Birak is the season of bright daylight and warm weather as the rains start to ease up. It is also known as the first summer and is symbolised by the colour red for heat, sun and fire. The hot dry weather is fuelled by the easterly winds in the morning and is then followed by a cooling southwest sea breeze, called goolamwin. This sea breeze has also been called the “Fremantle Doctor” as it appears to come from the coastal town of Fremantle and brings welcome relief from the high temperatures in summer. This predictable wind pattern made it an ideal time to undertake mosaic burns of scrubland in a practice known as fire-stick farming. This type of burning was done to reduce fuels, increase pastures for grazing animals, aid seed germination and make it easier to transverse across the country.
The Mooja or Western Australian Christmas Tree (Nuytsia floribunda) is in full flower now as well as the scarlet runner (Kennedia prostrata) and the fringe lily (Thysanotus). Traditionally wattle (Acacia) seeds, Dianella berries, salty pigface (Carpobrotus) and snottygobble (Persoonia) fruits are harvested.
You may notice yorna or bobtail lizards (Tiliqua rugosa) active in your backyard or in bushland areas this time of year. They were once considered an important food and medicine source by the Noongar people. While they may look fierce when they stick their tongues out, they are actually harmless to pets and humans. To encourage them to take up residence in your backyard, plant natives like pigface, fringe lillies, grevilleas and dianella which provide food and shelter. The use of chemicals needs to be avoided and adding rocks or old logs will provide places for them to bask and sleep.
Many baby frogs are completing their transformation into adulthood as the temperatures get warmer and the rainfall decreases. As the weather heats up, the best time to see wildlife is at dawn or dusk. Interesting insects to look out for include jewel beetles (such as Castiarina aureola) which come out in December and feed on nectar. Christmas spiders are also spotted during December and January and look like Christmas baubles with their bright spotted bodies. Remember to increase your water intake if you do go bushwalking and aim to drink 1 litre per hour.