Thursday, 01 May 2014 09:00

Part twenty-five The Weather and Effects

Well, what a strange wet season we have had. First there was nothing, then came the deluge and finally the explosive, intermittent, short-lived thunder storms with magnificent lightning displays.

The Yolnu of east Arnhemland often refer to this "midway to end" of the wet season time as Gunmul. It is a transitional period and the late afternoon cloud build-up sometimes produces stunning sunsets. Dragonflies hover on gossamer wings before darting off to avoid a hungry bee-eater. Their appearance signals the start of Banggerreng the beginning of Harvest Time in the aboriginal seasonal calendar. When the rain clouds begin to disperse, clear blue skies prevail and along come the last of the violent south-east storms known locally as the "knock-em-downs".

Closer to home, I'm sad to report that the dwindling number of ibis, which once regarded this small enclave as their adopted home over the last few years, have actually shrunk to nil, nought, zero, zilch absolutely none at all. I must say that I do miss their constant insect-eating patrols, and hope that their disappearance is only temporary.

Out on the floodplains at this time of high temperature and humidity, the rapidly receding water hastens the decomposition of the grasses and other plants, creating a haven for all the waterbirds to feast in. Vegetation, small fish and other aquatic creatures are all very desirable. Hopefully the ibis will remember their good times here and return when the Arnhem floodplain dries up. As the huge expanse of water begins its run-off, forming into streams and rivulets which sweep out to the coast, it uncovers vast swathes of land that, over the wet season, have developed abundant food sources for all the wildlife. While surface water still remains, humidity is high and food is plentiful, the ibis will probably only return to urban life when these things are no longer available on the floodplains.

Back at home base again and I have noticed that one or two of the endemic eucalypt tree species produce flowers at this time, and I have recently been entranced by the antics of a fruit bat (flying fox) which visits one such tree nearby. After flitting from one flower cluster to another seeking sustenance, or more precisely weaving its way wingtip claw by wingtip claw (similar to a monkey's mode of progression through the treetops), he pauses a while and partakes of an ablution break. It is a sort of all-over lick and scratch for every inch of each extended wing as he hangs by one end-claw, swinging lazily in circles while executing all sorts of intriguing contortions to complete his interesting cleansing performance. He does not appreciate any kindred observers, stopping his wash routine just long enough to send any bat interlopers off with a small screech before resuming his bath-time. He usually arrives just on dusk, spends quality time there and then leaves for parts unknown. He occasionally stops again for replenishment just after sun-up on his return journey back to his daytime treehouse hotel somewhere in the West. The same fruit bat every time? Who knows! But I like to think so.