the humble bumble

One of the things we noticed on our earlier visits to Tasmania was the presence of the bumblebee, something we had only seen in Britain. I was distracted from my gardening recently by the frenzied activity around the Grevillea.

1.Grevillea

I sat with my camera, trying to capture these gorgeous little creatures at work. Bombus terrestris have round, furry bodies with a yellow band across the thorax and abdomen and a buff coloured tail end.

2.bumble bee3.bumble bee

They were first found in Tasmania in 1992, presumably introduced from New Zealand. Like their honey bee relatives, the bumbles feed on nectar. They lap up the liquid with their long, hairy tongues, sometimes making a hole in the base of the flower to access the nectar.

4.bumble bee5.bumble bee

Our cooler climate doesn’t bother these bees, they can absorb heat from even weak sunshine and are well insulated under their thick coats.

6.bumble bee

Bumblebees are very social insects and, apparently, very smart. There have been many studies on the behaviour of bumbles, I like the idea that they can play football

https://www.nature.com/news/bees-learn-football-from-their-buddies-1.21540

7.bumble bee

Unfortunately, in Australia the bumblebees are considered feral, with some concern that, being such efficient pollinators, they will increase the spread of environmental weeds. However, their decline in Europe, North America and Asia is causing concern as they are important agricultural pollinators. Tomato growers in Tasmanian have fought for years to change the laws to allow them to use bumblebees as pollinators but their applications have been rejected on environmental grounds.

8.bumble bee

Sandridge Bridge

I have never really taken an interest in the unattractive steel footbridge with the unusual sculptures that crosses the Yarra River, until our last visit to Melbourne.

1.Sandridge Bridge

Enjoying a late afternoon beverage at Southbank, I was captivated by the light and reflections on the water and started to appreciate the obscure beauty of the structure.

2.Sandridge Bridge p.m.

I have since delved further. The original bridge and railway line was built in 1853 when Port Melbourne, then known as Sandridge, became a thriving hub thanks to the Victorian gold rush. It was also the first passenger rail service in Australia. The bridge was replaced in 1857 with a timber trestle bridge, built at the oblique angle to redress the issue of the existing tight curve. The current bridge opened in 1888, one of the first in Melbourne to use steel girders rather than iron. The support columns are hollow iron filled with concrete, set parallel to the flow of the river, in groups of three. On closer inspection, each rivet seemed a work of art.

3.Sandridge Bridge p.m.

Even the ornamental pediments are made from cast iron.

The morning light of the new day offered fresh reflective images.

6.Sandridge Bridge a.m.7.Sandridge Bridge

The railway bridge was last used in 1987 and remained, as something of an eyesore, until Melbourne City Council committed $15.5 million for its restoration in 2003. Sandridge Bridge was relaunched in 2006 as a celebration of the indigenous and immigrant history of Victoria, a tribute to those who made the journey by train from Station Pier to Flinders Street Station. Artist Nadim Karam created ten abstract sculptures, representing the different periods of immigration, using more than 3.7km of stainless steel. The artwork is titled The Travellers and the figures move slowly across the bridge in a 15 minute sequence. I must admit, I have never noticed them moving.

8.Sandridge Bridge sculptures

A series of 128 glass panels line the walkway, each one offering information about the origin of the immigrants, in alphabetical order, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. It can take quite a while to cross the bridge, a rest along the way is sometimes in order.

9.welcome swallow

From the north side, nature’s reflections resemble graffiti

10.Sandridge Bridge

and the intricate angles are more evident.

11.Sandridge Bridge

Unlike nature’s graffiti, that of lesser mortals is unsightly and unwelcome.

12.painting over graffiti

Sandridge Bridge may not be the most appealing landmark in Melbourne but it is certainly a great memorial to those who contributed so much, not only to the state of Victoria, but to the nation of Australia.

13.Sandridge Bridge

The Conservatory

Over the years of living here in Tasmania, we have made many trips to Launceston. About halfway along the Bass Highway, at a place called Parramatta Creek, there is a fascinating building that has always intrigued us. The conservatory was built 40 years ago by a Devonport man who designed it to house his grand piano.

1.Tasmanian Food and Wine Conservatory

The mother-daughter team who run the café and providore approached the owner of the building and he eventually agreed to sell. In March 2015, The Tasmanian Food & Wine Conservatory opened. The interior is reminiscent of a bygone era,

2.interior Conservatory

the furnishings are comfortable and inviting.

The beautiful grand piano has pride of place.

The shelves are stocked with 100% Tasmanian goods from the best growers and producers across the state.

I took a stroll around the gardens before lunch, the late spring rewarded with some magnificent blooms.

27.front garden

Returning through the rear entrance,

36.rear view

lunch was served. The menu changes daily to make the most of fresh, local produce. Two of us chose Okonomiyaki; Japanese savoury pancake served with Scottsdale twice cooked sticky pork belly, crushed toasted peanuts, crispy fried shallots, bean shoots, fresh chilli and Thirlstane Gardens coriander.

It was a tough decision between the pork and the Braefield pulled lamb burger on a Pigeon Whole bakery brioche bun with smoky baba ganoush, baby spinach, crispy Brandsema balsamic eggplant and house pickled red onion served with sweet potato chips and tzatziki.

39.Pulled lamb burger

There are also vegetarian options, including a selection of delicious dips.

40.dips

Of course, the local wines are superb. I don’t think we can travel to Launceston without stopping in for, at least, a coffee and cake.

41.not our car42.Tasmanian Food & Wine Conservatory

https://www.facebook.com/Tasmanianfoodandwineconservatory/

resident reptiles

Summer is snake season here in Tasmania and although there have been some years I haven’t seen any, I know they are always there. This season, we have seen a lot, probably making the most of the warmth after a prolonged winter. Recently, I saw the familiar black tail disappearing under the Golden Diosma as I approached. Curious to know the whereabouts of the refuge, I (very warily) followed the curve of the bush and saw the same tail retreat down a hole in front of the rainwater tank. We knew of the existence of the hole, a home to previous residents, but we had filled it in. I returned half an hour later to find, to my surprise, a very cosy couple sunning themselves.

1.sunny snakes2.sunny snakes

The larger of the two, presumably the male, withdrew to safety when he sensed my presence. The second one was obviously far too comfortable.

3.looking dull

I tried to find information regarding breeding pairs of Tiger snakes but have had no luck. There is no mention of snakes staying together once mating has taken place. I wanted to learn more and was concerned about the dull appearance of the smaller snake. Emails and phone calls to Parks & Wildlife weren’t particularly helpful, they suggested I contact Reptile Rescue Inc. for information. Finally getting through on the third call to them, I was promised a return call to enlighten me re breeding pairs. The call never came. I eventually received an email from Parks & Wildlife that explained a snake can look dull just before shedding its skin. Two days later, Michael presented me with this.

4.snake skin

Found in the garden under one of our tree ferns, we don’t know what happened to the back half. I wish I had been witness to the transformation. Even the eye holes are perfectly formed.

5.snake eyes

We saw her again a couple of days later as she joined her mate by the pond.

6.new coat

She looked stunning.

7.renewed

Two days of heavy rain followed and we haven’t seen them since. Apparently, it is usual for snakes to move on once they have shed their skin, I wonder if they are still together?

iridescent irrigation

Sometimes, the simple things around us that we take for granted can present us with extraordinary moments. We have had a very dry summer and the irrigators on our neighbouring farms have been put to good use. They do come in handy for a free carwash if the timing is right. Early one morning last week, I glanced out of the window and the paddock on the hill across the valley was receiving a refreshing dowse.

1.irrigator

The slate grey sky of daybreak highlighted the curve of the water

2.irrigator

and, as I watched, the accession of colours produced a spectacular choreography.

3.irrigator4.irrigator5.irrigator6.irrigator7.irrigator8.irrigator9.irrigator

A few minutes later, the show was over. The fluidic trajectory blended with the brightening sky and disappeared into normality.