Our Beautiful Earth: Part Five: Natural History Books: Environmental Challenges

Having spent the last month, enjoying all the wonderful diversity and beauty our planet has to offer, I found this particular post quite disturbing and depressing to write, but the issues are so important and so urgent that they have to be aired and addressed! I have grouped the books according to their main subject matter: Warning Bells; Growth Economics; Disconnect From Nature; Climate Change; Australia; Overpopulation; and The Big Picture.

1.Warning Bells

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson 1962

One of the first very famous books to sound a warning bell about the state of our environment, especially in relation to the use of toxic chemicals in agriculture.

In her book, Rachel documents the detrimental environmental and physiological effects from the indiscriminate use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. Once these chemicals enter the biosphere, not only are the bugs killed, but the poison works its way up through the food chain, threatening bird and fish populations and ultimately, human health as well.

Examples include the death of large numbers of birds from aerial spraying of DDT to control mosquitoes and fire ants; the bio-accumulation of herbicide, Aminotriazole, in cranberries; the banning of milk from dairy farms in upstate New York after aerial spraying to eradicate gypsy moth; and the link between pesticides and cancer in humans.

The book raised a new awareness of humanity’s potential to wreak havoc on nature; the interconnectedness of all living forms; and ecology in general. It also raised the ire of major chemical companies, who launched a vitriolic campaign of personal attacks against her, but fortunately, she had some strong support from John F Kennedy and in the end, the national pesticide policy was reversed and DDT was banned in agricultural use nationwide. The book also inspired the environmental movement, leading to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

A very important book, it has sold over 2 Million copies worldwide over the past 55 years and is regarded as a landmark book of the twentieth century and the environmental text which changed the world, although in my opinion, the world still has a long way to go!!!

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Collapse: How Societies Choose to fail or Survive by Jared Diamond 2005

A fascinating book, this is also a timely reminder that past societies foundered, when they failed to limit their resource use to the sustainable productivity of natural systems.

Part One looks at the current environmental problems of South-Western Montana, while Part Two examines the collapsed civilizations of : Easter Island, Pitcairn Island and Henderson Island; the Native American society of the Anasazi in South-Western USA; the Mayans of MesoAmerica; and Norse Greenland, all underpinned by a five-point framework: environmental damage; climate change; the loss of friendly trade partners; the rise of hostile neighbours; and most importantly, the society’s response to its environmental problems.

Part Two finishes with a brief examination of three successful past societies by way of contrast: Iceland; Tikopia and the New Guinea Highlands; as well as the Tokugawa Era of Japan.

Part Three returns to the modern world with an in-depth look at the Rwandan disaster; a comparison of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, which both share the island of Hispaniola; the enormous environmental problems of China; and finally, the fragility and uniqueness of Australia, a country which holds a special place in Jared’s heart.

The last section of the book extracts practical lessons from all these case studies and examines the role of modern businesses and the types of environmental dangers facing the modern world.

The book is supported by further readings listed in the back, as well as suggestions for positive action, which an individual can take to address our major environmental problems.

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2. Growth Economics

Small is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered  by EF Schumacher 1974

If you cannot get hold of the book, you can read a pdf version at:  http://www.colinalexander.info/files/pdfs/Schumacher.pdf, as well as some of his famous quotes at: http://www.centerforneweconomics.org/content/small-beautiful-quotes.

An environmental classic and bible, this little book is one of the 100 most influential books published since the Second World War, according to The Times Literary Supplement, and it certainly made a big impact on my husband! The three major points he gleaned from the book are that the current growth-based economic system of the Western world is actually detrimental to people; takes no account of the environmental costs; and that smaller enterprises are far more efficient and people-friendly than larger corporations.

Schumacher, a British economist, published his critique of Western economics during the 1973 energy crisis and the emergence of globalization. While his figures are now out-of-date, his message is still as vitally important today, as when it was first published.

He argues that:

The modern economy is unsustainable;

Fossil fuels and other finite, non-renewable natural resources should be treated as capital rather than expendable income ;

Nature’s capacity to absorb pollution is also limited;

Gross National Product should not be used as a measure of human well-being; and that

Materialism should be secondary to ideals like justice, harmony, beauty and health.

He challenged mass production and statements like: ‘Growth is good’ and ‘Big is better’ and believed that governments should focus on sustainable development; the appropriate use of technology; the decentralization of large enterprises; and more people-centred economics of a human scale, addressing human needs, as if people mattered!

In his book, Schumacher predicted many of the issues we are now facing today:  a reliance on imports and exports; the energy crisis; and issues with oil consumption and dual economies in developing countries.

His book also inspired a number of offshoot organizations :

The Schumacher Institute (http://www.schumacherinstitute.org.uk), a think tank addressing many of these social, environmental and economic crises. Members use ‘systems thinking’ to determine sustainable solutions and promote convergent globalisation for a more equal distribution of wealth.

The Schumacher Centre for a New Economics (http://www.centerforneweconomics.org), which offers lectures, conferences and seminars on new economics; the annual EF Schumacher Lectures; an online collection of lectures and publications, including the Manas Journal and Lindisfarne Tapes; an e-newsletter; and the use of the Schumacher Library (also available online). It also offers programs like the Commons (Community Land Trust), Local Currencies and Berkshares, Community Supported Industry and a Curriculum for New Economics.

The Schumacher Circle (http://www.schumacherinstitute.org.uk/about-us/schumacher-circle/), a collection of organizations inspired by his philosophy and writings, including: the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales, which we visited in 1994;  Jeevika Trust; New Economics Foundation (another think tank and a different organisation to the Centre for New Economics discussed above); the Resurgence and Ecologist Magazine; the Soil Association, of which my brother-in-law was a member for many years; Practical Action; and Schumacher College.

Schumacher College (https://www.schumachercollege.org.uk/), a wonderful educational institution for nature-based courses,  personal transformation and collective action.

Courses include:

Short courses like Sacred Activism; Nature Renewal; Agroecology; Leadership and Facilitation; Transitioning to an Ecological Civilisation; Ecological Restoration and Design; Nourishing the Soul; The Power of Local; and the Gross National Happiness Master Class;

Post graduate courses like Ecological Design Thinking; Ecology and Spirituality; and Holistic Science; and

Vocational courses like Sustainable Horticulture and a wide variety of crafts from cheese-making to kiln building, spoon-making, brewing beer and dressmaking.

See later entries on Vandiva Shiva (this post) and John Lane (next week’s post), both of them highly involved with this college.

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 Prosperity Without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet by Tim Jackson 2009

Written by a British professor, who was a sustainability adviser to the UK government at the time, the book supports the view that the only way to sustainability is an economy, which is NOT based on growth. Exponential economic growth, based on ever-increasing production and consumption, continues to deplete our dwindling finite resources, threatening the very ecosystems that sustain our economies.

He identifies key problem areas like the scarcity of oil, minerals and productive land, as well as sink problems, the capacity of the planet to assimilate the environmental impacts of economic activity, the major one being climate change, caused by the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and accelerated by human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels.

Backed up by lots of evidence and figures, this book is not all gloom and doom and suggests a myriad of potential options for a green recovery and societies, which can still flourish, but within limits. A very important and readable book!BlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (547)

The Mystic Economist by Clive Hamilton 1994

Another book, written by an economist, which examines current economic theory and its detrimental impact on our lives, despite its claims to the contrary, and which argues for a more holistic approach to our economic system!BlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (551) - Copy

Quite a heavy book philosophically, it is well worth taking the time to read it, as there are lots of pertinent observations like the futility of materialism to buy happiness or give our lives meaning; the time-money debate (the trade off between work and leisure); and the huge gap in world views between Western capitalist societies and traditional indigenous peoples, the latter further explored in the following books:

3. Disconnect from Nature

Harmony by HRH The Prince of Wales, Tony Juniper and Ian Skelly 2010

As you will no doubt have surmised from a previous post (https://candeloblooms.com/2017/05/16/inspirational-and-dreamy-garden-books-part-two-books-about-specific-gardens/), I’m a bit of a fan of Prince Charles, who has been very prominent in his support of organic farming (as practised firsthand at his wonderful garden at Highgrove) and the ecological movement, as well as beauty in architecture, spirituality and the traditional arts.

In 2004, he even founded his own school, The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts (https://www.psta.org.uk/), which offers a variety of courses in the traditional arts of all the great civilizations of the world.

Courses include:

Traditional Methods and Materials of the Master Painters of the 14th to 17th Century;

Sacred Geometry;

Painting techniques from Byzantine Icon Painting to Indian and Persian Miniatures and Chinese Brush Painting; and

Mandalas;

Stained Glass;

Jewellery Making;

Ceramic Plate and Tile Making;

Carving Wood, Stone and Plaster;

Carpet Weaving;

Calligraphy; and

The Alchemy of Colour.

Theoretical study is integrated with practical application, with an emphasis on an awareness of:  ‘the holistic nature of the traditional artist, whose inspiration derives from the highest sources and whose skill and dedication creates masterpieces, which we can all recognize as part of our world heritage’.

There is a Postgraduate Academic Program (Masters and Doctoral level), including an Outreach Program in 20 countries over 5 continents, as well as an Open Program for the wider community and, for a younger audience, a Harmony Schools Program, in which mathematics, geography, history, science and art are integrated.

I would love to be a student at this wonderfully inspiring college, but in lieu of this possibility, I thoroughly enjoyed his book, in which he outlines his philosophy, his concerns for the planet and human civilization and ways to redress the balance!

He examines the essential principles of harmony, defined as the active state of balance between human society and the natural world, and which we ignore at our peril, as neglect will eventually result in a collapse of our very life-support systems.

These principles include :

Cycles, rhythms and patterns;

Diversity;

Beauty;

A holistic view; and

The interdependence of all living things.

He sources examples from scientific evidence to views and ideas drawn from many different religions, cultures and traditional peoples throughout history, who lived in harmony with their natural surroundings, all backed up by wonderful photos.

It is such an interesting and important book! Dick Smith (see below) obviously shares our appreciation and has made a practice of buying a large number of copies of this book and sharing it with his many acquaintances.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd25%Image (502)

A documentary based on the book was made in 2012. See:  http://www.theharmonymovie.com/home.php.

This YouTube clip is a taster: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VeS2T4GnRe8.

The Sacred Balance: rediscovering Our Place in Nature by David Suzuki 1997

Another book by well-known environmentalist, David Suzuki, in which he compares our modern environmental challenges and current consumerist, nature-disconnected lifestyles with the traditional lifestyles and belief systems of indigenous peoples, which supported healthy environments and a sustainable form of living for millions of years.

He discusses basic human needs:

Physical: Clean air; Water; Fertile Soil; Energy; and Diversity;

Social: Love; and Connection; and

Spiritual;

and how these needs are met or not met and the consequences.

I particularly loved Ashley Montagu’s list of the psychic needs of the growing child for full development of its potential (seen on page 164, as well as the photo below), as well as all the pertinent quotes and poetry throughout the book.

Image (561) In his final chapter, Suzuki offers hope, with suggestions for meeting these basic needs and creating an ecologically sustainable, fulfilling life, as well as stories of people, who have put their beliefs into action to create such a life.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (551)

Since its first publication, 100 000 copies of the book have been sold.

David Suzuki also produced a three-part series called The Sacred Balance, which can all be seen at  the following links:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVqnmX4Lh9U

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8T0hsYLUAo  and

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Sf_0ajeifA.

The book has also inspired a beautiful four-part documentary (http://www.bullfrogfilms.com/catalog/sabas.html), each part accessible on this link and accompanied by teacher study guide (http://www.bullfrogfilms.com/guides/sabasguide.pdf).

If you want a taster of some of Suzuki’s quotes, here is another link: https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/145364.David_Suzuki.

4. Climate Change

Climate change would have to be THE largest challenge facing life on earth and yet politicians, corporations and the general public are often not facing up to the enormity or the urgency of this issue or are, in some cases, denying its very existence and bullying the messengers. I have always found it incredibly difficult to understand these attitudes, when all these people have their own children and grand-children and no one will be exempt from the effects of climate change! The next book looks at climate change denial and its implications for life on earth.

Requiem For a Species by Clive Hamilton 2010

Supported by video-clips of his book launch and speeches at these three sites: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zQDBP4YClA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2mccKiZ9AfE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2CXtx9xnQSw.

In this important book, Clive reiterates the facts about global warming and examines the many  psychological barriers and reasons people stick their heads in the sand, as very cleverly depicted by this sculpture ‘No Climate for Change’ by Phillip Doggett-Williams from the Lorne Sculpture Show in 2011.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd50%october 2011 695 Here is the artist’s succinct statement:

We cannot hide from change. Dramatic social change, as is the global warming challenge, demands that individuals step beyond their political prejudices and self interest to build a collective wisdom that meets the challenges of the future with determination, persistence and optimism. The fundamental right of future generations is a right to a sustainable future.

Here are Clive’s thoughts about the reasons people hide from the momentous changes ahead:

Firstly, there is wishful thinking! Yes, it is a very hard and frightening notion to comprehend, but it is only going to get worse if we don’t face up to it and do something about decreasing global greenhouse emissions!

Then, there is the disconnect from nature, already mentioned by the previous books. Farmers and gardeners are all too aware of the changing climate!

The consumer culture and growth economics play a major part in climate change denial, because acceptance would require major changes to our lifestyles, and then there is the very damaging role of political conservatism and active lobbying by the wealthy and powerful fossil fuel industry. What is even worse is that we do have alternatives to the latter, which are feasible and effective, and have known about this problem for the last 50 years and yet we have done so very little to address it until it is too late!

Current predictions are for a rise of up to 5 degrees Celsius by 2070 (unless there is a concerted attempt to reduce emissions) and that figure is probably conservative, as it is very difficult to determine the effects once tipping points are reached. And climate change doesn’t just mean rising temperatures, but more extreme and frequent weather events like severe cyclones, floods, droughts, heat waves and fires, resulting in major human suffering and enormous repair costs, not to mention rises in sea level with the melting of the ice sheets; displacement of peoples living in low lying areas; uncertain food production and mass extinctions of plants and animals on earth.

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Living in the Hothouse: How Global Warming Affects Australia by Ian Lowe 2005

We have always admired Ian Lowe, an Emeritus Professor of Science, Technology and Society at Griffith University, Queensland (where my husband studied Environmental Science back in 1976), as well as being the President of the Australian Conservation Foundation from 2004 to 2014.

This is a very important and topical book, especially now we are over 10 years down the track and the situation is getting far worse and has still not been adequately addressed! What amazes me about all the prevaricating and not facing up to the problem is that we knew about this problem back in the late 1970s – the figures on greenhouse warming in Ross’s old environmental textbooks are spot on with their predictions – and while there appeared to be some potential for change in the 1980s, it was quickly squashed by climate change deniers and the major coal companies.

In Chapters One and Two, Ian Lowe explains the scientific basis to the greenhouse effect, especially in relation to climate change in Australia – its effects on temperature, rainfall, sea levels, tropical cyclones, snow lines, and especially extreme weather events and their severity and frequency.

In Chapter Three, he discusses the impact of climate change on agriculture; forestry; water resources; coastal development (and let’s not forget that most of the world’s major cities and urban populations were historically developed on the banks of estuaries and harbours!); the natural environment (bush fires, changed patterns of land use, loss of biodiversity and extinctions); and human health.

Chapter Four examines the implications for energy use, while Chapter Five suggests broad strategies for responding to climate change :

Adaptation;

Prevention;

Other options including:

Renewable energy;

Alternative approaches to transport: car efficiency; public transport; car pooling; cycling; and walking;

Land use planning; and

Reversing deforestation and restoring forest cover.

Chapter Six looks at the politics of greenhouse at all governmental levels: Local, State, Federal and International, as well as economic issues and impediments.

His final chapter is based on his conference presentation in 2001, where he looks at the driving forces increasing our emissions: population growth; lifestyle choices; and the consumption of material resources.

He suggests policies to cut greenhouse emissions, including:

‘A target of 20 per cent of electricity from renewable sources by 2012’. Well, that certainly didn’t happen!;

The elevation of minimum energy performance standards for all new appliances to be world best practice within 3 years;

Encouragement of public transport and cycling and the design and development of low-transport cities ( Eg. Banning cars from the CBD- maybe this will start to happen as a result of recent terrorist attacks!);  and

The installation of solar hot water systems in all new buildings;

as well as a number of approaches individuals can take to reduce their emissions.

The inaction (and positive subservience to the coal industry and multinationals!) of our current major political parties means that change has to come from the grass roots level- the individual and local government, who seem to be the most effective propagators of positive change!

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While it is very easy to become despondent about climate change and the future, there are some wonderful people out there, working for change, and it is important to maintain hope, as Al Gore explains in his latest film: An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, currently screening. See the following links about this amazing man and his film:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/19/climate/al-gore-climate-change-timestalks.html;

http://www.outwardon.com/article/hope-about-climate-change/;   and

https://www.theweathernetwork.com/news/articles/al-gore-inconvenient-sequel-truth-to-power-message-of-urgency-and-hope/84562/.

5. Australia

The following books also highlight other environmental challenges, especially in relation to Australia.

Shouldn’t Our Grandchildren Know: An Environmental Life Story by Graham Chittleborough 1992

A very interesting and readable book, tracing his development as an ecologist from studying seals, penguins and albatrosses on Heard Island in the Antarctic in 1949 to researching humpback whales and crayfish (Western Rock Lobster) on the Western Australian coast in the 1950s and 1960s and pollution in Cockburn Sound in the mid 1970s.

Along the way, Graham developed an increasing awareness of environmental issues facing Australia at that time from the accelerated loss of biodiversity, mainly due to habitat destruction, but now greatly exacerbated by climate change; the depletion of forests and land degradation; aridity, salinization and the low nutrient levels of our soil; air pollution and acid rain; and the enlarging hole in the ozone layer and increased greenhouse gases. He also came to grief with a number of governmental authorities, because of his criticisms about their failure or inability to address these problems.

His message is clear:

As a species, we are living beyond our means, both economically and environmentally. Current government policy, based on growth economics and an ever-increasing population and consumption, is suicidal, given the fact that Australia has a strictly limited carrying capacity, and will have a detrimental effect on the quality of life and standard of living for future generations.

He advocates:

An attitudinal change from a consumer to a conserver society;

The adoption of a steady state population and economy;

Treatment of the primary cause rather than constant band-aiding;

The decreased use of resources, especially fossil fuels; and

The adoption of renewable energies like wind and sun.

All suggestions being eminently common sense in my mind!

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 A Big Fix: Radical Solutions for Australia’s Environmental Crisis by Ian Lowe 2005

Written over 10 years ago now, this book identifies the major environmental issues facing Australia at the time and suggests recommendations for change, based on a non-growth steady state economy.

In Chapter Two, page 21, he defines a sustainable society as one which will:

prevent damage to the ecosystem services on which all human life depends’, which will ‘protect biodiversity, manage precious resources, prevent pollution and land degradation, and curtail disturbances to the great bio-geochemical cycles of the Earth’ and ‘pay careful attention to population pressures and consumption levels’.

He examines the key resource problems Australia faces:

Oil, upon which our entire transport system is dependent;

Fresh water: for drinking, washing, growing food, cooling over-heated equipment, producing minerals); and

Productive soils for agriculture, due to erosion, salinity and urban expansion;

as well as the notions of social equity and stability, our unique Australian culture, spiritual aspects and planning for our economic future, rather than blindly relying on ‘the magic of the market’.

In Chapter Three, he discusses:

The Great Barrier Reef, ‘Australia’s most outstanding natural asset’ (Page 43), at threat from mainland run-off, trawling and over-fishing and particularly, coral bleaching from rising sea temperatures from climate change, not to mention the risk posed by ships using the waters between the mainland and reef, especially oil tankers and now, quite possibly, Adani coal carriers!;

The Murray-Darling System, ‘Australia’s greatest river system’, upon which the environmental and economic health of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia depend;

Salinity and Land Degradation; and

The Biodiversity Crisis, also to escalate dramatically with

Climate Change, which is also put under the spotlight.

Chapter Four examines the causes of the problems: population; consumption; lifestyle choices and our economic system, while Chapter Five looks at a different more sustainable society with a healthier, more stable population; stable consumption; zero waste; no loss of natural areas, restoration; a low-carbon society; greater equity; better decision-making processes and more mature politics.

He finishes with a look at:

The four major steps to change:

Discontent with the status quo;

Vision for a better future;

Developing feasible pathways to where we want to be; and

Commitment; as well as

Obstacles to change:

Short-Term Thinking;

Incomplete Knowledge;

Technical Hubris: the notion of technical fixes to any problem eg Carbon capture and desalinization plants;

Econo-Mysticism: the faith that pricing will solve problems; and

Cheer-Mongering: the belief that humans can solve any problem; and the

Role of the Mass Media, which is increasingly under the control of a diminishing number of players.

This is a very well-thought out book with a very sensible approach to solving some of our pressing problems and should be essential reading for politicians from both sides of the political spectrum!

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6. Overpopulation

Bigger or Better by Ian Lowe 2012

In my  final book by Ian Lowe, the patron of Sustainable Population Australia, he turns his attention to Australia’s population numbers and the effects of a larger population on our resources and environment, our society and our economy.

He argues that we need to stabilise our population as soon as possible and that Australia cannot support a large population due to its preponderance of dry areas; its unpredictable rainfall; and soils with low nutrients; and the fact that most of the population is concentrated on the narrow coastal eastern seaboard.

He also examines the key stakeholders in the population debate and their agendas, as well as the politics of population growth.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (548)

The argument for the need to stabilise population growth is also supported by :

Dick Smith’s Population Crisis 2011

An excellent publication, written by Dick Smith, a prominent businessman, who knows the business world backwards and warns that we are on a totally unsustainable path with an ever-increasing population and an economy based on ever-expanding consumption.

Unless we stabilise our population as soon as possible, we run the risk of a major crash, whether it is due to climate change, depletion of resources or fossil fuels or pollution.  We really do ignore these warning signals at our peril!BlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (546)

And finally, two wonderful and comprehensive books, written by two very knowledgeable and committed women!

7. The Big Picture

Making Peace With The Earth by Vandana Shiva 2012

Vandana Shiva, who initially trained as a physicist, is a philosopher, environmental activist, author of over 20 books, educator (see Schumacher College), eco-feminist and one very courageous and strong woman!

She established a research foundation for Science, Technology and Education in 1997 and  is a leader and board member of the International Forum on Globalization (http://ifg.org/), which analyses the cultural, social, political, and environmental impacts of economic globalization, and promotes equitable, democratic, and ecologically sustainable economies.

She also founded a wonderful organization called Nandavya (http://www.navdanya.org/), meaning ‘Nine Seeds’, promoting seed saving, food sovereignty and organic sustainable agriculture and the protection of biological and cultural diversity.

In this book, Vandiva Shiva is highly critical of large transnational corporations (including the Adani Group!), and governments, which support them to the detriment of their own country.

She cites many examples of destructive developments by multinationals in India, which result in the destruction of local economies and dismantling of local communities, with the ever-increasing drift to cities to find work. While she focuses on India in her book, the issues raised are relevant to the whole world.

She also believes that women need to be involved in the democratic process. BlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (501)

This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein 2014

Another very comprehensive summary of the current environmental challenges the world faces by another very strong woman. She focuses on climate change and the enormous detrimental effects of our economic system on our environment and what we can do about it.

Like Vandiva Shiva, Naomi is very scathing of world trade agreements, which are totally out of synch with talks on climate change, and multinationals, who have no allegiance to anyone or any government and no regard for local environments or peoples.

She also is a very strong feminist, who believes that it is vital that women have more power in the world. There is so much detailed information in this wonderful book that you really have to read it!

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While it is easy to get depressed about the enormous challenges we face, all the books mentioned suggest constructive ways to address these problems and offer hope for the future.

In my final post on environmental books next week, I am focusing on the ways we, as individuals, can make positive changes and live more sustainable lives with lower carbon footprints and less impact on our beautiful fragile planet.

Our Beautiful Earth: Part Four: Natural History Books: Reference Guides

In this post, I will be discussing some fabulous general reference guides to life on earth, including the elements which underpin its very existence: the geology and soils, the weather and climate and lastly, the amazing night sky!

Natural History by Smithsonian Institute 2010

A fabulous door-stopper of a book for anyone interested in natural history and our amazing and unique planet with its huge diversity and extraordinary wealth of plant and animal life – in fact over 1.9 million living species described to date, with more than 20 000 new species discovered and described each year.

It starts with a note on how to use the book, including pointers on size measurements; and plant icons and abbreviations, followed by a general introduction to life on Earth: its geological foundations; evolution of life forms and the classification of organisms. Active geological processes, changing climates, different habitats, human impacts, origins of life, evolution and diversity, natural and artificial selection, animal genealogy and a Tree of Life are all included in this chapter.

The majority of the book is devoted to an amazing in-depth catalogue of 5000 full colour entries, including Minerals, Rocks and Fossils; Microscopic Life Forms; and the Plant, Fungi and Animal Kingdoms.

Each entry has

: a Section Introduction, highlighting the characteristics and behaviours that define the group and discussing their evolution over time, with classification boxes displaying current taxonomic hierarchy and highlighting the level of the group under discussion and a box showing the different groups of species;

: a Group Introduction with key features : distribution, habitat, physical characteristics, life cycle, behaviour and reproductive habits;

: a Species Catalogue with common and scientific names; family; height; essential notes and annotated colour photos, showing relative sizes;    and

: a Feature Profile, which examines single specimens with close-up photographs and side profiles and data sets of size, habitat, distribution and diet.

Almost an essential reference for every library, it is a wonderful guide to the huge diversity of life on earth with all its variety of form, colour, texture, size and function.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd25%Image (517)Another useful site, particularly for Australian flora and fauna is the Atlas of Living Australia: http://www.ala.org.au/.

Biology: An Australian Focus by Pauline Ladiges, Barbara Evans, Robert Saint and Bruce Knox 2008

Every natural history library should have an academic book devoted to biology, especially if it is a major interest,  and this is a good one, because it has an Australian focus, as well as a student interactive CD-ROM in the back.

It starts from the basics of life with cell biology and energetics and genetics and molecular biology, progressing through to plant form and function; animal form and function; evolution and biodiversity; and ecology, including Australian biota, population ecology, ecosystems and communities, and human impacts.

Plant Form and Function includes reproduction, growth and development of flowering plants; plant structure and nutrition; and plant hormones and growth responses, while Animal Form and Function covers animal reproduction and development; animal and human nutrition;, gas exchange in animals; circulation; water, solutes and excretion; innate defences and the immune system; hormonal control; nervous systems; animal behaviour; and their responses to environmental stress.

Evolution and Biodiversity is a huge chapter, which examines phylogeny and classification systems; the evolving earth (fossils; plate tectonics and continental drift; geological eras and biogeographic regions); and mechanisms of evolution, followed by a detailed look at all the different life forms: bacteria; viruses; protists; plants; fungi; and animals (sponges; jellyfish, sea anemones and corals; flukes and worms; molluscs; insects;  starfish; fish; amphibians; reptiles; birds; mammals; primates and humans).

I really enjoyed the chapter on Australian biota and its evolution from the time when Australia was part of Gondwanaland through the various geological eras and the influence of changing climate and aridity; changing landforms and weathering of soils; increasing frequency of fire; the glacial periods; and the arrival of humans on the continent and their impact. Terrestial and marine environments; the El Nino-Southern Oscillation influence; marine diversity; Australian flora and some of its main families and adaptive characteristics; and our unique fauna, including ancient megafauna, are also discussed in some detail.

The final chapter on human impacts is also very pertinent to Australia and looks at a host of environmental problems and concepts from decreasing biodiversity; biodiversity hotspots; land clearing and fragmentation;  the introduction of new species and the impact of feral animals and weeds; integrated pest management; land and water degradation; soil acidification;  increasing salinity; pollution; the greenhouse effect; climate change; coral bleaching; the illegal trade in endangered species; sustainability; and conservation and restoration ecology.

Being an academic textbook, each chapter concludes with a summary; key terms; self-assessment, review and extension questions and suggestions for further reading. An excellent book for basic biological concepts!BlogEnvtlBooksReszd25%Image (553)Smithsonian Earth  edited by James F Luhr 2005

Another terrific Smithsonian publication, this time focusing on the Earth !

Its history : geological time; fossils; its building blocks; birth of the solar system; the development of life forms through the various geological eras; the ice ages; and the development of humans, all supported by a tabulated time line at the top of the page.

Its place in space : the universe; the solar system; the relationship between the earth and the sun and moon.

Its anatomy: the earth’s structure, shape, form and layers; the Earth’s magnetic field;  the core, mantle and crust; mineral formation, crystal structure and shape, mineral classification and identification tests; rock types and examples; fossil fuels; and soils: their formation and types.

The changing Earth : plate tectonics, boundaries and movement; weathering and erosion; deposition; mass movement; the impact of meteorites (with examples from all over the world); water (water properties and different forms; the global and local water cycles; and water resources); and life (diversity; evolution; extinctions; biomes and ecosystems; biogeography; nutrient cycles; and threats to biodiversity).

Land features: mountains and volcanoes, fault-lines and hot springs and geysers; rivers and lakes; glaciers and deserts; grasslands and  tundra;  forests and wetlands; and agricultural and urban areas.

Oceans : currents; reefs; polar oceans; oceans of the world; tides and waves; coasts and sea level; and erosional and depositional coastlines.

: Atmosphere : atmospheric structure; energy; circulation; climate regions; climate change; air masses and weather systems; precipitation and clouds; and wind.

: Tectonic Earth : focusing on all the specific earth plates, with details like area, highest and lowest points, major features, major city, and population and boundaries with lots of illustrative examples.

A wealth of information , presented in a very simple and clear format with lots of interesting examples and great photos. This is another essential book for your library!BlogEnvtlBooksReszd25%Image (531)Australian Volcanoes by Russell Ferrett 2005

Large areas of Eastern Australia have experienced intense volcanic activity over the past 40 Million years, resulting in the creation of many landforms, which have since been eroded to varying degrees. I was fascinated to learn that 16 of Australia’s volcanoes have been formed by the crustal Australian plate moving northward over hotspots in the Bass Strait, with the oldest volcano at 35 Million years old at Hillsborough, Qld and the youngest at less than 10 million years old at Mt Macedon. Also, more disconcertingly, that the Victorian volcanic region is not actually extinct, but has been resting the last 4000 years and could actually become active again!

This book examines the earth’s structure; the different types of volcanic activity in Australia; the types of eruptions; volcanic material (tephra, lava and volcanic rocks and their formation); and types of volcanic landforms (volcanic cones; domes; plains; lava tubes; tumuli; plugs; dykes and sills), before concentrating on specific volcanic features in Australia, many of which we have visited. These include the Atherton Tableland with its crater lakes and Undara Lave Tubes in North Queensland; the Glasshouse Mountains, just north of Brisbane, Queensland, and Mt Warning in Northern New South Wales; the Warrumbungles and Ebor Volcano, New South Wales; Mt Canoblas near Orange, New South Wales; Lord Howe Island and Heard Island; the Organ Pipes National Park; Mt Macedon; the Camperdown district; Tower Hill and Mt Eccles in Victoria; Mt Gambier, South Australia;  Circular Head and Cradle Mountain in Tasmania; and the diamond deposits in Western Australia’s Kimberleys.

It is a fascinating book and explains the formation of all these landforms clearly and simply.

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Rocks and Minerals by Chris Pellant 1992

This is a Collins Eye Witness Visual Guide to over 500 rocks and minerals from around the world. It is a perfect book for rock and gemstone collectors, with introductory chapters on rock collecting; geological maps and field equipment; the home kit and organizing your collection. It then has a section on mineral definition, formation, composition, characteristics (crystal systems, habit, cleavage, fracture, hardness, specific gravity, colour, streak, transparency and lustre) and identification.

The section on rocks covers their formation; types of metamorphism; the characteristics of igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks and a rock identification key.

The world of geology is an enormous and complex subject, but this little book explains the basics so well, that it is interesting to even the lay person like myself and it is so important for the natural history lover to have a basic knowledge of rocks and minerals, as they underpin the rest of life itself: the soils, the plants and the animals, which live in each habitat.

Each entry is categorized into its group and there is a short note about each group at the beginning, followed by specifics about each rock and mineral. Coloured tabs at the top and bottom of each mineral entry denote the group to which it belongs, its chemical composition, its hardness, specific gravity and its cleavage and fracture properties.

The main text includes notes on its characteristics, formation, and chemical tests for identification. There are clear photographs, annotated with identification features, and drawings of the visual outline of its crystal system. The igneous rock entries have coloured tabs of its classification group, its origin, grain size, crystal shape, chemical classification, occurrence and colour; the metamorphic rock tabs also include pressure, temperature and structure, while those of the  sedimentary group includes fossils. The main text in the rock entries discusses their chemical composition and content, as well as texture and origin.

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I would really like to have a copy of this book, now that we are living on the South Coast:

A Geological Guide to Canberra Region and Namadgi National Park by Geological Society of Australia (ACT Division) 2009.* See: http://www.botanicalbookshop.com.au/product/a-geological-guide-to-canberra-region-and-namadgi-national-park/gs9780646487342.aspx.

Colour in Nature by Penelope A Farrant 1999

A  fascinating book about the world of colour and its manifestation in nature. It combines information from across the board of scientific study: astronomy, geology, zoology, botany and physics.

It starts with a chapter on the nature of colour: its production; perception; visible light; spectroscopy; refraction, reflection, diffraction, interference and absorption; and iridescence and polarisation.

Further chapters explore :

Colour in the universe;

Atmospheric colour : including noctilucent clouds; coloured coronas, double rainbows and auroras;

Colours of the earth’s surface : oceans; rivers; glacial lakes; reflections; precious gems and opals; and different types of rocks and soils;

Colourful habitats :  tropical and subtropical rainforests; deciduous and coniferous forests; polar and mountainous areas; grasslands and deserts; oceans and lakes; and the darkness of caves and the deepest depths;

Leaves : photosynthesis and chlorophyll; other pigments; variegated leaves; Autumn colour of deciduous trees; new Spring growth; and low light habitats;

Flowers and Fruits : evolution of flower colour; inflorescences; variable and changing colour; pigments; environment and colour; pollinator preferences; fruit colours to attract birds; ripening fruits and seed colour;

Seeing in colour: light receptors; simple and compound eyes; adapting to light and dark; seeing underwater; animal eyes; human colour vision and colour blindness;

Animal pigments : skin colour and melanins; colour abnormalities and albinism; and all the different animal pigments with examples in the animal world;

Structural colour in animals : interference; iridescence; background colour; transparency; coloured lights; light regulation; luminescent lures; bioluminescence; nacreous pearls; and blue eyes.

Changing and variable colours : chromatophores; colour change with mood, day and night and camouflage; cuttlefish and chameleons; environmental factors and  visual stimuli; seasonal colour change; sexual colours; changes with age; colour and natural selection;

Survival strategies : camouflage and communication: false colours; warning colours; toxic insects; mimesis and mimicry; and  colour mimics in plants; and finally,

Colour, nature and humans: colour wheels; primary, secondary and tertiary colours; colour harmony and clash; colour in the garden; foliage colour; photography; and natural pigments and dyes.

The world of colour, particularly in nature, is such an enormous and endlessly fascinating field. This book offers a wonderful insight into everything to do with colour and, even though it can be quite complex with so much to know, the text and beautiful photographs help expand that knowledge and understanding of some of the basic concepts, like the colour changes with age and the seasons.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd25%Image (539)

The Australian Weather Book by Keith Colls and Richard Whitaker 2001

A very important book, given the enormous contemporary challenges of the changing climate! Climate change is upon us, whether we like it or not, and we are only just seeing the tip of the ramifications to come, and yet so many people still stick their heads in the sand and try to deny it, despite the wealth of scientific evidence:  the melting ice caps and sea level rises; the extinction of plant and animal species, changes in migration patterns and the dying of the coral reefs; the higher temperatures; and the increasing frequency of extreme weather events like floods, droughts and fire. I find the denial really hard to understand, given that these people have children and grandchildren, who will not be able to be insulated from the effects of the climate and will have to deal with the problems our generation has created. If one excludes sheer greed or fatalism, the only other excuse is ignorance about the weather and the fact that so many people have been separated from nature and live in controlled urban environments for most of their day. Hence, the importance of this book!!!

It starts with the history of meteorology, followed by notes, accompanied by weather maps, on our diverse Australian climate: its rainfall; temperature; snow and frost; thunderstorms and hail; hours of sunshine and cloud cover; evaporation; drought and flood; tropical cyclones and wind (cyclones and floods being particularly topical and pertinent, given recent weather events!); humidity; and climatic discomfort.

The third chapter discusses the general circulation of the atmosphere: its chemical composition; vertical structure; and global wind circulation, while the following chapters focus on macro-scale circulations (air masses and the forces acting upon them in the atmosphere; weather fronts and low pressure systems; and what those isobars on the nightly TV weather maps mean!); meso-scale circulations (sea breezes, the southerly buster, topographic and downslope winds, eddies and cloudlines) and clouds (their formation and type).

Meteorological instruments (barometers, thermometers, rain gauges, anemometers and weather stations) are discussed, as well as the effects of weather on society and finally, climate change, including its history and theories, greenhouse gases and ozone depletion in the upper atmosphere.

Further reading and websites and a glossary are provided in the back. A very factual and informative book from the Australian  Bureau of Meteorology.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (530)

The Cloudspotter’s Guide by Gavin Pretor-Pinney 2006

For those of you, who wanted more than just one chapter on clouds, here is a whole book, written by the founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society in 2004! I love his manifesto, especially his description of clouds as nature’s poetry and an expression of the atmosphere’s mood, as well as his inclusion of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s beautiful poem ‘The Cloud’, which starts :

‘ I am the daughter of Earth and Water and the nursling of the Sky…’!

After photos of the different cloud genera and a cloud classification table, he proceeds to discuss the low clouds: cumulus and cumulonimbus, stratus and stratocumulus; then the middle clouds: altocumulus, altostratus, and nimbostratus; and the high clouds: cirrus, cirrocumulus and cirrostratus.

Each chapter has a guide to spotting that particular cloud type, including a description, its altitude, place of formation, precipitation, species and varieties and confusing look-alikes, as well as lots of interesting information about cloud-associated history, literature, mythology and artwork and their formation and effects. There are also accessory clouds, sidekicks to the 10 main cloud types: pileus, pannus and vellum, as well as supplementary features like tuba, the first sign of a waterspout (which we were lucky enough to see one day at Blue Pool, just south of Bermagui (see photo below), incus, mamma, arcus, virga and precipitatio; and the stratospheric and mesospheric  nacreous and noctilucent clouds.BlogEnvtlBooks2015-01-28 12.32.54There is even a chapter on contrails, formed by high altitude aircraft and their contribution to global warming;  the glider pilot’s cloud surfing nirvana, the Morning Glory of the Gulf Savannah region of North Queensland; and a cloudspotter’s quiz, in which you should be able to get full marks after reading this entertaining and informative book!

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It really makes you appreciate the beauty of our daytime skies with their ever-changing array of clouds!  For our wondrous star-studded nighttime skies, I have three books:

The Night Sky by Steve Massey 2003/ 2007

A very practical guide to observing the sun, moon and planets.

It starts with a concise history of astronomy, followed by a guide to understanding how and where stars and planets are placed and can be found in the sky.

Part Two examines observing the solar system and everything concerning the sun and the moon, including solar and lunar eclipses, solar flares, sunspots, earthshine, the moon phases and the craters and geography of the moon.

Planets are discussed in order of their respective orbits or distance from the sun, starting with mercury and ending with the furthermost planet, Pluto. Each planetary chapter starts with a table, detailing salient details like its visual diameter, axial tilt, magnitude, number of known moons, distance from the earth and the sun, orbital period and primary atmospheric composition. It’s a mind-boggling field, even more confusing than geology and geological time periods! Information is included on observing each planet, their structure, surface markings and rings or moons and their transits.

There are also chapters on asteroids, comets, meteors and meteor showers, as well as an in-depth section on using the tools of the trade: telescopes, refractors, reflectors, catadioptric designs, focusers, finderscopes, collimation, telescope mounts and axis drives, drive motors, eye pieces, lenses and filters and even binoculars; as well as recording your findings with sketches, conventional film photography, CCD imaging, digital cameras and video recorders.

Throughout the book are beautiful photos, as well as clear explanatory diagrams. A very useful book for the home astronomer.

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The Book of Constellations by Robin Kerrod 2002

The night sky has been a constant wonder to peoples from all cultures and time periods and has inspired a large number of myths and legends, which are explored in this book, as well as a wealth of factual information about each heavenly body and information about locating it in the night sky.

I love all the names of the constellations and all the history and mythology behind them. Apparently, there are 88 constellations (finalised worldwide in 1930), 48 of which were recognized by Ptolemy and the Ancient Greeks in 200 AD. While the Greeks were responsible for the names of the constellations, the Arabs named many of the bright stars like Betelgeuse in Orion and Aldebaran in Taurus.

The book explores the concept of the celestial sphere with maps of the northern and southern constellations; the constellations of the zodiac (12); and the major constellations (33) and planets.

Each double page spread includes the mythology behind each constellation; its astronomical features; its location in the night sky; and a constellation map showing the main stars, linked together by a fanciful image of the name of the constellation group.

It is a fascinating book and introduced me to many new constellations, of which I had never heard, as well as informing me about the more familiar ones!  I was amazed to learn that the Ancient Babylonians and Greeks were far enough south to see the Southern Cross, our most famous Australian constellation, and that the little cluster of coloured stars, which can be seen with the naked eye and through binoculars, at the base of left-hand cross, close to Beta, is called the Jewel Box. BlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (550)

Incidentally, the Australian aborigines had their own mythological stories about the night sky and often saw patterns in the negative space between the stars like The Emu in the Sky and the Seven Sisters that make up the star cluster known as the Pleiades, in the constellation Taurus. See: http://www.emudreaming.com/whatis.htm and https://japingkaaboriginalart.com/articles/star-dreaming-seven-sisters/.

There are also two books about aboriginal astronomy:

Emu Dreaming: An Introduction to Australian Aboriginal Astronomy  by Ray and Cilla Norris 2008. See: http://www.emudreaming.com/book.htm  and

Night Skies of Aboriginal Australia- A Noctuary by Dianne Norris 1998 / 2014. See: http://www.botanicalbookshop.com.au/product/night-skies-of-aboriginal-australia—a-noctuary/sy9781743323878.aspx.

The Box of Stars by Catherine Tennant 1993

A similar publication in content to Robin Kerrod’s book, but with a slight different approach, using a lovely little boxed set of 32 cards called  Urania’s Mirror, originally hand-painted by ‘a lady’ and published in London in 1825.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (528) Each card is pierced with holes, which mark the stars of the constellation and which glitter when held up to the light, acting as a learning guide to each constellation.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (532) - CopyThere is also a small booklet with night sky maps of the northern and southern hemispheres and seasonal descriptions of the stars, including lists of cards to use during that time.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (532) - Copy - Copy Each card is further discussed with information about each constellation, its location and the mythology behind it. It complements the previous book well.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (534) - CopyBlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (535) - CopyThe Australian Sky by WJ Newell 1965

I am including this tiny little Jacaranda Pocket Guide, despite its age and the fact that some of its information is no doubt out-of-date (!), because its explanations are so good and easy to understand. Each constellation is covered in great depth and while it also covers the mythology behind the stars, it seems to have more information about the actual stars, especially in relation to the Australian night sky!BlogEnvtlBooks50%Image (646)

I feel astronomy is such a vast and complicated subject, one can never have enough books or guides and each one has a slightly different slant. Finally, here are some excellent websites on this subject:

http://www.abc.net.au/science/starhunt/

http://www.scitech.org.au/the-sky-tonight

https://maas.museum/observations/category/monthly-sky-guides/

http://asv.org.au/

https://astronomy.org.au/general/sky-guides/.

And lastly, a good atlas is essential in any well-stocked home library! In fact, you probably need at least three or four atlases in a lifetime, as borders are constantly changing, as well as environmental challenges, and cities and populations are always growing!

We were given The Times Atlas of the World as a wedding present back in 1983 and it served us well, particularly for the two overseas trips we made over the following ten years, but since then the European landscape has totally changed. Yugoslavia no longer exists, having been replaced by Slovenia, Croatia, Boznia-Herzgovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo and Macedonia; Czechoslovakia is now two countries: the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic; while East Germany and West Germany are now the one Germany; and White Russia is now called Belarus.

So, in 2014, we decided we needed to update our library and update bought a new atlas:

Philip’s Atlas of the World: In Association with The Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers

While not as large as our original atlas, a distinct advantage, given the Times Atlas was an absolute whopper (!), this new atlas is incredibly comprehensive with a wealth of interesting information about our wonderful world!

The frontispiece features a Key to World Map Pages (including Keys to City Map Symbols and World Map Symbols; and World Maps Elevation and Depth Tints), while inside the back cover is a Key to European Map Pages and a World Country Index.

The atlas starts with a User Guide and Statistics for Countries (Area, in square kilometres or miles; Population; Capital City and Annual Income) and Cities (population figures), followed by large sections on :

The Future of the Oceans and Seas: Temperature; Salinity; Oceans and Carbon Dioxide; Oceanic Conveyor Belts; Ocean Currents; the Coriolis Effect; Oceans and Resources; Overfishing; Aquaculture; Oil; Dead Zones; Red Tides; Waste Material; Plastic; Ocean Acidification; and Rising Sea Levels.

Satellite Images of the Earth

Gazetteer of Nations (alphabetically organized):  Geography; Politics and Economy; and Key Statistics: area, population, capital city, ethnic groups as a percentage, languages, religions, currency; and a small map and flag.

World Geography:

The Universe: Life of a Star; Black Holes; Galactic Structures; the Home Galaxy; the End of the Universe; the Nearest Stars, with distances in light-years; Star Charts for both hemispheres; and a List of Constellations.

The Solar System: Planetary orbits; Planetary Data (Mean distance from the sun; mass; period of orbit; period of rotation; equatorial diameter; average density; surface gravity ;and number of known satellites); and descriptions of each planet.

Seasons, Time and Motion: The Seasons; Day and Night; Earth Data: distance from the sun; angle of tilt; length of year; superficial area; land and water surfaces; equatorial and polar circumference,s diameters and radii; and volume and mass; Sunrise and Sunset; the Moon and Moon data : Distance from the Earth; Size and mass; Visibility; and Temperature; Phases of the Moon; Eclipses; Tides; and a map of Time Zones and the International Date Line.

Geology of the Earth:

Model of the Earth; Continental Drift; Plate Tectonics; Distribution of Volcanoes; Geological Time Periods; a Map of Earthquake Zones; and a List of Major Earthquakes since 1900.

The Atmosphere:

Structure of the Atmosphere; Circulation of the Air; Frontal Systems; Chemical Composition; Air Masses; Classification of Clouds; Maps of Pressure and Surface Winds and Weather Records for barometric pressure (minimum and maximum); fastest wind speed; windiest place; and worst storm and tornado.

Climate: Climate and Weather Terms;  Maps of Climatic Regions, Temperatures and Precipitation; Temperature and Rainfall Figures; Beaufort Wind Scale;  Monsoons; and Climate Records (minimum and maximum temperatures and precipitation; longest heatwave; driest and wettest places; and heaviest hailstones and snowfall).

Climate Change and Global Warming: Maps of World Carbon Dioxide Emissions per capita; and Annual Average Surface Air Temperatures and Annual Average Precipitation; Models of Regional Climate Change and Projected Changes in Global Warming; and Diagrams of Recent and Future Sea-Level Changes and Arctic Sea Ice.

Water and Vegetation: The Hydrological Cycle; Water Distribution; Annual Sediment Yield; Longest Rivers; and Maps, showing Water Scarcity and Natural Vegetation throughout the world.

Biodiversity and the Natural World: World Maps of Threatened Animal Species and Environmental Hotspots; a Map of Australia’s Introduced Species (rabbits, foxes and cane toads) and the Value of Nature (provisioning, supporting, regulating and cultural services).

Population: World Maps of Population Density and Population Change; Diagrams and Graphs of World and Nation Income; Population by Continent; Japan’s Ageing Population; and World Population Change over Time; and Data Sets of the Largest Nations; Most Crowded Nations; Least Crowded Nations; and Fastest Growing and Declining Populations.

Food Supply: Water; Fertilizers; Demand for Meat; Pests, Diseases and Weeds; Genetic Modification; World Crop Production and Global Land Usage; Land Management; and Future Potential.

Cities: World Maps of Urban Population and Urbanization of the Earth over time; Graphs of World Urbanization, Urban Advantages (mortality/ literacy) and City Growth; the Largest Cities; Slum Cities; Sustainable Cities; and a List of Cities with over 10 Million inhabitants. Apparently, in 2008, for the first time in history, the majority of the world’s population lived in cities.

The Human Family: World Maps of World Migration; Refugees; and Predominant Languages and Religions.

Conflict and Cooperation: World Maps of the Global Peace Index and International Organizations; and Bar Graphs showing Refugee Numbers and Military Spending.

Energy:  World Maps of Energy Balance (the difference between energy production and consumption), Energy Production, and Oil Movements; Bar Graphs of World Energy Consumption and Energy Reserves (oil, gas and coal); Data Sets of Nuclear Power, Hydroelectricity and Wind Power; Peak Oil; Fracking; and Alternative Energy Sources (solar, wind, tidal, geothermal and biomass).

Minerals: World Map of Mineral Distribution; and Figures and Bar Charts for Specific Minerals (diamonds, blood diamonds; uranium; iron ore; rare earth elements and scrap metals).

Employment and Industry: World Maps of Employment, Industry and Trade, Unemployment, and Tourism and Travel; an Employment Pie Chart; the Percentage of Men and Women in Employment in Selected Countries; and a List of the World’s Busiest Airports.

Trade: World Maps of World Trade, Dependence on Trade (exports as a percentage of GDP), Globalization, Trade in Primary Exports and the Balance of Trade; a Bar Chart showing Traded Products, Pie Charts for Major Exports; and the Globalization Index.

Health: Millienium Development Goals; World Maps of Food Consumption and Infant Mortality; Bar Charts focusing on AIDS; Causes of Death, Medical Provision, Access to Safe Water, Sanitation, and Malaria; and Data Lists on Maternal Mortality Rates and Expenditure on Health in Selected Countries.

Wealth: World Maps of Income Levels, Inflation, and Growth in GNI; Bar Charts showing Indicators for Different Income Levels (high, middle and low), and Extreme Poverty; a Pie Chart for Continental Shares of Population and Wealth; State Finance; and Tackling Poverty.

Standards of Living: World Maps of Indexes for  Human Development and Gender Inequality; and Bar Charts showing Education Levels (primary, secondary and tertiary) in Selected Countries; the Distribution of Spending; Fertility and Education; and Gender Equality.

The next major section contains street maps of all the major world cities in alphabetical order, and then finally, we reach the main World Map Section: world maps of the physical and political world, including thicknesses and depths of the continental plates and oceans; followed by maps of each continent and individual countries.

It finishes with a geographical glossary and an index to all the World Maps with latitudes and longitudes, abbreviations and notes on pronunciation. An excellent publication!BlogEnvtlBooks20%Image (645)

Next week, I am discussing rose pruning, a timely topic since we have just finished pruning all our roses, ready for their new growth in Spring! We will then resume our book posts with the final parts of Our Beautiful Earth: Natural History Books, with two posts on the environmental challenges our special planet faces and measures we can take as individuals to help the situation, before finishing the cold season with a post on our Winter Garden.

Our Beautiful Earth: Part Three: Natural History Books: Animals and Marine Life

Following on from my last post about books on birds and butterflies are publications about other fascinating wildlife in our environment from reptiles to our unique Australian mammals and finally, the wonderful and endlessly fascinating marine life on our coast.

Reptiles

With all their beautiful diversity and colour, it is very difficult to comprehend that birds originated from dinosaurs, but reptiles are much less of a stretch of the imagination! We have a large number of poisonous snakes in Australia, as well as lots of lizards, so a good reptile guide is an important part of any natural history library!

A Complete Guide to Reptiles of Australia by Steve Wilson and Gerry Swan  2003

Our most recent acquisition and a second-hand copy of a book, which we have wanted for a long time, this field guide is a very comprehensive look at the 836 named species of : crocodiles; sea and freshwater turtles; geckoes, lizards and skinks; dragons and monitors (goannas); and a wide variety of sea and land snakes, which live on continental Australia, Norfolk Island and Lord Howe Island.

The book begins with notes on using the guide; a glossary; anatomical illustrations; and brief notes on their environment, followed by detailed chapters on each reptile family with general notes, genus notes and species entries. Each of the latter is described on the left-hand page, including the common and scientific name; a distribution map; a description of its physical appearance and length specifications; notes about its behaviour, diet and habitat; and its conservation status. Particular diagnostic features are highlighted in bold type. The right-hand page is devoted to excellent photographs of each species in its natural habitat.

I never knew there were so many different kinds of snakes in Australia, and while I am quite happy to steer a wide berth, they can be very beautiful and they do play an important role in Australia’s ecology.

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Mammals

Mammals are a totally different story! The cuddly koala, quaint wombats and cute little pygmy possums and gliders are iconic Australian animals, much beloved by the general public, though often difficult to see in the wild due to their nocturnal habits. The next two books are excellent identification guides to our unique Australian animals.

The Australian Museum Complete Book of Australian Mammals Edited by Ronald Strahan 1983

This large tome is the coffee table guide, which you consult at home! Here in Australia, we have some fascinating and very old mammalian fauna from the egg-laying monotremes, the platypus and echidna, and the amazing pouched marsupials (carnivorous; omnivorous; and herbivorous), both of which are descendants of the days when Australia was still part of Gondwanaland, to the more modern placental mammals (including bats and fruit bats; mice and rats; marine mammals; and introduced mammals).

Each subclass is described in great depth, with single or double page spreads devoted to each species and superb photographs of each animal in its natural environment, except for the extinct Thylacine and Julia Creek Dunnart.

Each species entry has an italicized sidebar with details on size and weight; identification; synonyms and common names; conservation status (though this information would now be greatly out-of-date, many more species now being in a much direr state with the impacts of habitat destruction, feral animals and now climate change!); subspecies; extralimital distribution; and references.

The main text discusses their physical appearance; history; distribution and preferred habitat; diet; behaviour; reproduction and offspring; and threats to their survival.

They are all such unique and interesting creatures and it is vitally important that we do everything in our power to preserve the rapidly dwindling diversity of marsupial species, which we are currently lucky enough to have here in Australia.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd25%Image (514)

Key Guide to Australian Mammals by Leonard Cronin 1991/ 1997

A much more compact field guide, ideal for the bushwalker and naturalist! In the front is a basic visual key, which refers readers to the pertinent pages. Animals have been categorized into subheadings: monotremes; carnivorous marsupials; bandicoots; wombats; koalas and possums; kangaroos; bats; rodents; sea mammals; and dingoes.

Each double page spread has text on the left, covering two species, with a distribution map for each and colour illustrations on the right, with the scientific name of each species.

The text includes information on the common and scientific names; physical appearance, size and weight; behaviour; development; food; habitat and conservation status.

Ross has used this book a lot, judging by all the notes he has scribbled on his sightings throughout the book!

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It is also worth looking out for books on specific Australian animals, which are part of the Australian Natural History Series, originally published by New South Wales University Press and now produced by the CSIRO. See: http://www.publish.csiro.au/books/series/48. They cover a wide variety of Australian animals from birds (kookaburras; magpies; cockatoos; bowerbirds; herons; albatross; scrub turkeys; bustards; tawny frogmouths and wedge-tailed eagles) and sea mammals (whales, sea lions and fur seals) to dingoes; kangaroos; tree kangaroos; potoroos and betongs; native mice and rats; echidnas; platypus and wombats.

We love our local wombats, such bumbling, amiable trundle-buses, so vulnerable to fast-moving night traffic, and were thrilled to watch platypus, feeding  in broad daylight, at a local stream recently, so both the following books are valuable additions to our natural history library.

The Wombat: Common Wombats in Australia by Barbara Briggs 1988/ 1990

This small publication contains everything you want to know about wombats from their evolution and early history; their classification; physical characteristics; burrows; behaviour and daily life in the burrow and above ground; its life cycle from birth to old age; the risk factors wombats face from disease to environmental (predation; flood; drought; fire) and man-induced hazards (poisoning; land clearing; and road deaths); and finally, raising orphaned wombats.

I love the pencil sketches by Ross Goldingay of these endearing creatures, as well as the many black-and-white and colour photographs. In the back are appendices of growth and development tables and the dos and don’ts of hand rearing orphaned wombats, as well as an excellent bibliography.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (668) - Copy

I was fascinated to learn the following facts about wombats:

Wombats evolved 100 Million years ago, the oldest fossils being 24 Million years old;andthe largest wombat ever was Phascolonus gigas, weighing up to 100 Kg (at least twice the size of modern wombats!)

There are currently three species: the Northern Hairy-Nosed Wombat Lasiorhinus krefftii, which is critically endangered and is confined to a small colony in Epping Forest National Park, Central Queensland; the Southern Hairy-Nosed Wombat Lasiorhinus latifrons, now confined to the Nullabor Plain and a few semi-arid areas of South Australia; and the Common Wombat Vombatus ursinus, the subject of this book and found in South-Eastern Australia and Tasmania.

It is the only marsupial to have two incisor teeth in its upper jaw and their teeth are continuously growing throughout its life, which is reassuring, given their diet of tough grasses, sedges and even bark and dry leaves.

Burrows can be up to 30 metres long and are used by a number of wombats on a time-share basis. They can live up to 10 to 15 years old in the wild and 20 to 25 years old in captivity.

Wombats enjoy dust baths, known as wombat wallows, and slide down steep river banks and snow slopes. They are also efficient swimmers over short distances, dogpaddling silently with their short legs under the water with no splashing at all! I would love to see a wombat gliding silently through the water, however platypus viewing is much more likely! On a recent visit to Bombala and Delegate, we watched 4 platypuses in two different streams, such a thrill given they are more commonly seen at dawn and dusk!

The Platypus: A Unique Mammal by Tom Grant 1989.

Another excellent publication, which covers their physical characteristics; taxonomy;  and distribution and status in the first chapter, after which the book is divided into seasonal chapters:

Winter : Diet and Body temperature regulation;

Spring : Floods; Reproduction; and Social organization and the crural system

Summer : Milk; Burrows and their use; Adaptations to burrowing and diving; growth; location of position and of food; and the environmental impact of dams.

Autumn : Population studies; disease and mortality; age; juvenile dispersal and movements.

In the back is a species profile and bibliography and again, the book is full of excellent photographs, and diagrams and pencil sketches by Dominic Fanning.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (667) - Copy

Mammal Tracks and Signs: A Field Guide For South-eastern Australia by Barbara Triggs 1984

Because many Australian animals are nocturnal, we often don’t see them in the wild unless we are out and about, spotlighting at nighttime, but we often see signs of them in their scats, tracks and evidence of foraging activities, as well as unfortunately the all-too- often and disastrously plentiful road kill!

There are four keys provided : a key to tracks at the beginning of the book; a key to scats; a key to skulls; and finally, a key to shelters. Each key refers to the pertinent pages for each species.

There is an introductory chapter concerning where to look; the structure of feet; gaits; scats and their analysis and the identification of animals from their bones.

The rest of the book is divided into the different mammal types, including their tracks, scats (including diagnostic features), shelters, bones and skulls and species. There are distribution maps, including preferred habitat; black-and-white photos; excellent illustrations of tracks, scats and skulls; and useful tables specifying the lengths of the hind foot, toe print, and stride when hopping and punting, essential for separating out large kangaroos from large wallabies, small wallabies and rat-kangaroos!

It is a very detailed and complex field and this book is invaluable! At the end is a list of useful books and journals for further reading.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd40%Image (525)

Whales, Dolphins and Seals by Hadoram Shirihai and Brett Jarrett 2006

A must, given that we now live so close to the coast and an excellent lead-in to my next category! We always get so excited when we see a whale spouting or breaching close in to our local coastline or a pod of dolphins surfing the waves or encounter a seal unexpectedly on a wild deserted beach.

Every year, Humpbacks and Southern Right Whales migrate north from the Antarctic Ocean, up the eastern coastline of Australia, to the warmer subtropical waters of Queensland from June to August (Winter), then return home with their calves from September to November. Their annual migration covers a journey of 10 000 km. See: http://www.environment.gov.au/resource/humpback-whales-eastern-australia and https://www.wildaboutwhales.com.au/whale-facts/about-whales/whale-migration. The latter site even has a Whale App, which records the latest sightings. See: http://www.wildaboutwhales.com.au/app.

In our area on the Far South Coast of New South Wales, Green Cape is a particularly good spot to see them, as it juts so far out into the sea and the path of the whales, that it is possible to get a really good look at them up close. They are such beautiful, huge, gentle and highly intelligent mammals, so it is great to have a field guide, not only for our Australian species, but all the different types of whales around the world!

Each entry has a feature box covering basic information to aid identification, like scientific name; range; maximum size and physical appearance and typical behaviour on surfacing, as well as notes on variations (age/ sex/ individuals); similar species; distribution and population; and ecology (behaviour, breaching, diving, diet, reproduction, immatures and life span), all accompanied by superb photographs and maps.

The dolphin and seal sections have a similar format. I never knew there were so many different types of dolphins, including estuarine and river dolphins (Amazon River, South America; Ganges River, India; Yangtse River, China and the Irrawaddy Dolphins of South-East Asia). This book also explains the differences between dolphins and porpoises, which are closely related, but have different teeth, patterns and pigmentations, range and behaviours.

I also learnt that not all seals are the same! Fur seals (our type of seal) and sea lions are eared seals (external ear flaps), while true seals only have a small ear canal with no earflap. Their anatomy and agility on land is also very different, but you will have to read the book to learn more!

There is so much information in this book about the 129 species of marine mammals worldwide! It even covers the old mermaids of delirious sex-starved sailors : the dugongs, sea-cows and manatees of tropical waters , as well as arctic animals like walrus, otters and polar bears. It finishes with a list of prime marine mammal sites for viewing all these animals in their natural environments and a conservation checklist for all the different species.

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Now for more on marine life…!!!

Having lived in the country for most of our lives, we feel so lucky here in Candelo to have excellent access to the coast, especially one with such natural unspoilt beauty, protected by National Park status. Having grown up in Tasmania, it is so lovely to be able to still experience beaches in their natural state without a house or building in sight, an increasing rarity these days, with the increased population and urbanization of our coastline, especially on the mainland.

Marine Life

When I was a teenager, my parents developed our interest in natural history by encouraging collecting as a hobby. I collected Tasmanian shells, which I swapped with fellow conchologists in New Zealand and Queensland, while my sisters collected gemstones and butterflies and my brother, rocks. I had a set of special narrow drawers, lined with cotton wool, as well as a glass display cabinet, to store my shells, which I labelled with their scientific names and sorted into family and genus groups.

We spent many fascinating hours, head down and walking slowly along beaches, searching for the best example of a particular shell, as well as marvelling at the rich rock pool environment. Along the way, I learned so much about their natural history, as well as that of their fellow marine life: the seaweeds , algae, coral and plankton; sea tulips and cunjevoi;  the sea slugs and sea hares; the sponges, sea anemones, starfish and chitons and all the tough survivors of the littoral zone, not to mention the fish, larger sea mammals and sea birds. I love the fact that the sea can still astound and surprise us with new discoveries constantly being made! These books were indispensable to my education.

What Shell is That by Neville Coleman 1975

A good all-rounder for an appreciation of shells as living animals, it covers 750 common species of Mollusca, which are divided up into the different types of environment, in which they are found, including mud and mangroves; rocky reefs; coral reefs; sand and rubble; continental shelf and ocean pelagics.

It contains photographs, both of the shells and the living animals in their natural environment, which makes for easy identification. Each species entry contains its family name; common name and scientific name, as well as a brief description of its physical appearance, distribution and abundance. As you can see, it was a very well-used book!

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Australian Shells by BR Wilson and K Gillett 1971

This subtitle of lovely book is ‘Illustrating and Describing 600 Species of Marine Gastropods From Australian Waters’ and it certainly delivers!

Gastropods are just one of six classes of the phylum Mollusca, but it is the largest with over 90 000 living marine, freshwater and terrestrial snail and slug species. The other classes are : Monoplacophora (only 2 to 3 very deep water limpet-like molluscs); Amphineura (chitons; several hundred species); Bivalvia (bivalves; 15 000 species); and Cephalopoda (octopus, squid and nautilus; several hundred species).

Gastropoda is divided into three subclasses: Prosobranchiata; Opisthobranchiata and PulmonataProsobranchiata includes most of the marine and a large number of the land snails. They have gills in the mantle cavity and most are able to seal the aperture with an operculum. Opisthobranchiata includes marine snails and slugs like bubble shells, sea hares and nudibranchs, where the shell is commonly reduced or absent and all are hermaphroditic.  Pulmonata includes all the hermaphroditic land snails and slugs, which lack an operculum and gills and breathe by means of a lung, which is a modified mantle cavity. All the molluscs in this book are marine prosobranchs.

There is a large section on gastropod anatomy; feeding; and reproduction and development, followed by an examination of its shell – the composition; shape; colours and patterns; and growth and age.

The book then describes the different geographical distribution zones: Northern Australian; Southern Australian; Eastern and Western Overlap zones and their affinities with certain gastropod species ; discusses shell collecting practices and gives a list of relevant books and journals.

The majority of the book is devoted to the different gastropod families, with the left page covering general notes, then entries about specific species, including a description; date discovered; size; abundance and distribution; and the right page featuring photographs of each species. Throughout the book are also photographs of the living creatures with the most amazingly patterned feet, especially the volutes (the Amoria genus in particular)! The underwater world is endlessly fascinating!BlogEnvtlBooksReszd25%Image (575)Australian Seashores by W. J. Dakin 1976

The original Australian seashore bible!

Part One covers the physical elements: the sea, the tides and ocean waves; the sculpture of the coastline; the pasture of the sea, plankton; and  luminescence, camouflage and living colour!  and

Part Two looks at the seashore life : the zones of animal and plant life; seaweeds and sponges; jellyfish, anemones, blue-bottles and corals; worms and worm-like creatures; sea-mats and sea-mosses; crustaceans (lobsters, crabs, prawns, sea slaters and sandhoppers);  and barnacles; molluscs, including sea hares, nudibranches and sea slugs; echinoderms (starfish, sea urchins and sea cucumbers); sea squirts (cunjevoi and ascidians) and finally, flotsam and jetsam.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (516)

WJ Dakin’s Classic Study: Australian Seashores by Isobel Bennett 1987

This revision of Dakin’s book has many more photos and maps, which support the text admirably. For example, the chapter on The Sculpture of a Coastline, with its original diagrams illustrating coastline features, zones and rock platforms, comes alive with the new addition of photographs of concrete examples from different coastlines around Australia. The different zones of the seashore and all the different plants and animals are even easier to understand with all the supporting photographs.

The other big advantage of this book, especially when it comes to identification of the latest new discovery, is its use of colour photographs, compared to the black-and-white photos of the old book. So, this is definitely the version to get!BlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (519)Spirals in Time: The Secret Life and Curious Afterlife of Seashells by Helen Scales 2015

A very readable paperback, which brings the seashore to life with all its wondrous diversity, randomness and infinite possibilities.  The author’s enthusiasm and passion for her subject shines through – she must have had so much fun doing all the research for this book!

She explores a wide variety of shell-related topics from their prehistory and anatomy; shell architecture and building; human use of shells (currency; funerals; jewellery; symbolism; and seafood); the oyster industry; hermit crabs; spinning sea-silk (of which I had never heard , but found fascinating!); ammonites and argonauts; shell mania; the coral triangle; nautilus fisheries; shell collecting; the venomous cone shells; and the sea butterfly effect!

I hope I have whetted your curiosity for further reading of this interesting little book!

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Next week, I am featuring some excellent general reference guides to life on earth, covering the geology and soils, the weather and climate and lastly, the amazing night sky!

Our Beautiful Earth: Part Two: Natural History Books : Birds and Butterflies

One of the wonderful benefits of a garden, apart from beautiful flowers and fresh home-grown food, are all its other inhabitants – the interesting insects and spiders, the beautiful butterflies and the amazing bird life! We are always finding something new, both in our garden and our explorations of this beautiful area, which is so rich in natural history! Because the insect world is so vast, we have yet to find a good general guide on Australian insects and possibly never will! I suspect that it is probably easier to research and identify them from internet sites like :

http://anic.ento.csiro.au/insectfamilies/ ;

https://www.csiro.au/en/Research/Collections/ANIC/ID-Resources

http://www.ozanimals.com/australian-insect-index.html    and

https://australianmuseum.net.au/insects .

However, butterflies are a particular love of mine and there are a number of excellent publications!

I have always adored butterflies. They are such fragile ephemeral creatures, yet remarkably tough to survive at all and have such beautiful patterns, both as adults and caterpillars, and interesting life cycles, their emergence from their pupas being quite miraculous! While we have a number of butterflies in our garden here in Candelo, like the majestic Orchard Butterfly, we particularly loved their colourful cousins in Tropical North Queensland, like the iridescent-aqua Ulysses Butterfly, the pursuit of whose image resulted in my daughter falling through old rotten verandah boards and damaging her leg! In 2008, we were lucky enough to visit Iron Range National Park, a biological hotspot, not just for birds, but also butterflies, where we watched butterfly expert and James Cook University lecturer, Peter Valentine, in a crane, netting species in the tops of tall trees, while being kissed on our hands by salt-hungry butterflies – a very special moment! So, we could definitely identify with the author of this book:

An Obsession With Butterflies by Sharman Apt Russell 2003

This paperback is a fascinating read about equally fascinating creatures!BlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (554) - Copy

I learnt so much about them, including some of the following facts:

Butterflies belong to the Order Lepidoptera, which contains 18 000 known species of butterflies and 147 000 species of moths. This was back in 2003. There are more species identified now – see later!  Apparently, their appearance can morph within a gender; within different populations and habitats, and even within the same place at different times of the year, which makes identification a very difficult task indeed!!!

They have wonderful names like owls; birdwings; apollos; hamadryads; satyrs; jezebels; tortoiseshells; milkweeds; snouts; fritillaries; painted ladies, admirals, buckeyes, checkerspots ; crescents; moonbeams; brimstones; sulphurs; hairstreaks; swordtail flashes; metalmarks; coppers; cornelians; ceruleans; azures; oak blues;  imperial blues; emperors and even, white albatrosses.

In the Middle Ages, people believed buterfloeges were fairies in disguise, who stole butter, cream and milk.

Lord Rothschild (1868 – 1937) had a butterfly collection of 2.25 Million butterflies and moths, which he bequeathed to the British Museum, London, making it the largest collection in the world at that time.

2000 species of butterflies exhibit myrmecophily (a love of ants), where ants will maintain and protect larvae from parasitic wasp attack, in exchange for honeydew secreted by glands on the caterpillars eg. Bright Coppers and other blue butterfly species.

On emerging from its chrysalis, the Tiger Swallowtail engages in puddling or salt-drinking at muddy puddles with their bar buddies, who then practice hilltopping behaviour, where they congregate at the top of the hill to lie in wait for unsuspecting (or usually, not so unsuspecting) females to mate! While waiting, they engage in spiral territorial fights trying to establish dominance, all the while keeping a lookout for females! Not that different to humans really!

Monarch butterflies in Canada and Northern USA overwinter in Mexico. They can fly in clouds at altitudes as high as 3000 feet and as far as 50 miles a day. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9rZz3fILt4 and https://www.mexperience.com/travel/outdoors/monarch-butterflies-mexico/.

We also have migratory butterflies in Australia. See: http://www.qm.qld.gov.au/Find+out+about/Animals+of+Queensland/Insects/Butterflies+and+moths/Common+species/Migratory+Butterflies#.WMh7e2fj_IU and https://australianmuseum.net.au/caper-white-butterfly.

I remember sitting on our east-facing verandah at Dorrigo and watching hordes of Caper Whites, flying west up the escarpment, then up over our roof and ever onward. And they weren’t just hill-topping- there were too many of them!!! If this book has whetted your appetite to know more about butterflies, it is worth obtaining a comprehensive guide.

We actually possess three : Butterflies of Australia by IFB Common and DF Waterhouse 1972/ 1981; The Complete Field Guide to Butterflies of Australia by Michael F Braby 2004; and The Butterflies of Australia by Albert Orr and Roger Kitching 2010 . The first one is Ross’s old classic; the second, a more recent field guide, a perfect weight and size to carry with you on your butterfly walks; and the third and most recent, written by one of Ross’s ecology lecturers, when he studied environmental science at Griffith University, back in 1976 to 1978. This latter book is the one we tend to use most, so is the one I will discuss!

The Butterflies of Australia by Albert Orr and Roger Kitching 2010

This is an excellent book – very comprehensive, with clear readable text and lots of wonderful illustrations of butterflies in the field, reacting with their natural environment, rather than as dead museum specimens (the usual presentation in previous guides). If you can only own one butterfly guide, this is it!

As of 2010, in Australia, there are over 20 000 species of butterflies and moths, arranged in 82 families. The majority are moths, but the 400 species of butterflies are grouped in five families.

In Part One, the book discusses their anatomy; life cycle, reproduction, habitats, relationships with  plants and other animals and human impacts and butterfly gardening.

The larger Part Two is devoted to an in-depth discussion of each family, including identification notes about all the different species, including scientific name, size and habits, as well as a distribution map and illustrations of each species at each life cycle stage: egg, larvae (caterpillar); chrysalis (pupa); and adult male or female.

In the back is a list of butterfly books; journals; websites and societies; and two appendices : a checklist of Australian butterflies; and a list of larval host plants of Australian butterflies.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd25%Image (518)

Birds

Another major interest is ornithology and we are so lucky here in Candelo with our beautiful bird population. Living high on the hill in amongst the old pepperina and loquat trees, we have an excellent vantage point for watching these amazing creatures, especially from our verandah. Not only do we have parrots and cockatoos in abundance, but also a number of smaller birds, like fairy wrens, finches and eastern spinebills, despite the high local population of cats!

Our immediate environment on the Far South Coast of New South Wales is very rich in birdlife as well, which I will write more about later in reference to local bird guides, but for now, a look at more general guides!

Every birdwatcher has their favourite bird book, which they believe is superior to all others! While my parents swore by Peter Slater and other ornithologists liked Graham Pizzey (both books, which we have owned in the past!), these days, we tend to refer to Simpson and Day as our first choice, followed by Michael Morecombe’s book for more detailed information and the Reader’s Digest Guide for top photographs.

Field Guide to the Birds of Australia by Simpson and Day   1984 – 1996     5th EditionBlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (505)

This is an excellent field guide with a waterproof cover, ideal for using outside! The introduction has a key to all the families and their page numbers, as well as a diagram of a bird’s body and information on bird identification using this book.

Most of the book is devoted to field notes about each bird species: its common and scientific names; abundance; movement (sedentary, annual or partial migratory and nomadic) ; description of males, females and juveniles; size; voice; and habitat, as well as excellent colour illustrations of each bird (male/ female/ immature/ races) and maps showing distribution (breeding/ non-breeding and vagrant, as well as boundary lines between races). Special identifiable features are also highlighted with black-and-white sketches of their hatchlings; head profiles; markings; tail patterns; eyes, bills and claws; or activity (display and courtship; flight; perching; calling; diving; stalking) for quick easy reference.

The Handbook in the last quarter of the book has detailed notes on the life cycle of birds; hints for bridwatchers; bird habitats in Australia; prehistoric birds; modern avifaunal regions; DNA – DNA hybridization;  and more information on the different bird families in Australia, including the breeding season for each species and further reading. There is also a rare bird bulletin; a checklist for Australian island territories; and a glossary of bird terminology.

Field Guide to Australian Birds by Michael Morcombe 2000BlogEnvtlBooksReszd25%Image (506)

While this book has very similar information, there are two major differences, which are very useful. Firstly, on the inside of the back cover (as well as in the introduction), there are colour tags for each family group with page numbers for quick reference, to which I constantly refer. And secondly, there is a large section in the back with 1000 colour illustrations of nests and eggs, showing the huge diversity in building techniques and aiding identification (photo below).

Accompanying the text are detailed notes on breeding season and location; courtship; nest material, shape and size; clutch and egg  size; incubation ;  fledging and leaving the nest. In the back is a section on migrant waders with a map of distribution;  a list of extinct birds and new discoveries; and references to bird books, magazines and prominent bird groups and schemes.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd20%Image (507)Reader’s Digest Complete Book of Australian Birds 1976

The big advantage of this book is its wonderful photographs of birds in their natural environment, including amazing shots of birds feeding, wading, sitting on nests or feeding nestlings, but its large size means that it is certainly NOT a field guide! We have used this book so much that we are now on our second copy!

Part One starts with a map of altitudes; average annual rainfall and rainfall variability; and vegetation zones in Australia, then explores each bird habitat from rainforest, forest and woodland to scrubland, shrub steppe,  grassland, heathland, mangroves and wetlands.

In Part Two, each bird has either a full page or double page spread with wonderful photographs, general notes (often with interesting historical notes)and an italicized section specifying other names, the length and description of males, females and juveniles; voice; nesting and distribution, including a distribution map. Towards the end of this section are lists of rare visitors, escaped captives and unsuccessful introductions, as well as notes on the different orders and families of Australian birds.

Part Three is concerned with the life of birds: the behaviour which distinguishes species (locomotion; flight; finding food; adaptations to feeding; care of feathers; aggression displays;  and courtship rituals); migrants and nomads; regulation of bird numbers; prehistoric birds of Australia; and the origins of Australian birds. It is such an interesting book with a wealth of information about Australian birds.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd25%Image (515)

The next two books are devoted to birds of the world and show the huge diversity and beauty of these incredible creatures.

Encyclopaedia of Birds edited by Joseph Forshaw 1998

While the primary focus is always on birds of your own country, it is great to learn more about their worldly cousins, especially if travelling overseas. The introduction looks at bird anatomy and classification; the evolution of birds from feathered dinosaurs 150 Million years ago; bird habitats and adaptations to their environment; bird behaviour and endangered species.

The remainder and majority of the book is devoted to the different orders and suborders of birds eg albatrosses and petrels; divers and grebes; herons and their allies; waterfowl and screamers; and waders and shorebirds.

Each section has key facts in an orange box: the name of the order; number of families; genera and species; the smallest and largest types and conservation status (though this information is probably outdated now!), as well as a world distribution map and detailed notes about each type of bird and lovely illustrations and photographs. For example, in Herons and their Allies,  there are notes on identification by bill shape and historical notes on the Sacred Ibis of Ancient Egyptians, as well as specific notes on herons, night herons, bitterns, storks, new world vultures, ibises, spoonbills and flamingos. Kingfishers and their Allies covers kingfishers, todies, motmots, bee-eaters, rollers, ground-rollers, courols, hoopoes, and hornbills.

It is a fascinating book with lots of birds, of which I have never even heard and is a great addition to our natural history library.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd25%Image (552)

Birds of the World by Colin Harrison and Alan Greensmith 1993

Slightly different in approach to the previous book, this  pocket sized guide describes over 800 bird species of the world, with half and full page spreads devoted to each bird. Each entry has a colour-coded band on the top, specifying the family and species name and length with detailed descriptive notes, including their nests and distribution; terrific photographs annotated with key identification pointers; scale silhouettes to compare bird height with the size of this book; pictures of alternate plumage, a worldwide distribution map and a band at the bottom of the entry specifying plumage, habitat and migratory status.

There are also notes on the relationship between birds and humans over history; types of feathers; bird anatomy; bill shape; variation within species; nesting boxes and bird feeders and water containers; birdwatching in the field; identifying birds in flight; and a useful identification key. An excellent taster to the wonderful world of birds!

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The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has an excellent website for bird information. See: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/Page.aspx?pid=1478 and https://www.allaboutbirds.org/. I discovered them, when researching Birds-of-Paradise. They have some wonderful video footage of the 39 species. See: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/search/?q=Birds%20of%20Paradise.

We would dearly love to see these beautiful birds in their natural environment in New Guinea one day!  In the meantime, we can satisfy our desire with the above videos and maybe one day, this bucket list book: Birds of New Guinea by Thane K. Pratt & Bruce M. Beehmer 2015 . See: http://www.botanicalbookshop.com.au/product/birds-of-new-guinea/fp9780691095639.aspx.

The following two books are useful guides to birdwatching locations, especially the second one, which focuses specifically on our local area.

Best 100 Birdwatching Sites in Australia by Sue Taylor 2013

Having lived in the country for most of our life and being keen visitors to National Parks, we have never really had to think about where to see birds, but this book would have been very useful during our 2008 trip around Australia, as well as being of great value to city birdwatchers in planning their ornithological excursions.

We feel we have seen a fair bit of Australia and key birdwatching venues, so it was an interesting exercise to tick off the places which we had visited in the book, finding to our surprise that we’d only been to 46 out of the 100 places listed! Happily, there is obviously much more to see!!! We are looking forward to a desert trip one day to see more of our beautiful parrot species.

While Sue admits the choice of places was subjective, I agreed totally with many of her selections. How can we ever forget the vast flotillas of Black Swans at Tower Hill, Victoria; the huge diversity of waterfowl at Fogg Dam, near Darwin, and Kakadu National Park in Northern Territory, as well as at Parry’s Lagoon in Western Australia; the enormous flocks of Plumed Whistling Ducks and Magpie Geese at Hasties Swamp on the Atherton Tableland in North Queensland, nor the Eclectus Parrots, Palm Cockatoos, Magnificent Riflebirds and Sunbirds at Chilli Beach in Iron Range National Park and the delicate Jacanas, Blue-winged Kookaburras, Brolgas and Magpie Geese at Lakefield National Park, both areas on Cape York, North Queensland. We finally saw a Cassowary in the wild on our last bushwalk at Mission Beach; called and cuddled Providence Petrels out of the sky at Lord Howe Island; and visited Broome Bird Observatory in Western Australia. It was great seeing the inclusion of our old stamping ground at Lamington National Park and two local areas of our new home : Mogareeka Inlet and Green Cape.

There are beautiful photographs throughout the book of birds in their natural environment. It is a lovely book to own!BlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (508)

Birding Australia: Australian Edition 2008 by Lloyd Nielsen

A very similar book, which covers a much larger area, but doesn’t have the lovely bird photos of the previous book. It is very much a directory with maps, a brief description of each area, its climate, access/ directions and its birding highlights, as well as lists of key species and endemics; good birding spots and best times; suggested itineraries; regional field guides, CDs and DVDs; local bird groups, accommodation, tours and websites, and a table of times for first light, sunrise, sunset and last light for the first day of each month.

A very comprehensive book, which is backed up by the Birding Australia website:  http://www.birdingaustralia.com.au/.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (574)

Birdwatching on the Far South Coast New South Wales by Far South Coast Birdwatchers Inc 2008

Essential reading for birdwatchers on the Far South Coast of New South Wales! We are so lucky in this area to have a wide variety of habitats with many wonderful waterways from mountain and forest; lakes and rivers; and National Parks to agricultural land and dams and many coastal lagoons and beaches. We also have three designated birdwatching routes, which never fail to please, especially the dam and floodplains at Kalaru, near Tathra, which always have a multitude of waterbirds.

This useful small book, compiled by the local birdwatching group,  is divided into three sections: Places to Go; Birds to See; and Other Information. In Places to Go, each area is described, including access, favourite birdwatching spots; and the birds likely to be seen, as well as providing a handy map and random hints like binocular adjustment and care; what to do if you find a bird on the ground and the Birdwatchers’ Code of Ethics. Like with the previous book, while we have already explored many of the areas mentioned, we still have plenty of local excursions in the future!

The second section, Birds to See,  lists 300 species of birds in the Bega Valley, including its scientific name; residency and abundance status; the best spots to see them and other general notes.

The last section suggests useful books and websites; gives the contact details of the Australian Bird and Bat Banding Scheme (ABBBS) and Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service (WIRES) and a few notes about dealing with ticks, mosquitoes, sandflies and leeches!BlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (509)

The next two books are very interesting reads about our Australian bird life.

The Lyrebird: A Natural History by Pauline Reilly 1988

My daughter based one of her science projects in Year 10 on Superb Lyrebirds, of which we had quite a large population on our rainforest block on the escarpment, adjoining Bellinger River National Park. We used this book extensively in her research for this project, as well as in the formulation of her experimental hypotheses.

She was particularly interested in their song, as male lyrebirds are superb mimics and will often go through an extensive repertoire of different bird calls to attract their mate. Armed with a tape recorder, Caro would tiptoe up on the birds, only to have them invariably go silent on her and glide off like Houdini into the bush, highly frustrating for her and by the end of it, I don’t think she wanted to see another lyrebird for a long while!

Nevertheless, she did get enough results to confirm Pauline Reilly’s assertion that the amount of time between between its own calls during the mimicry sequence is fixed and specific to each male, allowing their identification and ownership of territory.

However, her statement that lyrebirds do not mimic birds, which breed at the same time as themselves, was not supported by Caroline’s evidence, as she clearly recorded them mimicking Eastern Whipbirds in the subtropical rainforests of Dorrigo!

For anyone interested to know more about these fascinating birds, this book is a must! Chapters cover their origins and relationships; their distribution and annual cycle; descriptions of their physical appearance and  the roles of both males and females; immature lyrebirds; song and mimicry;  and random and interesting extra information. I have always loved Pauline’s story about the 1930s flute player, who used to play two popular songs of the time ,‘Mosquito Dance’ and ‘The Keel Row’,  near his pet lyrebird, who incorporated the tunes into his song, then passed them on to his descendants, who melded them together in their territorial calls, still heard in 1969.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd25%Image (510)

Where Song Began by Tim Low 2014

Australia has so many fascinating and unusual birds from the lyrebirds with their amazing mimicry to the Satin Bowerbirds, which build courting platforms, decorated with entirely with blue tobacco flowers, cornflowers, pegs, milk bottle tops etc); the scrub turkeys and mallee fowl, which build enormous incubation mounds; the male emus and cassowaries, who raise the young; the Laughing Kookaburra, which eats snakes, the territorial magpie, nominated by Canadian biologist, the aptly named David Bird, as ‘the most serious avian menace in the world‘, yet with such a beautiful melodious song; and its incredibly beautiful colourful and raucous parrots!

This is a fascinating book, primarily  about the origin of birds and their evolution. There is so much interesting information about birds and their behaviour, particularly our Australian species, and while I really don’t want to add any spoilers, some of the topics include the beginning of song and the origin of parrots (both in Australia);  the birds of New Guinea; gigantism in birds; rainforest pigeons and their role in forest evolution, the endangered Gouldian Finch; seabirds; and the relationship between people and birds.

It’s a very readable book, backed up by both the fossil record and contemporary research and genetic studies. I was fascinated to learn that flamingoes used to live in Australia 20 Million years ago, having always doubted the inclusion of flamingos in Swiss Family Robinson, a childrens’ book about a family, shipwrecked on a tropical island near New Guinea. Apparently, there were 3 species of flamingos at Lake Eyre, up until 1 Million years ago. And that I’m afraid, is as much as you get…!  Enjoy the book!

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Next, I will be discussing books about more fascinating animal life.

ABCs of Travel Tag

Well, this was a bit of unexpected fun in the middle of our Australian Winter! The ABCs of Travel Tag poses twenty-six alphabetical travel-related questions from A to Z ! Answering this quiz brought back so many happy memories, so thank you, my beautiful daughter, Jenny, for your nomination. I’m afraid that my answers can’t quite live up to your amazing experiences, but I will do my best!!!

Jenny writes a terrific blog about her adventures in Australia and overseas at : https://traveladventurediscover.com. She has totally surpassed us in our travels and has been to so many wonderful places and had so many amazing adventures! She caught the travel bug well and truly from us on her first overseas trip at the age of seven years old – little did we realize what we were setting in motion!

A: Age when you went on your first international trip :

Unlike Jen, my first international trip was much later! I was 24 years old and had only been married one year! It was a wonderful bonding experience in the early years of our marriage and we have travelled together ever since! We share so many special memories, including that first foray in 1984 to England, France, Switzerland and Italy; a 10 week trip en famille to the United Kingdom and France, 10 years later; another family holiday to both islands of New Zealand, the flight made on the frequent flyer points accrued from the 1994 trip; a celebratory milestone on Lord Howe Island for my 40th birthday; and an extended trip camping around Australia in 2008.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7183

B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where :

Unfortunately, I have never been a keen beer drinker! I just don’t like the taste! So, because I grew up on the foothills of Mt. Wellington, Hobart, Tasmania, I would have to give my beer vote to the Cascade Brewery, which was just down the road! And I know it might not strictly be foreign, but some people might think it is!BlogABCTravelBooksReszd2013-06-22 11.39.08

C: Cuisine (favourite) :

I enjoy most foods and Australia’s multicultural background means we are spoilt for choice when it comes to eating! However, I think my favourite cuisine would have to be French – I just love those creamy dishes!

D: Destinations – favourite, least favourite, and why :

And yes, France is also my favourite destination! While we enjoyed our week in Paris on my first trip, I adore country France with its rustic architecture, bright red poppy fields, beautiful alpine scenery, superb food and wine and wonderfully generous people! The French love children and were so impressed that we had brought the whole family from so far away on our trip in 1994. They opened their doors and their hearts to us and we had some amazing experiences, from exploring the Standing Stones of Carnac and the prehistoric cave paintings of the Dordogne to staying in a chateau for my 35th birthday (Château de Régnier, La Trimouille, near Limoges – see photo below and a previous birthday post: https://candeloblooms.com/2016/05/31/landmark-birthdays-part-1/), hiking in the Pyrenees, viewing flamingos in the Camargue, and visiting old craft villages and Monet’s beautiful garden at Giverny.BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (89)We have enjoyed all our travels, but my least favourite destination was probably King Ash Bay, near Borroloola, Northern Territory, on the Gulf of Carpentaria! We stumbled upon this outback fishing village by chance, but for such a remote location, it was a bit too suburban and populated for us, with all the vans camped cheek by jowl like sardines and even street names like Sunset Boulevard!  It may have been good if you were a fisherman with your own boat and could get away to your own space, but as tent campers, who value their independence and love quiet spots and natural history, we were definitely out of place!

E: Experience abroad that made you say “Wow” ! :

It would have to be hiking in the Pyrenees! While Jenny remembers the start of the Pyreneean Haute Route vividly (see: https://traveladventurediscover.com/2017/07/11/abcs-of-travel-tag/), it was the middle section of the walk the next day that gave me the Wow factor!

There were so many different aspects to this walk – a stream with bumblebees and wildflowers; deciduous and conifer forests;  higher meadows of wild rhododendrons and magnificent views; wild hyacinths and orchids on the gravelly upper slopes and 3 glacial lakes at the end, the Lacs d’Ayous, where the snow still lay thickly on the ground. I will be writing about this experience in a post on travel books in October.BlogTravelBooksReszd50%Image (648) - Copy The Wow factor came, the higher we ascended the walk, with the slow reveal of the back of the Pic Midi d’Ossau, which increasingly resembled the map of our own home country! And the other Wow was the fact that our 4.5 year old daughter Caroline managed the entire 11 km walk on her own without having to be carried once!BlogTravelBooksReszd50%Image (646) - CopyF: Favourite mode of transportation :

In my younger days, I would have said a bicycle, having cycled to university every day during my studies and doing a long distance bike trip from Beenleigh to Kyogle, following the incredibly steep Lions Road, a holiday which had far-reaching consequences, as it was when I started my relationship with my future husband! We also enjoyed cycling round Lord Howe – the perfect way to experience such a beautiful island!BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (112) These days, it’s my own two feet! We love bushwalking and exploring our beautiful National Parks! Here I am climbing Cooks’ Look at Lizard Island.BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_7126

G: Greatest feeling while travelling :

The total freedom and lack of time restraints, as well as making the utmost of every single day and discovering the new, whether it be places, people, things or even aspects about yourself! Travel is so invigorating and inspiring, even though I know it can be tiring and exhausting too, especially if travelling with young children, but you soon forget all that!!

BlogABCTravelBooksReszd25%IMG_1755H: Hottest place you’ve travelled to :

It would have to be Cooktown (photo above) in North Queensland. Even though it was Winter, I was still having 6 stone-cold showers a day to cool off and lost so much weight, sweating off the pounds on our ascents of every hill or mountain we encountered, like Mt. Cook, North Queensland (photo below)!BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_6612

I: Incredible photo you’ve taken and where :

Lizard Island has so many wonderful photo opportunities and is an incredibly beautiful island! This photo is Blue Lagoon, taken from Cooks’ Lookout, the highest point of the island.

BlogABCTravelBooksReszd25%IMG_7271J: Journey that took the longest :

In 2008, we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to spend 6 months travelling around our vast continent! It was a celebratory trip for our 25th wedding anniversary, as well as the fact that Ross had just turned 60 and I was 50 the next year. During our honeymoon in 1983, we camped on the beach on our own at Cape Tribulation just before the Bloomfield Road was built. It is much busier these days with many international tourists, but one of them very obligingly took this photograph of us at the same spot 25 years later!

BlogLandmarkbirthdaysPt2 25%ReszdIMG_1722 Originally, the plan was to visit Iron Range National Park, a mecca for ornithologists and butterfly lovers like ourselves, but our youngest daughter (photo below), who had just finished her schooling, decided to join us, so we went right up to the tip of Cape York.

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Once there, at the 3 month mark, we decided to continue our trip for another 3 months and circumnavigate Australia, while we were still footloose and fancy-free! You can read about our Cape York adventures on: https://candeloblooms.com/2016/06/07/landmark-birthdays-part-2/.

The outlay was minimal, as we already owned all our camping gear and an old Toyota 4WD, which we set up with my plastic patchwork material drawers to hold all our equipment.BlogABCTravelBooksReszd25%IMG_3250We had some amazing experiences from searching for (and finding) the endangered Golden-Shouldered Parrots, as well as Eclectus Parrots and Tree Kangaroos in Cape York and Gouldian Finches at Mornington, an Australian Wildlife Conservancy property on the Gibb River Road, to viewing ancient aboriginal rock art in Laura, Cape York, Kakadu National Park, Victoria River, Mitchell Falls and Wandjina Gorge and 30 000 years old engravings on the Burrup Peninsula, Western Australia.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe fed dolphins at Monkey Mia; had my first scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef (above) and snorkelled on Lizard Island and Ningaloo Reef; climbed every mountain in sight; visited friends and family at the Daintree River, Herberton and Perth; and photographed Spring wildflowers in WA; as well as having the odd luxury of spending a few civilised nights in lovely old cottages in Denmark and Hahndorf and crossing the Nullabor in the Indian Pacific. No wonder we looked so relaxed in this photo taken at Mission Beach, with Dunk Island in the background!BlogABCTravelBooksReszd25%IMG_9975K: Keepsake from your travels :

Well, the last photo was a giveaway, as well as the photo of Caroline at the tip of Cape York!!! Ross has always loved Winnie the Pooh and on that 2008 trip, we took Eoyore’s cousin, whom we christened Grey Nomad, and photographed him at various locations on the trip! Here, he is snorkelling at Ningaloo Reef!

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He rode a coconut on the Bloomfield Road and the heads of a Rainbow Serpent at Cooktown Botanical Garden and his giant megafaunal cousin, a Diprotodon, at Naracoorte Caves, South Australia! Totally demoralised by the latter experience, he felt slightly better, when he saw this photo of himself with a termite mound in North Queensland. We didn’t like to tell him that this was only a mini-mound, compared to most of them!

L: Let-down sight, why and where :

This was a hard question, as we have enjoyed all of our travels and perception is often governed by previous experiences, but the waterfalls behind Lorne, on the Great Ocean Road, were a slight disappointment for us, as we were used to much larger falls , though they are still very pretty.  Having spent many years in the Armidale/ Dorrigo region, we were used to the magnificent waterfalls of the aptly name Waterfall Way between the two towns, one example being the Wollomombi Falls, which is one of the highest waterfalls in Australia, but is just pipped by Wallaman Falls in North Queensland, seen in the photograph below.

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M: Moment that you fell in love with travel :

I think I have always loved exploring. My dad was from England and a bit of a gypsy at heart, while my mum was a Qantas air hostess in the early days (1950s), when travel was a luxury and the staff were put up at the best hotels while refuelling, so we grew up with the expectation that we would travel overseas when we had finished our studies. We also lived in a few different places during our childhood and had lots of family picnics and camping trips, a pattern which I have repeated during my adult life!BlogABCTravelBooksReszd30%DSCF7178

N: Nicest hotel :

My choice overseas would be the Hotel du Petit Palais (www.petitpalaisnice.com/en/) in Nice, which we discovered quite by chance (and good luck!), back in 1984. We’d been rejected from every accommodation venue we’d approached that evening, as we only had Swiss francs, and were wearily retracing our steps up the hill back to the train station, when we discovered this lovely little hotel at 10 pm. The beds were unmade, the cleaner had gone home, we would have to make our own beds (!) and it was way above our price range, but they took us in, despite the fact we couldn’t pay them until the morning and we were so happy to have finally found a room! The next morning was bliss, after a difficult few rainy days in Italy. The sun was shining, the birds were singing in the pink flowering cherry trees, there were civilised street lights and I could speak the language! We sat in the sun at a sidewalk cafe, enjoying a bottomless cup of perfect French coffee! Heaven!

In Australia, my  favourite hotel is the Hughenden (http://thehughenden.com.au/), in Woollahra, NSW,  an elegant literary establishment in the grand old style and a peaceful haven after the hurly burly of a hectic day in the Sydney CBD!

O: Obsession – what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while travelling?

Everything- but especially flowers and birds! The Spring wildflowers in Western Australia are superb, as every region has its own particular range of species. Lesueur National Park is a hotspot for biodiversity, but fortunately the road in is one way only, a safety element for keen photographers! Here is a photo of Sturt’s Desert Pea :BlogABCTravelBooksReszd25%IMG_1364In the photo below, I was so keen to photograph an ant plant, that I actually stepped on a small snake with my thongs! Needless to say, I got such a fright that I wore shoes from then on!

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P: Passport stamps – how many and where from?

Now, this is where my woeful lack of overseas travel, compared to Jen and her other nominees, becomes really obvious! I have passport stamps from Bangkok, Singapore, England, France, Switzerland, Italy, USA and New Zealand! Does Tasmania count?!!!

Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where :

The Tilted House at Puzzling World (http://www.puzzlingworld.co.nz/) at Wanaka, NZ , would have to be one of the quirkiest places we have visited.BlogABCTravelBooksReszd50%Image (649) - Copy The architect has had a lot of fun with levels and completely destroyed my already-compromised sense of balance and equilibrium, after spending the previous night on a sailing boat on Milford Sound! In the photo below, Ross is standing upright, but appears to be leaning forward, due to the clever manipulation of angles and perspective.

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R: Recommended sight, event or experience :

I would highly recommend a stay at the Bird Observatory on the Fair Isles. We sat with puffins on the cliff every evening, visited Fair Isle Knitters, walked everywhere, participated in birding activities like banding and netting, and even played a dubious game of island soccer, the locals versus the Bird Observatory. Our weekend visit felt like we had been there for weeks! Here is Jen, sitting on the cliffs with the puffins.Blog Whentheking20%Reszd2015-09-04 10.15.07Puffins are such cute birds and so trusting! It is amazing to be so close to them!Blog Whentheking20%Reszd2015-09-04 10.15.19

S: Splurge – something you have no problem forking out for while travelling

Aerial experiences are pretty special and well worth the money, especially if you have limited time! We shared a helicopter ride with another couple over aboriginal stone circles on the Mitchell Plateau, out to the coast and the Timor Sea, where we saw a mother and baby dugong, then back along King Edward River, lined with huge saltwater crocodiles basking in the sun, to the Lower and then Upper Mitchell Falls.BlogABCTravelBooksReszd25%IMG_9414Even though the cost was exorbitant and the journey quite scary at times, as there were no doors, I was sitting right at the edge of my seat (with 3 adults sharing the back seat!) and we flew so low, I had to constantly resist the temptation to jump out (!), it was an amazing experience and we are so pleased we did it!BlogABCTravelBooksReszd25%IMG_9428T: Touristy thing

However, back in 1984, while travelling on a student discount card, we refused to pay exhorbitant sums on punting at Cambridge, hiring a rowboat instead, which wasn’t quite the real thing, and we always slightly regretted it, so with this memory in the back of our minds, we lashed out on the jaunting car for the family at Muckross House and Gardens, at Killarney in Ireland.BlogABCTravelBooksReszd50%Image (648)U: Unforgettable travel memory :

We have had so many wonderful travel experiences, but for this reply, I have chosen our holiday at Lord Howe Island to celebrate my 40th birthday!BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (139) We climbed Mt Gower on the actual day and called Providence Petrels out of the sky to land with a thud at our feet, to be picked up and cuddled- unforgettable!BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (165)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (127)It certainly is a wonderful place, if like us, you love bushwalking and natural history. For more about our amazing experiences, see: https://candeloblooms.com/2016/05/31/landmark-birthdays-part-1/.

 V: Visas – how many and where for?

Oh dear, another exposé !!! I’m not sure about the first trip in 1984, as I no longer have that passport, but in 1994, I have two visas: a 3 month one for France and one for the USA. We were only stopping over in Los Angeles for 3.5 hours, but still had to preorganize a visa, just in case there was a problem with our connecting flight back to Australia and we had to stay overnight!

W: Wine – best glass of wine while travelling and where

As old bed-and-breakfast owners, we often found it difficult to get away and used to salivate, hearing guests talk about their wonderful holidays at places like the Hunter Valley, famed for its beautiful wines. So, for our anniversary weekend in 1998, we did just that and loved exploring the cellar doors and tasting the delicious boutique wines! My favourite wine from that trip would have to be the dessert wine, Briar Ridge’s Botrytis Semillon. See: http://briarridge.com.au/our-wines-and-shop/product-detail/?ProductID=128. It was divine!!!

X: Xcellent view :

This shot, taken at Aragunnu, one of our local beauty spots, (https://candeloblooms.com/2015/09/11/aragunnu-and-bunga-head/) would have to be one of my favourite views!Blog Summer dreamg20%Reszd2015-06-22 12.38.22Y: Years spent travelling:

Hard to say, as our travels have been fairly sporadic. Our longer trips were all taken at crossover points in our life between property sales and the old life and the new!  Both overseas trips were ten weeks from late March to mid-June, so in Spring and early Summer; we had two weeks in New Zealand and ten days on Lord Howe; and six months around Australia. So if you only take these major holidays, it doesn’t appear to be much!

However, we have also had lots of smaller two-week vacations like camping at Carnarvon Gorge or hiring a beach house at Hat Head or South-West Rocks, and have also lived in a number of different places, where we have made the most of each period to really explore each area: two years in Tasmania; fifteen years in the Armidale/ Dorrigo region in Northern NSW,  five years in Victoria and the last three years here on the South Coast of NSW, so if you include these periods, the total number of years spent travelling dramatically increases!

Z: Zealous sports fans and where?

While we don’t watch a lot of sport, we always enjoy watching the Hopman Cup, WA, every January on television and at the beginning of 2013, we attended The Australian Tennis Open with our daughters- a great day out!BlogABCTravelBooksReszd2513-01-15 11.24.16

I hope you have enjoyed my responses to this ABCs of Travel Tag. Here are my nominees:

Nominations

Postcard from Gibraltar :  https://postcardfromgibraltar.com

This talented watercolourist and fellow craftswoman writes a lovely blog about her life in Gibraltar, as well as her travels to other parts of sunny Spain and Britain.

The World According to Dina : https://toffeefee.wordpress.com/

A dual blog, written by Klausbernd Vollmar and Hanne Siebers, who love the colder climes of Norway, the Arctic and Scotland and mountains like the Bavarian Alps, as well as their home in Norfolk. Hanne is a fabulous photographer!

Old House in the Shires https://oldhouseintheshires.com

A fellow gardener, who also loves old houses, nature and the great outdoors, Sophie writes wonderful posts about gardens in France and England and family holidays in Germany and Italy. Through her blog,  I discovered my final nominee:

That Travel Lady in Her Shoes : https://thecadyluckleedy.com

CadyLuck writes wonderful posts about travel, history, books and gardens. She has travelled extensively in Europe, Turkey and Egypt and North America and Canada and has many travelling tips as well.

I look forward to reading all your responses!

 

 

 

Our Beautiful Earth: Part One: Natural History Books: Plants

Given that we are keen gardeners, it should be no surprise that another great interest is botany and the beautiful wildflowers of our incredible continent! In Australia alone, we have over 18 000 species of flowering plants, grouped in 200 families! We are forever identifying and photographing wildflowers whenever we are bushwalking and are always learning new things.

The botanical world is endless and knowledge is always expanding. The Pea Family is a classic case, so the best one can do is to have a broad understanding of the major families and know how to work the plant identification keys, but even then, there are always anomalies!  From my experience, it is useful to have a number of wildflower books, especially those pertinent to your specific locality, though having said that, there are often cross-overs between areas, so a wide variety of books is beneficial. Recent publications are also useful, as taxonomists often change scientific nomenclature, especially in the Eucalypt world! Here is a good general Australian wildflower book:

Field Guide to Australian Wildflowers by Denise Greig  1999

This book covers over 1000 Australian wildflower species, commonly encountered growing wild. They range in size from tiny annuals and terrestrial orchids to large perennials and shrubs. The book only includes a few trees, mainly colourful rainforest species or large-flowered mallees, and some common and conspicuous introduced plants, but ferns, fungi, sedges and grasses are not covered.

It is primarily a field guide rather than a definitive reference work, and early chapters are devoted to an explanation of terminology and nomenclature; how to use the guide; a small section on plant anatomy; a map of Australia showing the vegetation zones with accompanying descriptive text; and a guide to all the different Australian plant families, with a brief description and page reference numbers.

The remainder of the book is devoted to each family with species descriptions, flowering times and distribution on the left-hand page and colour photographs of each plant on the right-hand side. In the back is a useful glossary and bibliography. There are so may Australian wildflowers, but this general guide is a start!

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Because we lived in South-East Queensland and Northern New South Wales for many years, the next set of books were very useful.

Wildflowers of the North Coast of New South Wales by Barry Kemp  2004

Local flora guides are essential and this one is terrific! It covers the New South Wales coast from Newcastle, north to the Queensland border (500 km), and altitudes up to 800 metres elevation.

The plants are arranged into major habitat groups: Coastal Dunes, Headlands and Estuaries; Swamp Forest, Freshwater Wetlands and Riverbanks; Coastal Heath; Woodland Heath; Open Forest; Rainforest and Weeds, all sections with a description of each environment and its challenges and further division, based on size (Small Trees and Large Shrubs;  Small Shrubs and Herbs) and then family (in alphabetical order); genus and species. Beautiful photographs of both habitat and each species abound.

Many of the plants described are not restricted to this area, so the book is still relevant to Sydney and South-East Queensland.

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Australian Rain-Forest Trees WD Francis 1970

One of the original classics in rainforest tree identification, this third edition was produced almost 50 years ago, the first edition being published in 1929.

The introduction covers rainforest distribution in Australia; the character of Australian rainforests; the relationship of rainfall to rainforests; their atmospheric conditions and light; the soil and leaf litter; the effect of bushfires; tree size; buttresses and flanged stems; the bark, wood and leaves of Australian rainforest trees and the cultivation of these trees in Australia.

There is a brief description of the families of Australian rainforest trees, followed by identification keys and detailed descriptions of each family, including the derivation of its name, description, distribution, remarks and uses, as well as references, for both subtropical (Part One) and tropical rainforest trees (Part Two) !

I loved its black-and-white photographs of huge old rainforest trees with enormous girths, their height dwarfing the humans (often with axes in hand, the book having been produced by the Forest and Timber Bureau!) beside them, as well as close-up scaled photographs and diagrams of leaves, flowers and seed pods!

There is also a personal connection to this book, with photographs of my husband’s aunt and uncle in one of the photos, as well as a number of her moustached surveyor father, James Edgar Young, an early member of the Queensland Naturalists Club Inc, which was started in 1906 and still operates today.

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Ornamental Rainforest Plants in Australia by David L Jones 1986

Another excellent guide to Australian rainforest plants, with not an axe in sight!

One thousand species are discussed in detail, especially those with ornamental interest, with a focus on their cultivation and propagation in the home garden.

There is a wealth of information on rainforest types and distribution; cultivation requirements (soil; light; planting; mulching; watering; fertiliser; and pruning); leaf terminology (divisions, shape and margins); creating a rainforest (site conditions; species selection and layout; preparation and planting; mulching and nutrient recycling; watering and misting; and maintenance); and propagation by seed, cuttings, layering, division, grafting and budding.

The plants are discussed in family groups, with general notes on family features; horticultural attributes; cultivation; and propagation, then specific entries on genus (arranged alphabetically) and their species (common and scientific names; type of rainforest habitat; flowering period; description; distribution; notes and cultivation and propagation).

There are black-and-white scaled botanical sketches of foliage, fruit and flowers throughout, as well as coloured plates of photographs, making this book an invaluable identification guide as well.

In the back of the book is a variety of lists of rainforest plants for different situations and purposes, titled: Tropical, Subtropical, Temperate, Coastal and Inland Regions; Pioneer Plants and Fast Growing Species; Indoor Plants; Shade Trees; Curtailing Stream Bank Erosion; Attractive or Decorative Bark, Foliage, New Growth, Flowers and Fruit; Fragrant Flowers; Edible Fruit; and even Species Attractive to Nectar-Feeding or Fruit-Eating Birds.

This book certainly fulfils its promise of encouraging a love of rainforest plants and incorporating them in the garden.

BlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (522)Gardening With Australian Rainforest Plants by Ralph Bailey and Julie Lake 2001

A very similar book, also promoting rainforest gardens, with a slightly different approach. While starting with a description of the different types of Australian rainforests, it digresses to dispel certain misconceptions and myths and then has very detailed chapters on:

Planning : Site considerations; design; climate; and soil

Plant Selection : Watercolour garden designs; buffer zones; essential steps in the creation of the garden; and lists of plants for specific needs eg windbreaks; buffer zones; variegated foliage; fragrance; and the rainforest floor.

Planting : Soil preparation; pH; planting for the different levels of the rainforest (for example : canopy, understorey and floor); climbers; planting in established gardens; watering; protection from wind and frost; staking and mulching; and more lists of plants: shrubs and understoreys; climbers and scramblers; palms; trees and shrubs with spectacular flowers; trees for the home garden; and pioneer plants.

Final Details: Vantage points; furniture; lighting; and rainforest pools, creeks and waterfalls.

Care and Cultivation: Water; fertilising; pruning; weed control; insect attack; and common pests and diseases;     and

Feature Rainforest Plants and their incorporation into mixed and exotic gardens; poolside plantings; colder climates; and boggy areas and creek banks.

There are also chapters on : Small Gardens and Courtyards: Seaside Rainforest Gardens; Drier Inland Gardens; Container Growing; Wildlife in the Rainforest Garden, including bird and butterfly attractants and pond life; Rainforest Plants for Bush Tucker, including lists of edible and toxic plants; and finally, propagation by seed, cuttings and grafting.

The authors include their 100 favourite rainforest plants, with key symbols for light levels, temperature, water requirements and special features for quick reference. Primarily a gardening book, its photographs are still useful for supporting other identification guides.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd25%Image (573)

Rainforest Plants I-V by Nan and Hugh Nicholson 1985-2000

A wonderful series of five books by the owners of Terania Creek Nursery in Northern New South Wales, we used these small books extensively during our Dorrigo years, as our block was perched right on the escarpment, bordering Bellinger National Park and Dorrigo National Park and was surrounded by subtropical, warm temperate and cool temperate rainforest species.

The photographs are beautiful and make identification much easier, though at times I wished that they covered all aspects – flowers, fruit and leaves on the one page!

The accompanying text is also very informative with common, scientific and family names and notes about the name derivation; distribution; identification features; habitat; fruit, seeds and dispersion; germination and use in the garden.

Other features include:  a distribution map for the East coast of Australia (Volume 1); notes on growing a rainforest and weeds (both in Volume 2); rainforest types (Volume 3); disturbing rainforests (Volume 4); and rainforest seeds and their propagation (Volume 5), as well as a cumulative index for all 5 books.

There are certainly some beautiful rainforest plants and this series really engenders a great appreciation of them all.

Australian Rainforest Fruits: A Field Guide by Wendy Cooper 2013 *

I always used to hanker after this book, but alas, it was too expensive at the time, but had we stayed in Dorrigo on our rainforest block, we would no doubt have bought it at some stage. See: http://www.botanicalbookshop.com.au/product/australian-rainforest-fruits/cs9780643107847.aspx.

Mind you, if we had had the money, we would have loved the definitive reference guide to Australian plants :  the Flora of Australia series, co-published by CSIRO and Australian Biological Resources Study, since 1981 . See http://www.publish.csiro.au/books/series/6  and: http://www.environment.gov.au/science/abrs/publications/flora-of-australia  and http://www.environment.gov.au/science/abrs/publications/flora-of-australia/families.

The plan was for more than 60 volumes, covering almost 30,000 species, systematically arranged by family, including flowering plants, conifers, ferns, mosses, liverworts and lichens of Australia and its oceanic islands. It is now no longer available in printed form, but fortunately for us, it is now presented as an online Australasian eFlora platform. See: http://www.anbg.gov.au/abrs/online-resources/flora/ and http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/abrs/online-resources/flora/index.html and http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/abrs/online-resources/flora/main/index.html.

BlogEnvtlBooksReszd20%IMG_1077While on the subject of Australian flora (and fauna), it is well worth checking out an organization, called Bush Blitz, which is based at the Australian National Botanic Gardens in Canberra and conducts biological surveys all over Australia, discovering many new species in the process. Our friend, Brian Hawkins, with whom Ross worked back at the Rainforest Centre in Dorrigo, is a Senior Project Officer with them. See: http://bushblitz.org.au/expeditions/ and http://bushblitz.org.au/team-profiles/.

Guide to Wildflowers of Western Australia by Simon Nevill and Nathan McQuoid 2008 *

No botanical library would be complete, nor botanist satisfied, without a visit to Western Australia during the Springtime with a wildflower guide in hand! Each locality has its own unique set of wildflowers, a sample of which is included in special beds at Kings Park. See: https://candeloblooms.com/2015/11/05/favourite-late-19th-century-gardens-in-australia/. I wish we had had this guide with us during our visit in 2008! See: http://www.botanicalbookshop.com.au/product/guide-to-the-wildflowers-of-western-australia/s-n780975601914.aspx.

Field Guide Orchids of New South Wales and Victoria by Tony Bishop 1996

The number and diversity of orchids is so vast, that it is worth having a specialised book on these beautiful little plants. We had a number of different orchids on our Dorrigo trees and rocks, like the sweetly scented Orange Blossom Orchids, Sarcochilus falcatus, and the delicate Dagger Orchids, Dendrobium pugioniforme, and Box Orchids, Dendrobium aemulum.

In Victoria, we also really enjoyed hunting for terrestrial orchids at the Grampians, as well as Anglesea on the Great Ocean Road each year, when a specific area was fenced off during the Spring Wildflower Festival and marked with identification flags to aid the search. I remember dragging my daughter and her non-botanically inclined boyfriend along one year and watching the little old ladies taking them under their wing was priceless!

We also really loved seeing the wonderful Spring display of Rock Orchids, Dendrobium speciosum, on the cliffs of the Merrica River last year. See: https://candeloblooms.com/2016/11/22/the-kings-of-merrica-river/. They brought back many fond memories for Ross of the King Orchids on the cliffs of his childhood home in South-East Queensland. He adores their scent, which is very similar to that of the flowers of another rainforest vine, Ripogonum scandens.

This comprehensive guide covers the lot from descriptions of Horned Orchids, Donkey Orchids and Hare Orchids; Bird Orchids, Duck Orchids and Beak Orchids; Lizard Orchids; Mosquito, Midge and Gnat Orchids; Onion and Leek Orchids; Greenhoods, Ladies’ Tresses and Helmet Orchids; Elbow Orchids and Parsons’ Bands; Fairy Orchids and Sun Orchids; and Waxlips,Tongue and Beard Orchids, to name but a few!

Each genus and its species are described with general remarks about the genus and specific details on each species, including common and scientific names, flowering season, description, distribution and habitat; identification features and similar species, all supported by excellent colour photographs and identification keys, though it still doesn’t make the task any easier, as so many of them are alike!!!!

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The last two books are very pertinent to our local area now.

Native Plants of the Blue Mountains by Margaret Baker and Robin Corringham 1995

I always love visiting the Blue Mountains, especially in Spring, when all the wildflowers are in full bloom, not to mention all the wonderful gardens!

The sandstone plateau supports many vegetation communities: eucalypt woodland and open forest; tall open forest and closed forest; heath and cliff-faces; and swamps and stream communities. There are over 1500 species of flowering plants in the Blue Mountains National Park, including 20 endemic plants species and 72 rare or threatened plants.

After a brief description of the general area, the book is divided into each of these plant communities, with a general description and photo, followed by detailed entries (including a description; preferred habitat and family name) of all the plant species within those communities on the left page, with photos of each species on the right page. For more on the flora of the Blue Mountains. It is also worth consulting: http://www.waratahsoftware.com.au/wpr-flora-bluemountains.shtml.

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Kosciuszko Alpine Flora by Alex Costin, Max Gray, Colin Totterdell and Dane Wimbush 2000

Back on Australia Day 2005, the family enjoyed the wonderful 22 km Main Range Walk from Charlotte’s Pass up to Hedley Tarn, Blue Lake, Club Lake, Lake Albina and Mt. Kosciuszko, Australia’s highest peak, then back via the old road.

There were masses of wildflowers (Lake Albina particularly stole my heart!) and still patches of snow, despite being High Summer! We bought this book to help us identify all the photographed wildflowers, little realizing that years later, we would be residents of the Far South Coast of New South Wales, within a morning’s drive of this very special alpine area!

The photographs in this book are superb, many having been taken on beautiful clear sunny days, unlike our 2005 trip, which still included a fair proportion of mist and cloud! It is a very interesting and informative book, with chapters on alpine and subalpine areas; the evolution of the Kosciuszko Alpine Area; the human history of the area and its impact on the Kosciuszko flora; the plants and plant communities, including montane and subalpine communities; the alpine communities of feldmark; heaths; herb fields; grassland; bog and fen; introduced species; and distribution and succession in alpine communities. There are also excellent maps and profiles of the area.

The rest of the book is devoted to the 212 native species, subspecies and varieties of ferns and flowering plants in the Kosciuszko Alpine Area. There is an introductory table with species and common names, as well as growth form, habitat, distribution and page number, followed by beautiful photographs of each plant species in its habitat. I look forward to doing more alpine walks next Summer!

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Flowers of the South Coast and Ranges I-III by Don and Betty Wood 1998-1999 *

While we have yet to purchase this set of books, I have often browsed them and we will definitely be adding them to our library over time, as they are THE guides to our local flora on the Far South Coast of NSW. See: http://www.botanicalbookshop.com.au/product/flowers-of-the-south-coast-and-ranges-i/wb9780958577205.aspx.

http://www.botanicalbookshop.com.au/product/flowers-of-the-south-coast-and-ranges-ii/wb9780958577212.aspx.

http://www.botanicalbookshop.com.au/product/flowers-of-the-south-coast-and-rangers-iii/wb9780958577229.aspx.

Even though fungi are not plants, I will include them at the end of this post, as they inhabit a similar world!

A Field Guide to the Fungi of Australia by AM Young 2005

I love looking for fungi, especially on wet Autumn days, when not much else is in flower! They can look quite exotic and have such a wide diversity of form, colour and texture, as well as a fascinating life history!

I find them all endlessly fascinating from the puffballs and jelly fungi (ear shaped Auricularia; brain-like Tremella and the bright yellow pikes of Calocera) to the giant bracket fungi, delicate coral fungi, trumpet-shaped Cantharellus and stinkhorn fungi – the Aseroë and meshed Colus, the earth stars and cone-shaped, honeycombed Morchella. They vary from white and creams to browns, reds, yellows, greens and even blues and purples, as well as having amazing stripes, spots and patterns. Some are even luminescent, though I have yet to see one!

It’s difficult to choose, but I think my favourites are the white spotted bright red and extremely toxic Fly Agarics (Amanita muscaria), the fairy toadstools of childrens’ books; the quaint Earth Stars Geastrum triplex and the Red Starfish Fungus, Aseroë rubra, with yes!, its bright red starfish-like double arms, waving at the top of its body.BlogEnvtlBooksReszd20%IMG_0939This is a fascinating book about a fascinating subject, about which is still very little is known! This book is only concerned with macrofungi, the fungi whose finer structures can be seen without a microscope (as opposed to microfungi-like moulds) and at the time of publication, there were 20 000 to 25 000 species of macrofungi in Australia, of which 60 per cent are unknown, and yet they perform an essential role in the life cycle of all living matter, being the prime agents of decomposition and the recycling of nutrients and elements.

They also have important mycorrhizal relationships with the roots of other shrubs and trees like eucalypts, casuarinas and wattles, as well as being an important animal food resource.BlogAutumngardenReszd20%IMG_0948The introductory chapters explores the fungal organism and anatomy (we only see the fruiting bodies); fungal reproduction and spores, which also display a wide variety of shape and texture; the difference between toadstools and mushrooms; the divisions within macrofungi : Ascomycetes (yeasts; truffles and morels; ); Basidiomycetes (the majority of bushland fungi, including cultivated mushrooms); and Myxomycetes (slime moulds); and collecting, describing and preserving fungi.

It includes interesting fungal facts about fairy rings; luminescence, as in the Ghost Fungus of South-East Queensland rainforests, which are the favourite food of Giant Land Snails; mycorrhizal relationships; fungal-infected caterpillars; and their role in the diet of Australian marsupials and reptiles, as well as that of humans!BlogAutumngardenReszd2017-05-08 13.43.10 The book then has a black-and-white illustrated key  for all the different types of fungi, but because so many fungi have yet to be identified and the book only describes less than 200 species, the keys serve more to indicate groups of species or genera, then refers to the relevant sections of the book. Because the number of Agarics or Gilled Fungi is quite large, they have been divided on their location or food source: forest/ woodland (wood, leaf litter, soil); grassland; animal remains; and dung. There is also a toxicity key (most important for those adventurous souls out there!).BlogEnvtlBooksReszd20%IMG_0962 The main body of the book is then devoted to species descriptions – their common names; fruiting bodies; spores; habitats; distribution and notes, backed up by black-and-white illustrations and a central section of superb colour photographs. Did you know there was a fungi called a Curry Punk, that Stinkhorn Fungi emit the odour of rotting meat to attract flies for spore dispersal or that the fruiting body is 90 per cent water and is totally for spore production and dispersal. It is such an interesting book and an essential component of the natural history library!BlogEnvtlBooksReszd30%Image (524)

Note: You will notice that I have included an asterisk * next to some of the books mentioned. These are books, which are on our bucket list, which we would love to purchase over time,  which leads me to my final recommendation! If you are visiting the Botanic Gardens in Canberra, an excellent bookshop for natural history and gardening books is the Botanical Bookshop at Australian National Botanic Gardens, Clunies Ross St., Acton ACT 2601 Phone: 02 6257 3302. Opening times are : 9:30am to 4:30pm 7 days a week (Closed Christmas Day).  You can also order books online at  http://www.botanicalbookshop.com.au.

To see us through the Winter, over the next 5 weeks, I will be focusing on other natural history and environmental books in our library, after which I will have an update of the Winter Garden and resume the normal format of posts on different types of roses, special rose gardens to visit and more interesting books on history, art and architecture, poetry and travel !

Alister Clark Roses

Having discussed Australian rose breeder Alister Clark and the Alister Clark Memorial garden at Bulla in my two previous post this week, here are some specific notes about some of the roses he bred, for which I have photos, mainly taken at the Alister Clark Memorial Garden at Bulla. It is by no means an exhaustive list, as our visits to Bulla tended to be in early Spring or late Autumn. I have also included a few more prominent roses, which I have not photographed, with a link to other sites.

Lady Medallist 1912, named for one of his most successful race horses and his first rose.BlogAlisterClarkReszd2014-10-19 15.06.14Jessie Clark 1915 Clear Pink Single Climbing R. gigantea hybrid. Probably R. gigantea X Madame Martignier. Very large single clear pink roses borne abundantly on a vigorous climber in early Spring. It was the 1st R. gigantea seedling and the 3rd Glenara rose to be released, as well as his first great success as a rose breeder. Named after a favourite niece, who used to visit Glenara with her friends, Nora Cuningham and Gwen Nash, daughter of his great friend, Albert Nash, all of whom were also remembered in the names of his roses.BlogAlisterClarkReszd2014-10-19 14.57.07BlogAlisterClarkReszd2014-10-19 15.16.06Sunny South 1918 A Hybrid Tea, which was a popular tall hedging rose between the two world wars. A cross between Gustav Grunerwald and Betty Berkeley. Large, very recurrent, profusely-blooming, semi-single, fragrant pale pink, flushed carmine, blooms on a very tall bush. I do not have my own photo, but have included it because it was one of Alister’s favourite roses, so please see: http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/189015/.

Australia Felix 1919 Low growing Hybrid Tea;  A cross between Jersey Beauty and La France, the first Hybrid Tea rose; Small, semi-double, fragrant, silvery-pink blooms in clusters. Very recurrent. Australia Felix was also the name given by explorer, Thomas Mitchell, to the lush parts of Western Victoria. Another early success and an ideal rose for small gardens or the front of borders, as in the photo below, where it borders the decking on the left of the photo.BlogAlisterClarkReszd2014-10-19 15.16.33BlogAlisterClarkReszd20%IMG_4786Black Boy 1919 First Climbing Hybrid Tea; A cross between Bardou Job and Etoile de France; Another great success story; Large, semi-double, fragrant, dark red blooms. Again, I have no photo, but as this particular rose has never left the nursery catalogues for its entire life, you can see the rose here: https://www.diggers.com.au/shop/ornamentals-and-flowers/rose-blackboy/rblbo/.

Gwen Nash 1920 Climbing Hybrid Tea, named for a friend of his niece, Jessie Clark, and daughter of his great friend, Albert. Rosy Morn, another Alister Clark rose, is one of the parents. Large, semi-single, cupped, fragrant, soft-pink blooms with golden stamens. See: http://rosephotographer.blogspot.com.au/2015/03/gwen-nash.html. At Bulla, this rose is grown on the side pergola, near the front fence, on either side of her friend, Jessie Clark.

Golden Vision 1922 Gigantea hybrid  climbing rose with semi-double, fragrant blooms; Its parents are Noisette rose, Maréchal Niel, which gives it its soft creamy lemon-yellow colouring, and R. gigantea, which gives it its almost evergreen leaves. Only blooms once early in Spring.BlogAlisterClarkReszd20%IMG_7175BlogAlisterClarkReszd2014-10-19 15.07.15Scorcher 1922 named for a hot day or scorcher! Climbing Hybrid Tea, Madame Abel Chatenay is one of the parents, R. moyesii could be the other unnamed parent. Non-recurrent, large, semi-double, open, slightly fragrant, brilliant scarlet-crimson flowers on a vigorous climber. See: https://www.antiqueroseemporium.com/roses/1133/scorcher.

Squatter’s Dream 1923  A 2nd generation Gigantea bush rose (a seedling of an R. gigantea seedling), named after a racehorse. The bushy, thornless shrub is 2 metres tall, with soft apricot and saffron yellow, semi-single, open flowers.. It blooms for almost 12 months of the year and still had flowers on 1st June at Forest Hall in Tasmania. It is obviously the bee’s dream too, as can be seen in the bottom photo!!!BlogAlisterClarkReszd2014-10-19 15.13.26BlogAlisterClarkReszd20%IMG_7183Harbinger 1923  Very vigorous climber and R. gigantea hybrid with large, single, soft-pink flowers. Named for the coming of Spring.BlogAlisterClarkReszd2014-10-19 15.08.46Lorraine Lee 1924 Second- generation Gigantea hybrid bush rose, bred from a cross between Jessie Clark and Capitaine Millet, and named for a distant cousin of the Clarks after her visit. It blooms all year round with open, double, rosy-apricot flowers with a beautiful scent and evergreen foliage, inherited from R. gigantea. It is the most popular rose ever grown in Australia. Between 1924 and 1934, nurseryman EW Hackett sold 44 000 plants of Lorraine Lee. Often grown as a hedge. She is a very tough rose, which thrives on neglect! It has both bush and climbing forms. BlogAlisterClarkReszd2014-10-19 14.52.32BlogAlisterClarkReszd2014-10-19 14.54.06Climbing Lorraine Lee was a sport of Lorraine Lee in 1932.blogcottagegardenrosesreszd20img_9104Baxter Beauty 1924 Gigantea bush rose; Another sport of Lorraine Lee; Not strictly an Alister Clark rose, it was discovered by Russell Grimwade before 1927 at Baxter, Victoria. Varies from light yellow to sulphur and a light salmon pink on outside of petals. It flowers in Winter like Lorraine Lee.

BlogAlisterClarkReszd2014-10-19 15.22.06BlogAlisterClarkReszd2514-03-30 16.09.10Milkmaid 1925 A huge, recurrent-flowering rambler with dense, shiny green foliage and clusters of medium, open, semi-double, creamy-white flowers in Spring, the scent of milk and honey, hence the name. Very vigorous climber. Crépuscule is one of the parents.BlogAlisterClarkReszd2014-10-19 15.09.37

Tonner’s Fancy 1928 Gigantea climbing rose; Its parents were an R. gigantea seedling and an unnamed variety. Fragrant, large, globular, white tinged pink blooms, named after Ballarat gardener, George Tonner, who persuaded Alister to release it. Very short flowering period, but roses come so early in Spring, that they are often damaged by frost.BlogAlisterClarkReszd2014-10-19 15.09.03BlogAlisterClarkReszd2014-10-19 15.12.46Countess of Stradbroke 1928 Climbing Hybrid Tea; A cross between Walter Clark and an unnamed variety; Large, dark, glowing, crimson, double, highly scented blooms, which are very recurrent. Named after the the wife of the 3rd Earl of Stradbroke, who was the Governor of Victoria from 1920 to 1926. The Countess raced horses and stayed with the Clarks; One of Alister Clark’s greatest successes, especially in the United States, so here is a link: https://www.helpmefind.com/rose/l.php?l=2.17985.0.

Mrs Albert Nash 1929 Hybrid Tea Very dark red, very recurrent, fragrant blooms.BlogAlisterClarkReszd2514-03-30 16.02.12Peggy Bell 1929 Hybrid Tea named after a family friend for her 21st birthday. Mid-pink to salmon-pink and free flowering. Rose in the right-hand side of photograph below:BlogAlisterClarkReszd2014-10-19 15.06.10Amy Johnson 1931 Soft pink, tall shrub rose; Large, cupped, fragrant, pink blooms; One of the parents is Souvenir de Gustav Prat. Named to commemorate the landing of Amy Johnson (1903-1941), famous English pilot and first woman to fly solo from England to Australia in 1930. She landed at the Moonee Valley Racecourse, where she was presented with a bouquet of Alister Clark roses.BlogAlisterClarkReszd2014-10-19 14.50.43Margaret Turnbull 1931 Large-flowered, climbing Hybrid Tea rose of unknown breeding; Very recurrent, large, double, slightly fragrant, mid-pink flowers. Named for a friend of the Clarks for over 50 years. Margaret Turnbull was a daughter of a Scots storekeeper, who became a Victorian Member of Parliament. At Bulla, it is growing at the front of the main pergola, facing the Council offices. The paler pink rose in the middle of the pergola behind Margaret Turnbull is Doris Downes (see next entry).BlogAlisterClarkReszd2014-10-19 15.18.22BlogAlisterClarkReszd2514-10-19 15.52.34Doris Downes 1932 Climbing Hybrid Tea rose of unknown breeding; Named after a fellow rose breeder, who was a stylish Melbourne beauty and who married an Army surgeon. Very large, semi-double, cupped, fragrant, profuse but non-recurrent blooms.BlogAlisterClarkReszd2014-10-19 15.14.35BlogAlisterClarkReszd2014-10-19 14.57.41 Broadway 1933 was found at Mrs Oswin’s garden in Broadway, Camberwell, Victoria and is probably a Clark Hybrid Gigantea climber. Unknown breeding.BlogAlisterClarkReszd2014-10-19 15.16.46BlogAlisterClarkReszd2014-10-19 15.16.46BlogAlisterClarkReszd2014-10-19 15.12.11Marjorie Palmer 1936  Polyantha, with Jersey Beauty as one of the parents. Very recurrent, double, very fragrant, rich-pink flowers in clusters on a short bushy plant. A good friend of the Clarks, Marjorie and Claude Palmer, who lived at Dalvui, near Terang, played polo and restored and extended the original Guifoyle-designed garden.BlogAlisterClarkReszd2514-03-30 15.59.41Sheila Bellair 1937 Large, semi-double, open, salmon-pink flowers with golden stamens. Hybrid Tea shrub rose;  Miss Mocata is one of the parents. Sheila met Alister through her father, who served on the Moonee Valley Committee with his friend. Sheila was an excellent horsewoman, who was a member of the Oaklands Hunt Club with Alister and  became a breeder of thoroughbred horses.BlogAlisterClarkReszd2014-10-19 15.22.30Cicely Lascelles 1937 Climbing Hybrid Tea. A cross between Frau Oberhofgartner Singer and Scorcher, with abundant, warm-pink, semi-double, open blooms from Spring to Autumn and Autumn; Named after a friend of the Clarks, who was a champion golfer from a landed family. Note these photos below were taken at the Walter Duncan’s Heritage Garden, in Clare, South Australia.BlogAlisterClarkReszd20%IMG_9468BlogAlisterClarkReszd20%IMG_9669 Nancy Hayward 1937 Very vigorous Climbing Hybrid Tea, a cross of Jessie Clark and a 2nd generation Gigantea hybrid,  with huge, single, scentless, vibrant lipstick-pink flowers all year round. It was named for the daughter of a Sir William Irvine, a Federal Minister and later Chief Justice of Victoria, as well as Patron and Vice Patron of the Rose Society from 1928 to 1943. She was also Susan Irvine’s husband’s aunt, so was one of the first ports of call when Susan Irvine started researching Alister Clark roses, although Nancy couldn’t tell Susan much and never liked that particular rose!BlogAlisterClarkReszd2014-10-19 14.49.08BlogAlisterClarkReszd2514-10-19 16.05.04Sunlit 1937 Hybrid Tea bush rose of unknown breeding; Always in flower with small, double, soft apricot-pink blooms with a good scent on a compact bush. Very acclaimed in Australia at the time.BlogAlisterClarkReszd2514-03-30 16.09.26Lady Huntingfield 1937  Hybrid Tea; A cross between Busybody and Aspirant Marcel Rouyer.  Large, double, fragrant, rich golden-yellow flowers. Vigorous bushy plant and very recurrent. Named after Margaret Crosby, a New York judge’s daughter, who married Australian-born Baron Huntingfield, who became the Governor of Victoria from 1933 to 1939.

BlogAlisterClarkReszd20%IMG_4775Editor Stewart 1939 Cherry-red semi-double pillar rose, with wavy petals and red young foliage, named for his good friend, TA Stewart, who was editor of the Australian Rose Annual for 30 years.

BlogAlisterClarkReszd2014-10-19 15.01.09Mrs Fred Danks 1951 Lilac-pink Hybrid Tea, released after Alister’s death. A highly scented shrub rose, named after a keen gardener, Dorothy (Fred’s wife!), who was a family friend of the Clarks. Unknown parentage. Very large, abundant, semi-double, fragrant, pink-violet flowers on a tall upright bush. She compliments Nancy Hayward (in the corner of the building in the background of the 1st photo) and both contrast well against the dark grey bluestone wall of the old council offices.BlogAlisterClarkReszd2014-10-19 15.22.57BlogAlisterClarkReszd2014-10-19 15.23.09Many of the photos in this post were taken at The Alister Clark Memorial Rose Garden at Bulla, the subject of my next post tomorrow. It is a very special place to visit, a firm favourite of mine and not to be missed in the Springtime, when Broadway (on the left) and Tonner’s Fancy (on the right) are in full bloom! BlogAlisterClarkReszd2014-10-19 15.21.13Now that we are in the midst of our Australian Winter, it is an excellent time to sit beside a cosy fire to read and plan future forays! Over the next few weeks, I will be posting book reviews of some of our favourite natural history books in our library. As this is a major passion of ours, we have lots of books on this subject area, so I have divided them up into four specific areas: Plants; Birds and Butterflies; Animals and Marine Life; and General Reference Guides (including books on geology, astronomy and weather). I hope you enjoy them!