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!

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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.

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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!

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 Pigeons love these domineering pest trees.

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Large flocks of 30, 30, 50… wheel and bank overhead as they choose which tree to settle in. The flock splits in two.

They fly too fast for me to photograph them like this, and once they roost they are lost in the tree foliage.

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So, even in this light rain, I seized the chance of visibility when some alighted in a lichen-draped dead tree.

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 creek had come up and over the flats, and on its way had cleaned out the brush to the extent of depositing logs and branches and greenery all along the fences, enough to render the fence horizontal in several places.

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I could see that the flood had risen higher before dropping, as the long grass on the whole creek flat had been levelled and raked — stangely, in rows — by the force.

The horse paddock had lost its bottom corner, but that was still under water; surely no horse would walk through a flood and over a four-wire-laid-down fence?

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Just in case,I checked; sensible Clancy was standing up near the stable on drier land. What a relief!

Ten minutes later I had a phone call asking if I’d lost a horse.

One answering to Clancy’s description had been sighted well down the road, munching by the roadside and chatting over a neighbour’s fence to their horse.

A rescue and recovery operation went into place with help from neighbours and Clancy spent the morning in a set of cattle yards until his owner, my daughter, could get here. Then, for his boldness, he spent the afternoon in the stable until she and her husband could re-erect the electric fence on slightly higher ground.

He had indeed done the unlikely, and a large tree trunk had lifted the bottom external gate off its hinge peg, so he saw Freedom.

Talk about seizing an opportunity.

I felt like he’d just waited for me to check – to call the roll – and then off he’d gone.

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The water has receded; the creek has been redesigned and redirected along much of its length. The sheets of galvanised iron that used to hang from the wire where the fence crossed the creek were lying in my paddock; we’ve just propped them up so the farmer can see to re-connect them.

The rationale for their visual blot on my view had been that they would float and not be broken by logs like wire would, hence allowing the cattle in…

An extra electric-fenced paddock below the house has now been created for Clancy, so he should be too busy eating to think of indulging his wanderlust. Or his Houdini talents.

But I keep checking — just in case.

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 Christa from Kempsey also went, and took the following blog photos for me (except where noted otherwise). That’s Christa second from right, front line, in the group photo above, taken by Louise Somerville.

Imagine 80-odd women of a certain age and beyond, dressed to disarm and amuse, in a riot of Op-shop styles and shades of yellow, but nearly all wearing the trademark knitted KNAG beret, beanie or snood in yellow banded in black, or crocheted accessories like earrings and necklaces and hair or hat decorations.

To quote from their website, ‘KNAG draws on a broad history of knitting used as a tool for non-violent political activism.’ 

…’We sit, knit, plot, have a yarn and a cuppa, and bear witness to the war against those who try to rape our land and divide our communities.’

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I was camping at Camp Liberty at Eltham courtesy of tireless and innovative anti-CSG warrior couple Judi and Gwilym Summers. Here the casual atmosphere, conversations, camp showers and loos, good food and river swimming brought such a great sense of Nanna camaraderie that I was glad I hadn’t chosen to be billeted.

I’d intended to take my own slide-on camper but it was too wet at home to get it on, so the Summers generously offered me their brillant mini-pod teardrop retro caravan that Gwilym had made: VIP accommodation indeed!

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We were bussed everywhere, carefree of getting lost or staying teetotal. The weekend started with dinner at the fabulous and friendly Eltham Pub, where the conference cake bearing the KNAG ‘coat of arms’ was cut.

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Here’s a trio of well-adorned Gloucester Nannas — Kate, Carol and Elizabeth — enjoying the night.

Then a full day Saturday at the Lismore Workers’ Club, where the programme was a well organised mix of facts and farce and KNAG history, as told by founding member Clare Twomey, in between three great speakers, whose presence I consider to be a mark of the respect in which the KNAGs are held.

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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.

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With amazing liquidity it poured itself up and over my drink bottle and further; it seemed to keep coming forever.

What was even more amazing was how it then threaded itself in and out of the netting rolled and stacked on the tank stand.

When it reached the top it searched for purchase on the plastic tank but kept slipping, so it gave up and reverse-threaded its way back down and away.

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It is, I learnt, a Green Tree Snake, which can grow up to two metres long. This one was long enough!

It’s handsome and harmless, but maybe not so smart, to mistake a green tank for a tree?

Good management at Gloucester

February 26, 2015

In mid-December last year, after AGL had fracked the four wells at their Waukivory Pilot CSG project at Gloucester, the Protectors Camp that I was visiting went into recess, but not before one intrepid protector followed the tankers carrying the contaminated wastewater to find out what they were doing with it, as AGL had not replied […]

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Low life, high life

February 18, 2015
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In the four months I have been here I had not seen a snake of any sort. Given how many red-bellied blacks I shared my last mountain home with, and that here is equally wet and welcoming for such inhabitants, I have been on the alert, expecting to see their coastal cousins in the back […]

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Taking turns

February 4, 2015
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Before the current deluge began, the small birds appreciated my three-tier insulator bird bath. Two yellow robins, so numerous here, were happily taking turns at dips in the penthouse pool when a bigger contender landed nearby. It was clearly a honeyeater, but which of the umpteen and only slightly varied choices? Typically, the one I […]

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Midsummer moments

January 24, 2015
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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 […]

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