It would be tempting to say that this picture is a metaphor for these COVID19 times, but actually that would be quite crass. While all the restriction have been in place I’ve been determined to have some creative output and this is part of it. Over the last week I’ve been making myself go out in the evening to photograph. To make things a little more interesting I decided to impose a restrictions on myself. In this case I would use a focal length that I don’t particularity like (50mm) and an old vintage lens on a digital camera.I’ve walked past this wreck many times with the dog and really not taken any notice of it. Well on this particular evening the local farmers had been burning off and the smoke in the air was creating a nice warm light as the setting sun shone through it. I thought that the rust of the car complemented the warm lighting.
Well Beloved Significant Other (BSO) Helen Amyes had a stonker of a year on the croquet front and was invited to attend the Croquetwest 2018-9 trophy presentation. Yours truly was tagging along as the +1 with aim of taking just a couple of photos for her clubs Facebook page. The inevitable happened. Turn up with a camera, couple of lenses and a flash and suddenly you are the “official” photographer and taking the photos for the press and social media. As I’ve said before grip and grin is not my favourite form of photography. There wasn’t a lot of wriggle room for an alternative approach this time so it was pretty basic event photography. At least it was helped along in the form of a jolly jape where fake awards were interspersed with the real ones. Even the recipients were left wondering what they’d actually just won.
All in all it was a fun afternoon
Been playing with a new lens – and so far I’ve been very impressed and it’s made me reconsider my camera system. I’ll put up a full report in the next week or two. Here are a couple of photos to whet your appetite.
Both shots were taken with the Canon 6d, which continues to amaze me with its picture quality, and converted to monochrome in AlienSkin’s Exposure 4.
As I have been tramping around the local woods this spring photographing orchids and birds I noticed something that I’d never seen before. That something was teddy bears tied to trees in odd remote locations. At first I thought it was strange game being played by the local kids, but after I saw my tenth one I decided to ask about and find out what was going on. It took ages to find someone who would answer my questions. Eventually an acquaintance told me to go and see Cliffy.
Cliffy wasn’t that easy to find. The directions up to his shack in the wandoo forest were very vague – turn off the Great Southern Highway onto Talbot Road, drive for 10 Km and then take the third track on the left. Turn right at the dead tree that looks like an “excited” Tony Abbot in Speedos and then right at the big rock. I found the shack. When I say shack that really sounds better than it is. A few sheets of corrugated tin and some bush poles was all it was. When I saw Cliffy it was plain to see that he’d had a hard life. He is a compact sinewy man with skin the colour of tanned leather and hair like iron filings. His hands were a testament to hard physical labour – even the callouses had callouses. As to his age, well if you told me he was 100 I’d believe it and if you said he was 50 it wouldn’t surprise me either. So after the usual “Howz yer doin’?” Followed by a quick discussion about rainfall and rain gauges* I asked him about the bears. Cliffy sucked his single tooth and rolled a couple of strands of tobacco in some paper that looked like it had been torn from a pocket Bible. Slowly and quietly he says in a voice that sounded like he’d been gargling on razor blades “They’re memorials to victims of Drop Bear attacks”. He lit up and took a long drag and then told me the strangest tale. I scurried home to do some research.
Most people throughout the world know about the Koala Bear or to give them their proper scientific name “Phascolarctos cinereus”. Well firstly they are not a bear but a tree-dwelling marsupial that feeds on eucalyptus leaves. Secondly they are relatively harmless because all they do is eat and sleep. Occasionally you come across a grumpy one but all you’ll suffer is a few scratches. Well apparently the koala has an evolutionary cousin, the Thylarctos plummetu. Most animals in Australia are known by their Aboriginal name, but this one hasn’t got one as the Aboriginal Peoples are so scared of it they refuse to talk about it. Colonial settlers came to refer to them as Drop Bears for reasons that will become apparent later. Few people have seen the animal, and of those that have only a couple have lived to tell the tale. I’ll quote the Australian Museum’s description:
“Around the size of a leopard or very large dog with coarse orange fur with some darker mottled patterning (as seen in most Koalas). It is a heavily built animal with powerful forearms for climbing and holding on to prey. It lacks canines, using broad powerful premolars as biting tools instead.”
“120kg, 130cm long, 90 cm at the shoulder.”
“Vegetation Habitat: closed forest, tall closed forest, tall open forest, tall open shrubland”
Feeding and Diet
“Examination of kill sites and scats suggest mainly medium to large species of mammal make a substantial proportion of the animal’s diet. Often, prey such as macropods are larger than the Drop Bear itself. Drop Bears hunt by ambushing ground dwelling animals from above, waiting up to as much as four hours to make a surprise kill. Once prey is within view, the Drop Bear will drop as much as eight metres to pounce on top of the unsuspecting victim. The initial impact often stuns the prey, allowing it to be bitten on the neck and quickly subdued. If the prey is small enough Drop Bears will haul it back up the tree to feed without harassment from other predators.”
The Australian Geographic magazine did an article in 2013 about a University of Tasmania (UTAS) research project looking at who were more susceptible to attacks. In 2012 there was a research project looking to track Drop Bears in bush and see how many there actually are. An excerpt from that paper can be read here. I even managed to find online an old public announcement film for new migrants dating from the 1950’s warning of the dangers posed by Drop Bears.
When Cliffy had finished his tale of horror I had to lift my jaw up from the floor. “But why oh way don’t the government send in the police or the army to do something about it?” I say incredulously. This sent the old man into a fit of hysterical laughter. After ten minutes he managed to regain his composure. “Yer dopey pommy bastard, don’t yer know nothin’? The last time the Australian Army was called in to deal with an animal problem was in 1932 when Emus invaded Western Australia and that was a complete fu*king fiasco and made them look like complete idiots. It would be too dangerous to let that mob loose in the bush. The bloody pollies are all too busy guzzling at the trough to care about a few bushies goin’ missing.”
So if you venture into the Australian bush and see teddy bears tied to the trees be aware that Drop Bear attacks have happened in the area and you’d be best advised to leave.
* All conversations in this part of the world follow this pattern. It’s considered very rude not to ask about someone’s rain gauge.
We decided to walk along the Bilya Walk Track on the banks of the Avon River in Toodyay ostensibly looking for birds. Although it was a fine winter’s day the ground was yes wet, flooded in places, and the river very high from the winter rains.
So mission accomplished and a good day out.
Eighteen Kilometres off the Western Australian coast near Fremantle is an island. It’s name is Rottnest Island. In terms of size it’s not very significant – just 11 Km long and 4.5 Km wide. It has just one settlement and that has a permanent population of around 300 people. But for all its insignificance it receives about 500,000 visitors a year. On a busy day 15,000 can be on the island at one time. It’s most famous residents aren’t even people, they are Quokkas (Setonix brachyurus) a small marsupial animal in the same family as Kangaroos and Wallabies. They are so important to Western Australia that they are the face of the current tourism campaign in the media with the hope that possibility of taking a selfie with one of cute critters will bring legions of overseas tourists who will enrich the coffers of the state government now the mining boom is over. For young people finishing school Rottnest is a right of passage where the teenagers go for a booze fuelled week-long party to mark the transformation from school kid to adult. For other Perth residents a trip to the island is what summer is all about.
You get to the island via a ferry. Rottnest Express has ferry services leaving Barrack Street Jetty in Perth, the B-Shed Fremantle Harbour and Northport Rouse Head. As well as the ferry service they run a variety of package tours to the island and you can rent snorkeling equipment from them. Rottnest Fast Ferries sails out of Hillary’s Boat Harbour and they also run a variety of day tours and cruises.
The best thing about Rottnest is that there are no cars!!!! I’ll say that again. No cars!!!! Cycling is the main form of transport. Brilliant. You can either bring your own bike on the ferry at an extra charge or rent one from either Rottnest Express (if you travelled with them) or get one from Rottnest Island Bike Hire located behind the Hotel Rottnest on Bedford Avenue. The last time I visited the island I took my own bike and did an abbreviated circuit of the island.
Distances are not vast, but before you set off make sure you take plenty of food and water with you as there is none out- side Thomson Bay Settlement.
1. Starting at the Visitor Centre head south following the signs for Hotel Rottnest. After 200 metres take the left fork that runs along the beachfront in front of the hotel. Turn left into Forrest Avenue and this swings round into McCullum Avenue. At the end of McCullum turn left into Parker Point Road.
2. Follow the signs for Kingston Barracks and after 870 metres go past the turn off for Kingston Road and go over the railway crossing heading for Parker Point. After a little while you pass Henrietta Rocks where the wreck of the vessel Shark can be seen from the look out point. The wrecks of the Lady Elizabeth and the Raven also lie off this point. If you are lucky you may see a sea-lion or two.
3. After 4 Km you arrive at a junction, take the left turn and follow the Parker Point Loop. If you have brought a mask, snorkel and flippers with you a stop here is a must as there is a snorkel trail that takes you out on the coral. After 2 Km you are back at the junction, take the left turn and ride along the edge of Salmon Bay.
4. At the 9 Km point you reach the intersection of Parker Point Road and Digby Drive. If you have had enough turn right onto Digby Drive and follow it back to Thomson Bay Settlement, otherwise turn left and then 1 Km later take the right fork following the Geordie Bay sign.
5. Turn right into Bovell Way and follow the road back to the settlement on the northern side of the island. After 5 1⁄2 Km you reach Geordie Bay which is another good spot for swimming and snorkeling. Keep going along Bovell Way until it ends at the intersection with Geordie Bay Road where you turn right onto it and cycle along the edge of Herschell Lake. After 600 metres you reach a cross-road, turn right onto Digby Drive and cycle back through the settlement.
When you’ve returned to Thompson Bay you will in serious need of some refreshment. The Hotel Rottnest is in the old governor’s summer residence. The hotel used to be called the Quokka Arms and most of the locals still use that name. A great location for a quiet coldie on a hot summers day or for a gourmet meal. Another popular eatery is the Rottnest Bakery – a visit to the bakery is considered mandatory for every visitor to the island and it is famous for its fresh bread, pies, slices, and cakes. It is the perfect place to refuel after surfing, snorkeling, swimming or cycling. It is also the most likely place you will meet a quokka.
“A good walk spoiled.”
I’ve been hanging around the York Golf Course. Not to play golf you understand – I’ve never understood the compulsion to dress up in silly sweaters and shoes and drag a bunch of sticks in a cart around a large field while trying intermittently to knock a ball into a hole. No the reason why I’ve taken to loitering at the York Golf Course is that is home to a significant number and variety of wildflowers. Not on the fairways off course – they are barren bits of grass with the occasional large hole filled with sand. No the interesting stuff lies in the rough between the fairways. It’s not without its hazards mind you. Those people in their funny clothes reckon they can hit a ball straight down the fairway to the flag in the hole – well most of ’em can’t, they slice the shot and the balls land like a barrage of misplaced shells in an American artillery strike. The ground is littered with balls in among the bushes. I thought the rules state that you have to play the ball from where it landed, well the number of “lost” balls in the rough at York plainly shows that this is not happening. It’s so bad that next time I visit I’m seriously contemplating wearing a helmet. You can never be too careful.