Saturday, 15 February 2014

The Bigger Picture

Sometimes when I wildlife-watch, I watch a little too closely.

My focus becomes so swallowed up by living, breathing detail - whiskers, feathers, eyes, scales, form, movement, behaviour - that I miss out on the bigger picture.

The environment in which an animal lives is the canvas upon which its very life is painted into, and observing this relationship can offer as much beauty as the best art gallery.

Yesterday's journey around the shores of Lake Somerset, a 52km long artificial swelling of the Stanley River, allowed me to ponder this bond between wild animals and their surroundings further.


My eyes were drawn to contrasts, such as the way in which this waterbird sits juxtaposed against a towering Hoop Pine (Araucaria cunninghamii) forest in the background.

Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)
"Fish Out of Water"

Or here, where a Darter (Anhinga melanogaster) sits on a solar-powered boating beacon. Take away the 20th century technology and the hazy grey hills in the distance could be straight out of a Colonial-era painting from 200 years ago.

"Ancient and New"

Some sights made me smile. I found a clever Willie Wagtail (Rhipidura leucophrys) using a waterside bush as though it were a beach umbrella on this scorching hot day.

"The Appropriation"

Other views produced feelings of melancholy. We have altered the environment to such a significant degree that our wildlife persists in an isolated, precarious state. One cleared forest or one severe drought can change everything.

Australian Pelican (Pelecanus conspicillatus)
"Paradise Lost"

We humans like to consider ourselves highly-evolved, but there are masters of the air that make a mockery of even our finest of aircraft, let alone our cumbersome bodies.

Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus)
"Master of Air"

Such superior beings take up their rightful place on a throne of sorts, projecting high up into the element they have bested, all while looking down on lesser creations below.

"The Throne"

Just when I had become complacent with the imagery of lone birds against symbolic landscapes, a new sight confronted me.

"A Numbers Game"

Many hundreds of Little Black Cormorants (Phalacrocorax sulcirostris) are flocking together on the Stanley River right now and this was just one snapshot of one section. The black 'island' jutting into the river bend is actually a tightly-packed flock of these birds. They are likely to be seeking refuge here from other drought-stricken districts, and to me it is symbolic of the active relationship that they have with the environment. Tough times have hit the countryside, but these Cormorants will react to and 'fight back' against the circumstances they have been placed into. 

Where the environment is concerned, there is always an interplay between cause-and-effect happening. This is something which one animal in particular - us! - would do well to remember, lest we spoil the bigger picture once and for all.

12 comments:

  1. a great set of photographs. subjects in their elements. :)

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    1. Damn, you just condensed my ramblings down into four neat little words! THAT'S what I was trying to say, haha! Thank you for the kind words :)

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  2. so well written Christian and I love your beautiful Great Cormorant. Fabulous pickup by you AND the wonderful Whistling Kite. I like the scene "a Numbers Game"

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    1. Thanks Carole, it was nice to mix it up a little and write about familiar subjects from a different point of view!

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  3. What a fabulous post Christian and you're so right. I am very much guilty of the same, assuming I must necessarily zoom in on the subject, totally ignoring its context. My camera, and I I fear, are not good enough to take such fabulous pictures as I see here, but I try! Lovely to be back in the internet world so I can visit my favourite blogs.

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    1. I beg to differ about your photos, Em! I was reading your most recent post yesterday and honestly, I thought to myself "I had to try so hard for interesting landscape shots and Em's got a dozen or so beauties here that she's hurriedly clicked away on during bad weather - I must try harder!" Haha! I'll probably be back to zooms and close crops next post but it was a fun exercise!

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  4. That sounds like it was a great day out at Lake Somerset. That is one very big raft of cormorants there. The "Lost Paradise" picture was a great example of land clearing for agricultural reasons, which is a big problem in some parts of Australia. Just recently I was driving through the Cooma Plains in New South Wales and in one stretch of about 30 kilometres there was hardly a singe tree, it was all grazing and agricultural land, nothing but short grass for miles!!:)

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    1. Yes it's crazy and depressing how altered the landscape is in so many areas. So many people think of that as "the countryside" too, but there are some leafy suburbs that offer better wildlife habitat. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment too :)

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  5. That's an amazing set of pics, well themed, and all the Little Black Cormorants, awesome.
    All the best, Gordon.

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    1. Thank you Gordon, yes the Cormorants were a breath-taking sight!

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  6. A beautifully thought out and executed post Christian. I think you hit upon and described the reason that so many people take a real and active interest in wildlife - our natural affinity with it. All we have to do now is convert those who as yet don't see it.

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    1. Thanks Phil. I'm working on that conversion one person at a time! :)

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