a borrowed 50-250 zoom lens, they show much more detail than I could have obtained with my 100mm lens.

More about bee-eaters: Birds in Backyards or Wikipedia.

Afterword: Well, I posted the above on Saturday morning and then decided to go down to Pallarenda and the Town Common because it was far too nice a day to spend indoors. While I was walking back along the track through the Common late in the afternoon I saw another Bee-eater fly in to perch in a tree ahead of me. He was kind enough to stay for his portrait, too. It was already a good day, but that made it even better.