Monday, March 26, 2012

The Wonderful Animals of Oz

There’s a lot of animals right around our place, which I guess isn’t surprising. To most locals they’re probably no more exotic than I’d find a crow or a raccoon, but it’s still pretty cool given that I’m not a local, so they’re all new to me. Let’s start with things I have actually seen in my backyard:


Mockingbirds are all over the place. Having just read The Hunger Games while here, it’s pretty cool to have these around since they’re the template for the mockingjays that feature heavily in the book. As a short sideline, The Hunger Games is fantastic, please read it before you see the movie if you can. And if you can’t then read it after. It’s an incredible piece of writing, although if you actually think it clocks in as a “Young Adult” novel after reading it you might as well break out Grimm’s fairy tales for your 5-year old. The movie leaves some of the grisly out, for sure.

And then someone pointed out that these are actually Magpies not Mockingbirds and totally ruined for me.


Our tree filled up with Rainbow Lorikeets and they were swooping and singing all over the place. The written medium may not be the best place to convey the moment but I’ll try anyway.

Cawoot! Woot! Woot! Tweee… tweee… tweeeoo! Tweeeoo!


Cawootwee! Cawootee! Tweetweetweeoot! Cwa! Cwa!


I think you get the point.


This is a mosquito that I crushed. Eff you mosquito.


Geckos are awesome because they:
a) Eat bugs that annoy me, and
b) Move faster than I thought anything was capable of. 100% fast-twitch fibers these guys.


Yes, that is a whole tree full of bats. Flying Foxes to be exact, and they all have bodies about the length of my forearm. These suckers are so big that they actually glide. I didn’t know bats could glide.


These guys have only showed up in our backyard once, but they were pretty cool. Some kind of woodpecker? No, it's an honest-to-god Kookaburra! Did you know these things eat meat? I thought they just chewed gum or something like that. Regardless, they clearly have a sense of style. Judging from the thickness of their necks they need to spend a little less time in the gym though. C’mon guys, maybe take a spin on the elliptical next time?


This is our neighbour’s cat. Although we haven’t seen our neighbour in a long time, and he lives on our porch, and he tries to come in, and he meows at us when he’s hungry. So maybe he’s our cat now. I call him Cat, although we’ve since learned his name is Natasha. So I’m mulling over the idea of referring to him as her now. Anyways, we’ve only fed him once when we had some extra prawns, but I’m hesitant to let him get too attached since the possum controls him with its mind at night. Seriously, I’m not joking:

It’s fucking creepy.


Speaking of creepy, we have a wormhole to another dimension in our bathroom window:

Actually, it’s just this crazy spider who started to build a web in our bathroom window (which doesn’t close, but that’s another story). At first I didn’t know what he was doing, it looked like there was no rhyme or reason to the web and I’ll admit, I thought that maybe he wasn’t as far along the evolutionary chain as the spiders back home. But who cares, if he protected me from mosquitos I’m on board. Then after a while I realized that not only was his web not random, it was freaking complex:

He’s built a damn tunnel to funnel bugs into our home so that he can catch them en route!

Hmm… funnel web. Where have I heard that before? I should look it up. I’ll try “funnel web spider” and see what comes up:

#4 Deadliest Spider in the World - Funnel Web Spider
Funnel-Web spiders are found in Australia close to Sydney. The bites from these spiders are dangerous and can cause a number of frightening symptoms in as little as 10 or 15 minutes. Of greatest concern are symptoms such as difficulty breathing and coma. Lesser symptoms include chills, fever, vomiting, numbness of mouth and lips and drooping eyelids. If bitten by this spider, seek an antivenom.

Hmm… the 4th deadliest spider in the world? Well that’s grossly inconvenient. Sure, I enjoy not having a mosquito problem but isn’t that like preventing mosquitoes by throwing some DDT in my drinking water? I figured I should take a picture of him up close so I could verify the identity:

Well THAT didn’t calm my nerves. Fortunately for us, when we sent a picture of the guy’s nest to the natural history museum (who is amenable to this kind of thing) they said that he’s actually a black house spider, which isn’t dangerous. They also eat red back spiders which ARE dangerous. So that’s good. In fact, the only problem we've encountered is that he laid an egg and we spent half an hour the other day squishing dozens of baby spiders all over our bathroom ceiling. I don’t think I’m very good at guessing animal genders.


Speaking of spiders, some of the ones kicking around here look extremely badass. Probably the most badass one of the lot is this crazy web-spinner guy who does the job of orb spiders back home:

If they made tiny Harley’s this guy would drive one. And their webs aren’t small either, they’re about 2 feet tall and 3-dimensional with all sorts of different planes to catch bugs. This guy knows his shit.

Crazily enough, everything I've shown up to now we’ve seen in our backyard. Maybe the bats weren’t hanging there, but they’ve definitely done a flyby. So here’s some things that we saw elsewhere.

This weird curved-bill guy is an Ibis, but I call them “banana storks” which I think we can all agree is a better name. You only see them along the shoreline or on the part of the grass at the university that students aren’t supposed to walk on, so I assume they have PhD’s or something. Which would make them Dr. Banana (yes, I know it should actually make them “Dr. Stork” but work with me here).


I don’t know what this is called, might be a Noisy Miner? That's not a joke by the way. We saw it in the Blue Mountains, it dive-bombed Erika, and she freaked out a little. Then I laughed and she hit me so I filed a spousal abuse report. It’s the only protection I have.


Let me tell you, did this guy ever catch us by surprise. In retrospect I can't believe Erika even got a picture off. We were just walking along the shore and BOOM, he tries to take Erika’s leg off. Obviously I pushed her out of the way but he got her purse (probably because it was leather) so I had to dive in after him. I’ve seen Crocodile Hunter enough times that I figured I could handle it. Still, it’s harder than you think. If you don’t grab the snout juuuust right you can get a finger caught in there. Which sucks I might add. If I had to do it again I think I’d do a much better job, mostly because I don’t have that finger to get caught.


This is a Purple Swamphen and if you didn’t believe that birds descended from the dinosaurs you’ve never seen one of these guys walk. It looked like a friggen velociraptor. And c’mon… doesn’t that thing look like a dino with feathers?


Really cool and REALLY flat bug.

Yep, so those are the animals we’ve seen so far, or a reasonable chunk of them anyway. There’s also lots of ants, but you’ve seen ants for crying out loud. If you want to know what they look like just do this: Close your eyes… now picture an ant. That’s what they look like. Oh yeah, and Erika saw a spider the size of a dinner plate.

See you next week!

I say “see you next week” because we still don’t have internet. They say it takes 10-20 business days. Yes, a month to get internet. Tomorrow is Day 20, and they also say that billing begins when service starts, or at 20 days. Whichever comes first. So if they think I’m going to pay a dime for internet that I haven’t gotten that I waited a month for they can kiss my rosy red behind. Which means that I’ll probably have to cancel my order, swich companies, and wait again. It’s FANTASTIC! And this is why I only get internet on the one day a week that I walk down to the pub and check it. I like Sydney, I really do. But the companies here couldn’t give a popcorn fart about customer service. I think every call center has a poster on the wall that says “Always remember: The customer can go fuck themselves.”


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