Sharing the place

After all the initial rushing about and media interviews for the new book — ongoing and more to come — I was glad to have a few relatively peaceful days at home with my fellow inhabitants.

As I am still without 240v power until my solar system’s inverter is fixed, I am to-ing and fro-ing between cabin and camper to use the small inverter and two panels there to recharge the laptop.

On the steps, about to dash across once more, I saw the big red-bellied black snake who has been visible somewhere about the yard most days for the last few weeks.

It was under the camper, heading towards one of the wallabies who like to rest there.

They looked at each other for a while (long enough for me to grab the camera) — and then the snake did a U-turn.

Unfortunately it then headed towards the cabin. So I’m on the steps, needing to see where it goes, while saying, ‘Oh please, don’t come this way!’. But it did.

It went under the open steps, so of course I was hoping it didn’t decide to come up through them on to the verandah.

But it came out the other side and into what used to a herb rockery before the coal book lost me my garden altogether.

Immobile, there it stayed for ages — waiting for lunch, I assume. With the days warm but nights cold, I guess it’s fattening up for a winter break.

It’s pretty nerve-wracking having to be so on the alert, with it stretched out and almost invisible in many of the places I’ve seen it, and where I often walk. I wish winter would hurry up!

Lazy day for all

With the rain holding off and a thin warmth coming through the uniformly grey cloud cover, my share tenants were making the most of it.

The gypsy camper had its usual coterie of lollers and lazers, even though they hardly needed its shade this day. Habit, I suppose, or fear another might claim their spot if they left it unattended.

The youngest, who seems to always choose dirt rather than grass as a daybed, looked at me so sleepily I felt guilty bothering them with the camera. But they weren’t bothered enough to move.

Every wallaby in the yard was taking it easy, lying flat out or propped for dozing in a half-sitting position.

And they weren’t the only critters lulled by the warmth into immobility.

I hadn’t seen a snake for a few weeks, cool and wet as it’s been. This one remained here near the house for a long time, perhaps digesting, but underneath it would be extra warm as there are rocks buried in that grass. Once upon a less busy time I had a round herb garden here and kept the rock path weeded.

Indian Spring

The last days of July have been warm and calm. With a month of winter yet to come, it feels like Spring.

The ground is still very damp, but the locals don’t seem to mind.

This wallaby mum lazed in the sun for hours until the treeline shade caught up with her, while her joey stayed cosy ‘indoors’ but was wide awake and curious about all the goings-on, including me.

I love the oversized translucent pink ears of joeys this age!

The false Spring was heralded by the return of a few annual visitors and residents.

The Maned Wood Duck couple made their first appearance for the year, sleekly dapper as ever. As they pottered about the yard, the younger wallabies watched with interest. ‘Welcome back,’ I called.

I had been picking jonquils earlier, especially the Erlicheers, whose scent is so sweet and strong. I had weeded amongst them a few weeks ago and had been thinking I must do the other clumps of bulbs before Spring and its attendant snake worries.

But I am too late. On the rock steps I saw my first red-bellied black of the season. Oh no, they’re back, and it’s only July 31st.

Youngish and quite lively, it slipped into partial hiding in the unweeded bulb clumps opposite the Erlicheers, and stayed there, immobile, for ages, sunsoaking like the wallaby mum. I’m afraid I couldn’t say ‘Welcome back’.


Kids on boring car trips used to play a game of looking out for a designated and usually uncommon item — like a purple car, or a Palomino horse — and ‘Spotto!’ you’d yell if you spotted one.

If you read my excited posts about my several sightings of a lone White-headed Pigeon, you can imagine what a treat it was for me to spot three of them.

They were perched on a tree on the island in the middle of my big dam — well, it’s actually two dams sharing the island and the outlet. Spring-fed, below it is the main regenerating rainforest gully.

These are rainforest-dwelling birds; have they taken up residence now it’s becoming more attractive to them?

And why does only one visit the house?

A few days later, a less welcome sighting — and much nearer the house.  As I was coming down the steps I spotted a medium-sized red-bellied black snake sunning itself  by the bank.

By the time I had the camera in hand, it was oozing in under my firewood heap. And not as slowly as I’d have thought, or wished, it being Autumn.

Does it live there? In which case, under advice, I have placed a long-handled rake nearby for dragging logs out. But every time will be nerve-racking; and has it always been there as I reached in barehanded?

My adviser says it will have been watching me, so just carry on as normal.

Since then I have been watching the woodheap and I haven’t seen the snake again, but I will never again be complacent about bringing in the firewood.

Non-scary snake

As you may know, snakes have a certain effect on me that I have not yet overcome. However this one, found under a log by a visitor, I can cope with.

In fact I can say I almost find it cute.

It’s a Common Eastern Blind Snake — sometimes called Worm Snakes for obvious reasons. They aren’t actually blind, since that dot gives them ‘nominal eyesight’ according to my book.

They are the only Australian snakes known to feed on insects — like ants and termites.

Not much is known about the 30 or so species thought to exist in Australia, and some scientists apparently place them somewhere in between snakes and lizards.

But here’s the part they do know that appeals to me: ‘They are unable to bite humans and lack venom glands’.

Sharing my spring

A few warm days, a fat black snake with a lunchtime bulge basking in the sun, and then five degree mornings again.

I know to keep an eye out now, but I have been watching the wallabies and roos accept the snake’s presence, and even close progress, and show no sign of anxiety.

I must learn to be still.

I saw the snake again today — and managed to keep on hanging out the washing.

Almost daily an echidna potters though the yard, weaving its waddling way between the groups of macropods that laze and graze — usually around 20, not counting joeys in pouches.

I enjoy their easy acceptance of each other, as I do when the wallabies let me pass very close and don’t move. No echidna is at ease with me yet.

Yesterday I saw the first satin bower bird pecking around the bay tree, darting in and out from its low growing shelter. She could have been a ceramic figurine, with her subtle colouring and well-defined bumps of breast feathers.

There will be many more, ready for what fruit the parrots leave. While the trees bear only blossom my feelings are simple: admiration.

My latest resident

I have more to tell about my trip to Western Australia, but in between I have to keep you up-to-date with the ongoing news on the mountain. On the second day of Spring, the Diamond Python arrived. 

The day was warm and sunny; I was hanging out washing. Out of the corner of one eye, this is what I saw.

Now I know better than to panic about a non-venomous python — at least, not when it’s out on the open lawn, rather than in my shower, or trying to come inside.

So you could say I was pretty relaxed about watching it from only a slight distance. I do marvel at the way it seems to follow itself in one long and powerful undulation.

I also wanted to see where it was heading with such uphill purpose, past the vegetable garden, past the Nashi tree.

I should have known. Of course it was heading for the shed. As I watched it ooze effortlessly up the stems of the massive jasmine vine, it seemed to know exactly where it was going. 

Did this mean it had previously resided in the woody twists and weaves of vine that so thickly covers this old tin wall before? 

Or was it aiming for one of the many gaps beneath the unlined roof? Had it lived inside the shed — and how often had I missed its bright patterning draped across the dim rafters while I pottered about below?

Yes, I know it means I won’t have bush rats in there — but what about baby quolls?

And what about me? I’m nervous enough already going in to that overcrowded and shadowy place, always with one eye on the dark recesses beside my feet. If I have to keep the other eye on the dark spaces above my head, or in between — finding anything will be very difficult!

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.

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.

Garden invader

fence-1My vegie garden has been so variously girded and further girded that I felt it was a fortress.

It has fine aviary wire netting dug in at the base – against small mammals like bush rats; a moat of gravel against the kikuyu; is swathed to head height in floppy chicken wire for horses (originally) and for possums; and has an added aviary wire overlay to varying heights from about 700mm to 1metre – for the snakes.

I had been at ease in there for weeks as I weeded and planted for Spring, as I could see that no critters were lurking in there. After having been away during the wild dust storms lately, the spring growth in there was looking sad and dirty. I went to hose it.

As I touched the garden gate I saw my red-bellied black snake stretched out comfortably on the earth of my vegie garden, threaded amongst the self-sown rocket seedlings in front of my garlic.

How had it got in — and could it get out? It surely could not have got through the aviary wire??!! (which you can’t see here but is on the outside of these layers of netting.)
blacksnake-1As I watched it slither in and out of my once harmless young vegie rows, erratically rearing up to poke at the netting, I indulged in a longish bout of teary despair. Fearing it was trapped, I phoned a snake-wise friend who said my aviary wire was nowhere near high enough and yes, the snake could have climbed up the netting until it reached the larger holes. I hadn’t imagined it would make such an effort — why would it bother??

I was advised to open the gate and watch until it went out. But when I returned I couldn’t see it; nor could I on each half-hourly check that afternoon. It must have got out.

Next day I saw it on the grass elsewhere in the yard — but I am still unable to go into the garden until I can afford to add a new higher layer of fine netting.

But how to be sure the invader is outside the fortress when I do?

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.

Spring heads—and tails

hardenbergiaIt’s spring! In the bush, dead spars of tree trunks have sprouted flamboyant purple head-dresses as Hardenbergia stems have reached the top and found the light.
red-belly-blackIn the garden the winter bulbs aren’t even finished, the spring ones haven’t started; there are many clumps of green strappy leaves gathering food for the bulbs for next year—so I can’t mow these areas yet.

But I won’t be weeding by hand after spotting amongst several of them the tail end of my apparently resident red-bellied black snake.

It’s now a case of where haven’t I seen it yet.