Sunday, October 25, 2009

When Ghosts May Walk and Skeletons Talk

Australians don't quite get Halloween. This is a very disappointing fact. Sure some shops put out a few costumes and ghostly figures, but the plastic fades and witches can only peer meekly around fat ornaments of St. Nick in swim shorts, stockings, and reindeer statues prematurely invading the city. 

Back in the States Halloween is such a fun event! Kids go trick or treating in ghoulish forms, and even adults dress up in glee to attend seasonally spooky Halloween parties. And everyone has candy! How could you not love a holiday when you can dress up as whatever you like without looking like a dork - and get free candy? I mean, come on!

Last Halloween, I looked forward to partaking in Sydney's festivities only to realize with despair that there were none.  But this year will be different! An American friend I met through ultimate frisbee is having a Halloween party next week.

He sent an e-mail to our team and the biggest question from the Aussies was, "When's Halloween?"

I asked one of my Australian friends what she was going as, and she replied, "Well . . . a pumpkin I guess."

I gave her a flat look. "A pumkin?" I asked.

She was confused by my question. "Well otherwise I'd have to be a ghost right?"

"No, it's Halloween! You can be whatever you want."

"Really . . . are you sure that's ok?"

Seems like this will be a very educational party . . . and perhaps full of pumpkins and ghosts.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Spot out of Time

You can read about the plight of the Amur leopard in this week's Triblocal: Spot Out of Time

Friday, October 16, 2009

Pull of the Wild

I've always been stupid around wild animals. It's not that I don't respect them, I greatly admire them. From raccoons to bull elephants their strength and beauty mesmerize me. And therein lies the problem.

I am so curious about wild animals that, when I spot them, I often forget about my surroundings. A few years ago I convinced a few friends of mine to drive from Maine to Quebec for the day, just to get crepes. On our return trip of 7 hours, I was driving along the highway through isolated forests, when a female moose and calf crossed in front of us. 

Temporarily, I was smart. I slowed down so the mother and calf could cross safely. But then my wildlife-induced stupidity kicked in. In my excitement and desire to watch them more, I pulled across the highway so I could get them in the headlights while they wandered along the far bank. It wasn't until my friends worriedly asked me to get back on the right side of the road that I realized what I had done. 

I'd like to say that was the only dumb thing I've done to see animals in the wild, but I have a long list of reasons why I should have long been torn apart or pummeled to death by many a creature. Yet I am still here, sincerely grateful that none of the animals decided to take advantage of my weakness.

A year after the moose incident, I left to film lions in Kenya for three months. My friends were convinced I would end up as cat chow. Through some luck I managed to survive and thrive in Kenya's wilderness, despite several close calls with the local elephant population. 

The reason I'm writing about this problem of mine, is because yesterday I was in the garden and saw a large web woven between some rocks. Before I realized what I was doing, I had a twig in my hand and was gently tapping the web to get the spider to come out of the rocks. Really, I just wanted to know what type of spider it was. Suddenly a large, thick, black spider scrambled out toward the twig. 

Once I got tired of gazing at the arachnid, I looked it up in my field guide. Apparently not only was the bite of that species extremely painful, but venomous. The book strongly advised, that if bitten, to immediately call an ambulance. 

It occurred to me that, while living in the country with the most venomous creatures in the world, I should tone down my curiosity.

P.S. I would have a picture of the spider to accompany this posting, but after sticking a twig into every rocky crevice in the garden today, none came out. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Something Fishy

This week's Triblocal article: Something Fishy

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Kangaroo Valley Delivers

My friend Sonya left the state of Maine for twelve days to come visit me and explore Australia. During her stay we drove two hours south to Kangaroo Valley. 

Kangaroo Valley has become a favorite place to take visitors, as Bob and I have always seen wildlife there. 

This time was no exception. Sonya seemed to have extra luck, because not only did we spot a kangaroo, wombat, and a lyre bird, but we saw them in force. By the end of the night we had seen 10 wombats, over 40 kangaroos, and 4 lyre birds.  

As for the 'Too cool for the wombat' picture, Sonya was photographing kangaroos in a cow field when this wombat wandered by. 

I've attached videos below.


This is a lyrebird. They are about the size of a pheasant and the males are known to be fantastic mimickers. Fanning their lyre-like tail, they perfectly replicate songs of other birds, as well as chainsaws and cameras. Unfortunately, this one is a female just looking for bugs to eat. The camera noise you hear is just Sonya's camera.