Golden Orb-weaver males

Yesterday I found a fairly large (but not full-grown) female in a web between the red-neck palm and the chilli bush. More pleasingly still, she had two males waiting their chance to mate – boxing gloves at the ready. I took some pics, of course, though some with the spiders against the sky didn’t show as much detail as I would have liked.

I went out to look again this morning: the web was damaged and the female had gone but the males were still there and were duly re-photographed.

One of the males

Afterword, Tuesday 22.2.11: By Monday the web hadn’t been repaired, the female hadn’t returned and the males had left. I’m assuming that a bird got the female.

Two Golden Orb-weavers

I was pleased to find a well-grown Golden Orb-weaver in her web between a banana tree and the side fence a few days ago. Then I found another, much smaller (about the body size of a full-grown St Andrew’s Cross spider), near the top rear corner of the yard, low down between a cycad and an ixora. She was happy then, but by the time I came back with my camera she was having problems with a fallen leaf and was running around cutting it out of her web. A few minutes later I fluked a nice shot of her trying to pull the sundered halves back together:

Golden orb-weaver repairing web

But last night we had a terrific thunderstorm just after midnight (70 mm of rain, half of it in half an hour) and this morning both of them were gone – along with lots of smaller spiders, of course.

• This is the first-published post on Green Path proper. 

Nicolas Rothwell – Journeys to the Interior

• This is one of a few articles which I published elsewhere before Green Path was conceived but is still relevant enough to deserve a place on the blog. The date-stamp will say 2010, the date of first publication, although the review was only added to GP in 2016.

Journeys to the Interior

Nicolas Rothwell
Black Inc, 2010, $32.00

Nicolas Rothwell has been reporting from the North for many years now, covering the vast territory from Cairns, Cape York and the Pilbara down into the Centre. His articles and the journeys behind them are the source of four books which probably belong on the ‘travel’ shelf – Another Country, Wings of the Kite-Hawk, The Red Highway, and now Journeys to the Interior. They are not simply travel books, however, but poetic ruminations on people and places, his own inner voyage, and ways of understanding an environment which is profoundly strange to anyone brought up with a European sensibility.

Journeys seems closer to its journalistic origins than its predecessors. A trio of long essays sets the scene, but the bulk of the book consists of individual portraits of indigenous artists and community leaders, white explorers and naturalists, and significant locations. Each reads well but they don’t cohere into a single story. Then again, that is one of Rothwell’s themes: he has come to believe that this landscape resists our Western attempts to impose narrative upon it and can only be known through scattered fragments.

Another recurrent theme is a resonance between this ancient, worn-down country and a Western civilisation he feels is in terminal decay; it gives his work a pervasively melancholic cast which is the opposite of the typical bright, breezy travel book. For all that, he makes a valuable contribution to our knowledge of a region that is foreign to most Australians – even to most Townsvilleans, although we live on the edge of it.

Reviewed March 2010

The Greatest Show on Earth

Dawkins Greatest ShowThe Greatest Show On Earth

Richard Dawkins

Bantam, September 2009, $35.00

The Greatest Show on Earth fills a gap in Richard Dawkins’ impressive sequence of books about evolution, from The Selfish Gene thirty years ago to The Blind Watchmaker and The Ancestor’s Tale. The new book is primarily a clear, thorough explanation of the evidence for evolution and of its inner workings. Dawkins’ enthusiasm for his subject is obvious and contagious: the explanations are constantly enriched by humorous asides and lively anecdotes about oddities of the natural world. Continue reading “The Greatest Show on Earth”

Tasmania’s Wilderness Battles

Buckman - Tasmania's Wilderness BattlesGreg Buckman

Tasmania’s Wilderness Battles

Jacana, June 2008, $29.95

Wilderness has been a bigger community issue in Tasmania than in any other Australian state, so a history of the fight to preserve it has a lot of ground to cover. Buckman organises it chronologically within four strands – hydro-electric power, forestry, mining and national parks – and traces them from the 1850s to the beginning of this year.

‘The Hydro’ created the biggest issues: Lake Pedder and the Franklin River made national headlines and political history from the 1960s to the 1980s. The conservationists’ focus then shifted to forestry, confronting the rise of woodchipping and the (stalled, as of October 2008) Tamar Valley pulp mill. Continue reading “Tasmania’s Wilderness Battles”