Order in the Chaos – Part I: Flying Cats and Triangle Slugs

After my adrenaline-pumping rock climbing fiasco, it’s time for a complete change of pace. Sit back, relax, and let me take you on a little journey into the wild.

Unlike the unfortunate experience of Christopher McCandless, it won’t end in your demise.   It’s time to share what’s died, survived, thrived, and arrived in my private wildlife sanctuary.

A visitor once called my 1/2 acre block “an oasis in an urban apocalypse”. At first I thought this an exaggeration, but after watching surrounding bushland being wiped out on a grand scale by development, I’m beginning to think it’s not hyperbole.

The house may be tiny, old, and badly in need of repair, but being surrounded by greenery and wildlife has helped me  cope with city living.

Thankfully, my elderly neighbour, Clare, had a similar approach.  For seven years we joyfully shared the snakes, lizards, possums, birds, bats, and butterflies. After she died, her family home and trees were bulldozed, and the land subdivided for new housing.

This year I’ve had several offers from developers. The stress of paying off a loan into my old age, high council rates, and not being able to afford necessary repairs makes it highly tempting. However, selling to these companies is akin to signing a death warrant for the vast number of flora and fauna species that live here. Developers place a market value on the land and home, but not on the thousands of lives which depend on this small, but increasingly vital habitat.

To me it’s not a one-directional relationship though. If we nurture nature, nature will nurture us.  I owe a great deal to this little patch of wild. To  save money, preserve my rapidly deteriorating joints, and reduce my negative impact on the environment,  I rarely drive to distant and challenging solo hiking destinations now. Much of my spare time is spent deriving solace from the natural world in my own backyard.

I’m extremely lucky not to be desperate enough to sell just yet. The situation could change rapidly though. While it remains, I invite you to discover the creepy, the cuddly, the weird, and the wonderful lives that share this sanctuary.

To begin our journey into the wild, here’s a very rough clip I made one morning of  bird sounds in the canopy. The picture quality is poor, but if you turn up the volume you’ll hear the cacophony of birdlife. If personal circumstances and world events are causing you distress, I hope this provides a few moments of escape.

At first glance, my green patch appears to be a chaotic jumble of plants growing without any plan. A farming relative was aghast that I’d paid good money for “wild scrub.”

There is order in the chaos though.  There are patterns, shapes, and intricate designs already existing in the natural world that we don’t create.

There is order in the flowers, leaves, trunks, butterfly wings, and bird feathers. Viewing the natural world under a microscope opens up a hidden world of design. Nature also has its own rhythms, cycles, and seasons.

While contemplating the inhabitats of my garden and pondering world events,  I’ve been reminded of these words from Robert Frost’s poem, Mending Wall.

“Before I built a wall I’d ask to know

What I was walling in or walling out”

While I do have permanent residents, many are daily and seasonal visitors. Increasingly, my block also provides refuge to wildlife fleeing from bulldozers, drought, and bushfires. My yard is a dynamic environment. It is not limited by walls. The sky and ground provide constant access to all who need respite. Some just need brief sustenance and time to recover before relocating. Others have nowhere else to go and remain. None are caged.

When native trees are flowering, fruit bats (or flying foxes as they are commonly called) arrive at dusk to feast on nectar and the juicy pulp of fruit.

Sometimes a few remain during the day and continue to snack instead of returning to their colony, such as this little one that greeted me through my kitchen window one morning.

This has become more common during the drought and devastating bushfire season.  Land clearing has also removed their food sources.

These migratory and nomadic creatures are regarded as a “keystone” species which help regenerate forests and keep ecosystems healthy through pollination and seed dispersal. Some of Australia’s hardwood species release nectar only at night, and depend on flying foxes for pollination. We do have some night-pollinating insects and mammals, but by far the best pollinators and seed dispersal agents of these hardwoods are flying foxes. Without flying foxes, many of these tall species will become genetically weak.

Flying foxes are also highly intelligent and affectionate. Wildlife carers of injured or orphaned flying foxes have reported them enjoying a massage, and even purring. They come to know their individual carers well and usually settle down after a day or so. Unlike smaller insect-eating bats, flying foxes do not use echo-location. They have excellent night vision and hearing like cats. Some have even  dubbed them “flying cats” for these reasons.

Female bats are regarded as some of the world’s most devoted mothers and after losing their babies, have been known to search for their young and cry out for over a week. The young are completely dependent on their mother for the first few months. The baby attaches itself to a nipple in the mother’s armpit and  grips around her waist  with its hind legs so it can travel with her during her night feeding. After about six weeks, when they become too heavy to carry, the mother leaves her “pup” in a community managed creche while she forages.

Even though they hang upside down, flying foxes invert their bodies to prevent urinating and defecating on themselves. However, when they roost in large colonies, it is of course likely that some bats below may receive the deposits of those above. I’ve been the recipient of such fragrant gifts on a few occasions.

Like other bats, flying foxes have a special tendon with a ratchet-like mechanism in their legs. This lets them hang securely without needing to expend energy. They don’t always hang in this manner.  Sometimes  they sunbathe, belly-side up.

Bats are the only mammals capable of sustaining genuinely powered flight and their order Chiroptera literally means “hand wing.” If you look closely at the wings, they are actually four elongated  fingers covered by a cutaneous membrane and they also have a thumblike digit.  This is more obvious when you watch them climbing and crawling along branches – a very different action to birds using their feet and beaks. You can see this action towards the end of this short clip I took of flying foxes arriving at dusk to feast on gum tree blossom nectar.

Unlike my flying fox visitors, the common tree snake, Dendrelaphis punctulatus, is a permanent resident. These belong to the family Colubridae,  meaning “rear-fanged” snakes. Some colubrids, like the green tree snake, have no fangs or venom.  This means they eat their prey live or rely on constriction.

Their average length is around 1.2 metres, but  they can reach 2 metres, such as this well-camouflaged specimen draped across my garden path. Can you spot it?

Because they eat frogs, skinks, and Asian house geckoes, common tree snakes will often be found close to, or entering homes in suburbia. Sadly, they are commonly mistaken for venomous brown snakes  and killed.  Mine do a wonderful job controlling introduced Asian house geckoes that bred prolifically inside my home and invaded the garden.

I have many of these slender beauties  in my yard and have come to know a couple of individuals by sight. On hot days and during the drought, they appear for a drink when I sprinkle my bromeliads and orchids. I’m very fond of their large eyes, lovely sheen, and silent company, and  was appalled recently to find a stray cat attacking one. I rescued the snake, but had little hope that it would recover. It had numerous deep wounds to its body and one eye.

Notice the pale blue colour around the scales. This occurs when they puff themselves up in  defense, or after they’ve eaten a large meal and their skin is overly stretched.

Here are the Asian house geckoes that tree snakes help to control. While they have beautiful eyes and do keep the insect population down,  these geckoes breed prolifically and compete with native species.

You can tell by the little spines on the tails and the clawed feet that they are of the feral variety.

Notice how they change colour easily to blend in with their surroundings.

If you’ve read my old garden posts you’ll know I have brushtailed possums living in my garage ceiling. Here’s a reminder of one snoozing in my garage during the day, in preparation for partying on my roof at midnight while I’m trying to sleep.

brushtail-possum-Australia

Brush-tailed possums are very territorial, but during the last decade one female has managed to  defend  her small patch and rear young. I caught this shot of her gremlin-eared baby riding on her back recently.

And here she is with a bulging pouch.

Brushtailed possums have adapted extremely well to suburbia, often using human made contructions such as ceilings and sheds for homes. They’ll eat natural foods such as nectar, flowers, fruit, leaves, and insects, as well as human-provided buffets such as dried dogfood, bin, compost and chicken pen scraps.

Sometimes it sounds like there are a dozen possums rather than just one or two as they thunder across my metal roof at night.  Enjoying the company of wild creatures does require  sacrifice on occasion.

Common ring-tailed possums haven’t adapted quite as well, perhaps because they tend to stay  high in tree canopies to feed on flowers and leaves rather than venture down to the ground to access more food sources.

Interestingly, they will eat their own faeces to gain maximum nutrition from eucalypt leaves.

The ring-tailed possums on my block don’t utilise my buildings. They  build dome-shaped nests, called dreys, hidden in tree canopies, such as this one right above my bedroom. I know when it’s venturing out at night as I hear a loud crash on my roof. Several ringtails may share a drey.

Ringtails use their strong white-tipped tails to grip and climb. Males help to care for the  1 – 3 babies, and will carry them on their back while the female is foraging.

Now to a critter that is a little less cuddly but unlikely to disturb my sleep or leave “interesting” perfumes. I often see  the crescent-shaped trails of red triangle slugs, Triboniophorus graeffei, on tree trunks, pavers, and even my steps.

This is Australia’s largest native land slug and its name is derived from the red triangular shaped markings around its pneumostome (breathing hole). According to reference websites these can grow up to 15 cm long, but this one was closer to 20 cm.

This is not a slug you want to get rid of from your garden.  It feeds on microscopic algae on tree trunks and hard surfaces like rocks, outdoor furniture and paths. In fact, sometimes you may find them in bathrooms. For someone like me who avoids bleaches and other strong cleaning products, an army of these slugs on my bathroom ceiling or shower walls would be ideal in the rainy months.

Like other leaf-vein slugs, they have indented patterns on their dorsum which resemble a leaf. They also have a strange defensive mechanism. Red triangle slugs can secrete a very sticky mucus  that may glue down predators for days. This is different to the slippery slime it leaves as it moves. Unlike introduced slugs which have four tentacles, native slugs have only one pair. This species may also come in a few different colours including yellow, red, and cream.

Now I must apologise to the arachnophobes. We all have fears. I may not fear spiders, but I can assure you that I fear many other things.

I want to try to give some reassurance about these eight legged beauties though. In the ten years I’ve walked through my gardens, I’ve never been bitten by the many, many spiders that live here. In my half-century in Australia I’ve never been bitten either.

I’ve walked into numerous webs and had spiders crawl all over me.

I have  been bitten or stung by  ants, wasps, bees, mosquitoes, sandflies, ticks, mites, and marshflies during this time though.

During the drought I’ve seen fewer spiders. This is expected as the insect population has reduced and spiders compete with reptiles, frogs, birds, and predatory insects for food.

Spiders  have their own predators such as birds, wasps and skinks and birds will often steal silk strands and food from webs.

This competition for food and predation by hungry birds seriously depleted my golden orb weaver population this year but this magnificent specimen has survived.

Did you know Australia has over 1500 species of native bees? I even saw one article reporting up to 2000 species, many of which are still to be scientifically named. They are extremely diverse in appearance and behaviour,  and relatively few resemble the common introduced European honeybee.

The vast majority are solitary rather than social. Many make burrows in soil, rock or wood, utilise existing abandoned burrows, or use natural  or human-made  hollows and crevices. Some build free-standing nests.

Numerous species of native bees make use of my yard , including carpenter bees, resin bees, neon-cuckoo bees, tiny stingless native honey bees, and two of my favourites – the teddy bear bee and the blue-banded bee.

These two fly with a dart and hover pattern, which is faster and jerkier than honey bees. It can make them extremely difficult to photograph, unless you find them resting or cleaning themselves when they hold onto a stem with their “beak.”

Fuzzy golden teddy bear bees, Amegilla bombiformis,  dig a 10 cm burrow in banks or rubble, usually with an overhanging shelter.  At the end of the burrow they construct several waterproof-lined,  urn-shaped cells.  An egg is deposited in each cell along with pollen and nectar paste. However, like other solitary species, their burrows can be stalked by cuckoo bees, which deposit their own eggs in the cell.

An example  are these neon cuckoo bees, Thyreus nitidulu, which usually stalk the nest of the blue-banded bee, Amegilla cingulata.

During construction of the host nest, the neon cuckoo bee deposits its own eggs in the cells. Its eggs hatch earlier and eat all the provisions meant for the blue-banded bee’s larvae.

There are many beautiful and useful pollinators frequenting my garden including these beeflies. Leaving my small patch of lawn (and weeds) unmowed helps attract these tiny, but important species.

Just a few minutes observing flowering plants near my front steps yielded these pollinator observations.

I also have many ant species which I attribute to not using pesticides.  I let the birds, lizards, spiders and other insects control the unwanted ones. It’s not a perfect system of course, but better than wiping out many useful species with a generic poison.

This summer has seen the arrival of my first dragonflies, perhaps because their other water sources have dried up and my water filled bromeliads and bird baths offer emergency alternatives.

I was also thrilled to spot my first owlfly recently. Owlflies can be distinguished from other kinds of lacewings by their extremely long and often bi-coloured clubbed antennae.

Now it’s time for the traditonally pretty insect visitors – butterflies and moths.  Perhaps a little more appealing than spiders, slugs, and snakes to many?

These are all the species I’ve managed to photograph this season. There are many more that eluded the camera.

For a few important reasons, there has been a  strong anti-wildlife feeding message in Australia for many years,  however, my own view now is that when we have removed so much habitat, and contributed to drought and bushfire through long term mismanagement of the environment, it is hypocritical not to provide help to wild creatures during their recovery and transition. Birds and flying foxes, for example, need sustenance to search for increasingly sparse and distant food sources. Frogs need water sources to keep breeding. By not giving vulnerable species a helping hand during a crisis, they may become extinct.

If you want to know how you can responsibly feed native birds in Australia, I urge you to read Feeding the Birds at Your Table: A Guide for Australia by Darryl Jones. In this long overdue book, Darryl discusses the important points you need to know about supplementing wild birds, and provides Australian research to back up these claims.

When over one hundred chestnut-breasted mannikins arrived one smoky day during a week of catastrophic bushfires,  I was shocked.

In the decade I’ve lived here, I’d never seen one in my yard. After some extra care their feathers have regrown and the facial injuries have healed. They are now strong enough to move on. That is of course, if they have somewhere to go.

Stone bush-curlews also appeared one hot, gusty, smoke-filled afternoon after a long absence. This species forms monogamous couples and has an impressive courtship dance which may be repeated for an hour at a time.

They are mainly nocturnal feeders and their eerie, high-pitched wailing at night  evokes thoughts of ghosts and murder.  Often  calls are made by several birds in chorus and as the Birdlife Australia website states, sometimes “culminates in a trilled, screeching crescendo.”

During the day, they are inactive and often go unnoticed by walkers because their plumage blends in perfectly with leaf litter.  Their first defense is usually to remain perfectly still, but when this fails they will retreat, or attempt to defend young.

Bush stone-curlews eat a varied diet, usually from the ground – insects, seeds, small lizards, molluscs, and frogs. Apparently they have even adapted to eating poisonous cane toads.

This introduced amphibian has wreaked havoc on Australian wildlife. Sadly, I continue to find them in my yard, and rarely see native frog species, however now that the curlews have moved in, perhaps their numbers will be reduced.

INTERMISSION: I hope you’ve enjoyed this little journey into the wild so far.   Some birds such as magpies, currawongs, lorikeets, noisy miners, crows, and ibis have adapted well to urban life and their numbers have increased dramatically in my area.  Others like water birds, small nectar feeders, and seed-eaters continue to struggle as we remove the habitat on which they depend.  Stay tuned for Part II, where I share feathered tales of high romance, community spirit, epic battles, and murder.

61 thoughts on “Order in the Chaos – Part I: Flying Cats and Triangle Slugs

  1. Wow did I enjoy this post! Where do I start? Where would I end… maybe I’ll just let it begin and rest with the huge and lovely bats. I find them amazing creatures. I see some of their little cousins here. Seems they fly down from the caves in Tennessee in the spring and roost in the oak woods here. I see them just at dusk and feel grateful to them for eating hundreds of mosquitos every night. I do hope that science will find a cure for the white nose fungus that is decimating the bats here in the east and southeast of the US.

    • Thanks, Lynda. I really love bats! Flying foxes (or fruit bats) have a few dangers here. They often get injured or stuck in fruit tree netting. Fortunately, most commercial growers now use bat-friendly netting but a lot of backyard growers still use netting that has holes which are too big. They also get caught on power lines and fences. People can get annoyed by their sounds, droppings, and smell when they congregate in large numbers and sometimes shoot them. They do such an important job of pollinating certain native Australian tree species though. People are seeing them more and more around urban areas where flowering natives have been planted because their other migratory food sources are being reduced or are less reliable. This leads people to think that flying fox numbers are escalating when in reality they’ve been reduced by a huge amount – something around 95% for one species in the last 100 years, Thanks for telling me about the insectivorous bats. I wish I could remember the exact stats but the number of mosquitoes that those tiny bats can consume in one night is quite amazing. Glad to know you appreciate their presence too! That fungus sounds nasty. I second your hope for a cure. Poor creatures. Best wishes. 🙂

    • Thanks, Peggy! I probably should have given a bit more of a balanced report. I neglected to mention the mosquitoes, the pollution, and the high crime rate in my suburb. Heheh. But nothing is perfect, hey? 😉 Actually, the only reason my family could afford to get this loan after 20 years of renting was because the 1/2 acre is in a very low income outer suburb with a slightly tarnished reputation, and the house is literally starting to fall down. I’m hoping the roof lasts a little while longer. I put my foot through the rotting verandah floorboards a couple of years ago and it’s still not fixed! I like how multicultural the area is though, and I’ve never been a victim of crime despite what people say about the suburb. There’s a strong community spirit. I’ve never had expensive tastes in houses, cars, and clothes. I’ll spend more on pets, books, and the garden. 😉

    • Thanks, Tiffany. I’m pleased you enjoyed my patch of wild garden. I love the critters that come and go. They actually help keep me company now that my adult children have left home. I probably should have broken the blog post into smaller sections, but as usual I went a little overboard. I go a bit extreme sometimes. Best wishes. 🙂

  2. Wonderful post! I used to be reluctant to feed wild birds but in the last few months I have added some bird feed to the garden, I am hoping the feeders also attract more insects for other species. I also have possums that have discovered the bird feed so we also get the thump thump on the roof at night as they jump about on the roof to get to the trees and shrubs around the house with the feed. I used to get lots of aphids and lady bugs but with the garden struggling I am seeing less of those, I worry about the insect eating small birds. I find corvids fascinating and I am a little cautious in feeding them, since they can start to prey on the smaller birds but I have also begun offering a small amount of food for the currawongs and magpies, although they are birds that have adapted to urban environments, always fascinating watching currawongs work in a team to raid school bags and get into lunch boxes. I have a magpie family who bring the kids in for a treat. And I have a pair of currawongs who come down in the afternoon and sit outside our back window and harmoniously announce their presence in the hope I will bring out a treat which is a mix of mince, cheese and oats.
    We are getting a few flying foxes feeding on blossoms and fruit at the moment, I find the flying foxes quite fascinating, a much maligned creature.
    I love your garden, it is absolutely magical.

    • Thanks very much, Sharon. It sounds like you’ve got a lot going on in your yard too! Isn’t it magical to be able to interact with the wildlife in our own backyard? I have to say I usually see more species here than on my walks. I guess because they are crammed into my small oasis. If you haven’t already done so, pick up a copy of the bird feeding book I mentioned. It really is excellent. It carefully goes through all the concerns people have about feeding wild birds and gives important information about how to reduce disease spread and what kinds of foods/plants to give to which species. Even though lantana is a terribly invasive weed, the little birds like finches love it because it affords them some sort of protection from bigger birds and also it attracts a lot of insects. The author points out that when removing an invasive plant like lantana, do it gradually and replace with a native species that has similar qualities. I have huge geisha hedges here. I had no idea that they are problematic in a few ways, one being the foliage can be irritant and cause rashes and asthma, and another that the berries are poisonous to children and pets. I will have to replace them gradually with something native as the pollinators and birds love them. Ah…currawongs! I have some tales to tell in Part 2 about currawong parents rearing chicks in my yard. I adore their beautiful song and they follow me around when I am watering the garden, as insects are often disturbed. Highly entertaining, but also such incredible predators of tiny mammals and other birds sometimes. I shed a few tears over one particular victim which I will reveal in my blog. It sounds like you could write quite a few blog posts about your backyard experiences, Sharon! Hope Ada stops growing eventually. She has pretty big paws! More dog to love I guess. Heheh. 🙂

  3. Lovely to see you posting again Jane! You always have a most interesting and unusual selection of creatures we never see. Loved your Manikin video and of course seeing the Bush-stone Curlew again. Such a kaleidoscope of variety my friend! Love it! Hope you are doing well, and keeping safe from all the fires. It was horrific for some of my family a couple of weeks ago. But thankfully they came out of it OK. Enjoy your week, and stay safe my intrepid friend!

    • Thank you, Ashley. That’s terrible news about your family being in danger from the bushfires. I’m so glad they came out of it ok. I’ve been following the progress of the NSW and QLD fires very keenly. So sad to see the national parks on fire and people losing their homes. I don’t like to think about the suffering of the wildlife and the species and habitat lost. And the danger continues… The major fires in QLD have been north, south and west of my area, but I am not in much danger unless White Rock Conservation Estate goes up. Then it is very possible that embers could reach my block. I’m trying to keep everything green and damp with “grey” water from showers, handwashing, and the laundry, but I’ll leave if there is any danger. My block and house would be a huge bonfire if it caught light. I hope your family doesn’t have to go through any more close calls. It’s a difficult time for so many people. Kind wishes.

    • Thanks very much, Tom! It’s turned into a bit of a monster-size post really. It’s always hard to judge whether anyone else is as interested in my garden as I am. I think I bore quite a few family members and friends with my creature observations. I get somewhat obsessed. It takes my mind off disturbing news I think. I just noticed even more wild weather in the UK news this morning. I do hope you and your loved ones are not in any danger from continued flooding. I see that you’ve been hit with freezing conditions. Good indoor weather. Your birds will appreciate extra help. The weather is certainly very extreme in so many places more recently. Kind wishes. 🙂

    • Thanks very much, Susan. I just feel thankful to be able to live with so much wildlife. It’s a bit of a struggle keeping the plants alive right now. I’m recycling a lot of the household water I use (showers etc) to keep the trees from dying. I have a lot of bird baths that I need to keep topped up in this hot weather. I am very lucky that I have access to a good water supply and don’t have to depend on rainfall/dams. So many people are having a really tough time in this prolonged drought. I vividly remember what it was like in the old days when I lived out west in semi-arid areas. Water is something we can easily take for granted in coastal cities here. With the bushfires and hot weather, it’s too risky to travel to my usual national parks. Many of the places I’ve blogged about have been impacted by fire this season. Some may never again look as they did in my photos. It cheers me up that at least my little patch helps give some displaced creatures a refuge. Hoping you are well there and not impacted by the flooding. You continue to have extreme weather! Best wishes. 🙂

  4. What a wonderful sanctuary you inhabit. It’s astonishing to realize how much can be done to help our environment and our fellow creatures with just a half acre block ( or even less in the case of my sister’s home in Cairns). After days of awful bush fire news, your post was so uplifting and inspiring. Thank you.

    • Thank you very much. Your comment describes my goals for this post so I’m pleased you felt that way. The bushfires have been incredibly distressing for many people and, of course, devastating for wildlife, so I was hoping that by sharing my little oasis it may cheer up some people. It certainly lifts my spirits to be able to have a yard that can offer a refuge to these wild creatures. Many of the national parks I usually visit have been affected by fire, so focusing on my own backyard and what I can do takes my mind off thinking of the wild creatures that have been killed or are suffering. Some of the money I’ve saved from not driving has been spent on extra birdbaths and other items for the garden. Depending on the rain, I will be planting more native flowering shrubs to spread the food sources for the birds more evenly over the year. Kind wishes. 🙂

      • That’s wonderful that you have provided extra bird baths via your savings on transport. By the way, I forgot to mention how interesting it was to learn more about native bees.

        • I really had no idea how many native bee species live in Australia until writing this blog post. Incredible really. I was also very surprised to read how many are solitary. I love Teddy Bear bees. They look like big golden fuzzy balls flying around. They look quite cute too when at rest and holding on with their beak. Glad you enjoyed the info. 🙂

          • My children’s father was an entomologist, so I was aware that there were quite a few native bee species in Australia, however I had no idea just how many until writing this post. I’m rather surprised that Texas has so many species. I shouldn’t be though. I think my surprise is based on the false idea of Texas I gleaned from books and movies in my childhood that your state is just one big desert full of cacti. Heheh. It was really only through reading your blog that I learned that it does rain in Texas! In fact, it floods. You also have many spectacular wildflowers that would of course attract numerous pollinators. I have learnt so much from the many wonderful bloggers such as yourself, Steve. Thank you.

            • You’re not alone in your perception that Texas is mostly one big desert. That’s largely true of a western state like Nevada, but Texas sits in the middle of the country and is so large (about the same size as France) that the conditions in the eastern part of the state are quite different from those in the west. Houston in the east gets an annual average rainfall of 50 inches, while El Paso in the west gets only 10 inches of rain. And the center of the state (where I am) is prone to flooding from rivers, while the coast is prone to flooding from tropical storms.

  5. Thank you Jane for posting such well written and researched blog, I really appreciate the work that must of gone into getting this post up. Your backyard looks like a great sanctuary for both animals and humans alike in these troubled times. Stay safe up there over the next couple months, I’m thinking that you’ll get a few more refugees from the fires before the fire season ends. Cheers Kevin

    • Thank you very much, Kevin. I’m pleased you enjoyed my backyard expose so far. I’m finding it really hard not to be distressed by the suffering of people and wildlife during the drought and these bushfires, so writing this has helped me to do something positive. People can help wildlife in so many small ways. Just planting one flowering native shrub, or a few flowering pot plants, or placing bird baths in the yard will make a difference. It’s really surprising just how many pollinators will visit just one flower during the day. Yes, I am seeing more and more creatures that really “don’t belong” in this region. My little 1/2 acre block is feeling the strain at the moment. I’m trying to keep everything alive with grey water from showers etc. I’m lucky I don’t depend on rainwater tanks. I’ll never forget how hard it was living out west. Here’s hoping for some good rain to give people and creatures some much-needed relief! 🙂

  6. Jane, this is a wonderful post, well-written and illustrated, and I see that you share my own thoughts, dreams and hopes about nature and the survival of our planet. ( note the title of my own blog, “our fragile earth” which unfortunately has become too focussed on bushwalking in recent times) I hope you never need sell your block to developers, the scourge of this earth regardless of their ilk. Wish I had your block and its old home. This post of yours deserves publication in an international environmental or nature magazine.

    • Thanks for those kind words, Barrie. You are way too generous with your praise. I wouldn’t be critical of yourself posting more bushwalking posts in recent times. Blogging about bushwalking promotes taking pleasure in the environment. Sharing your love of responsible bushwalking increases people’s awareness of what is out there beyond our computer monitors and phone screens. People become more invested in saving something that they know well and love. Most of my blog posts have been about hikes too. Sharing a passion is infectious and people warm to genuine enthusiasm. Once people are encouraged to get out bushwalking, there is a domino effect – they usually become more aware of environmental issues. I would probably run out of things to say if I had to write about my backyard all the time. Heheh. Kind wishes. 🙂

    • Bedankt, Mary Lou. Ik ben erg blij dat je genoten hebt van de foto’s en de woorden over mijn tuin. Ik wilde deze speciale momenten delen met mijn bloggingvrienden van over de hele wereld die zo aardig voor me zijn geweest. Beste wensen! 🙂

  7. What a wonderful world of wildlife in your garden. Truly a haven. I enjoyed every word, photo and sound. Lucky you to live in such surroundings; it is clear, you have enough action for life in that garden (park). However, I hope you don’t abstain from your thrilling out-of-the-garden-walking adventures altogether, transport/travel is becoming more climate ‘friendly’ – out of urgency – it seems.
    I have a house in Denmark, but no garden, just some grass. However, we have lots of small forrests and beaches nearby, so we also see quite a lot of birds, bees and bugs a.o. – but nowhere near as colorful and diverse as the wildlife in your garden.
    Thank you very much for sharing.
    (I will make a post with link to your post soon).
    🙂

    • Thank you very much, Marina. Fear not. Even if I am not getting out hiking as much as I used to, I still have many old stories and albums from the archives to share…Bribie Island, Spicer’s Gap, Mt Barney, Washpool National Park, a Bushranger’s Cave, Karawatha, Hervey Bay, and a terrifying night escapade at a local reserve looking for powerful owl chicks! Enough to fill another year of blogging at my snail pace. 😉 I’m pleased you live near forests and coast that you can explore. It is not practical or possible for everyone to have a jungle-like backyard like mine. In fact, in terms of urban sprawl problems, sometimes it is better for lots of people to live close together in existing apartments and have beautiful shared green spaces likes local parks, instead of developers clearing forests to build new houses. Thank you very much for sharing a love of wildlife with me and your plans to link my blog post. I always appreciate your enthusiasm, Marina. You put a smile on my face. Best wishes. 🙂

  8. Brilliant article, Jane and as always, your photography is superb. You certainly live in a little slice of heaven and I hope you continue to fight (the big fight) with developers who obviously have no idea how much we need your little oasis to conserve and foster our wildlife, especially with our country getting drier and drier.

    It was only a couple of years ago I read about the 1500 native bee species and I was staggered that we had such an amazing number. Without bees, our planet would die and many people don’t realise this.

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful plot of natural bushland with us. 🙂

    • Thanks very much, Vicki. For a few reasons, I’d planned to downsize after 10 years, but it’s hard to find buyers who’d want to keep the house and bushland. Most people seem to be after a really large home with no garden to maintain and my block is the opposite. Much bushland bordering White Rock has been bulldozed to build such housing, so the only interest I have seems to be from companies or individuals who want to raze my block and subdivide it to make a profit. I really can’t bring myself to sign away the lives of all the critters. Hopefully, things will work out financially. 🙂 I think I am still blown away by the number of native bees we have in Australia. It’s incredible, hey? For some reason I thought it would be around 200 at the most! I guess I really don’t see very many around. The introduced honey bee still dominates in many areas. I’ve been really surprised to see so many native species in my yard this year. I still get a buzz out of spying the teddy bear bee. 😉

  9. I do hope you are able to continue to be a haven for wildlife for a long while to come. Or at least able eventually, to sell to someone/a group who has/have the same feelings about native plants and creatures. I don’t suppose there is a state wildlife group that could advise you on what to do for the best if you are compelled to sell up?
    I have been listening with increasing alarm to the news reports of the bushfires and feel for you all in your troubles.
    I love this post! It is so beautiful to look at, listen to and read and it is instilled with so much passion and real love for your country and its wildlife. I’m really looking forward to part 2!

    • Thanks very much, Clare. Yes, if I was forced to sell for financial/health reasons, it would be such a relief to know that the new owners were wildlife lovers and would care for the flora and fauna on the block. In the meantime, I will continue to appreciate all the wild things that share this little patch of paradise with me. When Clare’s house and block were bulldozed, there was no consideration for the creatures that lived there. Fortunately, the birds, possums and snakes were able to flee next door to my place. Sadly, if my place was bulldozed now they wouldn’t have the same escape route. I remain hopeful though. I’m so pleased you enjoyed Part I. I may not be able to share my garden with you in person, but at least you can take a walk through it via the pictures. I’ve often thought how lovely it would be to share a cuppa on the back verandah with my blogging friends who enjoy gardens and wildlife. At least you don’t have to experience the biting mosquitoes and midges through a blog post though! Heheh. They can be very nasty. One day I will put insect screens on the verandah so I can sleep out there on hot nights. I’ve thought of just hanging a bed-size mozzie net above a bed but that wouldn’t stop the giant carpet python from giving me a death hug! Yes, the bushfire season has been catastrophic so far. So many homes lost and vast tracts of forest burnt out. Some places won’t recover. It seems the UK is having the opposite problem now with extreme flooding and bitter cold snaps! I’ve been watching news reports about your region too. Just awful. I hope you remain safe from danger, Clare. x

      • Thank you, Jane. We are in no danger here, thank goodness. We have had a lot of rain but not half as much as other parts of the country. We had had a drought and the water table was very low and now it isn’t! We have had a few mild frosts but nothing terrible so we have nothing to complain about as far as the weather is concerned. Our greatest worry is the on-going brexit nonsense where no ‘government’ has been done for three years. Many of us are very concerned about climate change and the disappearance of so many insects and all we hear about are petty wranglings and no decisions being taken!
        I am so glad I don’t have to deal with potentially lethal creatures in my garden! We do get midges and mosquitoes in the autumn and early winter but not many so they are manageable.
        I hope you manage to keep safe and well xx

        • Here in Australia many people have been following the ongoing Brexit debacle in UK. It must be causing you all so much anger and frustration! We have serious problems with our own government at the moment too as you’ve probably seen. There is utter cruelty regarding asylum seekers and Australians needing welfare support. There is still a lack of restitution for Aboriginal nations and a lack of action regarding the Uluru Statement (Indigenous voices). And of course, the political leaders who are climate change denialists are driving us all barmy. I take comfort in my little patch of green at the moment. Some distraction in a time of craziness. I’m very pleased that the rainfall has eased your drought conditions. I never thought I’d be hearing about drought in your part of the world. It’s a very strange time. Take good care of yourself, Clare. I hope you all get some peace soon regarding Brexit and that the government starts focusing on other things. xo

  10. What a wonderful, refreshing, kaleidoscope of images and words. You have done such a fabulous job providing habitat for this diverse collection of creatures, and also in documenting it. You have nurtured a true backyard escape from the mad world around us, particularly in these crazy and dispiriting times of drought and fire.

    An amazing collection of images, really. Just loved the montages of bark and plants, the beautiful spiders and the great collection of pollinators.And aren’t those snakes just exquisite things? The footage of the mannikins is just a joy – what an honour and a blessing to be able to help such stunning animals. You are doing a bloody great job, Jane! A highly enjoyable read, as usual. I look forward to part 2.

    • Thanks so much, Rob. Your words are hugely encouraging to me. I hoped my pictures would bring you a few minutes of relief and cheer after your 4 days of helping to fight fires in my beloved Main Range National Park. It must be so distressing for you QLD National Parks people given you know so intimately what is being destroyed. I wrote the blog post also because I needed to remind myself that I can still do something to help, even if it’s only in my backyard. Lately, it’s been far too easy to feel powerless. As I wrote in my post, if we nurture nature, nature nurtures us. I owe so much to the natural world and it is a privilege to care for it. Thank you for all the fantastic work you and your team do to preserve species in increasingly difficult times. Let’s hope some decent rainfall comes soon to ease the pain. 🙂

  11. Jane,

    Thanks for your beautiful post and all those lovely images. It must have taken you an eternity to put together. I hope you are able to retain your stewardship of your beautiful refuge for a long time yet – and that if you do choose to pass it on, it goes to someone who deserves it and who cares.

    • Thanks very much, Ian. Given your photographic and literary prowess, I’m so pleased you still enjoyed my humble offerings. It did take me a long time to put together, mainly because I have to trawl through thousands of pictures (most not very good!) Taking pictures of wildlife helps me relax though. It’s one of the few activities that enables me to zone out from the troubles of the world. Editing is another matter! Haha. Thank you for sharing your outstanding images. I’m looking forward to seeing the end result of your current projects. I’m planning to head out to Sandgate soon. I will be sure to look out for your magpie friends when I do. I hope Japan is treating you well right now. Best wishes. 🙂

  12. Jane, Attenborough would love this blog! (and your backyard). I dearly hope you don’t ever sell, it’s something that deserves to stay and become a park or a nature reserve.
    I love the Teddy Bear bee, isn’t that a cutie?

    Hope you guys get some respite with the bushfires and evolve to embrace the best out of your splendid nature.

    Fabrizio

    • Thanks, Fabrizio! You are too far away for me to invite you for a cuppa on my verandah, so the next best thing is to share my sanctuary with you via pics and words. 🙂 At least this way you don’t have to experience the blood sucking mosquitoes! Heheh. I’m pleased you like the Teddy Bear bee. When I first enlarged it on my screen I couldn’t get over how cute and fuzzy it looks. I love how they suspend themselves via their beak when at rest or cleaning themselves. Fortunately, the weather conditions in my region have eased which has allowed firefighters a chance to contain some of the fires for the moment. Many of the spots I’ve blogged about have been badly affected though. We really need politicians to change their attitudes regarding the environment. So many Australians are mortified by the poor reputation this country is getting overseas. We hope that the world understands that the actions of our leaders at the moment do not represent how many of us feel. Best wishes! 🙂

  13. Like everyone else commenting, I don’t know where to start or end! I felt a bit like I was in school, only with a most fabulously exciting teacher in the world! When I played the first video of your yard and all of the sounds, it was as if everything in the computer room stood still. Lollipop and Oscar had been wrestling quite frantically, but when they heard the birds chirping and distant dogs barking, they stood still, mesmerized!! Jane, this is a wonderfully put together piece – so informative with exciting photographs!

    I hope you will be able to keep your little piece of land and slice of heaven. That’s how I feel about this place too. It’s not so many acres, but I feel like there is a whole world of wildlife out there to explore, and it brings me so much joy.

    • Thanks, Lori! I must admit that after I posted this piece I was a bit worried that I had revived my “Teacher Jane” role from when I taught my three children in remote locations and that it would be boring and offputting! Thanks for reassuring me that you found it interesting! I usually try to hold back on my nature nerdiness because I know most people aren’t as obsessed as me about snakes, spiders, insects etc. I like to write stories, but the drought and terrible bushfires were giving me a heavy heart. I partly wanted to cheer myself up with a positive backyard post focusing on the critters that weren’t being incinerated. Many of the locations I have blogged about are being badly affected and I have friends who are fighting fires and whose homes are at risk. You made me laugh telling me how Lollipop and Oscar stopped fighting and were mesmerized! I could just picture the scene. My neighbour’s dog loves to bark at just the wrong moment. Heheh. He thinks he owns the fenceline. Needless to say, the wildlife don’t enter his yard. He lives where Clare used to. I still miss her quiet and gentle presence. I’m so pleased you have your own patch of paradise (much bigger than mine!) I hope both of us can continue to enjoy them for many years to come. You’ve helped rehabilitate so many needy creatures, Lori. Thank you for being such a caring, loving individual. x

  14. I’m having serious computer problems (mostly to do with posting my recent trip). Seems I managed to fill up my 1 Tb storage capacity with all of my tens of thousands of photographs. Time to do some housekeeping (sorting and deleting).

    I truly need to come back and revisit this post which I had to skim through for now, but it surely needs a more thorough look. The quick glance was utterly delightful, though! (Does life even settle down?) At least I’m never bored.

    • Hi Gunta,
      So sorry to have taken so long to reply. It’s been a tough year healthwise for my kids and myself and unfortunately I received some pretty bad news last week that my son’s spinal tumour is regrowing again. It’s hit us hard but I feel like I’m starting to function better now and be able to make some plans. It compressed his spinal cord by 70% in his upper spine when he was only six and we’ve been so thankful that the operation helped him regain most of his movement. He has a genetic condition that can cause spontaneous nerve sheath tumours in his spine and brain so he’s had to get regular full body MRIs since then. We hope it stops growing and he doesn’t need surgery but what will be, will be. There are some things we can’t control in life. Unfortunately, the previous surgery required the removal of parts of his vertebrae so he’s had to live with extra pain anyway. I always wish I could swap places with my kids when they get sick. There have been health issues for others in the family as well. I’m watching the calendar nervously and hoping we make it through the last few weeks of the year without any more bombshells! 🙂
      Ahhh…the dreaded storage capacity issues. I seem to fill up my space so quickly with my obsessive photo-taking. I don’t envy your sorting and deleting! It’s mind numbing.
      I just had a quick look at all your fabulous photos from your trip, but like you, I will have to return for a closer look when life isn’t so crazy.
      I read that you have a horrible virus. We got Influenza A despite vaccinations and it hit us so hard. I had it about 2 months ago and I’ve still not recovered. So if you have something like that, I do hope you feel better soon. These things can be really nasty! Not great for mental health either. Take good care of yourself, Gunta. Yeah, I don’t know if life ever settles down. It seems to be one thing after another, hey. Take care. xo

  15. So very, very sorry to hear about your son! It has to be tough watching a child go through all that. I imagine in some ways far worse than when it happens to you.

    We had flu shots and what both Eric and I had didn’t seem like flu. Main symptom was coughing so hard that it had us close to throwing up at times. It has calmed down gradually, but it seems to have taken a hit energy-wise. But at least it seems to be fading… FINALLY.

    Sorting through far too many photos certainly is mind-numbing. You got that right! It’s why they pile up so quickly. I’m a bit flummoxed dealing with it all at the moment. I’m afraid that the mind isn’t as sharp as it once was (as I rapidly approach 76)! It’s frustrating not being able to post the rest of our marvelous adventurous trip, but you’d think I’d have grown a bit more patience in all these years.

    Oh well! Hang in there! and we’ll just deal with things as they come. It’s about all we can do!

    • Hmm…your main symptom – coughing so much you almost vomit – is what we had with Influenza A. We were all vaccinated and still caught it and it didn’t seem initially like flu but apparently that was the feature of this flu – not standard flu-like symptoms. There is whooping cough going around again in Australia and I had it a few years back as my immunity had worn off. The coughing is a nightmare. Feels like you will burst something. I didn’t know I had it until a few months later when a suspicious doctor gave me a blood test that showed I’d had a recent whooping cough infection. You are probably so sick of having to rest after your illness, so I won’t tell you to “take it easy”… 😉
      People say we are supposed to get more patient as we age but I’d have to say that in my case it depends on the context. Some things I no longer have any tolerance for. Other things I just let “wash over me”. I have no patience for doing fiddly activities like editing pictures anymore. When I was younger I could do painstakingly detailed activities for hours. I used to be pedantic about grammar and spelling and meticulously check my writing. Not so now! Maybe it’s a case of just wanting to make the most of life and so boring/frustrating activities get relegated to the bottom of the list. I think you are doing amazing stuff considering your age, Gunta! I doubt I’ll be doing what you are in terms of physical activities in my 70s. I’m so pleased you’ve found someone to share these things with too. 🙂
      Thanks for your kind thoughts about my son’s situation. One of my frustrations/anxieties is that the flu has brought on an auto-immune condition that has made me quite ill. I feel pathetic that I have to rest as I want to be actively doing more to help my family. We are currently undertaking more genetic testing which is pretty expensive, but it is important to find more answers. The results may be scary but my feelings are that information gives us more power/control. I’ve always felt better when I can be proactive. After the initial shock about my son died down, it was easier for me to think back to how difficult that time was when he had surgery and remember that we all got through it. We’ll get through whatever happens in the future too. Hope you get your energy back soon. Amazing how an “invisible” microscopic organism hits us so hard! 🙂

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