Teen magpie comes of age

The last time I tossed some bird seed into the feeder, which was a few weeks ago, the teenage magpie kept his distance.

He stayed well past the post until the two older birds — much more smartly dressed — had eaten their fill and flown off.
But this week he seemed to have been granted more privileges. Perhaps he’s turned the maggie equivalent of 18? Not quite 21, but considered semi-adult, his plumage still greyish-brown and less dapper, but he’s learning.

The two older birds took turns at eating and keeping watch, then remained on guard while the youngster hopped in with them and pecked at the leftovers.

When they decided he’d had enough, they took off. He only pecked on for a brief time before he followed — but perhaps they hadn’t left much!

Possum end

A few days after the day tripper possum had been so bold as to pee on my verandah table, I spotted it again in daylight. It was in the yard, eating something in the grass at various places, but I couldn’t see just what. I watched for a while but it came no closer.

This was odd behaviour and reminded me of another daytime possum long ago, apparently blind. And yet this one seemed healthy.

But the day after, it became clear that I was wrong. On the track near my shed, a splash of yellowish orange caught my eye. Fungi? No.
A possum, the right size for my day tripper, now stiff and unmoving, its thick greyish fur rain-spotted, its undersides far more vivid in colour that I had realised before. Its prehensile tail tip would no longer be needed to hang on to anything.

The trip had ended. I would never know why.

I am not very good at moving dead bodies, but I managed this little one, while silently apologising that I had once thought it bold.

Day tripper possum

Brushtail possums are my regular and annoying nocturnal visitors: they climb up where the roof slopes low, just above my bedroom, then either along the bracing timber under the extended eaves, or, more noisily, over the roof. Then they investigate the verandah, often knocking things over.

If I appear they always scurry off, back along the route.
But after lunch today I looked up from the computer to see a round furry back and a bedraggled brushy tail – in the bird feeder. A possum visiting in daylight?

I had put a small scoop of birdseed there this morning, for the first time in about three weeks.

I tiptoed to the door and opened it very quietly, but this possum didn’t seem to notice. Was it deaf?  I took some photos and the clicking was ignored.  I spoke to it; no response. I moved further round to its side, to be visible.
It did turn and face me but made no move to run. I wasn’t sure how well it could see in daylight anyway. 

Was this deafness, blindness, illness –  or opportunistic boldness? It seemed unharmed and healthy enough.

And it clearly wanted to feed on, despite the light drizzle and its exposed position – to me and the weather. I left it to it.

A crimson rosella made the mistake of flying over to check out the feeder. Squawks and a scuffle and an aerial about-turn by the rosella.

The day possum regained its footing and continued its lunch.
When it had scoffed the lot, it turned around, jumped onto the oak table, and peed!

Echidna pair

Last year I was delighted by seeing two quite different echidnas here at the same time. One had been in my yard, the other just outside it. One was big, one small, one dark, one lighter.

Lately I have had an echidna doing a very thorough job of poking into my whole house yard.  Each day I have seen it in a different area, getting about at a great pace. I have had to keep an eye out when sitting weeding for any length of time as it’s given me a few shocks by silently turning up quite close to me. I wouldn’t want to step on it!

It has golden brown spikes and medium brown fur and has been putting its snout into the air more than I’d seen before.

Perhaps the reason was the proximity of another echidna, as the other day, after taking some photos of my regular one, I spotted a darker one ambling along just outside the fence. It came under the gate and began its beat.
This one has darker reddish-pink spines and very dark ‘roots’ showing in between; the fur seems blackish rather than brown. 

They kept their distance but traversed sections of grass well within sight of each other, seemingly having no problem sharing territory.
Seen together like this, their differences are obvious, and I have taken to calling my regular the blonde and the visitor the brunette. 

So far the blonde has been the more conscientious, not missing a day aerating my damp ‘lawn’ whilst feeding.  The brunette, contrary to popular opinion, is more flighty, and comes and goes at will.

Possum presents

A Crepuscule rose climbs along my verandah railings, the blooms of which I am very fond. Unfortunately I only get to admire them on the far branches that hang suspended in mid-air.

The rest are eaten by the brush-tailed possum.
No doubt it thinks it makes a fair exchange. It munches on flowers and leaves and breaks off stems and branches, makes a deposit on the railing by way of payment and waddles off to the next rose bush.
But whether currants or coal, I haven’t yet found a use for these little black offerings, so am not happy about the exchange at all. I could do without the presents and the presence — of any possum!

After the rain

My world looked different after the rains stopped. Blue sky seemed bluer, white clouds whiter than ever before, brighter than memory allowed. Grey skies had dominated for so long.

My native animal neighbours appreciated it too, coming out of shelter to feed and scratch and dry off. Not having seen many since I got back from Thailand, due to the weather, I am relieved to see them.
A few wallabies, a family of roos…‘ Sawasdee-ka!’ I greet them, Thai style.

An echidna appeared just near the house, poking about in the overgrown herb garden. I have seen it, or a relative, there before. I expect the rocks provide good insect hidey holes for it to investigate.

Near the herb garden a large Wanderer butterfly decorates the lavender shrub. Although they are common here, familiarity does not breed contempt — they are very striking in colour and pattern, and I am grateful for their abundance.

Next day the echidna is still wandering about the yard as if intends to stay.

It feels like company; I am pleased to be sharing with a creature again, and to see something is using the useless grass.

As I have trouble putting a spade through this kikuyu sod, I am impressed that the echidna can poke and wriggle its snout through with no apparent trouble. An efficient ‘poker’ indeed.

Bush rat babies

For weeks I’d been trying to find and block every hole where a bush rat had been getting into my cabin.

It tunnelled anew under the rock and cement footings each night. It gnawed plastic, seeds, photo albums and – unforgivably – books.

It had to go. I borrowed a live trap big enough to take the critter I saw race along the same rafter each night.

The friend lent me two so I set them both, using apple spread with peanut butter as ‘bait’.

Next morning I had two mini bush rats – ‘it’ must have been a ‘she’.

Quite cute for rats, but nevertheless they were relocated.

The next day I caught Mum. I was heading to Sydney that day so she rode with me to the spot where the kids had been ejected.

So for the next few days in the city it was not only the dried mud on the Suzi but the rat cage in the back that gave us away as bushies.

Lily pad life





water insects

dragonfliesOn my small dam the waterlilies are blooming, their large circular leaves so abundant that they are overlapping, curling up at their edges.

There are two green floating islands of them, one bearing pale pink lotus-like cups, the other such a pale lemon as to seem white.

Since these aquatic plants had all but disappeared in the drought, I went down to have a closer look at their new burst of life.

Life indeed, for the waterlily rafts are hosting a multitude of fauna.

Two tiny tortoises slipped back into the water as I approached.

The dozens of tadpoles apparently hanging from the water surface soon proved to be hundreds, of several types, and all fat and healthy.

Some of the smaller ones already had legs sprouting from their translucent brown sides.

In the middle of the lily pads I spotted a tiny jewel of a green frog.

‘Water boatmen’ rowed their skinny insect selves across the surface.

Delicate blue and red jointed sticks with gauze wings perched rigidly solo, or curved in what I presumed to be copulating pairs, on lily leaves and reed stems — mayflies, dragonflies?

Beetles and other strange insects busied themselves on the pads.

I came home to refer to my old pond life book, to be able to tell you with authority what these dam inhabitants are, but like so many other books — I must have lent it out long ago and forgotten to whom.

So nameless but beautiful they remain.