I’ve been blogging for a year! How did this happen? It’s only due to the kind support of my readers, friends and family so thanks all! It’s been a rewarding venture and enabled me to meet wonderful people from all around the globe. Will there be another year? I have no idea. I’m grateful for the last twelve months of interactions though and especially thankful to those experienced bloggers who gave up their precious time to impart advice and encouragement to a technophobe.
In keeping with a celebratory one year blogging theme and since I haven’t a long hike to write about, I’m sharing a virtual party with you. I’ll also be adding a few reflections as is common when one reaches a milestone. There may even be another survival story going back hundreds of years if you stay awake for the ending…
Let’s start with birthday decorations. Since I’m a nature freak, you won’t find any balloons in sight. Instead, how about a floral collection of one of my favourite Australian native flowers – the banksia. These pictures have been taken from all my walks this year. They come in many beautiful shapes, sizes and colours…like the people of this world.
Birthdays also involve surprises and the sight of a tawny frogmouth perched low in a palm tree near my front door recently was a welcome one.
I’ve been disappointed by the loss of birdlife and reptiles from my back yard in the last twelve months. If you’ve read my post The Shortest Hike in the World you’ll know how much I enjoy backyard visitors. Perhaps the reduced population is due to new arrivals in the street whose cat spends much of its time hunting on my block. The incredible amount of land clearing and development going on in my suburb has no doubt contributed too.
Some may describe tawny frogmouths as ugly, but to me they look like the teddy bears of the bird world. Although they are nocturnal carnivorous feeders like owls, there are distinct differences and they’re more closely related to nightjars. While they both have wide eyes and anisodactyl feet, owls have stronger legs with powerful talons and flexible toe joints which enable them to catch their prey. Tawny frogmouths prefer to catch their prey with wide forward facing beaks. Owls have narrow downwards facing beaks and their eyes are more fully forward than frogmouths.
If you are a bird and after a loyal and attentive partner, the frogmouth is a perfect candidate as they mate for life and share all aspects of nest building and chick rearing. Frogmouths remain in the same small area for about ten years (their usual lifespan) and can often be found snuggled next to each other on tree branches in breeding season. Males will gently preen the female for up to ten minutes at a time. Tawny frogmouths in defence, position themselves to look like tree branches. I’ve had them nesting in my yard for several years and hear them often but have only spotted them twice.
Unfortunately, tawny frogmouths are often the victim of collisons with cars because they are attracted to insects in car lights. In a gutter of my street I discovered the remains of one such victim. I wondered if it was the mate of the bird in my yard.
The reproductive behaviour of tawny frogmouths had me pondering the variety of courtship and chick-rearing patterns in the bird world. I’m one of the few people I know who are fond of Australian ibis. They may have annoying habits such as stealing food from lunching students on campus and their harsh croaking cries are far from tuneful but I admire their ability to adapt to our urban environment. While we take away their natural environment through progress, they survive by dining on our garbage. Here’s a reminder from an older post. How could you not love that face?
If you’re after a bit of pizazz in your dating partner the male ibis might be your answer. He positions himself up high in a branch, acts aggressively towards males and offers a long stick to a potential female. When she grabs the end of the stick the bond is cemented. How is that for romance, people? No-one has ever offered me a stick.
The cooling lakes of the decommissioned Swanbank coal power station are a haven for ibis.
Recently I made a second trip there so I could write an entire post about it, but after being checked on by a security guard and watched by a few slow moving utes, I decided an extended stay was not recommended. I’d been naively unaware of the controversy regarding the whole area. There are signs pinned to trees, protesting the sale of this public asset.
I was able to still snatch a few photos of what is now a haven for water birds, including hundreds of ibis, ducks, pelicans, cormorants, darters and raptors. I was so nervous about being watched though that I didn’t see four beautiful quail until they flew off a couple of metres in front of me. I was certainly not in wildlife spotting mode.
Swanbank was named after the birthplace in Scotland of the wife of a local well known Ipswich businessman. It’s a rather pretty name for an area that’s had coal and coal seam gas industries. It is an example though of an area once used for human activities reverting back to a sanctuary for native creatures. Unfortunately, the next picture is the opposite case.
Do you remember my recent photographs from Fruitful Wanderings of the quandong trees, a leopard wood tree and a strange eucalyptus “window” ? Well, the grass oval and surrounding trees have now been removed to build a sports hub, including a synthetic playing field. While it’s certainly not a tragedy, I was a little disappointed.
Regular walking helps us see changes in the environment at close range and in the last year I’ve witnessed both pleasant and disturbing examples. My Castle Hill post showed land reverting back to nature. My Platypus post showed development removing creekside habitat. The decommissioned Swanbank Coal Power Station is now a home for waterbirds. The University of Queensland has removed some of my favourite trees. One thing remains constant…change!
Birthdays involve gifts and here is one given to me this year by one of my loving adult children.
It’s meant to represent my personality. A dopey looking sloth parachuting does represent elements of my mildly extreme nature – the desire for adventure combined with an aging, slow-moving body. I haven’t grown the characteristic green mould just yet though. This year I became the mother of three people in their 20s. No longer do I need to give the “two in their twenties and one teenager” mouthful of a reply when people ask me their ages. No teenagers means no more worrying, right? And while we’re on the subject of birthdays, this wouldn’t be a blog party if it didn’t include cake. If you’d been here, I would have shared these with you. Aren’t I generous? Sadly, most have taken up permanent residence on my hips and waist.
I promised readers who stayed awake through these ramblings another survival story. This year my grandfather died. He was almost 104 years old. I rarely saw him but his German heritage was often emphasised.
Recently, I was surprised to discover that my grandfather’s heritage was far more complex than a simple German background. On his mother’s side he came from a long line of Spanish Crypto-Jews, many of whom were burnt at the stake during the Inquisition. By the way, if you confessed and converted at the last minute you could be garrotted with wire before burning which was a little less painful. This often came after many hours of torture over a period of a few days. My relatives who escaped or were expelled went to England.
Later in history, a Catholic woman had a child with a Protestant King of England. Because she was Catholic, her private marriage to him was not officially recognised and neither was their child. Against the family’s wishes their daughter married a Jewish gamekeeper’s son and they eventually came to Australia with their many children. This couple was one set of my grandfather’s distant grandparents.
Meanwhile, a poor, illiterate Irish Catholic servant girl also came to Australia with English employees. She eventually married an illiterate ex-convict who’d been transported to Australia. This couple were also a distant set of grandparents to my grandfather. Their daughter eventually married a man from a rich and respected family and they produced inventive, adventurous and financially successful children. A female descendant of one of these men married a German immigrant and they produced my grandfather. Here is a picture of his mother, a descendant of a King of England, Spanish Jews, a convict and a poor Irish servant. Here is a wedding photograph of her marriage to a German immigrant.
So why am I detailing this? What is the point? Well, it is encouraging to me to know my own existence is due in part to the ability of some of my ancestors to ignore their differences. Catholics married Protestants. Protestants married Crypto-Jews. Irish married English. Spanish married English. Australians married Germans. Rich married poor. Royal blood mixed with convict blood. At many points in my family tree, love conquered hatred, fear and prejudice and I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for their rebellion against cultural, societal and family norms.
Thanks all for reading and supporting my foray into blogging. I would never have continued without you.