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.

Moonwatch

My verandah is a great spot for watching the sunset light up the escarpment or the sunrise blush the sky over the ridge.

But only twice have I been lucky enough to be out there when the moon rose early enough for me to catch it creeping up past the ridgeline.

Once it popped into the sky it proved to be a glorious golden globe of a moon, a smiley one too, but its progress is what fascinated me.

It seemed a surprisingly slow moonrising until the trees released it to the sky. Then it soared, in its element.

Bad moon rising

The last full moon of 2016 first signalled its rising by an eerie backlighting of the many dark clouds that night. Then its round face appeared over the ridge, a glow through thin cloud.

Very soon dark riders and winged demons raced across to begin to quell the growing light.

Woven ropes of clouds were flung across the pale orb until heavier clouds could be brought in to put a total end to such interference with whatever dark deeds were afoot that night.

And yes, I am a fan of Tolkien as well as Creedence Clearwater…

Electric raptors

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.

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.

On the back of the wet

April ended in soft showers and wild storms, sunshowers and sunny patches, gentle grey drizzle and roof-rattling torrents.

We needed the actual water to fill the tanks and keep the creek flowing happily — and to fill my new pond.

But we also received bonuses with this mix of elements. The most striking were the rainbows.

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This one had an echo, a fainter twin following it across the greyness of the watery sky, seemingly separated by a band of darker sky. Or is that an illusion?

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The other bounty is what I have been waiting for all Autumn — the arrival of fungi. Only one so far — and a spectacularly beautiful fungus.

It’s large (that’s my gumboot next to it) a lacy ladies’ parasol, frilled and flocked, white with cream and caramel appliqués on top. I have seen this one before, although not here: Macrolepiota dolichaula.

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Welcome!

Now the rain has passed on and the sun is out, I expect more varieties to pop up. I have my eyes on fungi alert from now on…

Moody mountain

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!

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.

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.

Morning gold

It is chilly of a morning, tempting to stay cosy under the comforting weight of the blankets — and yes, I still use woollen blankets, not doonas.

Well, those blankets just haven’t worn out, some even after 45 years, as my wedding present Onkaparinga apple green one is. My frugality dictates that until they do, I’m not replacing them.

As regular readers know, I love sunrises. I have mattress height windows facing north-east, so a gently glowing one like this was more than enough to get me to throw back the covers and rush for coat and camera to share it with you.

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Even when there are few clouds to cause a real riot, I appreciate the subtleties and the purity of the colours.

The sun itself is rising further to the east, so to the right of the photo, behind my forest.

Down here at my cabin it is barely out of darkness.

But I’m out of bed, and I will stay up. Put the kettle on, turn on Radio National — let the day begin!

Early bird treat

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a really vivid sunrise here — and that’s not because I’ve been lazing in bed! As winter draws on, I might well do that, but the days are just perfect at present.

So this torrid beauty was an especially welcome gift — just to remind me.

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The colours alter so swiftly, you could be excused for missing out on a scene change. From bold to gold, bright to light.

Morning glories

Being up and about early has so often gifted me unexpected and ephemeral sights here that I feel I’ve missed something – or might have – when I sleep in.

At about 900 metres elevation, we do catch clouds often. They may be slow to lift, waiting for the new sun to warm them and lighten the load. But when they do, the two elements can create wonders.

At moments like these, I can see how folk might have thought they were having visions of enlightenment as the figure reaches out its arms to them.

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Even when the effect of a figure has dissipated, the long rays continue to find their way though the forest for many photogenic minutes more.

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