Indian summer

March, the first month of autumn, has been the best summer month we’ve had. Gorgeous, mild days with cool evenings and balmy breezes.* In the mornings the dew is heavy on the long grass; when the maintenance crews slash it a mist of dew and two-stroke exhaust fills the creek in most Turneresque way.

Jambo, the world’s nosiest dog, can’t resist saying hello.

But around and about there is a sense of “fattening up” before the real cold times arrive. In one evening I saw three different raptors in and around the gasworks: the grey falcon was back, causing the huge flock of delinquent Indian miners that hangs around there to go into a frenzy of squawking and clacking; then a brown falcon perched on a stand of dead lantana; and then the peregrine, up high on the storage tank. Their territories and prey range must overlap and yet they seemed content to accept one another’s presence. Perhaps the onset of autumn brings with it a sense of pragmatism.

The family of four ducklings are, remarkably, still intact. I think Ma Duck’s a bit over them, in the way that parents do become “over” their kids. In weeks gone by, when Jambo and I arrived under the railway bridge she would go into decoy mode, flapping up and down the creek with an “injured wing” to distract Jambo, while the ducklings (who had been grazing on soft grass shoots by Islington School) would quickly scamper down the banking and into the safety of the deep water. These days she barely quacks at them. “Oh, for God’s sake, you lot. Look after yourselves.”

This little chap turns up by the Chatham Road bridge fairly regularly.

He’s extraordinarily unfazed by human presence. At first I thought he was injured but I don’t think he is. Perhaps he’s a bird who likes to study humans. When he gets back to the group he’ll boast about this moment: “I got this close to a human today! I could have touched him – it was remarkable!”

Still down by the TAFE, the litter boom was busted for a few days. It lay coiled at the side of the creek like a massive, dead python.

The same morning I came across a young kid sloping away up the creek. When I got closer to where he’d been I found out why he was doing the suspicious crouchy walk.

I wanted to call him back, not because I was angry with him but because his tag was so utterly lame. In my best Victor Meldrew voice I’d bark “If you are going to vandalise the creek then at least do the best job you can!” I took a diversion and, when I came back, the cans were gone but the tag was still unfinished. Modern youth: useless.

The trees in the gasworks are covered in spider webs. The bigger webs look like guy ropes, as though they’ve been pegged into the ground and stretched tight to stop the trees from falling over. Dusk is the best time for seeing the webs and not walking dumb-headed right into them. Unlike this crucified dragonfly.

For over thirty years now, whenever I’ve seen a crucifixion, a painting or sculpture or icon, the image that has sprung to mind has not been that of Jesus but, annoyingly, that of Charlton Heston in the closing scene of that zombie flick The Omega Man. Hopefully now I’ll think of dragonflies.

 

* Of course, the day after I post this it rains buckets. Nothing to do with Newcastle Show, by any chance?

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