Wednesday, July 30, 2008


For my birthday (Happy Birthday, me!) my parents gave me some money to spend as I wished, so I ordered three native bird nesting boxes from La Trobe University and they arrived today. Of course, there are plenty of tree hollows out in the National Park and we do have lots of birds visiting our garden, but I'm keen to have them nesting here so we can watch them.

Bird boxes

One's for rosellas or lorikeets; one for large parrots; and one for pardalotes. The parrot boxes both have "exotic bird excluders", the thin pieces of wood partially covering the entrances. Parrots like to chew open entrances to their nests, while exotics can't, and won't fit in. The pardalote entrance is too tiny for other species.

These are the birds most likely to move in, just in case you're unfamiliar with them. I've seen all of them in our garden over the last year.

Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo,
Calyptorhynchus funereus

Rainbow Lorikeet,
Trichoglossus haematodus

Crimson Rosella, Platycercus elegans

Eastern Rosella, Platycercus eximius

Bird images: Wikimedia Commons.

I'll post images of the boxes in situ, once we've done the ladder thing, and of course post updates when there's avian activity.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


This clever image, "Species-scape", I found on one of my favourite blogs, Catalogue of Organisms (but it's also to be found here and here. I don't know who created the original.)


It's a graphical image of various groups of organisms represented at sizes relative to the number of described species in that group.

It reminds me of the delightful quotation attributed to J.B.S. Haldane: God, if he exists, has an inordinate fondness for beetles.

(While there are more arthropod species than species of other animals, within insects, there are more beetles than any other species. Sorry, fly. You must be in the graphic only because of your undoubted personal allure.)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I've set up a little terrarium in an old aquarium--yes, also squeezed into the bathroom, along with the propagating ferns. There is something fascinating about them, the way they form microcosms. I've planted an Asplenium bulbiferum (hen and chicken fern, on the top left of this image) which grew from an adult plant in my garden, mosses, liverworts, lichens, and some Utricularia gibba in the "lake".


Incidentally, if you're interested in setting one up, there's a good trick to keep the water fresh. Before putting anything else in the tank, put in a layer of charcoal (best obtained from a aquarium shop and used for aquarium filters), then follow that with the sand, rocks, soil, etc. This limits the growth of anaerobic (ie, stinky) bacteria.

There. The perfect bathroom decoration. Better Homes and Gardens will be beating down my door.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sigmund Freud, Ringtails and Mr Behemoth

I am feeling thoroughly guilty about having neglected my blog for so long. I plead work, uni exams, post-uni exams relaxation, and generalised pottering and time wasting. At least I'm feeling relaxed. (And my uni results have made me a very happy person! Biology is bliss.)

A couple of bits of news. Firstly, I have a CD coming out this month. It's from my previous incarnation as a playwright/librettist. The last major work I wrote (with composer Andrew Ford) was "Night and Dreams: the death of Sigmund Freud", which toured the Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide Festivals earlier this decade, performed by tenor Gerald English. ABC Classic FM made a studio recording, and now it's being released by Decca. You can read about the piece here and see the nice things the press said here.

If you happen to want to buy the CD, you can order it from Buywell Just Classical.

Night and Dreams: the Death of Sigmund Freud CD

Also, I'd like to introduce you to a friend of mine, if you're unfamiliar with his work. Ben Popjie (aka Mr Behemoth) is a Melbourne writer and comedian with a fine line in brutal and well-wrought satire. He's started a new blog on Blogspot: Ben Pobjie's Wonderful World of Objects and also writes a weekly column for New Matilda. Ben's wit regularly has me chortling, and his political perspectives are astute.

And just to ensure that I'm not entirely off-topic with this post, a photo of a family of ringtail possums that lives just outside our back door. I took this photo after my husband attempted to remove the bougainvillea growing there (a non-native plant... pffft), without our realising that they had begun building a drey in it. They were indignant, as you can see. Needless to say, the bougainvillea is staying.

Ringtail possum family