by PHILIP WHITE
Turn further toward the north east and zoom, and the forested horizon jumps with springtime birds which are also far too distant to discern. I can hear white and black cockatoos out there: the noisy nesting business active in the trees here in my yard extends right through these bonnie ranges today, from the tiny pardalotes nesting in a crack in the wall to the giant wedgies daring to risk the great windy sky beyond the Onkaparinga gorge.
Last warm morning we had I was awoken by a great screaming din: it seemed all the middle-to-large birds on the block were fighting right outside my window. A swarm of bees had decided to move in to the shade of my veranda.
Apart from the hives across the dam, and a permanent swarm in the red gum outside, I've lived with bee hives on-and-off through my life, but had never before realised how vulnerable bees are when they move en masse: I drew the blinds to see a feeding frenzy: all the bug-eaters from willy wagtails through welcome swallows to magpies were going nuts, feeding on the wing and floor. Even the sulphur-crested cockies swept through repeatedly, closer than they ever come. Doing gonzo aerobatics flat strap through a tiny space, spraying other birds aside. I couldn't work out whether they were feeding too, or were just being crazy larrikins in the melee.
Apiarist at work with hives on Yangarra ... photos by Philip White
It's perfect to have bees; better when the good birds move them away from the bedroom window. Vines need pollination, like nearly everything else. But it's interesting that the same birds tend to leave the bugs in my roses to sort their own little wars: an initial plague of aphids quickly brought on a mighty swarm of ladybird beetles and tiny wasps which cleaned up any leftovers.
The Onkaparinga at Clarendon, mid-September ... photo Mick Wordley ... below is the same gorge, a few kays downstream in March 2014 ... this winter has seen this stretch of the Onkaparinga look like a giant milkshake ... you wouldn't be sitting back to a feast on this spot!... photo Off Piste tours
Michael made a wry philosophical murmer about being better off than those with vineyards still mucky or indeed flooded on river and creek flats, where they'd planted for ease and efficiency of farming. Some of the hills in his care are gentle, rolling and easy. It's the precipitous Clarendon vineyard that worries him.