Ooh! Fecundity!

16/04/2014

I usually map out a blog post as I’m walking with Jambo. I use the VoiceMemo app on the phone to record bits and pieces as I think of them; for a strange reason that I haven’t been able to fathom I always start each memo with the words, “Something about …” as in “Something about the huge eel under the railway bridge” or “Something about the way all the aerosol cans washed up in the right order, like a paint chart”.

Unfortunately, while I had it all sorted inside my head, I didn’t record any of the brilliantly articulate and witty thoughts that were going to be the contents of this post. The only thing I can remember was the title, “Ooh! Fecundity!”, which in my head was uttered in the kind of voice Frankie Howerd used in Up Pompeii!

I know. I blame my English childhood.

I think the forgotten post was all about the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness that’s going on at the moment. The other night the sky was filled with flying foxes against the full moon, squadrons of them swooping to catch great gulps of water from the creek.

flying_foxes_by_moonlight

Around dusk on another evening I came across a sight I’d not seen before so far upstream: a large school of mullet bottom-feeding in the shallow muddy water of the beck. They were so densely packed that their fins jostled and bumped against each other, their tail fins sitting vertically out of the water as they nosed the rich slurry of the creek bed. They barely stopped even when Jambo waded in to investigate.

jambo_watches_mullet

It is nearly Easter after all, which in my mind will always be a springtime event but in Australia is a signal for the onset of cooler nights, of ANZAC Day parades and dark mornings. And, for these guys, the mullet runs up the coast.

A pair of falcons whizzed overhead to perch on the fuel depot towers. I recorded their call but I don’t know what they were; by profile I thought they were peregrines (with the distinctive scimitar-like wing profile) but they had pale underbellies and seemed too small. Hobbies, perhaps? Or grey falcons? Do we get grey falcons this close to the coast? Either way, they’ve been busy.

dead_birds_april_2014

And this morning a gigantic fungus!

jambo_w_big_mushroom

My mole at the CMA thinks it might be “an Agaricus of some sort”. Which means nothing to me. But it does rather sound like a character from Up Pompeii!, some sexy Nubian slave lady whose top falls off whenever Frankie Howerd shakes his sistrum.

Madam! Titter ye not!


In the night garden

19/03/2013

Work, life and various commitments have resulted in me not getting out with Jambo until after dark recently. Which is fine; I like wandering around the gasworks or up and down the creek at night, but Newcastle at night does have a very different feel.

Moonlight on the beck

Walking under bridges at night should be scarier than it actually is – there are all those thick concrete pillars for Bad Men to hide behind, and dark shadows and weird noises – but I don’t ever feel particularly uncomfortable. The exception is the Griffiths Road bridge – the one by the pedestrian lights where people cross to get into the Entertainment Centre. Being four lanes across, the road at this point is much wider than, say, the bridge crossings at Chatham Road or Broadmeadow Road. The result is a much deeper, longer tunnel effect and there’s a point where you’re really under the Griffiths Road bridge. It’s darker and, when you’re at the mid-point and it’s as far to go back as it is to keep going, I do feel a sense of unease.

And yet when I do actually meet people I don’t feel threatened by them. Coming upstream from Islington I met four young guys, just dark, hooded silhouettes until we were almost on one another. I think they were more surprised to meet me than I was to meet them; we muttered a few greetings and kept going our separate ways. The tide was coming in and so they might have gotten stuck at the railway bridge. If they did, I think they stopped and made this:

tony-ynot-march13

The gasworks is a much more friendly place, any time of day or night. When there were squatters in the old wash-up building I used to avoid that area. There were needles and junk and it had a generally bad vibe, but no one’s been resident in there for ages now.

gas-bottles_night

The scariest thing that might happen is to nearly stand on a brown quail; when they burst out from beneath your feet you really know about it. But night-time always offers something different. On hot nights I’ve watched endless lines of bats swooping to drink from the creek. Owls often sweep the lantana thickets in the gasworks. After rain I’ll hear three different types of frog singing and croaking in the newly formed ponds (an expert, or someone with the Namoi CMA’s Croaker app (thanks, Neil), would hear more).

It’s March and soon the evenings will be much cooler. I’m looking forward to autumn’s windy, moonless nights, the kind of nights when, as a kid, I’d see my dad getting his lamp and shotgun out of the cupboard. Love the night garden.