Thursday, 29 December 2011

Jottings from the tropics

The orange-footed scrubfowl have restarted their mound-building activity next to the driveway. When I went past yesterday, they had excavated a huge crater in the middle. I am going to call it Paricutin.

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As I type this, one of the brush turkeys is at the window. She is alternately tapping on the glass and pecking listlessly at the seed heads on the sedges. I think she is trying to tell me something.

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A stinging tree has germinated in the driveway. If the pademelons don’t clean it up, I will have to do some gardening. But at the moment, it might be the only thing between me and the festive season proselytisers.

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You might remember Little Poss, the young coppery brushtail possum who turned up at my place a couple of months after Cyclone Yasi. Little Poss’s highly individual behaviour —adopting a diurnal lifestyle and terrorising the other forest wildlife — made him an instant hit with me. I’d thought at first that he might have lost his mum, but after observing him in action for a few weeks, I decided he’d probably been turfed out of home for delinquent behaviour.

He had been a regular visitor for some time. At first, he’d only appear during the day, but later he returned to a more natural nocturnal pattern. He would clamber up the hosepipe onto the tap and from there scramble onto the laundry trough. It is only a short stretch to reach the flyscreen on the kitchen window. In the evening, while I was making dinner, he’d cling to the netting and watch me cook. A sort of Master Chef for marsupials.

One of Little Poss’s most endearing characteristics was his unparalleled ability to fall off things. Each evening, he would walk along the kitchen window sill, get to the end and try to turn around. Now, the sill is about 80mm wide, which is enough to accommodate a mid-sized arboreal mammal, but it slopes downward. And each evening, I’d be treated to the sight of a mid-sized arboreal mammal scrabbling frantically at the glass followed by a pair of big bug eyes disappearing from view.

He did not learn, so I ended up resting a broom, brush end up, against the sill, to give him an alternative way of getting down. Little Poss soon adopted it. (It is painted with stains from his scent-marking activity.) I had to move the broom away from the kitchen door when I caught him trying to break in. He was holding onto the broomstick with his hind feet and tail and working the door handle with his paws. Did I mention his delinquent behaviour?

Anyway, one night, Little Poss stopped visiting. I saw him occasionally, so I knew he was still around and not inside a python. He hadn’t been here for months and then he turned up three times. And immediately went back to his old antics. The first time, he walked along the sill and past the broom. Encountering a dead end, he tried to turn around. You can work out what happened. Claws on glass. Big bug eyes. Vanishing possum. When I went to have a look, I found him dangling by his tail from the broom head, his hind feet pressed against the wall and his face wearing an expression that very clearly said, ‘Yes, I meant to do this’. If he could have folded his arms, he would have. Little Poss eventually managed to twist far enough to grab hold of the broomstick and climb down.

On the second visit, he struck out confidently along the sill and then noticed the broom was no longer there. (I’d been sweeping bandicoot poo from the carport.) I told him to wait and I’d get it for him. Probably not the most helpful thing I could do, him not being fluent in English. He tried anyway. Claws on glass...

But the third time, even though the broom was in place, he actually managed to get back safely. By Jove, I think he’s got it.


Denis Wilson said...

Lovely story, even if he is a nuisance.
Nice writing,

Snail said...

Thanks, Denis! :)

He is only a little bit of a nuisance really, and now that he's all growed up, I hardly know he's around!