A forest for birds

Before entering this forest of the Henry Kendall Reserve I am bemused by the sparkles of sunshine beside opposing calm, the mysteriously varying ways of water movements.

The forest itself is equally varied, with many large and imposing spreading trees.

Others rise tall and straight limbed.  By the busy chatter of birds, darting tantalisingly close and away, too swift to photograph, the forest is a rich residence for wildlife.

It’s the sort of forest walk where you more often than not find yourself craning upwards to see what’s going on up there. A lot, from the noise!

But lower and nearer details occasionally catch my eye, like this textured casuarina bark…

Or this mossy hidey-hole, a dark refuge into which I do not intrude. Thankfully, this whole forest has life of its own, from birds to whatever lives here!

Forest gifts

After all the wet weather the swamps are still holding water… and reflections. Part of the coast walk here runs beside such swamps.

Large paperbarks make sinuous shapes as they stretch across the water.

Smaller ones stand straight and double up so seamlessly in the swamp below that the eye is deceived.

But there are many tree species in this forest, and some of the eucalypts are very large… and also sinuous. They must be in flower way up high, as the forest was alive with the chirping and chittering of multiple unseen happy honeyeaters.

It is winter so only a few blossoms are to be seen, like this wattle, but the flannel flowers are getting ready, beautifully backlit in a small clearing.

The territory in between tree tops and ground is well used, like this webbed hammock.

Some plants make use of the whole tree, securely latched on, climbing from ground to canopy.

This young fig tree grew upwards, but also chooses to send down roots to anchor itself to the ground. A bet both ways, to take advantage of all this forest can offer.

It certainly offers me more gifts than my eye can take in.

Tree flowers

Camden Haven’s Kattang Nature Reserve is full of flowers right now, but they are not the expected wildflowers of Spring, and they are mostly seen looking up.

Like this Casuarina, catching the eye with bunches of rusty red amongst the green.

But these flowers won’t produce any fruit or seeds, as they are the male flowers, growing at the end of the needle-like jointed branchlets we often mistake for leaves. Casuarina leaves are actually tiny scales at each joint.

The female trees are flowering too now, but much less conspicuously, hugging the branches in small red clusters.

It is they which will develop the woody seed pods, much beloved by cockatoos. In fact, I could hear one cracking them open for the seeds; I could see it too, but it was too well-hidden and backlit for a decent photo.

Banksias are the other trees in prolific flower now. Several varieties, with flowers and seed pods large and small. The honeyeaters were having a picnic.

May Gibbs’ wicked and hairy Banksia Men still lurk as large as ever in my imagination, but the bright flower candles eclipse them here.

The banksia trees dominate the skyline here and it is hard to stop looking up, to watch where I am walking. Too early for snakes, I tell myself.

But nearing the small paperbark swamp, now flowing under the track, I do, and am startled by bright red, not tea-brown. As if in step with the Casuarina flowers of both sexes.

To complement the reds, the wet weather has favoured the banks of mosses to delight me with green while I am looking down.

No need to wait for Spring when so much is happening in Winter!

Sea changes

I am looking down on the same rocks where my ‘Wild edge’ images were taken. But oh, what a difference in the sea at that edge today!

Gently lapping, not crashing; small frills of white instead of furious frothing breakers.  Even a few surfers paddling.

I have walked to the Charles Hamey Lookout in Kattang Nature Reserve and it does offer a view beyond my sea edge, a view of this amazing coastal complex of waterways, right up to brooding North Brother Mountain and beyond.

It is the combination of mountain and sea that appeals to me here so strongly.

But any tourist postcard can show scenic views; I am more attracted by details, often ephemeral.

If I look the other way from here, today it is the sea itself that takes my eye.

Peacefully rippling all the way to the horizon; not a whale in sight, but endless permutations of colour.

In the shallower waters near the land edge it is crystal clear and green. I have never been to the Mediterranean, but now I wonder how it could better this.

Then it deepens to blue-green, secretive of the ocean world beneath, and then to blue watered silk moiré, growing paler as it recedes to the sky edge.

As I retrace my steps I have to admire this rugged coast and its changeable neighbour, today deceptively gentle in its blues and greens beneath the equally unpredictable sky.

But if I look further north, the sea has turned silver, sparkling in sunshine.

What a visual treat it is to be witness to such free shows on offer from Nature!

Wild edge

This wintry weather comes with warnings of dangerous surf conditions — not that I’m likely to be trying! But I did want to look at such a sea.

And it was impressive. An awesomely powerful and persistent pounding.

The waves seemed to be doing their best to demolish the coastal rocks, rising like leviathans and crashing down in a lather of white and stormy brown.

On the horizon a chorus line of clouds meekly kept its distance from all this fury.

Each rock formation offered different resistance, allowing waterfalls of varying shapes to be created by the smashed waves. There was always another coming…

The rocks always won, directing the white flows to follow their lead, with no more choice than bridal trains.

It is a testament to the hardness of these edging rocks that they are not worn down but also an explanation of how the channels in between have been created.

Surviving the Big Wet

Many of the plants in my low garden, in ground or in pots, are turning up their toes at the seemingly endless rain, like this lavender.

Yet other things, like these fungi, can take advantage of it.

My garden is flat, and the swamp it must have once been is evidenced by the next door property, still pools of brown water. The ducks and water hens don’t mind, as they can wade and swim at ease; even the kookaburrras like to fly down and splash about.

But I realise now I ought to have raised the whole area before installing these garden beds or placing large pots down there, so bad is the waterlogging.

So I depend on pots up on my decks, like these surprisingly generous cacti. Formerly called Zygocactus truncata, they now bear the fabulous name of Schlumbergera truncata.

Having survived being inundated at my old house, where again the deck was their home, they have now burst forth into delicate yet showy blooms.

Hardy and beautiful! My sort of flowering plant.

Reacquainting

While I’ve been away, there has been a great deal of rain, and the swamp that this dirt road aims to bisect is reasserting itself.

Of course the swollen swamp needs to flow across the road, and has succeeded in closing that road while the water follows its natural course.

The road leads to the beach, so my feet are wet before I get there, but what a lovely set of early morning reflections!

The sun is already up when I reach the sandhills… and a 4WD has already despoiled the night’s tide marks on the sand.

This beach rarely has shells washed up, and it is only in a small stretch that today I see them scattered like tiny treasures for me to find.

Walking home, wading through the reasserted swamp, I see two trees are newly flowering since I was away. This small wattle (Acacia suaveolens) has blossoms of a pretty creamy white, not the yellow we are used to. It is one of the earliest flowering wattles.

Equally sparkling white are the flowers of this Broad-leaved Paperbark tree, Melaleuca quinquinervia, common on this stretch. Being a swamp dweller, it does not mind wet feet.

Home birds

I have rarely seen a Sacred Kingfisher, but this gorgeously coloured bird was perched near the mangroves of the river where I live, just when I happened to walk down to see what the low tide was presenting.

From my window I often see its cousin, the Laughing Kookaburra, the largest kingfisher in the world. This morning there had been two to welcome me home.

There are almost always Pelicans to be seen here, perched on oyster racks or mud banks. The degree of flexibility of their long necks is as impressive as the accuracy with which they can use their bill tips for the cleaning going on here.

This White-faced Heron was a solitary wader through the mud and shallow water, and keen-eyed watcher.  I love that the longer feathers on its back and chest are called ’nuptial plumes!’

Long-necked and long-legged, it was most elegant in its wading, double-imaged in the almost still water.

So I am back home on the coast, where the birds are perhaps no less bizarre than in the Desert Uplands.

Bizarre birds

In Central Queensland, emus are not an uncommon sight. But no matter how many I see, or how often, they always strike me as most bizarre.

Stately, yes. Self-contained, yes. And bizarre.

I’d stopped as this one high-stepped it across the road, not looking at me or my large white van.

Then it turned and unhurriedly retraced its steps back across the road, tail feather bustle bouncing, chest feathers extension flopping like a sporran, head on that gawky long neck rigidly ignoring me.

Bizarre!

Back on the coast, amongst rainforest instead of Desert Uplands, the camp had no emus, but plenty of Brush Turkeys strutting about.

Yet this one kept lying on its side as if shot down, one wing up, breast feathers exposed. It did it in a few places, and after each would get up and wander off to repeat the performance. Playing dead? Asking to have its tummy rubbed? Or just letting the sun warm that chest?

In between those two places I passed this tree in a bare paddock, full of galahs decorating it like coconut ice queens.

Not bizarre, but very pretty.

Earthmovers

Most of us are familiar with the ramparts built by ants to protect their underground homes from inundation. As I am waiting for tracks to dry out after rain, so I can get out, I am hoping they don’t mean these ants are expecting more rain.

But these tiny (and very bitey) little insects are moving soft sandy soil.

Unlike their fellow earthmovers, the termites, who, despite being called white ants, are more closely related to cockroaches than to ants.

Termites create cities of hard-packed mounds, towers and pinnacles from their own bodies.

They excrete the wood that they eat and use it to make the ‘mud’ of their fantastic constructions. And it’s estimated that they’ve been doing it for 150 million years.

So hard-packed is the material that it has often been chosen to use for earth floors. It would seem a shame to destroy such an artistic creation as the multi-turreted one above.  But how do they decide the intention of shape and direction? Or is it random?

Do the workers ever rebel and follow their own design bent? Like this questing Leunig curl?

As the termite king and queen remain in their chambers, they never get to see the handiwork of their workers, so whims could be perhaps be indulged…

Beauties of Bimblebox

By moonlight or daylight or the in-between twilight, Bimblebox reveals a myriad of natural treasures.

Especially striking amongst the many varieties that form this woodland are
the Rusty Jackets (Corymbia leichhardtii).

But the actual Bimblebox (Eucalyptus populnea) trees are striking in a different way; not the bark, but the leaves, shimmering in the breezes like silver dollars. This baby Bimblebox shows off the distinctive
almost heart-shaped leaves.

They were the inspiration for the Bimblebox logo.

The properties over the boundary fence do have some trees… if you look hard and far enough…

Welcome to Bimblebox

I have been camped at Bimblebox Nature Refuge near Alpha in Queensland for the last two weeks, and likely the next 3-4, to help prepare for the site visit of the Queensland Land Court and associated legal and government teams.

The Bimblebox Alliance, of whose committee I am a member, is objecting to a coal mine project, which would include Bimblebox, as proposed by Clive Palmer’s Waratah Coal.

As you can imagine, an 8000ha nature refuge in the Desert Uplands is hardly close to shops, so accommodation and catering for visitors is not easy, let alone for numbers.

Days are still hot here, and surprisingly humid. Nights are beautiful, stunningly starry, and cool enough to be a delight.

As I have no time to wander about, each day I pay attention in case the termite mounds I pass have changed positions. I feel like classing them as wildlife, albeit paused temporarily.

There are millions here.

Up early and to bed early, I see the low sunrises and higher sunsets.

One evening unseasonal rain threatened… and fell.

But soon after it cleared and a pale desert rainbow appeared: my first.

May it augur well for this court case to save this gentle woodland and all that call it home…