Joey steps

My house wallaby’s joey is venturing more than its head out now. From the low-slung safety and warmth of the pouch, it projects its front legs and paws, touching the grass.

Big soft ears turning, nose sniffing, eyes  alert, our joey is growing up fast. Its fur is still fine, not enough to keep it warm in these 10-14 degree autumn days. On the cusp of babyhood, it has the best of both inside and outside worlds, able to try touch and taste, but retreat to snooze, suckle and be safe.

I am always astonished at how big the joeys are when their mothers continue to allow them to ride in the pouch. This one has a way to grow yet the pouch is barely clearing the ground now. Tussock country can’t be easy with a gangly joey swinging below.

For the second time in a few weeks, I have found evidence that a quoll is back on the block. 

I’ve been bemoaning the disappearance of the quoll who lived and bred in my shed for years, mainly for her own sake, but also because possums stay away when she’s in residence.

Quolls eat possums.

I’m no expert on droppings or scats — there are whole books on the subject, none of which I have —but I think, after years of nightly gifts left by the quoll on my verandah, that I can say with some confidence that this dropping was dropped by a quoll.

The reluctant exit twist at the end, the hairiness, the connected bulges — all say ‘quoll’. Sometime an offering is more curved, crescent-shaped, or the colour is lighter and the texture more furry; naturally it all depends on what she had for dinner.

But it gives me hope. ‘Shed to let’: check us out, move back in, Mrs Quoll — please?

Next G snake?

As if I hadn’t had enough trouble with the older generation of red-bellied black snakes, the established adults,  I now seem to have a new, cheekier generation.

The other day, over the top of my glasses, and my computer, I caught a dark movement amongst the leafy verandah screen.

A fluid, flowing dark movement — as only a red-bellied black snake has imprinted on my mind.

It oozed over the bird-feeder edge and down to the verandah boards. Now I have known — theoretically — that snakes could come onto the verandah and I have made a snake-screen door for that reason — I don’t care about flies!

But I had been thinking of the python — of tree snakes, harmless — not of my nemesis, the red-bellied black.

I stamped behind the screen door, complained loudly; it formed its front into an interrogative question mark and waited to see what was what in this strange terrain. And stayed like that.

I grabbed the camera, realised I couldn’t take a photo through the green shadecloth ‘screen’ door, so I scraped the door open, still ranting.’You’d think a person could have a verandah to herself — that wasn’t much to ask! I can’t believe you just did that! Is nowhere safe?????!!!!!!’

I took this shot.

Nobody likes a whinger. The slim and sprightly snake slid over the edge. I thought of all the times I’d padded about the verandah not in my gum boots, or lounged on the chaise longue — well, not often enough for the latter — too busy; but you get my point. I had felt safe on the verandah. Fool! I’d gotten complacent, yet again. Big mistake.

Wallaby world

It hasn’t taken long for the wallabies to make themselves at home in the house yard. The roses are the main feeding attraction, with them stripping all the smaller bushes, and making considerable effort to reach up and pull down the stems of higher ones, like the old shrub rose, Autumnalis, and the Banksia Rose.

Thorns don’t appear to bother either their little paws or their mouths.

I still can’t see any reduction in the height of the grass.

The other quickly-acquired daily habit is occupying shady spots– one each, probably claimed and kept. The shade may be quite small, from a single shrub, or from man-made objects like the barbeque.

Certain regulars are becoming identifiable, like the one with the tattered left ear or the very reddish-tinged male, or the little mother who plops next to the mud wall for mid-day shade. She is now letting me walk past without feeling the need to up and run.

I do like seeing them so relaxed when I am about, and I am learning to unclench my teeth and be more relaxed myself when I see them eating the roses — or the Robinia — or the Buddleia — or the grapevines. A new era, I keep telling myself, and I chose it. So get used to it and enjoy!

Lizard guards

During the recent wet spell and see-sawing temperatures, my resident skinks must have had trouble finding warm dry spots. I have what I think is a mother and child as the smaller one is getting bigger and less nervous of my approach.

I often see them on the steps, where they dash under as my foot hits the top one. The other day they were ranged one either side of the edge of the verandah that leads to the steps. Symmetrically placed and statue-still, they remained like that for so long that I worried they were not alive.

But they were fine, only guarding the entrance, immobile and at attention, like any good sentinel. And no doubt too cool to run fast!

Wallaroo couple

The longhairs of the macropods around here are the Wallaroos. I have always had one small family or a couple here, and they prefer the rocky edges, usually only coming close to drink at the dam. But lately the couple have been grazing near the fence line.

The female is pale grey and stocky, with a rather doglike face — an amiable mongrel sort of dog.
Her male partner is the real standout — bigger and beefier, with long dark shaggy ‘hair’. He also has the doglike face, and perhaps the very long fur helps this impression. Much more wary than his wife, he stopped mid-munch at the sight of me.
Drawing himself erect to show his broad chest and powerful shoulders, he soon took off into the treeline to hide from me. I don’t know if he had told her to follow or sent a warning, but she stayed put and kept eating. Was she smarter or just stubborn?

Post-rain passers-by

As soon as the rain stopped I got stuck into digging while the clayey soil was diggable. I am finally excavating for a bathroom!
With ABC Radio playing and my eyes watching what I was doing, it was mere chance that I looked behind me.
About a metre away was the black snake, minding its own business and poking about near the earth I had just dumped. Damn! I could not continue work with it so close.
I ceded the territory and went around the house to the verandah to watch where it went. Having satisfied its curiosity, the snake continued up the slope to the gate.

It occurred to me then that the wild creatures have stuck to this same path, once a wallaby track, and sensibly diagonally across the slope, despite my erecting a fence straight through it.
For that day I had also seen the echidna following the track, now barely distinguishable to me — but clearly not so to them. Like the snake, it detoured to investigate what my digging was turning up.

When the possum’s away…

crepuscule-1The cycle of boss tenants around here changes so often I hardly have time to adjust.  

With the quoll absent I’d grown used to having all my roses eaten by the possum. When I found the dead possum in the yard I didn’t assume it was the only one, but perhaps its territory – verandah, shed and yard – hasn’t been advertised as vacant yet.

My roses are now covered in leaves and buds and blossoms; some of the varieties I haven’t seen in bloom for several years and I can’t quite accept that they won’t be munched off any night now, so I am rushing about and photographing them.

Maybe this verandah climber, the Crepuscule, doesn’t believe it either, as it’s having a most flamboyant flush, high and low and hanging in between.

Sumo echidna

sumo-echidna-1Echidnas visit my house yard fairly often and I know there are several different individuals — like the blonde and the brunette who shared the yard for a while.

A few years ago I saw an echidna just outside the yard who was much bigger than average. Last week I saw an even larger one. It came under the gate and into the orchard and naturally I ran for the camera.
sumo-echidna-2It seemed more wary than others and kept lifting its head and sniffing. I wasn’t game to go too close for fear of disturbing it so had to use the maximum zoom on my lens.

You can see how massive its legs are!

I wonder how old this echidna is, to be so big, and whether it’s the same one previously seen, now grown to top weight and, I assume, top echidna status.

Who’d argue with a spiny, spiky, long-clawed excavator like this?

My reptilian residents

jacky-lizardAs the weather warms up so does the action round here — at least as far as my cold-blooded residents are concerned.

My favourite is the sprightly Jacky lizard; perky and patterned and with such dainty digits!

I wouldn’t mind a few more of these little blokes darting about the yard.
My least favourite is the red-bellied black snake. Impressively muscular as it ripples across my grass and into my gardens, I see it almost every day now, always in a different spot. So my eyes are engaged in a constant flicker to check where it is, as I don’t want to startle it and cause it to panic my way.

I also have to thump about with the hoe first to check in any clumps I want to work on, because it can become invisible in a surprisingly small amount of cover.

This is the first year I have been sure I had a resident black snake rather than a visitor, just passing through. There’s nothing I can do about it – but I don’t like it! I wish it was winter again.

Shy wallaby gategirls

gategirls When you live in the country it’s always a boon to have a passenger  to act as as gategirl or gateboy, to open the many gates so you don’t have to yank on the hand brake and get out to do it yourself.

I couldn’t wait until my very smart granddaughter Jess was old enough to take on that role, in being tall enough to reach.

City folk may not realise that every gate is an I.Q. test; they are all different. Even if they are using the same basic mechanism for once, the swing of the gate and the distance of gate from post will require a whole new set of possible solutions to the problem.

Worst of all, the driver is watching and waiting while the gategirl or gateboy wrestles with the chain, the gate and the embarrassment. Much mime play generally goes on while the gate’s idiosyncrasies are attempted to be explained through the windscreen.

However, last  week, early one morning, these two shy girls were sitting so calmly and for so long outside my house yard gate that I felt they were waiting to be let in. Too small to be expected to do the job themselves, gloved hands meekly crossed like the best-brought-up convent girls, naught but an ear twitched as they patiently propped there.

They gave up eventually, but thankfully not before I took their photo.

Macropod harmony


It’s been cold and windy, and in my clearing we’re all glad of my protective tree belt below.  I can see the treeline on the western front turned thin and see-through as the trees are battered about; I can hear the fury on the ridgetop above me. But I am only mildly affected here.

My neighbours like the calm sunny spots too. Glancing through my kitchen window, I spotted four of my hoppy friends taking their ease just outside the house fence. Not unusual.

But it was rather unusual that the two on the left were Eastern Grey Kangaroos and the two on the right were Eastern Red-necked Wallabies. Not that there’s ever any animosity between the various macropod species here, but they don’t often share such a small space, or not in such a relaxed way. To pass in grazing, yes.


The male kangaroo stood to see what I was doing at the window; none of the others bothered to interrupt their scratching or sleeping or general contemplation of life.

 What I loved best was that shortly after I’d taken this photo and he’d gone back to grazing at least, his sleepy female partner was so sure of my good intentions that she turned her back on me to settle into a more comfortable pose — and went to sleep.