Thursday, February 25, 2010

A small update...

Disaster has struck at Berry Island. There are to be no more walks with Sniff bounding leashless along. This wretched warning sign appeared all over the island at the end of last week.

Distraught, Sniff and I continued on further, on to the next peninsula, to Balls Head Reserve. Only to be confronted by the same warning sign, inked with the same dates....

Damn those foxes. No more careening along the beach. No more peeing into the aboriginal waterhole. No more carefree fun. For over a month...

I am led to ponder what happens to all the dead foxes which accumulate throughout March. Is it part of the Ranger's job specification to search through the undergrowth and drag out all those 1080-poisoned corpses. And how can 1080 poison be lethal to cats, dogs and foxes and not lethal to possums or any other native creature? Very clever bit of science going on there.

Anyway, Poor Sniff is now reduced to this until April:

Here's something to help you all get your bearings as to where we are now living in Sydney. Our road, Glenview Street, becomes Vista Street at the end of which is, indeed, a vista -  a spectacular one of the CBD which Sniff, Daniel and I admire of a night whilst being besieged by Flying Foxes which mass alarmingly close above our heads in great numbers as dusk falls. Here it is, a blurred photo of the vista. The nearest wooded peninsula you can see snaking out into the water is Berry Island around which you accompanied me the other day and the peninsula to its left closer to the city is Balls Head Reserve, from the left hand side of which you get brilliant opera house and bridge views (coming to a blog near you soon). Both peninsulas are for now, miserably, ringing with the cries of dying foxes...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Berry Island

Things I Like About Sydney No. 13: Berry Island

Let me take you on a walk.

We'll just hop into the car for a few minutes, driving in what seems like the wrong direction just to get over the creek and the railway line, past Wollstonecraft station and then down Shirley Road lurching steeply downwards, suddenly reaching a dead end and thus arriving at the entrance to Berry Island.

There is a neat, green sign telling you where you are in case of confusion. To the left, over the sea, you can see Ball's Head Reserve and beyond that, the Sydney skyline. The Harbour Bridge peeps out behind Ball's Head Reserve far to the left.

You will have to wait a while before we head off on our gentle amble (this walk won't overly tax you by the way) so that Sniff can tear around the grassy area in front of us, sniffing at and peeing on every prominent tussock and stalk before choosing the perfect spot in which to roll around on his back with all four paws in the air. Once he has once more mastered the green we can set off.

 Here's the beginning of our walk: a small set of stone steps and a post declaring that all dogs must be kept on a lead on this bushwalk. The steps we climb, the sign we ignore. Sniff rarely strays from the path anyway...

Hopefully the sun is out but not too fiercely. Hopefully it's not raining. But more than likely it is either too wet or too hot and we just have to deal with it, juggling with the sun cream, insect repellent, umbrella and water bowl for Sniff in our bags. Much of our walk will be shaded and it's neither steep nor difficult so you can relax...honestly. 

We watch the ants crawling up the steps in steady streams and contemplate once more just how many ants there might be in the world before plunging on into the trees ahead.

Suddenly, it's like Picnic At Hanging Rock. We're in the bush. Cicadas fill the air with their whirring sound, the light filters sharply down through the eucalypts, panpipes start playing and your muslin dress floats behind you in the desultory breeze. There's no time to contemplate this phenomenon though as Sniff is charging ahead towards the aboriginal carving of a giant fish eating a stingray.

The fish is too large to capture in one photograph but you can see some grooves in the stone to the left of the watering hole, which were created over time by the sharpening  of tools. There also seems to be a carved boomerang shape to the left of the water. The faint outline of the fish extends across a much larger surface of stone, perched here with a great view down to the sea, where, now, industry has taken its toll on this particular piece of coastline. There seems to be some gasworks and several industrial-looking ships espied down there through the trees and, a few hundred metres on, we come across this monstrosity. It's the sort of ship that makes you wonder whether or not you are going to be arrested when taking photographs of it...It's definitely on a secret mission, hidden here behind Berry Island, invisible to the bustling city beyond.

Thoughts of spies and wars and bombs crowding your mind, we look round for Sniff and realise he's trotting ahead along the path towards the headpoint of the island where we can sit and contemplate the city skyline ahead of us and the iconic Harbour Bridge through the trees to the right. If you fancy, you could clamber down the rocks to the sea and indulge in some illegal fishing whilst I have a little snooze.

Depending on the tide, we now have the choice of either continuing around the path through the trees, listening to the occasional kookaburra calling whilst scaring lizards into hiding, or of descending down to the sea and continuing around the shoreline, clambering over rocks and scaring strange-looking beetles into hiding. Either way we're going to scare something.

As Sniff loves the smells of the shoreline we'll opt for the sea. 
As we climb over the rocks you notice all the broken oyster shells and the limpets suckered on to every surface. We ponder the possibility of bringing a knife and trying to pry some of the whole oysters off for tea. There is a loud voice calling through a megaphone and we briefly wonder if someone has spotted that Sniff isn't on a lead and that we're about to be fined. It turns out to be hailing from a military-looking boat moored over the sea by Balls Head Reserve and once more our minds fill with thoughts of conspiracies and covert operations.

Sniff bounds along happily back towards the green ahead in order to chase some odd-looking birds. "What are they?" you ask me. "Masked Lapwings" I knowledgeably reply. "So-called because of their flappy yellow dewlaps..." You then remark upon how green the grass is just as the rain begins to fall, eager to make it even greener.

We scoop up the dog and hare back to the car, pleased with the timing of our walk and the rain. We drive the crazy-seeming loop back home where I put the kettle on for a pot of tea. We then sit sipping tea and munching cake, sheltered on the verandah, watching the rain fall and fall and fall...

Let me take you on a walk.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Our first creekside downpour...

Things I like about Sydney No. 12: Our first creekside downpour.

I have always loved the rain in Sydney: it is often violent, appearing suddenly and heavily, causing flash floods and torrents of water to gush down the streets. Last night was our first downpour creekside and, as the rain persisted throughout the night, we woke to the sound of a raging torrent outside the bedroom window: our creek now seems to have pretensions to being a river which is rather magnificent.

There were consequences of all this water however which, although I can't say I liked, were most entertaining.

There we were, Daniel and I, sat on the verandah looking out into the night listening to the sounds of the rain thwacking down on the canopy of tree ferns and eucalypts, feeling secure in our little wooden haven with Sniff safely asleep in his basket within. We congratulated ourselves on our new-found home, bade goodnight to the bats and retired inside.

Daniel then lay on the carpet to feed his ever-increasing appetite for The Guardian obituaries which he can now dangerously peruse daily on his iPhone when he felt something crawling up his sleeve. He brushed away idly at the itch only to then see, to his horror, a three-inch leech fall to the carpet by his face. It and Daniel thrashed wildly about, the leech sadly thwarted in its mission to sucker itself into the folds of Daniel's juicy inner elbow. I, alerted by the sounds of the screams, ran through into the living room and then myself yelped in disgust as we watched how the leech raised itself vertically up into the air, extending its fabulously vile shiny body, waving about like an extending periscope looking for humans (ie. us) to latch onto and suck dry.

Daniel bravely scooped it up and perched it on the banister outside. At a safe distance we then watched its evil progress for a while, its constant undulating search for blood. Once back inside the house, our wooden haven didn't feel quite so secure any more and Daniel soon confused the scratching on his back caused by the tag in his underpants for another leech and sought to rip his clothes off in a frenzy of panic...

Ho hum.

Here's a few photos of our house and the verdant and dripping view down to the creek after last night's deluge including the balcony whereon the leech no doubt still lurks...the raging torrent that is Berry's Creek is hidden below the path in the last picture...

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Denizens of our garden

Things I like about Sydney No. 11: the denizens of our garden.

I have to be brief. There is still cleaning to be done, boxes to sort through, emails to answer and bills to be re-directed. But I am temporarily escaping the nightmare that is moving to share with you some of the denizens of our new garden - at least those I've managed to blurrily capture on film. The striped marsh frog that clicks away merrily at night has escaped my feeble lens as have the currawongs, kookaburras, lorikeets and Grey Butcherbird. But here are some of those who deigned to stay for a while in order for me to dig through the debris and find our camera...

First up, the Eastern Water Dragons. This is a female and although well over three foot long not the largest we've had parading about the drive. There is a particularly enormous and red-bellied male with extremely long claws that I feel it is better to avoid...

Our neighbours have complained that the Dragons use their swimming pools as a toilet but I am glad that they feel comfortable enough to use the local amenities.

Secondly, the King Parrots. A pair of them come daily to sit in one of the trees by our balcony but I seem to be the only person to have seen them. My mother spent a week refusing to believe that they existed, insisting daily that they must have been Lorikeets and looking at me askance every time I mentioned them. Well, Mother, here's proof  for you.

This is a female. The male is gaudier, with a head entirely red. It refused to pose for me but I am sure we will get better acquainted.

Finally, the Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos. Apparently I am not supposed to feed them because they attack the timber of people's houses with their all-powerful beaks and most of our house is in fact wooden...Nevertheless, as they are coming closer daily I think I shall be able to tempt them to perch on the balcony for a bit of banana...

The stance and expression of the following cockatoo manages to somehow encapsulate how I currently feel after nine days of cleaning: crazed, blurry and more than a little bit harried. Once I have settled into life in the wilds I shall be back with more. But for now, I shall go and try to deal with Sniff's constant bewilderment about why the hell he has been plonked into the middle of the bush just when he'd made a great success of city living. It's just not fair his eyes say to me as another dragon scuttles past and the whiff of possum breezes by and he doesn't know which way to scarper...

P.S. One day later and I have managed to capture the male King Parrot pecking away at my sunflower seeds (albeit by crappy phone camera, but still). It doesn't do justice to his magnificent gaudy splendour but I am so pleased at my success in enticing him closer that I am posting it anyway...By the way, the greedy bastard has demolished half the seeds in just one day...