Nature's Place

When I Got Up

This morning, the first thing I noticed was the mats I have on the floors had been disturbed. They had been tossed about during the night. This usually means only one thing, Djinn – the cat has been playing with (torturing is a human pastime) some creature he probably brought into the house in the dark hours.

When I say he’s been playing with some creature I really mean he has been enjoying his fascination with little things that move, mixed with a predators taste for blood. This is not torture. Torture is humans, usually men, deliberately inflicting pain on another creature, usually men, to produce a desired result. There’s a big difference.

Well, I followed the trail of tossed mats and noticed a disturbance around the bin in the kitchen. And then I stood on it. I felt something under my foot but when I moved my foot there was nothing there. Then I noticed there was something stuck to my foot. I scraped my foot on the carpet and there was a frog, dead. (RIMG1220 +1225.JPG)

It looks like the frog tried to get away in the corner beside the bin where there is a little cover. If he had just made it. He didn’t. I got some tissue and picked the frog up and its back half was missing. Djinn must have eaten it. I was annoyed at the cat for killing what it doesn’t need to eat. It’s a sign of a spoilt nature, but then all animals close to man are spoilt in nature, to some degree.

This is Djinn prowling in the back yard, so you can warn all the creatures when cat is around. (RIMG1236.JPG)

Cat isn’t like dog. It doesn’t pick up on right and wrong. It doesn’t have that willingness to please that might engender a change to its behaviour. Cat is cat, loves its pleasure as long as it’s available. And its pleasure is being cat. Dog, if it hasn’t been mistreated, wants to be mans friend.

I heard the lovely call of the pied magpie from out back, warbling you might call it, and brought the frog out with me to have a look. There was a pair of adult magpies teaching a young one how things are done. They were sitting in the tree close by, two cowled observers, while the young one was on the clothes line searching the ground for some food.

I do put some food out for the birds, especially when the weather is stormy as it has been for a few days. So I threw the frog out on the grass and before the young magpie could launch itself an adult butcher bird was on the ground with the frog in its mouth, that’s the difference experience makes. The butcher bird also has a young one in tow but manages its education a little differently to the magpies at this stage of its growth. (RIMG1232.JPG)

So I went and got some soft walnuts and broke them up for the young magpie. (RIMG1230.JPG) And the adults. They enjoyed that, the butcher bird too.

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Where I Live

Frogs are sensitive creatures to be sure. Every day at dusk they welcome the night with calls to each other across the distance where I live, locating one another. From rainwater tank to rainwater tank they call. A deep, rhythmic croaking call.

Night time is when they come out of their daytime hiding and resting places, there are too many predators about during the day. I’m talking about the lovely green tree frogs that seem to survive very well without too many trees, but nature adapts to us, doesn’t it. As long as we make space for it. I make space for these frogs. And if it’s about to rain they know and start to croak it down. Welcome! Welcome! Nideep! Nideep!

This country has just been through the longest drought it’s known, as far as I know. But the thing about the creatures is they don’t have a problem with that, it’s not unusual in the history of this land. The creatures are in touch with the land, they are of the land and they know what they need to know of the land. It’s a deep inner knowing, not the knowing we know on the surface here of that’s Joe over there who just smashed his car, poor fellow.

It’s an inner sense of the sense of all things within their compass, or an innocence, innocent of the world of thinking. Animals don’t think. Just like babies. It’s what we love about them.

Frogs, who depend very much on a supply of fresh water, have a strategy for dealing with drought. They hibernate. They don’t just know when water is coming, they also know when water is not coming.

Not all species of frog do this but when drought is coming many dig themselves into the still wet mud at watering holes and wait. They dig themselves in deep enough so that when it does rain again it has to rain enough to wet right down to them so that it’s wet enough for them to complete their life cycle, to breed and die, while the tadpoles have a good chance of reaching maturity.

See how intelligent nature is? And science thinks it’s a numerical accident or a rational matter, bloody nonsense. What do you think enables the numbering or the rational? Could it be intelligent nature? Yours and mine?

And while they are hibernating, if they are hibernating for a long time, they shed their skin, in layers. Not because they are growing out of it but because they are drawing nourishment from it, and at the same time cocooning themselves from the pressures of their existence. They digest themselves from the outside in. Trusting without trust rain will come. And rain always comes.

They are able to do this because the frog is being the sensation of frog, the knowledge of frog. And so wasting absolutely no energy. Frog doesn’t think about where frog has been or what frog has done or not done. Or what is not frog. And frog does not think about the future, ‘God, I hope it rains soon or I’m going to dry out’. Frog doesn’t get anxious. Frog is frog.

Sweet little thing to me. RIMG1407.JPG (RIMG0891 + 1046 + 1216.JPG)

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The One That Got Away

On my way back from Brunswick Heads today I went to the nature reserve from the Jones Road entrance. It’s a dead end road with only a few houses on it so it’s not sealed. Australia is such a huge place and with so few people it’s not affordable to seal all the roads.

Anyway, half way along this road I came to a fallen branch of a big gum tree. Some big gum trees have a habit of dropping their branches which is why it’s not wise to camp or park under them. The branch was a big one and I stopped the car to move it off the road. I’m still strong from my truck driving removal’s days, which is just as well since it was a heavy branch.

While I was tidying up the debris from the road I noticed a beautiful green beetle, iridescent I think is the word for it, it was beautiful. I picked it up and at first I thought it was dead but then it moved a back leg, so slowly.

I had the camera with me but there was nowhere in that spot to photograph the beetle. So I put it on a large leaf and took it in the car with me to the entrance to the reserve where I thought I might find a surface to put it on so I could take a picture.

When I got to the entrance the beetle was still in the same position as I first put it so I changed clothes for the walk and put on some insect repellent, I had just been for an interview. All the while keeping an eye on it in case it was alive enough to get lost in the car. But it didn’t move.

So, I was ready to take its picture and picked it up to go find a place for it, there was a tree stump close by that looked like it would do fine. Within a few seconds of me putting it in my hand it came suddenly alive and I realized at once it must be reacting to the insecticide. But before I could put it down it opened its beautiful iridescent green carapace, spread its wings and flew away with a loud buzzz. Off down the hill and into the distance. The insecticide really woke it up.

If you are having trouble getting the little ones to sit still for you try a different brand of insect repellent, you never know.

I went off down the track and after a while I went off the track and into the woods, having a look around and taking photos of the stuff that caught my eye. I was standing there looking at the shadow and light amongst the trees when out of the edge of my sight I caught the movement of something white and small moving fast along the ground.

Most creatures are camouflaged so it was an unusual occurrence. I bent down to where the white had last been and used a stick to lift a leaf or two and there it was. A spider carrying a white ball behind it. Amazing. It was a black spider and it was running along the ground carrying a white ball at least as big as its own body. (RIMG0962.JPG)

It tried hiding from me, disappearing under this leaf then that leaf and I used the stick to expose it until it gave up and stopped still. That’s when I got it.

What was the spider doing out in the open, albeit with much leaf litter for cover, carrying a big white ball for all to see. I suspect it was a nest of young she was carrying and it is probably fitting to this spider to carry them around with her since she probably doesn’t have a permanent home. The dedication and fearlessness of it, truly amazing.

I suspect she is a nomadic spider. Wandering on her piece of earth killing what she needs to eat and mating when the time comes. I wonder what happens when the young hatch? Does she kill something for them and leave them or does she nurture them for some time. Who knows what I’ll find tomorrow.

This was just off the Optus trail on the way towards ocean Shores. I went along the trail for a while and eventually came to a creek that was flowing, flowing from the swampland just back a ways. And it was lovely to see flowing water in the sunlight.

There is a certain clarity, a richness of sense and a refreshment to the mind in the sight and sound of running water. (RIMG0992+0995.JPG)

Ps. I found out it’s called a Wolf spider, I don’t know why. Maybe it’s their hunting nature; one or two kinds of wolf spider are known to hunt cane toads. And it carries its young on its back until they are mature enough to go their own way. A bit like people that.

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Little Lady Wasp

These stalks of reedy grass are often home to some or other creature. These homes have the advantage of being well off the ground away from obvious dangers but the disadvantage of being relatively easily seen by the small birds and dragonfly’s that feed in these places. And a dragonfly is not to be taken lightly if you are a small flying insect.

First it was that turquoise and black fellow with the long nose, then the spider. Today I saw a small black and yellow striped wasp guarding its nest, less than an inch long. I could tell it was guarding its nest because when I tried to get close enough to take a photo it became restless, moving around in short jerky spurts of activity. But I persisted, gently, without getting too close so as to pose no immediate danger to the little lady or her nest. (RIMG0844 + 927.JPG)

I determined that by watching her closely, and reading her language, the way she moves or positions herself, any attitude or posture she might adopt, or noise she makes. It all communicates something, which doesn’t always lend itself to words. I never felt menaced by her, just warned.

The nest was attached low down on the underside of a seed cluster and it was a masterpiece of building. It was grey in colour, a little bigger than the seed cluster it was hanging from and with a similar, roughly diamond, shape. It looks like a cluster of chambers she probably built and laid her young in as she went. I wouldn’t be surprised if she has placed something at the centre of the nest cluster for its young to eat as they mature enough. That would make sense. That’s what nature does, it makes sense.

I have to admire the simple intelligence of this creature. Apparently alone, it found a spot to reproduce itself and built a protective structure to house its young while they come to life. Then standing guard, first with the warning of its – ‘I’m dangerous’ – yellow stripe, then if you get past this sense of danger and approach closer she moves around to show a fearlessness in spite of her tiny size. And the rest of nature knows she probably has a magnificent sting, so keep your distance or else!

I have noticed the seed clusters of the reed peel from the top down, one seed at a time, and the cluster she has attached her nest to hasn’t started peeling yet. I wonder if she has enough time for all her young to mature enough before the seed cluster peels down to where the nest is attached and it falls to the ground. I might get to see for myself, if I’m lucky.

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Wily Little Spider

There are many different grasses in the reserve. One is a firm slender stalk about five feet high with a seed cluster around an inch or two from its pointed tip looking a bit like a pine cone pointing up to the sky. One of these seed pods had a little spider nest built under it, the kind from which the spider darts out to catch its prey. (RIMG0840.JPG) Any prey would have to appear on an area about as wide as a matchstick and as long as a fingernail for the spider to have any chance of catching it.

I didn’t get to see the actual spider but its front legs were visible through the web, touching the strands of web that would transmit news of prey, poised. It’s a curious thing, what would the spider hope to catch in such a small hunting ground. You’d think there would be more fruitful hunting grounds.

You might say spiders don’t hope. It takes its place in the order of things according to its instinct, its innate intelligent connection to the nature around it. Inside. Nature looks after itself, creatures live and die. Everything lives by killing something, and some things die of starvation. But it is amazing to me the spider would be in that spot. That spider’s perfect spot. Maybe it was just nesting, looking after its eggs or tiny young. But I didn’t see anything but the spider when I went to have a closer look the next day. And amazingly it was still there under the seed cluster, sheltered from the rain and sun.

I don’t think there is an ounce of stupidity in the whole of nature. That facility is mans exclusive domain. And man wields it with wild abandon when it comes to nature. Like an angry child running in the garden slashing the heads off all the beautiful flowers. Eventually no more flowers will grow because none were left to seed.

How did we come to this?

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Elusive Butterfly

It’s been quiet here where I live, my neighbors know I don’t do Christmas and they leave me alone. That’s good, I enjoy people in very small doses. The more worldly, i.e. drinking, smoking, chat-chat-chat, the smaller the tolerable dose. (They probably have other reason for leaving me alone, but that’s another story.)

Recently I borrowed a digital camera to take some pix to go with the short stories I’ve been writing, something extra for the sense of sight to bring the story more to life. The more sense employed the deeper the cognition. The deeper the cognition the greater the pleasure.

I have a few good pix but the one I really want is of this huge butterfly. I haven’t seen it close enough or stationary yet so I can’t give a proper description. It is black with white marking/s on the tail and probably about 4-5-6 inches wingspan. And it loves the beautiful flower of the Lantana – considered a weed here for good reason. (RIMG1333.JPG) I saw three or four today but none came close enough for me to snap it.

At one time I walked into some shade and three feet away one took to the air and was gone before I could even focus on it. Away went my photo opportunity, fluttering off into the shadows. One way or another this happened all along the walk, and with a few other butterflies too. You don’t want to be attached to getting a picture of one of these ladies. Yes ladies, because they are more beautiful and feminine than the boys.

Here’s one I took of a butterfly in Brisbane some time ago. (RIMG 0425 + 0429 + 0431.JPG)

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Calving Time

I live next to a dairy farm and the paddock next to me is used for calving cows. There have been about ten expectant mothers in the field for a week or so now and many of them already have their calves. For a few days I have had to shoo them away from leaning over the fence to eat what’s left of a beautiful plant growing next to it. It has clusters of lovely dark red, pink and yellow bell shaped flowers with dark green leaves on shiny purpley brown stems that snake out all over the place. (RIMG0771.JPG)

I have been nurturing this plant for a while, since I got here in fact, after the cows got it six months ago. And now it’s been decimated, almost, again. I spent an hour or so yesterday building protection around what’s left of it, with long stakes placed through the fence and tied in place so the cows can’t get their heads through or over and eat what’s left. It’s a very old and patchy fence. It has worked so far. When I had a look this morning what was left of the plant is still there. (RIMG1017.JPG)

I sat down to check email and maybe write a bit when I heard a cow mooing repeatedly. That usually means she’s in trouble of some kind. So I went out to check and there was one cow lying in a ditch, almost upside down, and she couldn’t get up.

I didn’t know what to do so I rang the farmer to get him over. And I went back to the computer.

Then I saw my neighbor Claudia walking across my front garden heading for the cow. I shouted through the window, ‘do you know about cows Claudia?’ She said, ‘a bit’. So I went out to help her if I could and maybe learn something new. She climbed over the fence and started pulling a calf out of the other end of the cow but she didn’t have the strength for it. So she called me in to the field, a sort of pleading order.

I had been watching her from a short distance away not knowing exactly what was going on nor what to do. I went to where she climbed over the fence and there was the legs and the head of the calf and Claudia pulling saying, ’come on, pull! So I climbed the fence and I took the legs from her and she took the head and with a gentle side to side motion we slowly brought the calf out of the mother.

The farmer, Colin, arrived on his tractor about this time and went to the head of the cow to see if he could help her up but she was overpoweringly strong for him and almost threw him away with a whip of her neck. So the cow was still in the ditch and kicking out to try and get up and look after her calf. And you don’t want to get in the way of a cows kick. They might look small and cute from a passing car but they are massive creatures, and strong. After a few attempts she got herself out of the ditch and was up and running. Running at Colin, then running at Claudia and then me.

And though not all cows have the same temperament, she was doing what all mothers do. Looking out for her child. Her brow furrowed with attitude, eyes wide. She turned this way and that, kicking dirt backwards with her front foot, preparing to charge, looking for the most immediate threat. Not realizing there was none.

So we removed the perception of threat. Claudia jumped the fence, Colin jumped up on the tractor and then I jumped the fence when she turned to me. Now she’s back with the herd and all is well with her and the calf.

For all the placid moon eye of the cow she is still an instinctive beast. (RIMG1380.JPG) A beautiful creature no doubt, but don’t get between her and her calf. And don’t expect gratitude. You’ll be disappointed. If not trampled.

And the earthy smell of animal birth stayed with me all day.

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Wandering in the bush today I found an old track nobody has been on for a long time. I can tell from the overgrowth and the absence of any track or other sign of people. It was discernible from the area above the undergrowth and below the tree canopy, from about four feet high to about twelve feet high was an obvious clearway, a hole in the green.

It was a bit of luck that I noticed the hole in the wall of trees from the angle I passed it. (RIMG1315.JPG) It eventually led me to a trail I do know, but looking back from the trail it led to you would never know the old track is there, it’s just a wall of brush and trees from the clearing.

The water level is still high after the recent rains so I couldn’t go the usual route. There was an old barbed wire fence broken down with the wire all atangle on the ground for a few yards around. I tidied it up into a pile behind a small tree and I trust no creature runs into it and injures itself. Like the wallaby. Men are fond of barbed wire for some reason, there is a certain cruelty to its use that has become so common it is overlooked.

From there I left the beaten track and headed into the bush moving parallel to the swamped area, disanchoring the spider webs as I went. Webs are usually anchored on four corners, roughly, and depending on the direction of the breeze I cut through one side or the other with my stick and let it fall out of my path without injuring the resident.

This route took me through some unusual terrain and flora. The ground was firm but where the wallaby’s dig small holes for food, larva and such, they were filled with water up to a couple inches from the top. It was as if I was on the edge of a lake but there is no lake there, just reedy, grassy, coastal paperbark swampland. (RIMG0786.JPG)

Eventually I came out on the other side of the swamp into a field of grass I haven’t been to before and found my way to a path that runs parallel to the beach for a few kilometers. Along the trail there were many dips where water had collected, some deep and some shallow. But of all the pools I came across there was only one with any tadpoles in it. And they were all black, all the same species, and there was at least a couple hundred in this one pool. (RIMG0785.JPG)

Usually creatures in a pool like that, without any real cover or hiding places, would run from any strange presence or form that appears in their sky. But these tadpoles were unmoved by me showing up or even stirring the water with my walking stick. They were all black and the first thought that occurred to me was TOAD. I suspect they don’t need to hide from predators because they have none. Cane toads have poison glands on their upper backs so I suppose their tadpoles have the beginnings of them at least.

It was very unusual for these creatures, any creatures, to be unmoved by a potential predator. I might go back tomorrow and collect a few to see what they grow into.

I was traveling in the opposite direction to the one I ‘normally’ do here because of the detour. But really, what is normal for me is unpredictable, sort of. Even I don’t know what I will do next when I go walking in the bush.

The green of the grass was so rich in places, so deep and full. It was lovely, green, and refreshing. (RIMG0907.JPG) The green of nature is especially refreshing to the psyche, in the sense that as it is cognised there is no mind to matter, just the green of nature. My nature, your nature.

Along the trail I came to what must have once been a wide creek bed between some sand hills and higher ground. On the sand hills and the higher ground there was the normal mix of trees and brush, each according to its location, light, soil and water. Between them in the sodden soil was this beautiful stand of healthy, mature paperbark trees with primarily dark green fern on the ground between them. There was presence here. Quiet. Stillness. (RIMG0786.JPG)

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In The Rain

It has rained for a few days now and the place where I walk is flooded in parts. I am not familiar enough with it to find my way around the flooding so I stick to the high ground. One of the consequences of the flooding is the snakes, and no doubt other creatures, also take to the high ground. But it’s the snakes I have to watch out for. I am told this is brown snake country and their venom is extremely toxic.

I have never had any problem with snakes; they have always gotten out of the way. Back in the seventies when the family went to Shepparton to meet the prospective in – law, my sister was getting married, I went into the bush bare footed and running. Sometimes I was quick enough to catch sight of some brown snakes but invariably they were already on the run. Getting out of the way of whatever was coming. Snakes don’t hang around for people, or it could have been the vibration of my feet beating on the ground and they didn’t want to be trampled.

Kangaroos often travel at speed through the bush and snakes would be aware of the danger of being trampled, at least instinctively. I suspect it hurts when a 20 – 50 kilo kangaroo lands on you and then uses you to spring away again. I don’t doubt the area of the psyche that snake is would contain the instinctive knowledge a fast approaching vibration of weight hitting the ground is not to be ignored and better be avoided.

Anyway, in the nature reserve where I walk these days the snakes have taken to traversing the walking trails after the rain. There are signs of snakes having criss – crossed the trails everywhere. Though I still haven’t met one in the reserve.

When I was new to Australia and that time in Shepparton I met an old man at a caravan park. Mum was wary of him but I enjoyed his quiet company. There was something about him I liked, and he liked me. I was sitting with him at his table and these huge ants were travelling in a line along the ground, busy ants.

Wherever I put my feet there the ants would be, climbing all over my feet to get to the other side. I kept knocking them off thinking they would get up my leg and become a worse nuisance until the old guy told me to leave them alone, they’d be ok. So I left them alone to see what would happen and all they did was climb over my feet and go on their way.

Here’s a nest I found the other day. Real builders are insects, some more than others. (RIMG0997.JPG) You can just make out one of the residents in the entrance at the centre. These were fierce looking ants, and some ants are aggressive, but these ones didn’t take any notice of me after I went still.

This is mostly how nature is, if I leave it alone it doesn’t trouble me. If I don’t think it’s a problem it goes on its way. Humans have become afraid of nature, the spiders and snakes and other hungry biting things. But the only problem with nature is the one I have, if I have one.

I saw an unusual thing when I had to turn back from the flooding yesterday, a beetle of some sort. It was on a stalk of reedy grass at about shoulder height and it was about 3cm long with a bulbous body at one end and a head with a big snout like an elephant’s trunk hanging straight down at the other. And it was the most unusual turquoise and black. It was lovely to see. Amazing little creature.

Thank you for the things that delight me.

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