A raptor perches on its monstrous nest protecting its offspring from spray as a backdrop of waves bounce with a thunderous roar, just metres from reach. Its mate returns to relieve her from nest duties, food in claws for their young.
‘Powerful’. That would be the word that dominates. Raw, uncontrollable power of the sea. Mountains of white spray bursting from the ocean, exploding, reaching high into the blueness of the sky for a brief moment of splendor, only to collapse at the feet of the jagged rocky coastline into a churning whirlpool. Repeat. I watched the awesome sight in absolute wonder.
Coastal Outback north of Carnarvon (Western Australia) was a change from the wildflower-dusted inland we’d been exploring. Harsh, but with a discernible serenity. Hard, but with a subtle softness. Captivating beauty.
The people who historically attempted to tame and farm this land held a misplaced vision. This is wild land. It belongs to Nature alone.
No grazing stock in sight, decommissioned windmills taken over by nesting ravens – the station now hosts tourists: game fishing, surfing, diving and camping. I feel privileged to have access to this magnificent stretch of coastal outback.
Looking for shade to sit and make a cuppa, there were no trees, only low acacia woodland, saltbush and samphire, and mounds of dead and broken shrubbery. The Outback. But we found a patch of shade by a wet saltpan, made a cup of tea and enjoyed watching Red-capped Plovers dart in random zig-zagging patterns through the shallow pools. Intense red sand contrasted brilliantly against the shimmering patches of moisture and the blue desert sky.
Songs of Pied Honey-eaters and Blue-winged Fairy-wrens entertained us. Such delicate creatures make their home in harsh and unforgiving country. And we are reminded of the harshness by bleached bones of a beast lying alone on the silent sand. Today there is water. Yesterday and tomorrow are different stories again.
Dry, dusty inland Australia – the sky belongs to raptors and ravens. The land ‘belongs’ to humans to do with as ‘they’ see fit.
I don’t agree that particularly thirsty crops like cotton and rice have a place in Australian agriculture, but, I do appreciate the expertise, employment, and economic value and sense of pride that goes with these industries in rural communities. Travelling west from Hay in the Riverina, vast paddocks of cotton spread across the landscape, giving way to even bigger paddocks of wheat stubble. Not a tree in sight. Wait. There’s one. Just imagine the noisy scuffles in those branches when the whole bird kingdom feels the urge to nest at once.
Murrumbidgee River irrigation gives way to Murray River irrigation as we drive into the Riverland district of Renmark and Berri. Acres of quality vineyards and citrus orchards butt up to parched Mallee and saltbush country. The strategic placement of dripping water produces lush and bountiful fruit crops, not a drop goes elsewhere.
The might River Murray, according to records, is apparently nowhere as mighty as it once was. Over use and mis-use. I can’t verify that, but to my eyes, the Murray is still a splendid river, running wide and clean, lined with grand River Red Gums and weeping Willows. But I am just an on-looker.
And, I was overjoyed to see for myself that water is being allocated to maintain wetlands vital to water-birds’ health and wellbeing. What progress it is to see Murray River water diverted into wetlands surrounded by saltbush and sun-baked earth. Governmental view of environmental needs is finally making some slim changes that evoke hope.
As we prepare to leave the Murray River, I feel sure we won’t find another that can stand anywhere near its grandeur until we trip around Australia and find ourselves back here.
Shorebirds can be difficult to identify by a shorebird-novice like me. But for someone who appreciates the nuances of animal behaviour, they can be endlessly entertaining, even without names.
Cudgeon Creek estuary at Hastings Point on the north coast of NSW proved to be a great place to watch the comings and goings of sand dwelling birds – our first stop on our around Australia caravanning trip.
Other sand flats and rock walls gave up surprise encounters with fascinating birds too. Like the Osprey, a raptor that generally preys on water-dwelling creatures, but is not immune to opportunism created by humans. I watched a woman catch a garfish and secure it to a bigger fishing rod in the hope of tempting a table fish to her hook. But the Osprey had its name on that garfish. It swooped to steel the live bait from the line and flew off to feed on it from a high perch. Brilliant!
And bath time always provides plenty of amusing antics. Crested terns scooped water up with their bent wings, splashing like children for longer than necessary. They all bath differently. Ospreys stand alone in the shallowest of water, tentatively dipping headfirst, throwing water onto their back, with its mate on patrol in a nearby tree.
A Mangrove Heron skulks among the rock-pools searching out tiny fish, freezing like a statue, then thrusting its bill into the water at such speed that I always miss the catch. The heron did not miss.
Birds with long straight bills like straws, others curved downwards, poking and prodding the sand for morsels of food – birds that have flown halfway around the world. How is that possible? Incredible.
Sharing something special with someone special, makes that something special all the more special.
My daughter and I spent the day at Crystal Castle on the north coast hinterland of NSW, and it’s hard to find a word to describe the experience – beautiful first and foremost, absolutely splendid plants adorning a misty mountain setting surrounded by natural rainforest. And crystals; stunning huge and ancient crystals on paths and clearings. Mossy stone statues, bamboo groves, sacred spaces. Seats amongst the garden for solitude. A truly special place.
We started the day taking part in a ritual offering to deities that are ‘simply’ universal energy. It was moving and enlightening. After tea and cake in the cafe overlooking the forested slopes, we wandered at leisure, taking in the beauty and abundant positive energy.
Group meditation with the hauntingly soothing sounds of Tibetan singing bowls, and a crystal workshop, delicious vegetarian food, and peace and quiet. We both took away wonderful memories, love and warmth, and a new perspective on some very old traditions.
Settling into retirement in a new location has been tougher than we imagined. After 3 years, we’re still struggling, probably more now than initially.
Joining the Birdwatchers of Hervey Bay, with weekly outings amongst gentle, accepting people with like interests has been our saviour. But the time feels right to realise our dream of caravanning around Australia, so we’re heading off on an adventure – for 9, 10, 12 months, or, maybe we’ll forget to come home. As long as we can get our prescribed medications, we have no commitments.
I need to re-connect with my self, and with nature. Wandering around the bush and deserted beaches will provide the unpolluted energy I need for reflection: joining the dots. And spending time at length amongst nature with my Old Mate is what we need as a couple. Day 1 has ended with a picnic tea by the beach in the shade, watching birds and enjoying the breeze after a long day travelling.
Grand. Awesome. Immaculately groomed tropical plant collections from here and other tropical countries, obviously lovingly and expertly maintained.
Flecker Botanic Gardens, Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia. I’ve explored arid-lands botanic gardens, high-country botanic gardens, city and country, native and exotic, and always immersed myself in the beauty and fascination of the plants displayed. But really, this tropical garden tops them all.
Amazing ferns and palms are features. Stunning foliage plants. Mysterious carnivorous plants. Gorgeous blooms and odd seed capsules. Relatives of the grotesquely beautiful Corpse flower. Bromeliads, gingers, bamboos, and creepers. Orchids and strange fruit trees. Lush lawns and waterways. And tucked away in little leafy nooks are seats (themselves works of art) for contemplation and rest.
What a truly inspiring piece of natural paradise. After wandering in wonderment, and sitting in silence, we enjoyed delicious food at the outdoor cafe. And then it rained, as it does in the tropics.
She was hanging in the garden in a huge web tinged with gold. A BIG spider. A scarily BIG spider. I first saw her while I was having breakfast outdoors. She darted to the bottom of the web pouncing on a brilliant blue butterfly. The butterfly escaped, and Mrs spider returned to the centre of her web, awaiting another hapless insect.
How do I know it was Mrs? Because in the spider kingdom, the female is usually hundreds of times larger than the male. At a close inspection, two tiny spiders were hanging out in the outskirts of the web, presumably waiting for a chance to impregnate the impressive mama, and probably get eaten in the process. It’s tough being a male spider.
During a late afternoon tropical shower, a dove flew through the web, leaving half the silky net in tatters. And then to make matters worse for the spider, the clumsy bird flew straight back again, almost taking out the spider.
More rain through the night, and when I checked out the spider in the garden, I was amazed to find a finch caught in the web. Now, the finch was only a little smaller than a House Sparrow, so that’s really some achievement for the spider’s silk – known to be stronger than steel of equal size. Nature is awesome.
The bird was still alive, and the spider showed no interest in the potential meal, so the owner of the Park rescued the bird and carefully plucked off all the silk fibres connected to its wings and legs. After a stumble, the bird flew off.
This is what I love about nature. All the little details. All the daily behaviour and mystery. And that’s why I notice Mother Nature’s subtle, yet wondrous stories. Because I don’t just look, I experience. Yes, nature is awesome.