Cheap thrills

One of the benefits of wintry mornings is that the sun rises later according to the clock, so I need not bolt out of bed at 5.30 a.m. to catch the event.

In fact I can catch it from my bed now, being the end of autumn.

On this particular morning the light flooding my room was so glowingly golden that I knew a beauty was occurring. Bolt out of bed I did, and scurry for the camera. 

It was chilly, but I didn’t wait to throw on more layers, knowing how very ephemeral the sight would be.

Pure gold … and not even a cheap thrill, but free!

As I write this and look over at the shades of grey and white that fill the sky where that glory had so recently been, I don’t like to say it’s banal by comparison, but it is!

At least it is changing constantly, being composed of clouds. Plain blue sky is but a background wash awaiting clouds to give it life.

If you have doubts about that, do check out The Cloud Appreciation Society site.

Shaped by land

It’s Autumn, so many locals are burning off their grasslands, or setting fire to their stacked bonfires of fallen branches and creek logjam clearings.

Being Autumn, it’s also a time of misty mornings and low-angled sunray surprises in this valley.

This particular morning I was treated to a combination of them both, as the sun’s warmth rekindled the night-dampened bonfire into smoke and released the paddock’s dew into rising mist. Only the smoke’s more blue colouring gave it away.

Autumn evenings bring early dark to the valley, while the far escarpment holds the last of the setting sun’s light.  It also often holds the gathered moisture of the day in a long rolling breath along the ridgeline, hugging the last of the land before becoming sky clouds.

The Big Wet

In one week, another 416mm of pounding rain fell, flooding the creeks and closing the roads, strewing logs and stacking beaver dams at fences and bridges and crossings that got in its way.

The skies cleared one evening and the moisture began to separate into creeks and clouds, as they should. It heralded the dawning of our one fine day… which just happened to coincide with our village Fair!

But the wet returned with soggy monotony, more of the driveway gravel came down the hill to visit … and even more fungi appeared, so large and so many that they were obvious even from a distance.

They popped in gold flushes out of palm tree stumps, in pale lilac ripples out of grass.

Parasols opened in pure white profusion while on the opposite side of beauty, two sole fat white drumsticks turned black and crusty overnight.

Daintiness returned with tiny white pinheads on an exposed dead root.

Mysterious red moss-like filaments on a long and alive casuarina root caught my eye… but is this fungi?

Sky mimics

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.

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

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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.

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One of the reasons I just have to live near mountains is that they never look the same.

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Sunlit or moonglowed, gaily golden, broodingly black or morning misted, their interaction with the sky and the light makes for a perpetually changing visual feast.

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As at my old Mountain home, I can never decide which I prefer. But then, I don’t have to choose, because I can have them all!

Rainbow or cloud?

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.

Morning glories

Spring is here, with welcome rain freshening the creek, which had slowed and dropped alarmingly.

Having only one tank here, when I used to have four, is nerve-wracking.

Nights are still cool enough for a fire, and mornings are bright and crisp.

Not so crisp as to make me want to stay in bed, however. I am happy that the light is waking me up earlier, so sunrises are back on my radar.

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Dews are heavy of a morning, bringing endless varieties of bejewelled webbing designs.

The grand she-oaks are especially favoured, with one branch bearing an unusual flag-shaped web.

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The small Acacia Baileyana wattle that I planted only months ago had not been forgotten. 

It hasn’t flowered yet, but who needs flowers when you have strings of pearls?

Midsummer moments

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?

Sky specials

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.

New mountain moods

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.

Cloud lake

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The large man-made Lake St Clair can create fabulous effects at times. Sadly, many trees were drowned in its making, but their standing skeletons can be beautiful… and eerie.

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If I pass it early enough on a winter morning the sun hasn’t lightened the night’s cloud creations enough for them to totally dissipate and head back up to where they belong.

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As I look back towards Mt Royal across the sunlit lake-trapped sea of clouds, I cherish such short-lived effects.

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Especially as I know there are only a limited number of times that I will make this trip before I move.

Man-made beauty

On the way up to my Mountain, I drive around a man-made lake. It’s actually Glennies Creek Dam, but the recreational part is called Lake St Clair.

The highest knob towards the left is Mount Royal, sort of where I am heading for home.

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If you ignore the bits where the dead trees still stand reproachfully, slowly drowned, it can make a very beautiful scene. It has many moods and many weathers, from mist to cloud to white-capped waves to brilliant mirror finish.

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The mountain range catches clouds and makes it own weather. I can fantasise that I am in Scotland and this is a loch, not a man-made lake.