Every night, just when the light is too low to capture them on film, I hear kookaburras laughing in the trees. It sounds like they are taunting me because try as I might, I simply can’t get a good photo of one. During the day, the kookaburras call from neighbouring properties, or the opposite end of our property. Sometimes we see one flit quickly between trees, but they are visible for such a fleeting moment, there is no time to run for a camera. Then just on dark, they land in the tree right outside my window and loudly hoot themselves silly.
The quest to capture the species we have on our property began simply. I just wanted to know the name of a bird I had seen, or a flower that caught my eye, or an unusual insect that crossed my path. A friend suggested making a species list. It sounded like a good idea. I thought I could do this in a week or so. Before I became attuned to our environment, it seemed like there were not that many species to capture – the galahs, cockatoos and crimson rosellas, along with the iconic magpie, and a handful of native orchids. The old chiche ‘the more you look, the more you find’ was true for me. Weeks later, I haven’t even begun to document the wide range of plants, birds, insects and animals we have on our land. Knowing they are around is one thing – we might hear a new bird call, see tracks in the soil, or even sight a flash of colour as a bird flees. Identification from these glimpses is occasionally possible, but proof lies in an image. Capturing birds in a photograph is much more difficult. Getting quality photos even harder.
Once we do have an image to work from, we find that identifying birds is reasonably straight forward. Our field guide is thorough and the birds we have managed to photogrpah are sufficiently disctinct that it doesn’t take long. Plants and insects are much more problematic to identify. While we do have a field guide to Australian trees, we are not good at pinpointing the defining features of our trees. So far, we can’t identify a single species of tree. I’ve had some help in identifying our native flowers, but so far the unidentified flowers far outweigh the identified ones. As for insects, we don’t have a field guide, and finding websites which are easy to use for this purpose has been difficult. There are so many differnt species of insects, many which look very similar, that it is time consuming to filter through the options.
When I first set up this blog, I wanted the focus to be on the change in our lifestyle. I thought it would be interesting to show our progress as we set up self sufficiency measures, grew food and generally changed the property to suit our needs. Instead I find that the property is changing us. We still have the same goals, and we are working toward them, but progress seems slower than we anticipated. We need to learn about what is here before we step in and make changes. Right now, the focus is on being ‘fire ready’ in the event of a bushfire. As I read through the documentation on best practice, I realised why there are so many succulent plants in our garden – they have a higher moisture content, and are harder to burn. My plans for putting native shrubs underneath the windows so I can see the honeyeaters more clearly cannot happen, as they will pose a fire risk. No plants larger than one metre against the haouse is the guidelne. So before I rush in and madly change the garden beds, I need to think long and hard about safety, and learn which plants are safe to have in our garden.
The greenhouse is half built, but has been put on hold while we get our fire pump working, and the fire hose long enough to stretch around the house. Thankfully, this week we have managed to sort this all out.
So meanwhile, in my spare moments, I continue to photograph the species we have on our land. I try to learn about these species, and try to understand how they fit. Just when I think I know their habits, the seasons change, and so does everything else. It will take a full twelve months here to see the entire cycle.
Richard took the one and only photograph of a kookaburra on our property. It is not very clear, and the bird is a long way away. One of these days – hopefully soon – I will know more about the habits of our kookaburras, and manage to photograph them up close as they go about their business. When I do, I will add them to the species list.