Monday, May 18, 2009

Aussie Icons

A recent article in The Age had a picture of three fluffy baby dingoes. Native dingoes are disappearing from Australia, and a couple in this state won the right to legally own dingoes at their Toolern Vale sanctuary. In October 2008, the state (Victorian) government declared the dingo a threatened species. Since then, international zoos and wildlife centres are asking for dingo breeding pairs. It is thought that only 5 percent of all wild dogs in Victoria are dingoes. We have yet to see (or hear) a dingo. Hard to imagine that this iconic symbol is now a threatened species. Hopefully we'll see some when we travel into less populated areas. The inriguing issue, at least for me, is that there are no laws protecting this species -- hunters, farmers, trappers, government parks employees are allowed to trap, poison, bait and shoot dinoes. (Photo from The Age, by Craig Abraham.)

That other icon, the possum, is still very active and busy on our yard and on the front deck. It's a rare night that the thunder of little feet isn't heard either on the roof or running quickly along the front deck. The other night Nicole went out to the car so we could drive to her Girl Guides meeting. As she put her hand on the door handle and flipped the light switch, there was a flurry of the herd (there appear to be 3 of the bigger possums and 2 smaller ring tailed possums) off the roof of the porch. Nicole was startled, and then we both had a good laugh ... we scared the possums! Then on Saturday night, we came home later in the evening following a Footie game at the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) -- Melbourne vs. the Western Bulldogs. At least 3 of the big possums went racing up trees as we drove up into the yard. This species is protected -- you are not allowed to kill possums.

Victorians are avid Footie supporters -- we attended the game in the presence of locals, so had the rules and events of the game explained to us. In earlier days, each suburb had their own team, and part of your identity appears to be the support of your Footie team. I've not willingly enjoyed either CFL or other football games -- just find them too slow and cumbersome. However, Australian Rules Football is fun. You can't take your eye off the ball, or you're lost. And the supporters are more than avid. It was great fun! And we'll go again, to enjoy this unique Aussie icon. Gabe and Kai went with some friends to an AusKicks event, where kids gather to play a fun game, introducing newcomers to the game. They enjoyed the fast pace as well. Almost all the teams are male, although there is a female Footie team in Melbourne. One of the first things the Ferny Creek principal, Matthew, asked the kids was which Footie team they were going to support (or to use the local term, "barrack"). Of course, his team, the Geelong Cats, was recommended to us! The Geelong Cats, by the way, are a very strong team, and it's suggested they'll win the (I think) Premiership (the final game) in early spring. The final is always played on the last Saturday of September, and the MCG should be full of 100,000 barracking fans for that event.

My favourite icon is the kookaburra, as I've mentioned before. I still haven't managed to record the gaggle of birds yelling and laughing... every time I walk by with my mobile, they are totally silent. But they're happily eating up the scraps I'm leaving in the back yard, and occasionally bless me with a cackling festival! Other birds can be quite brazen. Gabe had a cookie stolen from a picnic table in front of him by a magpie. Kai chased down the magpie, which couldn't fly away with its burden, and retrieved the cookie, which had been the last one in our picnic lunch.

And Tom had an encounter with a biggish spider one day last week. He and I got into the car, and as I turned my head to shoulder check, I saw the spider standing on the headrest right behind his head. The spider was waving a leg or two in the air which is why I noticed it. We have no idea how it got there. It may have been on Tom's head all along (!), as we had walked under a big old oak tree on our way to the car, or somehow it got into the car on its own. The spider was a lighter grey/brown colour, and I don't know its species, but it was big enough to get us out of the car. I haven't seen anyone move that quickly in a while. "Tom, get out of the car, there's a big spider behind you", was all I had to say, and he leapt out of the car. I had to turn off the engine and engage the parking brake before I could fly out. We got the spider out, and it sat there on the parking lot looking stunned! Like us! This spider was about the size of the palm of my hand, legs and body included. That's about the size of a Huntsman spider that lives between a window and the screen in our living room. Sometimes it comes out, but often it's secreted in one of the cracks. I tried to usher it out the other day, thinking it would enjoy hunting more there, but it seems to be happy in its space.

Finally, the kids' school, Ferny Creek Primary, held its annual fundraising disco on Friday night. They are fundraising for the grade 6 grad, and this is another of its iconic events. Kids had to dress as something starting with the letter "P". Nicole went as a Party Girl, Kai as Peter Parker, Professional Photographer (Spidey's alias), and Gabriel as Pooh's friend (Winnie the Pooh). I saw a priest, several police, princesses in large numbers, pajama clad kids and teachers, and Matthew, eschewing the Principal role, came as Peter the Painter. A sweet event, including dry ice fog and a rocking beat. Much fun was had by all, but when I suggested the "P"arent could take part, I was gently advised it wasn't for me.


Ed Wiebe said...

Spiders! Such fun. We really are programmed to run from them. The small ones are bad enough. I'd hate to be surprised by a big one.

B and Co said...

It was a shocker, I must say. Apparently it likely was a "baby" Huntsman spider, technically not poisonous, at least to humans. Thus the beige/grey colour... I think they get darker when they get older.

The one who lives between the screen and window feels safer, and it takes off when I get too close.