Well, there has been some drama of late. A family member was struck by a car recently while cycling home from work. He was fortunate to survive the incident but now has injuries which will take about six months to heal. The driver of the car was at fault according to the police report and unfortunately this is not uncommon where I live. I’m quite disheartened by the car-centric culture in my country although there have been some improvements.
As Michael Reilly recently wrote in an article explaining 18 Reasons Why Registering Bicycles is a Bad Idea, “Even among people who don’t ride for transport, a survey showed 60% would like to do so – but many say they are too scared.” Yes, here in the Lucky Country, many of us are too scared to ride a bicycle. After a few close calls I have even curtailed my own cycling activity.
Now let’s move onto something more cheerful…
As a lover of history, I’m a huge fan of “Then and Now” stories. I thought I’d tackle one myself after revisiting Sherwood Arboretum in Brisbane, a place which evokes many memories for me. However, after searching my albums, I could only find one photograph. How is that possible when I visited this park hundreds of times? How soon we forget what it was like to use film cameras. Back in “ancient times,” I had to buy film and have it processed. Taking photographs of the park wasn’t a priority on my very low income.
A sign in the park gives a far more significant “Then and Now” story than has happened in my lifetime.
More than twenty years ago I would regularly drag my sleep deprived, unkempt self out of the house to take my first- born child to Sherwood Arboretum. At that time the ponds were unfenced and there were large numbers of domestic ducks and geese.
Quite often people would buy cute ducklings or adult waterfowl, unaware of their requirements. Places like Sherwood Arboretum wetlands were often dumping grounds for these unwanted creatures (or havens for escapees). The result was overpopulation and voraciously hungry birds that bore down on park visitors with evil eyes and snapping bills. Families often took old loaves of bread to feed them.
The ducks and geese grazed the lawns nearby and it seemed impossible to avoid coating the soles of your shoes with their smelly droppings. My son loved it of course! For me it was an escape from household chores and a chance for some mood-lifting sunshine and fresh air. Here is the only photo I have of the place as it was back then. It’s of my son running off to swim with the geese and ducks in the pond before I rescued him.
Needing some mind-calming nature therapy, I headed back to Sherwood Arboretum recently.
A cheeky kookaburra greeted me upon arrival.
As well as a rather intense looking magpie.
The major change I noticed was that the wetlands are now fenced in some areas and there are signs warning not to feed the wildlife.
The domestic ducks and geese have been removed and it is a now a breeding ground for native waterfowl such as cormorants, shags, pacific black ducks, grebes, ibis, egrets and swamphens. I follow quite a few bloggers who regularly share professional quality bird photographs. My offerings will be much more humble as 1) I couldn’t get very close, 2) I don’t have the right camera equipment, and 3) I don’t have the skills. I hope they give you some idea of what you can expect if you visit the wetlands though. If I have the names wrong, please feel free to correct me as I am a little challenged in my bird identification skills as well.
Apparently 162 bird species have been sighted here in the last decade so if you are a keen birdwatcher you might like to check it out. Here’s a guide to help you do some spotting.
The ponds are also home to four species of freshwater turtles.
There were hundreds of dragonflies swooping by and after a frustrating time trying unsuccessfully to photograph them I was lucky to capture this one. I suspect it was ill. Tom Semple, entomologist from High and Wide blog, recently wrote an informative post about how to distinguish between damselflies and dragonflies. I’m under pressure to get it right now!
This one wouldn’t let me get so close.
A few flowers caught my attention. The banksia is native, but I’m not sure about the other two, which were growing prolifically along the banks.
The noise from the ibis nesting areas was rather astounding. My most common experience of ibis is of them being annoyingly eager for morsels of food from your café table or picnic. Here, however, they showed no interest in me except when I tried to move closer to photograph them. Then they flew off. It’s an example of how animal behaviour is changed by the kind of human contact they have. Ibises are not fed in the park and rubbish bins have a covering that doesn’t allow easy access to the contents. There is also plenty of natural food for them in the ponds.
Sherwood Arboretum is is used for the preservation and study of native trees. Here is the colourful flaking trunk of a fine old eucalyptus specimen.
On World Forestry Day, 21st March, 1925, 72 Kauri Pines were planted by members of the community and the names of these people remain on labels affixed to the trees in the “avenue.”
When I came to a stand of old strangler and cluster fig trees I remembered my son playing on the branches many years ago. Now they are so huge they require struts for support.
Under the trees were hundreds of fungi, thriving in the moist warm shaded conditions. There were also swarms of mosquitoes so I didn’t hang around.
As I left, I noticed the activity of noisy miners low in some outer branches. While the birds were foraging for food I managed to take a very quick photo of their nest, containing three speckled eggs.
I followed a path along the river and saw more noisy miners active in the mangroves.
And a well camouflaged lizard looking at me oddly.
Later on my walk I discovered the moulted skin of one such lizard hanging in a bush.
Acacia leaf beetles were busy making babies. Here is one of their offspring – a beetle larva. Thanks to Manu Saunders for the identification.
Hidden away in a quiet distant corner where few people seem to venture are the sorry plaques which include an inscription of the official apology made to Indigenous Australians about past injustices, notably the forced removal of children from their parents.
I also found this marker of the historic 1974 Brisbane floods.
A giant bayur tree from India caught my attention. It’s sometimes known as the dinner plate tree because of its impressively sized leaves. Its pleasantly perfumed flowers remind me of a peeled banana. These open at night which is suggestive of moth pollination. The “fruit’ or seedpods can take up to a year to mature so seedpods and blossoms may be present at the same time. There are a few traditional and medicinal uses for this tree which are currently being researched.
To finish up, a rather gory scene. While taking a picture of this spider in the car park I accidentally disturbed it and then she proceeded to attack and wrap up the much smaller male nearby. Yes, I have contributed to cannibalism!
And here is another of the many spiders in webs strung between bushes by the wetlands.
Considering it was only a short walk, Sherwood Arboretum with its birds, reptiles, insects, native trees, memorials and views of the river, was great value for very little effort and certainly helped calm my frayed nerves. I even managed to fall asleep on a park bench which produced this comment from one of my children, “Mum, people probably thought you were homeless! ” I wonder if that was a hint about my usual “relaxed” mode of attire…
While researching Sherwood Arboretum I was surprised to find it listed in a world guide, which includes some other parks within Brisbane. On the 21st March, the 90th birthday celebrations for Sherwood Arboretum will be held so if I post this in time and you are in the region you may like to check it out.