Bits and Pieces
Daylight Saving Time Print E-mail
Wednesday, 24 August 2016 13:12
If you’re calling interstate, don’t forget that the clocks go forward an hour at 2am on 2 October in all states and territories, except in Queensland, W Australia and, of course, here in the Territory.
Aboriginal Art on Show Print E-mail
Wednesday, 24 August 2016 13:11

Until 30 September, CDU Art Gallery is hosting Salon 16 (also known as the Salon des Refusės) which showcases some of the art works submitted for this year’s National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA), but which just failed to make the cut.

The Gallery, which is situated in Building Orange 12 on the Casuarina Campus, is open from Wednesday to Friday between 10am and 4pm and on Saturday between 10am and 2pm. Meanwhile, the finalists and winners in this year’s NATSIAA are on display at the Museum and Art gallery of the NT until 30 October.

A Collection of Collectives Print E-mail
Wednesday, 24 August 2016 13:10

One of the (many) peculiarities of the English language is the multitude of names given to collections or groups – mainly wildlife, but also people and things. We are all familiar with a pride of lions, a mob of kangaroos or even a murmuration of starlings, but how about a confusion of guinea fowl, a journey of giraffes, an eloquence of lawyers, a bellow of bullfinches, an aurora of polar bears, a sounder of wild boar or a company of archer fish?

The tradition of creating collective nouns arose in the Late Middle Ages, and continues today; a parliament of owls, for example, was first coined by CS Lewis in the 1950s in his ‘Narnia’ stories.

Do you have a favourite item at home? Print E-mail
Monday, 25 July 2016 23:09

Or a collection of interesting objects? Would you like to share your interest (passion) for ten minutes or so with other members? You have the chance to do so on 23 August whe n there’s another session of Collectibles. If you’d like to show and tell please call Gayle on 8945 5406 so that she can draw up a running order.

2016 Census Print E-mail
Monday, 25 July 2016 23:08

This year’s Census, which takes place on the night of 9 August , will rely heavily on the ele ctronic transmission of the data – more than two thirds of the population are expected to complete the census online. When contacted about the procedure to be followed by members preferring to complete a paper form, the Australian Bur eau of Statistics replied as follows:

For people requiring a paper form there will be an instruction to call the automated Paper Form Request System (PFRS) on the Census Instruction Letter which will be delivered to households across Australia in early August. If U3A member s would like to arrange for a paper form to be sent to them, they can call the PFRS on 1300 820 275 and follow the prompts. The 12 - digit Census Login Number provided in the instruction letter will be needed to complete the request.

If you or other members have any further inquiries regarding the census, please do not hesitate to call the Census Inquiry Service on 1300 214 531.

Don’t throw them away! Print E-mail
Monday, 25 July 2016 23:07

If you still have brochures from the federal election, the NT Library would like to receive these as well as those you will be shortly be getting in your letterbox in the run - up to the Territory election. You can send brochures, flyers and other election material, free of charge, to Election Material, Reply Paid 42, Northern Territory Library, GPO Box 42, Darwin, NT 0801.

Railway Picnic Print E-mail
Monday, 25 July 2016 23:07

As customary on Picnic Day – which this year falls on 1 August - there will be a traditional railway picnic at the Adelaide River Railway Heritage Precinct . There’ll be food, drinks, fairground train rides, guided walks of the precinct and games from the 1920 railway picnic. New this year is the WW2 exhibition and the recently restored 50 ton weighbridge. Festivities start at 10am and run till 3pm.

This month’s computer tip Print E-mail
Monday, 25 July 2016 23:06

If you’ve recently upgraded you operating system to Windows 10 and are frustrated at needing to sign in every time you use your PC, you can eliminate this annoying feature by following these steps.

Click the start button on the left of the task bar; select ‘settings’, then ‘accounts’; click on ‘sign - in options’ and under ‘require sign - in’ select ‘never’ and then follow the prompts.

Tropical Garden Fair Print E-mail
Monday, 25 July 2016 23:05

The Tropical Garden Fair takes place on 13 and 14 August (from 10am to 4pm) in the Botanic Gardens. There’ll be a great deal on offer: displays, workshops, plant and art stalls as well as specialist food and drinks. The Friends of the Botanic Gardens have persuaded international celebrity landscape designer, Made Wijaya, to come along and create a garden during the fair. I f you’ve seen any of his work in Bali, you’ll know this will be something rather special. Admission is free.

At Burnett House Print E-mail
Monday, 25 July 2016 23:04

As part of this year’s National Trust/NT Historical Society 2016 talks, Kulumbiringin Elder, Tibby Quall will be speaking at 5.30pm on 29 July about the Batcho Family and its connections to land, customs and country. Tibby will also be launching an accompanying exhibition focusing on Batcho ancestral connections and genealogy, and the history of land claims in Darwin and on the Cox Peninsula. The exhibition will run until 10 August (10am to 1pm Monday to Saturday and noon to 4pm on Sundays).

Behind the Lines Print E-mail
Monday, 25 July 2016 23:03

Behind the Lines is an exhibition, running until 25 September, which celebrates the role of satire and political cartoonists in Australia and highlights the power of their drawings. With a selection of 80 of the best cartoons from 39 cartoonists, this year’s exhibition displays some of Australia’s most controversial cartoons that test the boundaries of free speech and the freedom of the press. In a break with tradition the exhibition does not just celebrate one ‘Cartoonist of the Year’, but celebrates the community of political cartoonists in Australia, in memory of the tragedy at Charlie Hebdo. At the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Conacher Street.

BIRDS – and other things! Print E-mail
Monday, 25 July 2016 22:56

Part Forty - seven: Owl Assortment

Continuing with last month’s theme, I thought I would share this earlier life - experience with you. Just prior to retirement, I had a particularly bad down - time and a friend gave me a small two - inch high carved stone owl to cheer me up. Its facial expression clearly said ‘BLAH to all of you’, and I tr easure d the little object. At the time it helped me over the hump but, unfortunately, friends and family came to the (unfounded) assumption that I liked al l inanimate owl trinkets and knick - knacks. They showered me with owl items for breakfast, lunch, birthdays, whatever and whenever until I had to say ‘Thank you, but STOP! ENOUGH! NO MORE, PLEASE!’

Thankfully they got the message and eventually the Salvos r eceived a sizeable collection of owls in all shapes and sizes and made from many different materials. I sincerely hope that they all found good homes.

However, I have always had a soft spot for real - life owls, both for their rather comical features and fo r their habits and usefulness to mankind. Although they seem to be notorious and ruthless predators of our wildlife, they do play their part in keeping introduced vermin under control. And it is this attribute which brings me to the Barn Owl which inhabits nearly every country below the equator, most of the USA and a few European countries.

The reason for its large worldwide distribution is the owls’ innate survival flexibility: their nesting requirements are adaptable; their food requirements can be alte red along with habitat; and the bird’s capacity to co - exist in the human environment leads to breeding success. Our local owl is the Eastern Barn Owl which is prevalent over most of Australia. This species breeds prolifically when there is an upsurge (plag ue) in mouse production.

These owls have a hoarse, high - pitched, scary, maniacal screech to advertise their existence. In fact its alternative name is the Screech Owl! Its heart - shaped face , dominated by fairly large eyes with excellent low - light vision, is we ll - known to all of us. But these big, one - directional eyes take up space usually reserved for muscles to actually move them. So, to make up for this, owls can rotate their whole head by 180 ̊ to each side without moving their body.

This gives them all - round vision and the disc - like face is designed to channel sound to each ear with minimal delay, thus allowing owls to to pinpoint their prey even in complete darkness. The owls’ habit of sitting quite still, eyes wide open, silently fixating on an object has without doubt led to its legendary status as a repository of knowledge and wisdom. In reality they are no smarter than most birds, and, when it comes to problem solving, they are out - classed by parrots and crows.

It is just that we find the heart - shap ed face so endearing. By day the Barn Owl rests high in the trees, in caves or in barns and, when in flight, it gives the impression of being head - heavy. Not often seen but it is still heard at night in the Territory.

And now for the n ext two night birds: the Tawny F rogmouth and the Nightjar.

Also known as the Owlet - Nightjar or Moth Owl, the Nightjar is not related to the owl family even though it looks rather like a miniature owl . With pinkish - coloured feet , cat - like whiskers, and a slight tracery of th e trademark owl spectacles , the ‘Moth Owl’ and the more common spotted Nightjar are, never the less, a different species . Like the other nocturnal fliers, it has very soft feathers enabling ultra - quiet flight when necessary, as they glide silently down to scoop up their victims. The name ‘Nightjar’ was bestowed on them because they ‘jar’ the night with their strident high - pitched calls, disturbing the nocturnal silence along with other noisy owls, curlews and bush hens. The Nightjars mainly nest on or clos e to the ground, or maybe in hollow logs, even though they have difficulty walking – it is more like the shuffle of an inebriated human!

And so we come to the Tawny Frogmouth also found throughout Australia and also not related to owls. Now I must admit t hey are not the prettiest bird on the planet, but its very grotesqueness and bizarre behaviour is fascinating.

During daylight hours, the Frogmouth delights in masquerading as just another dead - tree branch but, come night - time, it reinvents itself as o ur BFF * bec ause of its copious appetite for crickets and cockroaches.

Assisting in keeping these nasties away from our premises can only be a good deed – don’t you agree? It is usually only in the dark hours that the Frogmouths very emphatically proclaim their presence by emitting a low - pitched booming call reminiscent of throbbing African tom - toms.

Unlike owls and nightjars, Tawny Frogmouths do not ‘feed on the wing’ but instead scuffle through leaf litter for their delectables. However, along with the Nightjar, the Frogmouth has an unfortunate inclination to seek out roadkill during its nocturnal food - gathering expeditions, often playing the ‘chicken game’ with speeding traffic . Sadly they often become tasty morsels for others of their ilk.

I have mem ories (middle/late 1960s) of driving south on leave, departing D arwin in the early hours to do the twelve - hour dash to the Alice or maybe Camooweal. Having three toddlers on those trips was bad enough, but one of the worst times was when ghostly apparition s would suddenly rise up just in front of the car lights in a last - minute dash to safety. Alas, all too often it was too late and a loud SPLAT! THUMP! would be heard from under the car or caravan indicating that ‘another one bit the dust’!

Seemingly oblivious to approaching headlights or noisy car engines while consuming previously squished ‘animal soup’, the Nightjars and Frogmouths courted annihilation on the Stuart Highway. It was very distressing for the youngsters – the constant thud, thud, thud kept them awake! Just joking! But, yes, this unavoidable animal carnage really did upset all of us. Especially when our first appointment when reaching ‘civilisation’ would be to get a car - wash – not just to remove dust and/or mud but also feathers and squish!

See you all next month.

Gayle Carroll

BIRDS – and other things! Print E-mail
Friday, 01 July 2016 00:00

Part forty - six : Birds of the Night

I have previously written about the nightly spine - chilling calls of the bush curlew but there are also other nocturnal birds here in the Top End that sometimes create the same effect of setting our teeth on edge. The orange - footed s c rub fowl for instance has a similar screechy utterance that only a mother or devoted (tone deaf!) mate could love.

However, there are a couple of other raucous night - birds in the same league which come readily to mind. One or two of the omnipresent but seldom seen owl species seem to have no inhibitions when around humans and appear to take great pleasure in disturbing our slumber - time. While some of the owl species are relatively soft - spoken, the barking owl (the one mo st likely to visit our gardens, although as suburbia spreads it is getting to be more infrequent) has an explosive, dog - like bark that usually tapers off into a human - like sobbing shriek, apparently designed to scare the living daylights out of us mere mortals. Occasionally preceded by a softish growl, it rapidly grows to a loud, em phatic ‘wook wook’ which carries for long distances. The resemblance to our own barking mutts usually rouses us just long enough to mistakenly yell at them to ‘stop BARKING or I’ ll.....!’

The barking owl has large, piercing bright yellow eyes ringed in black and with big black centres. It has an alternative nick - name: the winking owl (possibly because it seldom does!) but does not have a defined mask like the boobook/mopoke/more pork owl.

While both the barking and boobook owls are classed as hawk - owls, the latter’s voice is far more musical and even has a certain friendly appeal. When in hunting mode, the boobook announce their presence with a very clear ‘more pork, more pork’ en unciation reiterated over and over. When coming from within a stand of trees, the heartrending call resonates rather like surround sound from stereo amplifiers. Defying pin point direction - finding, the echoes seem to indicate that hundreds of boobook owls are sheltering amidst the branches. Not so – it is just a subtle hint of mysterious bird ventriloquism designed to fool the enemy.

Many years ago, with my kindy - age (and under) brood, we camped one time on the banks of Lake Finniss by the old Woolner Stat ion Homestead . Around and behind us were savannah - like grassy plains before reaching back to the natural bush , with many ageless native trees and undergrowth; in front of us, the lotus - filled, safe, serene waters of the lake beckoned enticingly (there were very few crocs in those days!)

And so the stage was set for a typical Territory outback night of ‘happy hunting grounds’ for any feathered nocturnal diners. We were not disappointed as, just on dusk, both these owl species began making their presence obv ious by:

a) regular, insistent requests for ‘more pork’, and;

b) continual barking, presumably warning us of some busybody wanting to be fed! I remember that there was not much sleep on that camping holiday – the ‘noises in the night’ kept everyone on tenterhooks.

Usually, at twilight time, a sudden soft who o osh sound and the glimpse of browny/grey and white feathers would indicate that the owls had been reactivated to hunting mode and were flying up to higher perches from which to survey their ‘restaurant’ area. Cicadas, dragonflies, moths mice, small lizards and so on were their desired prey and, as I perceived it, they were simply waiting for their Domino’s Pizza Delivery Service, ready to pounce on any small animal silly enough to go night flying or walking.

To me, the cry of ‘more pork, more pork’ is a nostalgic sound as, having grown up close to a pinus radiata plantation where the insistent, compelling voice of the boobook owl issuing from the depths of the forest in the depths of the night, had a somewhat comforting resonance.

Anyhow, after feasting all night, both the barking and boobook owls return at first light to their chosen roost to spend the daylight hours, silent and virtually unmoving, beside their mate – no doubt contemplating their next food f oray in a few hours’ time

Next time Meetings with Nightjars and Collectibles.

Gayle Carroll

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