Public service announcements


public_service_announcementPSA 1: Be careful

I had a call from a representative of Jemena the other day. (I get the sense that Jemena is trying to handle this sensitively and didn’t want to be seen as coming down hard on me.) The discussion was around the post-fire photographs of the gasworks buildings, as portrayed in the blog. Jemena was less concerned about the issue of site access than the potential for any person on the site being injured or exposing themselves to dangerous chemicals or fibres.

This is a fair call. The structure of the fire-damaged building is seriously impaired and the there issues with scattered asbestos roof tiles having been broken, thereby exposing fibres. These tiles have been sprayed with a PVA-based suppressant, but it would still be foolhardy to put oneself in danger.

The photos that I use on the blog are sent to me by all kinds of people: there’s a small army of urban explorers out there ducking under fences, jumping gates and hopping over walls. I love getting and using your photos but, in the interests of your personal safety, do take care and please avoid these dangerous sites.

PSA 2: Phoenix

Does anyone remember Jiya, the cockatiel from Hamilton North who could say, among other things, “Show us ya tits!”? That story ended happily, but now Jiya’s little companion, Phoenix, has bolted.

My kids were asking the other day, “What is that weird bird call?” It wasn’t actually a bird, it was Erin tramping the streets calling out “Phoenix! Phoenix!” to every flock of cockatiels in the area. So far, with no luck. I think I saw him looking wet, lonely and bedraggled in a banksia tree on Emerald Street, but since then nothing. I’m starting to have a bad feeling. Pretty well every walk around the creek reveals a scattering of feathers as some wee birdie falls victim to something further up the food chain.


If a feather takes my fancy it might end up in my hatband for a while, though they tend to fall out or get blown away after a few weeks. At the moment there’s a koel tail feather, juvenile magpie, ibis and … er … possibly Phoenix.


The usual black-shouldered kites have been joined around the gasworks by a nankeen kestrel and – for the first time in ages (at least to my observation) –  a peregrine falcon, on Wednesday morning. Obviously springtime means everything’s on the go and there are hungry fledglings in countless nests waiting for dinner.


I haven’t found any dead cockatiels with bands, so perhaps there is hope yet that young Phoenix will live up to his name and spring from the ashes. If you do happen to see him, give Erin a call and put her out of misery.

Raptor season


Don’t wait to get a better picture; if you’re there, and you have a camera or a phone, just take it. I was going to take a better picture of the circus by night but I didn’t. I did get this not very good one, and now that the circus has gone for another season I’m happy that at least I took it when I had the chance.

The same goes for this one of the moonset over Sunnyside, looking west down Boreas Road (you can just make out the crescent of the moon above the treetops). I was going to get a better shot the next night with a proper camera and a tripod. But didn’t. I went to a party the next night, and anyway it was cloudy, and blah blah blah.

I remember talking to someone about children, specifically the baby-to-toddler period, when entire days can be lost sitting on the kitchen floor banging the lids of pots against the lino. Time seems to grind to a halt, and then you raise your eyes to discover that that time has gone. My friend described it thus: “The moments last for years and the years are gone in moments”.

I was thinking about this when I was walking down the creek the other day. The wet, warm weather has provided perfect conditions for those myriad creatures that make up the wide base of the food pyramid: the gnats and skinks and tiny fish, the lizards and ducklings, the rabbit kits and the mice. It must have been a good season because of the abundance of creatures at the pyramid’s apex. I can’t remember seeing so many large raptors; the black-shouldered kites and kestrels are common all year round but recently I’ve seen a grass owl, a swamp harrier and now a pair of peregrine falcons.

I had a moment with this pair, a moment that lasted a year while it was happening but was over in an instant. The first falcon I saw was perched atop one of the fuel storage tanks in the petrol depot. As I watched, the swooping black crescent of a second peregrine sped past, causing the perching falcon to rise with a furious shriek. The two of them set into an acrobatic display of dives and soars and pile-driving swoops, all the time squawking their rage at one another. The whole show was over in about thirty seconds. The interloper, vanquished, soared around impotently a few more times while the first falcon resumed it’s perch, nonchalantly raised its haunches and crapped down the side of the storage tank. I tried to commit everything I’d seen to the hard drive of my brain. A few moments: if I’d left the house a minute earlier or later I would have missed it entirely.

Meanwhile, the circus is leaving. By the time I post this, Thunder the pony will be being “stolen” in Wagga or Port Kembla or Parkes.

The creek is clean from the recent freshes. Hunter Water drove by and picked up the bags of rubbish that I collected and so I have a warm and virtuous feeling about me. Stuff is starting to accumulate again, inevitably, but I feel that I can control it. A bag and week and I’ll be on top of it. Some things, however, I just leave. It might have a half-life of two million years but I think this dinosaur deserves a chance to see the sea.

As does this slightly creepy dog thing.

No, maybe not the creepy dog thing. That’s going in the bag.