On the morning we decide to evacuate from the fires, while running about trying to decide what to take and gathering up a few precious things, I notice the holes, neat and perfect, all the same size, drilled into the hard, baked ground. Then I see them, the cicadas, Black Princes, clinging to the front door.
The cicadas have emerged. The dry, broken cases of cicada nymphs are everywhere. Each has a hole in its back where the winged beauty has emerged, reminding me of Alien movies.
As the smoke from the Blue Mountains fires fingers through the trees, the cicadas are taking flight, positioning themselves and beginning their strident song. I love the sound of their chanting, but sometimes it can become maddening – the volume at close range can reach 120 decibels, which is approaching the threshold of human hearing.
As we pack the cars, preparing for our own flight, I notice the Bower Bird is catching and eating the newly emerged cicadas. He bats them on the ground, then peels and eats them like prawns.
Most of the birds seem to have disappeared with the advent of the fires, but the Satin Bower Bird, who lives in our front yard, has kept on playing, dancing, renovating and re-arranging his bower, despite the smoke and the nearby human activity of leaf-clearing and gutter-cleaning.
And so we take a look at our place as we drive away, hoping it’ll be there when we return and that the Bower Bird will leave his playground if the fire comes.