Archive for the ‘birds’ Category

a poem from 2016

January 2, 2017

In the wall

The quiet house has its small sounds –
the dog rolls over, sighs, softly
rests a paw on the skirting board;
light rain echo-tap taps on the conservatory roof;
my typing, tapping on the computer.
But mostly it’s silence.
Something scuffles in the wall.

– What was that again?
The dog’s tail shuffles in the hall.
– Oh. I see.
Yet – something scuffles in the wall.

Footsteps, stairsteps muffle-clump next door;
Tamil voices outside – the child laughs briefly.
Ducking under clouds, the autumn sun,
westering, strikes sideways through my room –
and something scuffles in the wall.

Inside the chimney breast, long bricked up
something is constricted. Some creature
is turning, scrabbling.
Pay attention.
It stops. Quiet as the grave.
Escaped? – – – – – the smallest of shuffles. – Rat! Rat!

A scary creature is trapped in my wall:
something that will flap, scuttle, rush in my face.

A quiet day passes – gone. Found its way out.

Evening sun rests light on my cream room
And something scuffles in the wall.
Something horrible that can’t get out
is stuck, dying and alone in the dark.

Mike comes over to unscrew the brass air vent,
opens an exit.
The creature is lying doggo.

Another day passes. Mice can live in walls
scuttle in skirting boards. Still the gentle
shuffling, on and off, fluttering, rolling.

We go by the book – chip off plaster
neatly knock out a brick or two, leave a torch
shining, go to the pub to give it some peace –
and return to see soot on the carpet.
Not a sound. Success!

And yet, come the sideways light of afternoon,
So close, next to my work table,
My creature scuffles in the wall.
Four days now, or five. How long does it take to die?
Does a pigeon die faster than a blackbird?

Take the big crowbar to it myself, and the
terrifying lump hammer.
In quiet she may find the courage to leave.
Repeat the torch, pub routine.
Return tipsy to more soot. Proper success.

Morning sun shines in the front window.
Further up and over to the side –
My creature shuffles in the wall. Poor choice!
Silly simple bird!
Crowbar. Hammer. Don’t crush her.
More debris, and now a breeze block to come out,
widen the way into that shallow concrete coffin.
Internet advice says: leave the room.
I only have one room. The phone rings.

And while I’m loudly on the phone, a soft flop –
Pigeon is sitting ruffled on the rubble, hops
up onto a chair.
Perches – long seconds. Launches a brief
battering flight around the conservatory.
Pauses again. She crouches, reassessing –

Then out, out, up, up
into the neighbour’s laburnum and then on –
in her shallow arc of rising flight, up and out,
my beautiful pigeon
skims the roof tiles, bending southwards and away.

make a bigger hole

make a bigger hole

 

brutal lump hammer and crowbar

brutal lump hammer and crowbar

 

consider the light

consider the light

 

dark cream walls and morning light

dark cream walls and morning light

 

assess the situation

assess the situation

 

conservatory door

conservatory door

 

le chézeau in June

June 26, 2014

The buzzards can be heard everywhere around here – up by the sun all through daytime and on into the long evenings.  I’ve been trying to think of ways of describing their call.  ‘Call’ is a good word, for a start, because they do sound a little like a person calling out in distress – a sharp onset and then a fade.  So is ‘cry’.  The trouble with ‘call’ and ‘cry’ is that they are  too generic: so many creatures a said to have a ‘call’ or a ‘cry’, but that is not intended to describe the sound they make.  The words for it matter, because  recordings don’t quite capture the experience of hearing a buzzard calling high up in the air. Don’t go and listen to the RSPB website recording: it’s a travesty. Their pictures are good, though.  I don’t see normally see real buzzards anything like this close – first you hear them, and then you look for a dark dot far up in the sky, vanishing from sight each time it turns.

From the RSPB

From the RSPB

 

The buzzard’s call has an echoing quality, almost a wail – I suppose it is functioning as some kind of sonar or a locating system.  Certainly it carries a long way, and a pair of buzzards will call and respond to each other, as they wheel across distances,  in a kind of sky-y antiphon.

The call has been compared to cats’ mewing, but it is closer to their yowling in the night.  I think it is more ethereal than either of those.  Purer and more carrying, because less harsh, and clearer because it lacks the intimate antagonism of a cat standoff.  Buzzards call for the distances, not for the close range.

In the end, the closest comparison I can offer you is the siren that the pedalo hire people sound to call a boat in when its half hour is up.  Reality is often disappointing – I would much rather find a resemblance to something less ordinary.  To the buzzard, too, its call must be mundane, functional.  It is only in my mind’s ear that they are creatures of wonder.

 

Canberra’s Cockatoos

May 14, 2014

I wanted a good photo of a cockatoo.  They are almost my favourite birds – especially in Canberra.  When I say that, I am reminded of a lecturer at the University of Warwick who began every seminar with: ‘Ahh. [name of play for that week] My favourite play!’  It took some months for us to tumble to him, but it was an excellent way to start a seminar.  So – cockatoos are my favourite birds.  And magpies.  And kurrawongs. And of course kookaburras.  Let’s not forget crows, either:  they are really wonderful.

Oh heck!  shall I start again?  I wanted  a  photo of a cockie – I just did.  OK?

It should be easy in Canberra, where they flock by the score and salute the evening with raucous joy.  Maybe in my next life I can be a cockatoo: I could float through Canberra, screaming greetings, and perching in the tall trees with all the roosting crowd.

Captain Cook Crescent was overcast and grey, darkening already towards four-thirty in the afternoon.  I would have to be quick to get a photo.

Captain Cook Crescent leads out of Manuka

Captain Cook Crescent leads out of Manuka

The birds had gone quiet.  Oddly, today there were  few cockies around.  One or two scudded away from high in the tall trees.

This one was moving off rapidly to the north – towards wherever the sun might have gone.

flying alone

flying alone

The light darkened unnaturally quickly.  My eyesight felt dim and the air dense: somehow curdling not just in the sky, but all around me.

another loner

another loner

Actually, I think this one might be a photo of a cockie that has moved briskly out of shot. Wow! I thought.  I’d forgotten how early it gets dark in Canberra in the Autumn. Winter will be here soon.  I may have to try tomorrow, a bit earlier in the day.

dusk, and the grey darkens

dusk, and the grey darkens

 

Fed up with impossible cockies, what is there left to photograph?  My first ever selfie?

They are really hard – you can’t just point and click. I tried smiling.

worse and worse

worse and worse

I look like my father – and this is the better of the two.

I’d given up on the cockatoos by now and was just photographing any old thing that came along. Here’s a doggo – the only one available on my walk.

Just after I took the photo he decided to do his duty and bark at me.

Just after I took the photo he decided to do his duty and bark at me.

A thriving protea loomed out of the dimness.

A thriving protea loomed out of the dimness.

Then: a clear view of a cockatoo perched in a tree, in the middle of the central reservation.  Relief for me, but quite far up and still a dimmish shot against the slurry of grey.

2014-04-29 07.42.14

 

Are two poor photos twice as good as one, or just twice as bad?

 

It lingered there long enough for me to get a second poor photo.

It lingered there long enough for me to get a second poor photo.

 

Finally – back to Annabel’s charming house.  In the gathering dusk of my point-and-click even this looks somehow sinister and buried in the wood, like a cottage in a fairy tale.

A classic early Canberran build - originally for a civil servant - and largely unchanged over the years.

A classic early Canberran build – originally for a civil servant – and largely unchanged over the years.

 

Annabel arrived a while later, after dark.  I was chopping up vegetables for ratatouille (my signature safe dish when cooking for a host).

“Did you see the eclipse?” she asked. “About four thirty?”

Birdwatching on the Rec

January 26, 2014

Never underestimate the common sparrow – she is a beautiful bird, and very clever –

Isn't she cute?

Isn’t she cute?

We walk around the Rec with our dogs nearly every day (holidays and times when it is too full of people excepted), and have done now since we had our first rescue dog.  (Morgan, a greyhound from the Dogs’ Trust, who came to us in 1997.)

Dog walking is an all-weather sport, but luckily so is bird watching.  I’m good at seeing birds – but my other half is really excellent at identifying them.  Birdwatching seems to be something that crosses all the traditional barriers of class, race, age and gender – so it’s ideal for our eclectic Eagle Rec.  Sadly I seem to be handicapped by my nationality: I grew up in a different country.  I really struggle to ID those SBBs (small brown birds) so the attached list is very much thanks to my husband and to other people who love to watch the birds on the Rec: Linda, Fergus, Tim are just a few. No doubt there are many others who watch the crows raise their broods, and startle when an unusual sea bird is blown in on a gale.

Here’s Andrew’s list:

Starling
Song Thrush
Mistle Thrush
Fieldfare
Redwing
Blackbird
Robin
Dunnock
Wren
Blackcap
Chiffchaff
Blue tit
Great tit
Long-tailed tit
Chaffinch
Green Finch
Goldfinch
Pied Wagtail
House Sparrow
Wood Pigeon
London Pigeon
Collared Dove
Sparrow Hawk
Carrion Crow
Magpie
Common Gull

(That’s 26 species of bird resident or regular in season on the Rec).
You would expect to see (and hear) in summer, the Green Woodpecker; the Willow Warbler and the Garden Warbler.  Has anyone seen them here?
also spotted (rarely):
Buzzard
Tern

We are just waiting for the Red Kites to arrive in a year or so, as they move gradually northwards.

Last autumn we were mesmerised by the huge flocks of starlings – the murmurations – that rose up every evening for a week or more, spectacularly turning and wheeling to avoid the sparrow hawk.

 

Sydenham Brook

June 20, 2013

The quick stream was bustling clean and clear.
Blue sky, frozen lumpy ground
rigid underfoot
but the steep track was deep mud
slurped heavily along the brook’s bank

In the hurrying stillness
a woodpecker rattled – and again.

 

13th January, 2013

 

Main Beach, Southport

April 18, 2013

A Story in Pictures

When I come home to Australia – I still call Australia home, even though I have lived in the UK now for more than thirty-five years – I love to look at the sea, and at the beaches I knew as a teenager. We all knew then that Main Beach was the best, after the king tides of the sixties destroyed Surfers’ Paradise. The Council brought in more sand by the truckload, and shoved big rocks along the edge, but the surf was never the same. At least, that’s what we said in the seventies. After that – well – I wouldn’t know. I’d moved overseas. Anyway, my Mum (now 87 years old) and I drove the couple of miles from her place, over to look at the sea.

04 Main Beach erosion

Blow me down if the beach hadn’t been destroyed by those cyclones and floods and stuff that they had through the summer. Washed away. That wooden bit sticking out isn’t designed to be a jetty: it was once a platform where you could stand to wash the sand off your feet before returning to the demands of shoes and cars and civilisation.

So I took a photo of Mum by the destruction and sent it to my kids with a feeble joke about two sorts of erosion – they all responded by telling me how well she is looking. Not much eroded at all. So much for wit.

06 Mum at Main Beach

I think she looks quite nice in her grey dress against the grey waves, while the orange plastic strips give the whole thing a kind of grim liveliness. A little further along there was a warning sign.

08 tourists

I struggled but eventually managed to get a clear shot of it, past the tourists who were having a good time, milling around and taking photos. “Japanese tourists,” as my mother inevitably observed.

09 tourists in danger

And then a middle-aged chap stepped over the orange guard rail. His women folk seemed to be urging him to stand closer and closer to the edge, and he was inching along obediently. They were trying for an exciting photo – and it was a long drop. Maybe he would have landed softly, but I didn’t want to see it. “Come back, come back,” I shouted, “Dangerous! Danger!” And waved my arms, beckoning in the universal sign-language. There’s always that moment when you feel that maybe you should let grown-ups take their own decisions, and then there’s the quasi-maternal moment when you feel that you want to protect the stranger who has been having a good time in your country. Nobody wants it to end in tears. Meddlesome Jill.

Mum and I walked on – well staggered on, really, as Mum doesn’t walk very strongly or very fast these days. I was hoping that: a) we hadn’t offended them; b) they weren’t going to rush up and hit us; c) they weren’t going to come and tell us to mind our own business. None of this happened. Somewhere there exists a photo of the next moment, but I don’t have a copy. A rushing of feet behind us, and the women grabbed us round the waist, gesturing that they wanted a photo. Laughing and excited, they stood us in a line of four, arms around each other, and the same man we had saved from the waters was organised and instructed to take our photo. There were a couple of different line-ups before the women were satisfied. I bet they are good pictures – he had a terrific camera. Perhaps a little story about the kindness of strangers was even better to take home than a daredevil stunt.

Instead of that vanished photo, I can offer you a different picture of random generosity. This is a water bowl, for dogs walking the seafront, and in case you didn’t know, there are dog pawprints in the concrete leading to it. It was in fact being used by an Egyptian ibis, who was dipping its head into the bowl, washing and having a drink – but I wasn’t quick enough to get that picture. Prudent bird, it startled off when I came too close.

10 water bowl

Anglesea – February 2011- nearly two years ago now

December 9, 2012

So much time has passed.  I reached a point in my Australian trip narrative – and somehow couldn’t go on.  A great slash – black lightning – a darkness ripped across the reportage, just as I reached Geelong.  And that makes sense, because what Geelong contains was also a great wound across my life: the stopping place from which it was so hard to move forward.    No wonder it appalled my mind and blocked my tongue.  In that place, I rely on help from others to devise some kind of strategic approach, for my own strength is baffled and foolish there.

We stayed, not in Geelong, but in neutral territory down on the coast at Anglesea.  By the Great Ocean Road.  We played in the surf and on the beach with the grandsons, and we hung out with my daughter.  We walked along the cliffs, stepping quietly past a brown snake as it lay, relaxed and stretched still as death by the path.  Choughs were springing from the cliffs out into airy space.

DSCF1466

So many of them, and moving so fast that each photo can only catch one or two.  The bird book says that choughs are clumsy fliers – but they don’t look it here.  Perhaps these aren’t choughs at all – or perhaps they are what choughs become, once they are enchanted by cliffs and ocean.   These grassland-foragers, mud-nest builders, these earthy dwellers in convivial crowds: they don’t need to be here. – It must be some sort of choice to live where they can rise up alone and swirl into the salt air, blue above and blue below.

DSCF1464

On our way back, the brown snake was gone – not dead at all, then.

 

the Botanical Gardens, Canberra

February 5, 2012

We went to the Botty Gardens sometimes when we were students at the ANU – when it was a bare-ish hillside not yet fully vacated by the sheep.  I remember some trees.  There was a strange plan at the time to spend a lot of taxpayers’ money on creating a rainforest gully.  It would involve sprinklers that switched on and off automatically, creating a fine mist over the gully for precise hours of every day.  How we laughed!  What moonshine, we thought.  Nearly as dreamlike a folly as the design for the Black Mountain Tower, we mocked.  Canberra, in case you have forgotten, is in outback NSW – drought-ridden years are scarcely varied with frosty winters.  The dominant colour for the grass in the surrounding landscape is a curiously fulvous dusty yellow-brown.  And that may also have been true of the ACT once.  Over the decades, though, Canberra’s micro-geography was forcibly re-created as something quite other – almost alien – a dream oasis of freshness.  And now it balances in a complex equilibrium between the two things: its natural self of origin, and its artificial re-creation co-exist and refract each other most delicately and precisely.

I arrived into Canberra by train in February of 1967, when the contrasts felt raw – and for years afterwards a poem about that experience bubbled away in my mind.

The Botanical Gardens nowadays are a glorious place – a world of delights where small paths wander off through gullies and rain forests, over streams, across scaled-down grassy savannahs.  And everywhere, everywhere are the noble gum trees, great wonders of creation fit to take your breath away.  In nature, no such collection of disparate specimens would exist together, but here trees from every State and every climate thrive, cheek by jowl with one another.

  This scribbly gum is too big for my camera.  I want to show the scribbles, but then I have to be this close to it, so I can’t show the grandeur.  It’s here because it’s amazing, but also because its botanical name is ‘Eucalyptus Rossii’ – so, clearly it is my scribbler brother’s emblem.

I photographed a lot of the labels, but now I can’t read it at this size. Same problem as before – to get the sign in at all one has to get too close to the tree. Enlarged, the notice seems to say ‘Eucalyptus Scoparia’ – and Wikipedia tells me that that is the Wallangarra White Gum – but it also says it is a small to medium tree, which this certainly is not.  But maybe it just thrives in the Botanical Gardens.  This beauty is shedding its bark in great long strips.  I was looking for a paper bark and for a stringybark – two of the few names for gum trees that I actually know.  (I know Iron Bark as well, maybe because of the ‘Man from Ironbark’  poem.  Watch out for this link – they’ve accidentally run the first two stanzas together.  My older brother used to laugh vastly over Paterson’s joke, when we were kids.  He knew the poem off by heart and I bet he still does.)  They have all of these trees in Canberra, and many more.

Another one (or maybe more of the same one?) – Andrew’s hat gives a sense of perspective.

Light and dark.  Lightness and weight.  Refinement and solidity.  the leaves are stilll and papery while the light glistens on them.

But I was still searching for a Paperbark.

So glamorous, with its exotic stripes, like some kind of African antelope, or a leopard – and all along it’s a Queensland gum!  I’ve never seen one of these in Queensland, I thought.  But I didn’t notice much as a child – always buried in a book.  I was so unsure that I checked by Google – and find that it’s Eucalyptus Tereticornis – also known (gloriously) as a Bastard Box, a Blue Gum, Flooded Gum, Grey Gum, Mountain Gum, Forest Red Gum, Queensland Blue Gum, Red Gum, Red Ironbark, Red Irongum and Slaty Gum.  Thank you for that, Wikipedia –  (but can I trust you?)  Furthermore, as the proliferation of fun names would suggest, they’re all over the place – from New Guinea all the way down to south-eastern Victoria – and the European naming process has been going on since 1793.  (I wonder what the aboriginals call them?  called them?) I feel proud to read that it has a ‘strong, hard and durable heartwood’ and is one of the ‘key canopy species’.  There’s something about the word ‘heartwood’ that fills the soul  and about ‘canopy’ that feels protective.  I’m falling in love with the Queensland Gum, regardless of its dark side as a Bastard Box, or its working life as railway sleepers.

So here it is again – too lovely to leave.  Here you can see the blue tones on the trunk, and I suppose the pinkish bits justify ‘red’.  Wikipedia (again) explains that the different colours are related to its habit of shedding bark in strips.

This was the day I met Val for coffee in the gardens: we laughed at the clowning choughs, loved the magpies’ song, and behaved ourselves by not feeding any birds at all.

Salute to Val’s wonderful blog about Canberra: here is Black Mountain Tower.

Here is our morning coffee (or was it lunch?) – either way – with ducks on the grass

 Val and a magpie.

choughs looking grumpy.

I have to stop.  It would take forever to tell everything.  And this is just the first day.

Beasts of the forest and city – Auckland again

April 7, 2011

Auckland: Friday Feb 18th  
Between Green Bay and the alternative atmosphere of Titirangi (charming coffee shops and galleries, and an endlessly interesting community noticeboard) lies a wild green space: the Rahui Kahika Reserve.   It looks forested but the word ‘Reserve’ suggests that it is cared for, and paths roam through it.  The walk up to Titirangi lies beside a busy road, so walking through the Reserve looks like a good option.   The first path leads along the backs of houses, where a council employee is mowing vigorously, wheeling to and fro and flinging curves of chopped green grass through the air.  A little further on is another clipped green path, access to Godfrey Road – still no wilderness – just a cluster of teenagers in school uniform, sitting convivially on the grass and drinking sober cans of pop.  Friday afternoon in Green Bay.  Mowing is everywhere – someone else is mowing in his back yard.  Eventually the path curves deeper into the Reserve, across a little stream and past steeper cliffs, into quiet shaded darkness.  http://chimaera.co.nz/greenbay/001_intro.htmlI  It peters out into something that looks like the tracks you made in the bush when you were twelve, and the last thing you ever wanted to do was to get to a destination. It starts to bend back in an almost imperceptible  way and clearly there is going to be no way through to Titirangi Road, now well above us.  Our map didn’t show contour lines.
http://www.zoomin.co.nz/map/nz/waitakere/titirangi/-rahui+kahika+reserve/
We turn back, and edge along the little stream through the eerie shadows of tall trees. A huge, sudden movement just next to me and a little behind – big soft golden-brown wings flap in the undergrowth and an impossibly large bird lifts low across the path, to land on a branch – so close -.  For a moment I thought it was some kind of bat – maybe a flying fox – but no.  It sat patiently, waiting us out, while I stepped gently back to take photos.

Bird in the underbrush

I wish I could show you how he glowed golden-brown in the beam of sun.  I fell in love with him, perched there so calm and quietly still.  It was hard to believe he was in the right place.  How could he live there – the canopy is dense – how could he ever possibly fly up through all that?  Perhaps we needed to phone the animal protection people.  Could it be a young one? or lost?  Surely big birds need lots of space?  And he sat on, waiting.

he seems to be watching, too

Watching something so fine and large (‘Being earth-brown, earth-golden’) makes me think of D H Lawrence’s poem, ‘Snake’.  It ends:  
And so
I missed my chance with one of the lords
Of life
And I have something to expiate:
 A pettiness.
My littleness is to creep close, and submit him to being photographed.  What an insult.  Perhaps my concern for his wellbeing just masks desire for control?  We looked him up later in the bird book: like every other bird I spot, the Australasian Harrier Hawk is classed as ‘common’.  Well, the breed may be common, but the experience of seeing one was extraordinary.

It wouldn’t really be fair to call the Auckland Choral Society a ‘beast of the city’ – but maybe it fits if you think of the criteria: that it has many heads, is exceptionally long-lived and produces a very rich, musical call.  Anyway, we went to their free ‘taster’ concert: excerpts from programmes to be performed later in the year.  Great fun, especially the singalong. 

The ‘taster’ had ended early in the evening, and failed to satisfy actual physical hunger, but luckily that was the day of the Lantern Festival, celebrating Chinese New Year.  There were crowds and crowds of people filling Albert Park to overflowing and surging down into the little streets nearby: who would have thought Auckland could hold so many?   A party atmosphere filled the bright darkness with hurly-burly, and strange inflatable beasts of the city imaged Chineseness and New Zealand life.

scarlet lanterns welcome the New Year

These are just a few of the displays, and there had been fireworks earlier.

a dragon gateway seems to bring luck to all who pass underneath

I’m not sure what that circle is on the top – maybe a lucky coin? Maybe the moon, or the sun?  I suspect it’s the coin, though, as Chinese good luck seems to be mostly about good health and cash.

Bok Choi, snails and distressingly humanoid chickens

– oh yes – and food.  Eating well is a big part of the Lantern Festival, as we found in the populous side-street of multifarious food stalls.  Not just Chinese food, either, but all kinds of Asian dishes abounded.

Chinese-New Zealand multi-culturalism

I guess these beasts count as edibles along with the other inflated lantern tableaux, but they also symbolise much more.  Chinese techniques and conventions representing iconic New Zealandness.  The medium is the message.

After the Flood – Colleges Crossing

February 6, 2011

Colleges Crossing

The Mt Crosby Road runs between the western edge of Brisbane and the northern edge of Ipswich, and crosses the Brisbane River at Colleges Crossing.  It’s a pretty drive, through bushland and some small settlements, now gradually being subsumed into the conurbation that is Brisbane.  Years ago, the Mt Crosby reservoir served Brisbane’s needs for water, but it has long been replaced by the much larger Wivenhoe and Somerset Dams.  There is a village of Mt Crosby, where nowadays you can get a decent cup of coffee, but it will still be from the little corner shop that also does fast food and bits of groceries and is (I think) the local post office.  That might give you some idea of how much it is still the old place, and how it is also moving with the times.

 

We used to drive out to Colleges Crossing in hot weather when I was a teenager living in Ipswich in the sixties, just to find a cool place.  Not to swim or to picnic – just to be.  I remember doing my homework in places like that, memorising swatches of ‘As You Like It’ – there, or at Savages Crossing, or sometimes for a change at Kholo Crossing.  I guess we also swam, and picnicked a little. 

 

This picture is from a website for canoeists: looking back upstream to Savage's Crossing.

 

 Memory is a funny thing: I associate the word ‘flying fox’ with those places.  In my mind’s eye I can see that piece of wire rising up to the steep wooded bank opposite. – It’s a clever device for swinging goods across a valley when there is no bridge, or when the bridge is flooded out, as often happened.  (There’s a terrific rant by a bloke in Gympie, that mentions that kind of flying fox: his voice and strength of opinion comes through strongly: it’s a great piece of reporting. It’s dated March 2010.)

http://www.gympietimes.com.au/story/2010/03/11/marooned-dismantled-flying-fox-was-their-lifeline/  

 But maybe it referred to those bat-like creatures, the flying foxes, that lived in huge colonies in the trees. 

tree full of flying foxes

The bank opposite where we parked the old Holden was steep und unspoiled, with tall trees.  The colonies of flying foxes love this kind of environment.  In the air they look beautiful: large and graceful, but also a little bit scary and creepy.  I guess it was our mother who told us they were dirty creatures.  But then, most creatures seem dirty to her.

 

a flying fox in the air.

Usually you see them at dusk, when they look black against the sky. We used to see lots of them from the verandah of the old place at Yeerongpilly.

 Or maybe the crossings had both kinds of flying fox – maybe both memories are real.  How much more pleasant not to have to give up either.

For a long time, though, College’s Crossing has had a pretty grassed area with picnic tables, barbecues, lots of wildlife, and a nice café with genuine Ipswich staff.  Their voices and their sharp practicality carried me straight back to the town of my youth. – (Never let anyone tell you that there is only one Australian accent – the regional variants are utterly distinctive.)  I have a few placid photos of ducks and swans dating from my visit eighteen months ago. 

 

ducks at Colleges Crossing recreation ground - Feb 2010

a black swan at Colleges Crossing - Feb 2010

  

Of course it didn’t occur to me then to take pictures of the café buildings, or the loos or the carparks.  I wish I had, because the flood swept everything away (except the portable buildings, which were towed to high ground in time).  It smashed the trees off a couple of feet from the ground, tore out the grass, re-shaped the river bank.  It destroyed the man-made structures leaving unrecognisable fragments of concrete.  It is hard to get a photo of the destruction, as the road is very narrow, so we couldn’t stop, and behind safety fences there are graders working at smoothing out the rubble.  I imagine that in a fortnight or so they will have re-seeded the grass and re-planted trees: the bush works very quickly to recover from these natural disasters, and so does the City Council.  But the demolished landscape is amazing – a moonscape, a post-apocalyptic devastation that is quite stunning in its totality.  The place is overwhelmingly brown and sepia, as if it belongs in a different world altogether, or in a different time.

River bank at Colleges Crossing, 5th Feb 2011

from the road

We hope the ducks had the sense to take the advice offered below:

view of the recreation ground from the road bridge

The bank on the left is roughly where the ducks were.


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