Coming home after what had clearly been a wet week here, I was pleased to see my wildlife mates, including the plentiful kookaburras.

This one on the deck railing looked around at my intrusion as if he’d become used to having it to himself.

But what was he so keenly watching down below in the yard?

A turtle! I tiptoed down to see. It appeared to be scrabbling in a circle on the slight slope; was it injured?

Up closer, I decided it had use of all four legs. Noting the dried green weed on its shell, I wondered if it was the same Eastern Long-necked Turtle that had visited me very early on in my residency here. This turtle (Chelodina longicollis) is one of the snake-necked types, for obvious reasons, and a species of side-necked turtle, as it bends its head sideways into its shell rather than pulling it directly back.

However, from the look it gave me, this one was not about to say ‘Hello, nice to see you again’ or any such. Bearing in mind that their other common name is ‘Stinker’, from the offensive-smelling fluid it emits from its musk glands if it feels threatened, I backed off.

I stayed well away, watching from a distance, with my camera zoom at the ready.

When the turtle deemed I had been gone long enough and it was safe to move, it did, unerringly turning downhill towards the wetlands’ swamps and ponds.

At a fair pace it skirted the old timber fence. There being plenty of broken bits, I knew it would find a way out. After all, it must have come in from the wetlands.

But why?

And was it revisiting? I hoped so, since an annual turtle treat would be most welcome!

Two by two

The Maned Wood Duck couple are back on the little dam, and enjoying being able to wander up the slope without having to fly over a netting fence or waddle along to a gate opening.

It’s rather late for ducklings, so I assume they’ve done all the baby business elsewhere and arrived here as true ’empty-nesters.’

The other day, the pair happened to be hanging about near two young kangaroos, just above where the fence used to be. They made a serendipitous picture and I was yet again grateful that no netting loomed behind them.

It reminded me of the tiniest tale in my book Mountain Tails, where something similar happened.


Once I saw a strikingly symmetrical composition of creatures in the orchard, a line-up of paired animals.

Two kookaburras sat opposite each other, on two stakes of a netting guard; below each one stood a magpie; and just beyond them, outside the fence, two kangaroos faced each other as if posing for a coat of arms.

It was a fortuitous flash that soon broke apart, but it made me think of the animals queuing for the Ark, and thus my Refuge as being like that. Only it’s not God’s punitive Flood they need refuge from — it’s Man.

Echidna close-ups

I love to see echidnas almost daily in the yard, and that they are starting to ignore me when I walk past a few feet away.

But sometimes I curse their night’s work. The earth bank is an easy target for them to poke their snouts into, but  I slip on the stones they dislodge onto my brick steps! They are effectively burying them.

But I don’t curse for long — unless I do actually slip. They are far too interesting and far too cute. I get to see them from all aspects except underneath, but they are never still for long. They do a surprisingly swift waddle!

Their faces I can catch by sitting still as they approach.

But I was fascinated to see this close-up of an echidna’s rear. It’s not one of my resident echidnas: this great shot was taken by web visitor Darian Zam — thanks, Darian!  

The tail always looks like a strange extension, rather like an emu’s, I have thought.  Or an overly-gelled ducktail hairstyle. I’d imagined the symmetrical spiky end whorls would overhang the actual anus, but this shows otherwise.

Animal Lady on the move

Recently I met Laura, a delightful young Spanish biologist with a passion for primates, while she was WWOOFing at Rocky Creek Wildlife Refuge. Here she’s been caring for wallabies and kangaroos, given that primates are a bit hard to find in Australia.

Her Animal Lady blog is both fun and informative as she travels to different places and meets different animals — and people.

“After spending five weeks in an orphanage for chimpanzees in Zambia in 2008 and ten weeks in the jungle of Borneo studying orangutans in 2009, this year I decided it was time to go a little bit further,” she said.

“When I finished my degree in Biology this June my parents gave me a trip around the world as a present. This 10-month trip is taking me through Borneo, Bali, Japan, New Zealand, Tasmania, the Australian east coast, California and Mexico.

“Everywhere I go I always try to be the closest to nature and animals I can. If you would like to join me in my trip around the world follow me here.”

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.

Teen Mag

Lately the harrassed mother magpie has been closely shadowed everywhere she goes in the yard by her overly large and overly vocal teenager.

Not yet black and white but greyish-brown and white, he is bigger than his mum and always a bit behind in copying whatever she is doing.

The other day she had landed on the bird feeder to check it out.

Finding it empty, as it often is, she quickly took off again.

He sat in it for a while longer, looking confused as to what he was meant to be finding and eating there, and whingeing half-heartedly — but continually.

Then he plunged off after his mother — still whingeing, of course.

Why I live ‘way out here’

This post is extracted from Chapter 1 of The Woman on the Mountain, with the kind permission of my publisher, Exisle.

Wherever you live you need to feel safe, and in tune with your surroundings. I do.

Yet my place is a 90-minute drive from a post box, police station, shop or mechanic, let alone a Big M or a Big W or whatever other letter is considered crucial to modern survival.

Half of that drive is over a dirt road, partly through a national park which verges on wilderness. I have no neighbours within sight, sound or coo-ee, or not in the accepted sense. My neighbours are the wild creatures who live in the national park.

…if I were forced to live again in a city, town or suburb, I certainly wouldn’t feel safe, or in tune with my surroundings. I’d be nervous, draw my curtains at night, lock my doors, lower my voice — and I’d feel like a fish out of water.

I’d pine for the tree-clad mountains stretching forever into the distance, the blue gums and stringybarks and sheoaks just beyond my house fence, the hundreds of infant rainforest trees I’ve planted in the gullies, the wild creatures that are my neighbours — the wallabies and birds, the quolls and koalas, the snakes and lizards — I’d even include the leeches.

I’d miss the sounds of cicada, mad wattlebird and bleating frog chorus, or me yelling ‘Feedo!’ at the top of my voice for the horses to come. When could I yell anything at the top of my voice again?…

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Just another animal

houdini ponyWhen I feed the horses I have to tie them up so the greedy ones don’t annoy the others.

The worst is the little one, Shari, who’ll pick up the rim of the rubber bucket with her teeth and drag it away from a bigger horse, or just muscle in with her shaggy head.

I tie her up outside my house fence, just above the small dam.

There are often animals drinking there or feeding around the bank, like this family of Eastern Grey kangaroos.

Even if I’m going crook on Shari — a common occurrence — or calling the other horses to come, they remain undisturbed at the noise.

I warrant a brief interruption, a look — but oh, it’s only her — and they resume grazing. Human or horse: it’s just another animal.

By the way, anyone fancy a small fat pony, cute but cunning, and with Houdini abilities?

The Goulburn goanna


lacemonitor2On a recent Goulburn River camping trip, one visitor to the campsite was familiar: a large, long goanna, or Lace Monitor.

He checked out the cold campfire and the garbage bag, but was disappointed in our vegetarian scraps.

Fruit peelings and limp lettuce leaves just can’t compete with chop bones or pie crusts.

Spotting us, he headed up the nearest tree and splayed himself like a brooch across its broad trunk. He is so long it is hard to fit him in the camera lens: the bone-pale tip of his tail is cut off.

He doesn’t like my close clicking and moves higher up the tree.

He must greet the holiday season with very mixed reactions: possibilities of interesting tucker, but what nuisances people are, never minding their own business, always staring, pointing, exclaiming, clicking, forcing him up trees when he has work to do!