They’re back!

22/08/2012

First, a huge triple-axle trailer appeared in Richardson Park. Then some big strong lads with mallets.

By afternoon the big top was up. Hooray! Circus time!

Lucky they weren’t trying to put their tent up last week – with that wind they’d have been kite surfing across Nobbys. Both my kids have been off school with hacking coughs and thick colds. But now things have calmed down a little, the sun has just that tiny bit of bite to it and there’s a sense that perhaps we’ve turned a corner. Maybe … just maybe … spring is in the air. Overnight, a carpet of these pretty flowers turned up in the gasworks. Purply-white ones …

And creamy-purple ones.

The birds are so busy. The black ducks got a head start and already have ducklings out in the pool by the TAFE. There’s a pair of chestnut teal not far behind, and lots of sexy-talk from the lapwings, ibis (not blessed with the bird world’s most beautiful call, poor things), herons and egrets.

But next to the willie-wagtails, with the males’ fiercesome eyebrows all angled and elevated for the mating season, the most common waterside birds on this stretch of the creek are the magpie larks. They’ve been courting for a while, and this one was busy nest-building. Hard to see but he’s got a fluffy little white breast feather and he’s daubing it in the mud by the beck.

I suspect that this is where the breast feather came from. When I walked downstream this cockatoo carcass wasn’t there; twenty minutes later, feathers and bones were all that was left. The return of the raptors is a sign that there’s plenty of action happening at the base of the food pyramid. I hope the peregrines come back.

By the way, that’s old mate left-of-frame, packing up camp for the night.

The wind last week blew all the litter upstream so for a few days it was barely possible to walk down to the railway bridge without stumbling over a hundred Gatorade bottles or rattling cans of Mother. I notice this morning though that the creek’s looking spruce and chipper so Dave and his crew must have been around. All that was left was this Disney balloon.

And a beermat. But I don’t think that that constitutes litter, as such, more like biodegradable advertising.

This morning was still and overcast. The air warmed slowly, from a freshness with the slightest chill to a beautiful afternoon. Perfect circus weather.


The circus is coming

05/02/2012

Seeing the signs up in Richardson Park took me back ten years to when the kids were small enough to enjoy that kind of caper. One of the benefits of owning the bookshop was that people would ask to put posters up in our window and, in return, give us free tickets to their event, and so we went to the circus quite often.

Compared to the online kill-fest of Call of Duty III a circus seems pretty lame to Modern Kids. That’s tough on circuses as they have a huge “you’ve got to be there to get it” factor. I was always genuinely impressed by the athleticism, skill and daring of the performers, and even my son (now only a few weeks away from an XBox rehab centre) remembers falling of his chair laughing at Captain Frodo’s tennis racquet routine when we went to see Circus Oz. So, people: go to the circus!

I hope the park dries out for them. Smith Park was saturated on Friday and yet the guy who does the little sports thing for school kids was all set up with his goal posts and netball hoops. I didn’t go back to check whether his optimism was rewarded or whether the school just rang up and said “Forget it, buster”. Water polo might have been better.

The flush brought down a couple of interesting sculptures; a cycle wrapped in a grey tarpaulin (haven’t had a bike down the creek in months) and these two cleverly interlocked outdoor seats. If you can unravel them, they’re yours.

Everything dries out pretty quickly though. This morning (Sunday) was glorious. I particularly like the stretch where the canal bends round to join the Chaucer Street drain, from there on to the railway bridge before Chinchen Street. It’s only a couple of hundred metres and yet, on mornings like this, if you squint your eyes you could be anywhere but Newcastle. The tide was right up but the water was as still as a pond. Fish jumped or churned the water in schools. Clouds of wanderer butterflies grouped on the cotton bush weeds, laying a clutch eggs for the caterpillars to feed on the milky sap before the summer disappears. The lantana rustled with rabbit kits and blue-tongue lizards, and thornbills and wrens flitted in the lower branches while egrets and herons stalked the banking. I came across this lazy cormorant snoozing on the litter boom by the TAFE.

It must have had a big Saturday night. When it finally became aware of my presence it clattered off, more out of embarrassment than fear, I think.

Jambo ran off with something in his mouth. I thought it was a bird at first but, when he finally agreed to drop it, I realised that it was, well, part of a bird.