Enormous winds are knocking through the Shire, testing the mettle of everything they encounter. Thousands of trees are uprooted and much of the region is again without power. My wood fire sets up a permanent downdraft in the stove, saturating the house with smoke, and when the power blinks out for the third day in a row and stays out, I’m off into the tempest.
The back pasture is a raging sea of yellow cape weed. The wind ripples the yellow and the stems set up waves of silvery green. My rain hood is blown off my head and my eyes are running wet. So I head into the relative shelter of the woods, picking my way through downed branches and wildflowers. When I reach granite paddock I notice a couple of marris that have been toppled. I take a long circle along the firebreak to the vineyard and notice that a total of four huge trees have succumbed, with two lying directly on the fence.
The Chardonnay is weathering it well. A few leaves are torn, and an occasional stem has chafed against the trellis wire, but there’s no serious damage. The Cabernet Sauvignon is still in the beginning stages of budburst with very few leaves exposed. It develops several weeks behind the Chardonnay, a trait that serves to protect it from these annual storms.
The next day the chainsaw is active and I end up with stacks of firewood. Mobs of white tailed black cockatoos swoop chuckling through the vineyard and I pause to watch. They are dependent on the older marris for food and for shelter in their hollows. They set up on the trees in the periphery with their plangent song, and I’m filled with a sense of loss for these trees and their habitat.
Last week I spoke with a naturalist who called them “ghost birds”. He asserted that they would succumb to habitat loss. The Forest Commission has just decided to clear fell log a swath of forest equivalent to 1000 kilometers long and 1 kilometer wide. If only the trees and birds could vote.