(The challenge this week is too find something that provides a delightful distraction, that never fails to grab your attention away from the everyday.)
When people think of Australian fauna they think of the cute and furry marsupials – koalas, kangaroos and wombats or in the bird world they think of the sight of a running emu or the sound of a laughing kookaburra. But to my mind, it is the parrots which are the attention-getters – the stars of the Aussie show. Colourful, intelligent often raucous and bold, they never fail to delight and distract me. Many parrot species are long-lived, some mate for life – this devotion to one another is both heart-warming and fascinating. When we moved houses over ten years ago, from a block surrounded by rain-forest to coastal suburbia, it was the parade of parrots I missed most . The following is part of an essay I wrote entitled, Our Escarpment Home.
The parrots were the gaudy stars of the bird show and the avian personalities we observed the closest, due to occasionally feeding them native seed mix. The king parrots were the most spectacular with their fire-red chests (and heads in males) and their backs of velvety green. Despite their regal appearance the king parrots were humble. They watched us warily with soft eyes as they ever so daintily picked at the seed. They dwelt only in the tall trees. They’d land on our high veranda railing but I never saw them descend to the ground. This was such an unbreakable habit that we witnessed quite a few in great distress one scorching New Year’s Day. The thermometer soared to 43 degrees Celsius and four kings arrived dazed on our balcony, their mouths gaping with thirst. They were beyond being able to fly or even beyond reasoning to take water from a bowl. One female collapsed in front of us. We took it inside and squeezed water from a rag into her mouth. We saw no other species of birds in the trees or deck. We assumed the others had descended lower into cooler gullies and dense undergrowth, but not the ever-tree dwelling kings. When the evening came with a cool southerly change we released the distressed parrot. She flew to a nearby tree looking somewhat stunned. We could only hope she survived her traumatic experience.
The king parrots may have dwelt in the tops of the trees but they certainly weren’t the top of the pile. That honour belonged to the cheeky rainbow lorikeets. As their name suggests their plumage is a brash assortment of colours – blue, yellow, orange and green. They are the smallest but the pluckiest of parrots, the top guns. They’d skim past the corners of our house at impossible speeds and with pinpoint accuracy. The sulphur-crested white cockatoos are four times the size of the lorikeets but fled in submission when a pair of these bossy little birds flew to the deck.
The white cockies provided the comic relief in the parrot drama. There is nothing subtle about these big birds. They’d land on the railing with a thud and pleading squawks then proceed to earn their seed by entertaining us with gawky, swaying dances, nodding heads and expressive talking. Sometimes they’d ramp up the physical comedy by hanging upside down from their perch or pretending to fall from the sky in an uncontrolled dive, only to recover with much squawking and flapping.
The blue and red, crimson rosellas were the shyest, the backstage workers. They often didn’t land on the veranda at all but picked up the scraps of seeds flung to the ground by the messy cockies or impatient lorikeets.
The largest of the parrots were the transient black cockatoos who flew through the tree tops calling to their partners with their mournful drawn-out cries. A flypast of black cockatoos was relatively rare and we would rush out to watch them as they wheeled and cried through the trees.
Some of the following photos were taken before I had a SLR camera so are of varying quality but I hope they show the beauty and some of the variety of Australian parrots.
I always find that places in nature that are the most awe-inspiring are those not on the well-trodden tourist trail. They are uncrowded places where you can view the elements uninhibited by gift shops, barricades, queues and mazes of signposts. These places often have an element of danger for the unwary and you can imagine viewing the landscape as the indigenous peoples did thousands of years ago.
The first picture is a blowhole near Eden on the Far South Coast of NSW. We had a lovely bush walk through banksias to reach the spot and didn’t see a soul on our way there. The blowhole was in fine form fed by the north-easterly swell. Massive volumes of water were forced to a height of six metres or more. There is nothing quite like seeing the swell roll in and feeling the anticipation – here it comes – boom and woosh. The air in the tunnel below is forced out and the water erupts.
There are places in the world where the earth’s crust is so thin that the hot mantle rises to the surface. These places of geothermal activity give us a glimpse of the molten interior of the earth.
The following photos was taken 12 years ago at a place in the North Island of New Zealand called Orakei Korako. The park here is not far from the famous geysers at Rotorua but this place left a far greater impression on me than that more touristy town. Here water boils up in clear ponds heated by geothermal vents. These ponds are close enough to reach out and touch (if you wanted to end up with severe burns). The air is hot smoky and sulphurous in a landscape where silica terraces are fringed by palms. All this in the otherwise cool temperate climate of New Zealand was a quite a surreal experience. It seemed to be a scene straight out of the Jurassic age. I don’t remember the sulphur smell but judging by my daughter’s face it was quite bad.
Who hasn’t felt a compulsion to feel the texture of a sandstone boulder warmed by the sun, a smooth pebble from the river bed or a jagged quartz crystal. To touch a rock is to connect to the earth before, humans. Before life itself. I feel a poem coming on, and photos of richly textured rocks taken on my travels.
10-15 years ago when the kids were still small we regularly picnicked in the Wollongong Botanical Gardens. We had our own favourite out-of-the-way (secret) spot where there was a bench-table in the sun. We’d spread out on ‘our’ bench to drink tea, orange juice and eat biscuits before exploring the gardens.
Below is the only photo I could find of our picnics. The grass wasn’t always this brown – it must have been a dry autumn in 2006. My son (not sure where daughter was) and husband are sitting on the bench. My son is soon to turn 18 but has still been known to hog/hug the biscuits to himself.
Nearby to our bench was a magnificent (or at least I thought so) prostrate coastal banksia (Banksia integrifolia). It’s thick branches supported it in a metre-high dome shape and it sprawled for at least five metres in diameter.
I’m not sure why I was so struck by this unruly plant when the rest of the botantical gardens displayed mighty spreading trees, exotic cacti, an impressive rainforest and an an orderly rose garden.
I think I liked its tangled, rambling and of course the robust yellow brush flowers – I have a fascination with banksia flowers.
At the time we lived on the escarpment in Wollongong – an area of rainforest, clay soils and limited sunlight hours. So, though I would have liked to buy a prostrate banksia, there was nowhere suitable to plant it. It’s a plant that needs plenty of room, light soil and full sun.
When we moved closer to the beach and landscaped our garden I finally found a spot to plant a banksia, unfortunately this spot was under the kid’s trampoline. The filtered sunlight through the trampoline net wasn’t ideal. The banksia survived but struggled. The children eventually outgrew the trampoline and my banksia was finally exposed to full sun. Now when I look out the kitchen window the first thing I see is my lovely sprawling, flowering banksia. It is a favourite of the little wattlebird too. Most mornings it sits on its branches and chuckles and chatters – proclaiming the banksia as its own. I’m happy to share it.
My plant is not as magnificent as the one in the botanical gardens but it does bring me great satisfaction, a living symbol of persistence and resilience.
I am taking part in the Daily Post Photo Challenge: COLLAGE
When I first got my macro lens it was a cold, dark evening and I had nothing else to practice on but what I had in the house. I mostly took pictures of kitchen things. Those photos were terrible as I had no clue of the importance of setting adequate depth of field or how to sync my flash. When I got home from a holiday and I saw this week’s challenge, it was also a cold evening and I didn’t really have anything to fit the bill. So I revisited the kitchen as a macro world and came up with this ‘kitchen quilt’.
To add a bit of fun here is a few clues to some of the items in my quilt. Can you find them?
I grew up in Gosford on the Central Coast of NSW, Australia. I must have taken the rail journey from Gosford to Sydney via the Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge dozens and dozens of times. Everyday thousands of commuters, travellers and hundreds of tons of freight make the journey over this bridge. But I wonder how many travelling this route have actually seen the bridge, apart from the limited view through the metal struts.
It took me till my fifties to get a real view of this familiar yet unfamiliar span. These pictures were taken from a motor boat just west of river town of Brooklyn (far from the New York borough) as a freight train trundled over the bridge.
I put a post-slate filter over these photos to accentuate the metallic struts.
This is the second construction of the Hawkesbury River Bridge. The sandstone piers of the first bridge remain as historic markers. This first bridge was opened in 1889 as part of extension of the rail line to replace a three-hour long paddle-steamer service that took passengers from Brooklyn to Gosford. The bridge gave around fifty years of service before severe cracking was discovered in one of the piers.
A lone tree with million dollar views over the picturesque Hawkesbury river can just be seen poking out from the top of the old pillar.
Construction of the new bridge took place during the WW11 years starting in 1940 and finally finishing in 1946. The train trip from Brooklyn to Gosford via the bridge now takes a total of 25 mins. However, the current bridge has problems of its own. It appears the depth of sediment on the river bed (before penetrating bedrock) and heavy loads eventually take their toll. Last year an engineering report revealed that there was cracking in the concrete piers as well as defects in the steel frame. http://coastcommunitynews.com.au/2016/12/hawkesbury-river-bridge-freight-train-limitations-imposed/
Perhaps before this century is out a third set of piers will be sunk into the mud of the Hawkesbury River.