Sunday, January 25, 2009

Bat Boys Become Bat Men

We sadly dropped off our bat babies (well, they are technically juveniles!) at the bat crèche, which is a French word that translates to day care or “care of other’s young offspring provided by animals.” The set up there great, this huge aviary that housed several bat moms and their babies, along with other juveniles roughly the same age as our boys, about two to three months old. There were two species, the black (Baldrick) and grey (Boris). It was funny how they hung with their own species once they were in the aviary! At top is a pic of Boris and one of his new friends, he looked a little nervous (that’s him on the left, I had to zoom in on his teeny toe band to see his number) but we trust the fact that bats are social and will figure it all out. It has been incredible to watch what their instinct tells them to do. For instance, when they grab a piece of fruit out of their food bowl, they quickly move away from the source and hide it with their wing so that some other bat doesn’t come along and grab it. That is something that a human bat careperson couldn’t possibly teach them!

It had become tricky to house these guys, as they had started flying and would launch from where they were hanging and land on you. (Usually, this was accompanied by a spot of pee! Gee, thanks!) I started wearing my long-sleeved work shirt around the house for exactly this reason. We knew the time had come for them to go, but this did not make it any easier.

The lower, outdoor pic is the colony from where Baldrick was originally rescued. This is one of the largest bat colonies I’ve seen, but they are difficult to photograph with my little camera. You get the point, hopefully, of the amount of bats “hanging around.” Click on the photo for a larger view. This was only a small portion of the larger group. At sunset, they stream off in a long black swarm in search of blossoms and fruit. They have been known to travel quite a distance, and sometimes spend the night where they’ve gone foraging.

Currently enjoying a 3-day weekend for Australia Day tomorrow. End of summer and the kids go back to school on Tuesday!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama-mania Down Under

It has been interesting to see the reaction to our recent presidential election while living here. The headlines and opinion pages have been filled with comments and observations that are eye-opening and spot on. It turns out the rest of the world is just as interested in the next president as we are! I know of several other folks over here that also got up at 2:30am local time to tune into the inauguration. Although we taped it here, Jennifer still got up with me to watch it happening live, along with the bats, who were very excited that someone else in the house was being nocturnal. See Baldrick in the foreground of the TV this morning!

I had the pleasure of speaking on Skype to my whole family, pictured here, as they gathered to watch the event in Fairfax along with a 6' Obama cut out of cardboard. It was fun to share the experience with my family back home.

I am super excited about the prospects of the future and proud once again to admit I’m an American when I’m overseas.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Public Art

As I’ve cruised around Brisbane and environs, I’ve noticed some really amazing public art. I found this wonderful ceramic piece, above top, near the beach here in Shorncliffe. You’d have to see it in person to really appreciate it, but it represents many of the shorebirds and underwater critters found in the local Moreton Bay area. Keep in mind this is a ceramic collage, not just a painting!

I also found these beautiful metal sculptures made from junkyard rejects. (Well, kangaroos welded from “found” junkyard objects might not be considered “beautiful” to all, but at minimum, they are really well executed!) I came across them the other evening while downtown, and went back for a little filming in daylight. See attached short movie for the whole family.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Bushcare Redux

Here’s a little “before” and “after” from some bushcare we did today at Cabbage Tree Creek. (According to Jen, bushcare is actually “weeding…cunningly disguised!”) While we were busy working today, Jen called me over, asking if I wanted a “challenge.” I said, “Sure, bring it on!” She showed me a sad, smothered Lily Pilly tree (I just LOVE the names here!) that was completely hidden by Asparagus Fern, Balloon Vine and Mile-a-Minute, see above left. I got after it, not really believing that there actually was a tree under there. After about twenty minutes of serious hacking and hauling, I uncovered a nice little tree, above right! You can also see the pile of the vines I removed in the lower pic.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Defining Selflessness

I’m pictured here with my new friend and boss, Jennifer Singfield. Jen and her husband Chris, have been kind enough to host and house me since I’ve been here, and this has made my commute to Jen’s home office a very easy one! (Right across the hall!)

Jen’s environmentalism started ten years ago, when her kids were in high school. She began with water quality monitoring at the local Cabbage Tree Creek, and was not pleased with what she found. This led her to become intimately acquainted and involved with the local wetlands, estuaries and mangroves in the area around her home in Shorncliffe. Because these areas are a filter, of sorts, they play a big role in the quality of the ocean into which they drain.

There is a patchwork of wetland and estuarine reserves in and around the north Brisbane area, but they are quickly being dug up and paved over for a number of things, such as the airport, port and motorway expansions. We had a good chuckle when the local golf course president, who touted himself as an environmentalist, came around to speak with Jen to try and gain her support. (He is losing several holes from his course due to the motorway expansion, and wants to replace it with a swath of the local wetlands.) He will in turn build a “wetlands course” to closely resemble the land he uses for his links. As I’m sure you can imagine, a “manufactured wetlands” went over like a lead balloon around here, and Jen let him know this in no uncertain terms. Poor guy, we let him give us his spiel, but it did nothing to sway Jen to support his “greening” of natural habitat.

It is truly an uphill struggle here, as Brisbane is gaining 1,000 new residents per week, and the infrastructure to support them paves over everything in its way. Jen works with a small group of tireless individuals who do their best to stay on top of what is planned and fight for what they have worked so hard to save. I try to remind her what she told me when I first got here, that you have to remember your victories, however small they might be, and try not to get frustrated by the defeats.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Bushcare…it’s not what you think!

Have begun my work here this week, and today was our first day out in the field. However, around here, it is known as the “bush,” and we were doing what “bushcarers” in Australia do, which was removing non-native plants…a nice way to say “weeding!” See photo, there is a vine called Mile-a-Minute, and if left to its own devices, it will choke out the native trees and plants. It closely resembles Morninglory, and you would swear it actually grows a mile a minute! It is a problem at Dowse Lagoon, where my group regularly meets and weeds, and they keep it knocked back as best they can. This weeding is a thankless job, and you wonder if you are making progress. They have been working a patch for six years! But after visiting an area that is NOT regularly weeded, you can see the difference you make. The natives are important habitats for birds, bats and other wildlife so it is important to allow them to grow, and not let the invasive weeds take over and choke them out.

Besides that, I’ve been helping Jennifer with copy for their website and we’ve been making plans for some of my future projects while I’m here. Stay tuned for those.

I’ve gotten the bike all set up, however have already suffered two flats! One was probably due to an old tube, and the second one, well, you should have seen the screw I ran over! Oops! Lucky for me, neither of these flatted on the road, and instead I discovered them in the (relatively) cool comfort of the garage. Now maybe I’ve gotten all the flats out of the way for the rest of the trip. I hope so anyway!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Ibis Abound

I thought I would take advantage of a clear day and take some pics of the area around here. I was able to capture an Ibis at work, checking around the picnic area for tidbits. I’m currently staying in Shorncliffe, a quiet little town right on Bramble Bay, which is a smaller bay within the larger Moreton Bay area. In about a week, I’ll be moving about seven miles up the road, and my commute will be along a flat bikeway which includes a trip across a bridge called the Hornibrook Bridge, which used to be the main thoroughfare. The bridge closed to traffic in 1979 with the opening of the adjacent Houghton Highway Bridge. Hornibrook is now strictly for pedestrians, bicyclists and recreational fishing.

Along the bikeway, I’ve seen some fine examples of Queensland architecture. The houses were built up on poles for ventilation, in addition to getting the house as far as possible from ground-dwelling termites! They also typically have wrap-around verandas and plenty of windows for cross-through ventilation. Corrugated iron roofs are common as well. It is funny how some of the places have been renovated with stucco and tile roofs…could be a beach town in California if you didn’t know better! I prefer the original architecture myself.

Getting ready to start work in earnest tomorrow with Jen and I’m looking forward to it. It has been nice to be “on holiday” for the week, but I’m ready to get things started.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Am I a Rain Magnet?

Not much going on at the moment, as the day has turned out to be rain, rain, rain. I’m sitting here with a bat on my lap, no worries. Comfortable and dry, watching it come down outside. Queensland has been suffering from drought conditions for the past ten years, so the rain is a welcome thing.

Reminds me of my trip here in 1988…I was in Brisbane for two months, and it rained nearly every day then too! Am I a rain magnet or what? It feels good, though, it has cooled the place off a bit.