Spied a spider

Spider Web_04

I suppose I’d better offer some background. My dad worked in the construction industry. He had a tractor equipped with a back hoe and a front-end loader, which he drove around on the back of a big International tip truck. He’d often be hired to clear land, dig footings, pools and driveways when a house was being built, or to cart the rubble away when it was demolished. As a result, there was loud earthmoving equipment around our house that would make noise from the early hours, before work, and late into the night after work when repairs were required, or teeth or buckets had to be replaced on the back hoe.

Thus, despite a garden full of fruit trees, we never had cicadas around our house in summer – all scared away by the vibrations and noise. (Flies and mosquitos still thrived, rest assured.) Once the old man retired and sold the equipment, the bugs teemed. A follow-on effect was a multitude of spiders. Sure, there was always a redback in the proverbial woodpile, the odd funnel web surfacing to make a more obvious nest if something big was left on the front lawn, and heaps of ‘garden spiders’ that thrive in the summer. Now, however, we have a cicada breeding ground.

cicada 01


And during the spring and summer, every day presents a different, elaborate spider web. Or one arachnid empire that contiues to grow!

spider web empire

I usually grab the digital camera and take a quick snap of the web, knowing full well that even were I to manage to keep the right things in focus, it’s still not going to look anything as impressive in the photograph as it did in real life. So when I recently transferred about a year’s worth of random spider and spiderweb photos to my computer, only a handful came close to looking good.

Spider Web_03

Spider Web_02 Spider Web_01

The post script to all of this is that, after processing these images late into the night, I of course was plagued by dreams, bordering on nightmares, of encounters with spiders, the one I awoke from involving an extensive network of webs in and around my computer and desk, heaving under the weight of nasty looking spiders. Which, metaphorically at least, is now exactly the case.

Some pun about not giving a fig…

Fig Tree Bugs_01

The leaves of the fig tree in the front yard were looking eerily translucent… obviously of no value to Adam and Eve had they been created in the Romeo garden in North Manly (as opposed to Eden) and coerced by me mum (rather than the Serpent) to eat the fruit of the blood orange tree (in winter) or the mango tree (in a non-drought summer when the cockatoos would be feeding elsewhere, and the fruit could grow beyond the size of a plum without being gobbled) instead of an apple.

Fig Tree Bugs_02

Closer inspection revealed that something had in fact been eating of the leaf of the fig tree… the creepy, crawly, caterpillar larvae of some insect or other…

Fig Tree Bugs_03

Despite my instictive reaction of wanting to squish or spray the lot of them, I hold back; they’ll most likely feed the cockatoos. And if not, who knows what manner of insect they grow into? It’d be a real pity if there were a multitude of these on the way, and I put an end to it all.


Rattus norvegicus

Formerly A Rat

Okay, I admit, I opted as a title for this blog entry, the (erroneous, as it happens) Latin name for the brown or common rat, mistakenly dubbed the ‘Norway’ or ‘Norwegian’ rat by John Berkenhout in his 1769 study Outlines of the Natural History of Great Britain, just so that fans of The Stranglers will come across this entry by mistake while trying to google the band’s first album.

I couldn’t help but rush back inside and grab the phone to snap this image, after wandering out on the balcony during a break in the recent torrential rain. The balcony tends to flood. There’s a tiny drainage hole in each corner, but it is usually blocked by the debris of macadamia nut shells, since one of the several macadamia trees around the house towers over this balcony. It is a favourite dining spot for possum and rats, who can often be heard chowing down in the ceiling in the early hours, having shelled their booty on the balcony.

The poor creature depicted must have been overwhelmed by the rising floodwaters during the downpour. It somehow managed to decompose without creating enough of a stink to be noticed.

…So I suppose the rainforests will grow back as well!

A mango tree in full bloom had me quite excited a couple of months back. There are few pleasures like fresh mango on a summer day.

Then tragedy struck.

Okay, I admit, I sound like “a bit of a git”, being able to enjoy Australian winters that are warmer than most European summers, yet the prospect of an Aussie summer bereft of mangoes is like pizza without melted cheese. It’s just not right.

Thus, something – a rat, a possum or a flying fox – devouring the flowers before the fruit has developed, is a bit of a downer. Sure, it's not as bad as a tree full of immature fruit losing the lot in a hail storm, but it is sad.


And yet, it looks as though this might be another good summer for mangoes after all, for, over the last month or so, the tree went into bloom again.


And it gets better: in addition to extensive blooms, the tree is beginning to fruit.


If this all sounds frivolous – which it is, particularly if you got here by seeing the title of the post and expected something a little more high-falutin’, ecologically motivated or politically based – rest assured that I don’t take it lightly: I know I have to enjoy all of this while I can. Australia is still in the throes of an intense drought, its rivers are suffering severe salination. It is, apparently, the ‘world’s driest continent’. The next world war will probably be fought over fresh water and not fresh food – because even though world supplies of food should run out by mid-century, apparently, we at least can start eating each other. But none of this is going to matter in the short term. Not to me, anyway, when my beard is matted and funky with the golden nectar of fresh, homegrown mango!

Oh, Man, No!


My excitement for the mango tree going into bloom after the first bit of winter rain, seems to have been shared. Some damn creature – my guess is either a rat or a possum – decided to make short work of the new flowers. Does this mean no mangoes this summer? In the words of Withnail (of … & I fame), “the fucker shall rue the day!” For the next little while, I'm going to starve our fat, old cat and lock it out on the balcony – let it reddress the balance of nature by devouring something nocturnal that frequents the mango tree.


Go, Man, Go


The east coast of Australia has been experiencing one of its driest, warmest winters in a while, but after a few days of rain recently, one of our mango trees began to bloom. Notwithstanding hail or heavy rain (or rather, withstanding hail and heavy rain), this promises to result in a bumper crop come January, which will be good – we haven’t had a big mango harvest for a couple of years.