Although there is no standing water in my yard, the wetlands lagoon nearby attracts waterbirds who occasionally drop in to my garden to see what my vegetation might hold.

This elegant creature is a White-faced Heron, apparently common enough all over Australia, but not seen by me anywhere else I have lived.

It flew in for a brief visit, had a good look about and seemed to decide against what was on offer. The long brownish feathers on the chest and those sweeping grey ones on its back are called ‘nuptial plumes’.

Its legs look too spindly to support it, and as it high-stepped around, it undulated its very long neck in ripples back and forwards, as if swallowing something.

Its very perfunctory check of my back yard was clearly a negative result, except for the pleasure it brought me to see it!

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After my last odd waterbird visitor, the Royal Spoonbill, I thought I had spotted another strange long-legged, long-beaked bird down there in the wetlands.

But when it settled its ruffled feathers and assumed a more familiar stance, it revealed itself to be not really odd at all.

Perhaps oddly out of place, as there are no cattle here, and I think it is the quite common Cattle Egret.

I have usually seen it in groups around cows in paddocks, some often perched on the backs of cows.

Native to Africa and Asia, they were introduced to Australia in 1948 – as was I! – and have spread successfully into new territories, including America.

Equally common, and perhaps equally out of place, was this Long-necked Tortoise, seen wandering in my dry back yard, heading uphill from the wetlands.

As it still had damp mossy patches on its back, it can’t have been lost or misguided for long.

I stood very still as It looked about carefully, fixing my feet at least with those gimlet eyes.

Then it turned itself about and, very purposefully and surprisingly swiftly, headed downhill towards the water. 

There is a low old paling fence to be negotiated but, as I later saw, it found the worn parts and dug away until it was on the watery side where it belonged.

But why had it left and what led it to think there’d be water up here?

These wetlands are a boon in attracting wild creatures; after all, water is life.

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A glimpse of white down there in the wetlands, seen from my deck as I was hanging out washing; triple blink. What on earth could that be? Camera grab, race down to the yard, tiptoe to my fence.

The strange creature’s spoon-shaped bill said ’Spoonbill’ of course, although I have never had one visit me, here or elsewhere.

But it seemed to have a neck that could swivel 360 degrees. Cleaning its feathered back? Or scratching?

Apart from acrobatic ablutions, that long beak is used for sweeping shallow waters for food.

The black bill and legs and the red eyes tell me it is a Royal Spoonbill, confirmed by the impressive crest of head plumes I glimpsed earlier.

With the crest lowered, it looks more like a bearded elder, with hair hanging over its collar. And did it just yawn?

The weird and wonderful denizens of and visitors to even my little patch keep me in touch enough with the wild to survive in a town. Almost…

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Near my backyard tap lives a community of fungi who burst forth en masse after rain, which we have finally had.

One day they are not there, the next they are, honey brown for the moment, opening their little umbrellas.

Pushing up through soil and leaves, they surrounded and smothered the hose loops that were in the way.

Try as I might, I have not been able to identify these fungi communities which appear so briefly, always just in this spot. 

Birders often use the term ‘LBB’, ‘Little Brown Bird’ when they can’t identify one of the many such. Maybe this will remain an ‘LBF’?

The next day they are always black and collapsing. Ephemeral LBFs indeed.

Now that my bottlebrush tree is flaunting hundreds of bright red brush-like blossoms, the Rainbow Lorikeets are holding parrot parties. Like all lorikeets, they have a specialised ‘brush-like’ tongue to be able to feed on nectar, but these are the only lorikeets to have a blue head.

Their brilliant colours warrant their name. They are not, however, blessed with a sweet song, and as they feed in flocks, the combined shrill screeching makes me greatly miss the musical calls of my Mountain’s Crimson Rosellas.

My other visiting parrots have been the Galahs; rarely seen here on the coast, they are very common, often in huge flocks, in open country.

Only two came to see what my yard had to offer in the way of food. I assume they didn’t find much to their taste, as they were only here for a day.  Surprising, given their wide range of feeding habits: seeds, grain, fruit, blossom, shoots, as well as insects and their larvae.

I am always grateful not to be a haven for Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, given their raucous screeching, but Galahs are not much better, their calls described by my bird book as ‘loud whistles, strident shrieks and screams’!

But two temporary Galahs can be appreciated.

Taree is not a big town, nor particularly environmentally alert. At the last school strike for climate day there I think there’d have been less than a dozen kids, and mostly from elsewhere, like Gloucester; more adults without kids.

But on Friday 20th September the impact of the rising tides (pun intended) were clear.

Hundreds flocked to the riverside park to hear impassioned speeches, show support and share concerns — parents with babies, very small children and primary schoolchildren, secondary students on their own or in groups, adults on their own.

Many groups like 350.org and Nature Conservation Council have been urging people to attend one, but locally I think the growing Midcoast Extinction Rebellion (XR) group has been highly influential. 

One of the most impressive young speakers, 11-year-old Evie Wood McGuire from Cundletown Primary, was inspired after an XR family day at Nabiac. She then started her own blog to encourage specific personal action — in an innovative way!

All the kids who spoke were articulate, strongly behind Greta Thunberg, and clear on what they wanted: ‘Climate Action NOW.’

I gathered, from speaking to a large group from St Clare’s, that such protest seems to have become the ‘in’ thing, which is just what needs to happen!

Some went really public and stood up on the roadside with their signs, attracting many supportive honks from passing cars.

While I have never understood why Taree’s war memorial is guarded by two child-size soldier statues (did they run out of money, choose two minis for the price of one full size?).

 I know that the real soldiers would be horrified to think that the land and clean water and air they fought for are no longer our governments’ priorities.

And that the right to protest, such as this, was what they fought to keep for Australians.

While NO new coal is critical, as evidenced by the many Stop Adani signs, I was especially taken with the variety of very positive pro-active approaches, such as looking after bees, and trees, regenerative farming and local produce, as in the Young Farmers Connect group.

One of the Young Farmers’ children carried this very pointed sign. What are you doing?

Prioritising the future of all children was the primary message from the older generation. I bridled a bit when one young speaker said, ‘We’ll stick it to the Boomers’, given I am one; the grey-haired lady next to me had the same reaction and said, ’So should I leave now?’

Others pointed out the truth; some acknowledged that we oldies aren’t all bad…

And of course the Knitting Nannas were there to support ‘the kiddies’, for whose future they work, as always.

But it is the politicians we need to impress; if our Taree turnup wasn’t enough to convert our state Nationals from climate denial, how about the 10,000 people in Newcastle or the 50,000 in Sydney? Or, Trumpian sidekick Morrison, how about the 300,000 nationwide??!!  A few votes there…

At one end of a beach at Bermagui, south coast NSW, an ancient creature lies half buried in the sand. Its long snout sucks up water at high tide, its dark eyes watch for whales… and inquisitive dogs. 

For this is a dog-friendly beach, allowing romping dogs with their walking and stick-throwing owners.

These caves are mostly small hollows, some forming see-through tunnels in the strangely muscular rocks.

But above the sand and creature level, the rocks are no longer sea-moulded smooth, but striated and layered with other ancient deposits, interspersed with soft and powdery decomposing stone…waiting to be washed to join the sands below.

In other places they are carved and etched, leaving odd sculptured shapes, intriguing furrows and horizontally scratched hieroglyphics in vertical messages.

Some seem to have been shaded into relief by an artist’s pen. I am again ignorant as to how these varied effects have been created… perhaps by the ancient sand mammoth before it became immobilised?

Now very little lives on the rocks – a determined spider, the odd desperate plant.

I wish they could talk to explain the mysteries of their so-diverse rocky habitat. Yet it is almost enough just to be in awe at this show of Nature’s art – again!

An extinct volcano near the Tilba region of NSW, Gulaga Mountain holds great spiritualsignificance for the local Yuin people. You can imagine why, as the rocks near its top are no ordinary rocks. In 2006 Gulaga, previously called Mount Dromedary, was returned to its traditional owners.

At about 800 metres above sea level, the walk up the dirt track is long, fairly relentlessly steep but not arduous; the walk down is, with slipping over at least once a certainty! 

It is worth it to meet these extraordinary and evocative tors, either soaring solitary between the trees or balanced in almost incredible giant-flung piles.

The smoothed shapes vary; all defy my geology-deprived understanding, and all demand awe.

Gulaga’s rocks leave memorable impressions. Victoria’s Hanging Rock is not unique in harbouring strange emanations, which touch even the clumsy and ignorant like me.

The walking track through the Gulaga National Park to the saddle is actually a road. It passes by masses of tree ferns, tall ones that nestle up to mossy and lichened rocks, and shorter hairy ones that give shelter to tiny ferns.

Few plants are flowering, so this Correa (?) catches my eye.

Grandeur … and tiny details. All free food for the soul from Nature.

Early black beauties

August 15, 2019

Alerted to look up from my desk by whirling aerial activity outside, I saw about six Welcome Swallows flying round and round the back yard airspace.  It looked as frenetic as when the young first fly, but I haven’t noticed any nests on my verandahs or eaves. There seemed to be other birds in the […]

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Winter or?

August 1, 2019

I was waiting for the last Autumn leaves to fall from my ornamental grapevine before pruning it, as I have always done. But this crazily warm Winter weather has confused the vine into sending forth new Spring growth shoots of leaves and flowers. All along its length the bright green new leaves have lost patience […]

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Bright spots

June 24, 2019

Rainbows always make me smile; no corporation has found a way to despoil them yet, or to capture and sell them. In less-than-bright times, with less-than-visionary (!) leaders, I need all the bright spots Nature can offer to keep my spirits up. And then I realised the rainbow had a second fainter image, a pale […]

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Prodigal Frogmouth?

June 4, 2019

From my kitchen window, I spotted an unusual blob in one of the casuarinas in the yard.  We’d had a windy night, so it could be a broken-off branch. In fact it was both. The Tawny Frogmouth had wedged itself behind a broken limb, and was there for two days. Then it appeared in the […]

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