After a few days of steady rain, and with the sunshine starting to break through, we set off to see what animals might be venturing out of their shelters after such a long period of wet weather. The children were definitely feeling a bit restless and cabin-bound. They were very bouncy – itching to get outside and have a good run around.
A number of the children mentioned the rainbows they had seen that morning, noting that rainbows only come out when there is both sun and rain together. They clearly understood that rainbows signal emergence at the transition between wet and fine weather.
The first thing we noticed was that the cockatoos were back. We instantly recognised their incessant screeches and when we looked up, we could see that they were upsetting a family of noisy miners nested high up in the eucalyptus trees. The plucky small miner birds were swooping the huge cockatoos, and finally succeeded in driving them away, amidst a crescendo of squabbling and squawking. This noisy burst of action turned out to be the liveliest moment on the walk. The sun was struggling to fully emerge, the wind was bitterly cold and there were few other creatures to be seen.
The ants’ nests were damp and sodden. They seemed deserted. It was only when we looked closely that we started to spot first ‘one’, then ‘two’, then ‘three’ ants out and about, but they were moving very slowly – as one child noted ‘maybe its because of the cold’. Studying a nest intently, one child commented ‘It looks like the bark got pushed on to it’, providing a unique perspective on the way that the fragments of sticks, bark, and earth had weathered together.
There were two fresh holes at the edge of the nest. We could see that they both had ants working away near their openings. The ants were pushing out the debris that the rain had washed down.
Water saturated ground has generated all kinds of spongy growth, much of it vibrant in colour. The children were attracted by the verdant green ground cover that had appeared since the last walk, and they enjoyed its soft and springy yielding feel under their feet. The odd bright and colourful mushroom also caught their eye.
The pale trunk of a Eucalyptus tree was glowing in the semi-sunlight. It bore the marks of its previous dark grey bark, now shed and lying in long shreds at its base. One child reached out to touch the bare trunk, getting a feel for its new slippery smooth texture.
The enveloping canopy of the peppercorn tree provided temporary shelter from the cold wind. Its low broad branches proved irresistible for those children who like to climb. They found perches in its boughs, rested their back against its coarse trunk, and wrapped their bodies around its solid limbs.
Following their regular sightings on the last few walks, the children were on the look out for dead rabbits. They deliberately tried to remember where they had last seen one and to find it again. One child was a bit hesitant, saying she didn’t really want to see a dead rabbit again. Yet, when the dead rabbit was found, she became quite animated and rushed off to share the news with others. Perhaps it was because the find was a little more noteworthy or gruesome, as this dead rabbit was well and truly dismembered. Its hind legs were separated from its torso and its furry remains were scattered around.
In passing on the news, the child described the detail: ‘There’s a bottom and two legs. And there were other pieces’. A few of children gave this rabbit a name – that’s ‘the dead bunny of half’ [laughter]. ‘Maybe someone chopped it in half?’ one pondered. ‘Must have been a fox’ another wisely surmised.
The wind was picking up force when we all decided it was time to head home. After starting the walk with some gusto, the children had run off their pent-up energy, seen enough damp, soggy, wildlife – dead and alive – and their fingers were cold. Presumably feeling like most of the animals that live here, they were keen to retreat to a sheltered place. We returned to the warmth of the centre.