Last weekend I attended the 4th conference of the Knitting Nannas Against Gas (and Greed), held at the picturesque Glenrock Scout Camp near Newcastle. Hosted by the Hunter, Central Coast and Mid Coast Loop, it was a talk and food fest as well as a knit-in.

I was privileged to be one of the speakers, as I had been at the inaugural conference in Lismore.

As it was on Awakabal land, we were welcomed to country and treated to a smoking ceremony and unusually interactive story dances, where Nannas turned into quite coy brolgas.

My camera decided to go on strike during this so all photos are by Dom Jacobs — thanks, Dom! — unless otherwise noted.

Nanna ’loops’ from all over the state came to talk and listen, network and knit, plot and plan more innovative ways to gain a better future ‘for the kiddies’.

While the KNAGs have been known for their creative yellow and black ‘uniforms’ and knitted items, since the Narrabri conference in 2017 they add red to show support for the Indigenous cause. Sunflowers remain a central theme since the successful Gloucester anti-CSG campaign.

Some Nannas’ outfits, like Tina’s tights, do more than catch attention; they demand it.

The Sydney Loop (above) used to support Gloucester by sitting and knitting outside AGL head office in North Sydney each week. Now they annoy Santos by doing the same in Martin Place. Honorary male Nannas like Bill, Colin and Peter join them.

The stalwart Santos watchers from the north-west came: Pat and Tania and ‘Nanna Wranglers’ Dan and ‘Pirate’, and Dan gave us an update on the situation in the Pilliga.

And quite a few of the Nannas from the Northern Rivers, where this elder disobedience all started, made the long train trip down. Louise of Chooks Against Gas, of course, came with chook attached.

The young FLAC activists who’d been bodily attaching themselves to coal trains and such the previous week gave us an update — and some even doubled as wait staff the following night at the grand Nanna dinner.

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My adjoining wetland has had no wet flowing into it for ages, and the larger pool was pinkish and abandoned by the ducks because it was too dry. Rubbish was the main occupant of the various dips where swamps or pools used to be.

Then last night we had a little rain — and a rainbow!

Naturally, next day I went down to see if the birds had gone back yet. No, but they had found a smaller pool — or a bigger puddle — and were happily ensconced there.

The two beautiful Black Ducks above were there.

One stayed on the muddy edge — on guard? — while the other splashed and dabbled and ‘upped tail’, fully immersing to be the cleanest duck around — if such muddy water could do it. The sexes look the same, so I had no idea who was guarding whom.

When the swimming duck came ashore, it set about busily cleaning under its wings, showing the striking flash of colour of its operculum. My book says it’s ‘glossy green’; I had described it as turquoise and emerald but I can see here it also has a lilac edge.

What a stunning surprise in such a tailored brown bird — like flashing exotic undies…!

But the Ducks weren’t the only waterbirds to be using the newly added water.

A White-necked Heron was patrolling the far edges of the adjoining puddle. More wary of me than the Ducks, it several times flew across to the other side… not wanting to get its feet muddy?

I no longer have a rain gauge as I did in the country, so I will have to go by the wildlife’s use of the puddles/ponds/pools as to whether we have had enough rain for their lives on the big pool to resume.

Not yet.

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I was sitting on my deck in the winter sun, having morning tea with my son-in-law Joe, when a flash of colour moved in the corner of my vision.

I turned my head to see my first Rainbow Lorikeet in this place, right there on my railing. Stunningly exotic, as if escaped from a South American rainforest. But it is ours, a fairly common nectar-feeding arboreal native parrot. I have never had them where I’ve lived.

I haven’t complained, as they are really noisy and screech most unmusically, especially in flocks, as they usually are.

There are lots of lorikeets but Rainbow Lorikeets are easy to identify as they are the only lorikeet with a blue head.

I was wary of scaring this one as I edged away to get the camera … but no need. It was as ‘cocky’ as a parrot can be!

In fact, having strolled along most of the length of the railing, it hopped onto the table and I fear would have eaten the morning tea bickies had I not deterred it.

Was it tame, an escapee?

When another joined it, I began to worry rather than rejoice. I don’t think regular doses of their flamboyance is worth the noise if a flock adds my place to their route…

But since then, no more sightings.

(My photos were all inadvertently deleted, so thanks to Joe for these quick-thinking shots taken on his phone.)

Poking about under the small clump of trees on my block, I was pointing up into the skinniest Casuarina to show a visiting weed controller where the Frogmouth nest was.

‘Well, there’s two up there now’, he said.

At first all I could see were two odd shapes against the light.

When I moved around the tree to the better, non-backlit side, there they were– unmistakably two Frogmouths playing at dead branches.

Of course I went for the camera, as its zoom enables me to see so much better. Aren’t they beautiful close up?

Are these are the grown siblings come back to their birthplace, albeit in a different fork of that tree, or one of them and a parent, or the two original parents?

Whatever they are, I am thrilled to have them back!

On the far North Queensland coast, evidence of Cyclone Yasi damage abounds, seven years later. On Dunk Island, the once-famous resort is still closed, unrepaired.

But even here natural survivors struggle on, like this coconut palm.

Years ago I had read Banfield’s Confessions of a Beachcomber about his time there. But Dunk Island is not the romantic and untouched place he described, full of wildlife.

I struggled to see any, and I’m afraid that the one frog briefly spotted on the climb to the top of the mountain may well be a cane toad. It was extremely well camouflaged and doesn’t fit any in my frog book.

There was no flora or fauna information on the Island, even though much of it still a national park, and walking tracks were vague.

The rocks are spectacularly jagged and slanted, thrusting up in sharp slabs from beneath the gritty sand of finely crushed coral. Shellfish cluster round their high tide bases.

Even well above any tide line, wasps find shelter in their hollows…

… and tiny tree seedlings root in any crevices where soil or rotting vegetation have lodged.

Beautiful as it is, I found Dunk to be a sad place, damaged by more than Yasi.

The coast is close here, a quick water taxi ride away.

It’s famous for its Cassowaries and crocodiles, but I saw neither. My most interesting northern sighting was of an Orange-footed Scrubfowl.

Not exclusive to the north, but not often seen by me, was what I think was a Spangled Drongo.

Inland, the mountains back the sugarcane coastal plains, trapping clouds and dropping rain, so that towns like Tully and Babinda vie for the title of the wettest town. (Babinda’s main street happens to be Munro Street!)

The edging range creates plentiful waterfalls and powerful rushing creeks, as at Babinda Rocks.

Wild, lushly grand country.

Plants from cuttings and broken-off bits, of unknown future flowerings, all find a home with me. This beauty came from a community fundraiser where bits from very old plants in the Wingham courthouse garden were propagated for sale.

What a bold and beautiful and very contemporary blooming it turned out to be harbouring!

My cousin Kerrie gave me a large overgrown lump of strappy leaves and roots a few years ago, an orchid that needed dividing.

They filled five pots, and this year three have arching flower spears. How tropical they look on my mid-winter Wingham deck!

A long look into the heart of one fills me with admiration at the restrained yet jungle-wild patterning, the carefully balanced shapes.

My Chain-of-Hearts plant has accompanied me on each house/garden move for. It likes the situation here and is thriving.

But I don’t recall it having an autumnal colour event, where each leaf tries on a different shade. No matter, I am most appreciative… and grateful.

Ever since I moved here I have seen this pair of doves in my back yard, always together, never alone. Sometimes they are very close, as in sharing the top of a gate post.

They fly up and off quickly if they see me, so without the motivation of a photo, I hadn’t looked them up in bird books.

Finally I did get a few shots, from my back deck. Now I know they are Turtle Doves, of almost mythical pairdom and ‘lovey-dovey’ fame.

These are actually Spotted Turtle Doves (Streptopelia chinensis), introduced from India in the 1860s. They have spread pretty much all up the east coast now.

They coo gently, and the sexes look the same. Lovely soft-looking and soft-sounding birds, nice to have about, but apparently they are replacing native doves in some areas.

Then today I spotted a small group of four out the front, near a quite busy road.

I rushed to the back to see if ‘my’ Turtle Doves were there; no sign of them. So were they two of this four and were the others family members just visiting?? They all look the same!

On stumps of felled or fallen trees and logs from such, this last week of rain has brought forth a cornucopia of fungi blooms of the strangest shapes. These ones look more like tiny shells and amber bluebottles.

Others have the more expected ‘ear’ shape, when not being bubbles, so I can only assume that they are Auricularia Sp. 1; definitely one of the ‘jelly’ fungi.

Yet others are so discoloured and distorted that they look like something regurgitated.

On a similar log in my mini rainforest these more ‘ordinary’ white fungi are what caught my distant eye in the first place.

They are tough and solid, with tiny pores underneath, and also appear to have bubble babies. However, I wasn’t able to identify what they are called.

Not on wood but in the leaf litter was this cute little glistening orange cup, that I think is Amanita xanthocephala.

I find it astonishing that my village backyard just keeps producing surprise treats for the observant eye.

Duck Trails

May 29, 2018
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The swamp/pond in the reserve below my block generally looks like a smooth bowling green. But now and then I see dark tracks through the algae topping carpet. Going closer to investigate, I see two handsome Black Ducks entering the water, joining another bird that from a distance I assume will be a Purple Swamp […]

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Toxic tempters

May 18, 2018
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On a visit to my friend Sharyn’s rural property, she showed me these cartoon fairytale fungi under the windbreak of introduced fir trees. No fairies or elves were sitting on these ones, but perhaps they missed the boat when the species (Amanita muscaria) was introduced to the NSW Blue Mountains for its undeniable decorative qualities. […]

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Jack’s back

May 9, 2018
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My favourite lizard at the Mountain was the cheeky Jacky (Amphibolurus muricatus). I missed him. But after six months in my new home, I think one of his cousins has come to live here. He was stretched out across my makeshift plastic-covered hothouse for carrots, catching the last of the afternoon sun. I ran for […]

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Old friend

April 23, 2018
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I have always needed a writing work space with connection to the outdoors, and I have had that at my Mountain and my last place. Here I have had to create it by inserting two windows to give me the natural views I crave. This means I can see a fair bit of the birdlife […]

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