A Sandy Beach Almanac

You've landed at Sandy Beach, NSW, Australia: Lat. -30.15331, Long. 153.19960, UT +10:00 – local map & zoom Google map. I live in a cabin on this beach, 25 kilometres north of the traffic and shops of Coffs Harbour, 600 km north of Sydney. My intention is to post observations of Nature and life within 1 km (1,000 paces) of my South Pacific home.


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Sunday, January 02, 2005

Yellow Mondays, blazing blue Sunday

It's like Coney Island at Sandy today. I counted about 40 people on the beach, and, the day being 29 degrees, it's no surprise.

The cicadas make themselves known on these hot days, as well, and they're quite loud from the casuarina trees immediately behind the sand. Australia has about 220 of the 2,000-plus species of the world's large Cicadidae family.

Over generations, Australian children have bestowed names on some of the species. The most common and thus best known is the Green Grocer (Cyclochila australasiae). The Floury Baker (Abricta curvicosta) and the Black Prince (Psaltoda plaga) are less common – the latter especially so and their scarcity might help explain the dubious folklore of children that you can sell them to pharmacists for a tidy sum, and their wings will be ground up and used in important medicines. It might be that during the Gold Rush days of the 1850s, Chinese herbalists really did grind up Black Prince wings for their elixirs.

Another famous Aussie cicada is the Double Drummer (Thopha saccata), and I suppose just about everyone here knows the Yellow Monday, which is also Cyclochila australasiae like its Green Grocer sibling (Green Grocer and Yellow Monday are simply two different colour forms of the same species). No one really knows when the colourful names were first given, but the terms 'Yellow Monday' and 'Green Grocer' were in popular use as early as 1896.

Green Grocers, Yellow Mondays and Double Drummers can crank up a noise intensity of more than 120dB at close range, approaching the pain threshold of the human ear, and I've lived in places where Summer drumming can, frankly, be a damned ordeal. As evidenced at Sandy on this beautiful hot Sunday beneath a lightly cirrus sky, their insistent chorus is certainly louder than the surf. I wonder why I like them so much?


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