Thursday 5 April 2018

Nature Notes


Contrary to popular mythology, in the heart of this city we may not have kangaroos hopping down our roads but we do live with all manner of other wildlife. Mr Pipistrello and I chanced upon this local media star, Sealvester, while out for an early evening passegiato in our local harbour-front park the other day. As I have been under a fairly determined (and entirely self-imposed) news blackout for a goodly while now, it was a bit of a surprise for us to see this seal lolling about where we intended to stroll.

It appears that this rather large and seemingly healthy male seal has been "resting" in the park since before Easter and, despite the attempts by rangers to discourage him from taking up permanent residence, he is still here. He seems utterly unfazed by the attention from pedestrians and the temporary fences erected around his tidy bedroom-cum-living-area are keeping the dogs in the park at bay, so I guess he has decided this is a perfectly satisfying place to take a holiday. Indeed, we completely understand as the Pipistrello's think this is a grand neighbourhood to live in, too.

There are times when one may be forgiven for forgetting we do live in the middle of a very busy and bustling 'hood. The resident (and migratory) birdlife*, for example, can be astounding, and the critters you normally associate with "the country" are plentiful. I speak mainly of spiders-and-snakes, but the less said about that the better ... However, in the warm-blooded department, we have many small residents and visitors to these parts, some welcome, some not (and I'm looking at you, Rattus rattus). To see any kangaroos, though, we must get into an automobile** and drive to the fringes of our city and beyond, to where they and their marsupial brethren abound.

A visitor to Ye Olde Pipistrello Garden at the Seaside

On the other hand, if you were to live in Our Nation's Capital, you will not need to travel far as they are everywhere.

Government House

Growing up in The Olden Days we, like many children around the world, feasted upon a television diet of talented, anthropomorphised animals. Our home-grown variety went by the name of Skippy. In reality, kangaroos are not the clever creatures so portrayed in TV-land, viz.: the closeups of Skippy's paw operating 2-way radios and the like were shot with a stunt-double in the form of a souvenir kangaroo-paw bottle-opener, and indeed many Skippys were needed to shoot the series. Until quite recently, there was a nature park on the outskirts of Sydney where Skippy & Co. went to retire, and where many locals and tourists liked to go for adorable photo opportunities. I believe there even exists a photograph of a very small version of me (Pipistrellina, if you will) chatting to her there in her dotage.

What's that, Skip?
Tchk, tchk, tchk...***

This particular television series has had an extraordinary reach into the non-English speaking world. I was holidaying in an Ancient Land sans Mr Pipistrello a few years ago and was accosted by a big-smiling spruiker for a carpet shop. He was of a similar vintage to me and rightly deduced that English was the language to approach me with.

"Hullo, where are you from?", he politely enquired.

"Hullo, I'm from Australia," I replied, wondering if any further explanation was required.

"Australia ... ?"

He paused and looked thoughtful, then said very solemnly, "It was a very sad day when Ed Devereaux died."

And for that exceptional cultural reference, yes, I just had to go straight to his carpet store and buy something!

Ed Devereaux

* See sidebar for Our Favourite Bird.

** Gino, our Fiat 500, has like Skippy been put out to pasture, so marsupial spotting is off the agenda for now.

*** Not Pipistrellina but Garry Pankhurst, a.k.a. Sonny Hammond.

Sad Coda: I have just read today that the seal was actually unwell and has died. 

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