Water works

Where I had lived for the past 4 years it had rained a lot — and very often only there, in that exact part of this spectacular valley, while adjacent areas missed out.

Where I live now has been hanging out for some of that rain, with the ponds almost dry and even this sole duck wandering the roads looking for wetter pastures.

But after a week of wet days, some deluges and much drizzle, the wetlands flood mitigation works below my place is roaring with white water, the channels are overflowing and smoothing pathways through the Wandering Jew ground cover that dominates.

This makes beautiful patterns with the water — and can be forgiven for the moment for its invasiveness.

Not to be forgiven are the tides of plastic rubbish waiting to swell and overflow their pools.

Waiting to catch them is this steel rubbish trap, through which the water pours, into the stormwater drain that runs under the road to the next creek. These traps are why my house will hopefully not be flooded ever again, as it was in the 70s, long before these water works were undertaken and the forest planted around them.

The solitary road-running Black Duck has found the freshened and filled ponds, but so far no other water birds can be seen.

Having just watched some of ‘Drowning in Plastic’, a BBC series on our appalling plastic waste and what it is doing to our waterways and water creatures, I am aware how lucky we are to have those traps to stop even this amount of plastic heading down to the Manning River and out to sea

Puddles/ponds/pools

My adjoining wetland has had no wet flowing into it for ages, and the larger pool was pinkish and abandoned by the ducks because it was too dry. Rubbish was the main occupant of the various dips where swamps or pools used to be.

Then last night we had a little rain — and a rainbow!

Naturally, next day I went down to see if the birds had gone back yet. No, but they had found a smaller pool — or a bigger puddle — and were happily ensconced there.

The two beautiful Black Ducks above were there.

One stayed on the muddy edge — on guard? — while the other splashed and dabbled and ‘upped tail’, fully immersing to be the cleanest duck around — if such muddy water could do it. The sexes look the same, so I had no idea who was guarding whom.

When the swimming duck came ashore, it set about busily cleaning under its wings, showing the striking flash of colour of its operculum. My book says it’s ‘glossy green’; I had described it as turquoise and emerald but I can see here it also has a lilac edge.

What a stunning surprise in such a tailored brown bird — like flashing exotic undies…!

But the Ducks weren’t the only waterbirds to be using the newly added water.

A White-necked Heron was patrolling the far edges of the adjoining puddle. More wary of me than the Ducks, it several times flew across to the other side… not wanting to get its feet muddy?

I no longer have a rain gauge as I did in the country, so I will have to go by the wildlife’s use of the puddles/ponds/pools as to whether we have had enough rain for their lives on the big pool to resume.

Not yet.

From swamp to stream

Normally I have a view of a swamp, algae covered except where ducks forge a path. It’s the most permanent of a deliberately created wetlands complex of often dry depressions, built for flood mitigation with metal traps to catch debris.

I don’t usually get to see white water or hear it rushing through the forest, yet after a few days of welcome heavy rain, my swamp is transformed as it does its job of moving water.

Weedy sinks are pools, low-lying parts of the forest are semi-submerged and a small creek has found a path through the bottom of my garden.

And I know you’ve probably seen enough of these fungi, but I love that they are so prolific, with new colonies appearing every few days in this wet weather.

Water is Life!

Watery wins

The delicately feathered lilac curls of the native Melaleuca thymifolia are a relief as well as a delight to see, as these swamp-loving small shrubs have only been in for about six months.

They will only grow to about 2 metres and will hide my shed from view for verandah sitters.

Willows love water and my little willow is now taller than me. I did plant it to help soak up a wet spot, and so it does. It will be a magnificent summer shade tree in years to come.

I had bought the cheapest ($30) little fountain I could find online, as a tester. I am amazed at how much it enhances my little pond, adding sparkles and ripples and splashes, varying its spray height with the strength of the sun. I have come to regard it as a little creature, part of the pond life, and I enjoy watching its varied moods. It even works in a sun shower.

The mosses are thick and glowing like furry jewels, with tiny golden fungi flowers bringing bursts of sunshine on a grey day.

While appreciating the bonuses it brings, I am as sick of the rain as this Willy Wagtail, who may not be able to see the watery wins as I do.

But of course with the sort of showers and sun roundabouts we’ve been getting, we are at least blessed with a rainbow now and then.

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?

Post-deluge fungi

Wet, wet weather and just enough warmth still in the air to cause a whole new aspect of life to come forth and blossom … fungi.

This beauty unfurled out of the top of a palm stump that has sat there unadorned for two years.

Way down in the paddock, a smattering of white glimpsed from the house, demands investigation. Up close they are cinnamon coated narrow domes as babies, maturing to large cream umbrellas still carrying their cinnamon, as flakes.

Walking back up to the house level, a very large single white blob proves to be one that I know, the stunning parasol, Macrolepiota dolichaula.

Its pure delicacy and detail still amazes me, as does the charm of that faint toasted marshmallow blush on top.

On the soggy house lawn there are drifts of smaller lemony circlets that turn up their edges and flash their gills as they age.

I thank Nature for the unexpected flashes of fungi of whatever colour, size or quantity!

Post-deluge frogs

It’s autumn, and I welcome the cooler mornings, but we are also having daily deluges more like tropical summer storms.

In the first five days of March we had 124 mm — or six inches if you’re my age — and that’s on top of what we’d already received in 2017. 

By New Year it had become so dry that small native trees were dying, citrus were turning up their toes, my creek had stopped running and its isolated pools were becoming stagnant. 

But from January 2 we’ve now totted up nearly 15 inches!

These brief but astonishingly intense autumn rainbursts make a joke of my carefully planned drainage systems, with pop-up waterfalls taking much of my soil down to the creekflats below. 

They have filled and overfilled the ‘pond’ that has been bone dry for months.

Up close, they looked more like aquatic mini rats, with their pointy noses and long tails.

Next day they seemed to be less often swimming under the water than hanging from the surface vertically, blowing bubbles, opening and closing their mouths in air. 

Clearly not fish nor rats but growing amphibians… froglets, frogs, soon to be adding to the frog chorus here!

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…

Horse Houdini

The other Saturday night Nature gave us what used to be known as ‘a dump’: 150mm of rain in one storm.

The sight that greeted me in the morning showed we’d had a lot of rain even before I checked the rain gauge, which overflows after 150mm, so we may have had more.

The little creek had come up and over the flats, and on its way had cleaned out the brush to the extent of depositing logs and branches and greenery all along the fences, enough to render the fence horizontal in several places.

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I could see that the flood had risen higher before dropping, as the long grass on the whole creek flat had been levelled and raked — stangely, in rows — by the force.

The horse paddock had lost its bottom corner, but that was still under water; surely no horse would walk through a flood and over a four-wire-laid-down fence?

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Just in case,I checked; sensible Clancy was standing up near the stable on drier land. What a relief!

Ten minutes later I had a phone call asking if I’d lost a horse.

One answering to Clancy’s description had been sighted well down the road, munching by the roadside and chatting over a neighbour’s fence to their horse.

A rescue and recovery operation went into place with help from neighbours and Clancy spent the morning in a set of cattle yards until his owner, my daughter, could get here. Then, for his boldness, he spent the afternoon in the stable until she and her husband could re-erect the electric fence on slightly higher ground.

He had indeed done the unlikely, and a large tree trunk had lifted the bottom external gate off its hinge peg, so he saw Freedom.

Talk about seizing an opportunity.

I felt like he’d just waited for me to check – to call the roll – and then off he’d gone.

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The water has receded; the creek has been redesigned and redirected along much of its length. The sheets of galvanised iron that used to hang from the wire where the fence crossed the creek were lying in my paddock; we’ve just propped them up so the farmer can see to re-connect them.

The rationale for their visual blot on my view had been that they would float and not be broken by logs like wire would, hence allowing the cattle in…

An extra electric-fenced paddock below the house has now been created for Clancy, so he should be too busy eating to think of indulging his wanderlust. Or his Houdini talents.

But I keep checking — just in case.

July icing

On the first day of July I woke to our coldest morning yet this year — 4ºC — and light patches of frost.

Frost always surprises me as to where it is found and where not, but its decorative and novelty values are always appreciated here.

My favourite rock with its gloriously complex lichen adornments seemed more in place with the fine whiteness on the grass. In fact, the lichens seem brighter with the chill.

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Certain substances attract frost more than others; I know compost and mulch does, and here the fallen leaves blown into a drain are limned distinctly and individually white.

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Most of my yard doesn’t get frost but lichens appear in odd places all over it. This rock in the midst of the grass up the hill always catches my eye because of its spectacled pair.

Extremes

Two weeks ago I was preparing my place for bushfires; days were hot, the little dam had dropped to such an unprecedentedly low level that I was worried about the frogs and tortoises in there.

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The grass was dry and unappetising and the wallabies and roos were jumping up to pull down even higher branches of my fruit trees.

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Then we had about 10 inches of rain, with too-close-for-comfort thunder and lightning. The grass has greened up before my eyes.

Maybe the carpet of wallaby and roo pellets will begin to break down. The critters look rather bedraggled but they will soon dry out.

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My track will be a slide event for some time as the hillsides are back to oozing water; good to see the water table replenished — and the dam.

Wet again

A wet, wet week — again!  But as the rain eased, there were compensations, like the lowest rainbow I have ever seen.

This was taken through my window, facing east, and the rainbow ended on my track, right where the gatepost used to be.

No pot of gold appeared, but it was a treat to be surprised by a rainbow making a home visit.

On a dip up along the track, a flock of Crimson Rosellas were splashing and flapping about in the wheeltrack puddles. There seemed to be quite a few young ones among them but all were having fun. You’d think they’d have had enough of wetness with the rain.

This young joey certainly had, blinking away the raindrops, flicking its ears but generally just hunkering down and enduring the weather. Much as I did, cabinbound and fed up with leeches stalking me every tme I ventured on to the grass!

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