Woman on the move

As you know, I love sunrises. This clearly not at my place. Actually, I don’t have a ‘place’ right now. For the next month I am homeless! The Woman is on the move, national park hopping to re-connect with nature, before I have to live in a house… in a town (!) … but with no neighbours except a wooded wetlands reserve, so my treetops will house lots of birds to share with you.

This sunrise is at Crowdy Bay National Park. Wild winds and whipped seas accompanied my first morning but it was worth braving the 6am weather for this golden welcome back to nature.

By contrast, the tea-brown creek outlet on the walk back to camp was calm.

And at my camp, the much-missed wildlife awaited me, with an Eastern Grey Kangaroo grazing close by.

To top it off, next an Eastern Red-necked Wallaby with pouched joey levered her way across the soft grass.

Colour me perfect

Looking out of my eastern window, I was struck by how perfectly the colours of the fur of the Eastern Red-necked Wallaby match those of the local rocks, here laid as a tank base. They really belong.

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Not three metres away I spotted an echidna; not so camouflaged in my yard, but good to see as they’ve been absent lately, no doubt busy aerating other slopes. You can easily twist an ankle in my orchard in the many holes they’ve dug.

Like the wallabies, they have flea problems, but they are at least equipped with an extra long claw to get at them and scratch amongst the spines.

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Now, in this non-stop rain, from my wet verandah I see that the wallabies and roos are still out there doing what they must, bedraggled and darkened but hopefully dry underneath their fur.

A few are sheltering under my verandah, but most want to be feeding.

This mother seemed to me to be exhibiting supreme patience as her big joey drank… and drank… and drank… while the wind whipped the cold rain around them. I hope he’s grateful.

World’s edge

Some mornings when we have been inside a cloud, as it rises it leaves us lightly damp and not yet sunlit, but the valleys below me are bright.

I imagine the wallaby inhabitants down there looking up to see the cloud cap lifting off my mountain.

I can also imagine that my tree-rimmed clearing is perched on the edge of the world.

And it often does feel like our own remote world, just me and the wallabies and the roos and the teeming other creatures that share this refuge with us.

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The kangaroos are the big bosses here, especially the males. I take care not to approach or look too interested in roo families, for fear the blokes will feel obliged to flex those impressive shoulder muscles to prove who’s tops.

Amongst the feeding wallabies this male is alone, which is usual, but as I posted a few weeks ago, one family is feeding together frequently. In the damp preceding day I had seen them again, a bedraggled but still tight nuclear trio.

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One day…

In any given day here I can be offered small moments of splendour or surprise.

One day last week I had three.

It began with a shining morning, where the low early sun set the leaves on trees and shrubs and even the bracken ferns to sparkle and dazzle. A solitary wallaby sat amongst the tussocks, backlit and bright-edged.

 Later in the morning a rare family group of kangaroos grazed amongst the spent jonquil bulb leaves. 

Usually I see the mum and joey together and the male separate, or else only following close to them when he thinks she might be on heat. 

There’s  been quite a bit of that going on lately, leading to a few barneys between old and young competing males.

But this trio stayed together for ages: the family that feeds together…?

And then, when the sun had set in the west and my forest had passed into darkness, this high bank of northern clouds took fire. Turner, eat your heart out!

Mountain wishes

Before the holiday season starts, on behalf of all the Mountain critters and myself, this jonquil-happy kangaroo joey is here to wish you all a safe and peaceful break from routine.

Hope you have some quiet time to unwind and smell the roses — if you are somewhere wallabyless — or just lie back and watch the clouds.

Whatever you’re up to, it’s better if Nature’s involved — and I don’t just mean the mossies.

And wherever you’re going, please drive there safely!

Drying out roos

After six inches of rain in a week, all of us here on the mountain were fed up with the incessant wet.

When the sun came out on Saturday, so did the hoppy animals.

It dries out quicker in the open, like in my yard, so the roos and wallabies crowded in for drying space. I did my washing, with the solar power batteries bubbling away again, and they lolled about.

Obviously a week of rain favours the bitey critters that annoy these furry ones – not to mention the scourge of leeches that proliferate in the wet weather.

So when they weren’t sun-snoozing, they were scratching. No matter to them where they lolled — or where they scratched.

In a wide variety of poses, their efficient claws were put to use on their very flexible bodies.

In a way, it felt like I’m running a resort, a gym-cum-sun spa, for macropods.

Weatherwise roos

The carport on my old shed has been adopted by the roo family as a favourite shade spot, now that spring is feeling like summer more often. It’s nicely dusty too, so they can swish their tails and roll about to help with the annoying insects.

The magpie attendant is there for the same purpose, I assume, to their mutual benefit.

Of course it’s less convenient for the roos when I park the ute in there, but being adaptable creatures, they simply lie underneath it. 

I have already learnt to check for echidnas under there before I get in and start it up, but so far the roos move off when I actually reach them.

And when the hot weather creates a sudden sunshower, as it did the other day, the nearest garden tree or shrub will do for them and their maggie mate. I do wonder if it’s the same two roos and the same magpie.

Twisteroo

The kangaroos are being driven crazy at present with some sort of bitey insects. They are choosing to lie in any dusty spots, which are mainly on the track, where their swishing tails sweep it smooth. 

This male grey kangaroo was ‘caught short’ by the horse flies or fleas or whatever they are, just inside my gate. (There’s no fence now, just a gate!)

His contortions to reach them were impressive for such a big fellow.

Claws and teeth are employed in search of relief; he’s better at reaching those awkward spots than I am.

Job done, he glances around and notices me watching through the window. The look he gives me — ‘So what are you gawking at?’ –—makes me feel a little ashamed of my voyeurism.

‘Sorry,’ I say, ‘but I’m admiring you!’

I am very glad these big fellows are coming in more often; they are still wary. I hope they will accept my respect and that I will keep my distance. In turn, to see them lying down at their ease, big as ponies, in my yard, is a true honour.

Flower roos

Beneath the new green leaves of the birch trees, the fading yellow jonquils and Erlicheers and the fresh yellow and white daffodils — whose name I’ve forgotten — quietly clump and multiply and delight each year. The iris aren’t so prolific.

I was amused to see the kangaroo family choose this little grove of flowering bulbs for a munch and a snooze in the sun. They are quite delicate in eating the native grass between the bulbs without flattening much.

I am so grateful that they don’t fancy bulb leaves or flowers!

The joey had been asleep in the centre of the flowers, but popped up to peep over and check out the world as I watched. Not too tough a life in this refuge.

Travelling with Mum

Older joeys, so big they are jack-knifed into their mum’s pouch to fit at all, still get to ride in comfort when they like.

In this cold weather, they like.

This Eastern Grey Kangaroo mum keeps feeding along, levering her large back feet forward as needed with no regard for the small feet and head that are often in the way. It’s clearly the joey’s responsibility to move.

She’s doing enough, just giving him a ride in her fur-lined carrier bag and eating to keep up the milk supply.

Front paws on the ground, walking with her, the joey takes a nibble of grass now and then, but mostly he’s too busy investigating the world of his Mum’s travels. Ears pricked like a puppy, he is curious about everything, in every direction.

The Wallaby, Kangaroo and Wallaroo groups that live here are endlessly fascinating. Here’s a relevant extract from my 2007 book, The Woman on the Mountain, from Chapter 4, ‘An introduction to society’.  

My society is more macropod than human…

As any mother will tell you, life’s a lot easier before the kids become mobile. As the pouch-bound joey grows, it’s not unusual to see mother and joey eating in tandem, the big-eyed baby ‘practice grazing’ on what it can reach from the safety of the pouch as the mother slowly levers her way across the grass. If she stops and sits erect to check me out, the baby might withdraw until all I can see poking out are its black nose and eyes, ears hidden inside the furry parka hood of its mother’s pouch.

Bigger joeys, spending more and more time out of the pouch, each try their mother’s patience by interrupting her grazing to demand a drink of milk. When she decides that the guzzler has had enough, she pushes it aside and resumes grazing. At other times I see a mother holding her wriggling joey still with one dainty black paw while searching for fleas in the soft baby fur with the other. The joey cringes exactly like a child does when you want to wipe its face or comb its hair. ‘Aw, Mu-um!’

When the alarm goes up for the group to take flight, which they do in a very helter-skelter, every-wallaby-for-itself kind of way, these toddlers often rush to get back into the safety of their respective pouches, but it’s a terrible headfirst scramble and squeeze, and usually the mother takes off with a tangle of tail and long black feet and paws still hanging out. Or else the joey doesn’t notice her leaving, and when it suddenly becomes aware that it’s alone, goes hurtling off in any direction. Pure panic — just like any three-year-old in a department store who looks around and can’t see Mum. 

As they’re allowed to remain in the pouch for about ten months, they’re quite big by the time the mothers evict them. Only then will the females give birth to the babies they had waiting in the wings, so to speak. Even with new ones in the pouch, they still suckle the expelled older joeys until they are well over a year old. New and old joey have a special teat each, from which they receive custom-designed milk. How clever is that? 

Patient Mother Roo

I can’t recall how Pooh Bear’s macropod mother and child were allotted the names of Kanga and Roo, but here they are.
I saw this rather awkward drinking session on the bank outside a bedroom window.

It went on and on and on; he was a big and very thirsty Eastern Grey joey.

The mother was almost asleep; the was almost overbalancing on the slope, but he kept his mouth stuck right inside her pouch, latched onto that nipple, until he’d had enough. Or else his neck had.

With a sigh, long-suffering mother and her sated joey immediately set to post-breakfast  ablutions, licking and scratching various parts. I’d say a nap was next on the list.

Stormy roos

October has been a variable month, veering from warm to cold to freezing, from spring buds and seedling growth to blossom profusion.

And then we had a wild storm or two, one close to gale force, with winds roaring like freight trains, smashing branches and trees down and shredding gumleaves like confetti on the ground.

In fact that Saturday afternoon it had felt like it might snow, and I’d said so to a visiting friend. There was a laugh and the comment ‘You’ve got about as much chance of winning the lottery as getting snow in October!’

As if on cue, only minutes later — through the kitchen window we saw, briefly, lightly, but unmistakably, the graceful swirling downwards dance of snow. There was another flurry later. My friend is buying a lottery ticket.

The other storm was not so cold or wild, but wet and loud, with thunder and tiny hail and rain like driven nails on the roof.

I watched from the verandah, bemused because the kangaroo family hadn’t sought denser shelter than my garden trees. Was it to do with the lightning?

They slightly changed the direction of their positions but did not move from their chosen trees. I’d have thought a birch tree would give little shelter.

And from where I stood, I couldn’t see one wallaby in the yard.

When the drama was over and the sun had retired, summer storm-style, life returned to normal grazing — except beneath bedraggled pelts of wet fur.

The wallabies must have been somewhere near, for the first one I spotted was this rather confused joey next to my house tank. Maybe they had been under the verandah? I hadn’t thought to look.

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