Sunday, October 31, 2010

Swan Watch XII: Another Wet Weekend

The wet weather continues down this way. In fact it has poured on and off all weekend. Not to be deterred Deb and I went for drives on both days. Although I have to say with all the rain and mud there was no hiking this weekend.

On Saturday we headed up the Yarra valley. I had to pause near Yarra Glen to catch these piccies as the storm clouds swallowed up the distant mountains.Today we headed out again this time down to Port Phillip Bay.For a brief moment we had a glimpse of blue sky. But the muddy colour of the water is a direct result of all the runoff flowing into the bay with the continued rain.We attempted to go for a short walk but just a little way down the coast the sky got so dark again we beat a hasty retreat back in the direction of the car.
I was amazed by just how black the sea was below the clouds.

No wonder with all this rain local rivers like the Plenty River are threatening to break their banks.Now to the Swans.
On our way home we paused briefly to catch a couple of photos. And I mean a couple, it was raining again and my camera is simply not waterproof. When I have a spare $2500 I’ll buy a new one :-)
As you can see from these hastily snapped shots Mother and baby are still well.

Baby is starting to look a bit more handsome again as its scrappy down is covered by a fresh coat of feathers. He/She won’t get that glossy adult black until after a couple more moults.

Now a final word about Veiled in Shadows, thank you all for your kind words. Also thank you for those of you who have offered to review it for me.

For those of you who missed Friday’s post my book is available on Amazon and you can read an extract here .

I am thinking of posting additional extracts over coming weeks, what do you think?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Veiled in Shadows… On Amazon!

Well it has finally happened - I have managed to finally get everything together on the book front.

My first Novel is now available on Amazon in both hard and Kindle editions.
For anyone who lives outside the US or prefers not to use Amazon you can also get my work via the Book Depository. I personally buy more books from the Book Depository because they don’t charge postage for books shipped anywhere in the world.

To say I am over the moon is a slight understatement :-)

This process has taken far longer than I had originally hoped, mostly because I simply haven’t had time to get the last few things done that I needed. But now that is behind me.

Realistically an even more daunting task lies ahead. Promoting my novel is going to be a huge job. I think it will be a real challenge. Hopefully, it will have some fun moments but I guess on the whole it will simply be hard work.

Now this leads me to a few points, first this blog. My intention is to keep going exactly as I have been. I won’t turn this into an advertising site where I bang on endlessly about my book.

Naturally that doesn’t mean I’m never going to talk about Veiled in Shadows or my other writing. In fact I am working out how to share extracts of the book, perhaps on a regular basis.

Now my dear bloggy friends I have a question. Would any of you be interested in reviewing Veiled in Shadows for me?

I am only too happy to organise free copies for anyone who is interested in doing a review. Hopefully anyone who accepts a free copy would consider posting reviews on Amazon and the Book Depository.
If you are interested in a review copy you can leave a comment or email (my address is available through my blogger profile).

Now finally I am so excited by the whole event that I can’t help but share an extract.
If you click on the “Extract” tab above you can read the prologue of Veiled in Shadows.

Warning! The novel mostly takes place during the time of World War Two so it features some violence at points.
Also, for those of you who hate prologues the extract is in fact a prologue so proceed with caution! :-)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

An Easy Stroll Through The Mountains

Deb, E, Lu and I went for a stroll this afternoon.
Interestingly enough we went for a very easy ramble along the flanks of Mount Donna Buang and its neighbours.

Before you wonder how you ramble on a mountainside I will explain.

Back in 1914 an aqueduct was completed that took fresh mountain water from high in the Yarra Valley down to Melbourne’s water supply. Known as the O’Shannassy Aqueduct it remained in service until 1997 when it was decommissioned. Since then the trail that runs alongside the old aqueduct has been opened to the public. And like the aqueduct it serviced it snakes almost dead level through the most amazingly steep terrain.

Now before you start imagining something like this
Wikipedia image

Let me show you what the aqueduct is actually like: a concrete lined channel set into a terrace cut along the mountainside.We started our walk at a section of the trail far above the little town of Warburton.
The trail quickly runs into the bush that cloaks the mountainsides here.
These old rails guard some sluice gates that allowed workers to drain this section of the channel.
Looking back the way we came you can see how forest that hasn’t been disturbed for 100 years recovers. Typical of this mountain country is very big eucalyptus trees with an under-story of tree ferns.Lu obligingly leant on this tree, she provides a handy scale. All the falling leaf litter from the forest is quickly filling up the channel and in some areas it is covered in a carpet of forget-me-nots.And buttercups.The tree ferns growing along the edge are among the tallest I have ever seen, some of them 20 to 30 feet tall.Finally a shot of one of the less friendly locals.

A bull ant. This guy was standing up to me, daring me to come closer.At about an inch and a half long and packing a nasty sting, they are quite aggressive.
I snapped a shot and left him to his own devices.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Mum’s Place

Tonight I want to say a bit about my trip to my Mum’s place.

I flew from Melbourne to Coffs Harbour on the Mid-North Coast of NSW where Mum came to pick me up.

From there we drove inland up to Dorrigo which sits at about 3000 feet in the Great Dividing Range. The north east corner of NSW is one of the wettest parts of Australia. With the ending of many years of drought it is really wet there at the moment. In fact the area is the wettest I have seen it since the 1970s.

This first piccie is taken through the windscreen of the ute (= utility = pickup truck) that Mum used to collect me from the airport. We were stopped at this traffic light. I thought the light on the road in the early evening fog looked worth capturing.The light is there on the Dorrigo Mountain road because of the wet. Beyond the light half of the road has slipped down the mountain with the rain. The engineers have decided the remains of the road are safe enough to use, but there is only room for traffic to go one way at a time.

The next morning I was up bright and early and out with my camera. This second piccie is the little house that my Mum and her husband Stan live in. It was built in the early 20th century by Stan’s parents. Stan came back in the 1970s to look after his aging mother which is when he met my Mum.

We (my Mum, my brother and I) were living on another ‘bush block’ nearby which is how Mum and Stan first met. After a friendship of about 15 years they eventually married.

This piccie of one of the paddocks shows how lush and green things are there at the moment.
One tradition on an Aussie farm is a series of decaying vehicles. You never throw anything out because it just might be handy one day…
I have to admit that I helped contribute to the farm junk yard here. This decaying Toyota was my first ever car.

While this Ford was my eighth.
It was bright and shiny when I bought it, but the local road soon knocked it around so badly that it wasn’t worth repairing. So it sits where I parked it in about 1996.

I turned my attention to capturing some of the local wildlife.

A Superb Blue Wren.
Then I tried to get a decent shot of a Fire-Tailed Finch, but they were hiding.
A not great shot of a Willy Wagtail.
And the firetails were still not cooperating.

Monday, October 18, 2010

New Template

I've modified this from a new Blogger template.

It's meant to celebrate the imminent release of my book Veiled in Shadows.

What do you think?

That's enough for tonight this has taken me waaaay too much time.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Swan Watch XI: Unseasonable Weather

I have barely posted recently and I have spent even less time visiting other people’s blogs. First I was away at my Mum’s and since then work and life have just been sucking up so much time. Hopefully you’ll see me around the blogosphere a bit more in the near future.

You'll have to forgive me for being so negligent in responding to your comments. I hope things might be getting more back to normal soon, but we will see.

Io did the swan patrol for me this week because Deb and I headed in the opposite direction. More about that in the moment.

First to the swans. Unfortunately, we have no more news about the injured cygnet. We’ll just have to hope that no news is good news.

On a cheerier note mother swan and the remaining baby are doing well. Io has captured some beautiful piccies to prove it.

The swans are very used to Io and Damian now, when they come down to the ponds edge the swans usually cruise over to check them out.Today they were back in their original pond, I liked this piccie of them coming closer through the reeds.The remaining baby continues to grow at an almost unbelievable rate. It’s hard to believe this strapping youth is the cute fuzzball of only a few weeks ago. I can’t help think of Hans Christian Andersen’s ugly duckling now.

But of course the sinuous curves of baby’s neck reminds us that he/she will be a beauty like mum before too long.Now to Deb and my weekend. Most of the good folk who read my blog live in the Northern Hemisphere and are half way through Autumn. We down here in Oz are halfway through spring and the weather should be warming up.

It isn’t! This is the scene at Kinglake yesterday. It hasn’t snowed where we are (it almost never does in Melbourne and near the coast). But it has been so cold that it has snowed in the hills around here. We can see Kinglake from our street.

I have never heard of snowfalls in the country near Melbourne in October. But there it is.
Higher up at Mount Donna Buang it was still thick.

This is the road to the summit.Being a kid at heart I couldn’t help but walk up to the summit.

Past this gate.To the top where it started to snow again.On the walk back down.
This wattle peeping through the snow further down the mountain is a reminder that it is supposed to be spring.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Swan Watch X: A Disaster.

I am afraid I have some sad news about the swan family. While I was away at my mum’s Io was keeping an eye on the swans for all of us. On Wednesday last week she phoned me to let me know there was a problem. She and her boyfriend Damian found the mother swan and the two cygnets at one of the nearby ponds.

This is a piccie Io took of the three of them using her phone. Initially they all looked ok. But as Io watched they climbed out onto the bank and she saw that one of the cygnets had a huge wound on its leg that was in Io’s words ‘pouring blood’.

Io made the decision to call the RSPCA (The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) to see if they could get someone out to help. They waited near the swans until an RSPCA volunteer arrived. The volunteer in question was unsure of what to do and phoned his boss for instructions.

In the end Io and Damian using RSPCA equipment caught the cygnet for the volunteer. Io says the poor thing seems to have been savaged by a dog. In addition to the bleeding wound there were also some ‘puncture wounds’.

The volunteer took the baby away to the shelter to be assessed by a vet. He said that if it was not too badly injured it would be treated and looked after until it was fit to be released. He did warn that if its injuries were too bad the vet would euthanize the poor thing.

Io was reasonably confident, she says that the baby was still moving around under its own steam and was eating before she caught it. Unfortunately, we have had no more news, Io has tried phoned the shelter a number of times but has not yet managed to talk to the people who were responsible for our cygnet. I will let you all know as soon as we know anything.

Now a couple of final photos Io took of mother swan and her remaining baby. I am probably imagining it but they seem rather forlorn to me.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sunday Swan Watch IX: The Way of the Pelican.

I spoke too soon when I said my computer is back to normal. It has been crashing when I have had more than a couple of windows open at a time. I’ve checked it through and I don’t think it is a hardware problem. Methinks the time has come to reinstall Windows. I have all my data backed up (mostly 1,000s of photos and multiple copies of all my writing), so I’m not going to loose anything on a reinstall. What a headache in any case.

Now to the birds.

As you know if you are following my Swan Watch series I didn’t see them at all last week, in fact the last time I saw them was about two and a half weeks ago.

Io has taken the swans to heart and spends as much time as I do (actually probably more) looking for them.

Any way yesterday she reported she had spotted them, so when I headed out I went pretty much straight to them. They were on a pond just down below our house, where we haven’t seen them before.

I got quite a surprise as they came steaming in my direction. In two and a bit weeks, the cygnets have grown an amazing amount.

They have grown from cute and fluffy to gawky looking teenagers.This piccie shows just how big they are now, in comparison to their mum.
A few portraits.

MumAnd babiesI think the babies are still quite cute (in an ugly duckling kind of way)
And they continue to show more of the graceful form they will have as adults.

A new arrival turned up, an Australian Pelican.
The lighter feathers on these guys are actually snowy white but this fellow was painted by the rich golden light of the early evening.He/she had a bit of a stretch and then Hopped up on a rock to do a bit of preening.I was briefly distracted by this chestnut teal.Then this noisy fellow made a bigger distraction.When I turned back the pelican was busy.
Busy doing Pelican Tai Chi !

He settled down again and seemed to inscrutably say “What are you laughing at?”

Now finally, this may be my last post for at least a few days.

I will be away in the north of NSW for most of next week. It’s my mum’s 81st birthday so I am going up to pay her a visit.

She has an internet connection, but I am not sure if I will be able to upload much.

At least I should be able to get some time for writing in the evenings.