The White-headed Pigeons fly like jet planes towards their favourite highest trees, landing with abrupt but sure precision even in the mist, and often on what looks like a ridiculous choice of perch. I mean, this one must have its feet crossed to be able to clutch on to a vertical twig. Why?

Well, if impressing is the aim, it did.

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This more immature one flew like the rest, way too fast and too low towards my house roof, only he didn’t manage to veer up and over in time.

Bang! Mad flapping and rolling, shedding small feathers, fluttering and staggering off the verandah to rest on the grass.

He did not look well.

Up so close, the stunning iridescence of his ‘black’ back was evident.

Lacking the full white head and chest he will have when grown, he nevertheless had the daredevil nature down pat already. Had to be a speed-loving, risk-taking juvenile male.

But would he survive?

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Thnakfully he hadn’t broken his neck, but he must have been in shock.

Meanwhile, the rest of the flock were blithely wheeling about and showing off across the creek flat.

After about half an hour’s rest, body not moving at all, beak open, eyes mostly closed, I feared I would soon see him keel over.

Was the pink blood? No, I read, beaks and eye surround are reddish.

I began to think of where I could bury him.

Then, without even trying out his wings, he simply took off. Up and away, no obvious harm.

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All that was left were the few breast feathers from first impact.

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When you step out of your ute in a Macdonalds carpark (yes, I confess: a rare last resort!) you don’t expect to be eye-to-eye with a prehistoric creature like this.

It was most uncomfortably perched on top of a harshly pruned hedge, as spiky as itself.

I think it’s a water dragon but there was none of that substance about. It, like the dragons, is usually found at ground level.

Maybe it was waiting to be fed leftovers from Maccas?

By the way, at least I learnt that Maccas still doesn’t cater for vegetarians.

Coffee with fries, please.

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Meanwhile at home, I have two far more smooth and docile creatures in residence.

The Gramma couple are snuggling up in a corner while I consider how best to use these gifts from a neighbour. I’ve done the Gramma Pie they requested. Very nice too, but it was more an exercise in disguising the Gramma than making the most of its flavour (?).

Anything could have provided the bulk.

Anyway, I’m not sure I can bear to break up this loving pair. Well, he seems a bit uppity, but she clearly adores him.

Back in my old Mountain home, the verandah grew a living green blind each summer, blazed red and pink in autumn, and leaflessly let in the sunshine all winter.

Naturally, I took cuttings of this Ornamental Grape to bring with me.

They survived the trip and the transplant and here they are flagging their first autumn on their new verandah home.

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The other decoration on this verandah are the intricate spiderwebs between the uprights, only visible when delineated by a fine morning mist.

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The spiders do other useful work, such as binding the leaves of the little Nagami Cumquat into a neat parcel.

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With great difficulty I also brought with me my Dad’s Place. It was built by me and my sisters to house his ashes.

Not having been designed to be mobile, it weighed a ton.

But here it is, resettled, its lavender and wormwood plant settings fast making it look less newly transplanted. My grandkids have decorated the steps and verandah for him.

Fittingly, behind it is a terracotta chimneypot from my childhood farm, Dad’s orchard venture. I never saw it on a chimney, but I always loved it and I have carted it about for over 50 years. It lived in the rockery at the Mountain for the last 35.

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Here the southern face of its ferro-cement roof has grown a velvety green moss. I consider this makes up for the ridgeline crack it suffered in the move.

I have seen a tree snake trying to climb a water tank here. I suspect this is the same slender Green Tree Snake, made smarter by that experience.

Now it uses the ladder.

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My book says that this snake will inflate the fore part of its body when threatened; I’m not sure if it was me or the ladder that it considered threatening but it was clearly fatter at the front.

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Just look at the way it manages to hang on to the ladder while investigating the old guttering leaning against the wall beside it. As unwelcoming a climbing surface as the water tank was…

My book also said that this snake can be can be grey, green, blue, brown, black or yellow, so I’m only assuming I’ve identified this one correctly.

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The skin between the scales is apparently most revealed when the snake inflates – blue – but this one seems dotted with blue…?

I have become so accustomed to the flock of White-headed Pigeons landing in the tallest branches of the tallest Camphor Laurel by the creek that I don’t rush for the camera.

Just the usual penthouse residents again.

Luckily, this time I paid more attention. These birds looked different.

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Without the camera zoom I couldn’t see the brown punk tufts on their heads, like bald men with thick toupées, hoping it makes them still look young…

These were Topknot Pigeons.

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My first sighting here and only my second ever anywhere. That was in 1997 at my Mountain and I was unsure about the I.D. then. No zoom!

It’s mid-Autumn; at last the nights and mornings have turned cold.

The slow combustion fire warms me at night; the sight of Autumn mists rising from the valley warms my spirit of a morning.

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The dew and the sunshine cause even the electric fence and the wretched Setaria grass to take on beauty.

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I am rarely quick enough to catch the occasional grazing wallaby who is still out in these misty mornings. The rabbits are even more occasional and usually even quicker to leap away, but I managed to snap this one, looking for all the world as if he’d hopped out of the pages of a Beatrix Potter story.

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I am very happy for this handsome fellow to eat the grass; so far I have only found evidence of unwanted nibbling on the lettuces, sorrel and parsley.

Beatrix observed that lettuces have a soporific effect on rabbits like the Flopsy Bunnies, but I am yet to find a snoozing rabbit in the garden.

Last year the Nature Conservation Council awarded me their Dunphy Award (link to ‘Nature wins’). With it came a prize donated by Crystal Creek Meadows of a two-night stay in their beautiful Kangaroo Valley eco-resort. 

It has many laudable and genuine eco aspects and projects, and from the guest books, many appreciative and loyal fans. 

I am now another, and I thank them for their generous prize.

It’s a great base for appreciating nature.

Not far back up the steep and stunning road to Bowral is Fitzroy Falls.

You are lucky to see even one shot of them; I took it with a zoom, standing well back from the railing and the view, and involuntarily leaning back anyway. Yes, I can’t cope with heights, especially from cantilevered platforms…

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My friend Christa had no such concerns.

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Instead I preferred to focus on the bush on the side of the track away from the ’view’; like the trunks of the Scribbly Gum (Eucalyptus sclerophylla), inscribed by Scribbly Gum Moth caterpillars when safely under the old bark.

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Or these intrepid tiny orange fungi, somehow broaching the tough hide of this old tree, like explorers in a vast wasteland.

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Of course I also enjoyed the more manicured fields and gardens and the autumnal colours of Kangaroo Valley and the resort.

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And the comforts of our cute cottage, with cosy fire and a high-backed bath…

But the highlight was of wilder nature: hearing two virtuoso lyrebird mimic performances, one at Fitzroy Falls and one at Cambewarra Lookout. What good fortune! Twice!

We could see him through the dense bush at Cambewarra, displaying and shimmying that amazing tail as he offered his vocal repertoire, but we couldn’t get a photo.

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At the Bendeela picnic and camping area, alongside the reservoir that feeds the hydro power station, wombats were the gift of nature to us sightseers. It was actually Wombat City, from the number of burrow entrances evident. Although I’ve seen many wombats in the wild, Christa had not. This is her photo of one mother and child. 

Last Sunday, April 19, hundreds of small groups of people parked their vehicles at staggered spots along 2000kms of the Newell and Pacific Highways.

They were forming the longest anti-CSG protest ever. Amazingly, it all came about in three short weeks of Facebook frenzy.

I had made a reconnaissance trip a few days earlier and found a spot just north of Taree, near Moorland, where we would be visible from traffic heading both north and south on this divided four lane highway.

It was also safe, as we could park on a local road just behind.

That’s my ute (above), with a sign painted on an old curtain by my grandchildren and a friend of theirs — all local and all dependent on the Manning water supply that AGL is risking, and already contaminating, with their CSG project at Gloucester.

The blue sign was lent to me by Richard, a fellow Upper Lansdowne resident; almost every gate out there bears a Lock the Gate No Trespass sign.

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It was raining when we started at 10 am, but fined up during the day until it ended with a mighty storm at 2 pm when were due to finish. So there was varying divesting of raincoats and ponchos and furling of brollies, then unfurling them or donning hats to cope with the sun as it set us all to stew and steam.

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About thirteen stalwarts joined me there for the duration, all good-humoured and keen. One very familiar face was Margaret, Knitting Nanna and member of Manning Clean Water Action Group (as were quite a few of the others). She seems to be at any event or action; a real trouper.

And may I add that not one of the thirteen was a ‘paid or professional protester’.

Everyone got a buzz from the huge number of supportive beeps and hoots and waves and thumbs-up from both sides of the road. Very few trucks sped past without blasting their horns. I was greatly enlightened as to the wide variety of horns, not to mention the ingenuity in patterns to be played on them.

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Teresa (left) and Nancy (right) were highly visible, although Teresa’s energetic antics would have attracted attention no matter what she was wearing! It was all part of the goodwill of the day.

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Elizabeth brought her two little dogs along to be part of the action, while Teresa’s partner Brian (left) supported with tea and coffee and biscuits from the rear.

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But it wasn’t just Teresa who was doing a bit of a dance; I hadn’t realised there were lots of small and very bitey ants in residence on this strip of grass.

I was in gum boots and Elizabeth did have closed boots, but others were on constant antwatch, jiggling and slapping and retreating to the road beyond for relief. Talk about suffering for the cause!

 Pigeon profusion

April 11, 2015
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At my old Mountain I was delighted as the White-headed Pigeon population that occasionally visited grew to eight. They would visit my ridge from the rainforest gullies that pleated my Mountain’s sides. Here I am even more blessed. The remnant rainforest along the creek includes some large Camphor Laurels. No blessing, except that the White-headed […]

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Horse Houdini

April 3, 2015
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The other Saturday night Nature gave us what used to be known as ‘a dump’: 150mm of rain in one storm. The sight that greeted me in the morning showed we’d had a lot of rain even before I checked the rain gauge, which overflows after 150mm, so we may have had more. The little […]

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Knockout Knitting Nannas

March 17, 2015
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Q. What’s black and yellow, clicks quietly and annoys politicians? A. A Knitting Nanna Against Gas — a KNAG. KNAGs also own to being Knitting Nannas Against Greed. Never heard of the KNAGs? Well you’re about to be introduced, because I’ve just returned from the inaugural Internannanational Conference on the NSW north coast.  My friend […]

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Snake surprise

March 9, 2015
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About to fill a bucket at the little overflow water tank, I just happened to see this little head poking out. Not the sort of snake to make my heart leap, I knew — although quite what sort it was, I didn’t. With amazing liquidity it poured itself up and over my drink bottle and […]

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