Phillip Island, Melbourne Part II – The Final Answer

What kind of bird would you be and why? This is one of a long list of “What kind of” questions sometimes asked by counsellors to help survivors reflect and move on from a childhood of abuse or neglect. What kind of toy,  vehicle, flower, tree, bird or dog would you like to be? At first this sounds like a delightful task. How easy. What fun! Well, it might be if your name isn’t Jane.

I’ve pondered this question for years, unable to settle on one bird species, partly due to my obsessive need to produce the most perfect, scientifically-based response. Each bird has its pros and cons. The freedom to soar like an eagle is appealing but tearing apart prey is too violent and gory for my tastes. But if I’m not a predatory bird I could end up being the prey, unless I’m something the size of an emu and they have very little road sense as I found out when one saw me, changed direction and collided with my windscreen. I also have an aversion to bloated, maggot-infested carcasses so carrion-eaters don’t receive my vote either.  Perhaps a cockatoo? A seagull?

Seagull Phillip Island

The intention of this therapeutic task is, of course, not to agonise over a perfect response but to pick at least one appealing feature of a species. I was unexpectedly led to my final answer after a chilly evening spent huddled on the beachfront next to the tallest man I have ever met while watching a parade of the smallest species of penguin in the world.

So, I would be Eudyptula minor, the little penguin? No, not quite, but I currently share many of their physical and behavioural characteristics. It was while searching for a quote for this blog post that I discovered what kind of bird I do want to be. Before my revelation, let’s rewind to that November evening last year when I made my first visit to Phillip Island, 90km from Melbourne.

In the last six months I’ve made visits to three islands leaving me with vastly different experiences. I spent several days trudging solo along the deserted shores of Bribie Island National Park and I was dragged through mosquito infested muddy mangrove swamps on Coochiemudlo Island by my adventurous son. My trip to Phillip Island, the breeding ground for a colony of around 32 000 little penguins, was genteel in comparison but just as memorable.

Greg, the author of Hiking Fiasco blog was kind enough to drive me and take part in this special penguin encounter. I enjoy solo walking for many reasons, but having a friend or family member available to share unique experiences can multiply the pleasure. Greg has lived in the Melbourne area for most of his life, so I had the added bonus of an interesting historical commentary about his own experiences and the changes that have occurred on Phillip Island.

The surprises began on the drive there when a couple of extremely odd birds caught our attention. “Wow! These could be really rare birds! I must get a picture of them!” I screamed inwardly. Since almost deafening my daughter when I first glimpsed snow a few years ago, I’ve learnt some restraint. Bursting a companion’s eardrums is never appreciated. Instead, I calmly commented to Greg on how strange they were. Or maybe I wasn’t as calm as I thought… Greg slammed on the brakes and we skidded to a halt after a crazy 180 degree spin.

Cape Barren goose Phillip Island

No, not really. I was actually in very safe hands with this experienced chauffeur although given his past career it wouldn’t have been completely out of character. We came to a smooth stop and I got my rare bird shots from the open car window. Yes, I was far too chicken to actually get out in case they attacked me. After rounding the next bend we spied a large group of them grazing! Were they some kind of imported domestic geese species bred for meat? Maybe they were the resurrected dodo. There were even fuzzy grey babies preening themselves. Unfortunately, in my excitement I failed to notice the little macro symbol in the corner of my display screen; hence, the lack of sharpness.

Cape Barren geese Phillip Island

It turns out they are actually Cape Barren Geese, Cereopsis novaehollandiae, native to Australia and one of the rarest species of geese in the world. There were fears in the 1950s that they would become extinct, however, breeding programs and the eradication of predators such as foxes and cats have increased their numbers. Cape Barren Geese are able to survive on outlying islands due to their ability to drink salty/brackish water. We found out another trait of this species, well, at least the ones on Phillip Island. They have terrible road sense. I’m not sure how they avoid becoming road kill when they spend so much time walking in front of moving cars.

Cape Barren goose Phillip Island baby

Cape Barren goose Phillip Island babies

Cape Barren goose Phillip Island

Eventually we made it to the clifftop boardwalks at the Nobbies Centre in Summerland where we were able to view Nobbies Rocks and also Seal Rocks (in the far distance)  which are home to a large colony of fur seals. This is also where the explosive blowhole may be viewed.

Nobbies Rocks Seal Rocks

This is all my zoom could manage to pick out of the fur seal colony.


Over half a million visitors watch the penguin parade each year which was easy to believe when we saw the crowds along the boardwalk.  While there, I saw my first little penguin sheltering in an artificial nesting box near the boardwalk.

Little penguin in nesting box

The clifftops were carpeted in colourful flowers which were much more dazzling in real life than my washed out photos.

Phillip Island Cliffs

Nobbies Rocks Phillip Island

Phillip Island Flowers

Philip Island

Pacific Gull Phillip Island

Grabbing a cup of coffee from the café, we escaped the noisy crowds and found a quiet beach to wait until the penguin tour began at 7pm.

Shelley Beach Phillip Island

Phillip Island

It was there we saw the common torch or red hot poker lily, Kniphofia uvaria . Unfortunately, this vibrant flower is an introduced weed from South Africa and is becoming a problem in parts of Victoria.

Torch lily Phillip Island

Philip Island

Finally it was time to head back to Summerland Beach and to our guided ranger tour of the penguin parade at sunset. A variety of experiences are offered by Phillip Island Nature Parks with all profits spent on conservation, research and education.  I must admit I had never been on a guided tour in my life and have tended to avoid them as I don’t enjoy crowds. On this occasion though, an old school friend had recommended the small guided ranger tour groups and I’m glad she persuaded me. Our guide, ranger Chris, had probably done this hundreds of times, but his enthusiasm and relaxed conversational style made it seem unscripted and personal.

Guided ranger tour

Our group only consisted of about a dozen adults and we were given personal headphones, binoculars and a fold up chair to take to our own section of shorefront away from the large crowds who had taken up the less expensive general viewing platform option.  Later that evening, Chris also took us to an underground viewing room.

With an average adult height of 33cm and weighing around 1kg, little penguins are the smallest of the penguin species. They are also the only penguin species with blue-white feathers. Like many other water creatures, they are counter-shaded for camouflage – darker on the top to blend in with the sea from above, and lighter on their underside to blend in from the bottom. Although the island is home to a colony of around 32 000 penguins, there are only around 2000 breeding and non-breeding penguins in the parade area. Here are a couple more older chicks. Little penguins will often lay two eggs.

Little penguin chicks

Breeding females ditch their mate at the end of breeding season and the divorce rate can be up to 50% for future breeding, unlike other species which may mate for life. The breeding couple share incubation and feeding of the young but don’t feed each other. The males are slightly heavier and have a bigger beak and more defined hook.

Little Penguin

Phillip Island Nature Parks has a strict no photography rule once the penguins begin to arrive after sunset. Little penguins wait until dark to return to their burrows to avoid being eaten by predators such as pacific gulls and as we witnessed on the night, they are easily spooked by signs of danger. Flash photography and torches may delay or stop their return to their burrows to feed young. People have been coming to watch the penguins since the 1920s so they are used to some noise though. The beach and boardwalk lights were gradually introduced over a number of years and the lights work on the red spectrum which doesn’t affect their eyes.

We settled down on the foreshore during the last of the sun’s rays and waited for the first event of the parade – the landing of thousands of little penguins after a day of feeding at sea.

Summerland Beach Sunset

Armed with binoculars we scanned the darkening waters and eventually spotted the first raft of penguins arriving. The next stage was frustrating to watch. A hungry pacific gull was in the area and after leaving the waves and assembling themselves into a close group on the sand, the nervous penguin group panicked on numerous occasions and returned to the safety of the waves. All it took was one penguin to panic and turn back and they would all follow. This reminded me of the frustrating experience of watching a newborn lamb or calf try to stand and search for its mother’s teats. Almost, almost…nearly there…and they plonk down to have to start the whole process again.

In between these panicked charges through the waves, the decision about who would lead the group took up time. It seems that unlike some species, penguins are reluctant leaders. I suppose being the head of the line places you in a vulnerable position. They seemed to be arguing, “You be leader. No, you be. No, you.”   I can’t say I blame them. I prefer to let others go ahead on my walks as they clear spiderwebs from the path and scare away the snakes and feral pigs. It also means I’m not feeling the pressure of someone pushing me along from behind when I want to go at my own pace.

Here’s a postcard for you of a few little penguins arriving at sunset since I can’t share pictures of the event.


Eventually the first raft of penguins made their way in single file up the beach and along their habitual paths. By this time another few rafts had arrived along the beach and the whole process was repeated.

It seems that little penguins are creatures of habit and guided by instinct. As they waddled in a line up the beach, instead of detouring around a single rock jutting out of a large expanse of sand, they would take the harder route of going straight over the top of it. This puzzled me for some time and I wondered if they are just not very smart. Then I thought about my own habits in relation to driving routes and parking. Despite being told about a faster route to a destination, I will tend to take the more familiar one which is often based on landmarks along the way such as buildings or parks rather than risk getting lost. I also try to park in the same area of a shopping centre each time in case my memory fails. Penguins use landmarks to help them return to their burrows. Perhaps the small rock that they struggled over was one such directional landmark. Or maybe they just blindly follow the leader who on this occasion wasn’t very clever.

Chris told us that years ago the Summerland Peninsula was a housing estate and the penguins would still try to make their way to their burrows through the area each night with some nesting underneath buildings. Some residents would find themselves having to open their doors and gates to let the penguins pass through when they wouldn’t deviate from their usual routes. Beginning in 1985, a buy back and complete removal of the housing estate occurred due to concern about the effects on colony numbers. Phillip Island rangers also recently renovated some areas to give safer access to burrows, however, the penguins still keep to their usual routes. Perhaps like me, they are also just stubborn.

We left the shorefront to continue watching the penguins waddle along their routine paths back to their burrows or nesting boxes. That night we were given an extra treat and taken to the underground viewing room which gave us an eye level view of the penguins’ ungainly walk. The creatures were able to see us watching through the glass which made us wonder if they were just as amused or puzzled by this equally strange human parade each night.

They appeared to have different personalities and their speed was also influenced by how much they’d gorged on. Little penguins need to consume at least 25% of their body weight each day to maintain condition. During breeding season and before moulting they need more. Now this is where they differ from me. I would like to eat 25% of my body weight each day but sadly, a much smaller intake does more than just maintain my weight.

It was obvious that some penguins had eaten far more than others, with a few roly-poly specimens barely able to put one webbed foot in front of the other. I know how they feel. Others were leaner and quite fast. Some were just intent on getting back to their burrows as quickly as possible while the more curious ones detoured to inspect our faces through the glass or had altercations with each other.

Here’s a video which illustrates their behaviour far better than my words.

While they are excellent swimmers and divers, on land little penguins are awkward creatures, waddling and shuffling along and being tumbled about by waves upon landing. Short legs, big feet, a belly bulging with food, an upright stance and ridiculously short wings make them an amusing and pathetically endearing sight. With so many thousands attracted to the penguin parade each year I wonder if it’s an opportunity for me to make some money from my own short legs, big feet, unco-ordinated, far from graceful movements and bottom-heavy physique?

After a few hours of penguin adoration it was time to drag ourselves away and head back to the mainland. After both stumbling over a speed bump in the  dark and nearly crashing to the ground we found the car, checked underneath for adorable suicidal penguins and zoomed off towards the city lights.

As in my Melbourne Part 1 trip, I must thank Greg for his time, good company and for battling many hours of Melbourne traffic to leave me with some wonderful memories of my first trip to Victoria. Thanks also for chivalrously lending me your enormous gloves so my fingers wouldn’t drop off. We don’t get those chilly ocean breezes up north in Brisbane. I was ill-prepared.

If you’ve battled through this wordy post to find out the mystery of what kind of bird I want to be, you deserve an award, or perhaps you need to consider whether you are a masochist! Here’s the answer.

While searching for an inspiring bird quote I came across Maya Angelou’s autobiographical book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which I read some time ago. Suddenly I was transported back to an event when I was a child and the answer to the question became obvious.

I remember squeezing into a public phone box with my mother and younger twin brothers as she dialled a government social services number (now called Centrelink). After years of periodic episodes of violence and poverty due to her husband’s alcoholism, she had reached desperation point.

My mother came from a poor family and a religion and culture which emphasised a woman’s submission. She was not encouraged to further her education even though she was an intelligent person and she didn’t possess a driving licence. Her husband didn’t permit a home telephone (no mobile phones back then.) She was shy and felt intimidated by officials because her serious mental illness made her in fear of them taking her children away.  She had no money of her own or qualifications and transport and cared for a son with life threatening congenital health problems. Her husband would probably pursue her if she left.

As I walked to the phone box with my mother, I remember my heart soaring at the possibility of a door opening to freedom and a new life – an escape from fear. There was an expectation of relief and a tingling of excitement too.  It was what I’d been waiting for my mother to do for years. There was a determination in her stride and in her face that day that I’d never seen and my love and pride in her swelled. She’d been through so much – we all had – and she still had the strength to fight her fears and ask for help.

The official told her bluntly that she would have to wait six weeks after leaving her husband to receive financial support. There were no refuges in our area and she had no friends to help her as we’d become isolated over the years by her mental illness and my father’s drinking. Her previous experience with religion led her to believe that if she approached a church, she’d be encouraged to remain with her husband as he was the head of the household. There was also a sense of shame or failure in admitting marriage problems and I have no doubt she blamed herself. That phone call was the last time she sought help. To her there seemed no option left but to remain in our situation.

The cage door had opened a crack but was slammed shut just as quickly. My mother was to remain with my father until after I grew up and left home.

So, what bird do I want to be? Any bird at all as long as I don’t have to live in a cage, and this includes a cage imposed by a government, a culture, a partner or my own mind.  Surely freedom is an important feature of any bird’s life.

But a caged bird stands on a grave of dreams

His shadow shouts on a nightmare scream

His wings are clipped and his feet are tied

So he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings with a fearful trill

Of things unknown but longed for still

And his tune is heard on the distant hill

For the caged bird sings of freedom.

An excerpt from the poem “Caged Bird” by Maya Angelou

72 thoughts on “Phillip Island, Melbourne Part II – The Final Answer

  1. Wow thank you for sharing that personal story. It encouraged me! And I remember seeing the penguins down in Melbourne 15 years ago…my first trip south and it was July so we were wearing every single item of clothing we had packed! (Useless Queensland-winter attire.) I wish I’d seen some of those geese though, they are adorable! Xxx

    • Hi! It’s so lovely to hear from you. Thanks very much but I have to say that every time I think of your story, I’m the one who is encouraged, so I’m glad you got a little something out of my waffling post this time. My week in Melbourne was very pleasant with maximums around the 25 C mark. Perfect really, but after sunset on the unprotected shore on Phillip Island, the ocean breeze was a little chilly for someone used to 35C! I had a long sleeved skivvy and a woollen jumper on. I imagine in winter it would be bitterly cold! I’m always amused by the early arrival of heavy duty winter clothing in the stores in Brisbane when our temperatures are so mild and the rest of the year is predictably warm/hot. I hope you’ve been coping with our heatwave conditions of late. I’ve been very lethargic! Best wishes. xx

    • Hi Michael,
      One of the first birds I considered was an eagle. I agree, the ability to soar high over forests and ride the thermals would be amazing. My son has a drone and the films it takes flying over forests and clifftops give such a different perspective! I was hoping to include one of his films in a post one day. Thanks for reading and adding your own answer. I’m pleased people are still reading my blog after my infrequent appearance. Best wishes. 🙂

  2. Wonderful post Jane, always a pleasure reading your stories.

    I was at the island in the 80s, very few restrictions but thoughtless behaviour by visitors abounded. Great to hear that there are a range of ways to see the birds, and that the ranger-guided walk was so enjoyable. I am a huge fan of interpretation by people with people, sadly downgraded in importance in our state these days. A buy-back of developed estate? I had to read that twice! Oh what amazing determination and dedication by some wonderful people must have gone into getting that through.

    And thank you for the story about your mother, my heart goes out to you all. Have things changed much in this ‘enlightened’ society? I fear not. So much violence against women still, within our communities while our leaders seem to focus on ‘outside’ threats to us all – immigrants, terrorists, anyone different – we seem to be becoming more fearful each year.

    Your mother did a great job as best she could in an awful environment, and you are here to tell her story.

    Here’s to a possible future where all families get the assistance they need, when they need it. And to a world where we can enjoy penguins!


    • Thanks as always, Rob, for your encouragement and kind words! I was disappointed I wasn’t able to join you and your colleague for the Goomburra adventure recently. Hopefully, everything will work out better next time. My feet seem to have improved greatly. I was very envious of your shots, especially of the python. It’s such a beautiful spot. I hope your “war wounds” are recovering…
      I imagine that Phillip Island in the 80s would have been a very different experience. The housing estate was still there and I don’t think there were many restrictions compared to now. I must admit I was pretty shocked to hear about the housing buy back. I agree. There must have been a huge amount of effort put into that endeavour! The centre that has been built has some great educational displays and the rangers are awesome. I loved the tour after having been somewhat nervous about it beforehand. I really don’t enjoy being in noisy crowds. I hope you get a chance to see what they’ve done with the place now. There is a real focus on protecting the wildlife and educating the public as well. With it being such a popular tourist spot, Phillip Island Nature Parks is receiving some good revenue to fund important projects.
      Sadly, there are many women still struggling to escape situations similar to my mother’s. As you know, we have a high number of women killed by their partners each year in Australia. Yes, fanning the flames of fear towards immigrants while we have higher risk problems within our culture really frustrates me. And as for the approach to our environment here…”clean coal”…hah!
      Yes, I’m glad I can at least speak up and tell my mother’s story. She’s never been able to have a real voice. Sadly, the removal of funding from women’s shelters means that women and kids in a similar situation to us will have fewer safe choices.
      Thanks again, Rob. 🙂

  3. Jane,

    Yours are the posts that always make an impact to me. I found myself cheering your mother, only to then go “oh” when she got that answer. It surely took a lot of courage to that seemingly small step, and how rudely it was quashed. Hopefully today things are different for women in her situation, or so I’d like to hope.

    On a lighter note, your daughter-deafening antics when seeing the snow reminded me of an episode when I was 18 or so. It’d snowed in my hometown, and it’d been a pretty decent one – we normally get a dusting then it rains so it’s all slushy – and I was out and about. A young girl from Africa was out as well and, later, she told me she’d arrived only recently and she was absolutely delighted to see the snow! My dog always went bananas when snow was involved (I suspect the wolf genes coming up) so she and the girl spent a good time playing together, it was a sight to behold.

    Thanks for the story and for the awfully cute little penguins.


    • Hi Fabrizio!
      You are too kind with your comments. Thank you. Yes, I’m afraid the poor response she received in her time of need devastated us. We survived though and it is my hope that in some way our experiences will benefit others. I just wish life had been easier for her. She deserved to feel safe and at peace. In some ways the situation has improved in our country, in others it remains the same.
      I still have vivid and fond memories of my first (and so far, my only) experience of snow. I was extremely childlike in my behaviour. Thank you so much for sharing your memory of an African girl and your dog delighting in a snowfall. I can picture it in my mind now. I would enjoy a little snow break myself during our hot summer. How delightful that would be! Ah, the simple pleasures in life…
      Thanks for reading and taking the time to share your own story, Fabrizio. It is always wonderful to read your replies. Best wishes. 🙂

  4. Wow, I’m not comment 455 for a change;) Great post Jane as usual. Not sure about the type of bird I would be – maybe a Sea Eagle – I had one grab a fish out of the ocean beside my once while I was soaking in the water off Hinchinbrook Island, he then flew off with the fish in his talons while we sat in the water contemplating the freeze dried meal that we’d be eating that night.

    Thanks for sharing your trip to the island, the fairy penguins are cute as. It sounds like you had a great tour guide as well.

    You are a very brave lady Jane, it takes more courage than I’ve got to bare your soul as you do on some of your posts.

    Cheers Kevin

    • Thanks, Kevin. I suspect that you won’t have to compete for an early place in the comments section in the future for a few reasons. My posting is rather sporadic these days and I don’t expect followers to engage with me when I disappear for long periods and I don’t have time to keep up with their blogs. I’m out of the loop at the moment as I am trying to find some paid regular work and also complete other writing projects. With my son’s upcoming wedding, it’s a little busier than usual on the home front as well.
      I think eagles in general are a popular choice, but at least with a sea eagle, you don’t have to cope with the harsh dry outback conditions like a wedge tailed eagle would. Living near the ocean sounds very pleasant. I’ve always loved seagulls although I don’t think I’d like to participate in their squabbling over a morsel of food. They can get a little noisy!
      I don’t actually feel I am being brave to talk about domestic violence. It feels natural for me to speak the truth about this topic even though it is regarded as shameful or a dirty family secret by others. Acknowledging the pain of sufferers is the first step in helping them to recover. I’ve always been interested in truth. Thank you for the compliment though.
      Best wishes. 🙂

    • Hi Peggy! There are so many birds to choose from, aren’t there? I used to breed turkeys. They weren’t particularly clever but they always made us laugh. I’d like to be able to make others laugh like that. I agree, though, a turkey in America would be a perilous and probably very short-lived existence. There is not much pleasure in being a tasty dish for others. Hmm…I’m wondering if your reply was symbolic. Turkeys in the US? 😉

  5. Thanks again for such a lovely post. I spent a few days in Phillip Island last August, such a lovely peaceful place. That was in the low season, so I expect it is a little more crowded now? Despite its fame for the penguin show (which was great), there is so much more to explore in the island. The nearby remote French Island was another gem.

    • Thank you very much for your comment about your experience and your suggestion of French Island. I did wonder about it. The boardwalks and the Penguin Parade were very crowded in November/December but Greg also took me to some other areas of Philip Island that were more peaceful. It would have been lovely to spend more time there to explore the coastline. Perhaps I will have another opportunity in the future. I hope so. It’s such a beautiful place. Best wishes. 🙂

  6. Wonderful post, Jane, and thanks for sharing your own personal story.

    I love those little fairy penguins and while I visited Phillip Island as a child, I don’t remember the penguins from that time (only the one at Melbourne Zoo).

    Good to hear you had a chauffeur for the day.

    • Thanks very much, Vicki. I think you would really love the Guided Ranger Tours. You don’t have to walk very far and it is not steep at all. The little creatures are hilarious the way they waddle along so awkwardly. I can’t help thinking that I look a bit like a penguin though. My kids have made a few remarks… I’m not the most graceful of movers and I am definitely bottom heavy! Yes, I was very lucky to have someone to show me Phillip Island. I wouldn’t have gone there without Greg’s help. I hope life is not too much of a struggle at the moment for you, Vicki. Your health conditions are a continuing challenge. I admire your strength to keep going despite the pain and exhaustion. Best wishes. x

  7. Always awesome your trip renditions and photos. Always looking forward to them. Thank you for sharing. Aback taken by your personal story, though, and at a loss for suitable words, but my heart goes out to you and your family. All my best wishes.

    • Hi Marina! Thanks for very much for your encouraging words. Please don’t feel sad by my personal story. All is well now. I shared it to remind people that sometimes people do not have as many choices as others and there are many kinds of cages in the world – cages formed by racism, sexism, poverty etc. Not everyone has the same freedoms and I hope we will reach out and help others. You don’t need to say anything other than what you’ve already said. Your compassion and kindness is evident. Thank you for being you, Marina. Best wishes. x

  8. Such an eloquent post, Jane. It is hard not to feel rage at the officials and the churches your mother faced. Shame on them for slamming shut the door! Yes, any bird, any bird that is free. I have tears in my eyes.

    • Hi Melissa, Yes, it does make me angry too and frustrated that it still happens today. I get disappointed when people blame a victim by saying, “Why doesn’t she just leave her husband?” These same people are often unwilling to actually help. There is a lot of judgement that goes on. Freedom is such an important aspect of life and I think we often take it for granted that everyone has the same choices available to them. Thanks so much for your kind and open-hearted response. It’s strange that as I remembered the incident and when I was writing about it, I never shed a tear but after reading my final draft, I cried when reading the part about my mother. I think perhaps I finally released the pent up feelings I’ve carried about that memory for years. Best wishes. 🙂

    • Thank you very much, dear Susan, for your kind words and your continued support of my blog. I hope you are well and continuing to enjoy many interesting tours. My son is getting married in May to a lovely woman who happens to have a Scottish father and they will most likely be moving to live in Bath, England in about a year for my son’s work. I am hoping I will be able to finally visit the UK to visit them. Best wishes. 🙂

  9. Thank-you so much for sharing your story, Jane. Life for those suffering from abuse is a little better these days but many still don’t get the help they deserve.
    I too, was surprised to see from your post that a housing estate had been bought up and demolished in order that the penguin colony could thrive! Amazing dedication and care from those concerned! Those penguins are wonderful! I love their blue colouring.
    Take care, dear Jane and I wish your son well with his impending marriage!

    • Hello dear Clare and thank you for your kind response. I’m always surprised to receive so much encouraging feedback, especially when I have been so absent from the blogging world of late. I do hope life is going well for you at the moment and you have time for relaxation.
      Yes, I was astounded to hear that a whole housing estate was bought back and removed for the sake of the penguins. In the end though the Penguin Parade is such a huge tourist drawcard that I’m sure the state has benefitted enormously financially. Even so, it must have taken a huge amount of effort on the part of many people to persuade this to go ahead. The penguins are indeed wonderful! I will have wonderful memories of that day forever and I’m very grateful to Greg for taking me there.
      My son’s future partner is a lovely woman and I’m so pleased for him. He intends to live in Bath, England in about a year so I am hoping it will give me a good excuse to finally visit the UK. Best wishes. 🙂

      • I don’t mind how long I have to wait for your posts; they are always worth the wait! I expect you will miss your son when he moves to England. Bath is a beautiful city – I lived near there for about 18 months about 12 years ago. Best wishes xx

        • Yes, I am sure I will miss my son. Apparently it won’t be a permanent move as his supervisor wants him back here again one day to lecture in her department. In his field it seems to be a requirement to do postdoctoral research and lecturing overseas before you return to your “home” university. We’ll see. he may love Bath so much that he never returns. I’ve never travelled overseas but him being there will give a good excuse to make my first trip! Maybe I will even be able to visit you and the Tootlepedals! I hope so. xx

  10. What a wonderful informative post Jane, it is great here from you again. Love the Penguin show, it has changed since I remember many many years ago. I will have to visit there again, as almost all the penguins have been eaten in Kangaroo Island and South Australia and the Penguin night tours are discontinued. Love seeing the chicks and juvenile Cape Barrens and the Kelp Gull nesting. I remember trying to get shots of the seals on seal island, I shot through the telescope but not wonderful pics.

    • Thanks very much, Ashley. The conditions on Philip Island have certainly changed over the years. When it was unregulated, people just headed down with torches to beaches and took photos. The housing estate certainly affected the breeding colonies. It seems amazing to me that the whole estate was bought back and removed for the sake of the penguins, but I am sure the economic returns in terms of tourist dollars have more than made up for the costs of the buyback. I do encourage you to visit the island again but recommend the ranger guided tours as they are much smaller and you will be taken to a better viewing area. Viewing Seal Rocks from a distance was the closest I have ever come to seeing seals in the wild. The Cape Barren Geese were a real bonus. Thanks for correcting me on the name of the gull. I think you’ll be very surprised by the changes when you do make the trip! Best wishes. 🙂

    • Thanks very much, Gail, for those encouraging words. I hope you’ve been well and have had time for lots of cycling and writing? I’m afraid I’ve been rather lethargic this summer, although that’s not unusual. I’m definitely a winter person! 🙂

      • I’m really well thanks Jane and enjoying some summer cycling. Phew, it’s been a sweaty business though. I’ve heard a few people say the heat has made them less productive and less active. I can understand that. It’s been very hot and for a long time. There hasn’t been much rain this summer to relieve us of the heat. When it comes to hiking, I definitely prefer winter time. Fewer snakes! 😀

  11. It is always wonderful to see a new post from you Jane. I hope things are going well in your life. Your mother’s predicament was heart rending to read. I hope she found some happiness in her life. In any case, she managed to raise a very thoughtful, funny, and creative daughter. Thanks for sharing your penguin experiences–a bird I have never seen. I had to smile when I read that you park in the same place in parking lots. I do too! One less thing to remember.

    • Hi Brenda, it’s always wonderful to hear from you. Thanks for the kind and beautiful comments. I’m in a bit of a transition stage of my life at the moment with some aspects in limbo, but I suppose in some ways we are always in transition as life never sits still – we are always growing/changing/aging etc. I know it is going to be an eventful year. I’m just not how it will all unfold yet. I guess none of us do really. 🙂
      Haha…yes, I started parking in the same area a few years ago when my memory or perhaps my concentration levels began taking unexpected holidays. The trouble is when my usual parking area isn’t available, I’ll often push a trolley of groceries back to my usual spot before I remember that I’ve parked somewhere else. I probably need to vary my spots a little to exercise my memory more. But walking around and around the giant car park can be very time-consuming and my ice-cream will melt! I hope all is well in your life. Best wishes. 🙂

  12. Whee fairy penguins are adorable! I’m sorry to hear about your childhood though…it sounds traumatic. Many of the amazing people I know have survived a traumatic childhood; maybe it makes you wiser and more empathetic?

    • Hi! Yes, fairy penguins are such cute and sort of silly looking creatures. I couldn’t help feeling like I would probably make a good penguin. I already waddle, look uncoordinated on land, and eat quite a lot. 😉 Thank you for your kind words. I hope my childhood helped me with some life lessons. It seems I am empathetic, but perhaps too much so as I am like a sponge to other people’s emotions which can be a little draining and also make me unproductive. I’m currently practising a more healthy form of empathy which is less overwhelming. It involves being kinder and more caring to oneself so that you have more reserves to help others. I am getting there…perhaps. Haha. Thanks! I hope you are doing ok at the moment? I’ve not checked up and don’t even know if you’re still in the US or back in Australia. I know funding has been a stressful issue! Best wishes. 🙂

    • Hi Tom! Yes, Phillip Island is a very special place and I hope to return one day. Your bird answer made me smile. I know what you mean about sparrowhawks and other birds of prey. That was the major problem with answering the bird question for me. I don’t want to be the prey or the predator! I can’t imagine attacking and tearing apart another bird or creature and being on the receiving end would be even worse. Now why did I not take your option and just refuse to be any kind of bird? That would have made sense instead of agonising over a silly question for years. Thanks, Tom. You are a very wise man. You took the real “freedom” option. Best wishes. 🙂

        • Yes, it can certainly be a hard life as a bird, Tom, and from your own carefully recorded observations over the years you would have seen so many gory endings. It’s a life fraught with danger. Being exposed to the elements, fluctuating food sources (except at your backyard feeder), human and other predators – not a safe one that’s for sure. “Freedom” comes at a cost… 🙂

    • Aww…thank you, John. That’s a very sweet comment to make. It’s the kind of thing that a man with a huge heart such as yourself would say. From the time I first began my blog you have always been such an encouragement. A lovebird? I’d never considered that option. My (deceased) little brother used to have pet peachfaced lovebirds so that brings back some special memories for me. I remember them always snuggling and being wonderful parents. They were adorable to watch. Thank you. I hope you have a wonderful week too. 🙂

  13. Well, I know I want to be the same bird of feather so we can flock together, Jane! You know I love your stories – so full of adventure and humor. I seriously wait until I have time to read slowly, and cackle out loud – really enjoying these (most of the time) bumbling adventures of yours. I love to laugh (because as a child there wasn’t much to laugh about in our home either). But this time, as I read the last paragraphs, your words evoked great emotion from me… sharing your personal story, and I knew it was exactly what I needed to hear for myself – for my own life. Sometimes the cage door is open, but we’re so used to being that trapped bird or it is the only life we know and we fear what lies beyond. You, my friend, are one of the most beautiful souls I have ever known. This was some of your best prose, Jane.

    • Dear Lori,
      It’s taken me a while to respond as I was so moved by your comment. You made me laugh and cry with your words. Thank you so much, my friend! I realised some years ago that I didn’t really laugh much as a child and as an adult it wasn’t something that came naturally, especially a good belly laugh. That’s why I really appreciate friends such as yourself who manage to break through my overly-serious nature and get me chuckling! What you’ve said about being afraid to leave the cage even when it does open is certainly something I can relate to. As you say, even though our life may be far from ideal/healthy in a current situation, it’s what we know and the fear of the unknown/failure etc can stop us “flying”. Thank you, dear lady for the beautiful soul you are. xx

  14. Jane, I so enjoyed your pictures and prose and nearly wept when I read about your mother. She may have been stuck, but she sure didn’t short you. You’ve become so talented and brave. Talented in writing and photography and brave to travel alone so often! I picked the best day to visit and am in awe of you and your mother.
    Now about that bird question…
    I’d want to be a Giraffe.
    It’s all about the eyelashes. 😉

    • Dear Lynda,
      Thank you very much for your kind thoughts and caring, supportive words. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to reply to you. I’ve had problems with my home Internet connection on my laptop and do not like to open up my blog on unsecured public WiFi areas.
      Yes, my mother faced many challenges in life and I am thankful for the things I have learnt from her. Her mental illness became more serious in my teens and it took away or hid her real personality which was very sad. She did her best under the circumstances. My father also struggled with mental health problems and had his own challenges and I am sure the alcoholism made him a different person as well, although it certainly doesn’t justify the physical violence.
      A Giraffe? Now that is an unusual bird species…! 😉 Haha. You made me smile. Oh yes, who wouldn’t want those gorgeous eyelashes! I actually got to see the head of one very close up (when it was eating) from a viewing area at the Western Plains Zoo many years ago. It’s not a typical zoo, as there aren’t cages. It’s more naturalistic. Anyway, have you seen their long blue tongues? Amazing! Interestingly, my eldest son gave me a print of a painting of a giraffe mother and her calf for Christmas, as I’ve always been a fan of them. Thanks again, Lynda. Best wishes. 🙂

    • I just read an article about giraffes in the Smithsonian magazine. It seems that although scientists used to consider all giraffes to be of a single species, the latest DNA evidence shows that there are actually four species.

      • Hi Steve,
        I always look forward to your interesting comments. I had no idea there are actually four species of giraffe. I must Google the details. Thanks for telling me. I apologise for the late reply but I’ve been away staying in a cottage at a donkey sanctuary with only my phone for Internet access and the reception was quite poor the whole time. I may write up my experience there eventually. Donkeys have some unusual traits. I was surprised to find out just how different they are from horses. Best wishes. 🙂

        • I’ll commiserate with you. The last place we stayed during our recent visit to New Zealand was a nice apartment but its wifi was capricious enough that we never knew when we would get a decent Internet connection. Sometimes connecting with our cell phones was a better and faster way to get to the Internet.

          I do hope you’ll write that article pointing out the differences between horses and donkeys (and perhaps zebras as well).

  15. Wonderful journey along with a powerful story indeed Jane, thanks for sharing both!
    You know I also quite liked the metaphorical meaning in between the lines. I think we human being also tend to seek out our own small islands and retreat every now and then. Sometimes we find in the most distant places and sometimes it may be found in the depth of our heart or our mind.
    Memories also can be like a caged bird we carry around with us. However, not trying to silence will bring quietude of the mind, but rather opening the little door and letting those wings unfold…
    I can imagine how heavy the cage must have been and that you might have been longing for unknown childhood moments. However, I also see what a strong and brave bird you are, actually “allowing yourself” to take wing and embracing the beauty, joy and magic of life. Wonderful!
    I also was thinking about what my “soul bird” might be and in a way, I’m convinced it must an owl… 🙂
    Even though it might sound a bit silly sending such lines at the end of February, but I wish you a most magical and happy year ahead! May there always be moments for adventure and wilderness, happiness and tears, wonderful encounters and blissful solitude.
    Big hugs and take care Jane!

    • Hi Oliver! It’s great to hear from you again. I’ve been wondering how your overseas adventures and personal journeys have been going. I do hope life is treating you well.
      Thank you for sharing your reflections and insights upon reading my blog post. I hoped that some readers would “read between the lines” and think about the metaphorical meanings – the personal cages we create for many reasons – some positive, some negative. Some cages serve us well in times of survival but later when the danger has passed, may limit our growth. We may create cages that serve as little islands of safety, rejuvenation or peace. Other cages may isolate us from things we need such as love and affection. It’s complicated, isn’t it?
      Sometimes difficult memories can keep us caged. Opening up, processing them, dealing with them and gaining support helps us to start to fly again – even if it’s rather awkward at first and we may crash a few times.
      I think I was very blessed to have books, pets and exposure to the delights of the natural world to help me through my childhood. It’s surprising how much these things can nurture us. It’s not the same as the love, care and protection of a parent of course, but they certainly helped me cope. I feel sad for kids who don’t have these things to fall back on when times are tough.
      I had also thought about being an owl. I’m a bit of a night owl and I like how wise and calm they look. I just have to forget about their culinary habits though… 😉
      It’s never too late to send me such kind and thoughtful good wishes for this year. Thank you very much, Oliver. I wish the same for you, my friend! Hugs right back at you. 🙂

      • Such a wonderful comment Jane, so much depth! I quite missed your insight and inspiration I have to say… And your wishes and the virtual hug felt good too! 🙂
        You are right, there are cages that may serve us well and other that may turn us into servants. Quite complicated indeed to adjust perspective sometimes and figure out what bars surround us. It also reminds me of the poem “The Panther” by Rilke: we grow weary and slowly but surely start seeing rather bars than what lays beyond them… I also can well relate to the nurturing quietude and soothing silence we tend to find in nature. Seems like we occasionally need to explore the wilderness in order to discover the one inside us. Not to mention books, pets and other “mundane marvels”… 🙂
        Life treats me very well indeed, many thanks for asking! The year South America has been an incredible journey experience. However, it took me quite a while to adjust to life’s pace once we were back. After that we have been house- and pet-siting and still are, now being back to the UK actually. Let’s see how it goes with the Brexit and stuff…
        Anyway, it’s great to be in touch again and hopefully staying in touch too… Best wishes and speak soon!
        PS: I certainly need to reconsider the culinary habits of my chosen “soul bird” indeed… 😀

        • Thanks for reminding me of Rilke’s wonderful poem. I had completely forgotten it and the part you quoted illustrates perfectly how many people may come to feel after prolonged physical and mental stress. It becomes very hard to see anything beyond your immediate situation …
          Yes, I can imagine it would have been a shock to come back to “normal” life after such an amazing journey. Even my brief first trip to Victoria left me feeling mixed emotions when I returned home! Melbourne and Brisbane are quite different cities.
          My son and his partner will be moving to the UK in about a year for his postdoc research and work at Bath University. I’m in the process of getting a passport in the hope that I will be making my first trip overseas to visit them in the future. If you are still in the UK then perhaps we can share a cuppa. I hope to visit Wales, Scotland and maybe get to Ireland too. I’m just about to set up a housesitter profile for myself as it’s probably the only way I’ll be able to afford extended overseas travel. I’d actually love to spend some weeks isolated in a rugged, windswept area by the coast to think and write. A few furry companions to keep me company would be ideal. Anyway, I’ll see what happens. All the best, Oliver Owl!

          • Now, sounds like there are quite a few changes and plans lined up on the horizon already Jane! 🙂 Fingers crossed concerning your housesitting profile and application! It’s a wonderful way of getting to know places and areas one probably wouldn’t have on the personal map otherwise. And the company of some adorable furry companions give your days so much life, it’s incredible! I’m just picturing your description of the “coastal retreat” in my head and it looks magnificent… 🙂
            Please do get in touch whenever you make it the UK and feel free to ask in case you have questions or doubts. We haven’t been to Bath (yet), but most people talking about the city do have a certain glow of amazement in their eyes. So I’m sure your son and partner will enjoy it.
            I’m really excited to see where your path will lead you or better say where you make a trail. And you never know, ours my cross at some point… Good luck with everything that lays ahead, I really hope things work out as planned for you!
            Take care for now and keep in touch!
            Oliver Owl 🙂

            PS: Good to know that Rilke and his beautiful words resonate with you as well! He was an intriguing mind indeed…

    • Thanks very much for your kind thoughts, Steve. I’d like to say I’ve totally risen above it but unfortunately I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my life and have ongoing struggles with depression. Every day is a new day though and I do my best. Sorry to take so long to reply, Steve. As I wrote in my reply to your other comment, I’ve been on a donkey farm for a few days with limited phone reception. It was a tranquil escape from the world news and the constant rain on the metal roof was very soothing. Clean air, clean water and only the sounds of nature were just what I needed. Sadly, the owner is having to sell her farm as she has become very ill from the effects of lyme disease. She got it in Germany 40 years ago, came to Australia and then contracted our version of it from paralysis ticks! The existence of Lyme Disease in Australia is a controversial topic here. Anyway, it’s lovely to hear from you again, Steve. I hope you are well. Best wishes. 🙂

  16. Hi Jane, Your tales of your visit down South are an enjoyable read. I am glad you were able to make the journey.
    Whilst there are people who are passionate about the conservation of Fairy Penguins (Yes, I prefer the older name – ‘Fairy’ excites the imagination more than ‘Little’), there are people who are equally passionate about the conservation of Hanging Rock and its surrounds. Our local media often reports the campaigns by residents of the Shire of Macedon Ranges to prevent the over development of the area around the ‘Rock’ and letters appear voicing opinions about the management of the Hanging Rock Reserve.

    • Hi Margaret,
      How lovely to hear from you again. I’m sorry I took so long to reply. I’ve been staying on a donkey farm for a few days and had unreliable phone reception so my blog wouldn’t load properly.
      I meant to mention that they used to be called Fairy Penguins but totally forgot about it when I came to writing it up. I do agree that “fairy” excites the imagination more than “little.” I just thought I should quote the name the rangers use now. They are delightful and funny little creatures. I wonder what actually goes on in their heads. What do they think about us watching them?
      Thank you for telling me about the people who are passionate about preserving the area around The Rock. It has certainly changed a great deal since the movie was made and the crowds can be quite large. I was glad that I had an opportunity to sit in a few quiet spots on the day. I thought the Macedon Ranges a beautiful area and if I had the finances would consider living there. I can certainly understand the passion to limit development. Sadly, one of my favourite places up here – White Rock – is becoming surrounded more and more by development. If only they would preserve more wildlife corridors and not build right up to the edge. It’s a very special place, culturally and environmentally. The developers are using the vicinity to White Rock to promote the house and land sales. I’ve been collecting all the photos I can of plant and animal species in the area in the years I’ve been walking there. It’s been interesting to see the changes. I hope it remains preserved. Thank you for reading and for adding your own thoughts. I always appreciate your comments, Margaret. I hope you are well. Best wishes. 🙂

  17. Hi Jane!
    Beautiful piece, as always!
    The flora, fauna, and landscape remind me of my own trips to Kangaroo Island and Maria Island off of Tas. I also stamped on the break to photograph the gorgeous Cape Barren geese. I wasn’t luck enough to see those cute youngsters. I was thrilled to see a Little penguin on a nest at Maria Island but an encounter on the breakwater at St Kilda, Melbourne was my penguin highlight. A couple were posing for sunset wedding photos when a tiny little fella in a tux waddled up and stood in front of the happy, if somewhat surprised couple. Now that is a first class photo-bomb!

    Thanks for sharing your powerful family story. To be able to see the cage, to recognize the cages that get built around us, and the cages we build for ourselves is surely the first, essential step to making sure that the door is never clicked shut. Your freedom flows out into the world through your words and pictures which I’m certain brings freedom to others.

    • Hi David,
      It’s always lovely to hear from you and thank you for sharing your own experiences with Cape Barren geese and Little Penguins. I’ve never been to Kangaroo or Maria Island but hope to one day. Tasmania and surrounds are pretty special. I went to Phillip Island to see penguins but had no idea I’d be seeing the CBG! I saw a couple in the distance walking through water on the beach and wondered how they coped with the salinity. Later I read how their anatomy help them in this regard. I was actually staying with an old school friend in St Kilda and did have a plan to see the penguins at the pier with another poet/teacher friend of mine in Melbourne but sadly our timetables clashed and on a couple of nights I was feeling very tired. I was originally going to go with my old school friend to Phillip Island but she was unable to make it in time after work. Luckily Greg came to the rescue so the tickets wouldn’t be wasted. Wow, how special to have wedding pics photo-bombed by an adorable penguin! I would have loved that!

      Thanks for your encouraging and supportive words about my family story. I always try to stick to a hiking/nature topic but I seem to invariably waffle on about personal issues, books, poems, music, history or music. My mind likes to wander an awful lot! I am relieved that readers don’t seem to mind.

      I hope all is well with your family and you are continuing to enjoy soothing time in the natural world. I’ve been so busy here. I love little creatures but a termite attack on my house is making life a little more exciting than I would like at the moment. Haha. Best wishes. 🙂

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