An unsettling experience


I have friends who really don’t like birds. If birds accidentally come into a room or building and start flapping frantically to escape these friends get the horrors. These friends don’t like the unflinching gaze that birds can give you either, especially the silver-eyed crows with their razor-sharp beaks and “attitude”.

I like birds, but even I get unsettled by them on occasion. This week the birds have sensed the change that’s been forecast and have been gathering in huge flocks in the trees that line the creek.


I wasn’t aware of them at first until I heard a rustle … rustle … rustle of leaves. It was like the trees had come to life and were about to pull their roots out of the ground and start lumbering around the city.


For the stretch of creek about a hundred yards east of the Chatham Road bridge to the end of the tree line there must have been upwards of a hundred birds hopping discretely through the foliage. I had the definite sense that they were following me …

I’ll be glad when this change blows through and they all go off to hibernate at the bottom of the sea or turn into mice or whatever it is they do in winter. Which was an entirely true story, until the Pfeilstorch landed in a small German town, with an 80 cm African spear through its neck. Which must have been more unsettling for the stork than for the human, but I digress.

Rise up!


When my son was about four years old I took him to the big show at the foreshore (I forget its name; it happens every year. You know the one). He was mad for a showbag, but not any old showbag. The one he wanted was called the Secret Service Showbag. He would not be dissuaded or tempted by other, more fey and age-appropriate showbags, but his mum was not best pleased when I brought him home wearing fake shades, a badge, and toting a side arm and pump-action shotgun with a bandolier of ammo draped across his shoulder. How we laughed!

At the time it was the most militaristic showbag I’d seen, though I found the remains of this one in the creek after the show. Who would put an AK47 into a kids’ showbag? What was the theme: Militant Rebellion? Soviet Weaponry?


The AK47 is famed for its robust durability, which has made it the automatic rifle of choice for revolutionaries the world over. Obviously the young revolutionary who got his mitts on this one was tougher than your average dissident as he’d busted it completely before he’d even got home.

I have to say that the show snuck up on me this year. Even when Richardson Park was fenced off I was left pondering. I thought to myself, if the carnies are going to camp there, where will the big top go? The penny dropped when the first ride arrived.


It was timely that this ride, the Midnight Express, should appear in the park at the same time as this post from Ruth Cotton’s Hidden Hamilton blog on the original midnight express: the nightsoil trucks that collected our city’s poo in the days before sewage systems. And where was it all, ahem, deposited? Yup, Richardson Park. No wonder those fig trees are so healthy.

Further downstream I came across a super-person’s body part, complete with revolutionary star. Or is the star no longer associated with the likes of Fidel and Che? Have we moved on, or did Hollywood just slurp it up? For the life of me I cannot figure out what this might be used for.


It might be a dispenser for anti-capitalist drinking straws, or perhaps a proletarian popcorn holder. I may be wrong.

Viva la revolution, comrade.

Lyrics on the page


I read a quote from Pete Seger, who described lyrics on the printed page as being like photographs of birds in flight. I thought of that quote when I saw these butterflies by the little Styx.


The photo doesn’t show the spider’s web that they’re stuck in; my iPhone’s not that good. It let me down again when I tried to catch the latest regular to the creek, the white-bellied sea eagle that’s taken to roosting in the mature gums in the fuel depot.


I was alerted to its presence by the ‘chep, chep, chep’ of the black-shouldered kite circling at treetop level. It was a call to arms and within a couple of minutes rent-a-crowd – the dozen or so magpies who lounge around on the rail above the naphtha tower in the gasworks – came swooping over. They weren’t quite game enough to tackle the eagle and contented themselves with darting past its head, clacking their beaks in a threatening manner. Eventually the sea eagle sickened of the attention and rose with great, lazy wingbeats.


It turned above the fuel tanks and wheeled eastwards, briefly reappearing above the giant reed and bamboo that crowds the fringe of the abandoned rail works. The magpies got brave again at this point and saw it off with loud snaps at its tail, while the kite supervised from above.

It was all over in a matter of seconds, and all I was left with was this decidedly unlyrical picture of a bird in flight.