Friday, 3 February 2012

Jottings from the Tropics: 3 February 2012

On my way into town this morning, I stopped to let a brown quail and its chick cross the road. I’ve seen adult quail every now and then — mostly out near Yungaburra on the Curtain Fig road — but never a youngster. Or maybe I have but it hasn’t registered. The flies around here are bigger than a quail chick.

- o O o -

Last night, I played host to a possum convention. The perpetually hopeful Little Poss was first to appear. He pressed his nose so hard against the flyscreen that I thought I’d be picking out possum vermicelli in the morning. He was followed by two others — a mother and her joey — who scrambled up and down the broom and over the laundry trough for a while until they realised they were being watched. There might have been more. The sound of gambolling on the roof suggested an even dozen.

Not long after the last possum had left the laundry trough, a lesser sooty owl landed in the back garden, about four metres from the house. It sat on the ground, glaring at me. At first, I thought that it had caught a Melomys or big cicada, but, after a minute or so, it turned away, looked into the darkness and growled. Not hissed. Not shrieked. But growled. I had been surprised at how big an owl appears when it’s on the ground. Now I was surprised at how intimidating it can be when it is pissed off. This was one angry bird.

The focus of its rage was a possum. I’m not sure what had been going on. Perhaps the possum had beaten the owl to a tasty snack or had muscled it from the premium garden-watching spot on the top rung of the ladder. I don't know. But last night, I witnessed a disgruntled owl vent its spleen at an indifferent possum and it was awesome.

- o O o -

It was too wet to take many photos of the Lake Barrine Tea House today, so after a cuppa and a few clicks of the camera, I trudged back up the sixty billion stone steps* to my car. When I had arrived at the tea house, the car park had been empty, except for a brightly-painted minibus and a bunch of backpackers who were blocking the access road like a flock of sheep. (I thought they were looking at a tree roo, but they were changing their shoes. About 75 metres from their minibus. No, don’t ask me. I have no idea why they didn’t do it closer to their vehicle. Their sparkling white runners were guaranteed to be sodden by the time they took their seats.) When I returned to my car, the backpackers had gone, but parked next to me was an ancient station wagon with a surfboard strapped to the roof. The driver was sitting on the tailgate. He was changing his shoes.

Because this is Far North Queensland and everyone talks to everyone else, I interrogated engaged him in polite conversation. He was travelling around Australia for a year. He had a car and a surfboard (and an umbrella and at least two pairs of shoes) and was having a great time. Lucky duck, I thought, but I wonder how many disgruntled owls he's seen this week?

* Actual figure may vary


Dave Coulter said...


Snail said...

They really are! I wouldn't like to see a big disgruntled owl. The lesser sootys are bad enough.

magda and crew in australia said...

I don't always write anything when I visit Snail... sometimes I'm just too awed and just read again what I've just goggled over and leave amazed and in wonder.

Your life is more than just delightful, it is exquisite despite the overgrown flies and somewhere in the vicinity of 60 billion stone steps to climb when leaving the tea-house.

Snail said...

I don't always comment either, Magda. I like to read what everyone's up to, learn about their worlds and find out more about their interests and perspectives.

When I read back through what I've posted I am amused and appalled at how resolutely middle-class it all is. If my biggest gripes are the (temporary) lack of hot water and the tyre-destroying road, then I really have nothing to complain about. But those flies...