The tiger snake gave me an unsympathetic stare. Forget ophidiophobia – the fear of snakes – I was afflicted by something far more frightening. Feelings of panic, a knot in the stomach, a rising nausea…. I had glossophobia, the fear of public speaking and the tiger snake, rising to near its full one and a half metres in length to view me through the glass of its pen, didn’t seem to care. My encounter with the snake and a near 300-strong audience came during the 2014 … [Read more...] about Caught in the headlights
New Nature Writing
I strayed from the path of traditional, or pastoral, nature writing years ago when I discovered not only urban landscapes rich in wildlife, but anthropomorphism, irony, and bottles of red wine and bourbon with birds on their labels. As a young reporter, I had been impressed by the New Journalism of the 1960s which took reporting into the realm of the novel and short-story and a few decades on I found what were termed New Nature Writers breaking with tradition and exploring similar territory.
Although I still treasure the book that was my introduction to words about nature, Gilbert White’s The Natural History of Selbourne published in 1788, I now find inspiration in one of the new journalists, Hunter S Thompson. Thompson might not have written of nature as such but his words “I write with rage and ink” have an irresistible resonance that carries far beyond the suburbs to the wooded hills of the horizon.
Tasmania might be known internationally as the home of the Hollywood cartoon character, Taz, based on the real-life Tasmanian devil, but the island state has another claim to fame. It is also the roadkill capital of the world, with one animal killed every two minutes on the bitumen, among them the endangered Tasmanian devil. With so much roadkill on view, Tasmanians joke ironically that perhaps a glass-bottomed bus tour should be added to the tourist itinerary and Donald … [Read more...] about Riding the Devil’s Highway
There is was, stubbie in hand, gazing over the water towards BrunyIsland with high hopes of seeing a sea eagle. It’s the kind of bird-watching I enjoy most: comfortable surroundings with alcohol on tap, great company and the expectation of seeing something if not rare, at least unusual. Perhaps the music blaring out over the extensive gardens of the Oyster Cove Inn at Kettering south of Hobart might not have been totally conducive to the task at hand but the green rosellas … [Read more...] about Felled by swallows
I am lying in a bunk bed, a Tasmanian devil gnawing on a pademelon carcass under the floorboards, and I am trying to think of a song. Only I can’t remember how it goes. I’m sure it’s something to do with a star. I try to hum the tune in the hope that words will reveal its title, and I don’t care if the devil hears. I’m trying to think of this song to stay awake; to ward off nervousness and apprehension. I’m a city animal and I am out here in the environment of the devil, as … [Read more...] about The theatre of screams
Pigeons frighten me. They are the stuff of nightmares. They don’t come in the dead of night, pecking, cooing and fluttering, bobbing their heads; waking me. The spectre of the pigeon comes by day in Hobart, strutting in the shopping mall, in alleyways and lanes. I’ve been a bird-watcher all my life but the feral pigeon is one bird I can’t get to grips with. When I see pigeons in the city, I wonder why I am a bird lover at all, they make me recoil in horror. Perhaps it’s the … [Read more...] about A flight through psychedelic skies