Bowerbird barbells

December 5

Summer came in this afternoon with warm west winds bringing the evening temperature up to maybe 75 degrees or so. Earlier today, in the bush, it was a bit warmer than that as we tromped around in our long pants, snake protector gaiters, and insect-shield long sleeved shirts! But as long as one didn’t rush too much, and take time to cool off in the shade once in a while, it was tolerable. I’d rather be free of bites and be a bit on the hot side than have some nasty tick turn up and give me Lime disease (which is here too whether the Australian government admits it or not).

The cicadas are out in force and we see lots of their discarded exoskeletons stuck to fence posts and to some species of gum trees. I’ll attach a picture that shows an adult with wings drying in the sun perched atop its old casing. Their sounds in the trees can be deafening in places! How the local birds tolerate all the racket I’ll never know. One interesting tidbit is that bowerbirds collect the empty shells of the cicada and decorate their mats. Why that looks good to them is another thing I’ll never know. We did an optical scan of the cicada casing and it showed no remarkable spectral anomalies.

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A friend has been making us some glass bowerbird barbells to use in some experiments regarding color preference. They are so cute! We have many colors now and put them out in sets of similar colors to see if the male bowerbird prefer some colors over others. We often put a red one with the set for the bowerbird does not like red and in this fashion we can tell if he is paying attention to our experiment. If he chucks the red one a meter and a half away, but keeps the blue ones nearby, we feel that the experiment is working. I’ll add a picture of a bowerbird doing that with an orange barbell! They don’t like orange either.

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When we got home today, back to the caravan park at Emerald Beach, we put on our swimmers (board shorts or bikini) and took a refreshing splash in the sea. Water temperature is finally getting nice. As the sun got lower in the sky, and less intense, the winds died down a bit and swung off shore. If you are a surfer you know what that means! It was so pleasant to be able to just walk from our camp to the beach and ride a few clean waves before making supper (or tea as some say here).

Well, no striking news since four days ago when a young man was attacked by a shark not five miles from here. His buddies drug him to shore, but the blood loss was too much and he died on the beach. They had been out body boarding in some big surf at a rock outcrop that I hear throws up a bit of a wave, maybe 100 meters from shore. Must have been a frightening time for everyone involved, the swim, fighting off the shark, and trying to get back to the beach with injured buddy, body boards and swim flippers. I’ve noticed a lack of surfers at the beach out front since then, but I guess the risk of getting eaten is no greater than it was before the incident. They say the odds are still much greater from dying in a car crash. So we drive extra careful and try not to worry about what swims around in the sea. Nevertheless, I don’t like going out if no one else is out!

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