Australian summers are hot and dry, and while we are not in a drought cycle like the Eastern States, it does get very warm here in York. 45º C is not unheard of. The hot weather and the lack of rain means that the Avon River largely dries up with the exception of a few deep pools, and so I often go walking along the dry river bed with Frida my faithful canine companion as it allows me to view quite a variety of wildlife that congregates around the pools.
It’s not just birds we see, there are small fish in the ponds (difficult to photograph) and masses of different insects like this damselfly below.
Frida usually takes my photographic hijacking of her morning walks with good grace. She usually waits for me either in some convenient shade or as shown below standing in some water. She’s not as daft as she looks!
The other morning we were quite surprised to have a fox pop out of the long grass on the river bank and on to river bed. Initially it took off, but when it saw that Frida wasn’t in hot pursuit slowed down and turned back. The fox and Frida then played a mad game of chase up and down taking it in turns to be the chaser and the the chasee. Quite delightful to watch. It was like the canine equivalent of Kevin Costner’s film Dances With Wolves. Unfortunately by this time the battery in the camera had run flat so I was unable to take any photos of this rather special occurrence. Although this being a predominantly farming community most round here would not regard it as such as they belong to the “only good fox is a dead fox” brigade. A couple of days later we went back to see if the event could be repeated and I had a pocket full of batteries to ensure that I got some photos. We did find the fox in the same location but this time both it and Frida were indifferent to each other and the fox disappeared into the undergrowth on the opposite bank. Again I stuffed up the photography and all I got was the slightly blurred image below. Perhaps we’ll try again.
The soundtrack for summer in the Western Australian bush is provided by Broome based band the Pigram Brothers and their track Dry River Bed provided the title and inspiration for this blog entry.
When your drifting on the ocean
and the sea is a perfect blue
But those storm clouds on the horizon
are keeping you true to who are you
So take me away ‘cross the spinifex plains
where the true mirage never ends
And the smell of the rain is a long way away
lay me down on my dry river bed
Don’t have no white picket fence,
don’t have no green english lawn
Just got heat waves dancing for me,
on the red dirt where I was born
Feel the heart of my country,
beating to them lonely blues
Gotta get back there, gotta get back there,
I’ll be back there real soon
Pigram Brothers – Dry River Bed Music and Words: ( S Pigram/A, D, G, P, S Pigram, P Mamid)
Being originally from England I automatically associate Christmas with cold weather, and by association Robins as they are part of iconography of the festive season. So when walking along the Avon River on a 40º C day seeing these Red-capped Robins seems a little incongruous. For such a small bird they are as bold as brass and will let you approach quite closely. The other confusing thing about Australian robins is that they don’t just come in red.
When we were in Tasmania we had proper winters with snow, and that meant we had robins in their proper setting, but not at Christmas. Oh it’s all very confusing!
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.
I was at Lake Leschenaultia and it was a lovely winter’s day, the sun was out I’d just finished a bush walk. I decided to have lunch at one of the picnic shelters by the lake when it happened. There was no warning. One minute I sitting there alone and happy the next minute these two ne’er-do-wells are demanding with menace. To make matters worse I had nothing to give and they just would not accept that. They were merciless in their onslaught. Would I recognise them again? You bet I would! Their visages are engraved indelibly upon my mind. But better than that I managed to get pictures of them so others could be warned. Here they are.
This was the ring leader. He was ruthlessly determined to relieve me of my lunch. He was brazen in his approach, like he just didn’t care.
This one was a sly beggar! He quietly got into my bag and ransacked it looking for goodies. When discovered he just countered with a manic laugh.It was like something out of that Hitchcock film The Birds albeit with less blood and more sandwiches.
So if you go to Lake Leschenaultia watch out for these two. They are merciless – no picnic is safe! Be warned, or as the Australian Federal Government would say “Be alert but not alarmed“.
The other morning just as I was about to have my shower I heard a commotion on my front veranda. Quickly putting on my dressing gown (I don’t want to scare the neighbours) I went and looked out to see what was going on. To my delight a collared sparrowhawk had perched on the rail to eat its prey. I quickly ran to my office and grabbed a camera and long lens and started shooting.
The commotion was caused by the resident Willie Wagtails (Rhipidura leucophrys leucophrys). For the non Aussies among us the Willie Wagtail is a tiny insect-eating bird whose bossiness and boldness knows no bounds and they will often attempt to chase off larger animals from their territory. That was what happening here hence all the noise.
The Willie Wagtails made several sorties to no avail. Although the collared sparrowhawk’s feathers became a little ruffled at the constant harassment of the tiny feathered furies it did not move on and eventually the small birds gave up and left.
The raptor only left when I tried to move closer to get a better photo.
… or not to twitch. That is the question. I fear I could be on the brink of another obsessive hobby – photographing birds. It is a worry. Oh well at least it’s not train spotting! Now where did I put my parka and thermos?
I got a few enquiries about corellas after my post Tales From The Riverbank part 2. Yes the Shire has previously culled the birds in the run up to Australia Day, but this year they didn’t. The reasons given are that they are noisy – I mean really noisy. To show how noisy I made a short film about them.
Well we’re well and truly in summer now here in York. The mercury has hit 42℃ (107℉), the wheat crop is in and the water level in the River Avon is steadily dropping. This time of year brings the western corellas (Cacatua pastinator) in huge numbers. They migrate here to fatten up on the spilled wheat around the CBH grain handling facility and because of the water in the river. Being seed eaters they need quite large quantities of water to help digest their food. The corellas take up residence in the large gum trees that line
the banks of the river and that means lots of them can be found in the Pioneer Avon Park. Unfortunately for the corellas this all roughly coincides with Australia Day and this is a problem at the park because the town chooses to celebrate Australia Day there, lots of awards are handed out and of course lots of speeches are made. Corellas are noisy – very noisy especially in their hundreds and they can easily drown out a PA system. One year our shire CEO had his wonderful speech (well he thought it was wonderful we the citizens of York thought otherwise) drowned out by raucous squawking and it made him more than a little cross to say the least. To prevent such a thing happening the next year he arranged for the birds to be culled just a few days before Australia Day. This is why York wakes up to the sound of gunfire in the days leading up to Australia Day.