I was used to sharing my old home with the wildlife. Here I am discovering that I mainly share with birds.

First there were the swallows nesting on the verandah.

Their babies left the nest soon after I came here but the whole family comes back to roost near it … and of course to decorate the decking below as well as verandah rafters.

The most noticeable bird here is the Willy Wagtail; a noisy exhibitionist who delights me with sashaying and twirling that seems irrepressible.

They flit everywhere, from rail to gutter, pecking the magpies on the head if they dare to walk across the grass in front of the verandah.

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Then I noticed a fresh patch of ‘decoration’ further along the verandah. No wonder they are so territorial; they are making a nest up there.

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There seem to be a few Willy Wagtails but no one bird is still for long. Then I was given a treat: the sight of a pair sitting together for at least two minutes!

The prospective parents?

I am happy sharing with little nesting birds instead of little marsupials who want to move inside closer than the verandah.  Willy Wagtails and Blue Wrens and certain honeyeaters are beautifully numerous, but so far no rosellas or other parrots.

Yet from afar I have seen waterbirds down in the creek: too far to properly identify, but I think a pair of Black Ducks, and some sort of long-legged wader, a heron? And I was surprised to catch a glimpse of lavish purply blue as a large-ish bird scuttled up into the shrubbery behind the house tank: a Swamp Hen!

I can’t wait to see what waterbirds come for longer stays when I have my billabong put in.

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Last Thursday I got up at 3 am and set out for Gloucester, to join a 5.30 bus heading to the AGL AGM in Sydney.

In case you don’t know, AGL snuck in the first CSG fracking rig last week and have set up a screen to do it in secret in the once-rural paddocks on Fairbairns Road.

This AGL project was hastily approved and inadequately researched, and is inappropriately sited in the beautiful, scenic and historic Vale of Gloucester, gateway to Barrington Tops, from whence their clean rushing rivers come. These waters and the aquifers beneath are also the supply source for the Manning Valley downstream.

Hydrologist Professor Phillip Pells, not an opponent of CSG extraction per se, has said that Gloucester is the wrong place for it. The locals want the project stopped until the proof of this or otherwise is shown; until the fracking chemicals are tested, despite AGL assuring us they’re much like what’s in salad dressing; until the disposal of its wastewater with all its nasties, not ‘just salt’, is sorted; and until the 2-kilometre CSG exclusion zone that applies to Sydney suburbs is bestowed on the people of Gloucester.

Last time I looked, their bodies were the same, so the health impacts will be. Not fair, Minister Roberts.

Outside the AGM, after rallying talks, we cheered in the shareholders and waited to cheer them out, hoping that by then they would have learnt more about the damage their company is about to do from CSG, when it could instead be full on into renewables.

Six or so Groundswell Gloucester and Manning Clean Water Action Group members — respectably suited up — used proxy votes to address the meeting with facts that AGL does not give. In fact, they emerged gobsmacked at ‘the lies’ given out instead. Shareholders were advised by our locals to think about the potential liability from harm caused by this CSG project.

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Here I am resting in the gutter alongside Ken Johnson of the Gloucester Project, which plans for Gloucester as a future regional food bowl. Ken’s 80, I’m 66, and the indefatigable Bill Ryan, only 90, was there too. Back in Gloucester, Ken’s wife Marnie was being cut out of her neck lock on the AGL main access gate as we spoke.

Dan Lanzini, meanwhile, was inside and locked on underneath the actual fracking rig. I’d met Dan up at the first Pilliga camp, when he and Dayne Pratzky visited to help kick things off against Santos.

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My offer to ‘do’ something to show support was accepted, as was that of my bus seatmate and newfound friend, Alison. The bus got back about 7pm and Alison’s friends Brad and Thomas (Brad had been one of those addressing the AGM) generously put us up for the night and we set our alarms for another early start, 4 am.

After the last three days of protest action, there was a large police and security presence in the area and waiting at the main gate. For some reason, the frack rig workers didn’t arrive that day: results already?

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So I had to quickly lock on to the next gate, right under the ‘eye’ of the security camera, but no burly security personnel. My ‘buddy’ Alison and about 14 locals stayed with me in support. The second round of police to visit issued me with a notice to appear in court — and left me to stew — or fry, advising that they would not be sending for the rescue team to cut me off.

After a morning of media — interviews from within the neck lock are pretty effective! — eventually the locals’ opinion was that no more could be achieved there that day.

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If you want to know more and to help this community in any capacity — you don’t have to lock yourself to a gate! — please visit the Groundswell site — One example was the Knitting Nannas’ Lantern Walk (of Shame) on Friday. As you can see, non-nanna blokes and fairies are welcome!

An approved protectors’ camp on farmer Ed Robinson’s property just up the road is at last in operation as of today, Monday 27th, making it easier for visiting supporters like me to help out. (Ed also addressed the AGM.)

Please spend some time there to help swell the numbers and stop the fracking.

All photos courtesy of Groundswell Gloucester.

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There are many small birds here but they do NOT stay still for photos for me to share them with you. Swallows, Willy Wagtails, honeyeaters, finches… I will have to take to sitting outside and waiting, with camera poised. I think that’s called birdwatching.

Thankfully the flora here is slower moving.

Alongside the small creek is a narrow strip of beautiful remnant rainforest. Yes, there are too many weeds and invasive trees like Camphor Laurel, but looking up to admire one large indigenous tree, just look what I saw.

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When I returned to show friends, the orchid’s flowers had disappeared. So the flora may be slower than the birds, but I’ll have to be fast to catch their stages.

I’ve tried to identify this orchid, but I’m lost amongst the Dendrobiums; could it be Dendrobium monophyllum, also known as ‘Lily of the Valley’? The little finger petals seemed distinctive to me and closer to the drawings of this one than any other.

I have so much to learn about this new place and its inhabitants.

I am probably irrevocably hooked on mountains and their moods.

The facing mountains are closer here than they were on my previous Mountain, but are similarly on my north-east, so also flaunt their moods most of a morning.

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Their moods are partnered with the clouds descending from above and the mists drifting up from the valleys below, so between these three and the rising sun, the picture changes rapidly.

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Yet evenings are differently eye-catching. The sun sets behind my ridge, but the escarpment opposite is higher and sees its last rays longer, while able to simultaneously profile an early moon.

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The other evening it also gave me the first showing of the almost full moon.

I have moved mountains; it’s still strange here… but my link to these mountains is growing as I learn their moods.

I am waking up around 5.30 a.m. here, and I am realising that, just as on my other mountain, I will be rewarded with ephemeral treats like this one when I do so.

There is so much to do that I don’t even want to stay in bed!

This house is built on a cut-and-fill site – much like where I was – but it’s quite a steep drop off the level strip in front of the house. By the time the sun was hitting the site, I’d breakfasted and unpacked three boxes of books.

Then I saw, through the rather grubby sliding glass doors, a pair of ears visible above the level of the bank.

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A young male, I think, and the same Eastern Redneck Wallaby variety that I am used to.

I said ‘Hello, you! Are you on your own? Welcome!! No harm here, mate; no dogs!’

He looked unimpressed, and took off across the slope. I saw him join a mate over on my boundary treeline.

I am overjoyed; there is wildlife here of the hoppy native sort, when I’d been half expecting rabbits.

As you see, I have moved from what was my mountain and its range to a new set of mountains. This is what I woke up to the very first morning. So I (and you) can look forward to many good sunrises.

I am tucked into the side of the hill in this mountain-ringed narrow valley, with the little creek forming the border of my rural five acres.

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It was a wet and soggy mountain I left and an even soggier hill I reached; four-wheel drive needed as I sank into the ‘lawn’.

As I get time to explore I will share my nature discoveries here… I am just waiting for the first snake. But already I know there are kooks, carolling magpies, crazy wattle birds and many small birds — and a pair of Welcome Swallows are nesting on the verandah just outside where I sit. 

I can’t tell you for sure what the little birds are yet as I haven’t found my bird books; they’re in one of the dozens of boxes that tower teeteringly everywhere in here amidst the stranded furniture that I can’t think how to fit in.

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How did I ever fit it all in before, in my little cabin? It looked so sadly sweet as I said goodbye after 36 years.

But good people have bought it and will love it and make it their own.

Of course a rural rather than a bush block brings a different set of challenges. Instead of conserving natural values, here I must replace them and rescue them from the onslaught of weeds, from fireweed, dock, wild ageratum and lantana to the ubiquitous Camphor Laurel trees.

If I thought I was moving to an easier life, I was temporarily deranged. When I am sorted out more here, and in between spending time at Gloucester to help them fight AGL’s CSG project in that beautiful valley — please visit the Gloucester Groundswell site.

I think I feel another book coming on.

On my last day here on this mountain, nature is turning it all on for me. A little glimpse of the things that symbolise what I love most here.

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Wallabies and their joeys were all around, the camellias and bulbs were still in flower, and the bush beyond was glistening with sunshine and dew.

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The spring-fed primary perched swamp was full of water, even after the long dry spell, and the mighty ancient Angophora arched out over it as protectively as ever.

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Last week there was a light dusting of snow on the higher mountains opposite… very light, but still…

Next week I will be in my new mountainside home, with different wildlife and mountain views — and a creek! — to share with you all. I look forward to sharing my discoveries of its nature.

As my last week here begins with sunshine — for a change — I have been snapping the wallaby mums and joeys as they feed their way over the ‘lawn’. I shall miss them.

This very leggy young one (above) was unsteady out of the pouch, but nibbling along beside mum in beween ducking its head back into the pouch for a drink. It could barely fit under her; she ignored it when she wanted to move on. It just had to catch up and re-connect.

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But then I noticed that over near the Nashis another joey was still lying in the same position as an hour earlier. Its mum was just sitting nearby.

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The joey was clearly dead… and cold. No evident injury. Mum stayed near there for hours, even after the joey was removed. Normally she’d have moved further in her grazing. She looked sad — or was she unwell too?

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I wish I knew what they felt or thought…

Of bulbs and birches

August 22, 2014
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After a few days of welcome (if inconvenient for moving house) heavy rain, the bare trees are glistening in the morning sunlight, and the bulbs beneath them are struggling to lift their heads. I love winter birches: for their bark and the lichen it attracts, for their bobbles and fine branchlets and twigs and the […]

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Cloud lake

August 12, 2014

The large man-made Lake St Clair can create fabulous effects at times. Sadly, many trees were drowned in its making, but their standing skeletons can be beautiful… and eerie. If I pass it early enough on a winter morning the sun hasn’t lightened the night’s cloud creations enough for them to totally dissipate and head […]

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Seeing beauty

August 4, 2014
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As I pack and move out 36 years’ worth of my magpie collection, the cabin is far emptier than ever since it was built. I am appreciating the texture of the more revealed expanse of mud walls, freshly emphasised with the repainting (with natural paints of course). I am admiring each treasure before I pack […]

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Who needs Spring?

July 27, 2014
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Fortunately some of the most sweetly scented bulb blooms are at their best in Winter. Erlicheer are my favourite, on the plant and in a vase. They have naturalised and multiplied here, need no care, and the critters don’t eat them. In other words, a wonder plant! Next to my bird bath I planted this […]

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