Kinked Back Shingleback

December 2, 2009

shingleback290.jpgThe short stick in the dusty distance moves in the heat and you are not sure if it is the shimmering haze off the gravel tricking your eyes. Then it moves again and a little more determinedly albeit awkwardly.  You slow down and get ready to swerve to avoid whatever it is. The stick waddles with a little more purpose as you apply brakes, and as you get closer it moves forward with the appearance of having a stiff back, slipped disk or some other spinal disability. Turns out on closer inspection to be this very determined little fellow who stands up to the Canon poked in his face – gaping his mouth wide and presenting a slightly bizarre blue tongue. Potentially dangerous for him if our curiosity is any guide – we are more inquisitive than deterred.

Bulyninnie, and this part of South Australia in general seems to be full of these lizards, related to the Blue Tongue, one of which alarmed one of my kids once by climbing into bed with her. All she saw was its scaly back and imagined a snake had come on board. She had the good sense to lie still but still managed to convey her alarm through the whole house. Poor lizard.

This guy settled down after a few minutes (put his blue tongue away, stopped hissing and lowered himself down from his aggressive posture) and hunkered down behind his lunch (they are herbivores) and watched the camera. I am not sure if he looks like a little old man or a baby. Either way they are quite endearing in their own way, shuffling about in the desert doing their own thing. The minute you think there  is nothing alive in the desert except 40 squillion flies (half of which are using your back as a layover) one of these guys shuffles onto the track in front of you to remind you it is not quite as desolate a place as you imagined.

Make Like a “Tawny” Stick

October 9, 2009

tawny290.jpgThere was always some wag who would whisper “make like a stick” when we were playing with guns in the bush (and earning the Queen’s shilling) – an oblique way of saying “stay still and hope your camouflage efforts are up to scratch”. The Tawny Frogmouth does a great job looking like a stick. In fact they freeze on a branch hoping you will only think you are looking at a broken stump. They lift their chin and stretch their necks out and peer at you through a narrowly slit eye – quite a different look to when they are active at night when you might see one hanging around the back porch light waiting for an insect or two. Their large orange eyes and round, fat look is more akin that of an owl. Which, by the way, they are not.   A frogmouth is a frogmouth. Not an owl. His “make like a stick” is formidable discipline (this guy allowed me to within a metre or so without a blink), far beyond any of that displayed by my military colleagues. And of course, much he’s more cute than any of them ever were!

Cool BBQ

July 6, 2009

familybbq.jpgCool alright. The hoodies give it away. 8 degrees of cool. Evening meal outside in mid winter is no big deal here when the snow is hours away and frost in this part of the world unheard of. But it is always nice to sit around talking nonsense, drinking an excellent red and bracing yourself for the coming week. We are more fortunate than most.

Southern Leaf Tailed Gecko

January 11, 2009

leaftailedgecko.jpg At this time of the year I am especially alert to potentially lethal spiders that lurk in our gardens and right now are running about a bit earlier than usual looking for mates. Over the last week I have been digging trenches for new plumbing and have found a handful of their tunnels so am extra careful in the garden. But you can’t relax inside either, just in case they decide to hide in a shoe or similar. At the other extreme is this placid and very clearly non agitated gecko which tolerated me swinging a shovel past his head for five minutes before I noticed he was there. Hanging  on a vertical brick wall (I have flipped the photo) he was nicely blended into the dappled sunlight, taking on the  reddish tone of the brick – they are normally a darker shade of brown. In the middle of town it is nice to have your own zoo – or in this case a menagerie, for the placid nature of this little beast is more in keeping with the meaning of that word.

Backyard Beasts – Bat

February 2, 2008

fruit-bat.jpgEons ago I started a series on beasts that live in our backyard. It is tempting to imagine that in a city of 4million fauna is sparse. But the truth is we have plenty of fauna to distract us. Read more

That BioLuminescence

August 28, 2007

In a previous blog I referred to the bioluminescence which was lighting up the waves at Manly. By the time I got back there a couple of nights later with a camera the show had subsided and while the electric shocks were still flashing through the water they were not as frequent. And a camcorder is not the best device for grabbing those sorts of views. But the attached few seconds give you an idea about how spectacular it was – there are some initial glimmers across the tops of the breaking waves and then throughout the wave as it breaks. The dinoflagellate which cause this are marine plankton and in this case are apparently associated with the red algae we have floating off the coast at the moment.

Backyard Beasts – Carnival

January 12, 2007

Backyard Beasts

January 3, 2007

No, not the teenagers and young adults who come over with my son and drink my beer and raid my fridge – and worse! But some of the animals we live with in Sydney. And specifically those that we have in our backyards here. Some are ornery and keep you on your toes. Others can scare the daylights out of you if they take you by surprise. All are entertaining. A quick list in anticipation for a short series of blogs on these. The Funnel Web is up there – a potentially lethal spider and the one that keeps me most alert when I am in the yard. Whitetail. Nasty bit of gear. Spider as well. Redback spider. Part of a family of spiders common across the world. A friend who is wheelchair bound was bitten on the butt by one of these few weeks ago – it was on the toilet seat! True story! Really. Water dragon – a large lizard that loves living around the pool. They are fast runners and if you startle them they can get up a gallop very quickly. From 0-100 in 3 seconds (well, it seems like it) and can scare the daylights out of you. But harmless. Blue Tongue Lizard. A stocky lizard with, well, a blue tongue.They can tame up quite well and come inside looking for food. As does the magpie, a talkative bird. Sulpher crested cockatoos. Rainbow lorikeets. Honey eaters. Skinks. Pythons. And so on.

Let’s get going with the Sydney Funnel Web. According to the US Military Field Guide on invertebrates around the world that are nasty and can ruin your day (it is a fat guide) the Sydney funnel web is arguably the most toxic of any spider. Period. Until an antivenom was cooked up bites from these ugly things were often fatal. Trouble is at certain times of the year they want to wander inside, especially if there has been heavy rain. Or if the converse is true and they are looking for moisture. They fall into the pool and can survive for days on the air that is trapped in a bubble around their body so the pool has to be carefully checked before you get in. And that chlorine had better be working since you don’t want to to get into murky water only to discover one of these having a swim along the bottom.

I was sitting at my desk at the home PC one afternoon and movement across the carpet caught my eye. It was one of these things making its way to my desk. He ended up dehydrating in a specimen jar – must have been looking for water since he keeled over quite quickly. Checking shoes each morning, if I have left them at the door, is a sensible precaution.