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.

Welcome wallies

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?

Love or lust

As I am still trying to sort out drainage here, my vegetable patch is still open to all visitors of the munchy type.

I have just tossed in seeds of whatever I had, wherever.

The cucurbits are doing well and are not tempting for munchers. But there is corn…

This beautiful young Eastern Red-necked Wallaby appeared to be eating naught but grass, so I had no complaints and no need to do other than admire.

Look at those neat little black paws!

This young one bolted as a female arrived — Mum? — closely followed by a largish male, levering himself up close with what seemed like clear intent.

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She wasn’t having any, however, and took off up the steep bank.

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How relieved I was to see that bub was up there and that this was a family reunion — love not lust? — and all was well. 

Taking it easy

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. 

Northern wildlife

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.

Critter bank

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.

October storms

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…

Another day in Paradise

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.

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The wallabies have been in clover — literally — as Spring has sprung with flushes of flowers on welcome plants and weeds alike.

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Birds arrive that I have not regularly seen here, to feed on blossoms and seed heads. Lorikeets hang upside-down in the callistemons, galahs waddlle through the yet unmown grass, beaks full of booty.

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Under the verandah roof the swallows are nestbuilding, perhaps even eggsitting by now, so this hopeful kookaburra keeps perching on the nearest star post.

The swallow parents divebomb his head relentlessly; he just keeps ducking. When they occasionally connect, he flinches, wobbles slightly, refluffs his feathers — and stays put.

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.

Morning treats

I am waking up around 5.30 a.m. here, and I am realising that, just as on my other mountain, I will be rewarded with ephemeral treats like this one when I do so.

There is so much to do that I don’t even want to stay in bed!

This house is built on a cut-and-fill site – much like where I was – but it’s quite a steep drop off the level strip in front of the house. By the time the sun was hitting the site, I’d breakfasted and unpacked three boxes of books.

Then I saw, through the rather grubby sliding glass doors, a pair of ears visible above the level of the bank.

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A young male, I think, and the same Eastern Redneck Wallaby variety that I am used to.

I said ‘Hello, you! Are you on your own? Welcome!! No harm here, mate; no dogs!’

He looked unimpressed, and took off across the slope. I saw him join a mate over on my boundary treeline.

I am overjoyed; there is wildlife here of the hoppy native sort, when I’d been half expecting rabbits.

Life and death

As my last week here begins with sunshine — for a change — I have been snapping the wallaby mums and joeys as they feed their way over the ‘lawn’. I shall miss them.

This very leggy young one (above) was unsteady out of the pouch, but nibbling along beside mum in beween ducking its head back into the pouch for a drink. It could barely fit under her; she ignored it when she wanted to move on. It just had to catch up and re-connect.

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But then I noticed that over near the Nashis another joey was still lying in the same position as an hour earlier. Its mum was just sitting nearby.

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The joey was clearly dead… and cold. No evident injury. Mum stayed near there for hours, even after the joey was removed. Normally she’d have moved further in her grazing. She looked sad — or was she unwell too?

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I wish I knew what they felt or thought…

Winter birds

A yellow Robin has appeared, flicking itself from one bush or tree or tree guard to another, more like a wind-blown leaf than a bird in flight.

It stays still in any one place for such a short time that it’s hard to get a photo of it. When it lands on the ground you only see its grey back. Usually I see one on its own but I have now spotted two at the same time, although you wouldn’t say they were together.

It appears not to have the grey throat of the illustration in my book, so although on its past seasonal visits I’ve called it a Southern Yellow Robin, now I’m not sure. Could it be a Pale Yellow Robin?

Then one time I heard it make a sound it sat on a small bare tree and went ’ ding, ding, ding, ding,ding, ding…’, non-stop, unvarying, sounding like my Thai temple bell in a stiff breeze.

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The magpies and the kookaburras are still about in abundance, although, like this kooka, they get in a huff at all the windy weather we’ve been having. I love the way to kookas go all punk and fluffily fat to keep warm.

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Of course the most envied critters here on cold wintry days are the pouched babies…

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