Fauna

Are we ever alone?

February 2, 2015

Old boards are being covered with new ones.

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Portions of the deck in front of the atrium are seriously decaying and, therefore, the whole deck is being topped up with new hardwood before someone falls through and breaks an ankle.

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However to fit the first row snugly into the atrium wall, it was necessary to remove a board from each of the vertical sections between the door and the windows to either side of it.

And what an interesting surprise when, after taking off one of the boards, a tiny nest of fresh eucalypt leaves were found. Who lives here?

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A pigmy possum, that’s who.

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And think of this. The oil of the eucalypt leaves acts as a natural deterrent for mites and ticks. How smart is this?

I sleep easier at night now, knowing there is a guardian out the front door.

PS. Steve and I made sure the entrance to the pig possum’s home was kept clear.

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The face of death

November 24, 2014

It is not much discussed, but one of the pluses in living close to nature on a daily basis — especially for children —is becoming intimate with the cyclic process of life and death.

All around me are the skeletal and fleshy remains of the once living. With all this exposure, eventually the face of death becomes nothing to be feared; even humorous with a toothy sort of grin.

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Sometimes, though, there is no humour and we, instead, have to make hard choices in this cyclic dance.

Choosing between the life and death of one in order to save the life of another/others is never a simple or pain free decision.

Poet William Stafford writes of this:

Traveling through the Dark

Traveling through the dark I found a deer
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.

By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car
and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;
she had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.

My fingers touching her side brought me the reason —
her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,
alive, still, never to be born.
Beside that mountain road I hesitated.

The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;
under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;
around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.

I thought hard for us all — my only swerving –,
then pushed her over the edge into the river.

William Stafford

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A human introduced the kookaburra into Tasmania, most likely because of its unique laughter. Who doesn’t love this raucous sound?

However, with its massive bill and highly developed hunting skills, this bird is no match for the smaller Tasmanian birds hiding in shrubs trying their best to protect their nest of fledglings.

For two reasons: One, is that they have not evolved along with the kookaburra to develop defensive strategies, and, Two, there is no natural predator in Tasmania — as opposed to mainland Australia — to help keep the Kookaburra in check from over populating their flocks.

The little birds eat the smaller insects that can infect tree populations. A flock of kookaburras will rid my grove of trees from these “protective” little birds.

My 20 gauge shotgun plays god. The ravins pick over the bones.

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Likewise for feral cats (who seem to remain definite even in death).

Children brought up in the bush know all about the cycles of life and death. And, as importantly, when it is appropriate to use or not use a gun.

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Sunday evening visitors

September 8, 2014

A couple of weeks ago, when describing how I heard the faintest of “cracks” in the din of a cacophony of other noises, yesterday the opposite happened during a soft evening light of zero wind and little noise. While quietly pulling out noxious weeds on the grassy slope of the tennis court, my ears perked when a very definite loud sound like two sticks hitting each other repeatedly happened around every six seconds.

Looking toward the direction of the sound, I kept thinking it should be a couple of kids walking around on the land doing what kids do: bang on sticks. Yet it was late in the day and not the sort of time when anyone would be on the property. I could see nothing that gave a clue as to the origin of the banging.

And then they appeared.

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It was only because they had moved further out to sea that they came into my field of vision. Two humpback whales. Two playful whales goofing off in the manner whales do on a Sunday evening.

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“Why is it”, I thought, “that myself and everyone else gets such joy in watching such massive tonnage leap out of the water?”

Perhaps there is an inner child within us that understands the need/desire to frolic.

Perhaps there’s an ancient memory in our hearts that recognizes our direct ancestral linkage to these mammals from whence we evolved.

Perhaps, just perhaps, there’s an unconscious, quiet admiration that they — as land animals some 52 million years ago — had the courage to leave their terrestrial home and re-enter the liquid womb of the oceans. The very ocean from whence all life originated.

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Ambulocetus natans is the transitional fossil between the land based whale-to-be animal and the whale of today. It is known as “the walking whale that swims”. Discovered only 24 years ago in Pakistan (of all places), it is clear evidence that given enough time, change can happen.

Just think if we put down our guns and gave peace a chance. We just might eventually evolve to not have trigger fingers.

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Visitors to Windgrove love walking around the property hoping for a chance encounter with some of the local fauna. Along with the spiky ant eating echidna, a favorite, never-to-fail excitement, ring all the happy bells experience, is coming across a wombat.

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To any “first time visitor” to Windgrove, a casual downward glance near the front gate to the house would only show a few wooden stakes of random heights protruding from the ground, slightly above the garden mulch.

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A “second time visitor”, before venturing off on a walk would have been told (during their first visit) the story of the rampaging wombat. They would then see with their mind’s eye what lies beneath the garden mulch in a (not always successful) attempt to prevent one rather large male wombat from burrowing under, through and around all defensive structures in order to gain access to an area of lawn he considers his domain.

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It is a complicated network of wire netting, stones and metal star pickets.

Why go through all this trouble?

DSC_3962Basically, once a wombat establishes territory, it is extremely difficult to stop any further digging of interconnected tunnels in and out of his/her den. Under a house built on stumps such as mine, there would be the real possibility of extensive structural damage.

So, despite really liking this stocky, neighbour hooligan with his insistent determination, I have spent many hours — weeks in fact — building up a several types of barriers to keep wombats from the inner sanctum of the home. Also wallabies, but that is another story.

Love has to have some boundaries.

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Christmas chorus at Frog Pond

December 23, 2013

Seeing can be deceiving.

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Just “looking” at a photo of Frog Pond belies what is really happening beneath the shelter of the overhanging coastal wattle and among the reeds along the shoreline.

Click on the video below, however, and treat yourself to three meditative minutes of holiday music performed by a Windgrove cathedral ensemble of banjo frogs, ravins, muffled wind and the occasional New Holland honeyeater.

All music is divine.

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Force of Fire (extra)

January 10, 2013

There’s always a showoff. Even among the birds. Observe the dive bomber, landing gear down, coming in sideways from the right about 1 o’clock. Tricky, yes?

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During the six fire days this past week, I made sure the bird bath was always filled with clean, cool water. Sometimes there would be ten or more of our feathered friends jostling for space.

The acrobatic bird in the top photo (a female pink or scarlet robin) is the same one seen in the photo below. She is either doing a “jump start” or coming in hard for a “look, no wings” approach.

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A little humour to lighten the day.

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