Slime visitors

After the long drought, we have taken on tropical storms, with rain most days. Plant growth is rampant, and the lawn mower has come out of its summer/autumn/winter retirement.

But amongst all the green I spot a flash of colour in the grass. Yellow. 

Close up, it resembles several blobs of crumbed, artificially yellow battered takeaway food! But the strands of slime give it away: the first slime mould of 2020 in my yard.

This one looks like the ’Dog’s Vomit’ slime mould. 

If you haven’t struck such an oddity before, this is one of a very strange and long misunderstood group of organisms (Fuligo). While no longer classed with fungi, they are included in my Fungi field guide (by A.M.Young).

It tells me they can produce cells that can ‘move about actively and ingest food rather like an amoeba. This cell feeds and reproduces by simple fission until there are perhaps thousands of daughter cells. A chemical signal then causes these cells to combine and form the fruiting structure…’.

I always find them slightly creepy.

My book says this one’s common name is Flowers of Tan, but Dog’s Vomit is much more apt.

Several days later the yellow has become a greyish mauve; now more likely to be mistaken for dried dog’s turds…

But it is not the only slimy visitor after the rain. In a much-horse-manured garden bed, crisp white snow crystals cluster and clump over a stem of my grapevine, again the slimy threads giving it away.

Others transform horse poo into snowballs. Or I could go with the food analogy and say powdered sugar…

An older one is already less snowy and within days they are all a less notable brown. Toasted desiccated coconut? 

No wonder I continue to be astonished at the intricacies and varieties that Nature holds, and sometimes shows, especially the ephemeral ones. I need another lifetime to discover more of them…

Site work

As Australia burns, I’m staying clear of sunsets and sunrises and anything red, and choosing a cool water photo for this post, although it has nothing to do with what I have to say.


This website has been going since 2007 and is, like me, getting on. Worse than me, it is starting to malfunction. It needs to be totally renewed, so in the interim there will be interruptions and the end result will look different. A clever and very kind friend, Al, is doing this work for me.


Not that I’ve had time to write any posts here since Clive Palmer’s Waratah Coal notified they were making the last moves needed to progress their Galilee Coal mine over my friend Paola Cassoni’s Bimblebox Nature Refuge.


This is my current full time unpaid job — to save Bimblebox — and even though the EDO will represent us in the Land Court, there is much work to be done for them and to raise funds for the battle ahead. If you can help in any way, we’d be grateful…

Colouring the times

This an Illawarra Flame Tree, flowering in the reserve next to me. The densely forested reserve is the reason I bought this place; it is also what makes my place so vulnerable to ember attack.

My yard is constantly carpeted with dry leaves– perfect kindling.

So the Flame Tree is a good symbol of the situation in many places as our country explodes into flames.

I took the tree photos before the worst of our smokefilled days, like the one above.

The main colour now comes as the sun rises and sets red.

Under necessary water restrictions I am watching my garden die from thirst, and crisping as the day’s heat rises.

Many have had to watch their whole life’s work — garden, home, belongings, even animals — become burnt offerings to our climate crisis.

I need to find reasons not to despair… and rage with anger… at this time.

So I instead I will turn away, to celebrate the colour from the trees — Silky Oak and Flame Tree — that are native but not indigenous to here.

I hope they lift your spirits a little too.

Nature is beautiful, and bigger than us; we have not treated her well, and right now she is giving us a mighty wake-up message. Last chance?

Dainty drop-in

Although there is no standing water in my yard, the wetlands lagoon nearby attracts waterbirds who occasionally drop in to my garden to see what my vegetation might hold.

This elegant creature is a White-faced Heron, apparently common enough all over Australia, but not seen by me anywhere else I have lived.

It flew in for a brief visit, had a good look about and seemed to decide against what was on offer. The long brownish feathers on the chest and those sweeping grey ones on its back are called ‘nuptial plumes’.

Its legs look too spindly to support it, and as it high-stepped around, it undulated its very long neck in ripples back and forwards, as if swallowing something.

Its very perfunctory check of my back yard was clearly a negative result, except for the pleasure it brought me to see it!

Water wanderers

After my last odd waterbird visitor, the Royal Spoonbill, I thought I had spotted another strange long-legged, long-beaked bird down there in the wetlands.

But when it settled its ruffled feathers and assumed a more familiar stance, it revealed itself to be not really odd at all.

Perhaps oddly out of place, as there are no cattle here, and I think it is the quite common Cattle Egret.

I have usually seen it in groups around cows in paddocks, some often perched on the backs of cows.

Native to Africa and Asia, they were introduced to Australia in 1948 – as was I! – and have spread successfully into new territories, including America.

Equally common, and perhaps equally out of place, was this Long-necked Tortoise, seen wandering in my dry back yard, heading uphill from the wetlands.

As it still had damp mossy patches on its back, it can’t have been lost or misguided for long.

I stood very still as It looked about carefully, fixing my feet at least with those gimlet eyes.

Then it turned itself about and, very purposefully and surprisingly swiftly, headed downhill towards the water. 

There is a low old paling fence to be negotiated but, as I later saw, it found the worn parts and dug away until it was on the watery side where it belonged.

But why had it left and what led it to think there’d be water up here?

These wetlands are a boon in attracting wild creatures; after all, water is life.

Solo Spooner

A glimpse of white down there in the wetlands, seen from my deck as I was hanging out washing; triple blink. What on earth could that be? Camera grab, race down to the yard, tiptoe to my fence.

The strange creature’s spoon-shaped bill said ’Spoonbill’ of course, although I have never had one visit me, here or elsewhere.

But it seemed to have a neck that could swivel 360 degrees. Cleaning its feathered back? Or scratching?

Apart from acrobatic ablutions, that long beak is used for sweeping shallow waters for food.

The black bill and legs and the red eyes tell me it is a Royal Spoonbill, confirmed by the impressive crest of head plumes I glimpsed earlier.

With the crest lowered, it looks more like a bearded elder, with hair hanging over its collar. And did it just yawn?

The weird and wonderful denizens of and visitors to even my little patch keep me in touch enough with the wild to survive in a town. Almost…

Communal fungi

Near my backyard tap lives a community of fungi who burst forth en masse after rain, which we have finally had.

One day they are not there, the next they are, honey brown for the moment, opening their little umbrellas.

Pushing up through soil and leaves, they surrounded and smothered the hose loops that were in the way.

Try as I might, I have not been able to identify these fungi communities which appear so briefly, always just in this spot. 

Birders often use the term ‘LBB’, ‘Little Brown Bird’ when they can’t identify one of the many such. Maybe this will remain an ‘LBF’?

The next day they are always black and collapsing. Ephemeral LBFs indeed.

Parrot parties

Now that my bottlebrush tree is flaunting hundreds of bright red brush-like blossoms, the Rainbow Lorikeets are holding parrot parties. Like all lorikeets, they have a specialised ‘brush-like’ tongue to be able to feed on nectar, but these are the only lorikeets to have a blue head.

Their brilliant colours warrant their name. They are not, however, blessed with a sweet song, and as they feed in flocks, the combined shrill screeching makes me greatly miss the musical calls of my Mountain’s Crimson Rosellas.

My other visiting parrots have been the Galahs; rarely seen here on the coast, they are very common, often in huge flocks, in open country.

Only two came to see what my yard had to offer in the way of food. I assume they didn’t find much to their taste, as they were only here for a day.  Surprising, given their wide range of feeding habits: seeds, grain, fruit, blossom, shoots, as well as insects and their larvae.

I am always grateful not to be a haven for Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, given their raucous screeching, but Galahs are not much better, their calls described by my bird book as ‘loud whistles, strident shrieks and screams’!

But two temporary Galahs can be appreciated.

Backing kids on climate action

Taree is not a big town, nor particularly environmentally alert. At the last school strike for climate day there I think there’d have been less than a dozen kids, and mostly from elsewhere, like Gloucester; more adults without kids.

But on Friday 20th September the impact of the rising tides (pun intended) were clear.

Hundreds flocked to the riverside park to hear impassioned speeches, show support and share concerns — parents with babies, very small children and primary schoolchildren, secondary students on their own or in groups, adults on their own.

Many groups like 350.org and Nature Conservation Council have been urging people to attend one, but locally I think the growing Midcoast Extinction Rebellion (XR) group has been highly influential. 

One of the most impressive young speakers, 11-year-old Evie Wood McGuire from Cundletown Primary, was inspired after an XR family day at Nabiac. She then started her own blog to encourage specific personal action — in an innovative way!

All the kids who spoke were articulate, strongly behind Greta Thunberg, and clear on what they wanted: ‘Climate Action NOW.’

I gathered, from speaking to a large group from St Clare’s, that such protest seems to have become the ‘in’ thing, which is just what needs to happen!

Some went really public and stood up on the roadside with their signs, attracting many supportive honks from passing cars.

While I have never understood why Taree’s war memorial is guarded by two child-size soldier statues (did they run out of money, choose two minis for the price of one full size?).

 I know that the real soldiers would be horrified to think that the land and clean water and air they fought for are no longer our governments’ priorities.

And that the right to protest, such as this, was what they fought to keep for Australians.

While NO new coal is critical, as evidenced by the many Stop Adani signs, I was especially taken with the variety of very positive pro-active approaches, such as looking after bees, and trees, regenerative farming and local produce, as in the Young Farmers Connect group.

One of the Young Farmers’ children carried this very pointed sign. What are you doing?

Prioritising the future of all children was the primary message from the older generation. I bridled a bit when one young speaker said, ‘We’ll stick it to the Boomers’, given I am one; the grey-haired lady next to me had the same reaction and said, ’So should I leave now?’

Others pointed out the truth; some acknowledged that we oldies aren’t all bad…

And of course the Knitting Nannas were there to support ‘the kiddies’, for whose future they work, as always.

But it is the politicians we need to impress; if our Taree turnup wasn’t enough to convert our state Nationals from climate denial, how about the 10,000 people in Newcastle or the 50,000 in Sydney? Or, Trumpian sidekick Morrison, how about the 300,000 nationwide??!!  A few votes there…

More than rocks

At one end of a beach at Bermagui, south coast NSW, an ancient creature lies half buried in the sand. Its long snout sucks up water at high tide, its dark eyes watch for whales… and inquisitive dogs. 

For this is a dog-friendly beach, allowing romping dogs with their walking and stick-throwing owners.

These caves are mostly small hollows, some forming see-through tunnels in the strangely muscular rocks.

But above the sand and creature level, the rocks are no longer sea-moulded smooth, but striated and layered with other ancient deposits, interspersed with soft and powdery decomposing stone…waiting to be washed to join the sands below.

In other places they are carved and etched, leaving odd sculptured shapes, intriguing furrows and horizontally scratched hieroglyphics in vertical messages.

Some seem to have been shaded into relief by an artist’s pen. I am again ignorant as to how these varied effects have been created… perhaps by the ancient sand mammoth before it became immobilised?

Now very little lives on the rocks – a determined spider, the odd desperate plant.

I wish they could talk to explain the mysteries of their so-diverse rocky habitat. Yet it is almost enough just to be in awe at this show of Nature’s art – again!

Gulaga Mountain

An extinct volcano near the Tilba region of NSW, Gulaga Mountain holds great spiritualsignificance for the local Yuin people. You can imagine why, as the rocks near its top are no ordinary rocks. In 2006 Gulaga, previously called Mount Dromedary, was returned to its traditional owners.

At about 800 metres above sea level, the walk up the dirt track is long, fairly relentlessly steep but not arduous; the walk down is, with slipping over at least once a certainty! 

It is worth it to meet these extraordinary and evocative tors, either soaring solitary between the trees or balanced in almost incredible giant-flung piles.

The smoothed shapes vary; all defy my geology-deprived understanding, and all demand awe.

Gulaga’s rocks leave memorable impressions. Victoria’s Hanging Rock is not unique in harbouring strange emanations, which touch even the clumsy and ignorant like me.

The walking track through the Gulaga National Park to the saddle is actually a road. It passes by masses of tree ferns, tall ones that nestle up to mossy and lichened rocks, and shorter hairy ones that give shelter to tiny ferns.

Few plants are flowering, so this Correa (?) catches my eye.

Grandeur … and tiny details. All free food for the soul from Nature.

Early black beauties

Alerted to look up from my desk by whirling aerial activity outside, I saw about six Welcome Swallows flying round and round the back yard airspace.  It looked as frenetic as when the young first fly, but I haven’t noticed any nests on my verandahs or eaves.

There seemed to be other birds in the mix.

When some peeled off to perch, I spotted a Willy Wagtail, who typically did not stop still long enough to be more than a blur.

Then I gasped at this unmistakable fishtail shape.

A Spangled Drongo!

I know; in Australia it sounds like a joke…

I have only seen this bird twice before. It is the only Australian species of drongo, and it is most handsome, with its iridescent feathers, blueish spangle, and bright red eyes.

Today there were two, so I hope they will nest nearby.

Like swallows, they can catch insects on the wing.

However, my bird book says they are migratory, ‘arriving in October and leaving in March’.  We are still in August. Like the fire season, is August the new October?

One of the other dapper black-feathered birds in the yard at the same time was an Australian Magpie-Lark, female I think.

I have usually called them Pee-Wees (after their call) and berated them for attacking my windows, but now I have hung feathers in corks outside, they do not bother with those reflected birds.

As they mostly catch their insects on the ground, they were not competing with the flying food frenzy above. So they are back ready to nest too; theirs is of mud, and has been in the Jacaranda tree in the past. Hmm; but will they find some mud in this drought?

I will keep an eye out for all nesting activity.