|Near Young, NSW|
Here’s a post from Rob about the drought devastating large parts of rural Australia, and a related project on the folklore of weather forecasting.
I live in Forbes, Central West NSW and we are really copping the drought. Over the years we have been collecting weather folklore for the NLA and I want to bring this all together and would love some help, please. Maybe we can work out a way to bring on some rain? I know that sailors reckon that whistling brings on a storm .... everyone whistle, please. So, old sayings (Red sky at night...), songs, comparisons ('dry as a dead dingo's donger', etc), animal and bird habits, ANYTHING to do with weather. Send them to our Facebook page. We will whack them all together and put them up on our blogsite. Will also publish them locally and maybe take the farmers minds off their current circumstance.
I live in Perth, WA, where it's pissing down as I write this post, which makes us think about the people and animals suffering in the wide brown land of droughts and flooding rains.
Here’s my contribution on the mysterious Australian rain god, ‘Huey’:
Send ‘er down, Huey!
Nobody is quite sure how the rain god came to called ‘Huey’. But farmers have long called upon him to ease drought and surfers may call upon his assistance to catch a good wave. The name is sometimes said to derive from a St Hugh who was traditionally associated with rainy weather, though there are at least half a dozen St Hughes. There is also said to have been an amateur meteorologist called Mr Huia who could be the origin of the term. Others have patriotically suggested it derives from Billy Hughes the politician, though what his connection with rain might be, I don’t have a clue. Another theory is that it is of Maori origin. So, take your pick.
But wherever Huey hails from, his blessing is essential in this arid continent and farmers have a range of signs to work out when it might fall upon their crops. These vary from place to place but they commonly depend on observations of bush birds, animals, plants and insects.
Certain birds turn up frequently in folk weather forecasting. Depending on where and when, their manner of flight or other activities are said to predict rain. Black cockatoos seem to be a favourite indicator in many parts of the country. If they are winging their way from the hills to the coast, or flying east, rain is due. Flocks of Galahs or Corellas circling, crows flying high or swallows flying low over water are also good indications of rain, while the warbling of Currawongs heralds a southerly change.
Birds behaving unusually may indicator a downpour. Kookaburras laughing more frequently or in the middle of the day and Mallee Fowls cleaning their nests earlier than normal or Plovers arriving earlier than normal are infallible signs.
Other animals can give a clue, including lizards, cows, cats and horses. Roosters are said to be reliable in these matters. If one should crow at evening, then it will certainly rain the next day. But if it crows during rain, the weather will improve that night. If the ewes are irritable during shearing it will rain, as it will when the hair of a draught horse’s tail fans out.
Insects can also be helpful rain forecasters. Large numbers of March flies hatching early or large numbers of wood moths in the evening are sure signs, as are ants building up their nests or moving their eggs up walls or posts. If bees are very active in autumn there will be poor Spring rains. Conversely, if they are not active there will be good Spring rains. Rain is also likely when spider webs are seen floating in the air and catching onto grass and plants.
Gum trees are the most popular sources of arboreal weather prediction. A heavy flowering of new growth is a certain sign, as are bark falling heavily or gum leaves having a glossy sheen. Prolific flowering of mallee trees or when they drop oil in late summer or autumn.
The sky is the most reliable indicator of rain, with the size, shape, colour, position of clouds, moon and stars being the most usual ways to forecast. Other natural signs include the amount of dust hanging in the air and the direction of willie-willies or dust devils. If they are turning clockwise it means rain is coming, if counter-clockwise you will keep dry.
These, and the almost endless variations on the ability of natural phenomena to forecast rain or other aspects of the weather, may also vary from season to season, as well as region to region. In South Australia’s Murray River valley, it is said that fog in late March heralds rain.In South Australia’s Mallee region, rain is forecast by lizards facing east on the top of fence posts or in trees. Winter rains will not start until 4 to 6 weeks after the last tropical cyclone in Western Australia’s northern reaches. Similar local variations are known to those who live on the land, in whatever part of the country. But the colour and diversity of Australian weather lore, accurate or not, still depends on the whim of Huey, the rain god.
Please send some!