Thursday, 5 January 2012

Jottings from the Tropics: 5 Jan 2012

And they say that Melbourne weather is unpredictable*. Yesterday, the top temperature here was 20C and we were all dragging out the winter woollies from storage, whereas today it is 29C and we’re buying tubs of ice cream. (Where we = me.)

As I eat this ice cream, a pademelon is watching me with an expression somewhere between envy and disgust. Probably. They do not have much of a range. It is difficult to tell between fury, bemusement and hearty appreciation of a limerick with a good punchline.

*Although the Bureau of Meteorology seems to do okay.

- o O o -

Mick asked about the sounds of the rainforest at night. Between scrubfowl and possums, it can become quite lively, but most of the time it is just like one of those New Age CDs relaxing.

The first wave of cicadas starts not long after dusk. (Dusk is measured in microseconds at this latitude.) The golden emperor (Anapsaltoda pulchra) chorus is followed immediately by the northern greengrocers (Cyclochila virens). (A few golden emperors keep singing through the racket. The episodic change in pitch cuts through the noise. But eventually they give up.)

By this time it is dark and most of the day birds have stopped calling. A few kookaburras across the river get in the last word to claim their territory. Once they have said their bit, the avian night watch prepares for business.

Depending on factors that I have yet to fathom, I might hear any combination of the three owl species: boobook, barking and lesser sooty. Boobooks remain deep in the forest; barking owls come to the edge; but only lesser sooty owls emerge from the cover of the trees and take advantage of the small clearing that passes as a weed trap garden. They are not shy and will call from within metres of the house. Sometimes, they perch on the ladder or guttering and swoop down on cicadas attracted by the living room light.

When the owls are not hissing, shrieking, barking or — on rare occasions —hooting, it is peaceful, although never silent. The darkness has a constant soundtrack of crickets and katydids, falling leaves and pademelons and bandicoots rustling through the forest. On some nights, tree kangaroos hop past the house, often stopping to communicate with each other through snuffling coughs. Or possibly that’s the ghost of a lost swaggie. I’m not sure.

If it is dry and still, I can hear bush stone-curlews across the river and the lowing of the dairy herd, whose paddock they share. If it’s raining, I can’t hear a bleedin’ thing.

I wouldn't change it for the world.


mick said...

Your night noises sound delightful! No wonder you say you can sleep through all of those but not city noises. Yours are such a contrast from a noisy party close-by, screaming kids and adults yelling at them - plus all the other sounds of suburbia - which seem to get worse at night-time! Oh yes, and my pet hate is smells that waft over the fence - whether it is dinner cooking or chemical smells to mask something or other!

Snail said...

Yes, yes, YES! Actually, I don't mind cities, but the 'burbs drive me crazy. People noise --- which I do hear, but not as much as in a town --- is bloody awful. Lckily, everyone goes to bed at around nine in this area!

Denis Wilson said...

I sense a novel coming on, Bronwen.
Your recent posts have been much more expressive than earlier ones.
Maybe it is because of the reading you have been doing.

Snail said...

Thanks, Denis. I'll either end up writing a novel or being the fictionalised subject of one. Possibly in the vein or Conrad or Kipling.