Bats!

Yarra Bend Bats

Yarra Bend Bats

Recently, my walking group visited a section of the Yarra Bend Park inhabited by bats, or to give them their correct title – Grey-headed Flying-Foxes. A large section of the trees bordering the Yarra River is thick with them. I’ve never seen so many in the one place before.

Grey-headed Flying Foxes

Grey-headed Flying Foxes

It’s difficult to capture the enormity of the numbers when I could only photograph a small group of the trees at a time, but according to The Australian Bat Society webpage, the numbers have reached as high as 50,000 in recent years.

At first glimpse, it looked as if the trees were full of crows, or ravens, but the noise gave them away. Even though most of them were sleeping, those still awake didn’t worry about keeping quiet. In a large group, they sound like parrots but with a higher pitch and a distinct screechiness. They’re certainly not the most considerate of neighbours. You can hear a recording of one on the following YouTube: https://youtu.be/pc1wUKIxwSQ

Now, imagine that sound coming from a few hundred bats to get an idea of what we were hearing.

The first bat colony to take up permanent residence in Melbourne established itself in The Royal Botanic Gardens in 1986. However, by 2000, their numbers had grown so large that they were causing significant damage to the garden’s heritage listed trees. Wildlife groups rose to the occasion and helped relocate them by making loud noises at dusk and dawn. The damage to the Yarra Bend trees is also obvious, but the constant new growth compensates for it.

Bats sleeping in a dead gumtree

Bats sleeping in a dead gumtree

It really is a sight to see and hear, so if you live in Melbourne, I’d recommend you visit and take a look. We plan to return at dusk one day to watch them wake and fly off on their nightly search for fruit, nectar, and pollen.

Grey-headed Flying-Foxes sleeping/

Grey-headed Flying-Foxes sleeping

Yarra Bend Park is the largest area of natural bushland close to Melbourne’s centre, and it is easy to access the bat’s domain from The Bellbird Picnic area.

And for more interesting information about bats, go to the Australian Bat Society’s webpage.

Iphone Photos

The Night Noodle Market

Photo taken at the Melbourne Night Noodle Market in the daytime.

For some time, I’ve resisted using my iPhone for photos, choosing instead, to remain stuck in the misguided belief that I couldn’t clearly see an image on a phone screen, an opinion I believe comes from many years of using the viewfinder on my oldish digital camera.

But all that changed this week when I didn’t take my camera on a city walk with my walking group.

We began in Richmond and headed towards the city’s skyscrapers, walking alongside the Yarra. Melbourne is surrounded by green places, making the sight of the city skyline come as a surprise at times. It’s hard to believe there are so many pleasant spots close to a major city.

Some of my walking companions

The first photo I took wasn’t as successful as the ones above, but it was the one that first prompted me to pull out my phone. I nearly trod on a beautiful parrot that blended so well into the green grass that it was almost invisible. The movement as it pecked at grass seeds caught my eye and as soon as I saw it, I wanted to photograph it. At first I thought it was a budgerigar, but on closer examination, I discovered it was a Red Rumped Parrot.

I had to crop the photo because the original  looked like a photo of grass!

Red Rumped Parrot

Red Rumped Parrot

You can see a better image of a Red Rumped Parrot here.

I love that such striking and colourful birds can be found in the city’s gardens and parks. A little further down the track, there were Galahs to photograph as well, so out came the phone again.

Galahs

Galahs

The more I used the phone to take photographs, the easier it became. I did need to stand in the shade to clearly see and frame the image I wanted to take, and I often lingered so long taking photos that I fell behind my fellow walkers and had to run to catch up to them, but I didn’t mind.

My walking companions escaping!

Getting closer to the city.

In the city

And closer

We have arrived.

We have arrived.

And still the greenery continued.

A city Walk November 2014 046

I was excited when we came upon the Federation Bells, created in 2001 by by Anton Hasell and Neil McLachlan to commemorate the centenary of Australia’s federation. I’d never seen them before.

The Federation Bells

The Federation Bells

Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to wait for their scheduled ringing, but next time I go to the city, I’ll make sure I get there at the right time. They can be heard daily between 8-9 am, 12.30-1.30 pm, and 5 pm-6 pm.

We walked past the Night Noodle Market, visited the Immigration Museum – which I highly recommend – went over and under the Yarra bridges, and sat on the grass under a shady tree in Southbank to eat our lunch.

I’m impressed with the quality of the images – I generally don’t Photoshop because I’m just clicking away for memories, not art – and these are fine as far as I’m concerned.

Apparently, I CAN take iPhone photos!

Flinders Street Station, Melbourne

Flinders Street Station, Melbourne

Unfortunately, using the iPhone to take photographs has’t resolved my tendency to sometimes produce images with muddled horizons that make them look slanted.

Sandridge Bridge

Sandridge Bridge

But I did master zooming in!

Underneath Sandridge Bridge

Underneath Sandridge Bridge

I was impressed with how clean it was everywhere we walked, especially the river, and then I saw this rubbish trap.

Yarra rubbish

Yarra rubbish

What a brilliant and effective idea!

I Love Melbourne

I Love Melbourne

I feel lucky  to have been born in this country, and that Melbourne is my home town, I love its green places, quirky buildings, art, and ambiance.

And I love my iPhone!

My Country

September is almost over. This time next year, I hope to be living in the country of my birth, Australia.

After nine years as an expat, I no longer want my possessions to be split between homes on opposite sides of the globe. I want to find my pate knife with the ceramic Christmas tree handle when I look for it, instead of wasting ten minutes searching before I remember it is part of my Australian home, 16,965 kms (or 10,542 miles) away.

More importantly, I want to be able to give my children hugs on their birthdays. I want to celebrte Christmases with them in person. I want to be physically nearer my extended family and those friends I’ve known for years. I will miss my American and Scottish friends, but it will be fun to visit them.

This blog is about repatriation, but let me begin by telling you where my expatriate life began. It may never have happened if I hadn’t visited a clairvoyant.

Yep, you heard right, I went to a psychic!

What possessed me to visit a psychic?

About ten months before we left Australia, and six months prior to any thoughts of moving to another country flitted across my mind, I dreamt I should visit a medium.

I take my dreams relatively seriously, but  there was no sense of urgency, so the memory of the dream lingered with the intention to find a medium when I had time. Many months later, my daughter told me about a clairvoyant one of her friends vouched for. Not a medium, but near enough to keep me happy.

By the time I visited her, Tony (my husband) had applied for the job in Florida, but I didn’t expect him to get the position, and if he did, I wasn’t convinced I’d join him.

On the day of my appointment, I happily knocked on the clairvoyant’s door with a hand devoid of rings. I was determined not to give her any clues about myself, convinced she’d assume I was a miserable and lonely, old woman. I expected her to tell me I would meet a tall dark stranger.

She asked me if I had any specific questions. I told her about my dream and explained it was the only reason I was there.

I said nothing else. She began slapping Tarot cards on the table.

No, she didn’t have a crystal ball. 😦 

Within seconds, she said,

“Whoa, you have so many changes ahead. New home, new furniture, new place, new job. Amazing, a whole new life.”

Somehow, she’d read my mind, picking up on all the furniture purchases I’d made, along with the renovating and painting I’d completed in the previous two months. I was impressed, but I didn’t have a new job and there was no way I was going to begin one. I loved my work with a passion.   

As my allotted hour continued, she told me more, much more.  I barely spoke to her, just listened as she mentioned my children and the cancer diagnosis of two of my close friends, giving details about both. She never questioned my marital status, it was a given I had a husband. 

By the time she told me I’d be reluctant to make this big move in my future, I was convinced of her authenticity.

Then she added the words that sealed my fate.

“This change is going to be extremely good for you in so many ways; just wonderful. Don’t resist it, go with the flow.”

I did, and she was right.

Living life as an expat is a fantastic adventure, but my spirit never belonged to another country. On each visit to Australia, Peter Allen’s song, I Still Call Australia Home, and the words of Dorothea McKellar’s poem, My Country, filled the empty nooks in my mind. Now that resettling is uppermost in my thoughts, the second verse of My Country keeps repeating in my head; reason enough, methinks, to revisit the complete poem in this blog – a verse a month. 

Way back, a looong time ago, when I was in primary school, everyone had to learn this poem, which is probably why I still remember segments of it. My classmate’s childish voices chanting the words,  “I love a sunburnt country” are locked into my brain at a deep level, but I’d forgotten this first verse:

My Country, by Dorothea McKellar.

The love of field and coppice,

Of green and shaded lanes.

Of ordered woods and gardens

Is running in your veins,

Strong love of grey-blue distance

Brown streams and soft dim skies 

I know but cannot share it,

My love is otherwise.

                                            

Photo taken from The Burns Museum gardens, Scotland.

I am fond of this green land, but it is the next verse of McKellar’s poem that resonates with me. (Read it in next month’s blog! Or listen below.)

I was amazed to learn that Dorothea Mckellar began writing this when she was nineteen, living in London and homesick. I know how that feels.

Do you have poems or songs that remind you of home, wherever that may be? I’d like to hear about them, whether you’re an expat or not.

Below is a YouTube link of McKellar reading her own words. The images are wonderful, including the odd fun shot, an example of Australian larrikinism. Enjoy:

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