Friday 24 December 2021

Merry Christmas!


Thank you, Dear Reader, for your good company around these pages.

May your Christmas be Merry and your New Year be Bright.

Pipistrello x

Image credit: via Tumblr

Sunday 12 December 2021

Mea Culpa


One minute I'm crowing confidently about my rôle as resident barber about the casa.

The next, Dear Reader ... I'm sacked.

In truth, I did look dubiously at the electric clippers and thought it must have been ages since I'd wielded them as they looked, well, a bit unfamiliar in my hand.

For well they might when the 1/4 inch clipper guard wasn't in place.

It only took a goodly swipe up the back of Mr. P's head to realise my mistake.

Your Correspondent is now married to Yul Brynner.

Or Patrick Stewart.

I cannot decide.

Either way, I'm secretly pleased :)

Image credits: 1: via Pinterest; 2, 3: via Google

Sunday 5 December 2021

Strange Visitors I


Channel-billed Cuckoo Hatching a Parasitic Plot
H. Goodchild lithograph, 1919

Does your polis feel like Cloudcuckooland, dear Reader? 

Aristophanes Plotting more Plots

Fear not, I am not going to launch into some Opinions about Aristophanes' comedy The Birds, as I've not read it, except to give you some excellent advice that therein the player ol' Pisthetaerus reminds us, "words give wings to the mind and make a man soar to heaven", so a goodly bit of reading may be in order whenever one does feel stuck in the doldrums. 

I'm merely wondering if you've noticed the annual arrival of Strange Visitors to these shores? For 'tis the season of the Channel-billed Cuckoo migration. Not that I've actually seen the beast in question, despite its enormous size as the world's largest parasitic cuckoo. No, the Scythrops novaehollandiae announces its presence with its spooky, otherworldly call around dawn and is a portent that summer approacheth. And that birds clearly originated in the Jurassic Period.

Warning Sign of Summer

Unlike the dear but dopey Mutton-birds that occasionally drop from the sky on their massive migration to rocky roosts around these shores, these rather more unattractive visitors have merely flown in from New Guinea and Indonesia (and time-travelled around 200 million years, if you hear one) and make a bee-line for trees in our urban bits of greenery to meet up with more of their kind for a bit of hanky-panky and then an egg deposition in a nest of an unsuspecting Crow, Currawong or Magpie.

We did once witness a harried Wattlebird feeding another species of Cuckoo, at our Home by the Sea, and it was neither a pretty sight nor a credit to the reputed intelligence of our bird species, for Love is truly Blind when it comes to the guileless parents raising these interloping children. 

The Australian Magpie -
Favourite Bird Around These Parts
L. Weiss mosaic, 2017

As yet, we've never seen a beloved Maggie around the condominio try to desperately feed an insatiably hungry baby half its size again, but they must fall prey enough times for there to be at least one Channel-billed Cuckoo to haunt the trees nearby every year. And I also heard an echoing cry waft through the open windows of my ballet class the other morning, so they lurk around the wharves by the harbour, too. 

Yesterday I did hear but not see a momentary aerial dog-fight outside between a Cuckoo and a couple of Currawongs, so I'd hazard there's an egg ready to drop. And the primeval battle for survival starts afresh.

Birds Mobbing the Stage at the University of Cambridge
H. G. Glindoni etching, 1883

Somehow I don't think Aristophanes had the Scythrops novaehollandiae in mind when he included the Cuckoo in the roll call of birds in his play, these strange beasties being rather, ahem, less melodious and pretty than their European kith & kin. 

But yet he did describe them as the former rulers of the Egyptians and Phoenicians, which would imply some ferocity of demeanour, and attributes to their call the proverbial cracking of a whip for the Phoenicians to reap their fields:

"Cuckoo! Cuckoo! go to the fields ye circumcised!"

Image credits: 1: Antique Print & Map Room; 2: Wikimedia Commons; 3, 4: Flying With Hands; 5: Wikimedia Commons

Bats In The Belfry