I looked into the security officer’s brown eyes and saw compassion and uncertainty. My offspring had warned me this would happen but they’d predicted it would take place in a park, not a busy shopping complex.
Yes, I was finally mistaken for a homeless person. Regular readers may recall I have a habit of falling asleep on park benches. Given I usually carry a couple of bags and my attire these days resembles a hippy rather than a professional businesswoman, it was only a matter of time before a mistake would be made.
The reason for this misunderstanding is related to why I haven’t posted for a while. I had my fourth occurrence of the mystery malady, purple potato face. Although I was feverish, my car needed urgent repairs and after dropping it off early in the morning, I dragged myself across the street into an air-conditioned shopping complex to escape the summer heat. With one side of my face hot, swollen and red, I needed to rest while the mechanics tried to save my ancient petrol guzzler. I settled into a quiet corner to work on my laptop. It wasn’t long before my sleep deprived brain began protesting. A little snooze was in order.
A deep male voice wrenched me from my pleasant dreams. People who know me are used to my panicked, incoherent state when I am woken suddenly. Picture a cat after a bucket of water is thrown over it – that’s me. Red-eyed, frightened and bearing a suspiciously swollen jaw and eye from my illness, I probably looked like a victim of domestic violence.
Apparently, the cleaner had seen me arrive early and rather than approach me after I fell asleep, called the security guard. Perhaps she thought I was a terrorist or a drug addict? I know I’d been in a rush and looked a little dishevelled but really, did I look that scary? Okay, perhaps I did. Sometimes I scare myself when I look in the mirror these days.
After I’d stopped hyperventilating, I explained my situation, but the burly guard still lingered and looked suspiciously into my crazed, bloodshot eyes. By this stage I was also feeling mildly grumpy. Can’t a woman get some sleep these days without being accosted by a uniformed Goliath? Actually, I was a little impressed that someone had taken the time to check if I was dead.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, I avoided being thrown out or imprisoned and have survived to waffle on again. The illness meant I’ve been restricted to car jaunts and short nature walks in my local parks though. My face is back to normal after a long dose of antibiotics so I’ll eventually be plodding along the trails again.
I’m thankful for having had less mobility as it’s meant I’ve developed a deeper appreciation for what my local area has to offer and I’ve also made a few discoveries.
Late afternoon on Valentine’s Day, I drove to the lakes of the decommissioned Swanbank Power Station. Since my last visit, signs have been erected all around the lake, warning that it’s now private property. This curtailed my activities as I didn’t want another embarrassing interaction with a security guard. I did manage to see my first nesting black swan though.
I decided to venture along the highway out towards the Fassifern Valley in the hope of capturing a few interesting shots before sunset. A bird-filled waterway caught my eye and I pulled off the road to test out my zoom.
The birds were a little too far for clear shots but the setting sun gave the area an appealing glow.
I amused myself with grass stalks…
And enjoyed the changing colours of local peaks in the fading light.
The moon looked small in the distance until I used the Canon’s zoom feature. It was a fitting end to a day meant to celebrate love…
Another day I set out at dawn to look for wildlife at Robelle Parklands in Springfield.
Rainbow lorikeets were feasting on nectar in bright yellow blossoms.
Masked lapwings looked warily at me from an artificial waterway.
A lone great heron displayed brilliant white plumage. Usually their legs are black but the upper legs change to a pink–yellow and the area near the eyes becomes a darker grey-green during breeding season.
I was excited by my first clear sighting of a pair of black-fronted dotterels. Unlike my old camera, the Canon Powershot 60SX allows me to see and photograph birds from a long distance.
An Australian raven posed attractively while assaulting my ears with a harsh call.
Insects were active everywhere – in flowers, mushrooms, and on leaves and trunks. This odd looking tube that a twitter follower described as a honey coated croissant, belongs to the tube spittle bug, Clastopteridae (thanks Damian Morrant).
Beetles were feasting on aphids.
And assassin bugs were on the prowl.
In fact, I saw so much insect and spider life, I became a little delirious from the excitement…
Giant things caught my eye as well. Majestic flooded gums, Eucalyptus grandis, and native flowering shrubs provide food and homes to many creatures.
Beautiful colours and patterns on eucalypt leaves are caused by the activity of psyllid nymphs – often called lerp insects. Psyllids have a nymph stage which make protective coverings called lerps out of crystallised honeydew. The feeding by psyllid nymphs induces chlorosis which is followed by synthesis of anthocyanins, hence the colour changes in the leaves. (Thanks very much to Martin Steinbauer, Entomologist & Associate Professor of La Trobe University, for the identification and explanation of this process.)
There are many species of lerp insects in Australia that produce a variety of protective coverings. These ones are made by Cardiaspina retator but the dark colour of the nymphs may indicate parasitism. Martin and colleagues have written a paper about host-parasitoid relationships in psyllids .
In this shot, a beetle is feeding on rectangular sugary constructions made by another species of psyllid nymph.
And here are three different species on one leaf. Repeated heavy psyllid attacks can cause severe damage to trees, particularly during periods of environmental stress.
They may be regarded as a pest but I find the sugary constructions and the leaf colours and patterns created by their activity, beautiful. They obviously provide food for many other creatures as well. When my children were young they’d enjoy eating the sweet constructions.
Update: Here are some shots of adult psyllids from the tree taken on a later date for identification purposes.
I’ve been thankful for my illness in some ways because it has forced me to take more notice of the interesting discoveries closer to home. I don’t need to travel very far at all to appreciate the wonders of the natural world.
Next week I’ll be bringing you some feathered, furry and reptilian discoveries from more local jaunts.
Thanks for reading!