Travelling – When disturbed by energy, I find peace in nature


They’re common birds. I see them every day. Yet they still provide interest and delight to a genuine lover of nature. With one wing lifted and spread out, the dove rolls over and appears dead in the midday sun, presumably enlisting the heat to evict parasites. Its mate joins in the ritual. Then they get up, shake, spread the other wing and stretch out on the grass. Finches feed around them. Suddenly, with a whirr of frantic wings, birds large and small move as one, disappearing into the undergrowth. The brown torpedo-shape of a juvenile Black Butcher-bird darts low over the feeding grounds, diving into the undergrowth. The predator emerges empty-billed, and the pray remain silent and still until the clearing is again safe.

Nature plays out extraordinary sequences of well-being and survival, dedication and loss, life and death, everywhere, every day and night. To the human who appreciates and is fascinated by the details of nature, these sequences are always interesting, often entertaining, sometimes laugh-out-loud amusing, and with limitless beauty and wonder.

Atherton tablelands mountains and swamp

Whilst travelling, I meet other birdwatchers/photographers. Some are pleasant company, more are so obsessed with the end result of their hobby (ie: the number of ticks on their species list, or the perfect photo) that they miss the point of nature entirely. They emit stressful, threatening energy that repels the very birds they’re chasing. That self-serving vibration repels me too. I wander off in search of the natural peace that nature IS when nature is left to BE. And because I have no agenda, all I want from nature is to enjoy the beauty and magic of the moment, whatever that moment might produce, PEACE is granted to me.

Travelling – From tropical coast to dry inland

Outback drought 1

Thousands of mangled kangaroo carcasses litter the roadside – some desiccated fur and bleached bones, others fresh and being devoured by ravens and raptors. A ghastly sight, but not much is wasted.

Mobs of kangaroos suffer the midday sun, searching out a morsel of grass worth eating. As brutal as it might sound, motorists unintentionally running the roos down are doing them and their kind a favour. The drought is harsh.

Creeks are bone-dry, rivers reduced to chains of stagnant puddles, farm dams are not much better. Emus wander aimlessly across abandoned paddocks, camouflaged against the grey bushland.

Outback drought 2

Acacias are beginning to bloom – today is national Wattle Day. Occasional thickets of cypress and weeping wilga share the landscape with the wattle and eucalypts. Hundreds of kilometres of the grey semi-arid vegetation and dusty earth becomes monotonous, so we pull over to rest and watch the birdlife. It’s only when you stop and take the time to observe the land that the birds reveal themselves.

Bowra 03 Varied Sittella
Varied Sittella
Bowra 14 White-plumed HE
White-plumed Honeyeaters

We left the tropical Queensland coast and mountains behind a few days ago. Instead of sandy beaches lined with palms, we now have sandy plains, bull dust swirling as a willy-willy whips up the bare ground, and scrub struggling to survive.

The further west we travel, the less traffic we encounter. An occasional caravanner dodging road-kill, like us, and road trains ploughing through them. Australia is a vast and diverse country and I feel fortunate to travel in comfort and safety, and although the scenery is dull in colour and sparse in density, there is beauty all around for those who appreciate the details of nature.

Outback drought 3

Travelling – The tranquillity of The Coorong

Coorong 03

Two ferry crossings, samphire/farming/lake scenery and a short stretch of corrugated track took us to Long Point on The Coorong (southern coast of South Australia). Grey sky didn’t detract from the absolute tranquillity of this special place.

Pelicans, terns and water-fowl preened themselves as they perched on exposed rocks. Watching birds preening is such a charming sight. They all have their own specialised techniques of cleaning and smoothing feathers, drawing oils down the precious plumes so that everything works perfectly. Then with heads tucked under wings, they become statues.

A lone seal basked on the jetty in the practically non-existent late autumn sun, standing to attention as I approached. The huge animal plopped into the water with barely a splash.

It was the most delightful, laugh-out-loud experience to witness the sleek and agile seal bath and play. Both front flippers rubbed the face with attention to detail that any mother would applaud, then rolled over and over, rubbed its belly, and finally lay on its back with flippers waving in the air like semaphore flags. And then it appeared to just zone out as it floated, arms on belly, eyes closed.

coorong 02 seal

I could hear the faint crash of surf, hidden on the far side of the dunes. The occasional cry of gulls was the only other sound across the expanse of glassy water. Harmony – that’s what it felt like, with human and nature as one.

Rippling water announced the seal’s return to the jetty. After one final wipe of the nose and rub of the belly, it  hauled itself onto the step, took a breather, then dragged its bulk onto the platform, where it promptly settled down to snooze.

A cold wind whipped up and drizzling rain moved across the sand hills towards us. We’d had the best the morning had to offer, so we took to the road again, finding a lakeside restaurant with a pleasant sheltered garden eatery, and ordered a Sunday roast lunch and pot of tea. More special memories.

coorong 01

Travelling – Indigo ranges and orange ridges

Flinders scenery 01

Exploring the Flinders Ranges (South Australia) has been a memorable experience. Naturally steering clear of crowds where ever we go, we’ve avoided the touristy places, opting instead to venture onto side roads.

‘Stunning’ might well be an overused description, but the scenery of the Flinders deserves every bit of ‘stunning’, ‘breath-taking’, ‘magnificent’ and more.

Flinders scenery 03

Indigo ranges, with scissor-sharp peaks piercing the sky, stretch off into the distance, parallel with the road. And turning to look in the other direction, naked ochre-orange ridges of rock make an equally impressive statement. Green mounds dotted with low growing native shrubs form a repetitive rolling pattern from the roadside to meet the high country.

Flinders scenery 02

And then the scene is dissected by dry rocky riverbeds, twisting around the base of hills, lined with massive River Red Gums. The trees spread out onto the floodplains, in brilliant contrast to the solid colour of the mountain backdrop.

Tired fences of leaning and splintering cypress posts, rusty wire and torn chicken mesh no longer keep stock contained, but they have a rustic character befitting of the ancient mountains. Historic rock and mortar buildings stand in ruin, a testament to pioneer farmers long gone. I marvel at the workmanship, still evident.

Flinders scenery 04

And then we boil the billy for a cuppa in the shade of a giant eucalypt, sit and watch the Red-capped Robins and Yellow-rumped Thornbills chattering amongst themselves and the rest of the local bird population that seems to have come to greet us.

The sunset to end our day of roaming through the Flinders was simply magic – a sky on fire. And then the blackness of a starlit heaven moved in to bid us goodnight.

Flinders scenery 05

Travelling – Dry riverbeds and magnificent trees

Flinders river red gums and dry riverbeds 1

Kangaroos watched me cautiously, swivelling their ears to catch every sound. Unseen birds betrayed their presence as spikes of grass twitched in the early morning stillness – gatherers of seed and insects going about their business apparently oblivious to the intrusion. But the wildlife rarely bother too much as I quietly observe their habits and habitat. I always feel privileged to have access to the natural environment of wild creatures.

Perhaps I’ve never taken enough notice of  photos and information on the Flinders Ranges in South Australia, but I didn’t expect to find spectacular trees. Beautiful River Red Gums, massive in girth and height, line all the dry watercourses. Not an odd tree here and there, but great numbers.

White is the primary colour of the trunks – gleaming white splashed with all shades of earthy colours you could imagine. Dense, drooping canopies of slender blue/green leaves are heavy with flower buds. Is it any wonder that artists flock to these trees. When they are ready to burst into bloom, surely the birds will flock to them too.

Although all the waterways are now dry, the evidence of swift and deep rushing water is everywhere. Flood debris lays in piles against any obstacle that hindered the waters flow. But most astounding are the huge logs that have gouged holes in mature eucalypts lining the creeks. More than holes, some trees have been broken open and completely hollowed out, but still they live on. Nature is remarkable in its violence, and its resilience. I can not help but be impressed by the stories being told by the grand old trees.

Flinders river red gums and dry riverbeds 3

I sit in the riverbed, write about my surroundings and of how I am emotionally moved by the sheer magnificence of nature. This is a gravel riverbed, others are rocky. Emus and kangaroos have left their footprints as their weight has cracked the mud crust, and there are tiny unidentifiable tracks accompanying them. Mother Nature’s animals live in harmony, as all life should be.

Flinders river red gums and dry riverbeds 2

The wild becomes unwild

The rainforest boardwark and a black booyong tree

Sitting quietly allowing the birds to come to you can, and does, produce some amazing up-close wildlife encounters. I don’t dress up in cammo gear or hide behind bushes – I feel sure the birds can sense they are not threatened.

I parked my backside on my camp stool, hoping the Eastern Whipbird family would come closer. And it did. A juvenile did its very best to coerce its parent into giving up some food. It pecked mum’s cheek, quivered its outstretched wings as if performing some ritual dance, all the while uttering a strange whinging sound that could only come from a hungry youngster. It chased mum around, darting under the boardwalk where I sat, even jumping up and down at my feet in anticipation of a hand-out. But it went without.

04 O'Reilly's Rainforest Whipbird adult
Adult Eastern Whipbird
03 O'Reilly's Rainforest Whipbird Juvenile
Juvenile Eastern Whipbird

Entertaining. But what came next was even more delightful. A pair of tiny mouse-like creatures poked their noses through gaps on the boardwalk, sniffing, then flattened their bodies, pulling themselves through to the surface of the boardwalk. Yellow-footed Antechinus (pronounced anti-kye-nus). They jumped about in search of insects like they had springs under their feet, slid off the edge, scratched around in the leaf litter, and climbed trees. The more adventurous of the two disappeared into a hole, re-emerging from a hole in the other side of the tree. I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face.

01 O'Reilly's Rainforest - Yellow-footed Antechinus
Yellow-footed Antechinus

Wild nature touches my soul. Warms my heart. It’s such a privilege to be able to watch native creatures at close range in their natural habitat, and I’m always grateful for the gift.

And just as I considered moving further up the track, a totally awesome bird, the Crested Shrike-tit, perched right in front of me at eye level. Shrike-tits are usually hidden and elusive in the canopy, but this beautiful thing showed itself to me. All the forest animals ignored me as I sat still and quiet, unobtrusive and non-threatening.

02 O'Reilly's Rainforest Eastern Shrike-tit
Crested Shrike-tit

For a moment, I too, am a part of my natural surroundings, at one with the earth and its creatures. And I am beholden to the beauty and wonder of Mother Nature.

Birdwatchers of Hervey Bay celebrate 20th anniversary

Twenty years ago, on 14 February 1997, the newly formed group of birdwatchers had their inaugural outing. Ten birdos gathered at Arkarra Lagoons for a morning of bird spotting, recording 32 species.

Local bird enthusiast, John Knight, presided over the meeting, but there have never been any official office-bearers. Twenty years later, John still endows the group with his passion for native birds and habitat, recording sightings from weekly outings.

Now, between 25 and 30 members gather early every Wednesday morning at one of the 80-odd venues in the Fraser Coast area, splitting up into small informal groups, the more knowledgeable always offering assistance and expertise when requested. For me, it is always a learning experience as well as an enjoyable social occasion.

Following two hours of birdwatching, everyone meets for morning tea and some socialising. Then it’s time for the bird count. Those who wish to stay for another bird spotting wander, do so, and then meet for lunch.

To date, the group has identified about 300 bird species in the local district, with the usual weekly count between 50 and 80.

As the first meeting was held at Arkarra Lagoons, this was the choice for the anniversary meeting. More than 50 members and visitors celebrated the milestone with morning tea and a cake.

Great memories.

Birdwatchers of Hervey Bay 20th anniversary Arkarra Lagoons 15 Feb 2017