Birak – The First Summer

The first summer, or the season of the young (December – January)

Birak season sees the rains ease up and the warm weather really start to take hold.

Despite the heat, there is an abundance of food at this time of year and traditionally, this was aided through the use of karl (fire). Nyungar people would burn the country in cool, mosaic patterns. We would burn the country in this way for several reasons, including fuel reduction, increasing the grazing pastures for animals like the yonga that we would then hunt with gidjies (spears) and hunting kylies (boomerangs), to aid in seed germination for some plants and for ease of mobility across the country. Sound risky? Nope, not at all. We knew what we were doing. An almost clockwork pattern of easterly winds in the morning and sea breezes in the afternoon were ideal conditions and of course, we knew the boodja (country/land) like the back of our hands and could guide the trickling flames wherever we wanted them to go.

This season is signalled by a mass of stunning and unmistakable golden yellow-orange flowers across the landscape, with the moodjar (WA native Christmas tree or Nuytsia floribunda) bursting into full bloom. This tree is very important to Nyungar people culturally and is fascinating ecologically, being a root hemiparasite (a plant that is parasitic under natural conditions, but photosynthetic to some degree) and mainly obtaining water and mineral nutrients from its hosts.

There is plenty of seafood available at this time of year, traditionally forming a large part of the warm weather diet as we were near the coast and not much has changed. We still love the beach, the ocean and the gifts that come from it.

As for the animals, there are many fledglings now venturing out of nests, though some are still staying close to their parents. Reptiles are looking to shed their old skins for new ones. With the rising temperatures and the decreasing rainfall, it’s also time for the baby kooyar (frogs), to complete their transformation into adulthood.

Bring on Birak!