Monday, June 26, 2017

Gibraltar Creek Remote Camera and Audio Recorder Recovery


On the 15th of June I placed an audio recorder and a camera trap from a small clearing where a gully confluences with the Gibraltar Creek. The Sony note taker had enough lithium flavored goodness to run for a full seven days and the camera several months if I left it there. Exactly a week later on the 22nd of June I returned to the location and took a little video along the way. This I suppose is just an example of the process I use to capture wildlife. If I was setting the gear just reverse the process.

p.s if an ad turns up on this video its because a section of it has the radio playing in the background and the youtube content id algorithm detected Autumn In New York (Live (1957/Newport)) - Oscar Peterson 0:39 - 1:18 Those Google kids..


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Make Australian Fox Fur Fashionable


I plan to just shoot from the hip this post. Feral cats and foxes are a curse. As a young man I spent years whenever the opportunity arose to shoot any fox or feral cat I came across. During the 80’s in fact the town of Ariah Park in the Riverena had a fox skin competition with a tallyboard in the pub.

Foxes were shot nightly somewhere or other in the area during the winter months when the pelts were lushest. The locals used to pool the skin proceeds for a town social event and these funds, which could be substantial for the day when hundreds of foxes were shot and a skin with tail could fetch$42.

Year after year when I attended a few weekends each winter I thought to myself there has to be less than last year but that never seemed to be the case. And.. then came the anti-fur crusade. Fox skins for fashion were bad and the animal loving public somehow emotively agreed. Skin prices plummeted to an average of $4 and everyone seemed to stop shooting in earnest. The fox had bolted..

In 7 years of setting camera traps, apart from macropods, the most common animal I would capture is the feral red European fox. I have recorded from Shanahan’s Mountain in the south through to the Bullen Range. Every location has an overly viable fox population with each animal killing several native species per day. This realisation became particularly poignant to me recently as I entered the predator proof sanctuary at tidbinbilla.

I was lucky enough to have the sanctuary, it seemed, all to myself. I had only walked on the bush litter lined asphalt path a short way when I was startled by a gentle rustling of leaves near my feet. I looked down an there was a bandicoot,  at my feet, busily snuffling along through the litter looking for a feed, unafraid of me.

The fact that this animal lived in a predator free environment saw a natural interaction from what would have been a very easy prey if not so safely located. That Sanctuary is an island of wildlife that would live only a short time in the surrounding feral plagued environment. But that's not how it has to stay..

Fun facts.. Canberra used to have Bilbies  and a dozen other small native species. Koalas were recorded in the trees of the old Tuggeranong Schoolhouse. Brushtailed wallabies used to hop the rocky outcrops of Namadgi National Park. Quolls were so numerous they threatened families poultry.Why no more?. Apart from insatiable hunting practices in the past the reason these animals aren't ‘breeding like rabbits’ is the fault of predation by foxes and cats. Reintroduction to predator free environments is key.

I agree entirely withe Threatened Species Commissioner Gregory Andrews plan to remove 2 million feral cats from the environment.  I agree wholeheartedly because cats have currently established themselves in 98% of Australia's ecosystems to their detriment. Feral cats can kill 10 native species a night. An eradication of 2 million cats equates to saving 20 million native species a night.

As for foxes.. I am serious about their eradication by the lure of the holy dollar. The fashion industry needs to look at their role in conservation efforts in this country. A feral fox is not a baby harp seal. It is not a processed mink. Its a beautiful fur wrapped around the carcass of an insatiable invasive carnivore that is rapidly robbing Australia of its remaining native species. Make it popular to sport a fox fur coat in Canberra. Cover your car seats in fur. Make earmuffs, oil dipstick wipers.. the uses are endless. Put a value on the skin of an animal not suited to existing in this country. Create an industry. 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Checking out a scarred tree on Isabella Drive


I know of probably 20 or so authentic Aboriginal scarred trees dotted around the landscape of suburban Canberra. I have posted a few times on this blog about them. Most I discovered the location by researching trees already documented by others but some from simply 'seeing' them on my wanders.

I had driven up Isabella Drive probably thousands of times over the past 30 years but for some reason this tree caught my eye from the roadway. It is not what I suspected and I took some video..


Friday, June 9, 2017

Jedbinbilla Mountain

From the signage at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. A brief description of the importance of the area to Australia’s First People. A beautiful and rugged area with many sites of Indigenous significance. Well worth a visit..

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Common Brushtail Possum Skull

Found by my son whilst hiking in the Brindabellas was this small skull. What I thought was interesting was the remaining canine evident. At first I thought it may be some type of carnivorous marsupial so I posted the photos on the Victorian Field Naturalists Group on facebook and was reliably informed that the skull belonged to Trichosurus vulpecula, or the Common Brushtail Possum.

Apparently it is common to assume the skull was from a Carnivore because of the canines but alas nothing endangered or vulnerable. An interesting find anyway.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Blue Mountains Aboriginal Scar Tree

A recent trip down the Batman Track in the Blue Mountains saw us camp for two nights next to what I highly suspect is an old Aboriginal Scar Tree.


 Strangely I did not notice it when I arrived and it was only after pitching my tent and sitting by a fire did it suddenly catch my view. What the purpose of this particular tree was I don't know. The removed bark can be for sheilds, woomeras, if large enough, canoes and other useful items needed in Indigenous culture.

 The scars can also indicate a place of significance and even burial. This was a thought that came back to me when I soaked in the beauty of the camping spot, a place called Martins Pond where lyrebirds forage in great numbers protected by their pristine and secluded environment.


 It was indeed a special place but a trek I am unlikely to ever repeat. The 2-1/2 hour walk out, though beautiful, was too challenging for me but for those a bit fitter I highly recommend the adventure.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Tidbinbilla Bandicoot

A visit to the Sanctuary at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve last week. No sooner had I entered the imposing steel double gate and walked 20 meters before I heard a rustle at my feet and before me was a very photogenic Bandicoot. He or she allowed me to follow for a while leaving the best footage till last.. So much to explore there..

 

Gibraltar Creek Lyrebirds ACT

Earlier in the year I set a camera trap and an audio recorder down an abandoned fire trail on Gibraltar Creek in the Australian Capital Territory. I managed to capture several ten second bursts of video showing a troop of Lyrebirds going about their business. The soundtrack to the video is the birds calls around the same time as the video was captured.. I suspect I have discovered a display ground. A revisit is planned at the height of the mating season mid winter.

 

250 Australian Aboriginal Nations call for a Treaty


Hello. The last time I published on this blog was on the 1st August 2015. I started davesact.com in 2010 and generated 700 posts of mostly a Canberra flavoured historical and natural heritage based flavour but decided after 5 years to take a break from blogging which I needed. The blog had recieved at that time 700k views and had a regular readership but as when something becomes a repetitive, expected task the inspiration and motivation eventually dries up.

 Not so today. Today, after decades of watching fruitless and expensive campaigns to recognise Aboriginal Sovereignty, something happened that should be noted as a historical event that I hope is taken very seriously by the Australian political machine. Today saw the agreement of representatives of over 250 Indigenous Nations gathered at Uluru in Central Australia about what Aboriginal People want in regards to an issue that has been very much dictated to by European Society.

 How they as a People will be recognised by a now multicultural society that in decades past stridently predicted the extinction of the Aboriginal Race  Interestingly, and the options have recently centred around inclusion in the preamble to Australia’s Constitution, the delegates decided that they require a Treaty. No 'minimalist recognition' in the constitution.. A treaty.

http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/indigenous-summit-rejects-recognition-pushes-for-treaty-and-voice-in-constitution-20170526-gwe389.html

 I am reminded of other Nation's handling of Indigenous Affairs.. The Maori in New Zealand, The North American Indian, and perhaps now the First Peoples of Australia. Now is a time to see how the Government reacts. I'm not sure what that will be.

 As for this blog, for health reasons, I plan on doing a bit of walking around Canberra's wide array of Nature Reserves. Tidbinbilla is also a place I have an annual pass for. So anything is possible really.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The last of the Wild Blacks

This post amounts to what knowledge I have on a famous historical Aborigine from today’s Canberra region whose significance is largely unknown yet should be worthy of a monument. This man's name was Onyong.

When I say knowledge I mean information collected over time that I have absorbed. Often I did not reference these gems as I never thought I’d be writing at any length about what I discovered to be a remarkable story that opens a window to the realities of European expansion.

This post is also an expansion of an essay I wrote in 2010 and I think the meagre information still paints a picture of a full life representative of those affected by colonial history wherever it was forged.

As far as I can discover, around the year 1825 there was an estimated 6 or 7 hundred strong Indigenous population roaming the plains, reportedly counting only the men. Onyong was a well known Aboriginal man and apparent leader of his people, the Ngambri, during the time of early European settlement of the region in the 1830’s.

Onyong’s home-base appears to have been located on the Tuggeranong Plain south/west  of Mount Taylor although he was known to travel extensively – as far as Goulburn and Bungonia to the northeast, Mannus to the southwest and the Bogong Mountains west. Ten years later, in 1834, two groups  are recorded in the Canberra Region. Records show the Hagen-Hope tribe numbering 46 and the Nammitch tribe (neither of which I can find a record of the European naming), numbering between 60 and 70. The chiefs of these two groups were recorded at the time to be, Jemmy the Rover and Onyong, respectively. The members of the group under Onyong were described as:

“wild blacks … [who] seldom go near the haunts of white men”.

7 years later, In 1841, the Colonial Government blanket issue at Queanbeyan listed both men as belonging to the Hagan-Hope Tribe, for some reason the two groups had merged, the tribe now numbering only 56.

We are left however with a bold image of Onyong left to us from JJ. Moore of ‘Canberry’, the first European Station owner on the Limestone plains. He described Onyong as

‘A ‘tall burly man’, he cut an impressive figure to all who met him.”

Onyong’s leadership was widely recognised among the European settlers and over time a few scant stories were recorded.

Onyong was apparently feared by some settlers as he often raided their stock, but he struck up a respected friendship with ex-convict Garett Cotter for whom Canberra’s main water supply was named and the two spent much time together’. Garett is a story on his own.

James Wright, owner of Lanyon mentions that Onyong was once caught by Henry Hall of Charnwood spearing livestock and consequently was ‘shot in the leg’.

During the 1840s Onyong’s band maintained a close relationship with the Wright family at Lanyon, and it is known from Lanyon records that there had always been rivalry between Onyong and Jemmy the Rover over tribal leadership issues.

The Herald newspaper of October 31, 1834, reports that the blacks in the neighbourhood of the Limestone and Maneroo Plains – had been accused of spearing cattle and sheep, but, with its old time caution, the paper remarked:

“This statement is likely to be without foundation. It being probable that the same is published with a view to covering some of the delinquencies of the stock keepers and others in care of their master’s stock.”

Terence Aubrey Murray of Yarralumla when speaking concerning the employment of Aborigines in 1841, remarked:‘… they in general shew [sic] a determined dislike to settled habits of any kind … their love of independence is too great and habits of wandering too strong to admit of it …. they are so wedded to their own habits – supporting themselves with so much ease by the chase – that it can scarcely be expected they should adopt ours’.

Six to eleven years later, sometime between 1847 and 1852 Onyong was killed by Jemmy the Rover at what became the Township of Queanbeyan’s Showgrounds as:

‘…while the latter was away Onyong had usurped his position as chief’.

Wright records the burial of Onyong, who he stated was the chief of the Kamberra tribe. This in itself is interesting as an apparent phonetic development as Canberra’s Name was developing. The site of the burial was on top of a stony hill about a quarter of a mile from the Tharwa bridge:

“The body was trussed in the knee-elbow position, and the fat about the kidneys was removed. The fat was supposed to possess great virtues, and was distributed to the gins, who carried it in the bags which were hung from their necks.A hole was dug in the ground, at the bottom of which a small tunnel was excavated. In this tunnel the body was placed, together with the chief’s weapons a broken spear, shield, nulla-nulla, boomerang, tomahawk, opossum rug, and other items for use in the next world. The grave was then filled in.”

After Onyong’s death it was obviously difficult for aboriginals to maintain a traditional existence due to the growth of European livestock, crops and fencing. At the same time European Illnesses were inevitably introduced, decimating the population. Mixed race Aboriginals tended to remain working on local stations and some dispersed to other tribes in other areas

The following quote from James Wright about the eventual fate of Onyong’s remains,  remain as a poignant reminder of European attitude towards Aborigines of the day…

'Well, that was the end of that ‘worthy’ with the exception that a number of years later a man named Smithie dug up the skull and with questionable taste had it made into a sugar bowl, which I actually saw in use on his table.’

Onyong is buried on a hill behind the village of Tharwa in the Australian Capital Territory.

I think Onyong is archetypical of the last ‘wild blacks’ at a time when the clash of cultures between Europeans and the First Peoples was brutal, disempowering and final. His descendants do however live on and the community is represented

http://www.ngambri.org

Personally I’d like to see a historical representation of Onyong.  Perhaps the ACT government could throw a funding grant to a public art space artist. Perhaps at the National Arboretum amidst a grove of ghost gums.