Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Fishing Line Collection Bins

You’ve seen the tangled mess that happens when fishing line goes awry. Unfortunately, many fishermen leave this behind or don’t dispose of it properly. There is a program that started in Florida that Jen has adopted with Moreton Bay Coastcare that attempts to manage this problem.

The bins are simple and easily created from PVC pipe and joints. There is, of course, “Some Assembly Required!” Jen got a grant and approval from the local council to make up seven of these collection bins and have them put up at various fishing sites in the local area. I had the pipe lengths cut to size for me at the hardware store, so all it involved was the gluing process and stickers. The bottom fitting has a screw-on cap that can be removed for emptying out the contents.

Once they are out in the field, the hope is that the fishing line will indeed get deposited in them, and hopefully not cans of beer, bait bags or worse...We are planning on drilling a small hole in the top of each one so that a rod can be used to push any contents out that might be jammed. They also need a drill hole in the bottom for any water that collects to easily drain.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Moreton Island

Enjoyed a fun day trip to Moreton Island today. Moreton Island is the third-largest sand island in Australia, behind Fraser and Stradbroke islands. Yes, made entirely of sand with the exception of a small volcanic outcropping on the northern end of the island, which was the original landform. Over time, sand traveling down the coast got hung up on this outcrop, and eventually formed the island as it is now. It was a treat to see this environmental area that is now almost entirely preserved as a national park. It has huge stands of eucalyptus and casuarina trees and quite a bit if wildlife. We saw dolphins, turtles, manta rays, oystercatchers, terns, kites, cormorants, a sea eagle and I saw (from way up a cliff with my binoculars) a large grey shape underwater…hmmm…it never broke the surface but…luckily we didn’t go swimming in the ocean due to the riptides and frequency of sharks in the area. That was fine with me after my viewing!

The ferry ride over in the morning was great, made complete with excellent coffee, served in a ceramic mug, not a disposable cup! The ferry also brings over your vehicles, and our group was in a 14-seater 4-wheel drive monstrosity that did not get stuck once! This is a key point, because there are no sealed roads on the island, and once again…this is a SAND island! The roads were tricky at best, and I was glad I was not driving.

The first stop was for sand tobogganing! This was done on a piece of masonite about the size of a snowboard but wider, down a huge sand dune on your belly! The trick was to try not to scream as you picked up speed, because the sand would fly into your mouth! I was crunching sand for the rest of the morning. Next we cruised the beach, saw dolphins and beautiful shorebirds, and stopped at the lighthouse for a view check. That’s when I saw the large grey shape…

There is an amazing fresh water lagoon called Blue Lagoon, where we had a swim in the afternoon after lunch. Then back to the ferry for the ride home. It was a treat to see an untouched piece of landscape in this very developed region of Queensland. Reminded me of our own Channel Islands. They are how the California mainland must have been hundreds of years ago. It is important that they have preserved Moreton Island, because the other three sand islands in the area have all been developed or mined.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Silly Lorikeets and Random Observations

My favorite bird to view has been the Rainbow Lorikeet. (They are known around here as “Lorries,” as per usual with the Australian custom of shortening a word and adding a “y” on the end, for instance “Brisbane” becomes “Brizzy,” pictures become “pickies,” biscuits become “bickies.”) I was lucky enough to see a few Lorries up close and personal at a friend’s feeder. They are beautiful birds, but very noisy. During the day they travel in pairs and are very bossy about their feeding areas. You can hear them all day long, chattering and carrying on up in the trees.

When I was in Noosa a few weeks ago, I was amazed by the large evening feeding groups. They massed in the trees by the river in such huge noisy flocks that you honestly could not hear yourself think. There must have been thousands of them, flying speedily around and chatting in the trees. If they weren’t so beautiful you might despise them! They are also early risers, so don't plan on sleeping in when they are in the neighborhood.

Random Observations

Jen has been kind enough to coach me while I’ve driven her car around the area, giving me some important “coached” practice for when I rent the camper van in New Zealand next month. Driving on the left side of the road is indeed challenging but Jen keeps me on top of the situations. What throws me off the most is that the turn indicator is where the windshield wipers usually are…so I’m constantly turning on the wipers instead of the indicator! This always happens when approaching a 2-lane roundabout. Makes Jen crazy!

What’s also funny is when you’re walking down the street and see someone drive by with a passenger in the front seat, seated on the left hand side where our driver’s seat would be. This person might be staring out the side window, have their hands behind their head, or have their head thrown back in laughter. Your first impression is “Hey, how can you DRIVE with no hands on the wheel? Pay attention!!!” Then you realize that it is a passenger. Oops.

You have to be aware while riding the bike around here, that the rear brake is on your left handlebar, not your right like it is at home. Watch out for those quick stops!

Here’s a good one that my pals in Creative Services will appreciate: You know how when a document you are trying to print is mistakenly set up as an “A4” size and the laser printer refuses to print it, and it spins and spins until someone cancels the job and resizes the sheet to “letter” size? Well, I have the exact opposite problem with the printer here! Most docs are automatically set up as “letter” size, but the paper in the tray is “A4,” so my jobs get rejected unless I change the page set up.

Besides that, the people are nice, the beer is cold and the work I've been doing is rewarding. Just have to watch those windshield wipers!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

World Wetlands Day Celebration, Day 2

We had a great day yesterday, and hope our Japanese friends did too. We took them on a walk to the bird hide in the morning before it got too hot but the tide was high so no wading birds were around.

The rest of the day was spent getting the booth ready and enjoying some good music. The festival was well attended and had a variety of acts, including aborigine dancers, Polynesian dancers, a couple of insane stilt-walkers and several excellent musical acts. The booth subject-matter varied from a dog poo composting system to recycling to water usage to bat care. And, of course, wetlands and shorebirds.

The irony in the whole thing was that the port of Brisbane was a major sponsor of this event, although the recent port extension is one of the biggest annihilators of the wetlands of them all! (With the exception, perhaps, of the airport and motorway extensions…those groups were not represented.) Well at least the port does their best to retain a spot of wetlands and bird habitat near their giant workings however the real problem lies in the silt that comes from the dredging they’ve done. But all in all, the day was a success and I enjoyed being part of it.

Friday, February 6, 2009

World Wetlands Day Celebration, Day 1

We held a working bee today, and did some bushcare (well…weeding!) at Nudgee Beach, in preparation for the World Wetlands Day music festival being held there tomorrow. While we were working, a hike, bike ride and kayak tour was going on nearby. Tomorrow’s festivities will include the arrival of our Japanese visitors from the Yatsu-Higata wetlands near Tokyo Bay. (See Feb. 2 post for info on our sister wetland in Japan.) They are coming to commemorate World Wetlands Day with us here in Brisbane, and part of their day is a walk around the wetland boardwalk at Nudgee Beach. We cleared out trash and weeds so that their impression of their sister wetland is a good one. We had a nice turnout, happy weeders pictured above with our spoils. Typically, for “environmental” weeding, you remove only flowers and seeds, to prevent reseeding, and leave the spent plants to break down into mulch, but in this case we were doing more of an “esthetic” weeding, and didn’t want to leave piles of wilted weeds hanging around. We also had a go at the trash that had floated in on the tide and removed what we could. Trouble is, more will float in from the next high tide! Oh well, you do what you can. I swear, every single thing was plastic.

The highlight of my morning came while I was weeding my “favorite” invasive species, Mile-a-Minute. I uncovered the mother of all root systems, pictured above. They are easy to dig out at this particular site due to the sandy soil. I got busy with it and unearthed what is probably a 5-year-old root system. It was worth the effort.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Happy World Wetlands Day!

Today is World Wetlands Day, which marks the signing of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Convention) in Ramsar, Iran, on Feb. 2, 1971. WWD was first celebrated in 1997, in order to raise public awareness of the value of our wetlands and to promote their conservation and care. Wetlands provide habitat for animals and plants, help control flooding and improve water quality by filtering and purifying pollutants and other materials. This year’s theme is “Upstream – Downstream: Wetlands Connect Us All.”

Locally, the Brisbane City Council is putting on several events next weekend to raise awareness of our wetlands. On Saturday, there’s “Paddle, Pedal and Paws” (as you can probably guess, this is a bike ride, kayak paddle and dog-walk event, all held separately…so it is not a triathlon). We will be holding a working bee that morning, where we’ll do our best to eradicate non-native plants around the boardwalk at the beach site.

Sunday is a music festival at nearby Nudgee Beach, We will be sharing a booth there with another local group, the Queensland Wader Study Group. We’ve been helping them with their displays on migratory birds. I’ve enjoyed learning about the wading birds in the Moreton Bay area that fly between here and Japan for breeding and feeding. We have a “sister” wetland in Japan called Yatsu Higata. This is an amazing habitat, because within the Tokyo Bay, pretty much all of the wetlands have been filled in with the exception of this 1km x 400m area, which is completely surrounded by city and freeway. A freeway ramp actually soars over part of the remaining wetland! It is enclosed on all four sides by concrete walls, just like a giant swimming pool. However, the tidal flats, composed of mud and sand, remain and it is flushed with the tides daily by two channels that connect it to Tokyo Bay. (To give you perspective of how much of the wetland is gone, this wetland used to be a part of Tokyo it is 2km away!) Here’s a link to Yatsu Higata’s site for more info: The migration map above shows some of the distances these birds travel, all the way to the top of the globe! I’ve also included a pic of the Black Winged Stilt, great legs! (Thanks to Wikipedia for this excellent photo.) This is one of the shorebirds that migrates back and forth between here and Japan. Shorebirds that have been flagged here in the Moreton Bay area have been seen in Yatsu Higata, and vice versa. With wetlands disappearing at an alarming rate, every square mile is critically important, even if it is in the form of a giant man-made pool.