Thursday, April 19, 2012

Closing up our home: our double life in action

The process of closing our Phillip Island home is now upon us. Tomorrow week we expect that our 'migration flight' to Mitchell (in outback Queensland) will be complete.

After locking doors, crossing the bridge is our last step off the island -- a final farewell to the penguins, mutton birds, our friends and Phillip Island.

Ahead lies warmth, the mighty Maranoa River, and our friends and community in Mitchell.

For the duration of our trip, which we estimate to take about one week, I will not be writing this blog. I will begin again as soon as we arrive in Mitchell. I predict I'll have lots to say about changed conditions in Mitchell -- my first impressions after the devastating flood in early February.

Meanwhile take good care of yourselves and I look forward to being in touch again, very soon.

Muttonbird rescue begins: end April

April is the month that marks the end of the mutton bird breeding cycle. On April 18 the adult birds leave Phillip Island to fly on their migration flight to the Bering Sea, where they'll spend time feasting on krill before making a return flight back to Phillip Island.

The mutton bird chicks are left behind to replace their fluffy grey down with adult plumage, and then learn to fly. During the time that the young birds are learning to fly, people on the island are asked to take special care, especially on the roads at night. The birds are attracted to and then become disoriented by street lights and the San Remo bridge lights. Therefore, the lights on the bridge are turned off during the peak of the young bird's departure.

Phillip Island Nature Park staff and a team of volunteers patrol areas where the birds crash-land on roads, particularly around Surf Beach and near the Penguin Parade. Many hundreds of birds have been saved from roads as they attempt to fly. At the end of April the young birds depart, following the same migration flight as their parents, to Alaska and the Bering Sea.

17 million mutton birds (Short-tailed shearwaters) leave their breeding islands in southern Australia every April, to make an amazing migration round trip of around 25,000 km.

Every April, we too depart on our migration flight to Mitchell, in outback Queensland.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Warships, black swans and washing our Siamese

Only three more walks to the beach and we'll be leaving for Mitchell in outback Queensland -- returning to Phillip Island in November.

Kids have been busy building sand castles. Major and Del had fun swimming in the sea and retrieving sticks. The sea water cleans their coats well; in fact, better than a bath. Brushing out the sand is the only drawback.

There were two unusual sights on Western Port Bay this afternoon. The first were two black swans. Never before have we seen black swans here at Ventnor. They looked majestic as they cruised along; their long necks elegant.

The other unusual sight was two warships on their way up the channel to the naval base at the head of Western Port Bay. The Seal Rocks ferry is also in the photo, small in comparison to the warships. On a couple of occasions we've seen a submarine come up the channel to the naval base. That gave me a creepy feeling; a sinister presence in our lovely bay.

Our packing is progressing to plan. Today I gave Katie Siamese a thorough groom and wash, prior to showing her the new bed we bought for her travelling crate. She loved the bed straight away, so we'll leave it in the house for her to use until we depart.

Katie is incredibly tolerant about having a bath. She stands perfectly still in the trough of warm water and lets me wash and rinse her chocolate and cream coat. Tonight she is silky smooth and beautiful!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Phillip Island's best kept secret

Cliffs of light brown weathered basalt are made distinctive by a band of red as they rise above and around the small cove to the west of Grossard Point.

This spectacular section of cliffs -- with its sandy cove -- is the island's best kept secret. The view from the boardwalk look-out is a stunning 270° -- from the Nobbies to the southwest, across Western Port Bay to Cape Schanck on the Mornington Peninsula. Then you follow the coastline northwards past the small seaside towns of Flinders, Shoreham, Point Leo, Merricks, Balnarring and Somers; ending at Sandy Point. Beyond, Tortoise Head on French Island is a distinctive land mark.

A brass plaque incorporates a map and compass bearings, and is inset in the timber seating at the look-out.

From this elevated point you can see McHaffies Reef extending 700 m from Grossard Point into the busy shipping channel. It's easy to see why a warning light is needed.

To the south lies the Hen and Chicken Reef which, from our house, tells us when the tide is out.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Overwhelmed by too many altered plans

Only one week to go and we leave Phillip Island, heading for Mitchell in outback Queensland -- our home for the winter and spring.

I'm finding myself feeling apprehensive about what we'll find on our return. In February, flood waters of the Maranoa River flooded our home, resulting in chest-height water throughout. Over 80 per cent of homes in Mitchell were flooded, consequently the whole town has been traumatised.

What will our home and three quarter acre block look like? When we left in November, everything was clean, tidy and attractive -- now? When we left, the community of Mitchell was strong, friendly and optimistic -- now?

Will we build another home in a flood-free position, or built one on stilts, by the river? There have been too many altered plans made over the past weeks. My mind is overwhelmed!

Therefore, I've had to say, Enough, just go with the flow, live in the moment, make no more decisions until we've lived in Mitchell for at least the next few months.

Another question, Can we live in a caravan with two big dogs and a cat -- long-term?

Meantime, we are packing up our Phillip Island home, and loading the Ute with everything we need to equip the caravan that we'll collect in Seymour on our way north. It would have been much easier to organise and pack the caravan here; however, it seemed sensible not to tow such a large caravan through the city of Melbourne, two times.

Our trip north will take about one week. I've decided not to write blogs while we travel but will resume as soon as we reach Mitchell. From that point onwards, all will be revealed!

There have been a few dead seal pups on the beach this week. Fortunately our dogs don't roll on dead things!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Aloe vera and pigface: for burns

The fleshy juice within the stem of native pigface and aloe vera are very similar in their first aid applications.

Both can be used to relieve the irritation and discomfort that results from simple burns -- including sunburn. You simply break open the thickened leaf and then smooth the fresh juice over the injured skin. The juice will dry to form a protective layer which will help soothe and heal the skin.

Down on the seashore, only a short distance from the high tide mark, a flash of iridescent pink shows me the location of pigface in flower. It's always a cheerful find.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Sea Spirits: adult and pup

As I stroll along the seashore my mind's in another place. Yet, at the same time, my eyes are alert to the presence of unusual things in the flotsam that litters the shore.

Readers of my blog will remember the sea spirit I found several months ago, which Doug mounted on a piece of beefwood from outback Queensland. I never expected to find another, yet here it was, a smaller but almost identical piece of weathered coastal banksia.

Mounted on a second piece of beefwood, my sea spirit pup sits on our table, alongside its parent. United.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Echidna shopping at Woolworths in Cowes: Ph. Is.

As Doug walked towards the entrance of the Woolworths Shopping Complex in Cowes, his attention was drawn to a crowd of people surrounding one very frightened echidna. It was trying to burrow into the concrete, and when that proved impossible, the echidna tried to make his way through the glass shop front.

Using a shopping bag and towel from the ute, Doug got the echidna into the bag and then into the ute.

Back home, we took the echidna down our bush track and released him in an area of bush beside the mutton bird rookery. We've seen other echidnas in this area, and there are plenty of ants there for them to eat.