Friday, December 28, 2012

Happy New Year!!

Wishing everyone a Merry  Christmas and a Happy  New Year. The key  thing is not too over indulge.

Here is a picture of what  you  will  look like if you do, and you  could end up  in  the dog house.

Poor Nip... one too many!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Fj Cruiser- Goodbye!

After 12 months, 50,000km and a host of expenditure it was time to  say  goodbye to the Fj cruiser.  Why? I am  glad you  ask.  Here are some pointers as to  why-

Toyota advertise the Fj as a vehicle that  has the heritage of the original FJ40. Its not. The original Fj40  has its roots way  back in the ww2 Jeep. The original Fj40's were military  spec. The currant Fj Cruiser is not.

So what ? You  ask.  Well here is the bottom line. in  50,000km of outback travel I  found that:-

1. The doors began to rattle. and the door configuration is just  wrong. Awkward, plus the rear door is hung on the wrong side making loading a real issue. Try loading the rear from the curb, or opening the doors in a confined space e.g. an underground car park.

2.The vehicle is not designed for a bull bar and the ARB bull bar caused all sorts of issues. Even with a revised bar, it continued to  cause me problems. Frankly  some of the after market designers should be ashamed of themselves.

3. The shape of the roof and styled bodywork means that  rear cargo area is an issue as too is a roof rack.

4. The front suspension is Prado. I  had to  replace suspension bushes every 25,000km.

5. The vertical windscreen means that  your fuel consumption varies by a long way. The slightest headwind, (or side wind), resulted in fuel economy  going out the window.

The new basic V8  tray back with  its sides down setting up  camp

6. As a result to  windscreen really  gets thumped by stones and rocks and replacing it is awkward... some of the plastic around it can  be damaged by the inexperienced screen fitter.

6. Fuel tank is way  too small and there are issues with  fuel leaks from  aftermarket units. So what  do  you  do?

7. Gearbox.. Awful. It hangs on in 5th and is reluctant  to change down. When  it does it thumps back 2 cogs and the engine is left screaming its head off.. This is particularly  noticeable in hilly  terrain and more so with the cruise control on.

8. The blue tooth and I-pod connectivity  is lousy.

Now, I  know I  have grown up on  60 series, 80 series and 70 series and I  know I  get into  tough outback terrain, so I replaced it with a V8 trayback.  Much  more suited to my  needs.

 Conclusion- The FJ Cruiser is a "wash and wear" price point Prado. It  has some really nice features and is brilliant off road. Great  approach  and departures as well as ramp over. It makes really  nice vehicle for mountain bike riders, surfers, or the weekend warrior who  wants to  test their skills down a telegraph gymkhana track, and then  head into  their inner city  pad. However,  Its not an FJ40. It will not work on outback cattle stations for 300,000km. So, I  have traded some comfort for a live axle, consistent fuel economy and less electronics.. the last  of the FJ40/HJ47 line.

At the end of the day  its horses for courses.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

We've gone Batty!

On  Sunday  we arrived at the Motocross track early, as the weather forecast predicted 37c top temp. So  we wanted the cooler part of the day the ride. Dave found a micro bat in  the hand basin. Poor fellow looks very  young. I  think it has lost its mother. We dampened a singlet and wrap it up  to  keep it cool and dark.

From this photo you  can  just  how tiny  they are.

The little chap seems undamaged and so  we transferred it to a shoe box and placed it in the dark of the wardrobe. We wanted to  see if it could fly and be ok.

This morning it has  left the shoebox and was flying around Daves room.

We are currently looking for it as we think it has gone to roost somewhere.  Once we find it we feel confident to  let it go.

Its wings are in good order

Mico bats play a very  important role in  the ecology. Some help pollinate trees, and they  eat mosquitos and small moths. Using their larger ears and echo to locate their prey. They are tiny, about the size of a small mouse.

Many  years ago we had a Lesser Long-eared bat with us for a while too. I  find them fascinating and quite beautiful

Sunday, December 9, 2012

A day at the races

Dave and his friend Luke chose a nice Sunday  to  do  another Race Pace day. This time it was at the Appin National Track and was quite different to Illawarra. Thats Dave in the red helmet and  orange/blue outfit on the black Honda CRF250r bike. Next  to  him is  Luke dressed in Suzuki colours of yellow on the Suzuki RM 125

Below is a video Luke put together and its a great way  to  see what the boys got up  too. In typical fashion Dave led the way  in  the Race starts and you  can  see him  get the wheel up in the 2nd start. The boys also  got plenty  of air on  the double up too, Luke only being limited by the horsepower of the 125.

No, the photos are not photo shopped! Thats Dave getting plenty of air! they  basically  get into the air on the first jump land on the top of the second and launch again, getting higher each  time.

Below he is pondering his race start. I  have to  say  Daves riding is nice and smooth, which  is a relief as the amount of air they  get continues to raise my  blood pressure!

Again I was astounded that  some of the boys did not listen to the instructors, and again two boys were injured. Surprisingly  on the 6 "Whoops" as they  call it.  In the video they are the lumps in the track, that  don't look like much  but if you  don't time it right they  bounce you  off. One lad was only  winded, the other suffered a broken arm. 

After 6 hours of riding the boys had certain worn themselves out. and a great  day  was had by all! well, almost  all!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tragedy and training

This year with  our involvement in motocross, I  encouraged Dave to  do  training sessions with  experienced riders. These days are called Race Pace and are held by a variety  of manufacturers.

They are well run, safe, (as safe as you  can  be), with the instructors dividing the riders into groups based on engine capacity, ability  and age. They teach the fundamentals of  riding e.g. entry and exiting corners, how to  jump and land, seating and standing positions and, of course, the race start which  is a drag race to the first corner.

Learning to  jump uphill and not flip.

Sadly , this year we have witness some horrific accidents at a variety  of tracks.  The first was a rider who was trying to  do tricks- he leapt into the air, let go of the bike and could not gather the bike back. this resulted in him  spearing himself into the ground, breaking his legs and spine. He had to  be helicoptered to  hospital.

The second accident was an experienced rider doing a "whip" over a table top jump. This is where the bike is whipped sideways in the air and you  try  and land it straight. It  all looks very  showy.  Sadly, the track had just been  watered, (to  keep the dust down), and when the bike landed the front wheel was gripped by the mud resulting in  the rider and bike cartwheeling several times.

Getting the balance right for fast  entry and exit

Fortunately the rider did not hit any  objects and was ok. However his bike was completely  smashed-frame, forks, radiators and front wheel.

Perhaps the most tragic was last  weekend, when a young man missed a hard left hand turn. His bike ran over the top of the tyre barrier, smashed through a 5 feet high steel and wire fence before smashing into a tree. In witnessing this, I  fear the top horizontal rail which  was snapped in two by the force of the impact had hit the boy across the back of the neck.  Again he could not be moved until a helicopter arrived and is in a coma in hospital.

Listening to  instructions for the race start.

This accident left us stunned.
One thing I will say is- in doing the race pace training, Dave has learned to  ride to the conditions, and to  be smooth- no "stunts". Smooth  is quicker that  being showy. He has also learned to  do a track reconnaissance. That  is- a few laps slow to get a feel for the conditions. These can  change throughout the day. Reading the track is vital to keep safe.

 I  really  do  hope the  lad who crashed on Sunday will make a full recovery. I  fear he may  be broken, and my  thoughts re with  his family

If anyone is reading this who has a son or daughter wanting to  ride, I  really  urge you  to  consider the Race Pace programmes. Unlike a play station you  just  cannot pick yourself up and dust yourself down if you  hit a fence at 100kph. Of course the course does not guarantee you  will not be injured but it certainly  improves the skills.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

New bike! (almost)

When I  was a kid one of my  favourite motor cycles was the Moto Guzzi Le Mans. They were black with a red stripe- A colour combination I  like.  Sadly,  I  could not afford one and bought a Honda Shadow which  was black with a red stripe.

I like the Honda CRF250R but its a little too red for me, So, what  to  do? Buy a new bike or change the bike we have?

Well, in this day and age you  can  buy whats called a plastics kit and sticker kit and "Hey Presto" you have a new bike!

The bike is now black, and has the sponsor Geico sticker kit- I am  told by those much  younger than  me, that this is very very cool.

The new look!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Burralow Creek. A Bear Grylles day....

One of the things I have wanted to do is walk the Burralow Creek from Wool Wash Creek up to the camping grounds and back home. Its about 8 kms in total, and a good example of what walking in the Blue Mountains is like, when there are no tracks.

Google map. Wool wash creek ravine is bottom right. Burralow is the series of gullies in centre

Its a mixture of cliffs, steep ravines, rocks, boulders and of course fast flowing water. The flora is a variety of rain forests, moss and lichen, in areas of little or no sun, then dry timbers, cut grass and scrub on the more exposed faces. Its a variety that's dense, with  heavy ground cover and mulch, often hiding holes and holes.

A Bandicoot digging. The angle and shape is particular to them.

The walk to the Burralow via Wool Wash Creek becomes a little difficult as you approach the junction of the two. It includes a degree of rock hopping, fallen tree crossing and quite a bit of pushing through the undergrowth, (like a rugby player). Both  crawling under, and over, wet and slippery  terrain.

Remains of old convict road construction.

With recent fires having severely burnt some sections, for the first time I could see where the old convict roads retaining walls were. Rock overhangs and caves were also a feature.Within a short time  we had arrived the junction and it was time to push north.

Sculptured rock caves are a feature.

The remainder of the walk to the campground is difficult. Many times we were force to crawl under, or over the undergrowth. In some sections moving forward became impossible and we had to beat a retreat, our footing unassured, metres could take  hours.

Lichen covered matters of rock where the sun  rarely  shines. Incredibly  soft and quite beautiful.

At one point we had reached a deep section of the creek with cliffs either side. There was no way over the top, and no way to guess the depth. Our only chance was to swim. Like Bear Grylles we set ourselves the task of swimming the 30 metres upstream to where a small beach appeared. The water was so cold, within a few strokes my breath was taken away and I could feel my body slowing right down. I felt I could have nearly "missed". This was canyoning.

Water Hole at Junction.
On reaching the beach we dried our clothes, had lunch and made some choices.  The only way on the western bank was up. Let me tell you,  there was little or no chance of walking. Fire had destroyed most of the trees and water bombing had flattened the undergrowth into a cross hatch of awkwardness. Most of this climb was on hands and knees, as rocks began to fall and the burnt soil was unstable. 

Sheer rock faces meant swimming upstream was the only  way  past

After time we reached the top and could see our destination, which required us to head north and descend to the junction of yet another unnamed creek and again into cut grass and scrub. By this time my forearms were quite cut up and bleeding a lot and my dammed ankle was starting to ache like mad. Hours later, we arrived at the junction of the fire trails. A steep ascent was required to return to the Bowen Mountain Observatory.

Climbing to the top was the only way  of getting a real perspective

Minor injuries  are easy  to  obtain as you  push  through the bush, and slide down rocks. Careful placement of feet and hands and always planning ahead ensure that the risk of  twists and breaks are reduced. This is not a walk that  you  could help via a vehicle.. If stuck- it's a helicopter ride.

An example of heavy  scratches from sliding down a boulder face.

 I  had run out of water and needed to concentrate of putting one foot in front of the other as we headed home. A most rewarding, albeit difficult walk, one I certainly will never forget and not for the inexperienced.

Birds seen:- um..... frankly  who cares!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Snow in the Blue Mountains at about 11.30am

The weather here has gone crazy and so I was potentially stuck at home as the rain and sleet hit. However I chose not to! I loaded the car with some lunch and was determined to see the snow fall across the mountains. My ambition was to have a walk to Dance Floor Cave, and then a beer at the Tarana Hotel. I got only as far as Mount Tomah as the Police closed the route because of the massive dump of snow. Vehicles that made it through were covered in snow up to 30cm thick.

Creek Crossing

 Forced to turn around and not to waste the opportunity,  I chose to drive back via Mountain Lagoon and have a hot lunch in the Wheeny Creek canyon. This was to afford some protection from the wind and sleet.
Lunch, using the effective Sigg stove and the Drifta Table.

 Whilst birding was not good. I did get to see a nice Eastern Rosella, and an Australian Brush Turkey. I had not seen one this far west, the closest I had seen was at Wisemans Ferry, so their range is certainly improving. A hot lunch of a Bacon Butte with  toast  and a hot mug of tea was the order of the day. I  ate this quickly  as the rain began to team down.

The Fj Cruiser with  its new full length  rack

Fj Cruiser build update- I had a full length roof rack fitted by ARB Penrith. They did a brilliant job, unlike the Moorebank branch. The bull bar continues to "do my head in," as I had to retension the bolts again due to incorrect fitting of the 2nd bar. My advice to anyone spending thousands of dollars- Don't assume the quality of the workshops are all the same. Choose carefully, ask someone who owns a vehicle and has had some experience before you  spend.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Its all happening!

What  can  I  say? What  an amazing few weeks. From starting work again, to  deciding that the rat race was not for me, to watching Dave flying over the tops of other riders at Motocross, to driving to far out back QLD,  meeting my  distant relative "Frosty", having the pleasure of meeting Graham Chapman (renowned expert on Australian  Birds),  Seeing a Greenshank, Owlet Nightjar and Rednecked Avocet , then breaking the suspension in my  car, and limping home for 14 hours non stop, the long way back, with  all the usual tension that  occurs when  things like that happen!
Dave flying over the slower riders

Of course once I broke the suspension I was stuck and could not visit all the places I wanted to while Dave went mustering, branding, loading road trains, fixing fences, welding and driving the utes around. He had a brilliant time. Me? I  pottered about the shearers quarters, cleaning and watering the lawns, I  did a bit of guiding to help  some bird watchers, albeit "twitchers," find a Crimson Chat, maaking cups of tea and generally having a yarn.
A bearded Dragon seemed to enjoy  lazing on the lawn under the sprinkler as it was quite hot
Prior to ruining my suspension I visited Thargamindah and drove the old Cobb and Co Coach crossing across the river. unite enjoyable and the birdlife was excellent. here I saw a Noisy Friar Bird, Masked Wood Swallow and Welcome Swallow.
The river crossing at the Cobb & Co Route. All in all Kilcowera is looking Superb and there is still water in the Lagoons and the bird life is still excellent although quieter now that the breeding season is all but over.
Dave at the end of a hard days Muster. I got the suspension repaired under warranty when we returned and I have to say really no fault of the car. All in all an Excellent trip and I am sure Dave gained a wealth of experience on a cattle station. Greg and Toni were excellent hosts and Kilcowera is a place I can highly recommend as a true outback experience. As for "Frosty"? Well email me as the experience has left me "speechless"! I am sorry if this all seems a bit "disjointed" as Blogger has changed a little and I am trying to drive it! Birds seen. Great Cormorant, Purple Swamphen, Whistling Kite, Australian Magpie, Nankeen Kestrel, Australian Hobby, Black-shouldered kite, Australian Raven, Little Raven, Little Crow, White-faced Heron, Galah, Blue Bonnet, Willy Wagtail,Spotted Bowerbird, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Pee Wee, Apostle bird, White-winged Chough, Masked Wood Swallow, Little Corella, Yellow-throated Honeyeater, Koel, Welcome Swallow, Owlet Nightjar, Great Egret, Intermediate Egret, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Little Eagle, Spotted Harrier, Emu,Budgerigar, Richards Pipit, White-plumed Honeyeater, Black-eared Cuckoo, Noisy Friar Bird, Little Friar Bird, Laughing Kookaburra, Australian Pelican, Pied Butcherbird, Hooded Robin, White-browed Tree Creeper, Major Mitchell,Brown Falcon, Swamp Harrier, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Zebra Finch, Red-necked Avocet, Banded Lapwing, Masked Lapwing, Greenshank, Common Bronzewing, Crested Pigeon, Peaceful Dove, Diamond Dove, Mallie Ring-necked Parrot, Cockatiel, Native Hen, Chestnut-rumped Thornbill, White-necked Heron, Hardhead, Grey Teal, Yellow billed Spoonbill, Royal Spoonbill, Pacific Black Duck, Red Kneed Dotteril, Sacred Kingfisher, Black-winged Stilt, Grey Shrike Thrush, Brown Treecreeper, Rainbow Bee eater, Crimson Chat, Australian Wood Duck, Tree Martin. Total 72.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Well deserved rest

Well, I am  off- into the channel country of outback Queensland in persuit of family  history, birds and the smell of open spaces. I  look forward to returning to the city  of Sydney (not).

Here is a poem that sums it all up  for me....

Clancy  of the Overflow.

I had written him a letter which, I had, for want of better
Knowledge, sent to where I met him down the Lachlan, years ago,
He was shearing when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him,
Just `on spec', addressed as follows, `Clancy, of The Overflow'.
And an answer came directed, in a writing unexpected,
(And I think the same was written with a thumb-nail dipped in tar)
'Twas his shearing mate who wrote it, and verbatim I will quote it:
`Clancy's gone to Queensland droving, and we don't know where he are.'

In my wild erratic fancy visions come to me of Clancy
Gone a-droving `down the Cooper' where the Western drovers go;
As the stock are slowly stringing, Clancy rides behind them singing,
For the drover's life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know.
And the bush hath friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him
In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,
And at night the wond'rous glory of the everlasting stars.

I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy
Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall,
And the foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city
Through the open window floating, spreads its foulness over all
And in place of lowing cattle, I can hear the fiendish rattle
Of the tramways and the 'buses making hurry down the street,
And the language uninviting of the gutter children fighting,
Comes fitfully and faintly through the ceaseless tramp of feet.

And the hurrying people daunt me, and their pallid faces haunt me
As they shoulder one another in their rush and nervous haste,
With their eager eyes and greedy, and their stunted forms and weedy,
For townsfolk have no time to grow, they have no time to waste.
And I somehow rather fancy that I'd like to change with Clancy,
Like to take a turn at droving where the seasons come and go,
While he faced the round eternal of the cash-book and the journal --
But I doubt he'd suit the office, Clancy, of `The Overflow'.

so.... you  can "stick" the city where it fits you. Me?  I  hope to  see a vision splendid!

See you  all soon!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Recent events

Tankers arriving in the street.

Being quite busy in recent weeks I was not to sure what to post. So here are some more photos of the bush fire event. It was all terribly serious and demonstrates just how quickly fire spreads. Here are photos of the tankers in the street, the trailer loaded and ready to evacuate as well as Dave in his fire brigade uniform.

More tankers arrive.

Over recent days I have walked into the area where the fire hit. Its really quite daunting to see just how much heat it generates, and how quickly the fire moves. It behaves not unlike Ocean currents, where there are bigger "waves", "rips" and "tides". Its all just so dangerous. After a few weeks the smell of fire and heat still exist and the helicopters still patrol. We have had a couple of flair ups but nothing out of control.

Packed and ready to roll.

The bike riding continues and I have done a couple of rides in the National Park on the mountain bike. The ankle is holding up well but i am very unfit-failing to climb the hills I used to do in one hit. However, the weight is coming off and each ride gets better. I was dissapointed to see that Cannondale now manufacture in China- no longer are their bikes "Hand made in the USA". Sad but a sgn of the times.

The Cannondale packed for its first mountain bike outing.

The recent ride I did was again at Mount Banks. Easy grade with a couple of steep pinches thrown in its a good test of the bike and me. The fire trail has a lot of larger loose rocks and sand so maintaining good balance is the key. Lunch was at my favorite cliff face which looks down into Blue Gum Forest and the Grose River. I often look into this area and recall all the fantastic walks I have done since the mid 1970's! Gosh I am getting old.

The Prophet at my favorite spot

I think riding the bike at 51 is not the same as riding as a 30 year old! So I dont expect to break records now, prefering consistancy and overall health as the goals. We shall see.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Bush fires

The 6 horse power fighter pump and hoses

Here we go again. Bush fire out of control to our west. Helicopters flying overhead with buckets, fire trucks in the street. I am so glad I neurotically clean my gutters and prepare my home with the fire pumps etc. I sit and watch the embers fall from the sky and wait....

3/9/2012 Update. The fire last week came within 200 metres of the houses and in some cases right up to the back fence. We had 120 fire fighters on the mountain and water bombers working for days. The fire is now just a back burn and the rural fire service and national parks officers will take advantage of the conditions to continue the burn off. This gives us about 5-7 years of safety from other fire threats.

It took me about one hour to have the house ready including all the buckets, mops, ladders gutters, the car and trailer packed. So I was pleased with myself.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Bird of the Week.

Brown Goshawk. ( Photo courtesy of Tassie Birds blog)

Well, I took the mountain bike out for a ride and went well. Its surprising just how quickly the body gets back into the swing of things. The bikes rear shock needs attention as its rebound felt awkward.

Perhaps the most interesting bird for me on this ride was a Brown Goshawk. Quite a common bird of prey they have interesting barring across the chest and a very long tail. It was not too impressed with my presence, which generally indicates nesting nearby. I hope so!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Bike training.

The dirt lane between the Polo fields.

In 2010 I was in England and I did a number of walks and a bike ride. On the day I climbed Skiddaw peak I noticed my right ankle was a bit sore. On the decent it got worse as if the nerve was being hammered. A few weeks later, I was riding a bike, in borrowed bike shoes and I crashed. The foot did not release from the pedal and I twisted the same ankle.
I put up with this until last year when I had surgery.

The Cannondale Synapse is an excellent training bike. ( Note its covered in dust!)

So, its been 2 and a half years since I really put training klms on a bike. I have done some small rides but really lacked inspiration to "hook in", and have done very little in the way of major walks. So my fitness has really suffered and I put on a bit of weight.

This week I decided to start some light training to get the ankle to flex and to improve my overall health and fitness.

I started in the Hawkesbury lowlands which is like riding through English country side. I have posted about it before. It was a steady pleasant 25kms and I hope to ride it every 2nd day. So far so good.

The ankle? well, it seems not to mind the rotation of the pedals however its still a bit tender, and perhaps it will never be right.

The route.

I have chosen the Cannondale Synapse to train on, as its light and nimble. I will move to the mountain bike once I have built up some stamina. It had been a while since I rode it, and its heavy by comparison. The Synapse was covered in dust, however a pump of the tyres and it was ready to go.

On the ride I saw- royal spoonbill, firetail finch, superb fairy wren, red-rumped parrot, australian magpie, pee wee, australian pelican, yellow-rumped thornbill, cattle egret, pacific black duck, house sparrow, and my favourite bird. the black winged stilt.
All the birds are starting to display breeding behaviour and nest building. Spring is not far away!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The tale of Yoshimura

For years I have always wanted a Yoshimura. I mean, they add so much more performance, and in such a little well crafted pipe.

The difference in the sound and the way it makes the bike "crisp" is really evident. Yoshimura makes pipes for all sorts of motorbikes, Ours is a carbon fibre/stainless steel combination that saves weight, and adds about 8kw of power to the bike. With a shift in engine mapping, increasing idle by 200rpm the CRF is a crisp competitive ride. Most of all it sound good!

This weekend we spent the day adjusting the settings of the bike. All in all a great way to spend a few hours!

Dave testing the difference on the track

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Birds of Kilcowera

Lake Wyara. Expanding the photo displays the huge numbers of waterbirds.

Having just received an email from my friend Ken, who is continuing the work in Roudsea Woods UK, I felt inspired to do a post on the Birds of Kilcowera.

With its eastern boundary backing to the Currawinya National Park, and many of its creeks and run offs filtering towards Lake Wyara, Kilcowera is home to about 180 species over a wide terrain. Lake Wyara lies in a semi closed basin being fed by 5 large creeks. This results in a widely fluctuating water level. In 100 years it has dried 18 times and overflowed 5. This results in beaches at different heights. Dense samphire shrubs, succulents and saltbushes line the shore. To the north large River gums grow on the dunes and, in the water, sea grasses. Lake Wyara is a salt lake, and, close by, separated by a large dune is Lake Numalla. This is is a fresh water lake. It is because of this uniqueness that Currawinya was declared a national park in 1991.

A great Cormorant disturbed by our presence takes to the air for a look. ( photo Dave Cotter)

What is unique about Kilcowera is you can experience as much of this as you wish at whatever level you are at, or just camp, or bush walk, the choice is yours. I was de;lighted to discover that Peter Slater who produced "The Slater field Guide to Australian Birds" has used Kilcowera and left fabulous photographs, books and his old binoculars there. The book is a favourite of mine as the bird drawings are superb, and the book is robust and shaped to fit in a pocket.
A Whistling Kite flies in to take advantage of the water birds lifting from the ground. ( Photo Dave Cotter)

However, with Dave and myself working on Kilcowera we only had a few short hours to do some birding. In that time we had see over 80 species. Some are favourites of mine e.g. Brolga and Major Mitchell, and its always nice to see flocks of Budgerigars, Pied Honeyeater and Australian Hobby.

Map of the National Park and its lakes. To the west is Kilcowera, To the north is Boorara. The map shows the old family homestead locations of Currawinya and Caiwarro.

Birds are a vital barometer to the health of the planet, by simply watching them and keeping a record you can obtain statistics that assist scientist research. I keep lists and can use them the next time I am there and gain a picture over time. Its a good excuse for a walk and also helps you observe other animals. We saw feral cats, pigs and goats whilst out and about as well as Kangaroo.

Red Tailed Black Cockatoos. ( Photo Dr Jim Fowler 2011)

Kilcowera Bird list. Australian Magpie, Apostle Bird, Australasian Grebe, Australian Darter, Australian Hobby, Australian Pelican, Australian Raven, Australian Ringneck Parrot, Australian White Ibis, Australian Wood Duck, Black Kite, Black Swan, Black-faced Cuckoo Shrike, Black-shoulderd Kite, Blue Bonnet, Blue-faced Honeyeater, Blue-winged Parrot, Brolga, Brown Falcon, Budgerigar, Cattle Egret, Chestnut-rumped Thornbill, Cockatiel, Crested Bellbird, Crested Pigeon, Diamond Dove, Dollar Bird, Emu, Galah, Great-white Egret, Greater Cormorant, Grey Fantail, Grey Teal, Hardhead, Hoary -headed Grebe, Intermediate Egret, Laughing Kookaburra, Little Black Cormorant, Little Corella, Little Crow, Little Pied Cormorant, Major Mitchell, Masked Woodswallow, Mulga Parrot, Nankeen Kestrel, Orange Chat, Pacific Black Duck, Peaceful Dove, Pied Butcherbird, Pied Cormorant, Pied Honeyeater, Pink-eared Duck, Plumed Whistling Duck, Purple Swamp Hen, Red-capped Robin, Red-rumped Parrot, Red tailed Black Cockatoo, Richards Pipit, Royal Spoonbill, Sacred Kingfisher, Singing Honeyeater, Splendid Wren, Spotted Bowerbird, Spotted Harrier, Straw-necked Ibis, Stubble Quail, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Swamp Harrier, Tree Martin, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Welcome Swallow, Whistling Kite, White-faced Heron, White-plumed Honeyeater, White Browed Babbler, White Necked Heron, White-winged Cough, Willy Wagtail, Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Yellow- throated Miner, Zebra Finch. Total 83.. July 2012.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Simons FJ Build and 30k road test

Drifta Drawers with water tank.

The build so far- to make a great vehicle even better I took the FJ to Ultimate Suspension and had the suspension height increased by 50mm, fitted a bull bar, side rails, driving lights, air compressor, tow bar and UHF radio and all terrain tyres.

Last week I took delivery of a set of Drifta draws. Storage in the FJ is a real problem and I wanted a set of draws to suit. What a great product. Luke from Drifta did everything he said he would, built and deliver a quality product. It took 10 minutes to fit and a couple more to fit the water tank. The draws come with a pull out picnic table, and a nicknack storage unit.

Whilst being made of timber and not as robust as the steel draws I had in the troop carrier, I rationalised the purchase on price, weight and the fact I would not be placing as much in the draws. They fit like a glove, the draws glide smoothly and are lockable. Even the water tank fitted well and I can still get a huge esky or fridge inside.

So how is the car and build so far after 30,000km? About half has been on rough outback old/NSW roads getting to cattle stations.

The Draws even come with a pull out picnic table.

Likes- I loved the way the car felt in stock form. Very comfortable and a great tourer. Brilliant, also, off road.

Dislikes- the standard front bar is awful and dangerous, made from soft plastic and is totally unsuitable for driving on the stations or the roads leading to them.

Likes the look of the bull bar I had fitted.

Dislikes- The adverse way the ARB bull bar affected the front suspension and damaged the vehicle. This is a problem that ARB acknowledge and are designing a replacement bar to fit. 7 months and still waiting....

Note;-If you are going to add weight over the front you simply must have the suspension modified.

Likes-the balance of the vehicle now I have the draws in and the suspension has been designed to take the extra weight. It rides as it did when stock.

Dislikes- the lack of storage. Having been spoilt with troop carriers and tray backs I must purchase a roof rack.

Likes- the BF Goodrich All terrains do an adequate job everywhere.

Dislikes- They chip way too easy on the rough rocky roads, and are ordinary in mud. I will replace these with a more suitable open lug design.

Likes- The doors. They make the car easy to use when camping.

Dislikes- the doors- Awful in an underground carpark when you have limited space and passengers.

Likes- They way the fj can sit on the speed limit and then have ample power for overtaking.

Dislikes- the tiny tiny fuel tank.

Likes- they way it sits on the dirt tracks at speed without being twitchy.

Dislikes- The traction control coming on when I don't need the car to drive me..when I am driving it.

Likes- its "off road ability".. It really is very very good. One of the best I have driven ( I have had about 20 4x4s)

Likes- the 21st century feel and design, without all the bling that modern cars seem to have.

Dislikes- The mud flaps are not long enough and the plastic flairs tend to stone chip way too easily.

Likes- the easy wash out interior.

Dislikes- the plastic is really too soft and is not durable. If you brush up against Mulga it marks.

Some of the items the drawers carry.

Problems- I need a new windscreen. It chips more than any other 4x4 I have owned. Now I have done 30,000km, 10,000 of which are on really rough outback roads I notice the doors are starting to squeak a little. The rear door is "styled" and when you open it red dust drops into the cabin. The squeaks could be dust in the hinges. The bull bar is a soft mount.. that means it moves about. I am reluctant to put a winch on it for this reason. If the bar stops a roo strike damaging the radiator I would be happy, but don't expect it to be like your 70 series bar. An alloy one would be better suited in retrospect.

Also the air filter is not an "industrial type" like what you get in the commercial range of Toyota. Servicing is every 10,000km.. Ok if you drive around the city... but the 70 series had a 'heavy duty" air filter and snorkel and you can have a heavy duty service which does not seem available on the FJ. I have already replaced the air filter and fuel filter. The air filter was like a dust bag in a vacuum cleaner..!

Fuel consumption- Loaded up I am averaging 12.5 litres per hundred. I took a risk moving away from the factory turbo diesel and into a petrol 4 litre, but the fuel consumption is about the same. The car is very very comfortable, and I am delighted when I drive it. It tools around town, with enough power to over take and is like driving a ford falcon or commodore. Yet throw a tent in and you can be on the Dowling track heading to Birdsville, or in low range crossing a dry creek bed.. Only Range Rover used to be able to claim it could do that.

I read that other owners drown their FJs in mud and twist them on trails. Each to their own.. I really see it as a robust Prado and not an "industrial" vehicle. As such, mine will not be used to strain fence posts, or pull water pumps out of 300ft bores. The 76 series wagon is perhaps the real great grandson of the FJ/BJ 40s and is much more suited to an industrial usage.

Conclusion- its a great product in every sense. I bought it as a tourer I could sweep out when dirty and it fits that role. I have a friend who has both an FJ and a V8 Cruiser 76 wagon. For outback travel he prefers the V8. I understand why. Its solid "non plastic build", live front axle and lack of electronic gadgets are a proven combination. Its horses for courses. I am far more relaxed over a 12 hour journey than in any of the Patrols, 60 series, 80 series or 100 series I have driven. My 1986 Range Rover was just as comfortable but I was never relaxed as I was always waiting for something stupid to break.

See, the Fj can do it all. Some of the issues can be overcome e.g. long range fuel tank.. wider flairs and longer mud flaps. As my son said.. " Its so good, its almost boring"..

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Working on Kilcowera

Here we spent time repairing a submersible water pump in a 300ft bore. Here we are preparing to pull the 300ft poly pipe out of the ground and replace the pump with a new one.

Preparing the Landcruiser for fire control

Here is Dave keeping an eye on things.

Mustering anyone?

Checked Stock

Got generators running for water pumps...

Then at the end of the day, got the yabbie pots out ( those green things on the bull bar)

caught and cooked up fresh Yabbies and a cool beer for dinner....all in all a great way to spend time!