Nature's Place


As heavy as the rain has been the ground around here just soaks it up. Along the strip of coast south of Pottsville there is not much fresh water for the birds to bathe in so they make the most of the puddles that remain.

They are very cautious creatures the way they attack the water from the cover of the bush. These particular birds are at home in the bushes, small agile flyers. Sitting on a branch protected by the surrounding leaves, they wait for the right moment then dart into the puddle with a splash. Ruffle up their feathers, wriggle like mad to get the water into the deepest recesses of their raiment as fast as they can to get at the parasites and dirt and dust of the day, before something dangerous enough to catch and eat them comes along.

Quicker than the eye can follow they will disappear at the sound of an approaching car or the sense of being watched. Today I was allowed to get a picture of one washing itself, it paused an unusually long time before taking off again. Instinct rarely allows such pause in so shy a bird in the open.

My camera is not really fast enough for birds but that doesn’t stop me going there, doing that.

I noticed a colourful bug on a leaf nearby, a petrol blue green in his wing casing. He didn’t notice the birds at all. His world didn’t extend to the other side of the road. The world on the other side of the road might extend to him though, especially if he moves sudden and fast to provide some contrasting change in the scene. Though his colouring might deter the predator, bright colours in small things usually mean ‘Not Good Eating’.

The clouds were darkening as I walked along the beach. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular when I noticed movement close to my feet. It was the biggest crab I’ve seen around here, about four inches wide in the body, eight or nine inches from foot to foot. Eyes up, alert now. What amazed me was how it let itself get caught in the open, especially since I was wearing an orange top. To any creature with colour vision I’d have been visible from a long way off. Then I noticed the food in its claws. It was busy tearing up a bit of blue jellyfish.

The third fundamental need of the body’s survival, food, will take one’s attention off the horizon. But for such a large crab, and therefore an older crab, an experienced crab, being caught out in the open would have been an embarrassment. If such a thing were possible for a crab, I think not.

These crabs live in holes in the sand at the edge of the sea. Twice a day they remake their homes with the passing of the tides. Twice a day they dig their way out of the sand to find food, and at least twice a day they dig themselves into the sand for shelter from the dangers of living in an existence where life is divided into many different forms. And one form lives off another.

What an existence, and people think they have it hard. It’s the thinking that does it though, makes it hard. The natural creatures are lucky that way, they don’t have to think. They just do and die.

On the way home I stopped by one of my favourite bushes and a caterpillar caught my eye. It’s a colourful thing with some tufts and what looks like antennae at one end, and spiny bristles set in bundles all along its length. I didn’t know what to make of all the bits and bobs, it was a bit confusing which end was which and what did what. It looked dangerous in fact. Probably the birds feel the same way and just leave it alone, better safe than sorry.

Then there was this fellow, or is it a lady. A crown of four eyes, two big, two small, all black. Dressed for the ball with not a knight in sight, oh well. Usually spiders run away when I get close to them with the camera but this one was curious. She actually came closer to the lens, maybe she saw her reflection and saw herself for the first time in her little life.

We’ll never know. But she posed for me this way and that until she had enough and jumped away to another leaf and wandered off into the jungle of leaves.

I was pleased to meet her. Majesty.


Bathing BirdPetrol BugSurprised CrabCaution! CaterpillarQueen SpiderOff To The Ball

All copyright reserved / Mark Berkery


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