Wild Flamingos in Australia?

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Flamingos swamped by cheesecake topping 2020

Australia was once a continent graced by flamingos.  These tall pink birds are more associated with Africa and the Americas, but a long time ago they called Australia home.  For at least 20 million years, flamingos thrived on vast Australian inland lakes, until a drying of the outback ended their reign, perhaps a million years ago.

The Lake Eyre region in South Australia once had three species, more than Africa today.  Altogether Australia had at least six flamingo species, including the Greater flamingo – the main flamingo in Africa.  Australian museums have accumulated more of their fossils than of some regular Australian birds such as parrots.  At some sites their remains lay near those of outback crocodiles, dolphins and lungfish.

Flamingos are still regarded as Australian birds, for a very tenuous reason.  In 1988 a Greater flamingo dropped in on North Keeling Island, a remote Australian territory 2750km north-west of Perth, staying a couple of months.  Greater flamingos are found in Asia and southern Europe as well as Africa and this one had wandered over from India or Sri Lanka.

In Adelaide Zoo you could have seen the only flamingo left in Australia, a Chilean flamingo known warmly as ‘Chile’.  She was thought to have been imported in the late 1970s.  For quarantine reasons flamingos are now forbidden imports, which means that Australia is destined to become a flamingo-free zone unless another long-legged pink nomad wanders over from Asia.

FlamingoSource Australian Geographic by Tim Low February 6, 2017

More flamingo facts and fabulous photographs:
https://www.australiangeographic.com.au/topics/wildlife/2017/02/australia-was-once-full-of-flamingos/

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Botanical Gardens Fresh Air and Sunshine

Coming out of a hot dry summer, March weather is beginning to soften the sky and offer the cooler, more gentle mornings of autumn.  There is no definite change of season, just a calmness, almost a feeling of relief after the insistent tropical heat.

Apart from, whack, an insect, there’s something serene and relaxing about strolling through a garden, touching leaves, sniffing flowers, following a creek and hearing the splash of a small waterfall through the trees.

To quote Rudyard Kipling “The Glory of the Garden it shall never pass away!” so…

Here’s what I experienced one lovely morning…

Arriving early at the Brisbane Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens, I strolled through a cool, green gully and thought it was strange to be in a capital city yet hear no traffic sounds.  I floated along, enjoying the stillness, until my personal calm was shattered when the garden crew came on duty and the leaf- blowing brigade roared into action.  I had to wait until one fellow walked out of shot to photograph Xanthorrhoea australis, the Grass-trees (below; left).  The atmosphere shuffled its feathers and tranquility returned.

Wooden bridges and flowing streams…

Leisurely, I followed the meandering paths across bridges and green lawns, enjoying the mild sunshine.  Strolling down a slope, I came to a bracken-lined watercourse then walked up a gentle incline towards king ferns, piccabeen palms and towering hoop pines.  I’ve never fully traversed the 56 hectare (138 acre) area which displays mainly eastern Australian plants.

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You can spot Eastern Water Dragons (lizards) and geckos as they scurry out of sight or get a giggle watching the many varieties of water fowl, ducking and diving in the lake.  Feeding wildlife is not allowed and I couldn’t entice them into an appealing photograph.

Sculptural features are ‘casually’ placed throughout the gardens and I think the most alluring is a silver fern seat (below; left) with interesting support.

Beside the pond and beneath the trees…

The Japanese Garden (below; entrance and pond) offers soothing symmetry and a waterlily’s single bloom.  Nearby the concert bandstand has grass seating surrounded by trees with foliage of different patterns and colours.  Around me, there’s a multitude of subtropical shrubs, cycads and flowers with names I never remember.  You will notice that I do not attempted to be horticultural!  A bit further along, in the arid zone, resides a sci-fi concoction of exotic cacti.  The culinary, fragrant and medicinal herb gardens are pure indulgence.  But if herbs aren’t your thing, the pungent eucalypt is my favourite and walking the Aboriginal Plant Trail with its edible food plants.

Biodiversity and water reflections…

The stillness of the morning created pleasing reflections on the lagoon which is fed by rainwater captured from the hills.  You can choose between typical heathland or wetland regions made easily accessible for suburban folk.  The Conservation Collection includes rare and endangered species in their natural habitats and I entered the steamy, geodesic hothouse (below; left) where equatorial plants are nurtured.  My face beads in sweat, it’s not a place for humans to linger too long.  Time for an ice-cream!

Look outside the Botanic Gardens…

Outside the entry are several buildings of interest: Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium (below; saved from extinction by a vocal community uprising) large carpark, small art studio, specialist library and auditorium providing a variety of events.  I have booked a place in a workshop Monoprinting Australian Native Plants, so a blog post may be forthcoming.  The new Visitor Information centre offers guided walks and Gardens Café has the ice-cream.  The two white-coated fellows outside the café are entomologists, surviving statues from World Expo 88.

Pandas and children have a special treat…

The Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens Children’s Trail is a hide-and-seek ramble through the shady rainforest garden with special works of art dotted along the way and I couldn’t resist following it myself.  Check out the wacky weathervane!  And a log for native stingless Sugarbag bees.  Mother and baby Panda bears enjoy the bamboo; they are a special fabrication of laser-cut aluminium by Australian sculptor Mark Andrews.

Parks and gardens change with horticultural trends.  The smaller City Botanic Gardens are older and more formal, in keeping with the style of previous centuries, but I prefer the softness of Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens.  As the world becomes more populated and natural plant life decreases, Brisbane city dwellers like me need our botanical gardens to nourish and refresh our screen-dependant interior lives.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Note:  Please click or tap an image to enlarge.

You may also like to read about my visit higher up the road at Mt Coot-tha Lookout.

Floral Christmas Decorations Already?

These vivid flowers would be perfect at Christmas time.  But, no, this spectacular red Callistemon, an Australian native Bottlebrush, flowers in springtime and early summer.

It has long fluffy tubular flowers that look beautiful in gardens and taste delicious to all kinds of native birds, insects and other wildlife.  The flower 'brushes' are so soft, not spiky at all.

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There were two Rainbow Lorikeets hiding in the branches, eating the nectar and chatting away, but they wouldn’t keep still for a snapshot.

I saw this long row of flowering plants in an industrial-type setting in Brisbane yet Callistemon grows in every location, tall shady trees to knee-high potted shrubs and used as groundcover.

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Information from this website Australian Plants Online Flowering Callistemon indicates that I’ve photographed 'Hannah Ray' which is 4 metres high and suitable for streetscapes.

It brightened my September day!

 Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Three Things #1

Paula Bardell-Hedley WP Book BloggerOne post with three headings READING, LOOKING, THINKING an idea started by Book Jotter, innovative blogger Paula Bardell-Hedley.  Her invitation to participate offers a slight change from ‘Thinking’ to ‘Doing’ if that suits your purpose but I’m sticking with the first format.  Also, I am restricting myself to around 200 wordcount per heading.  I can love, like or loathe in three short bursts!

READING:  Let’s not pretend we always read high calibre books like Booker Prize winners and heady non-fiction tomes, most people like a bit of lowbrow stuff to pass the time without stretching the brain too much.

This is why I love reading ebooks on my iPad, so accessible via OverDrive, and so many back numbers that it’s easy to binge on a writer’s complete oeuvre.  At the moment my guilty pleasure, no, rephrase that, my escapism is prolific British author Simon Brett and his Fethering Mysteries series.  A cross between Agatha Raisin, Miss Marple and cosy crime books featuring ‘mature’ women, Brett has created retiree Carole Seddon and her neighbour Jude, a healer, who live in an English seaside village which thrives on gossip and, you guessed it, murder.  Amateur sleuths Carole and Jude manage to solve crimes without external help, e.g. police, by persistence and sheer nosiness.  Exploits often revolve around fragmented marital relationships.  The first book I read was “Bones Under The Beach Hut”, coincidentally while I was on a beach holiday, and have enjoyed the consistency of the characters ever since, although some plots are more gripping than others.  Apart from Fethering series, Simon Brett has also written the Charles Paris, Mrs Pargeter, and Blotto & Twinks series of crime novels.  GBW.

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Simon Brett British Author 02



LOOKING:
  My movie review of the HBO television version of Liane Moriarty’s “Big Little Lies” could be filled with vitriol but I’ll rein it in.

How did it go so wrong?  Why base the story on a best-selling book if you aren’t even going to try to recreate the ambience?  I was one of the first to read and review the novel “Big Little Lies” by Liane Moriarty (before I became a blogger) and I knew it was a winner.  Modern, edgy, clever, the plot was enhanced by social media comments from witnesses, police, etc, which obviously didn’t translate to the screen.  In the turgid, overblown DVD 3-disc version, which thankfully I borrowed free from the library, the school-obsessed mothers were rich, pampered, spoilt like their children and their husbands were just as bad.  I could not relate, nor feel any sympathy for the movie characters although they were portrayed by big-name actors.  I can’t even begin to write about the weak build up and even weaker ending.  Moriarty’s name does not get credited on the DVD case and the words ‘based on’ is unreasonable.  In my view, the book is brilliant and regrettably I think anybody who has seen the HBO depiction will have a tainted view of the genuine meaning.  GBW.

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THINKING:
  Dog eats possum in suburban backyard.  No, not a newspaper headline, something which happened in my quiet, sober suburban street two days ago.

For a start, there are three dogs which is against Council bylaws and one of them has just birthed ‘accidental’ puppies.  They are territorial so they bark at anything that moves, people walking, kids on bikes, and possums.  Possums are a fact of life in my suburb, we have possum-proofed our house.  On a moonlit night they will pound across the roof, jumping from tree to tree, house to house in search of food.  I won’t go into the habits of possums, the main thought I can’t get out of my head is my neighbour calmly telling me the mother dog caught and ate a possum.  Horribly, I had heard the commotion, the desperate squealing, so my fears were confirmed.  The said neighbour let this happen because it was ‘good nourishment’ for the lactating dog.  Suburban possums are full of parasites, the least of which is worms.  That dog has now given those worms to her puppies.  I’m not squeamish, I understand how the animal world survives but that’s in the countryside, not a suburban block where owners need to conform and dogs need to be domesticated.  GBW.

Possums New Nature by Tim Low

 

Brushtail possum eating apple

 

 

 

POSTSCRIPT:  Every Saturday I change my Home page Photo Of The Week.
Join in with your Three Things
––for more information here’s the link:
https://bookjotter.com/category/three-things/

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Giant Wallabies

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My short story mentions a rural event known as a show.
Alternate names can be exhibition, county fair or agfest.

Looks of disbelief washed across the children’s faces.  Robbo’s face shone with a self-satisfied smile.  Next to his work boots lay Dugger, his Labrador dog, who raised an eyelid then went back to sleep.
A snort came from school teacher, Miss Evelyn, and all eyes turned to her as she gathered up her patchwork squares.
“What a lot of nonsense,” she said as she stuffed sewing material into her carrybag.  “Brookfield Show eve and you’re going to fill their heads with fantasy.”
One of the younger children put his hand up.
“Did it really happened, Robbo?”
Robbo said “Yes” at the same time Evelyn snapped “No” and the young boy retracted his hand in disappointment.
“Can you prove it?” asked Angela, an older girl with jet black hair and thoughtful eyes.  She was one of many third generation Brookfield students whom Miss Evelyn had known from babyhood.
“Hmm,” Robbo said thoughtfully.  If he had a beard, he would have stroked it in contemplation.  “I reckon I can try.”
Robbo was a well-known local figure, a carpenter by trade who could turn his hand to any odd job around the residences in the area.  He and Dugger were a volunteer Story Dog team at the local school.
Today they had veered off topic and instead of the slow readers reading, Robbo had tantalised them with an opening salvo to his tale.
“Start from the beginning,” Miss Evelyn sniffed “so we can get into the right mood.”
The children chuckled nervously and settled themselves back on the kindergarten cushions.  Some of the older boys had objected to being in the kindy room but the seating arrangements were more comfortable than their classroom, currently overflowing with paintings and craft waiting transfer to the Show pavilions.
Miss Evelyn settled herself down again like a kookaburra shuffling her feathers.  A couple of the young ones inched closer to her, hoping for motherly support should the need arise.
“Okay,” Robbo rubbed his hands together.  “Here goes!”  He leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees.  A security thumb or two was popped in, soft toys were hugged and someone let off a smell.
“It wasn’t a dark and stormy night, in fact, it wasn’t dark but there was a rain cloud,” began Robbo, lowering his voice, “and two small brown wallabies grazing in a paddock near the Showgrounds.”  His eyes roved the attentive audience.  “A large crow was sitting high in a nearby gumtree when––”  Robbo clapped his hands and everyone jumped.  “A bolt of lightning struck the gumtree and the crow flew away.  The lightning had ignited the tree and fire was crackling fiercely through it branches before someone in the general store rang the fire brigade.”
Everyone wriggled then settled again, eyes just that bit wider.  “The flames had reached the ground and were burning towards the Brookfield Showgrounds at a furious pace.”  Robbo looked around.  “Where are those two wallabies?”
A hand shot up and the timid voice of Frederick of the smells said “They ran away to safety.”
Robbo shook his head.  “No, they were still there.  And you know what?”  He raised his calloused hands high in the air above his head.  “They had turned into giant wallabies.”  Then, for extra emphasis, he stood up and reached for the ceiling.  His fingers almost dislodged a butterfly mobile but it added to the atmosphere as they fluttered wildly around his uncombed hair.
“These were energised wallabies, they had super powers and were big enough to roll the Ferris wheel away.”
The group froze; Frederick crouched ready to run.
An older boy scoffed “Yeah, but what can they do about the fire?”
Nodding heads inspired him to add “Maybe the crow flew to get help?”
Robbo pulled a face and told them the crow was another story.  Sitting down, he attempted a sage storyteller voice.
“They bounded over a fence to Moggill Creek and began drinking lots and lots of water.  It tasted a bit like dirt and leaves and stuff but they guzzled until they were full.  It was difficult for them to walk so they sort of rolled back towards the outer fence.  It flattened and they put themselves right in the path of the oncoming blaze.  With puffed cheeks and one big blast like a wall of creek water, they hosed over the flames until they went out.”  He cleared his throat.  “Of course, the smoke made them cough and they had to wipe their eyes but all in all they didn’t even get their fur singed.”
“What happened next,” shouted two girls in unison, grabbing each other’s hands.  “Did they get a medal?  Or a free pass to the Show?”
Miss Evelyn pursed her lips and shushed them.
Robbo’s expression sobered.  “Not that simple, I’m afraid.”
Dugger shifted position on the floor and put his bony jaw on his paws, the seams of his orange vest creaking beneath him.
“The two giant wallabies heard a sound,” continued Robbo, “and turned to see that stray sparks had ignited inside the main Showground and were crackling and spitting across the dry leaves, past the arena, towards the agricultural buildings and meeting hall.  Oh no, historical buildings.”
Nobody saw Miss Evelyn trying to swallow a laugh and regain her composure.
“Surely the local fire brigade would have arrived by now?” she said.
“Their siren could be heard in the distance,” said Robbo, “and the general store had put up makeshift road blocks to stop traffic.  The store owner was hosing down the store and the giant wallabies knew if they were seen by him, their cover would be blown.  After one mighty spurt of water, they shrunk and hopped off into the distance, far away, up towards Mount Elphinstone.  There is a cave high on Mount Elphinstone where, legend has it, two wallabies sit and keep watch over the dry land.”
Robbo surveyed his listeners.  “The paint had been blistered off some buildings, and a palm tree was sooty but it survived and a quick paint job fixed the rest.”
“Phew, that’s a relief,” said one of Angela’s younger siblings and everyone laughed.  Apparently they shared similar thoughts – the cake pavilion housing their entries sitting under cling wrap on paper plates.
“And sideshow alley,” thought Miss Evelyn.
“However,” Robbo spoke at full volume, causing several children to squeak, “whenever there is lightening in Brookfield, or a barbecue out of control, you are wise to stay away from the flames because the giant wallabies will activate.”
“But,” said Frederick gravely, “they are our friends and they would protect us.”
“True, true.”  Robbo was momentarily fazed.  Even asleep, Dugger thumped his tail in encouragement.  Robbo rallied “Just don’t get in the way of giant wallabies at work.  Like flood waters, giant wallabies could unleash a wave of water which would wash you off your feet and into Moggill Creek.”
Miss Evelyn puckered her brow.  “Robbo, please.  No more scary stories.”
Robbo avoided her gaze, patting Dugger and adjusting his leather collar.
“Show’s over, kids.”
Determinedly, single-minded Angela spoke up.  “You said you had proof.”
Judging by the looks Miss Evelyn saw on the younger faces, caps nervously twisted between little fingers, they did not want proof.
“Sure,” replied Robbo with an airy wave of his hand. “If you go into the pony club grounds near the Brookfield Cemetery, you’ll spy a bleached eucalyptus tree trunk.  That’s the one which got struck by lightning.”
“Also,” piped a helpful voice from the sidelines, “I’ve seen wallabies.”
The collective chatter was enough to wake Dugger.  He got to his paws, shook his furry head and looked around.  He let out a sharp bark and ran to the open door.  With a slight pause to sniff the air, he bounded out of the room.
The space Dugger left seemed suspended, a motionless void.
“Wallabies,” whispered Frederick.
The electronic school bell sounded, breaking the spell.
“Lunch time, children.”  Miss Evelyn rose and smoothed her tartan skirt.  “After lunch we have choir rehearsal for the opening ceremony.”
As the children helped stack cushions in the corner, Miss Evelyn turned to Robbo.
“Was Dugger motivated by the aroma of tuckshop pies or something bigger?”
Robbo shrugged.  “That dog has a great sense of theatre.”
She wagged her finger.  “Giant wallabies or not, the Show must go on.”

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Wallabies Ferris Wheel

AUTHOR NOTE:  This short story is dedicated with love and respect to Kookaburra Kat of KR, a long-time friend who supports and encourages my literary endeavours and is a passionate wildlife warrior, nurturing and caring for all creatures.  GBW.