This striking silhouette met me the other morning. ‘Let me in!’ or ‘How the hell do I get down?’

The screen door wire is a bit floppy and it can’t have felt comfortable or secure for this creature.

I worried that its ultra-long and delicate toes would be stuck in the mesh…

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Gently sliding the door open, I looked him in the eye. I know you, I thought.

It’s a Jacky Lizard, my favourite of old, too seldom seen here.

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An extraordinary creature, a miniature marvel, with its stony camouflage, needlepoint tail and fine digits, although the camouflage was not so great for screenwire…

I don’t know what he was seeking or where he was headed but you’ll be pleased to know he retreated with fingers and toes intact, and I have since seen him on the deck. Or at least a quicksilver glimpse before he flipped off the edge and out of sight.

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I do miss my plentiful Crimson Rosellas, but today I saw my first King Parrot visitor for the summer fruit season here.

Always stunningly attired, this was one was also most relaxed, with no cats or dogs about.

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So much so, that for the first time I think I saw a parrot yawn…!

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But the mammals are getting pretty cruisey here too; the male wallaby who delighted my Air BnB guests this morning returned this evening to loll about near the house and clean his tail and ears.

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They are just starting to behave like my mates back up the Mountain.

I am so pleased. 

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Last week I travelled north to Queensland’s Atherton Tableland for a wedding. It was a laborious trip, sleeplessly overnight by train to Brisbane, and then by plane to Cairns. My friend Inge met me there and drove me back to her house near Lake Tinaroo.

It’s actually two pole houses, sensibly built in the middle of the two acre bush block, so the wildlife love it — and so do human visitors.

Sitting on the verandah at each bookend of the day, I saw many of the locals ambling through her garden.

I was told that this male (above) is a Bridled Nailtail Wallaby, of which there is a healthy group here, but the species is much diminished in locality and size and is now rare in  much of its former range.

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Apart from thirsty macropods, Inge’s bird baths and feeders attract many avian species.

Dozens of Red-browed Finches bustled about the feeder tray, alternating eating with cooling off in the nearby bird bath, flapping and splashing themselves and each other.

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The adjacent tap provided a perch for a procession of birds. several of which were unusual.

A bird-cluey friend thinks this is a Leaden Flycatcher, looking more blue and less flat-headed than my bird book shows.

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This rather intimidating bird is the magnificent and absurdly named Spangled Drongo. Its iridescence and spangles are not so obvious here as its vivid red eye, nor is its mermaid-forked and scalloped tail. This Drongo is the sole Australian species, and is migratory.

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Northern Yellow Robins are as cute as those down south, and as inquisitive. This one fancied the iron sculpture in Inge’s garden.
 
The Tableland itself proved to be amazingly diverse, from lush red soil agricultural plains to ancient volcanoes and dramatic waterfalls, from rainforest to dry scrub; tropical fruits and vegetables were offered at roadside stalls and at markets in the many quaint and often historic towns, like Yungaburra and Herberton.

I’ll be back with more time to explore… like the crater lakes…

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By the way, Inge is gearing up to offer the house above, from which I watched all this wildlife, for AirBnB stays.

As my house is on a cut-and-fill into the hillside, there is steep bank behind it, the view from my kitchen window.

I am gradually clearing it of weeds and making small terraces, pockets of soil for hardy vegetables like pumpkins to spread over its clay sides.

I am mulching it as I go. It is an inhospitable slope, habitat only for ants and spiders so far as I have seen.

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Last week I was distracted from the washing-up by a dark motionless shape there. What was it and was it alive or dead?

Sneaking out, camera in hand, I was delighted to see it was an Eastern Water Dragon (Physignathus lesueurii).

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An extraordinary creature up close, fiercesome of eye and fabulous of pattern, spiked and ridged and scale-armoured like a mini-dinosaur.

On my old mountain, his little cousin the Jacky Lizard was my favourite reptile.

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On top of the bank is grassed, mown by me and the wallabies.

It backs up to the weedy wilderness beyond the fenceline, which includes Lantana, a favourite habitat for the Water Dragons, I read.

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I am still charmed by these wallabies, and heartened to see them visiting me daily now and being far less wary. If they move off, it is only a little way.

Having been through this courtship process at my old property, I know we will eventually be happily cohabiting.

Stormy subtropical weather does not suit me. I am pining for drier, higher climes…

However, this climate does have its special effects that only happen here.

Like this week.  A brief storm and shower, then the mountain lowered its clouds into the valley.

But the day wasn’t over and the sun exerted its supremacy.

As the cloud rose back up, its indefinite lower edge was tinged with rainbow colours, like an oil slick. But no rainbow ‘bow’.

Was I seeing correctly?

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But as the sun won, the cloud was clearly cloud and the rainbow was a rainbow.

Just for a few moments they had merged identities. For me.

The three baby Willy Wagtails grew so very fast that in less than a week they were treading on top of each other in their tiny nest, and taking turns to flap their wings.

Hearing a prolonged — well, perpetual — chattering from the verandah, I went out to see both parents in a right tizz, and not wanting me there at all.

The reason was a young one, wedged in under a roof batten, a few metres from the nest.

I went inside to ease the panic and hope for the best. It seemed far too soon for a baby to be out.

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Ten minutes later the chattering was coming from two directions.  The baby had flown out to the vegie garden edging, so one parent had to keep watch out there, which it did from the top of the water tank.

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The airspace out here was being guarded even more vehemently, with a baby on the ground.

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But two more remained in the nest, so the parents had to patrol two nurseries.

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Not for long. Next day the nest was empty and the whole Wagtail family was doing aero wheelies out the back and taking their ease in the ti-trees.

Less than a week from eggy nestlings to daredevil teens!

This Spring the Welcome Swallows and the Willy Wagtails have both chosen to raise their families on my verandah.

The Willy Wagtails built a tidy and solid new nest, a smooth cylinder of cobwebs and grass and bodily fluids.

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The slack Swallows just re-used the old one; didn’t even shore up the crumbling structure, just did an interior makeover with more feathers.

But at least two of the Swallow babies survived and flew and still kept returning to the nest area as home base.

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When the Willy Wagtail decided hers was good enough, she sat. And sat. A rare occasion for the hyperactive Wagtail to be still long enough for me to get a photo.

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When she sat less often, I waited for the first peeps, but heard none. Compared to Swallow babies, these are quiet — just bundles of fluff and beak, huddled together in a tiny nest.

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There look to be four of them, as yet far less handsome than their dapper parents. They are all keen to be ready for a feed when a parent appears.

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The parents are kept frantically busy, catching food and returning to feed one chick at a time, putting their own beak right down the chick’s throat.

At this rate they’ll outgrow that nest very soon…

September was wet enough, but appropriately gentle.

October is delivering its rain in tropical tantrums, with sunshowers and rainbows and start-stop deluges.

This double rainbow appeared on the very first day of the month, to announce how things were going to be.

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A week later and we were treated to another fulsome beauty. Sadly, no pot of gold has ever been found by me, however hard I’ve looked.

The plants love the frequent drinks — not that they need extra encouragement to grow here. Weeds like dock are over my head already.

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This wallaby approves of the state of my ‘lawn’ at least.

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The swallow family don’t seem to mind being alternatively drenched and baked. Like me, they have to make the best of what the gods deliver…

Don’t miss this special offer

October 23, 2015
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Here’s a great offer from my publisher, Exisle — The Woman on the Mountain and Mountain Tails at just $A14.99 for the two. You can order direct from Exisle here, but be quick because stocks are limited.

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River love

October 14, 2015
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Young mum Nicky Coombes is passionate about her beautiful Bundook area, her Gloucester River, and her family’s right to clean air and water. As AGL’s coal seam gas project at Gloucester threatens all of these, she instigated a Gasfield-free Community survey in her Bundook locality. The first in the Gloucester region, the results showed that […]

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Another day in Paradise

October 7, 2015
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The end of a Spring day when the sun is still setting north of west brings the last of the light low over my ridge’s shoulder.  It finds the far escarpment and paints it gold. The wallabies have been in clover — literally — as Spring has sprung with flushes of flowers on welcome plants […]

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Sunflowers rule in Gloucester

September 24, 2015
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On six continents groups large and small gathered to creatively celebrate and soothe the earth that we have so grievously wounded by our gung-ho extractive industries. In Gloucester, the Knitting Nannas Against Gas had been making sunflowers of every hue and size for months. On the day, sunflowers sprouted all over town, even on the […]

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