Thursday, December 27, 2012

Tourists compete with Seagulls at Phillip Island

On Boxing Day we joined people from all around the world at Pt Grant, a place affectionately known by islanders as The Nobbies.  Here there were as many tourists as silver gulls -- and the people were almost as excited and noisy as the nesting seagulls!

Located at the western end of Phillip Island, this piece of rugged coastal scenery lures visitors who revel in the powerful scenery. Beds of succulent pigface creeper, with their pink and white flowers, contrast vividly against the steep black cliffs and the blue southern ocean.

Silver gull nests are built on the ground in areas of low vegetation.  These shallow, cup-shaped nests contain between one to four olive blotched eggs that take 21 to 27 days to hatch.  Parents regurgitating food for their chicks is a noisy process; likewise seagulls protecting their territory.

Seagulls are very adaptable. They are master scavengers and make themselves at home in many different environments: from rubbish dumps to pristine environments such as Pt Grant, at Phillip Island. I find their body language very interesting -- from the aggressive pose, to the alarm stance, to hunching, which precedes an attack. 

Human behaviour is equally interesting, and from the extensive raised walkways crowded with visitors, there was ample opportunity to listen and watch as people from every corner of the globe interacted and took in the powerful scenery.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Arrival Phillip Island to find Stego dead

Half an hour before leaving Mitchell for Phillip Island, we received a unique going away present -- the sight of a dragon lizard laying two of her eight or so eggs in our garden.  We even watched her cover them with sand and then scamper away.

Pet-friendly accommodation (for the five nights we were in transit) ensured we had a relaxing trip south.  And of course, the moment we arrived in Victoria I began feeling cold!

After any long car journey I'm always thankful when, at the conclusion, we arrive safely and without incident.

Back on Phillip Island we found our garden ablaze with red geraniums, blue agapanthus and lush green grass.  Much to our dogs delight, the garden is hopping with rabbits.  Although I know rabbits are in plague numbers on Phillip Island and an introduced pest, I love their cuteness. So I'm glad our dogs never actually catch them.  But chasing rabbits is good exercise and great fun -- according to Major and Del.

Sad news.  This morning we discovered our pet stumpy-tailed lizard -  Stego -- dead in a nest of grasses.  We think he died on the day we arrived back on the island.  Perhaps he was waiting for us?

Stego has been in our care for 22 years, and since we bought him as a 15-year-old, this makes him a very long lived pet.  37 years is an exraordinarily long life for a stumpy-tailed lizard.

This year we left him to hibernate on Phillip Island because the Mitchell floods wrecked his Mitchell house.  Our close friends Jeanette and David kept his enclosure well trimmed and fed him as the weather warmed up.  So he was active and eating right up until our return.  I hope he died in his sleep, peacefully.

Stego has travelled widely and has visited schools, community environment groups, radio and TV studios.  He features in my book Alternative Pets, both in text and photographs.  He lives on through my book and in my mind as a much loved and amazingly intelligent creature.  My life is richer for having had Stego as a friend.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Spirit of Joy at Dunkeld Outback QLD

This blog is a bonus, as I'd not intended writing another until we arrived back on Phillip Island.  The reason is simple.  Last night we attended a function that was so special I felt compelled to share it with you.

The spirit of joy stamped the Dunkeld State School End of Year Celebration night.  This 11 pupil school -- three-quarter of an hour's drive south of Mitchell, between Mitchell and St George -- is a close to perfect example of a small outback school.

The children show resilience, confidence and positive attitudes towards learning.  Like one big happy family these kids work and play together, mostly with grins on their faces and bright eyes alight with curiosity.

The Celebration included singing, dancing, marimba playing, speeches, book presentations and a colourful drama revolving around the school's week-long camp to Moreton Bay and St Helena.  A mystical sea creature (created by the kids) made its appearance at the end of the drama.

A delicious supper followed, with lots of pleasant socialising.

What a great community.
What great teachers and great kids.

Thank you, Joy Foott (who's our wonderful marimba teacher) for inviting us to share in your End of Year Celebrations.  We had a fantastic time. 

On the way home I said to Doug, "If I had my time over again I'd choose to go to Dunkeld State School."

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Bottle trees bulldozed; end of year socials; heat; packing up

A busy week of end-of-year celebrations has kept us in Mitchell longer than we normally stay.  The Mitchell State School Celebration night; Christmas in the Park; a dance concert; our last marimba lesson and last book club; and the Dunkeld State School End of Year Celebration - tonight.

There is bad news regarding the two magnificent bottle trees guarding the bridge over the Maranoa River, at Mitchell.  Instead of moving the trees (which is relatively easy and almost always successful) they were bulldozed like trash.  Readers of my blog will already know that I consider trees to have feelings and special significance.  This was an act of unnecessary vandalism and I feel saddened by it.

Phillip Island's cooler weather beckons; however, I know from previous occasions that I'll be complaining about being cold as soon as we arrive in Victoria.  There's at least 20°C difference between Phillip Island temperatures and those in Mitchell, outback Queensland.  The enclosed photo shows my German shepherd Major relaxing in the kitchen -- in air-conditioning -- on a 41°C day in Mitchell.

In three days time we will leave Mitchell.  Mice, cockroaches, flooding and extreme heat need to be kept in mind as we pack up our home  -- for a four-month absence.

Instead of staying in cabins at caravan parks on our five-day trip south to Phillip Island, we've decided to try pet friendly B&Bs.  This will make the journey easier for the dogs and 16-year-old Katie -- and so for us too.

What with the February floods and a house move, I can scarcely believe that 2012 is almost at a close.  As we will be in transit when my next blog is due, there will be a one-week gap.  My blog resumes on 28 December when we're back on Phillip Island.

I wish you all a very happy and peaceful Christmas.

Our tipuana tree - which was covered in bright yellow flowers - is now dripping with pale green pods which, when dry, will 'fly' to the ground like tiny helicopters.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

"It's a wolf"; new bridge; acid beetle bite; Mitchell QLD

The construction of the new bridge over the Maranoa River continues.  This past week has seen the arrival of more big machinery, the building of a dirt road across the river (with nine pipes through which to direct the water) and a series of office buildings.  Every evening Major and I note the changes.

On arrival at the bridge yesterday evening, I heard a group of young girls splashing about in the river.  I waited until they'd finished their swim before making my way down the steep sandy bank.  

Looking up, one of the girls screamed and then called out, "It's a wolf!"

I assured her that Major was not a wolf, that he was on a lead and he was very friendly.  Whereupon the girls were all over him, hugging and stroking.

For 10 minutes or so the girls threw sticks into the river for Major to retrieve.  Before they left, two of the girls gave me a demo of the song and dance they will be performing tonight at their school breakup presentation night.  Then, with bright smiling faces they headed up the steep bank and home.

After Major unsuccessfully tried to pull a very large log out of the river, we did likewise.

I love this river, the mighty Maranoa.

On another subject, we have a pair of Willie wagtails nesting in a tree in our front garden.  Their eggs have hatched so now is a busy time.  It's estimated that a mouthful of food passed from a Willie wagtail to its chick contains around 300 insects.  What an extraordinary contribution these birds make towards keeping insect numbers in check.

Currently I have an acid beetle bite on the inside of my elbow.  Unfortunately it's become badly infected, requiring antibiotic treatment.  I hope our Willie wagtails are gobbling up all the acid beetles living in and around our house!