Thursday, 9 February 2012

Jottings from the Tropics: 9 February 2012

And we have brush turkey chicks. A rafter of them scooted across the road and into my bit of forest as I drove back from town. The friend with whom I had lunch had been telling me about a couple of adventurous turkey chicks that had managed to clamber into a fenced garden area, but couldn’t figure out how to get out again. (She assisted them.) I said that I hadn’t seen any young ‘uns, just a posse of increasingly tatty adults. (We can all identify with those.) And then I spotted this group.

Newly-hatched brush turkey chicks take between one and two days to dig their way out of the incubation mound. The first twenty hours or so are spent drying out and pecking at unsuspecting invertebrates that probably think they are quite safe from birds all this way underground. Once on the surface, they peck at anything. One evening I heard a rapping at the living room window. It turned out to be not a raven, but a brush turkey chick trying to get hold of a large plastic weevil I had left on the floor. The plastic weevil is bigger than my spread hand. Brush turkey chicks learn ambition early.

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The moonlit nights are giving the cicadas and crickets and katydids plenty to sing about, but the owls and possums are noticeably quiet. I imagine the light has driven them further among the trees where they can remain concealed from prey and predators respectively. And it is a very bright light, cutting sharp-edged shadows and turning the landscape monochrome. Nights like these — and also those moonless ones when the Milky Way is enough to illuminate the track — remind me how we have become accustomed to light pollution.

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Red, the big male pademelon, has been absent for a few days, but Pip seems to be a fixture. She looks as though she is doing well, despite being separated from her mother at such a young age. Other paddies wander through, but do not make this place one of their regular haunts. I expect the situation will change mid-year when the days are cool and the nights approach freezing and the only patches of sun and warm earth are at the edge of the forest. I will have to charge admission.

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