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’!
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.
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…
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!
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.
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 was waiting for the last Autumn leaves to fall from my ornamental grapevine before pruning it, as I have always done.
But this crazily warm Winter weather has confused the vine into sending forth new Spring growth shoots of leaves and flowers.
All along its length the bright green new leaves have lost patience with the old brown clingers, saying ‘Don’t you know it’s Spring?’
Only it’s not.
I check in the yard: the Mulberry tree, properly wintry bare two days ago, has lost the plot too. Good luck, I think.
The small Native Finger Lime tree is covered in tiny buds and blossoms, but this is the right time for it.
Will there be ‘right times’ ahead for deciduous plants to awake?
How would they know to stay asleep until after the last frosts of winter?
When people in T-shirts at mid-day in mid-winter’s July say ‘What a lovely day!’, I can’t agree.
‘Actually, no, I find it scary that’s it’s so warm.’
Because this is wrong, out-of-kilter; I’m a human who can put clothes on or off, buy food out of season.
Plants and insects and birds and animals are inter-dependent; species are being thrown into not just confusion, but extinction.
Now, on 1st August, I read that:
‘Tinder-dry conditions in NSW have forced the Rural Fire Service to bring forward its bushfire danger period for parts of the state’s east coast and Northern Tablelands. Twelve areas — Armidale, Bega Valley, Eurobodalla, Glen Innes Severn, Inverell, Kempsey, Mid Coast, Nambucca, Port Macquarie Hastings, Tenterfield, Uralla and Walcha — will all start their bushfire danger period from August 1, the RFS announced on Thursday.’
Traditionally, the official start to the danger period is October 1.’
Rainbows always make me smile; no corporation has found a way to despoil them yet, or to capture and sell them.
In less-than-bright times, with less-than-visionary (!) leaders, I need all the bright spots Nature can offer to keep my spirits up.
And then I realised the rainbow had a second fainter image, a pale double of itself. I choose to to take that as an arc of hope: next time Australia will vote for action on climate change, and not be fooled by the spin.
It is winter at last and still very dry here but a few plants like that, and are giving me great pleasure from their abundant blooms. This beauty has been moving with me though various homes and stages of my life for over 50 years!
These orchids came from one large overgrown clump, a gift from my cousin Kerrie, who has many varieties, about five years ago,. They made six pots, and right when I most need colour and beauty in life, their graceful arching stems are offering both.
And while not at all colourful, as so perfectly camouflaged in their casuarina tree, these two Tawny Frogmouths make me smile every time I see them. Not every day, not always in the same fork, and not always as a pair, although lately they have been. I think they are beautiful.
But a bright spot in my day — and my life — whenever they choose to inhabit my place.
From my kitchen window, I spotted an unusual blob in one of the casuarinas in the yard. We’d had a windy night, so it could be a broken-off branch.
In fact it was both. The Tawny Frogmouth had wedged itself behind a broken limb, and was there for two days.
Then it appeared in the slimmer neighbouring tree, actually the tree where the ‘nest’ had been in 2017, from which two babies had hatched, to my great delight. The prodigal returns?
Next morning it had moved to a fork in the same tree, but seemed much fatter. Fluffed up to keep warm?
From the front, I was not sure if it was one or two birds. It looked very broad; was it pregnant, returning home to lay those eggs? But if so, where was the nest or stick platform? Inadequate as that had seemed, it had served its purpose, but had long since broken up.
As the sun warmed the yard, it moved from the fork and perched on a broken branch. Definitely one bird. And definitely fat.
I’ll be keeping a close eye on any stick activity in that home tree.
Here on the coast, we lack the crispness to create stunning avenues of Autumn colour as in the Southern Highlands or Canberra.
But my Glory Vine, or Ornamental Grape, does its best. It has been moving with me via cuttings from the Mountain original. It colours differently here, but then our Autumns are not the same under global warming. Mid-day is still too warm here.
Despite the stunning cyclamen pinks and burgundies of leaves up close, surprisingly, overall it creates a more orange effect, as the still green leaves mingle with their fellows further along towards their deciduously bare winter fate.
‘During winter, there is not enough light or water for photosynthesis. The trees will rest, and live off the food they stored during the summer. They begin to shut down their food-making factories. The green chlorophyll disappears from the leaves.
‘As the bright green fades away, we begin to see yellow and orange colors. Small amounts of these colors have been in the leaves all along. We just can’t see them in the summer, because they are covered up by the green chlorophyll.
‘The bright reds and purples we see in leaves are made mostly in the fall. In some trees, like maples, glucose is trapped in the leaves after photosynthesis stops. Sunlight and the cool nights of autumn cause the leaves turn this glucose into a red color.
‘The brown color of trees like oaks is made from wastes left in the leaves.’
Veins of green chlorophyll amongst mottlings of the other pigments like the carotenoids, responsible for the oranges, with the subclass xanthophyll responsible for the yellows and the sugar-making anthocyanin favouring the reds.