Sunday, March 25, 2012


Haunted Chateau??

Here's a photo of one of the places the Oldies visited on their big trip. It is the chateau at Chambord in France. It is a strange building with the most peculiar structures making up its roof line. Dad says that the architect must have been on happy-juice when he designed the place. It is the largest chateau in the Loire valley and was built by King Francois I in the early 1500's. When the Oldies were there it was early morning and the chateau was covered in fog. It looked like a haunted castle in a gruesome fairy story, but nothing happened and the Oldies survived.



Island Dwellers

Montague Island is home to lots of different birds and animals. The day I was there I saw gulls, terns, penguins, seals and lizards. The birds in this photo are crested terns. These birds can be found all around the warmer parts of the southern oceans. They nest on Montague Island in the summer and raise their chicks. Some stay there all year round. The chick in the picture is almost ready to leave home and do his own thing. You can see he is nearly as big as the parent and has his adult feathers. This is one of the last times he will have a fish bough back for him; it's time he learned to catch his own.
The seals in the bottom photo are expert fishermen. While I was trying to catch fish they swam around the boat and if I wasn't quick enough they would snatch my fish off the line. Of course they usually hunt and catch their own, but they go for easy pickings as well. You can see that they like their rest. Between feeds they just lie around on the rocks and soak up sun. If you have ever been in a bird colony and think the smell was bad, just wait until you are downwind of a seal colony and you will know what really stinks. We had seals swimming all around the boat as well and they are really the most superb swimmers. Someday I want to swim with them.

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Sunday, March 18, 2012


Going Crackers

Last night was Skyfire night. This happens every year as part of the Canberra Week celebrations. This year Canberra is 99 years old, so next year's celebrations should be really something. In previous years we have found a spot somewhere around the lake foreshore to watch the fireworks. There are literally tens of thousands of Canberrans doing the same thing, so it gets really crowded. So this year we booked on for a dinner cruise on the "Southern Cross". This takes you to a spot on the lake where you can see the fireworks with nobody in front of you. Mum got some great pictures of the fireworks (Dad calls them "crackers"; it shows his age). Here are some of the best of them. I think fireworks are great.


Saturday, March 17, 2012


Hoorah the Paddies!!!

Happy St Patrick's Day.
Today is the day that we remember our Irish ancestors and all the great things that they gave to our families. In my case, the Irish were the Morriseys from County Clare and the Cashes from County Cork. I never met any of them, but Mum and Dad have; that is they've met some of their cousins, not the original batch. Dad's lot (the Morriseys) came to Australia in the 1860's and Mum's in the early 1900's. I suspect that the warped sense of humour that Mum and Dad have came from their Irish ancestry.
Remember your Irish family, past and present, and raise a glass in their honour.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Giant Joeys

Although the balloons were launching from Stromlo, there were a few that stayed at the usual launch site near Old Parliament House and just inflated for a while to show people how it worked. The ones that I liked best were these two giant joey kangaroos. Most baby critters are called joeys in Australia. Of course, the baby animals are tiny, but these joey balloons are huge. The building closest to us is the National Library and the one that they are looking over is the National Science and Technology Centre. Although they didn't fly on Saturday, they have been flying since then and look great in the air. I guess that they are trying to take over from QANTAS as the real "flying kangaroo".

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It's Balloon Time Again

Every year around this time Canberra hosts a big hot-air balloon festival. It is part of Canberra Week and this year Canberra is 99 years old, so there are even more balloons attending than last year. Next year there should be bazillions of them. On Saturday we got up before sunrise and went down to the lake to see the flight. Balloons usually fly in the early morning because the weather is calmer than later in the day. Most years they launch from the lawns near Old Parliament House. We went there and guess what, the balloons were actually launching from near Mt Stromlo. The lawns were too wet and soggy after the loads of rain we had last week. So we didn't see them being inflated and launching, but Mum got some great photos of them in flight. In the top picture you can see them taking off, with Stromlo Observatory behind them. I really like the bottom picture. It shows 4 balloons near the Moon (actually they are lots closer than the Moon but you know what I mean), with the National Museum of Australia in the foreground and good reflections in the calm lake. You get good pictures just after sunrise because the light is so soft and the angle of it is low. Mum says that it is worth getting up early for pictures like this; Dad doesn't agree that it is worth getting up early for anything.

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Sunday, March 04, 2012


Upmarket Penguin Lodgings

Not all of the penguins on Montague Island live in burrows or small caves. The rangers have an ongoing battle with kikuyu grass which has been choking the island vegetation and making it difficult for penguins to burrow through it. They are slowly managing to eradicate the grass. One thing that they tried to make it easier for the penguins was to place nesting boxes around the island to see if the penguins would use them instead of trying to dig through the tough grass. Well, some did and lots didn't. One of the ones that did has claimed the top real estate deal on the island. Not just a box. This penguin apartment seems to have central heating and TV, if the structures on the roof are to be believed. His apartment is just to the side of the track between the jetty and the lighthouse so he gets lots of visitors. Lucky Ralph.

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Montague Island Quarry

All of the rock needed to build the Montague Island lighthouse came from this one big granite outcrop at the top of the island, just over 100 metres from the tower site. You can see the drill marks in the face of the rock where explosives were set to split the rock. Near the main rock there are small piles of roughly squared rock left over from the material needed for the tower. If you look carefully around and under these left-over rocks you can find some interesting things. When I was there a mother crested tern was watching us and making a great noise. The reason was that she had a nest and a chick on one of the rocks. Underneath another rock a little penguin was nesting. Normally penguins nest in burrows in the soil down among the vegetation. This one obviously prefers the security of a good solid roof and walls. There are no cats, dogs or rats on the island so she is quite safe in her stone house.

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