The unmistakable rusty and incessant whinging of a young Yellow-tailed Cockatoo came floating in my kitchen window.

I followed the sound to a twin stump, where the ‘baby’ was atop one and the mother was at work in the fork of the other, ripping away bark with her beak.

The young of these big Black Cockatoos resemble the females, and I could tell the demolisher was a female from its pale coloured beak.

The father was keeping watch from a high branch of a nearby casuarina; you can see his distinguishing dark bill and brighter eye ring. Both sexes have that broad pale yellow band across the tail. This tail is almost half their total body length, so very noticeable in flight.

The mum was clearly finding something tasty, likely grubs of some sort, amidst the wreckage of the bark, stopping now and then to eat them, but at no time did I see her feed the whining young. Serve him right!

He got bored and flew about a bit, but not too far away, which made Dad move closer to keep guard.

Then the kid got the idea and began ripping at bark himself; unfortunately not the right sort of old bark, but at least he had the idea. Maybe Mum rewarded him with a grub after that, but when I next looked they had all three taken off to the creek.

This is the very efficient stump demolition achieved by one very strong beak, in about 20 minutes!

{ 0 comments }

I get so few visits from more than one wandering wallaby that I was delighted to see this little trio of game boys venture in right near the house one early evening after rain.

They are the same Eastern Red-necked Wallabies that I lived with — in such great numbers — at my old Mountain home. As I have now been here two years, I had hoped that the word would have got around that no dogs lived here any more.

This gang of young males were not afraid, didn’t mind me opening the verandah door to take these shots, but were wary, as is only right.

But I miss my old familiars, the mothers and joeys always hanging about the yard. Patiently, hopefully, I await their discovery of my sanctuary. There is a sign on the gate; maybe they are less educated over here?

{ 2 comments }

Drivers along the Lakes Way just south of Forster have been doing doubletakes as they pass this aerial edifice.

After watching my Willy Wagtails’ teeny effort, this massive pile of branches seemed hardly birdlike.

I only had time to zoom in on the remaining parent. I’d been thinking a White-breasted (or White-bellied) Sea Eagle, but this has to be an Osprey. They are raptors like Eagles, Kites, Harriers and Goshawks, but are a class of their own.

No doubt the absent parent was off patrolling the nearby waterways. Ospreys are highly specialised fish hunters, having spines on the soles of their feet to help hold a slippery fish, as well as needle-sharp talons.

I haven’t seen it but they are also spectacular fishers, plunging into water feet first to seize a fish, sometimes going right under.

One of my bird books (‘Australia — Land of Birds’,Trounson) reckons their eggs are considered amongst the most beautiful of all — ‘cream, boldly blotched and dotted with rich brown and chocolate’ —  and much prized by collectors in the past.

So it is not surprising that Ospreys choose to build beyond collector or little boy climbing height — with the extra security of a high-voltage hit to the daring.

North of Mudgee, Wollar village is littered with evidence of the progress and prosperity that original owner Excel promised would come to the community once the Wilpinjong mine was under way.

Peabody, ’The Big American’, bought it, the mine began in 2006, and Wollar soon felt the impact indeed…

Noise, both audible and low frequency, air pollution from blasting, ‘dust’ and spontaneous combustion.

wollar-2

Stage Two made the village almost unliveable and better houses in the village were bought by the mine and rented to mine employees, who can’t complain. People left, the community was decimated, and the surrounding farms lost their focus.

The one-stop shop offered less and less. The mine owns this church, and only a handful of kids still attend the school — for how long?

wollar-3

The Queensland town of Acland was emptied in advance of a stage 3 approval. In the Rich Land, Wasteland chapter about this area –Cumbo Valley, Wollar, Ulan and Bylong – in 2012 I wrote, ‘Wollar is Acland-in-progress’. That chapter is all-too-aptly called ‘Clearing out the country’ and the truth in 2016 is heart-wrenching. 

Now, as the remaining villagers and outliers await Stage 3 here, Wollar is looking more and more like Acland.

Some homes have been demolished but many are being left to fall down, with the security signs the only new things around. Echoes of Wybong.

wollar-4

Eerily, as at Acland, the grass verges are still mowed.

wollar-5

The large Wollar Hall is still as hale as ever, but the community that once filled it for dances is not. 

Residents told of feeling nauseous of a morning from the spontaneous combustion from the mine, of the coal dust on everything, of the vibrations from the heavy coal trains, of the ‘hum’ waking them in the early hours of the morning, of the sadness as neighbours left, of all the work that has been put into their places over decades, of those memories created, of their still strong desire to remain. 

Those outliers who will be impacted — and left stranded without a village — told of the lack of any offers to be compensated or bought out.

wollar-6

I went back up the Wollar/Ulan road to see how far the mine had come since my last visit. It has crept a lot closer to the village but it’s a hard mine to see from the road, as it’s flat country, and the coal deposits are near the surface, so the overburden heaps are not as high as in the Hunter. 

It’s very poor quality coal so the overburden heaps have coal visibly mixed in them, which is not usual. This coal is contracted for Bayswater Power Station, where it has to be mixed with better coal to be burnt.

wollar-7

On the evening of Monday 28th November the few locals hosted a few supporters like me, Steve from Lock the Gate, the O’Laughlins from Bulga and the four fabulous ladies from East Maitland to the sort of country hospitality Wollar was known for. A BBQ, fresh salads and cakes — and many sad stories and wishes for Peabody to stop, to leave them and their remnant village be.

Wollar Progress association has been revived, to fight on for real progress, not Peabody’s.

For this community is not dead yet; it could be revived if Peabody is denied their expansion and made to minimise the existing noise impacts regardless of the cost.

Another 11 years of Peabody’s disregard for the community’s health is more than enough; if Peabody is bankrupt, and can’t afford to operate even within inadequate conditions, why consider allowing them to continue the actual harm longer?

When did Profit get to hold such sway in our Planning Dept.? When did People and Planet get to count for nothing?

To ‘Save Wollar’ is the aim of the villagers and supporters.

It is clearly not that of the state government, who sent the project to a PAC hearing last Tuesday, removing any public right of appeal to a decision. ICAC recommended these merits appeal rights be restored for coal mine approvals.
Who is listening?

Sick of this farce of a process, it was decided to boycott the PAC; to make written submissions but not to attend or speak. After all, what use is just five minutes to plead for survival?

wollar-8

Boycott rallies were held in Mudgee, outside the hearing, and in Sydney.

wollar-9

Justifiably, passions were high. The indomitable Bev Smiles, a Wollar area local, told us straight how the government now admit — in print — that they got it wrong about the social impacts that Wollar would suffer, but they reckon it’s irreversible, so Peabody may as well wipe put the rest.

Local Seamus Duffy tugged at our heartstrings as he sang a rewritten John Pryne song, originally about mountaintop mining. We joined in the chorus as a son asks to be taken back to Wilpinjong Valley, and the father replies,’Sorry my son, you’re too late in asking, for Peabody’s coal trains have hauled it away’.

wollar-10

We heard speeches about the impacts on water, indigenous heritage and climate change, and songs from Mick Fetch, whose roots lie deep in Wollar, whose family lie in Wollar cemetery. Mick had tried to buy that church above, but they refused and sold it to the mine.

I avoid the coal-Hunter as much as I can; my heartsickness is too great.

After I spoke at Tarwyn Park’s last day I came back to the Manning via Lithgow and Sydney to avoid it. Ridiculous, I know.

This time I took the Golden Highway. 

wollar-11

Jerry’s Plains, horse country, under threat.

Another village to be pushed to the verge of extinction?

wollar-12

And off to the west towards Bulga and east towards Muswellbrook, glimpses of the all-too-familiar clean country air and picturesque overburden mountains of the coal-trashed Hunter.

And still Planning pushes for more…

As expected, when I returned from a few days away, the Willy Wagtails’ chicks were hatched and hungry. Silent though, unlike the demanding magpie baby in the tree near my bedroom.

wagtials-2

It was soon clear there were three little mouths to be stuffed, and given that they were constantly opening and shutting, I was amazed that the parents managed to get any food down those throats.

Both mother and father were finding food at frantic pace; sometimes the offerings seemed inappropriate, like a whole moth that the parent kept trying to fit in one after another of the tiny beaks. It failed, and flew off, I assume to eat the moth itself.

wagtails-3

The feeding worked rapidly, the babies fattened and fluffed and soon were jampacked in that tiny nest.

wagatails-5

A few days later, it was clear that one baby was top bird; there is always one. This one began stretching wings, standing on top of the others, almost falling out.

wagtails-6

Then came the morning when he stretched them so far that he did, landing on the timber and wondering where he was — and how far down he might fall.
At some stage he discovered he needn’t fall, as he could fly — and did.

It was a worrying time for the parents, trying to protect both the nest babies and the newly departed one. They were chattering warnings at me incessantly. And they were still feeding the whole three.

wagtails-7

Next morning I spotted him in a ti-tree at the other side of the house, looking cold — and probably wondering why he’d left that warm nest. He went back to visit the neighbourhood but didn’t fly up to the nest. I was impressed that he’d found his way.

wagtails-8

Then one more of his siblings made the break.

Mother tried to encourage the last one out of the nest, but no. So now the parents had three separate nursery sites.

wagtails-9

So at last the littlest of the litter had the nest to itself.

wagtails-10

As night fell, I saw that the two braver ones had returned briefly to be near their sibling, to encourage, embolden? 

‘Come on, you can do it; you just flap your wings and it works; you can’t stay there by yourself forever…’

wagtails-11

They were discovered next morning huddled together back on the same ti-tree branch. The night had been cool.

wagtails-12

As the day warmed them all up, the last baby decided to join them. Given they were not vocalising much I am surprised that it found them. The parents were still keeping watch, and still feeding.

wagtails-13

By mid-day the two bolder babies were flying and moving between ti-trees, especially as two honeyeaters were giving strong messages that this was their tree, causing much panicked chattering and swooping from the parents. 

But the last baby clung to that branch despite all, looking frail and frightened.

wagtails-14

It being Spring, the Willy Wagtail mum has been busily readying last year’s nest for the 2016 brood.
The nest had looked perfectly serviceable, as it was as neat and symmetrical as she had originally made it.

However she seemed driven to add another layer, which brings it alarmingly close to the verandah roof.
While this is insulated, I fear for the babies if we get more summer-like early heat. 

Mum is now on the nest more than off, so I assume she has laid eggs. Dad spends his time dive-bombing magpies to keep them away.

incomong-2

The other new regular visitor is a King Parrot, solo and talkative.

He has been sitting on my vegie garden’s bamboo posts and — I swear — chattering to me.

I have taken to standing at my back door and chattering back.

incoming-3

He does not fly off when I go to fetch the camera.

Next time I will dare to step closer than the verandah and get a sharper shot.

As at my old Mountain, the sky here is as important for my visual delectation as the land.

And I am as fanciful about what it offers.

Like this sunrise, where the billowing white foreground cloud looked so like bushfire smoke, unlikely as that was, that I had to go out and sniff the air to check.

sky-mimic-2

Or this moonrise, where the full moon looked for all the world like a celestial bowling ball rolling down the ridge…

sky-mimic-3

Or this early morning, where the upper grey cloud layer was moving quite fast to the north, while the lower dark one was pretending to be a further mountain range.

I have a lot of Kookaburras here — often called more fully Laughing Kookaburras, rarely called by their scientific name, Dacelo gigas.

As they do live in family groups, comprising several generations, that’s not surprising.

There are enough big trees left along the creek sides that they must have found enough nesting hollows to keep the family safe.

kookaburra-2

My bird book notes that they ‘spend much time on conspicuous perches scanning ground for prey’. 

They are part of the Kingfisher family, but my sort ‘fish’ mainly for worms or whatever else meaty that dares to pop its head up in the short grass. Snakes, lizards, rodents insects — even small birds; that massive beak is very effective.

Here they have favourite perches — the shed roof, star posts, corner posts, several useful horizontal tree branches, but they are usually solo on these perches.

However, lately I’ve been seeing a pair, sitting as close as they can, swapping views from front to back, sharing the scanning?

Are they brothers, sisters, parent and grown child? The latter do stay around to help defend territory, feed new broods and care for fledglings. 

Kookaburras live for about 20 years and hang about in the same area; they also mate for life.

I can’t tell male from female but my book says the males often have a blue patch on the rump. As if I’m likely to get a glimpse of that…

Where green rules

September 23, 2016
Thumbnail image for Where green rules

When you move to a new area, life is busy setting up your own place and you only take time off for regional sightseeing when you have visitors. Tapin Tops National Park near Wingham is one regional sight I’ve been meaning … and meaning…to see. Last week I did. It’s high, with the access a […]

Read the full article →

Finch flurries

September 12, 2016
Thumbnail image for Finch flurries

Now that Spring is showing itself and the weeds amongst my ‘lawn’ are seeding, clouds of teeny grass finches are harvesting them. The ones now visiting are gorgeous little birds — Red-browed Finches, native to Eastern Australia’s coastal edge, or at least east of the Dividing Range. They have a red rump, pink legs, a […]

Read the full article →

Casuarina honey

August 24, 2016
Thumbnail image for Casuarina honey

For about a week I have had a constant hum in my ears. Given I was recently diagnosed with moderate hearing loss, nothing would surprise me. But then a visitor heard it too, and sensibly wondered where the bees were. Not many plants are flowering right now, so I was at a loss. Until I […]

Read the full article →

Last post at Tarwyn Park

August 10, 2016
Thumbnail image for Last post at Tarwyn Park

The coal train rumbled past behind Tarwyn Park, as it often does on its route to and from Newcastle’s coal port and the Western Coalfields, where the Ulan, Moolarben and Wilpinjong mines are busy trashing other valleys, other villages. But on this last day of July 2016, it seemed an unwarranted rubbing in of salt […]

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Read the full article →