Sunday, March 30, 2014

wilson's prom

a list of things I saw, heard, and did:

bull ant: someone wanted me to come stomp it, but i chased it across the street instead. apparently the sting can be pretty bad. she was super aggressive - i chased her off with a stick, but for the most part i had to actually flip her away, foot by foot, because otherwise she'd rear up and point her mandibles at me, very challenging.

kookaberra: loud, loud birds. middle of the night, both nights, awoken by competing kookaberras, laughing/screaming at eachother, "aaaAAAAAAAaaa!!! aaaAAAAAAAAaaa!!!"

wombats: i had heard stories about the rudeness of the wombat, and was not let down. once the sun is setting the wombats wander through the campsites, looking for food on the ground, tipping over coolers ('eskies'), looking on tables, getting into cars and tents. they're like tiny bears, or gigantic hamsters. they're completely nonchalant about it. you go to chase one off, and he's not skittish like your typical wild mammal: he just ignores you, and you have to really get serious and yell and swing a foot at him, and then he reluctantly backs off and trots off to a different site. surreal experiences with the wombats, especially once Nao and family appeared, and you had this Japanese family following one around, and all you can understand is, 'wombato! wombato!'

crimson rosella: a beautiful parrot, saw them several times. one on saturday afternoon, when Farid and I were relaxing at camp while others were away - this one landed on our table and started poking through things, tipping over containers and plates, like a regular curious bird, but then he started *picking things up with his feet* - holding a cracker in his hand and taking bites off of it, or holding up a bit of aluminum with nutella smeared on it and holding it as he licked off the sweet stuff. never seen a bird behave like that, using claws as hands.

brown honeyeater: there are lots of honey eaters in the neighborhood here, the ones with the yellow streaks behind their eyes that, to me, seem a bit unhinged. a visitor to our camp on saturday was, i think, a brown honey eater, very different looking, but also very quizzical and odd. i guess all birds are kind of odd, but this one walked around the whole camp, checking every location one time, never circling back, walking around our feet, tilting his head left and right to investigate this corner or that corner. it was like having a pet honeyeater (though at the time i was calling him a thrush - i'm still not sure it wasn't a thrush, but my visual memory right now is a better match for 'brown honeyeater').

fairywrens: i believe that these were *superb* fairywrens. tiny, tiny birds, smaller than a sparrow, closer in scale to a hummingbird even. but they hopped about like sparrows, mostly in bushes or underbrush. some of them, the males i suppose, were tinted blue. their most striking feature was the tail, sticking straight up like an antenna.

a big lizard: at first i thought i'd found the fairywren motherlode, walking along a brush-covered mound next to the campsite, so i went back to get the camera and take some pictures. when i got back the fairywrens were all gone, and instead i found a big blue-gray lizard. no idea what it was - maybe 6 inches long, stockier than a skink, shorter legs too, but since skinks are really my main point of comparison that's not too much information. anyways, a big lizard. i got some video of him.

lots and lots of millipedes: once the sun went down, the millipedes came out, and some could still be found during the day. they were everywhere, thousands of them, and it was impossible not to step on them. tiny, not the big imposing ones - these were all about an inch long, black or dark brown. not sure what that was about.

no mosquitoes: there were no mosquitoes! at all!

'mictyris' soldier crabs: a whole colony of them, hundreds, maybe a thousand. tiny crabs, each about an inch across, iridescent blue and pink shells, bodies shaped like a cicada's head, with this impression strengthened by these bulbous lateral patterns on the carapace that look like compound eyes; but no, the eyes are little black dots on short stalks right above the maw. they dig little holes in the sand to wait out the tide - i provoked one into burying himself, he did it in a quick spiral motion, creating a cylindrical hole, and he was then able to close it over himself. very neat. they left pellets of sand all around their area, which i've read are the results of their eating habits: they suck stuff out of the sand and spit it back out, leaving these little balls. hence the name, 'mictyris'.

anemones: saw anemones on rocks.

there were other birds. saw some little kangaroos and a pair of emus on the drive into the park.

also: saw the milky way, and the southern cross. lots and lots and lots of stars. i don't think i've seen the milky way in at least a decade. despite the haze - the skys were generally clear, but still a bit foggy - and the lights from the camping area, it was dark enough to see the milky way, it was magnificent. the southern cross is much smaller than i expected, but i got to like it. it's more of a diamond than a cross, or a kite.

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