Samhuin in Melbourne, Australia
Here are some observations of what is happening in nature at this time of the year in our part of the world.
SAMHUIN IN MELBOURNE
WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE DURING THIS TIME?
April and May are classified as Early Winter on our six-season calendar. The days become steadily cooler, stiller and mistier. On the seven-season calendar April is the start of Wombat Season (I’ll comment on that at Winter Solstice). Samhuin could also be called ‘Fungi Season’, the warm earth, cool days and gentle rains providing ideal conditions for their growth.
Days The general pattern is cool days with sunny breaks, the temperature ranging between 8 and 18 degrees Celsius. Nights At ~ 9 p.m. on May 1, Sirius can be seen high and bright in the approximate position of Samhuin. Aboriginal Elder, Gaparingu Naputa taught us that about six weeks before Winter Solstice, the men would begin travelling to the mountains for initiation rites. The exact timing was determined by the position of the Seven Sisters in the night sky. Throughout winter and in contrast to the summer months, the Southern Cross is facing the ‘right way up’. It moves into its highest point in the south. The Two Pointers lie to the left of the Cross. Between the two brightest stars of the Cross, Alpha and Beta Crucis, is a dark nebula called the Coal Stack. In Scorpius, a constellation associated with Samhuin, the bright red star Antares is almost overhead. The Milky Way arches from east to west.
Indigenous flora and fauna
Flowering Black She Oaks begin flowering in mid-April, and the Myrtle that I planted in the Samhuin part of my Grove, brings forth its small black berries during May. Bushy Needlewood (Hakea Decurrens), a shrub that grows from 2-5 metres in height, begins displaying its fragrant white or pink flowers (and will continue to do so until September). Fungi Mushrooms and toadstools abound and fairy rings appear under tall trees (Scarlet Fly Agarics to the more scientifically minded). Lacking chlorophyll, fungi are rarely green and prone to feeding on matter that has already synthesized sugars & starches. This includes living matter, which occasionally spells the end of a mature tree. But fungi will also decompose dead timber and leaf matter, turning them into soil humus, simultaneously reducing the fuel layer that is so dangerous during the summer months. Pruning: Samhuin is the ideal time to prune most fruit trees.
Both the Brushtail and Ringtail Possums mate during this time, as do most species of Flying Fox. The small, endangered, Leadbeater’s Possum sometimes gives birth during this time. These possums live in family colonies of up to eight individuals in a nest made of shredded bark, in the hollow of a tree. At the beginning of winter, (or sometimes late spring), the mother of the family gives birth to one or two youngsters. These will stay in her pouch for about eighty or ninety days and emerge from the nest about three weeks after that. Meanwhile down by the water, the dolphins move into the bays, accompanied by the albatrosses.
Silvereyes visit us from Tasmania in large flocks while masses of Yellow-faced Honeyeaters move even further north. Straited Thornbills can be heard making their customary "Tizz-tizz" sound. Another bird to watch out for is the endangered Swift Parrot. It is bright green with red around the bill, throat, and forehead. The red on its throat is edged with yellow. Its crown is blue-purple. But its most distinctive feature from a distance is its long thin tail, which is dark red in colour. It can also be recognized by its flute-like chirruping or metallic “kik-kik-kik” call. This beautiful parrot breeds in Tasmania during spring and summer, and migrates to the mainland in autumn and winter. They need winter-flowering plants to survive.
Reptiles and Insects Moths are everywhere, providing food for the birds by day and for Gliders by night.
Southern Hemisphere, Samhuin