Here on the mid north coast hinterland of New South Wales it’s been feeling like the subtropics: storms, showers, searingly hot spells and perpetually high humidity. Not pleasant, unless you are plant life, for whom it’s boom time.

To beat the heat, I get up very early — and so often begin the day with beauty like this.

Apart from what I’ve planted here, birds have distributed seeds and amongst the most noticeable of their crops are the scattered tall sunflowers.

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This King Parrot spotted one whose flowerhead was nicely drying out to seed. It must have been too awkward to eat in situ so it yanked out a chunk as takeaway and found a more comfy perch.

I haven’t seen any parrots new to me, but I keep on seeing birds that are nothing like any I have ever struck before.

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This one literally ran into my view as I sat at my desk. It ran across the grass in the rain, halted, turned and ran back again out of sight.

I need help with this one; the closest I can find is a female Chestnut Quail-thrush, but the patterns and the body shape don’t quite match. Any ideas, birdwise readers?

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As many of you know, my last place of 165 acres was a gazetted Wildlife Refuge and protected on my deeds (from all but mining!) under a Voluntary Conservation Agreement with the Office of Environment and Heritage. 

My new place is only 5 acres so not eligible for these. However, I was also a member of the Wildlife Land Trust (WLT), and I have now rejoined with this property. The main criterion is that the property be ‘wildlife friendly’ — and that mine sure is.

Once more the Trust’s Evan Quartermain sent me a great sign for the gate, to publicly declare my attitude — and maybe encourage others to join this network of private landowners who care about wildlife and habitat conservation.

Operating under the auspices of the Human Society International, the WLT now has 285 member properties in Australia. It’s free to join, they have a great newsletter and website and can offer advice and help and access to conservation grant applications (as I received at my Mountain for weed control).  

I must say my free listing on their property for sale website page created more enquiries about my Mountain than any other source.

Please take a look at their website or contact Evan on 1800 333 737 or email him.

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I have mentioned that I am seeing many new birds here. I prefer to see them alive.

This beautiful Green-winged Pigeon is the second bird to die by flying into one of the large glazed sliding doors. Obviously this can’t continue, if my WLT claim of ‘wildlife friendly’ means anything.

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I have resorted to a method I learnt from my friends Mike and Sue: feathers stuck in corks and hung outside the windows, to swing and imitate birds, hopefully to warn and divert any avian missiles who can’t see the glass – which they can’t. I know this works, and have passed it on to many. Sometimes I have used side feathers as well on the corks.

My webmaster Fred found this collection of solutions, some of which may suit your situation better.

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I do have another sign, but on my gatepost. Just in case any CSG or other extraction company thinks that not having an actual lock on my gate might mean it’s not locked to them.

Their sort of activity would certainly not be habitat or wildlife friendly.

In fact, almost every gate along this road bears this sign; a tribute to the great local awareness-raising work of Manning Clean Water Action Group (MCWAG), and more generally to Lock the Gate. I am a proud member of both.

January is always a time for sales and specials but I’ve been getting the best specials of all, as they’re free.

Plus they are self-generating — no batteries! —  and ever-changing, so I never tire of them.

Just as at my old Mountain, I arise early, rewarded by this sort of sunrise. Delivered in this first week of January 2015.

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By late afternoon on 1st January, the eastern sky was full of combed clouds, fanning out like floating seaweed. I assumed they were Cirrus of some sort, the highest of clouds, made of ice crystals.

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As if that wasn’t enough of a gift, I then spotted a tiny white moon amongst the more blurred fans. Look hard, centre, bottom third of the photo.

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It’s risky to go indoors; I might miss another special.

Like last night, twilight, there was the full moon, underlined by a tiny cloud in an almost cloudless sky.

Luckily I have lots of windows here, so can keep an eye out for sky reasons to grab the camera and leap out on to the lawn before the special ends.

The first feathered visitor of the New Year was an Azure Kingfisher, a beautiful little bird, a visitor that sadly will not be leaving.

I found it lying on the back verandah, presumedly killed when it flew into the glass doors.

If this is to be a problem I will have to hang feathers all round, but so far I hadn’t heard any ‘thunks’. I am hoping this is a one-off.

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Next newly sighted feathered visitor was this unspectacular little bird, that I think is a female Rufous Whistler.

I have been hearing a very melodious series of calls that I think it was making. I hope somebody more knowledgeable can confirm its identity for me.

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On the same day, fine after days of rain, I heard the unmistakable and extremely unmelodious calls of the Yellowtailed Black Cockatoos, perched in trees very close to the house.

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I thought there were two, but then an incessant rusty whining led me to see a smaller third one, which I expect is the young. The father seemed to feed it — do they? — the eye ring and bill colour of the young are like a female’s.  Or was this the female?

Black Cockies are old rainy weather friends, and the similar proximity of densely forested steep gullies and slopes below the escarpment would make good habitat for them. I’ll raise and plant more of the local she-oaks to tempt them back.

I knew I was blessed with many bird species here that are new to me, but I’d forgotten how exciting it is to meet them!

This pair were poking about amongst the palm litter.

They are Bar-shouldered Doves and they solve the mystery of the repetitive calls I keep hearing.

My book reckons they say ‘cook-a wook, cook-a-wook’, but Ive been hearing ‘potgorok potgorok’.

Don’t ask me why; local dialect?

My book says the Manning Valley, where I now am, is roughly their southern distribution limit, and they stretch north all round the top to the Kimberleys.

Now I truly feel like I’m in a different climatic zone.

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Then they moved into the sunlight, no doubt to show off those lairy pink legs.

Not turtle doves or partridges, but they’ll do me for a Christmas treat.

Stay safe, all.

Now I am living on the mid-north coast hinterland, virtually in the subtropics, I am becoming used to high humidity and rapid changes in cloud behaviour and weather results.

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Thunder and lightning and stupendous short cloudbursts of rain…

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The ephemeral always fascinates me and there’s nothing so fleeting as clouds.

As in my previous home, mountains are critical for creating the varying special effects I love.

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Of course I love the fine blue-sky days too, but my attention is earthbound, not on the skyline. There are not enough eucalypts left here to make a forest but I am very grateful for what remains. Several of these tall, rough-barked fellows suddenly burst into blossom last week.

The show only lasted about a week, but what a display!

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Even more fleeting than the cloud movements are the appearances of the larger wildlife, like these two Eastern Red-necked wallaby males, spotted grazing amongst my weeds. Note the larger weed beyond them: the attractive but ubiquitous Camphor Laurel tree, and unfortunately not ephemeral.

I’ve been going to Gloucester twice a week lately, reaching the camp in time for the daily camp meeting and to catch grand sunsets like this one, joining whatever action is decided for the next early morning, helping ‘man’ the vigil info site. 

Since the Halliburton fracking team snuck out at 4 am last week, having done their foul deed on the designated four wells, there’s been a change in tone and focus.

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Some token healing happened last Saturday. We get up early at camp, and the mood was high that day, as were the camp numbers, for the seventh Walk down Fairbairns Road to the frack site gates. That’s my slide-on Gypsy on the right, with her awning rolled up against the previous night’s wind.

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This Walk was different, as about 150 from the centre of the long chain of walkers simply climbed through a fence and reclaimed the site. A mass walk-on!

For once security and police were outnumbered and outstrategised. No harm, no damage, but it did our hearts good after the weeks of feeling helpless with the Halliburton heavies in charge.

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We had more people walking than ever before, of all ages; maybe the fact that actor Michael Caton (the tall one in the hat, towards the left) walked with us attracted some newcomers. Having a celebrity take up the cause is invaluable: thank you, Michael Caton!

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As the Gloucester Protectors camp — but not the campaign! — considers a recess and the next steps, this week we held a small vigil outside the AGL office in town. 

It’s opposite the Country Lodge Motel, where some of their workers have stayed, but there is no sign, front or back, on the AGL HQ to announce their presence. High fences and security warning signs is all. Are they ashamed of of what they are doing here?

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Well, there was one sign on its fence temporarily…

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We had our full array of signs, including a banner that identifies this place as  ‘AGL Fracking HQ’. Here are local longterm battlers, Ed Robinson, Rod Besier, Tina Robinson and Karen from the Herb Farm at the top of Fairbairns Rd. All deserve medals as local heroes – and for AGL to leave forever and let them go back to their lives. 

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But that day we also had a beautiful yellow winged creature in the form of the crinkle-caped Shaz, who I’m sure caught the attention of many in the on-the way to work or school vehicles that passed. 

One driver certainly noticed, as she took the time to open the window and scream abuse of the four-letter kind at us.

Despite this gorgeous addition to the scenery, apparently the owner of the motel was not happy about our silent stance across the road. I wonder why…

I’m not allowed on my front verandah at present. Two sets of protective parents say so.

The Welcome Swallows have hatched a second set of babies in the original nest. I have spotted three sets of panting baby beaks so far.

Perhaps being second time parents on my verandah in one season has made them more relaxed around me.

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But the Willy Wagtails frantically circle and flit above me, chittering incessantly, even when I keep my distance or stand inside at my bedroom window to watch the babies. I wish they’d accept my assurances and spend more time feeding and watering the babies.

So I don’t go as close to take the photo as the Swallows permit.

I am feeling anxious myself for all the nestlings as the days heat up; 38 degrees on that verandah yesterday, and their parents have built the nests right up under the tin roof, which is lined but not insulated.

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Conversely, I have just spent a week in icy airconditioning. I’ve been in way-too-crowded Sydney with four bush and bird loving ladies: L to R, Sheena Gillman, Patricia Julien, me, Paola Cassoni and Lee Curtis. We were on the Bimblebox/Protect the Bush Alliance stand at the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) World Parks Congress.

This Congress has been 10 years in the planning. People have whispered to us that the IUCN would never have chosen Australia as the venue for this Congress had they known what our government would be like in 2014: anti-environment and anti-action on climate change. And stupidly pro-coal. There are about 2000 people here but apparently others had opted out in disgust. Everyone knew about the Reef. 

People were actually commiserating with us for having such an embarrassingly regressive prime minister. I offered to swap him several times but there were no takers.

For my part, I have been apologising to all for our coal fuelling their climate chaos pain. 

Unfortunately the IUCN did not acknowledge the current and threatened impacts from coal to our ‘protected’ places like the Reef and Bimblebox. We know Bimblebox is home to 154 bird species… and counting. Worth far more than a coal mine for Clive Palmer.

As the only stand that mentioned mining, we did our best to arouse the very large elephant in the Dome. We made sure overseas delegates knew that our governments put Coal before Conservation every time.

Greg Hunt gave a backpatting closing ceremony talk that made me want to throw up. Conservation starts at home, Mr Hunt.

Later a young Indigenous man dared to let the elephant roar in his speech: extractive industries must not be allowed to harm the Reef any further, any longer.

Melaleuca magic

November 17, 2014
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On my new place, in typical farm fashion, trees have mostly only been left around the edges, but in the middle of the bare creekflat there are three big trees. The kookaburras like them as good vantage points from which to spot their lunch. I like them because I can watch them from my verandah […]

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Camping for Gloucester

November 10, 2014
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I stayed at the Gloucester Protectors Camp for three days last week. Set in farmer Ed Robinson’s mown paddock, with cows grazing beyond the fence and the mountains framing the valley views, it’s a scenic spot.   The camp is evolving daily; it has portaloos and fresh water and an embryonic kitchen. They need lots […]

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Nature wins

November 6, 2014
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The Nature Conservation Council of NSW (NCC) recently held its annual conference. This growing umbrella association is the key voice for nature in NSW, and now has over 120 member groups and about 60,000 supporters, including individuals like myself. One of the things they do at the conference is announce and give out awards to […]

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Our place

October 31, 2014
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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 […]

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