Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Autumn leaves

Well, it seems my recent spate of crashes has not abated. This year I have come off the MTB 3 times, two of which were spectacularly over the handlebars (once to avoid a black snake, and once during Dirtworks), and now I have added another road bike dismount to my palmares. Unusually, the road bike incident was also somewhat off-road as well, in that I collided with a piece of park furniture. "Don't underestimate the power of the dark side".

It all started a few weeks ago when my one and only trusty 10 watt globe on my spot-light went bung. A good spot light is important at this time of year as commuting in the evening is always dark. My folly in not replacing it pronto soon became apparent. It was a moonless night ("dark as a steers tuckus ..."), and I was feeling my way along the mangrove track at Homebush bay. I must have ridden this track 100s of times, on numerous occasions with a dead battery, so was perhaps over confident in my navigational abilities. Some way along the track I became mesmerised by a cyclist approaching from the opposite direction who was betrayed by his headlight. By his unwavering beam and the smooth surface I knew I was on the track. The route is basically dead-straight, apart from the occasional shimmy. All of a sudden I realised I had failed to take into account one of these shimmys, and ploughed across velvety grass and into a park bench. Fortunately I managed to swerve just before impact, so in the end the bench only caught my left knee and fork. The fact that the bench was bolted to a concrete slab didn't help. Funny, but I had never noticed a bench anywhere along that path before. I guess I now know. With pride bruised almost as much as my knee I limped home, only to discover a considerable wound in one of my carbon fork blades. So it's fork blades number 3 for the Colnago. Fortunately, the steel frame was OK. It could have been much worse for both of us.
The scene of the crime
exhibit A
Totally unrelated: another busy morning on the Berowra ferry

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Gouldian Babies

The aviary which resides at my parents place has recently had some new arrivals in the form of Gouldian finch babies. I originally purchased a red headed male some years ago, and had my eye out for a red-headed female from a different source. In some respects my brother beat me to it, contributing a yellow headed female courtesy of one of his friends who also has a backyard aviary. The amazing thing about Gouldians, apart from their striking plumage, is their inquisitive unflustered nature. Quite unlike the Zebras and Fireys, regardless of whether you are at the side of the aviary or inside it, the Gouldians come right up you to say Hello and see what is going on. It's a shame that their vocalisations are pitched at frequencies above what we can audibly pick up, as they seem to also spend considerable time belting out numbers. The males mating dance is also worth seeing. With a twig held in his beak, he does a jig, jumping up and down next to where the female is perched. At first, Mrs G didn't seem to be particularly interested in raising a family. However, eventually the pair seemed to take an interest and moved into one of the many nests constructed by the Zebras. Occasionally one would be sitting, but no clutches seemed to get raised. Possibly their nests were being re-claimed by the Zebras. This seems likely given recent proceedings. I noticed that once again the Gouldians were sitting on a clutch, for several weeks this time. Unfortunately, it looked like once again they were no longer sitting and had abandonned the next. A few weeks later, whilst doing the rounds, I noticed that some Zebras were raising a brood in the same nest, but the bleatings didn't sound like Zebra bleatings. Sure enough, the Zebras were raising a clutch of Gouldian babies. Having taken the nest, they had unwittingly completed the incubation and reared the hapless chicks as their own. And what chicks they were. Healthy and large, too large to be Zebra chicks, with a delicate olive plumage. And 4 of them! Once they started flying about, they seemed to work out pretty fast that Zebras they were not, and who their real parents were, who assisted in their post-nest feeding. Now they are slowly colouring up. Fantastic!

Mr Gouldian

Mrs Gouldian, flanked on either side by black-beaked chicks
Gouldian chick (centre), with female Zebra top right, and male Fire finch in foreground.
The aviary

Monday, 21 May 2007

Dirtworks II

Should have added that I think we all collectively had a good time. Preparation consisted of multiple ales at the pub, a very disrupted sleep (I wasn't sleeping, I was "waiting", sorry Ham), and the morning constitutional. At the end, even bumped into Tooley who did the 50 km this year.


My impressions of the Dirtworks 100km mtb race. Six hours of bumps, bruises and the odd stack, not to mention running low on food, water and (temporarily) the desire for further punishment. A diabolocal course that resembled a huge 3D sandpit. Having said that, can't wait for the next one. Perhaps this comment is aided by the beer that is thrust into ones paw immediately after finishing. It's amazing how quickly you forget. However, perhaps not the best strategy for rehydrating and preparing oneself for the slow drive from St Albans back to Sydney. And rest....