Meet Harry the Hairy Great Huntsman. Harry's a spider, one of those Australian spiders that make tourists think they might be devoured by the wildlife or at least have some body parts eaten. Harry is harmless. Got that? I could pick him up in my bare hands and he would do me no damage except he might decide to run up my sleeve, which would be unsettling to us both.
In winter we usually escape Canberra's cold for a week or so and go tropical. Up to the Gold Coast and Rockhampton, where it is paradise in June and July. Gorgeous weather, especially if at home it's a frost every morning. They have their own birdlife in Queensland. This chap stood out in the Botanic Gardens in Rocky: a Blue-faced honeyeater. Gorgeous to go with the weather.
We have a bird feeder in our back yard. Really, it's a bird bath, with the little metal frog and all, but mostly it's full of birdseed so i can attract the beautiful parrots we see around here. This afternoon's treat is a crimson rosella, a lovely bright bird.
For me, summer is bound up in ribbons of noise. The hum of cicadas, the buzz of Christmas beetles, the drone of the Australian bush. But it is the cicadas that predominate, that strike the note. They buzzed in the gum trees of my youth. They clung to branches, their empty brown skins hung on treetrunks, they dropped liquid from above and they flitted from tree to tree in their mating dances.
A few years ago now I was down at the Carillon on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin, testing out a new camera - wow, deja vu! - when along comes this chap, just rolling along as if he wasn't a living fossil adrift in the national capital. An echidna, one of the two mammals that lay eggs (the other being the shy platypus), and not exactly common. Also known as the spiny anteater, he relishes small insects, and uses those formidable claws to destroy termite mounds.
In 1959, radio DJ Peter Tripp stayed awake for two hundred hours, broadcasting his daily radio show at the regular time. This was a publicity stunt for the March of Dimes, and Tripp broadcast from a booth in Times Square. He was accompanied throughout by researchers with the dual aims of observing his behaviour and keeping him awake. So what happened?
The photo shows our cat Misty, doing what she does best. Finding something soft and sleeping on it. Which in this case it's my chair where I spend an enormous amount of time working hard at being a penny blogger. Sometimes I'll only leave the room for a moment and when I come back to work someone's taken my place.
I looked down, and there was Misty in her "I see a small creature and I'm going to catch it!" pose. Often reserved for flies and other inconsequentia. I followed her gaze, and there, not three metres from me, was a peewee. A magpie-lark, a mudlark.
This bird is the most widely detested bird in Australia. Not because of its looks, or its call, but because it is an immigrant which preys on native birds. It is the Indian mynah, and it is the same everywhere it has gone. It works together with its many brothers and cousins to colonise a tree so that none of the locals may nest there, and aggressively drives them further afield with each passing year.
https://flic.kr/s/aHskaLRU1J | Turkey Tipple | Strange sight this morning. A flock of cockatoos on the Limestone Avenue median strip, digging around in the grass for roots or seeds or whatever it is they forage for. One was playing with a bottle, acting kind of hinky. Straddling the bottle, picking it up, rolling it around. Every now and then it would walk off and fall down, or confront another cockatoo. And when it did, another bird would take a turn at the bottle. Eventually I walked over…
There was one problem. Bilbo had no clothes. This sort of carry on may play well in Christchurch, but if this little kiwi were to travel the world, visit the Queen and so on, then this would not do at all. I'm the guy who put the stress back into seamstress, but I managed to whip up a little yellow jacket for decency. I cut some armholes for his wings and it fitted reasonably well. I mean it wouldn't pass muster on Saville Row.
Here's Bilbo, a very fluffy and fuzzy Bilbo, with Old and New Parliament Houses behind him across the lake. Even from here, it's a spectacular vista - from higher up, on the steps of the War Memorial, it's a sight that makes every visitor reach for their cameras.
Bilbo developed a taste for cattle early on. Not so much eating them - although for a little fellow, he's got a big appetite! - but riding them. New Zealand is full of cows and sheep and farm animals, and the New Zealand High Commission in Canberra is no exception. It's in the middle of the capital city, but that's no problem; Canberra isn't called the bush capital because of the shrubbery.
Bilbo commenced his career as an international flightless bird of mystery by flying into Sydney out of Christchurch, a three hour flight across the Tasman Sea. And then driving down the Hume Freeway to Canberra, the national capital where I live. The next day I took him for a look around the place. First, a good look at the bird, out in the sun. He's all nose and feathers, really, just a yellow ball of fluff.