Monday, May 10, 2010

A nod to nature

Out on my walk this morning, I saw a big old macrocarpa (Monterey cypress) being cut down. They grow like weeds here and are very common, but still, it was a huge tree and old, and apart from blocking the light of the house tucked behind it, harmless. Unlike the carnivorous pisonia trees on Lady Elliot Island.

These have bird-attracting fruits that are so sticky that the birds get caught on the tree, flail about getting stuck even more, fall to the ground, die, rot and dissolve into the soil, thus feeding the tree. Presumably the original adaptation was simply for the seeds to stick to the birds' feathers for dispersal - but hey, this works too.

The main species it catches are white-capped noddies, which when we were there in April numbered about 30,000 - impressive, except that at the height of the breeding season, there are ten times that number on the island. Hard to imagine where they'd all roost - as it was, I frequently felt as though I was walking through a scene from Hitchcock's 'The Birds'.

And the name? Like all seabirds, they drink seawater, and to rid their bodies of the salt, they continually nod their heads so it runs out of their nostrils. In-body desalination plant: clever. Carnivorous tree: slightly scary. Nature is a constant marvel, eh.

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