Tag Archives: bush fires

Walking Along Teepee Beach…Australia.

With the start of the new school year a few weeks ago, I’ve been trying to get back into the habit of going for a walk after I drop the kids at school in the morning. Despite being a night owl, I am finding that when I get something done first thing, it actually happens. It doesn’t just drift off into the never never once the day gets underway and distraction reigns.
Unfortunately, habit and routine aren’t my strengths, but I’ve made peace with that. Decided that walking sometimes is good too, and that any walk is better than nothing. Perhaps, this is being too kind and I ought to show myself more tough love. Pull my socks up. Be mean and nasty. “Hey you good for nothing lazy slob of a slacker, get moving”. Or, words to that effect. I could also try reminding myself of just how beautiful the beach is, and how I could be pacing round a concrete jungle instead. “Get a grip, Snowflake!”
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A sea gull looking for a new home perhaps…

Anyway, this morning I made it back down to the beach and was in for quite a surprise. I spotted a series of wooden teepees dotted along the length of the beach. Some very well-constructed deluxe versions which you could almost call home, and others which were more along the lines of stick sculptures. These had no structural integrity at all, and it wouldn’t even take the Big Bad Wolf to huff and puff and blow the place down. Indeed, it might only take a seagull perched in the wrong spot.
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More of a stick sculpture than a dwelling place. 

I’ve never seen a teepee of any sort on any beach before. These were rather primitive structures,  been made out of stuff on the beach.  I was rather impressed with the construction techniques of the more luxurious dwellings and actually found a Dad building one with with his two daughters this afternoon. They didn’t know who’d built the other teepees, and how the building frenzy came about, but I’ll eventually find out. We live on a peninsula and there are NO secrets.

I didn’t have my camera with me this morning, and drove back home to pick it up. I had planned to head straight back before the sun intensified. However, a cup of tea later and inertia had set in and it took a cattle prod to get me back again this afternoon. Indeed, I could hear a wee small voice telling me to wait til tomorrow morning when the light would be better. However, I knew the transience of the beach. There’s usually nothing left in the morning.

Brandi Carlile

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Yet, as you walk along the beach with your eyes wide open taking in all the infinitesimal details, you can appreciate a sense of history. That just like the human face tells a story with its array of freckles, lines, wrinkles scars and baby-soft skin, the detritus on the beach also tells a tale. As far as our beach was concerned today, the sand was almost buried in detritus from the recent bush fires, storms and floods. Massive ribbons of seaweed had been uprooted from the sea, and there were also huge branches and multitudinous sticks (which surely must be heaven for the local dogs). Many of the sticks and branches were charcoaled,  a legacy of the recent bush fires, and there were also traces of charcoal in the strand lines along the beach.However, in layperson’s terms, the beach was a mess and I could see the council sending down the tractor. This was no job for a rake or broom.

“When the wild wave meets the calm beach, when anger reaches tranquillity, anger disappears, serenity triumphs, the wave experiences enlightenment!”
― Mehmet Murat ildan

However, another storm hit tonight and I doubt the teepees will still be there in the morning. Indeed, I’m sure the hungry, greedy sea has devoured the lot and when I go back tomorrow, they’ll be gone and the remains of tonight’s meal will be left behind instead. Golly! I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but he doesn’t even clean his plate!

“As we feel the whispering vibrations of the sea and hover on the waves of the present, we realize that each moment flows into an unknown destination. Everything melts down into a new mystery since ‘now’ will never come back, and ‘tomorrow’ is uncharted territory. (“Voices of the sea”)”
― Erik Pevernagie

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“No permanence is ours; we are a wave
That flows to fit whatever form it finds”
― Hermann Hesse, The Glass Bead Game

I guess the only saving grace is that the teepees  lasted longer than a sandcastle and after tonight’s storm, there will be plenty of materials to go and build some more.
Best wishes,
Rowena

 

Snapshots of Australian Birds.

Perhaps, I should’ve tossed my research hat out the window, when we arrived in Byron Bay. That way, I could appreciate a pretty photo for what it is without having to research everything I see to the nth degree. Clearly, I ask too many questions and if I were a less complicated soul, I could’ve simply posted these bird photos without any explanation at all. Not even a name.

Consequently, what started out as brief snapshots of some of the birds we encountered around Byron Bay, has expanded into something much more complex and I must admit I’ve learned quite a lot myself along the way. After all, I take my role at Beyond the Flow as Australian tour guide seriously. I not only want you to see what I saw. I also wanted to share some local, lived insights which you won’t find in a more scientific account of my stunning feathered friends.   These photos were taken in my in-laws’ backyard and at the Macadamia Castle, which has a bird aviary. It’s not quite the same as seeing them in the wild, but it does make it easier to get a good photograph. Yet, as much as I love photography, I’d naturally prefer all birds to fly free.

So welcome to the cast:

Sulfur-Crested Cockatoo

Although this guy lives at the Macadamia Castle, sulfur-crested cockatoos are very common in the wild where we live on the NSW Central Coast and in Sydney. You can’t appreciate these crazy characters from a simple photograph. They’ll perch up in the trees or telegraph wires and swoop down kamikaze style across car windscreens and only narrowly escape being hit. They’re absolutely cheeky, and don’t let that gorgeous feathered-face deceive you. They’re very destructive and are renowned for chewing through wood-trim on your house, your balcony, and stripping fruit trees bare. Moreover, behind that beautiful smile, lies an ear-piercing screech. Yet, despite their shenanigans, they still want to be your best friend and crave attention. They seem to love posing for the camera with a huge cheeky grin and you might even get a “Hello”.

Jacko

Jacko with family cropped out.

When I was a young child about 8 years old, my Dad bought a baby sulfur-crested cockatoo, called Jacko. He initially lived in a cage in the laundry inside where he had the joy of listening to my father’s voice on an old tape recorder. Indeed, it was an old tape recorder then, although I think cassettes were somewhat new at the time. It was 1977. I still remember that old recording and will take it to my grave…”Hello Jacko! Hello Jacko!” Jacko made it outside into the aviary but didn’t stay with us for very long. We were moving house and there seemed to be some kind of “discussion” between my parents. Although we were moving onto five acres, it seems there was no room for Dad’s birds and Jacko went to live with friends. So, not unsurprisingly,  sulfur-crested cockatoos have a special place in my heart.

Rainbow Lorikeets

Rainbow Lorrikeet

Rainbow Lorikeets are the happiest little birds on earth and on sunset you can here them chirping away drunk on nectar in the trees if you’re lucky…or not depended on your perspective. My friend’s mum planted a red bottlebrush outside his bedroom window and he was woken up by a swarm of rainbow lorikeets at the crack of dawn whenever it was in flower. He was not amused.

Amelia Rainbow Lorrikeet

Our daughter feeding seed to the Rainbow Lorikeet  at the Macadamia Castle last week. 

The Rainbow Lorikeet isn’t as outgoing or interactive as the Sulfur-Crested Cockatoo and seem reasonably gentle. Back in the day when we mere mortals weren’t as educated about looking after wildlife, we’d coat a slice of bread in honey and soak it in water on a plate and put it out in the backyard. The Australian museum refers to such backyard feeding as “artificial feeding stations”, but the birds didn’t mind. That bread and honey was a sure-fire magnet. They loved it.

The Galah

Galahs

Galahs feeding in the backyard.

These galahs were photographed in my in-laws’ backyard, where they had quite a large flock of galahs. Apparently, numbers there have increased lately due to the drought and possibly also the fires. The in-laws have planted bird-attracting plants, but given the drought, have also been putting seed and water out for the birds. It’s been interesting watching the changing cast of characters out at the seed bowl. The galah’s are at the top of the pecking order, and shoo away the doves who sit perched up on the wire above waiting for the galahs to buzz off. There are also some pretty red-breasted finches who have their own seed bowl in the thicket.

Galahs were originally located in arid, inland Australia, and only expanded into their present, vast range in the early- to mid-20th century. The galah’s scientific name is Eolophus roseicapilla. Its holotype was collected in Australia in 1801 by biologists on the Expedition led by France’s Nicolas Baudin and is held in the Musée National d’Histoire Naturelle, in Paris.

The word galah comes from Yuwaalaraay and related Aboriginal languages of northern New South Wales. In early records it is variously spelt as galargillargulah, etc. The word is first recorded in the 1850s. The bird referred to is the grey-backed, pink-breasted cockatoo Eolophus roseicapillus, occurring in all parts of Australia except the extreme north-east and south-west. It is also known as the red-breasted cockatoo and rose-breasted cockatoo.

The term “galah” has also entered the Australian vernacular, and is a derogatory term meaning a “loud-mouthed idiot”, “fool”, “clown” and is also use to describe gaudy dress. It  has also inspired a number of colloquial idioms: To be “mad as a gumtree full of galahs is to be completely crazy. “To make a proper galah of yourself” is to make a complete fool of yourself. A “pack of galahs” is a group of contemptibly idiotic people. If you’re a fan of that great Aussie TV export Home and Away, you might’ve heard Alf Stewart complain: “Ya flamin’ galah”, which means you’re a complete idiots.

The Laughing Kookaburra

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Kookaburra sits on the old gum tree. They might look cute and sound hilarious but they have the last laugh once they’ve snatched the snags off your BBQ!

Of course, even these brief snapshots of Australian birds, wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the kookaburra, even though it didn’t feature central stage. Indeed, the photo I’ve included here was taken at Pearl Beach round the corner from home where they’re rather partial to stealing sausages (Or snags in the Aussie vernacular) straight off the BBQ without any concern about burning their beaks!! We spotted a few kookaburras while we were on holidays around Byron Bay, but what I remember most was hearing the kookaburras laugh while I was floating on my back at Brunswick Heads watching fluffy white clouds scud across the deep blue sky. There was absolutely no doubt I was in Australia. Indeed, over the years, the sound of kookaburras laughing has been used to create a sense of Australia in movies over the years.

Aunty Rose & Kookaburra

My Great Great Aunt Rose Bruhn with her pet kookaburra who appeared on Brisbane radio.

Australian King Parrot

Male King Parrot

Male Australian King Parrot

This parrot is living at the Macadamia Castle. Although I’ve occasionally seen them in the wild i.e. my backyard, they’re quite shy and not all that common. Indeed, it’s a real treat to spot one.

Male Australian King-Parrots are the only Australian parrots with a completely red head. Females are similar to males except that they have a completely green head and breast. Both sexes have a red belly and a green back, with green wings and a long green tail. King parrots are normally encountered in pairs or family groups.

The Emu

Emu

We also saw the emus at the Macadamia Castle. I had no idea how the emu originally got it’s name. However, it turns out that ’emu’ isn’t an Aboriginal word. Rather, it might have been derived from an Arabic word for large bird and later adopted by early Portuguese explorers and applied to cassowaries in eastern Indonesia. The term was then transferred to the Emu by early European explorers to Australia.

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Emus are a funny-looking flightless bird, which also makes quite a peculiar sound. Not that I’m being judgemental. I haven’t spent a lot of time with emus, although they used to have a few at the Australian Reptile Park up the road from home, and they were savage food thieves. In the wild, packs of emus have been known to decimate farms. I think my grandfather used emu oil to treat his arthritis.

Emu feet

Emu feet. 

My childhood memories of emus, include a show called: Marty and Emu. It took a bit of detective work to dig that one out of the memory bank. They appeared on a kids’ show called: The Super Flying Fun Show, which was hosted by “Miss Marilyn” Mayo. Of interest to Australians, Darryl Somers appeared later on in the history of the show, and you can see how Hey Hey It’s Saturday with Darryl and Ossie Ostrich evolved from there. It turns out that Rod Hull had appeared with emu on the show before my time  and a duplicate emu was made when Hull returned to the UK and continued his performances over there.

Marty & emu

Marty Morton & Emu (I was so excited to see them again!)

Of course, when we’re talking about cultural representations of the emu, you can’t go past John Williamson’s classic: Old Man Emu:

These are only some of the birds we saw on our travels. The ones we photographed or found most interesting. We also saw a large flock of black cockatoos on the drive North, which we had no chance of photographing, but they were good to see. There were also crows and magpies.
I’ll sign off with this photo of a duck in plastic kiddies wading pool at the Macadamia Castle. Usually, this pond is full. However, there’s been such low rainfall that the pond’s dried up for the first time in the 15 years we’ve been going there. These are clearly hard times for our wildlife (and domestic ducks).
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What is your favourite Australian bird? Please share in the comments below.
Best wishes,
Rowena

References

Flaming Embers…Friday Fictioneers.

Boat was the only way home. A huge fire storm had engulfed Ku’ring-gai National Park, and jumped across the M1 Motorway, burning out the trains and blocking all traffic in and out of Sydney.

Dave was trapped, just like millions of  nameless commuters jammed into this hellish sardine tin of burning embers.  Yet, like a bat out of hell, he had to get home. She’d never leave the house. Would rather go up in flames, than face her fear.

Dad’s dingy would never make it across the Hawkesbury, but he had to try. Only love could find a way now.

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This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. This week’s PHOTO PROMPT © Fatima Fakier Deria. 

Bushfires are quite a normal, anticipated events, especially during a blazing Australian Summer. It is not uncommon for the M1 Motorway, the only main road North out of Sydney, to be closed due to bushfires and on such instances, the trains are likely to be down too leaving stranded commuters to crash out wherever they can for the night. My husband has been caught up in these closures, although our house is nowhere near the bush.

If you are wanting to read a first hand account of driving through such fires, Kimberley’s Bushfire Diary is worth checking out.

Best wishes,

Rowena