A mother’s lot

Morning tea time here at Hoppy’s Playgroup and the mothers must stop eating my garden so the youngsters can have their milk. These aren’t the equivalent of babes in arms; they are big joeys, who, as I’ve noted before, can be almost as big as their mothers.

They graze, but must have their milk too, and the mothers patiently prop and let them poke their faces into the pouches and drink their fill, passing the time dozing or scratching or washing their paws.

This wallaby lot looked like the queue at the canteen. 

But as the joeys grow, the capacity of those pouches is stretched to extraordinary limits.

I had to look twice at this kangaroo. A randy young male? But the penis was too thick, too dark, too straight.

No, just such a big joey that its tail wouldn’t fit back into the pouch.  I do often see the long hind feet and a thin tail tip poking out of wallaby pouches, but there are fewer roos so I wasn’t used to the scale of this one.

I can still feel the kicks in the ribs and the elbows in the guts from babies too long in utero myself.

Just imagine a big joey diving in, nose first as they do, then trying to turn 360 degrees, scrabbling about with those long pointy — clawed — hind feet and very solid tail.

All I can say as I watch the wildly contorting pouch is ‘Ouch’!

The roos move in

While the wallabies have more than made themselves at home here in my yard-that-was-once-a-garden, the kangaroos have been wary, staying over in the far orchard end and taking off if they saw me. But I recently spotted this young one through my window;  being up near the shed, it was unusually close to my cabin, but didn’t notice me snapping its picture though the window. Then I looked along the track from the shed, even closer to me, and there they were, a little family of kangaroos sprawled about on track and bank, lazy and unperturbed.

I went outside to the steps to take a better look; they looked back, but remained at ease. At last!

Since then the family is often close by, and take their rest in the grassy front yard mostly — much softer than the track. The mother is relaxed about feeding when I am outside, and her joey seems equally unbothered, although I can’t yet walk close by, as I can with the wallabies.

I thought this a good chance to show the two very different macropod mothers and their joeys, for comparison: the large Eastern Grey Kangaroo (left) and the more petite Eastern Rednecked Wallaby. They all get along together here, separate but in close proximity.

Their place — and mine

Out in the real forest it is always a matter of double-take with our cleverly camouflaged creatures; I think I see a dark shadow sway, a tree trunk bend. Kangaroo? Wallaroo? One blink and they might be gone.

As majestic as the trees that give them cover, this is how I best like to see them.

But now that my house yard is their territory too, I get different, more domestic views of my macropod neighbours. In the early mornings, as the sun begins to soak up the dew and highlight the trees, it now also picks out fluffy ears, closed sundrowsing eyes, busily feeding backs, and the many babies, cosily enpouched or skittishly out-pouched.

These red-necked wallabies rule of a morning; the kangaroo and the wallaroo families visit mostly at dusk.

Giving up the garden

Lately, with the aytpically tropical afternoon storms and heat, the grass had been growing at such a rate that I couldn’t keep up with it. I had to wait until afternoon before it was dry enough to mow and by then it would be raining again.

A bout of illness which took away any energy to seize mowing opportunities sealed my decision. I needed help.

Life is a compromise and I was about to make a big one. In essence, bugger the roses, come in and eat my grass!
One late afternoon I opened all four gates into the house yard. You will not have your wallaby photos obscured by netting from now on.
Slowly they ventured in. Wallabies first. The wallaroo looked on disapprovingly from outside the fence, where he stayed. Kangaroos are coming in too, but not close yet.
Soon they were everywhere, and over the next few days some began to rest inside the yard, using the shade of buildings and trees during the day. Some were more calm than others, some staying still as I walked past, others bolting in panic.
I immediately cleaned some strategic windows so I could take photos, like this laid-back wallaby. I enjoy observing the process of familiarisation. This is a new era of living here for me — and my neighbours.

It was actually a great relief to have given up the struggle to maintain the yard in a manner for which I have no time – but I have to take deep breaths as I watch them stripping the roses!

Just leave the citrus alone please — I silently beg, hoping they appreciate the spirit of compromise under which I have done this.

A damp end to 2009

Christmas is over and it’s been raining steadily on the mountain since Christmas night. Welcome gentle rain falling from cloud cover that is allowing a pale warm light through as well –and probably putting a light charge into the solar batteries as well.

I have moved the car out of the carport so it can have the dust washed from its once-bright red duco.

Everything green is even greener; I try not to watch the grass growing or think of the mowing ahead of me when it stops and dries out. But that’s next week.

This week I have a good excuse to stay inside tapping away on the computer, working on my next book.
Beyond occasional emergency dashes I am confined within the cabin and the verandah’s dripping edges.

From here I can see the little dam rainspotted and filling back up to its reedy edges, and a young kangaroo mother and child grazing beyond the fence, their fur much darker in the rain. They seem unbothered by the weather; I assume they are warm and dry beneath their bedraggled coats.

I know we’d both prefer this to heat and fire-danger.

Culture and kangaroos


Recently I stayed in a rustic cabin by a billabong where Nefertiti rose serene from the water and Dusky Moorhens kept a respectful distance, trailing ripples as they trawled for food, and creating delightful reflections.

At The Old Brush reserve near Cessnock, NSW, acres of mown native grass surround eight billabongs and countless picnic spots and fireplaces with wood stacked ready. In secret and mossy spots in the forest or in sundrenched clearings, you come across statues or civilised garden seats.

culture-2Kangaroos laze in security by Grecian columns; semi-naked ladies swoon by equally ‘palely loitering’ Blue Gums; a multitude of birds other than waterbirds are attracted to the water – such as a flock of White-headed Pigeons.

Metres away from the bottom accommodation cabin, I saw a Bower Bird’s display bower, with its collection of blue objects, including plastic pegs!

The reserve is owned by Robert and Gail Bignell, and they share its beauty with the public.  Robert is a professional photographer and has his Rainforest Studio there.

Visitors are welcome to picnic, camp, or rent a cabin, and Robert keeps kilometres of paths mown or clear for easy bushwalking through the stunning bushland beyond the valley floor ‘garden’ of his 40 hectares — with access to the adjoining Conservation Area. City and overseas visitors love it!


Juxtaposition of the civilised and the wild creates an unusual extended garden where people can access natural bushland of varying types in safe and signposted walks.

I was there to soak up some more of its peaceful pleasures than I’d had the chance to do before — because I’m going to nominate this wonderful place for an environmental and community award.

Visit The Old Brush website.

Wet Warrumbungles

bungles-1aMy first day camping in the Warrumbungle National Park ended with showers and a stunning misty sunset, complete with rainbow.

I hadn’t lowered and zipped shut  the front ‘verandah’ flap of my tent, so a little water had entered.

My cousins erected a separate ‘fly’ tarpaulin over their whole tent in case of further rain.


It grew cold and damp; a young male Eastern Grey kangaroo insisted on sharing our fire’s warmth. No feeding of animals is allowed here, but they are unafraid of humans.

Next morning was persistently wet; water had seeped into my tent at the bottom edges, My bedding was dry, but It felt like an island, so I pegged out the ‘blinds’ to stretch the tent sides more.

This worked. However, I intend to buy a tarpaulin to make my own fly over the top for next time.


We donned wet weather gear and went for a gentle valley walk, where this shaggy group of ancient grass trees caught my eye.


As we packed up wet gear under dripping trees, a group of emus wandered into camp — different shaggy creatures, but equally weird.

The rain had caused these fungi to erupt though the leaf litter like small daisies. They are ‘Earth stars’ I think (Geastrum triplex) and I’d only ever seen them in books before.


As I drove out, the mist was rising and the wet lichened rockfaces mimicked snow. I’ll come back in fine weather for more walks in the Warrumbungles — but with a tent fly ready in case!

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.

Rocky Creek Wildlife Refuge

rocky-creek-roosFor the past ten years, Sandra Stewart has been rescuing and caring for injured and orphaned native wildlife on her Upper Hunter wildlife refuge – Rocky Creek.

She now has her own website, with some great photos.

Here she shares her many close encounters and relationships, and her concerns, such as about commercial kangaroo shooting licence extensions into the Hunter and Mudgee areas.

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.

Carefree kangaroos

January has been very hot, up to 36 degrees here — of  course interspersed with odd days where it plummeted to 13 degrees. It’s not called ‘climate chaos’  for nothing.

Outdoor work needs to be done before the day heats up too much, in my opinion, so I aim to be up around six and work for a few hours or until the sun hits wherever I am. Then I have earned an appetite for breakfast, the right to stay inside and write, and the comfort that things out there aren’t getting too far beyond my management.

There are no horses here any more, as my daughter has them at her place now. So I am gradually removing the tree guards in the yard, collecting the last of the precious manure, weeding around the fruit trees, and attempting to prune broken or munched shrubs into less distorted shapes.


Working very close to the yard fence the other day, I noted a kangaroo family stretched out on the grass right beside the wire, just above the little dam.

Despite the fact that I had my small and crackly portable radio on and was clipping and clacking and clanking with my tools and the ancient wheelbarrow — they stayed put as I worked towards them.


I went to get the camera. The biggest stood up when I returned and aimed it;  the other two didn’t bother. An ear flicked, a head raised, an itch was scratched. The sun grew warmer; the kangaroos dozed — carefree in their Wildlife Refuge.

Such are my rewards.

Kanga & kids

The kangaroo families now graze around my house fence as regularly as the wallabies do. This helps keep my firebreak cropped short, as well as affording me front row viewing seats.

This mum had two joeys, one almost a teenager and one a toddler, barely able to squeeze back into the pouch if need be, and still drinking from Mum as well as grazing.

For a week or so I’d been watching him lurching and crashing about as he gradually spent more time on his own two very large and bumbling feet.

But all that hopping is awfully tiring, and while the bigger joey fed on, mother and child lay down for an afternoon nap right next to my fence.