Sunday, 15 June 2014

Brisbane's urban growth

When Edd and I moved into our suburban street 2.5 years ago, our block of townhouse units was one of only a couple along the street.  However, in the past year it has seemed like every month a house is sold and then a notice goes up saying 'planning development proposed: 6 units', or suchlike.  Brisbane is growing at a seemingly astronomical rate (Melbourne has the accolade of being Australia's current fastest growing city, but all State capital cities here are growing rapidly). Since last month we now have a crane on the horizon at the end of our street for the first time, matching the many we see in the city.

For a while now I have been meaning to take some photos of the doomed houses making way for progress.  Before and after shots.  Well, it seems Google beat me to it!  I was browsing the web and noticed that the Google street view on Google maps* of our street was more recent than I remembered, and then I found the timeline feature!! Wow.  At present there are only three time points, but already the difference in the street is striking.  These are the houses adjacent to ours, from exactly the same viewpoint over six years...

*NB to get this timeline option, it seems that it only works if you look at Google maps in Google Chrome browser, then when you go into street view you will get the timeline option.

In December 2007:

In November 2009:

In December 2013:

Isn't that amazing!  What an incredible documentation of social history and environmental change Google street view is giving us.  As a Geographer I think its truly awesome.

So, besides the groups of units on a block where one house would have stood six years ago, what else is changing about our local environment?  These photos really show it all: Firstly, fewer trees.  Sadly developers just cut down some beautiful large ones opposite our house where the possums liked to play; actually they were the trees pictured in the top right corner of these images!  Second: more concrete and smaller verges (notice no pavement in the early picture, this is something we found quite surprising about our area when we first moved in, and actually rather pleasant, made it feel quite rural).  Third: more parked cars - these are becoming such a pain in recent months, down both sides of the street now.  The street is also getting noticeably busier, the second picture shows the kids playing in the street, and it is still possible to walk down our street in the road and not worry too much about cars coming (which we got used to doing with the lack of verges!) but now we do find we have to move out of the road more often.

There you see it, social history as it happens!  Thanks Google.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Queen's birthday walk at Springbrook

The weather this weekend has been glorious, beautifully sunny but not so hot you can't enjoy it!  I love winter in Queensland.  Today we decided to head for Springbrook National Park for a bushwalk, which is about an hour and a half south of Brisbane just behind the Gold Coast.  I recently bought a copy of John and Lyn Daly's updated 'Take a Walk in South-East Queensland' (revised 2013), and had been looking forward to trying some of the 2000km of tracks and trails in there - it will keep us going for a while.  Its a very nice book, each section has some history and things to look out for.  We chose to do the Purling Brook Falls and Warringa Pool circuit, though when we got there we found one of the loops was closed (and I think has been for a while!), but we could still do most of the walk including both of the stunning water features.  The walk starts at the Gwongorella picnic area and is around 6km with lots of steps.

The Purling Brook Falls I think are the most photogenic waterfall we have seen in Australia so far (today the light was beautiful), I hadn't expected that so I was very happy!




Although not nearly as spectacular as Purlingbrook Falls, and a significantly much longer walk from the car park involving many steps, Warringa Pool was very pleasant, and I think a few brave souls were planning on taking a dip (rather them than me, brr - not to mention the possibility of eels lurking in the depths, and leeches!)



We had been hoping to see a rare Albert's Lyrebird, but I think this very shy bird was no-where near with the hoards of public holiday tourists tramping through the bush.  However, despite not getting any bird pictures today, I found lots of interesting flora and fauna on examining the bush closely: its amazing what is hiding there if you just look harder!  Below is a photo I took of some interesting seed pods and a little skink hiding in the leaves.


I also took a photo of a Cycad Fruit, I believe it is Lepidozamia peroffskyana, based on this article about exactly this walk here, by a palm enthusiast.  This was once eaten as food by aboriginal people, although requires a lot of processing or it is toxic!  The process to eat them is very complicated, including crushing, soaking (for weeks), grinding and even setting fire to the plants to trigger the seeds.  Amazing how they figured that out.

I am, you are, we are Australian

This weekend was a big weekend for us, it was the Queen's birthday weekend and Brisbane was putting on a massive citizenship ceremony for 500 people, of which we were two!  I hadn't thought a great deal about it really, I was just really pleased to be able to vote at last and to feel a sense of belonging here.  However, I was contacted a fortnight before the ceremony by the State Government, initially asking if I would mind if the media contacted me (they mentioned that they had seen my blog, this blog, and liked it!).  I was really chuffed, so I said of course.  This resulted in an interview with a journalist from the ABC, and this article, with a photo of me outside my office in the lovely native garden that was planted at the Ecosciences Precinct (more about the garden can be found here, from an ABC Gardening Australia feature).

But the excitement didn't end there!  I was then contacted again later in the week, and was asked if I would like to give a speech on behalf of the new citizens.  Would I?!  What an honour!! Of course, I said yes, and then realised just how big the audience would be and panicked a little... I decided to focus on our love of the environment and the importance of Science, both of which I feel are somewhat threatened in the current political climate so I admit there was little political motivation there, but really these things are the two most important things that brought us to Australia and what keep me and my other half Edd here.  



Monday, 21 April 2014

White Wallabies!

We had a wonderful Easter break in Tasmania, one of our favourite places in Australia. The cool, clear air was so refreshing after the very hot summer we have had in Queensland. We headed for Bruny Island, one of the eight ultimate Aussie weekend escapes in Lonely Planet! We were lucky to be joined by friends who grew up in Tasmania, and one spent his childhood summers surfing on Bruny so he really knows it like the back of his hand (and should start a tour company!).

Bruny is simply fantastic for immersing in the wilderness, taking long walks on cliff-tops or windswept beaches, lying in the warm sunshine in a sheltered cove or taking a thrilling boat ride around the rocks to see seals, albatross and eagles.  Then after all that return to a cosy cottage and sample some great cheese, wine, whisky, oysters and fudge. yum. Yet there are no hoards of tourists, quite the opposite. We stayed at the wonderfully named Adventure Bay, pictured below, which is probably the best spot to base yourself on the island.



There is plenty of wildlife to be found, and we only had to wander as far as the back garden of our cottage to see a rare white wallaby, which our friend hadn't even seen before - able to survive on Bruny due to the absence of predators.  It was very special to see such an unusual creature, it almost felt like I was seeing a unicorn! It had quite a magical quality as the white fur glows in the sunlight. 




Then it was even more amazing to see she had a joey!


There was a lot of smoke in the air from forestry fires, which made for some stunning sunsets... Bruny is a truly magical place.



Saturday, 1 March 2014

A Titan in the garden!

Edd was taking in the washing this evening when a helper appeared.  This Titan stick insect Acrophylla titan is the largest stick insect in Australia (I'm pretty sure its this and not an equally well named but not so large Goliath stick insect, as the Goliath is much greener in colour).  It was sitting on the chair watching over the wash basket.  After we disturbed him he wandered off to my (rather dead) herb pot and tried very hard to convince us he really is a stick, turning his head to look at us each in turn in quite a human sort of way, with those big black eyes.




Monday, 16 December 2013

A Blue Tiger and a Crow

It was a great day for butterflies!  Taking a walk on Mount Gravatt a month ago we saw plenty of lovely butterfiles, including these two: the first is known as a Blue TigeTirumala hamata and is really very attractive indeed.  Its not always a common sight in Brisbane according to local insect experts the Chew family, who run the nice local insect website linked above.  It is thought the Blue Tigers are visitors from North Queensland, they are known to have a propensity to migrate long distances - perhaps what gives them their other common name, Blue Wanderer.



The other butterfly I took a picture of is a Brisbane local, known as the Common Australian Crow - Euploea core. It is in the same family as the Blue Tiger, Nymphalidae.  Whilst the Blue Tiger feeds on vines, the Crow feeds on plants, such as Oleander, that are poisonous to birds and mammals as a form of self-defence!  
The local Mount Gravatt Environment Group has a campaign to promote pollinators in gardens via a 'Pollinator link', lots of info about how to attract butterfiles and other pollinators to your garden can be found on their website and in their information leaflet available for download.  Its a lovely idea - 'wildlife corridors for urban spaces', connecting habitat islands like Mount Gravatt with other nature reserves in the city and encouraging insect pollinators into people's gardens.  

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers

Australia's country towns are truly wonderful places, and I have a great affection for them.  I often feel a sense of not quite stepping back in time, but perhaps just finding that a good old fashioned way of life is still alive and kicking; the kind you imagine from children's books with endless summers and lashings and lashings of ginger beer. Such a delight we found in Toowoomba, QLD, earlier today at the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers.  Although delayed by the never-ending road works between Brisbane and Toowoomba (since the devastating floods in 2011), we arrived just before lunch to sample some gourmet delights at the food and wine part of the festival.  As Toowoomba is surrounded by rich agricultural lands on all sides and is not far from Queensland's only wine region of note (the Granite belt), we were not disappointed.
After eating some delicious salads from 'Claude's', washed down with some local craft beer by Ian Watson of The Spotted Cow, followed by probably the best doughnut in the world, a cinnamon sugar Byron Bay Organic Doughnut (we actually had to share it, it was that huge!), we were ready to burn off a few calories by looking at flowers.  

We started by looking at the flower arrangements: spectacular seven-foot high masterpieces and a room-size 'installation', truly works of art... 


Then it was time to explore the gardens, so we headed over to the Botanic garden where there was an astounding display of blooms planted specially for the Carnival.  We spent a while just marvelling and taking photos (pretty much what everyone was doing) - for us it equalled Canberra's Floriade, and I fell in love with the dancing Poppies.   






As if that wasn't enough, we then went to watch the main event of the day, the Grand Central Floral Parade through the city (though we actually just watched it at the end point - Godsall Street Oval).  It was nice to watch the floats arrive at the oval and we ducked under the barriers to take a closer look once the floats were parked up.  What a tremendous community spirit.  

The festival has only just begun and is on until the 29th September, although the Flower, Food and Wine arena and fairground is only there this weekend.  There are so many other things to see besides in several parks across the town, so I'm sure it will be more than worth it - visit Toowoomba!