Tuesday, August 19, 2014

late winter/early spring rain after months dry and windy

VioLaceus and Tenuirostrus in the garden, along with others. The Satin Bowerbird and Eastern Spinebill. Rain has brought the birds rushing about, after a long, very dry, very windy winter blowing hot and cold.

The garden has survived, despite madness, with a poodle in the backyard that thinks it's a rabbit, digging and digging, and rabbits (initially one, then become three) in the front yard, thinking they are poodles, wanting cuddles almost, so tame if they were in America I'd run up a tree fearing rabies. You come out the front door at 2 in the afternoon and there on the concrete beside the car, in surprisingly warm winter sun, is a run-away-from-home rabbit, sprawled like a poodle, fore legs forward, back legs backward, waking up and saying hellooo what are you doing here?

I chose the winter to have the rotator cuff repaired in my right shoulder, having had six weeks in the sweaty summer with arm strapped immobile, for left shoulder. An operation requiring three holes, a router, a vacuum cleaner, a drill, five round headed screws, a sewing machine and string, managed I think by a ferret. At least, it has felt like violent ferret work in the weeks since 11 July. The garden-virtue of doing this now is that the garden has at best grown modestly in cool and dry, and management possible with weekly visits by my gardenologist Renay, assisted of course by rabbits and poodle. And when I have been absent, most of this period in recliner at Helen's house, Renay has had the conversational assistance[?] of retired but for once not retiring gentlemen neighbours, the most persistent of whom never crosses the road to see ME!! I must go buy a blonde wig. Also the ex-highway patrolman, asking with kind concern about my health but who seems resistant to my expressions of concern about the freedom he and his wife have given to these rabbits, taking them in, giving them a little house... and leaving the gate open for them. I say he's harbouring a felon, he just says with widening eyes that his wife thinks they are lovely. I have to get to him and show him the 1995 Regulations under the New South Wales Rural Lands Protection Act, wherein it sayeth, terrifyingly:

In case you read that down to the end Wikipedia adds this alarming discussion about curtlilage and "separate intimate activities":
In law, the curtilage of a house or dwelling is the land immediately surrounding it, including any closely associated buildings and structures, but excluding any associated "open fields beyond", and also excluding any closely associated buildings, structures, or divisions that contain the separate intimate activities of its own respective occupants with those occupying residents being persons other than those residents of the house or dwelling of which the building is associated. It delineates the boundary within which a home owner can have a reasonable expectation of privacy and where "intimate home activities" take place. It is an important legal concept in certain jurisdictions for the understanding of search and seizure,conveyancing of real propertyburglarytrespass, and land use planning.
In urban properties, the location of the curtilage may be evident from the position of fences, wall and similar; within larger properties it may be a matter of some legal debate as to where the private area ends and the 'open fields' start.[1]


I also have to explain to the highwayman that the control problem could be larger when there are 1.8 million intimately active rabbits in our cul de sac curtilages, see this. I'm not calling the ranger, that would be uncouth ... and he's unlikely to do anything given that there are villages around here where at dusk you have to pick your way over the lawns between kangaroos, wallabies AND rabbits. 

Meanwhile, back for a bit from convalescent decrapitude with immobilised arm at Helen's, I let Ralph poodle out the front door ahead of me in the mornings and he chases the rabbit/s back home, so fast no photo possible. Quiet curtilaginous cul de sac, safe for such freedom for a car-blind dog.


Anyway, we've had near 100mm of rain in a couple of days and everything in the garden is happy. (Poodle not included, he avoids going out in the garden in the rain.)

At this time of year as we eat breakfast we see the Eastern Spinebills rushing through the nasturtiums, main flower just now in the backyard. In the front yard they currently have azaleas and Chinese lanterns.

Yesterday interesting observation of bower birds. A year ago I scattered around paving in the garden a number of small blue ceramic tiles, about 1/2 inch square. They've all vanished now. The male Satin Bowerbird commands a territory (Graeme Chapman suggests 5 per square kilometer) and retains his hypnotic control over women by building a bower wherein he dances. I do not know where the local chief keeps his bower, but there's lots of bush nearby. Here are two photos I took several years ago of bowers. The first in hot dry country in the Northern Territory, only white shells available for ornament (or shells bleached white in the weather), the second from where I used to live 20km from here, next to a country post office/store, shedding plastic tape, bags and lolly wrappers. What we can't see but the lady bowerbirds can see is that the saliva used to stick the bower together glows iridescently at frequencies we can't see but they can.

We could watch dancing in that second bower but that ended when a large alpha feral cat got the bowerbird. I wrote a piece broadcast on Radio National, about the ethical ecological dilemma involved, the cat having also 'controlled' the antechinuses (marsupial mice) who had been eating the peas. We are strangly cat-deficient in this street, very unusual. There are tens of millions of feral cats in Australia. The rabbits-uneaten-by-cat eat flowers (preference for yellow rather than purple), mondo grass and, again, peas. Not so keen on rocket, which is perhaps a bit peppery for a pampered palate.

watch and smile, grown men may weep, women may laugh loudly 

acknowledgement to 'anyoneseenthisyet' of YouTube

I note that, with no dog or chooks about, we saw several weeks ago while lunching in the backyard, mice and an antechinus. Not seen these last few days, there is currently heavy patrolling by a currawong, who may in his unmatched viciousness have wiped them out. It's rotten, rotten news when currawongs become dominant. It seems to happen, as I previously observed in Canberra, when small bird populations have been diminished by savage weather: hard rain, fierce heat, long dry cold. The small birds have much less body weight and volume relative to surface area and have difficulty surviving overnight in bad weather. As their numbers decline, currawongs seem to move and hunt more territory more vigorously. Helen's garden has a big problem with Indian Mynas. We've bought a trap. To deal with the currawongs I may need to teach the poodle to fly.


Anyway, back to yesterday. I had planted yet another small thyme plant several weeks ago and to mark it for me and for Renay arriving in my absence, I had cut a piece of blue punnet with the label 'common thyme' thereupon, and stuck it in the ground. The poodle initially followed my example and tried to dig everything up, then kept nicking the blue name tag... but eventually his boredom arrived sooner than my persistent correction.

Yesterday, however, I look out the window and see this:

... what (between nasturtium and rocket) looks initially to be a female bowerbird, of whom great numbers steal fruits, but this bird, with the blue plastic label (the thyme plant is behind the palm) in mouth, must be a juvenile male.

image cropped and sharpened in Photoshop

 The Australian Museum advises
The adult male has striking glossy blue-black plumage, a pale bluish white bill and a violet-blue iris. Younger males and females are similar in colour to each other, and are collectively referred to as 'green' birds. They are olive-green above, off-white with dark scalloping below and have brown wings and tail. The bill is browner in colour. Young males may begin to acquire their adult plumage in their fifth year and are not fully 'attired' until they are seven. - See more at: http://australianmuseum.net.au/Satin-Bowerbird#sthash.lcST2pRD.dpuf

Soon after, the boss of the neighbourhood arrives...

image cropped and sharpened in Photoshop

...and begins to move around, gently driving the young bird away. In this photo below, he's on a wire fence, visible at the top of the timber pole sculpture, staring down the teenaged upstart.

image cropped and sharpened in Photoshop
Now you see why he's a 'satin' bowerbird
For a while the young bird tries to stay round and hide in and nibble at rocket in a raised bed, but the boss bird, who has taken no interest in the blue plastic [note 28 August: it's vanished now], knows where the young bird is and eventually the young bird flies away. I don't have a picture of the bird after it left, but it's so hard to see (follow yellow arrow) in the middle of the rocket, it's almost a picture of when it's gone. I don't know how far the boss male flies from bower to get here, nor do I know how often he does the rounds to stop this kind of upstart raid, but it must be a major spring preoccupation. I wish he'd chase the blackbird away, it damages things and it out-competes too many native birds.

Click on any photo to enlarge all of them, 
then you'll see the yellow arrows in the photo below.

image cropped and sharpened in Photoshop

Well, it's nice to write something... the business of persistent pain makes focus difficult and was a major contributor to loss of momentum with novel (bits of it here and here). There is a degree of alarm among many writers about the fate of the novel in the current era, see these musings, links [1] and [2]. There is also a very serious problem that the way people seem entertained seems to have shifted alarmingly in just a couple of years. I am away from FaceBook and Twitter and LinkedIn, but cannot escape the misery and weird political fantasies of current news, updating day and night. 

I wrote this comment to a discussion at The Guardian about our Prime Minister at the weekend.

The garden is a landscape of ideas, but at heart the pen is mightier than the shovel. At least for the brain cells of an addicted writer, though who reads anything substantial these last several years. Read with the pen, listen with the mouth, as many work colleagues used to do in Foreign Affairs. More and more the act of writing must be its own reward.

As to the difficulty of looking at my novel's text, I share the angst of Edward Gorey's Mr Earbrass and envy the simplicity of his writing misery. 

or if not the 'Continent' then Japan... So easy to write of passing parades, rather than confect a larger, coherent structure of literary merit. The garden has the good grace to keep writing itself, hunting its own coherence and evolution or revolution when you look away, muse unto itself. Alas, not the novel. 

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Looking forward to your thoughts, write as much as you wish, ask questions. Comments do not appear until moderated. I will try to do that quickly. Thanks for looking and thinking!!