Good Reading : April 2015
COFFEE TABLE 2 Nature Notes Louisa Atkinson’s THE NEGLECTED NATURALIST Flying Fox Hunting Reports were sufficiently vague and exciting to pique curiosity. It was not simply shooting a most nondescript game, but wading through waters, descending gullies by means of trees, and scaling mountain sides, we made a discount for the love of exaggeration, and resolved to go. The start was to be made early, and, accordingly, we were betimes mounted and following a bush road ... Leaving the summit of the mountains we pursued our way down a spur through a heavily wooded country ... Presently we stood on the banks of ... a beautiful elbow-shaped piece of water, the haunt of black perch and ducks ... By the aid of an overhanging tree and stepping-stones we crossed the creek, and set off down its left bank at a racing pace, urged on by the thoughts of the foxes ahead, and the fear of losing our guides ... our vocabulary curtailed itself into the oft repeated exclamation of, ‘Is not it beautiful’, indiscr iminately applied to ferns, trees, creepers, scenery, and crystal waters tumbling over rocks. The shooting of a fine fat duck checked our headlong career for a few minutes ... a halt was called for luncheon, when the olfactory nerves of the initiated proclaimed the proximity of the foxes ... however, the halt was but partial, but what a sight! Literally thousands of these great bats on the wing, gyrating round high tree tops, ever and anon settling and suspending themselves by their hind feet, then fired among, and rising into the air in the utmost state of consternation, yet not forsaking the accustomed roosts, the chirping, clucking and buffeting of the whole; the cries of the wounded, the report of firearms, and shouts of men in that dense copsewood combined to make a scene rarely equalled for wildness and interest ... Honourable mention should have been made of a black snake shot in the morning, the only obnoxious reptile seen. The sawyers find, in the tops of the trees which they fell, a small smooth-skinned lizard, beautifully banded with white and black. They are said to be exclusively arboreal. One was brought to me some time since, it had been struck on the head, and a tough blade of grass then tied tightly about the neck. They are considered venomous; the creature was thus suspended or hung for some time, and reached me apparently dead, so tight was the pressure on the throat that the mouth, black within, was forced open. While looking at it, I loosened the string, and then laid it aside, purposing to draw it on the following day, but it must have revived and crawled away, as no traces remained of it. Louisa Atkinson’s Nature Notes is published by National Library of Australia, rrp $34.99. In association with the State Library of New South Wales.