Kafkaworld's Blog

November 21, 2013

On Muttonbirds

Shearwater%2c_or_Muttonbird-1  DownloadedFile

 Muttonbird: what an ugly name for such a beautiful bird.  For this horrendous nomenclature we have to blame an officer of the Royal Marines who called them “the flying sheep” because early settlers on Norfolk Island harvested their close relatives, the providence petrels, for their meat and oil.  Because they nest in shallow burrows, they were easily caught and that particular species of petrel quickly became extinct following annual slaughters of hundreds of thousands of birds.

The muttonbirds of today are the Short-tailed Shearwaters, so called because of their graceful shearing flight moving from centimetres above the water to high in the sky.  Every year, they travel to the Arctic and back to the same burrows on the Eastern coast of Australia from Southern Queensland down to Tasmania, a round trip of 30,000 kilometres.  What an astonishing journey for a seabird weighing around half a kilo.  It’s unsurprising that there are casualties every year which just drop into the sea, starving and exhausted, to wash up on our Eastern beaches.

In the past few weeks, I have seen dozens on Woorim Beach alone and subsequently read reports of much higher than usual numbers failing to make it to their burrows.  This saddens me greatly.  Something is obviously going wrong and it is heartening that there are scientists researching this.  I just wish the current government showed as much interest in environmental problems as they do in demonising asylum seekers.

Anyway, all this put me in mind of a wonderful poem by A.D. Hope.  It’s a little sad but so beautiful.

The Death of the Bird

For every bird there is this last migration;

Once more the cooling year kindles her heart;

With a warm passage to the summer station

Love pricks the course in lights across the chart.

Year after year a speck on the map, divided

By a whole hemisphere, summons her to come.

Season after season, sure and safely guided,

Going away she is also coming home.

And being home, memory becomes a passion

With which she feeds her brood and straws her nest.

Aware of ghosts that haunt the heart’s possession

and exiled love mourning within the breast.

The sands are green with a mirage of valleys;

The palm-tree casts a shadow not its own;

Down the long architrave of temple or palace

Blows a cool air from moorland scarps of stone.

And day by day the whisper of love grows stronger;

That delicate voice, more urgent with despair,

Custom and fear constraining her no longer,

Drives her at last on the waste of leagues of air.

A vanishing speck in those inane dominions,

Single and frail, uncertain of her place,

Alone in the bright host of her companions,

Lost in the blue unfriendliness of space.

She feels it close now, the appointed season:

The invisible thread is broken as she flies;

Suddenly, without warning, without reason,

The guiding spark of instinct winks and dies.

Try as she will, the trackless world delivers

No way, the wilderness of light no sign,

The immense and complex map of hills and rivers

Mocks her small wisdom with its vast design.

And darkness rises from the eastern valleys,

And the winds buffet her with their hungry breath,

And the great earth, with neither grief nor malice,

Receives the tiny burden of her death.

Now I’ve made myself cry but, as I walk along the beach tomorrow, past those fallen bundles of feathery courage, I will again consider the vast distances travelled by these birds, trusting in nature to provide a way.   An absolute miracle.

* information gleaned from the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife web page.

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October 29, 2013

On stuff which brings me joy (1)

Filed under: flora and fauna — kafkaworld @ 1:12 am
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Two fat possums, sitting in a tree,

K – I – S – S – I – N -G.

Well they weren’t kissing exactly, that’s a bit of a euphemism

but I thank them both for choosing one of the trees in my garden for their honeymoon.

Come back soon.

November 25, 2011

On The First Swim of Summer

Filed under: flora and fauna,life,The beach — kafkaworld @ 10:04 am
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Anyone who believes that late November is a little tardy for the first dip into the Pacific Ocean should bear this in mind.  After the sea comes back from its winter holidays in the Antarctic, where it whiles away the icy nights by stroking the furry bottoms of seals and walruses,  it’s pretty damn cold I can tell you.  It needs time to warm up to the point where I can still feel my legs after I dive  tiptoe into the gentle waves.  So today was the big day.  Because I haven’t been to the beach for so long, there were several unrelated but joyfully wondrous firsts to savour.

Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoo

Extensive research (see Dr Google)  revealed that there are six varieties of black cockatoo in Australia, and the yellow-tailed is the largest.  Flocks comprising about half a dozen birds visit us here in early summer and lay waste to the coastal banksias.  They are the natural enemy of the Big Bad Banksia Men, so kiddies can sleep soundly in their beds during the summer holidays, secure in the knowledge that these glorious birds are looking out for them.  As well as the startling yellow tail feathers, they have a rather endearing yellow ear patch just above the huge beaks which they use to get at the banksia seeds.  Usually they sit up in the trees, but this afternoon I came upon two of them on the ground having a picnic among the fallen cones.

The First Abandoned/Lost FlipFlop of Summer

 By the end of March, there are boxes of these, in all sizes, shapes and colours, floating around the Woorim community.  Perhaps they are not abandoned, but just cannot stand the thought of co-existing with their mate during a long hot summer and have run away to sea.  Who knows.  Either way, we could make a fortune on ebay if there was a market for single thongs.  Unfortunately, no such market exists …. yet.


The Arrival of the Migratory Sandbags

Nobody (except the Moreton Bay Shire Council and they won’t tell) knows where these mysterious sandbags spend the winter months.  I suspect Hawaii or Tahiti or Bali, judging by the drunken swaggering involved as they traipse back over the dunes to Woorim Beach.  I have never seen a sober sandbag and neither have any of my neighbours.  Anyway, they arrive here every November, clutter up the beach and disturb the peace with their drunken orgies, and then, thank heavens, depart in early autumn.  And I (and this really gets up my nose) pay my exorbitant rates to fund their endless partying!!  It’s an absolute disgrace.

Anyway, apart from all that, I had a lovely swim and another first for this summer – sunburn.  Anyone who’s thinking of visiting, now is a great time to do it.  We can all go and throw rotting fruit at the sandbags.  What fun!

February 25, 2011

On Living in Woorim

I live on the ocean-side suburb of Woorim on Bribie Island.  Between the house and the beach, there is a road, and then a good sized park full of banksias, ironbarks, wattles and Moreton Bay Ash trees, among many others.

This is the view.

Looking left

Looking right

In 1995, when I first moved to Bribie, you could walk through the park, across a tiny bridge under which flowed a small creek, then up over a large dune and down onto the beach.  As the years have passed, the Caboolture Shire Council, now the Moreton Bay Council, took the view that Woorim’s natural beauty was not attracting enough tourism, and they have been fiddling with the suburb ever since, largely to its detriment.  We now have severely tidy and landscaped parks, two playgrounds and much more litter.  Due to sand dredging at the main swimming beach, our creek and the bridge have been swept away by severe erosion of the dunes which had been previously stood for decades.

Over the past few months, council workers, armed with chainsaws and giant mulching machinery, have visited at regular intervals to tidy up and/or remove trees from our park.  I’m not a very pro-active person, but when they turned up yesterday morning and three more trees disappeared, anger overcame inertia and I fired off a short, sharp riposte to our local councillor, Gary Parsons.

 

 

Dear Gary,

Up until now, I have tried to be philosophical about the council vandalism which is being imposed on our previously peaceful and relatively wildlife friendly suburb.  I’ve watched numerous native trees being removed and mulched (another 3 have gone today from right in front of my house),   the sand dredging debacle which has caused the dreadful erosion and loss of dunes and the so called ‘management’ of the remaining dunes which seems to involve ever more de-vegetation.

Meanwhile, the creek which used to run between the dunes, a haven for native frogs and fish, has been washed away.  The precious few metres remaining continue to be ignored and degraded by weeds and litter.  It seems that if it can’t be fixed by a chainsaw, Council can’t fix it.

Over the past few years, in the small area where I walk daily and do your job for you by picking up endless rubbish, we have lost frogs, fish, pardalotes and wrens from the beachfront, because their habitats have been destroyed.  Instead there is  a sort of Disney landscaping which is very neat, tidy and won’t unsettle the tourists.  It’s looking more and more as though Council is more concerned with the interests of tourism rather than the rate payers and others who actually live here.

It gives me no pleasure to write letters of complaint, but Council’s actions are increasingly forcing many of us to the conclusion that you have lost interest in we locals, and in the environment we love.  If we wanted ricketty tinky cutesiness and mindless glossy tack, we would have moved to Noosa or the Gold Coast.  I love Bribie Island, and Woorim in particular.  Please don’t turn it into a soulless lifeless theme park.

***********

A little over the top perhaps?  Maybe, but I really feel strongly about this.  I have yet to receive a reply and don’t really expect one, not being very important as far the the Council is concerned,  but it certainly felt good to let off some steam.

 


 

 


January 10, 2011

On Torrential Downpours

Filed under: domestic bliss,flora and fauna — kafkaworld @ 9:19 am
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I love this rain.  I grew up in a dustbowl and everything was always brown and dead, or at best, struggling to stay alive.  Rain signifies life to me.  The sounds, the smells and the sights of the vegetation stretching out its boughs and branches to the rain inspires  inexplicable feelings of wellbeing in my mind and body.

Too much rain, as we have in Queensland now, is a heartbreaker.  Friends who went through the 1974 floods and had the Brisbane River running through and over their homes, suffered terribly for years afterwards.  Apart from the material losses and the dreadful muddy stench which overpowered everything, there were psychological consequences.  Just the sound of rain on the roof brought on an overwhelming feeling of dread. So many people now are going through the same hell, and I feel terribly badly for them.

Here on my tiny piece of the island, the wildlife has responded in various ways.  The frogs are joyous, as you may imagine, but there a few who have had enough and have appeared in the house, obviously to escape the rain.  Weird?  You bet, but there’s no reasoning with them.  As I have no wish to see what happens when a frog meets a cat or dog in the small hours, all frogs are gently persuaded (in clean plastic containers) to go back into the garden.  You know it’s raining hard when even the frogs look for shelter.  Meanwhile, the butcher birds (2 adults, 4 chicks) seem much more hungry than usual.  Hunting is difficult when lizards, snakes and insects are holed up waiting for the sun.  I’m happy to feed them as they reward me with such beautiful singing.  I’ve also been putting out extra sun-flower seeds for the loris and rosellas, just in case their natural food sources are being depleted by the weather.  The geckoes are indulging in cuddling and tail waving, signifying amorous intentions, while all the domestic animals, including me, are looking for warm dry corners for a place to nap.  Such is life in La Ninya

August 23, 2010

23/31

Filed under: flora and fauna,gardening — kafkaworld @ 6:18 am
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Stephanotis floribunda is one of those plants which used to be everywhere  but is not nearly as popular anymore.  Goodness knows why.  It is a well-behaved creeper with gloriously scented white flowers, but the flower isn’t what interests me so much.

The seedpod is the size of a large avocado and takes months to dry out and release the seeds, each of which wears a luxuriant feathery tutu which allows it take flight on the slightest breeze.  Looking closely at the seedpod, you can see small black and orange beetles.  I have no idea what they are up to, but I’ve never seen them anywhere else.  Intriguing to say the least.

August 22, 2010

22/31

Filed under: flora and fauna — kafkaworld @ 8:29 am

Winter Frangipani

August 18, 2010

18/31

Filed under: flora and fauna — kafkaworld @ 12:45 pm
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Confused Huntsman

I was watering the bromies this morning and noticed this huntsman spider looking very damp and cross, clinging desperately to the end of a leaf.  Of course I offered my apologies for flushing her out of her cosy hiding spot, but felt I should point out that huntsmen do not generally live in bromeliads as they are reserved for needy amphibians, such as sedge frogs.  The spider, being fairly discombobulated at this point, refused to debate the pros and cons of needy frogs, and flounced off to a sunny spot to dry out.

I went back later this afternoon only to discover that she was back in her own personal bromeliad, daring me to move her on.  I didn’t of course.  I know when I’m licked.  Perhaps I’ll make a little sign – “Spiders Only” – to hang on her door.

August 11, 2010

11/31

Filed under: flora and fauna — kafkaworld @ 10:01 am
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Rainbow lorikeets.  Their name is appropriate because on a misty, rainy Bribie morning, they appear like living rainbows, dashing about the place looking for food trees and organizing their social lives.  I’m happy to admit that I have done everything I can to attract birds to the garden.  Any plant that is native to Bribie is welcome here as are all sorts of grevilleas, banksias and callistemons.  Apart from blooming profusely during winter and spring, their flowers produce the nectar craved by honey-eaters, loris and friarbirds.  I’m also guilty of owning a few birdfeeders which you see here, where I put out sunflower seeds for those birds who enjoy them.  This practice is frowned upon by some avian experts but my position is that the birds enjoy it and so do I – win/win!

Rainbow Lorikeets

August 10, 2010

10/31

Filed under: flora and fauna — kafkaworld @ 10:33 am
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Unfurling fronds

I tried really hard with this one.  I took many photos from many positions but my iPhone, although it does its best, just couldn’t deliver. I was trying to convey the effect of the unfurling fronds of the tree fern, one of the most beautiful botanical images, but I’l settle for this.  I quite like how two of them are doing it together.  They look as though they’re having a little chat.

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