The Power and the Passion

As I crouched in the chilly darkness, gripped by terror, I berated myself once again for letting my heart overtake my head. What possessed me to venture alone into an unlit outer city nature reserve at night, even though I’d seen evidence of nefarious nocturnal activities?

At the conclusion of my last blog post (which now seems like a lifetime ago) I promised to regale you with tales of feathered romance and murder from my own backyard. Other events have temporarily distracted me from this task.  Instead, I offer a different story of power and passion from the winter of 2019 as a temporary escape from worrisome world events.

This convoluted tale really began with rage. Rage at age. Rage at my own age, to be precise. I didn’t recognise it for what it was at the time though.

After encountering groups of boisterous walkers playing loud music and illegally letting their dogs roam at White Rock Conservation Estate, one of my favourite local spots, I sought solitude and a wildlife experience at a region much further from home.

Mt Barney National Park is a spectacular setting, well known for its wild and rugged peaks.

Images of lush dripping forest and tumbling streams rose in my mind whenever I considered this destination.

Sadly, I arrived during a prolonged drought and the landscape was depressingly barren.

Despite being winter, the maximum hovered around 30 Celsius. Rather than attempt the difficult summit ascent solo, I chose the less demanding Lower Portals Trail.

Shuffling along undulating hills with little or no shade on a breezeless day, plastered in sunscreen, wearing a long-sleeved shirt, trousers, closed-in legionnaire’s hat, and carrying a heavy backpack soon had me glowing, and not from delight.

All but one of the anticipated crystal-clear bubbling creek crossings were dry, and I could see little evidence of wildlife. The parched forest was still and silent.

The sounds of increasingly loud music and raucous laughter did not improve my mood. I couldn’t believe it. I’d travelled two hours and driven over a corrugated gravel road to escape the noisy crowds and they’d followed me! Hopes of spotting any wildlife vanished.

Unusually for me, my irritation developed into rage as I stopped to make way for the large group to pass. I’d always finished a walk in a state of bliss despite pain or physical exhaustion, but this time I returned to the carpark fuming.  I’m reminded of those animations where livid characters have steam pouring out of their ears. I’m sorry to have to admit that was me. At the time I attributed my foul mood solely to the behaviour of the group who scared away the (probably non-existent) wildlife.

By my arrival home I was laughing at myself though. Despite being well acquainted with the stages of grief, I hadn’t recognised my anger for what it really was – rage at my deteriorating body. How dare those virile young people be having fun when my body was failing me.  How dare they bound along so lean, fit, tanned, and barely-clothed, singing and laughing, while I, flushed and sweat-soaked, plodded painfully along.

They especially had no business playing a significant song from my own teens to remind me of what my body used to be capable of.  What, you don’t believe me? Have a listen…

After recognising the root cause of my rage – frustration at my physical loss – my mood lightened and acceptance followed. I returned to White Rock Conservation Estate the very next day, at peace and carrying no expectations. Had my emotions not bubbled over due to the activities of the fun-loving young group at Mt Barney, I wouldn’t have been calm enough to return to this old haunt, and I may have missed out on one of the most thrilling encounters of my life. On the other hand, I wouldn’t have ended up cowering in the darkness a couple of weeks later.

“Let it Be” by the Beatles was playing on my mixed CD as I pulled into the reserve that morning. It seemed an appropriate mantra. I meandered along the fire trail not expecting to see wildlife but content to appreciate towering gums silhouetted against a dazzling blue sky.

As usual, I paused at my favourite tree – a majestic silver-trunked eucalypt. It was here that we first locked eyes.

Never underestimate the allure of the strong silent type.  How could I not be placed under a spell by those magnetic eyes that seemed to penetrate my very soul? A powerful physique  added to the appeal.

I don’t know how long we spent gazing at each other before it was time to part. We shared no words. We didn’t need to. I was hopelessly hooked.

A part of me knew my passion could never be returned in the same way, but history shows that unrequited love can still be a powerful force. And in this case, it was a force strong enough to have me brushing aside legitimate safety concerns to return for a night rendezvous.

Who set my heart all-a-flutter and led me on a path of discovery? Who motivated me to re-enter the reserve one dark night in the hope of another meet-up? Who, who? (There’s a hint there for fans of puns.)

Throughout my childhood I’d only encountered owls in fairy tales. These beautiful birds of prey seemed otherworldly – visitors from another realm, not flesh and blood creatures. My fascination with them grew over the years, but it wasn’t until I was well into adulthood that I saw my first owl – a one eyed individual perched in an olive tree next to my outback kitchen. I was a busy overworked mother then, and had little time or energy to immerse myself in wildlife experiences. My next encounter was with a skeletal specimen caught up in a barbed wire fence. A small southern boobook at the Tarcoola Track on the banks of the Brisbane River a few years ago was my first experience of a healthy individual. It was the sight of my first powerful owl perched high in my favourite tree at White Rock that had me transfixed.

The intensity of the stare, the powerful talons, and the sheer size left me intrigued and desperate for another encounter.  With a wingspan of 1.4 metres, it is Australia’s largest owl species and certainly deserving of its name.

On the ground below my  enticer lay a decapitated sugar glider. I suspected it may have been the owl’s dropped prey.

Later, I was shocked to read they can bite  the heads off gliders, possums, and bats in one gulp. During the day, they will often perch high in the canopy with their headless prey held in their talons.

Powerful owls are increasingly being drawn to the high availability of possum dinners in suburban areas as their other food supply dwindles due to forest clearing and drought. While this food availability helps existing individuals survive, they still need old growth trees with large hollows to breed. These hollows need to be around 2 metres long.

This highlights the importance of protecting old growth trees. Replacing a large old tree with a small seedling will not produce a tree with suitable hollows for many years. Luckily for the powerful owl, White Rock Conservation Estate has been protected from logging and development so far.

After sharing my exciting discovery with naturalist, Rob Ashdown, he suggested I locate a copy of wildlife conservationist Dr David Fleay’s fascinating account, Nightwatchmen of Bush and Plain, published in 1968. Even though it was long out of print, I was able to buy a precious second-hand copy online.

Fleay’s passionate tales of boyhood adventures searching for the powerful owl at night only increased my appetite for more  encounters. It seems I’m part of a league of fans drawn to the magic of this raptor. Rob Ashdown’s blog post In Search of Live Powerful Owls exemplifies his and other’s passion.

After contacting Rob Clemens from the Powerful Owl Project, I was even more motivated for a night escapade. Rob told me that it was breeding season and the hollows of my favourite tree or others in the locality may possibly contain chicks which soon would be fledglings. If I ventured there from sunset onwards it may be possible to hear their distinctive trilling. If there is one thing more exciting than powerful owls, it’s powerful owl chicks!

Powerful Owl Chicks, Nightwatchmen of Bush and Plain, David Fleay (1968).

I anticipated proudly reporting back to Rob Clemens that I had indeed discovered an elusive nest. For a brief moment, I fancied myself to be another Jane Goodall, Gerald Durrell, or David Attenborough. Yes, I know. That sounds quite ridiculous now, but it had been a childhood dream to pursue such a life. Like many women of my generation, the practicalities of family life helped set me on a different (although no less fulfilling) path.

Usually, I’d never enter White Rock Conservation Estate alone at night, but on this occasion, I was buzzing with excitement. Powerful Owl fever had me completely in its grasp.  I was riding high on passion.  Before common sense could completely rear its ugly head, I headed off to White Rock alone at sunset.

The car park gate was supposed to close at 6 pm so I parked my car further up the road and then walked briskly along the White Rock fire trail. I expected bushwalkers to be long gone so was perturbed to see a few small groups still returning. I’d hoped that no-one would see me entering alone at that late hour.

As darkness fell, I found a spot in bushland near my favourite tree where I could view its limbs and hollows outlined in moonlight.

I listened intently for the deep calls of the adult powerful owl and the trilling of young, but as time passed all I could detect was the occasional crackling of undergrowth and the drone of marauding mosquitoes. The only creatures to emerge from the hollows were microbats. It seemed  the object of my affection had only been using the tree as a day perch.

It’s strange how quickly the thrill of adventure can transform into terror.  It wasn’t the feral pig tracks I’d seen on the Yaddamun Trail that made me nervous. It wasn’t the thought of wild dogs that bothered me. The nocturnal snake and spider species didn’t cause me concern either. Even the thought of stepping on unexploded ammunition didn’t phase me unduly (there are warning signs.) No, what cooled my passion was the possible presence of 2 legged beasts  of the human kind.

Sitting hidden in the bush felt safe enough, but my grand plan hadn’t taken into account the required walk back up the road to my car with my bright headlamp making me a beacon to anyone in the vicinity. I was too embarrassed to ring anyone to tell them I was scared and to ask to be picked up. I could imagine the lecture I’d receive about taking foolish risks. I decided it would be less dangerous to return to the car sooner rather than later, and set off along the fire trail again.

Shortly after, I was stunned to hear male voices and laughter behind me along the track. They weren’t using torches so I couldn’t see who they were. Were they walkers who had misjudged their time? Were they there for some other reason?

I rang a friend who didn’t answer, but I pretended to talk to them anyway hoping the men would be less likely to attack if I was on the phone. As I stumbled along, I heard them call out and laugh, “Hey Love, slow down, we’re not going to hurt you.” If you were me would you trust them?

So often we imagine what we should do in such a situation, but the reality is that you never know how you will react until it happens. The adrenaline rush of the fight or flight response isn’t conducive to calm, rational thought.

I realised that if the men did have nasty intentions, my headlamp was just making me an easy target. I forced myself to turn it off and tried to keep heading back in the darkness.

Once my light was extinguished, the group fell silent so I couldn’t gauge where they were. The fire trail is wide soft dirt and I’ve often been surprised by walkers and mountain bikers approaching me from behind during the day.

After reaching the car park, I started to run up the road towards my parked Corolla, but decided to stop and hide in the bushes beside the road. The car park gate had not been closed at 6pm and the men might be able to drive their vehicles up the road illuminating me in their headlights before I could reach my own car.

As I crouched in the darkness, oblivious to snakes and spiders, I heard them revving their vehicles loudly. They seemed to be taking an eternity to leave. Had I made the wrong decision? Eventually, one car slowly came up the road past my hiding spot. The other remained for a while and then followed, stopped at my parked car briefly, and then sped off, showering it with gravel. Once they were out of sight, I raced to my car, locked myself in, and headed home.  As I was driving off, a set of headlights came back down the dead-end road towards me again, but after spotting my headlights, the driver turned around and drove off.

Who were the men? Were they just innocent bushwalkers? Were they just worried about me? I’ll never know, but the experience dampened my passion for a night-time encounter with my feathered lover.

After recovering from my scare, I continued my search for more information about powerful owls and in the process discovered the David Fleay Wildlife Park at the Gold Coast which is now managed by Queensland National Parks.

Larger commercial sanctuaries may offer a glossier encounter and more facilities, however, the daily educational shows by park employees and the range of creatures to be seen in quiet natural settings for a relatively low entry fee make this destination still worth visiting.

I’d never heard of pioneer conservationist and zoologist, Dr David Fleay, until Rob Ashdown suggested his book. It amazes me that a person who was so influential in wildlife conservation and breeding programs now seems forgotten in history. The devastating effects of logging, land clearing, bushfires, and drought now highlight even more the importance of his life’s work.

His wildlife park also rehabilitated and  homed injured and orphaned wildlife. Being situated at the Gold Coast, the land was highly valuable and he could have sold it to developers, giving his family a comfortable retirement. Instead, it was ceded to national parks for a much reduced figure. “Animals First,” compiled by his daughter, Rosemary, details his life-long passion for saving wild creatures.

When the park’s ownership was transferred, many changes occurred and today it is not the same as in Fleay’s time, however it is still a great memorial to his family’s hard work and sacrifice.

Would I go back to White Rock at night alone again for another chance encounter? Passion is a powerful force. It gives us courage and drive. It helps fuel discoveries. It protects and rescues. It helps create objects of beauty and necessity. It solves problems. Even I have my limits when it comes to my passion for wildlife though. Despite the enticements of the strong silent type, I won’t be returning alone. You are welcome to join me though. Perhaps, like David Fleay, you’ll develop a lifelong passion for this powerful creature of the night. And by the way, I did return to Mt Barney on numerous occasions and even camped there for two nights, but that is another story…

“All these decades later, this regal, austere, particularly Australian, Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua), giant of the continent’s nocturnal bird of prey, epitome of solitude and a voice that expresses no other the essence and grandeur of the mountain bushlands, is as fresh and exciting as the day I met it forty-three years ago.”

David Fleay ( Nightwatchmen of Bush and Plain, 1968)

David Fleay with Powerful Owl chicks from his book, Nightwatchmen of Bush and Plain (1968).

79 thoughts on “The Power and the Passion

  1. So glad, as always, to read one of your fascinating posts. Wonderful photographs and a heart thumping story, you are so brave! Thanks for sharing your adventure and glad you came out OK in the end.

    • Hi Susan! Thanks, as always for your encouraging words. I feel like I have neglected my blogging friends for a long time now. I intended to write Part II of my garden series way back in December. So much has happened since then, to many of us. I do hope you, your brother, Tom, and families are well and safe from Covid-19. It’s a difficult time for so many. All my best to you. x

      • Thank you for thinking of me and my family. We are very well and appreciating not living in a big city a great deal. I enjoyed your post as usual and as usual, i am amazed at your boldness in pursuit of an idea.

        Stay safe, as everyone is saying just now.

        • Hi Tom! I’m so glad I checked my spam folder this morning as that is where your comment ended up. Occasionally that happens. I’m pleased you are still well and hoping that your location will help you avoid Covid-19. I’m missing my remote living locations from the past a little. The isolation would have come in handy right now. We were also quite self-sufficient out there with wonderful vegetable gardens and poultry. I’ve just assembled 2 small greenhouses to grow edibles. Even though I live on a large block, the possums, rats, birds, fruit bats and insects mean I really need to have a covered veg garden. I’m actually quite excited about this new venture as I’ve missed vegetable gardening. There’s a thrill in seeing germinating seeds that lifts the spirits. I do hope your children and grandchildren remain safe in their locations in the more populated areas. It must be on your mind. All the best. 🙂

  2. Hi Jane
    A very different post from your usual fare, however, entertaining as always.
    Places such as the Lower Portals and so many other iconic walking tracks have now become overwhelmed with newbie walkers, many of them of the younger generation, internet informed and ready to go, with no appreciation for the wonder and the pleasure of solitude in the bush. This unfortunately will become the new normal and we have to trek farther afield to escape these unwanted intrusions. There remain some amazing lesser known tracks beyond the Lower Portals and elsewhere around My Barney that presently offer relative obscurity (happy to lead you there anytime if you like). I regularly explore there with one or two like minded individuals.
    White Rock and the Spring Mountain Conservation Reserve is my backyard (literally). I will be trekking to White Rock tomorrow from the Greenbank side via Spring Mountain. I have never encountered the Powerful Owl, so will be keeping a keen eye out.
    Stay Safe
    Andrew

    • Hi Andrew! Thanks very much for the offers of Mt Barney and White Rock walks. I tend to go solo because my joints force me to go very slowly. I meander along stopping frequently to take shots of wildlife which can be very frustrating for walking partners. Once the Coronaviris crisis is over, I’ll be out at Mt Barney again and will make contact if you want to brave walking with a snail. Because I walk solo, I need to take all the emergency equipment with me (such as proper first aid kit, plb, enough water etc) so my pack tends to be heavier than when I’m walking in a group. That was the case at the Lower Portals. Knowing that phone reception was poor or non-existent I carried a lot of gear which added to my discomfort. I went back and did the Cronin Creek Track and the lookout at Yellow Pinch and I also did part of a summit track (tagged along behind a group) just to see what some of the terrain was like. I had a wonderful time camping at Mt Barney Lodge and explored the creek for hours and also checked out Flanagan Reserve. I love the region! Yes, sadly it’s getting more difficult to find quiet areas of bushland these days. White Rock has become so busy! I’m in two minds about it though. I’m pleased that many more people are enjoying the outdoors. I don’t begrudge people the happiness they can get from visiting national parks. I would just prefer they were a little more mindful of the wildlife and the enjoyment of others sometimes. They would probably see more wildlife if they slowed down and were a little quieter. I often get asked why I see so much wildlife. I have to partly thank my dodgy joints for that! I have to go slowly. I have yet to do the Greenbank Spring Mountain to White Rock trek yet. One day. Best wishes. 🙂

  3. Hi Jane, it’s a delight to read another of your posts, even though this one could have ended quite differently. I know how tempting it is to follow your heart and your passion without taking adequate time to consider other possible outcomes than one would like. Not that it’s on the scale of your adventure here, but I awoke to a rare snowfall in Akaroa on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island and headed up the hills in my rental car, bent of photographing the frosty wonders. I soon encountered a hill, of course, that laughed at me and refused to let me pass, and I nearly slid off the road into the incredibly steep valley. Since I’m still able to write about it, it turned out all right–as did yours–but it still gives me the shivers. Stay safe and keep sharing your adventures!

    • Thank you! Yes, I’ve always been a strange combination of a safety conscious rule follower and occasional passionate risk taker. For years I’ve said I’d never walk at White Rock at night. Even going by myself during the day can be nerve-wracking. I think my decision was based partly on a sense of rebellion against having to always be so careful as a woman. I know a lot of male researchers who don’t think twice about venturing places alone at night. Sadly, the reality is that reserves around cities can be dangerous for anyone at night. I think your snow adventure just as exciting! I know how slippery and dangerous those roads can be. My son went with a group of friends to New Zealand last winter for a holiday. They’d never driven in snow before and when they were heading up a mountain, another car slipped right off the mountain! They also broke one of the chains on their car so had to wait for a replacement. He didn’t tell me about it all until much later though. Didn’t want to worry me. I love snow! Have only experienced it once though. Wish I could again. The scenery was magical. I think I would have been tempted to head up there like you did. 😉 Best wishes!

      • Thanks very much, Jane–yes, snow is rare here at lower elevations. Here’s a link to a post I did about that day: https://krikitarts.wordpress.com/2014/05/15/milestone-4c/. The rest of the story was that, after I didn’t dare go any farther (or back), I had to wait in place until a local with 4wd and a tow chain came along and helped me to get up to the summit road, where everything was more level, and I drove around up in the glorious snowy hills until it warmed enough that I was finally able to descend again (on a much-less-steep road) to get back down to safety and security. What a memory! -Gary

        • It does certainly sound like a great memory, Gary! Thanks for sharing it. Will check out your blog post soon. I’m rarely in the blogging world these days. Life is changing rapidly… 🙂

    • Thanks, Trudy! It was thrilling to see the powerful owl and certainly lifted my spirits. It was a pleasure to share the experience with you via a blog post. I’m hoping to head out with a group of wildlife enthusiasts one night next breeding season to locate nests. It may end up having to be next year though depending on the Pandemic lockdown. Let’s hope the world gets on top of the spread and a vaccine or effective treatments come along soon. Best wishes. 🙂

  4. Thank you for a wonderful and thrilling post. With photos so true to life, it is almost like being there. No, your blog writing is not insignificant. Reading takes the mind off the sadness of times: It is a good thing the mind can travel, even when the body can’t! Grounded, but not gone (mad) yet.
    Best wishes for safety and health for you and yours.

    • Thanks very much, Marina! Always a pleasure to hear from you. Yes, it’s important to be able to hold onto some of the normal interests and routines during this time and have ways to take our minds off the suffering of others and our own fears. I am very lucky to have a big garden with plenty of wild creatures and to be financially ok. It’s so much harder for others and I tend to feel guilty about being happy while they are going through such difficulty. I’m sorry you are grounded but glad you are retaining your sanity (so far!) Hoping you stay safe and manage to avoid this horrible virus! All the best. 🙂

  5. I saw the face on the right fork of your tree looking at you and after you. A great read and photos. I am glad you are OK Jane. Never go off by yourself again at night.

    • Thanks, Brian. I had to check out the face on the fork. I didn’t notice it until now. 🙂 Maybe it was looking after me! I will do my best to use my head instead of my heart when it comes to night-time adventures in the future. A friend has said they’ll arrange for a group of naturalists to go chick hunting in White Rock with me at night during breeding season (if the Pandemic ever ends and I survive it of course.) I’m hoping you miss out on this horrible virus, Brian. You’ve been through drought and fire – you don’t need illness. Still gotta visit your place one day! Best wishes. 🙂

  6. Oh Jane, that’s not nice at all. One would imagine to be cat-called on a night bus not in a nature area…

    Hope that Australia is coping better now that, as I read last, there’s been some rain.

    • Thanks, Fabrizio. 🙂 In the current crisis, my story doesn’t seem particularly important but the other aspects of life like sexual assault continue and with social isolation comes more risks for women (and their children) trapped at home with an abusive partner. Apparently, the rates of domestic violence are ramping up in Australia since lockdown. With parks and streets deserted, going for one’s short exercise walk is more of a risk as there are no safe groups of onlookers. So I guess the fear and intimidation women face is still a relevant issue. Having said that, I had mainly hoped to emphasise my joy and passion for the powerful owl and also highlight the great work of David Fleay. The environment continues to be of vital importance even during a Pandemic. Yes, thankfully some areas of Australia have had relief from drought and the major bushfires have been controlled. Lasting damage has occurred to some habitats and species though. Hopefully, the world can get a handle on Covid-19 as soon as possible. It’s frightening and terribly sad what has been happening in many countries. We are lucky in Australia so far, but some mistakes have been made in the early stages so we don’t know how we will end up yet. My daughter has been training to be a doctor in a teaching hospital in a coronavirus hotspot. She’s back home for a while now but have found out she’s going back in 3 weeks again. Her lungs aren’t great so I’m obviously concerned for her. Luckily my other children have the luxury of working from home. My son’s MRI showed signs of his spinal tumour growing back and we are hoping he doesn’t need treatment/neurosurgery during the Pandemic. I hope you and your loved ones are doing ok. It’s a very difficult time for many. All my best! 🙂

  7. Fijn je spannende verhaal te kunnen lezen maar hoop dat in’t vervolg je verstand je hart kan overrompelen, want dit had een heel ander verhaal kunnen worden.Fijne foto’s en zorg goed voor jezelf

    • Bedankt, MaryLou! Ik waardeer uw bemoedigende opmerkingen. Ik zal in de toekomst mijn best doen om mijn hoofd meer te gebruiken bij het plannen van avonturen. Je hebt gelijk. De uitkomst had heel slecht kunnen eindigen. Beste wensen. 🙂

  8. Hey Jane, what a nice Easter present your unexpected post was….a nice read in this time of social isolation! I’d be giving the suburban and outer suburban parks a miss after dark if I was you. My ‘Feral Formula’ is that the numbers of dickheads rise proportionately the closer you are to a vehicle access point. I’ve had Powerful Owl’s fly into the beam of my light when I’ve been out walking at night a couple of times – scared the crap out of me both times;) The bluetooth speaker is the new ghetto blaster unfortunately, it’s not my thing but what do you do? Actually, come to think of it I’ve been practicing social distancing for decades as the first thing I consider when planning a walk is how to avoid other people. Stay safe and healthy up there and I’ll get up and visit when this virus settles down a bit. Cheers Kevin.

    • Thanks, Kevin. Happy Easter to you. Yes, I think I’ve been practising social distancing all my life. I’m quite the introvert. I also tend to be very hygiene focused, something I think evolved from having a little brother who could die more easily from infections because of his major heart abnormalities. It would always be so frustrating when visitors arrived and then informed us of the nasty flu they were fighting! So this is standing me in good stead during the Pandemic. Infection control comes naturally. Having a daughter training to be a doctor also keeps me informed about the topic. My golden rule has been to avoid walking alone in most city reserves. I feel safer in remote locations as usually only dedicated hikers will travel to national parks. Well that’s what I tell myself anyway to reduce anxiety! I love powerful owls. There’s something special about these creatures of the night that appeal to my imagination. I hope you and Sam keep well and safe. All the best. 🙂

  9. A thrilling wonderful post. It is endlessly frustrating and infuriating that we can’t always feel safe here. I must see if I can track down David Fleay books, pretty sure I have seen them in the past at Archives in Charlotte st, a great bookshop for those out of print gems.

    • Thanks, Sharon! Had to laugh at your Instagram post recently about camping in the Pod in your back yard with your dog, Ada. I have also set up a tent in my backyard. My current house occupants are working from my tiny home and do video conferencing so the tent is my “holiday home” and garden retreat. To be honest, there is much more wildlife in my backyard than most walks and it’s more covenient with a kitchen and bathroom. I’m saving money and the environment by using less fuel as well. Like you, I have a pile of books I can read also. Yes, it’s frustrating having to constantly be on alert as a woman hiking alone. We should be able to. Frustrating too that women aren’t even safe in their own homes due to domestic violence. I bought Nightwatchmen of Bush and Plain from a WA secondhand shop online. I must check out Archives in Charlotte St. Love finding those out of print gems myself! Sometimes they are not very PC with language but in a way it’s a good reminder of stages in history so we don’t forget what people have gone through (and continue to suffer) in the fight for equality etc. Happy Podding! Best wishes. 🙂

  10. Great to see a post from you! I must admit I only ever do day walks because I am terrified of freaks on the trail. It’s such a shame because I really want to do multi day walks but I a, just too scared. It sucks but it’s life I guess. Happy easter and stay safe x

    • Hi Anna! Great to hear from you. I agree about the possible freaks on the trail. I admit I am increasingly more nervous about even doing day walks alone now. Rather than getting safer, I’ve had more dodgy experiences in recent years. Even remote walking locations are getting busier with people not always there to appreciate nature but looking for other kinds of highs. Not sure what the vibe is like in WA, but here in my area of QLD it’s getting worse. Such a shame but as you say, that’s the way it seems to be. Because my childhood home could be fraught with danger at times, I grew up not really fearing the great outdoors. Bushland seemed safer than home. I am disappointed that I’m now more anxious in places I’d always regarded as refuges. I’m lucky not to be in a war zone etc. though. Happy Easter to you too! I hope you and your loved ones are spared the dreadful Covid-19. x

  11. I’ve had more than one night time adventure that ended with a stint of hiding, lights off, somewhere in the bush. It’s nice to think we don’t have to worry about this, but it’s happened to most of my friends at least once. And, to be fair, I’ve also hidden with friends male and female from larger or more aggressive groups.

    If you do head out again, I’d recommend getting up stupid-early; my experience has been that most of the threatening types have vacated well before 2 am and then I can hike out as the morning exercisers come in.

    • Hi Tamyka. That sounds like good advice about early mornings rather than late evenings, although the parties seem to last until dawn sometimes in my area and I get plenty of stragglers walking past my home in the early hours. Heheh. Unfortunately, due to my rapid deterioration from EDS, I am unable to flee quickly or fight back so that increases my anxiety these days. I doubt I’ll be venturing out alone at night again. Thanks for taking the time to share your own experiences and offer advice. Much appreciated! 🙂

  12. I can just imagine the terror you experienced. It’s such a shame you had that rather than the owl you were hoping to commune with. I seem to get my best experiences when there hasn’t been any planning. We had an owl visit us in the yard one evening. He just sat on a branch watching while we had a chance to take some pictures. If you like, I posted a shot of our barred owl at the very end of this post: https://gunta.photos/2019/12/28/a-new-friend/

    • Hi Gunta! How wonderful that you had a barred owl visit! And did you end up placing ribbons around the necks of the fattened chipmunks to see if they were disappearing? 😉 How adorable they are! What pleasure it must bring to have the wild creatures visit you in this way. Yes, my experience has also been that the best interactions have usually been unplanned. I headed out to White Rock that first day content to just enjoy the beauty around me and was surprised by the powerful owl in my favourite tree! And then of course my night mission was a disaster. Heheh. So many of life’s special moment come when we aren’t desperately searching for them. Life is interesting in that way. Loved the Dr Seuss quote at the end of your blog post. Life is indeed a great balancing act. I do hope you and your loved ones are well and safe, Gunta. Take good care of yourself. I hope we make it through this current world-wide challenge. x

      • Hoping you take care of yourself as well and, yes, may we all make it through this challenge! Sadly I couldn’t talk the chipmunks into wearing the ribbons and it looks like there’s a new batch of young ones getting brave enough to beg.

      • What an hilarious face your eastern screech owl has in the picture! I love it. How exciting to see it in your own backyard, Steve. I have a mating pair of tawny frogmouths in my yard at the moment. They have amusing scruffy muppet like facial features and are wonderful camouflage experts. They aren’t owls but many people mistakingly refer to them as frogmouth owls. They remind me a little of your eastern screech owl.I also noticed that like the powerful owl, your eastern screech owls need some sort of hollow in a tree to breed and only live in areas with trees. Thanks for the link, Steve. 🙂

          • Heheh. I might even adopt the name for myself! I’ve been told I have a big mouth and my hair always looks a bit scruffy with fly away strands like a Tawny Frogmouth’s wispy head and beak feathers. 🙂

  13. The tenth photograph shows that you found your own little open-air arboreal chapel.

    I had a powerful urge to compress “powerful owl” into “powlerful”.

    From this post and others, I get the impression that you’re drawn to risky situations and enjoy the thrill they engender.

    • Hi Steve! Great to hear from you. I hope you and Eve have not been unwell with the horrible Covid-19 virus. It’s funny that you should describe the photo as an arboreal chapel, because the photo reminded me of one also. I took the shot because the curve of the trees above the rocky outcrop appealed and my camera lens actually increased the bending towards the middle effect.
      “Powlerful.” Love it, Steve! 🙂
      I’m not sure I’m drawn to risky situations per se. There are many risky situations I avoid such as roller coasters, speeding, rock climbing, illicit drug taking etc. I’m known by my family as being very safety conscious. However, if my motivation is high enough, I will enter a risky situation. Things that motivate me tend to be my passion for wildife, photography, my children’s safety, and social justice issues. So I might, for example, place myself in a dangerous situation to take a photograph (on a cliff edge) or intervene in a domestic violence situation. The Powerful Owl night adventure was extremely out of character for me. Having said that, I do get a thrill out of surviving situations where I’ve done something spur of the moment because I haven’t thought it through properly and ended up in a pickle! The relief of not dying! Heheh. I think risk is relative too. For me driving through city traffic to a new destination can be terrifying and I’ll avoid it whenever possible. Driving in busy traffic feels very risky to me. Most people I know regard around 90% of my behaviour as extremely tame and boring. My blog gives me a chance to showcase the 10% of me which rarely gets to rear its head. 🙂

  14. An exciting narrative Jane, as always a great read of your intrepid adventures. I also find it hard not to be upset by those who use our parks and reserves for loud music and distasteful recreational activities. Probably the saddest thing is that they do not appreciate where they are and what is actually there due to their limited view of life fed to them by their virtual world and city life. I also remember that our first view of Powerful Owls was of the 2 youngsters staring at us. I initially thought they were Meerkats in the gum tree, but later saw the adult sleeping nearby and to our delight dicovered late they were Powerfuls. We have seen more since in our area over the years, sometimes with possums hanging from claw. .

    • Thanks, Ashley. Lovely to hear from you again. Yes, it does frustrate me a bit when folks drive all the way to a remote National Park and then walk through with blinkered vision, laughing, shouting, and playing loud music. It makes me wonder why they bothered to travel that far when they could have done the same behaviour somewhere else. I wonder if it is just box ticking? Sometimes if I am looking at something special I’ve discovered, I do alert others to what I’ve found and many are thrilled and spend the next ten minutes taking pics as well. I think sometimes people are just used to being noisy in this busy world that they just don’t know what they are missing out on. Other times they are just there for other reasons. My experience at Mt Barney was more about my own frustration with myself though. I envied their carefree vigour and I don’t begrudge people’s laughter and happiness. It’s just disappointing when it comes at a cost to someone else’s attempts at finding peace, and also when it may affect the wildlife in the area. There are plenty of outdoor spaces where laughter and music are expected and welcomed. It is harder to find places of quiet refuge these days. National Parks are one of them, I hope. I’m pleased you’ve also had experiences with powerful owls. Wonderful creatures, aren’t they? I hope you and your loved ones remain safe during this difficult time, Ashley. Best wishes. 🙂

  15. Another highly-engaging blog post, Jane. You are a talented writer and photographer. Love those owls. Not so much the groups of humans in the bush, lol.

    A fabulous series of comments from your followers – you have a terrific little group of online colleagues here. I hope they and their words help eradicate any lasting feelings of annoyance and angst created by the unwanted and unsettling nocturnal ‘bush bogan’ encounters.

    I trust you are hanging in there with the ‘social isolation’ – what an irony that we cannot practice more of the ‘bush isolation’ that we crave at the moment!

    Cheers, stay safe, Rob.

    • Thanks very much, Rob. I’ve really appreciated your kind encouragement over the years as well as your patience with my wildlife questions. You are always so generous to everyone in your work and friendship circle. Yes, I am very thankful (and frankly, quite surprised) to receive such lovely comments from a terrific bunch of people over the years. I don’t feel I deserve it really. The Internet can be a scary place sometimes but it’s also a wonderful place for people with similar interests and passions to connect and not feel so alone/weird. How amazing that we can have friendships with people all over the world without having to even meet people in person. When I was a child I had a penpal in California who I would write regular missives to. We corresponded for many years. That was as close as I could get to an overseas contact back then. How different life is now! Yes, it’s a little frustrating that at the moment National Parks would be perfect for we quiet nature lovers because the travel restrictions and closures make them less busy, but of course, we must also follow the rules too. It’s all for an important cause though and it’s not much to sacrifice. I feel sorry for you and your colleagues at National Parks having to deal with so many angry people complaining about the temporary closures. It’s hardly your fault! Anyway, Rob, thanks again for your kind support. I hope you and your family are well and escape the virus. All the best. 🙂

    • Yes, me too! I think that’s partly why I had so many animal “friends” as a kid rather than humans. How are you doing these days? Are you back in Australia or still in the UK? I hope your health, research and job prospects haven’t been badly affected by Brexit, climatic conditions, and now Covid-19. It’s a tough time for many. I hope you are doing ok? All the best. x

        • I’m so sorry to hear that. When I tried to check how you were at different times, I could no longer see your original blog so I wondered what happened. Workplace harassment?! That’s horrible. Well I’m glad you are having some respite from that but it sounds like you are having tough times over there. Wishing you all the best and hoping that somehow things work out better for you in the end. Once again, I’m sorry for the rough times. A hug from Australia. x

          • I took my blog down a couple of years ago during a time of self-doubt. I started feeling like my writing was bad and my photos were bad and I was weird and stupid haha

            I do miss the blog, it was so fun for me, but I really just lost all my confidence for a while (ok maybe I still don’t have any confidence).

            Your blog is so great though! It’s everything I wanted mine to be, but better. I love reading your posts. Hugs!

            • I wish I’d known how you felt before you took your blog down. I would have told you not to do it and how fabulous your blog was! Weird, stupid and bad writing and photos?! Well, I must have poor taste if you thought that because I loved your site! It was one of my favourites. You’re brilliant! I’m so sorry that I wasn’t available to you at that time. I wish I’d been more supportive. Initially, I was very active at networking and reading lots of blogs regularly but went through some challenging deeply personal issues and couldn’t sustain my contact with people. I struggled to publish my own stories every few months or so. I can relate to your self-doubt. I really struggle with self-confidence. Ten people can say what I have done is good but it only takes one snide remark to completely knock me. During the last few years I have also thought about deleting my blog on many occasions. I received remarks behind the scenes suggesting that I didn’t deserve to receive the nice feedback for my content and compared my blog to others which they deemed superior that should have received more support. I was accused of “demoralising” other bloggers because of all my blog comments. It was even suggested that I received more comments on a hiking blog because I was a woman. I started to feel anxiety about posting because I could imagine the reaction of these people every time people wrote nice comments. I thought about removing the comments section to solve this (I am still considering it.) When I was a child, I was lucky enough to do well in school. It was my escape from a chaotic homelife and so I was motivated to try and succeed. Sometimes the children called me a teacher’s pet because I received praise. In some ways the nervousness I grew to feel if the teacher praised my work in front of the class is how I feel about receiving praise through comments on my blog. It’s lovely that people are so kind, but I am conscious of the haters out there. For some of us we will always feel like our writing is terrible, so it doesn’t help when others “confirm” those thoughts with remarks. Once again, I am so sorry you got to the point where you lost confidence so much that you removed your blog. I feel like I have let you down by not noticing your feelings at the time. I should have checked in. I hope you have kept a copy of your blog somewhere?? If people (like me) are absent for a while from your blog feedback, remember that it probably means a lot is going on in our lives. It’s not because we think your blog is not interesting. The number of comments on blogs is not an indicator of its quality. I receive a lot of comments on the rare occasion I post, but my stats are extremely low (most days less than 10 views of my blog.) I know people who get around 1 million views a month and don’t get comments so comments don’t equal popularity. Thanks for your enthusiastic praise of my blog. Yours was awesome though! You’re a super person! Don’t forget it. x

              • I can relate to everything you said haha. Your blog is honestly my favourite favourite, so if you take it down you have to send me long emails about your adventures!! If people say mean things about it, it is just because they are jealous of how cool you are and what a good writer you are. I never miss a post!

                I don’t understand how you could possibly blame yourself about my blog! It’s not your job to say buffer my self confidence haha! It’s okay, though. I deleted a lot of the posts in a fit of embarrassment, but I got bored, so a lot of them still exist somewhere in private mode, but flickr deleted all my photos because I didn’t pay their fees. Sometimes I think about starting it up again, but I can’t even begin to imagine what I would say.

                • If you do get the energy and desire to restart your blog, use it to share whatever gives you a buzz or you feel passionate about. Neither of us get paid for what we share so we may as well share whatever we want. 😀 If someone was paying us to do it then it would be a different situation. I’m even considering creating a new blog for the things that don’t really fit into this blog properly, such as educational techniques. I’m seeing so many parents very stressed out about homeschooling their kids during lockdown. I taught my three at home from preschool right through to university entrance for a few reasons. If I could emphasise anything to people, it’s that education is not confined to the classroom. Kids are learning all the time through play, chores, as well as standard academic sit-down lessons. A loving and affectionate relationship that encourages curiosity, imagination, and a love for learning is one of the best things they can do for their kids. Whatever they miss in the way of formal education during the lockdown is not going to hurt young ones. It’s a great time to read books, play boardgames, do cooking, do messy art, play in the dirt etc. Ooooh, I’m raving on again because it’s a topic I am passionate about! That’s what I mean though. If you blog again, just share whatever gives you a buzz. It’s a good feeling to be able to express our passions, hey? 😀

  16. Hi Jane! My goodness, what a predicament you found yourself in! I must admit that I wouldn’t go to a reserve after closing time or after dark, though I am sure I’d love to experience a night listening out for wildlife! I am assuming your house survived the dreadful fires during the summer. What troubles we are all having to cope with! I hope you and your family are all well and keeping safe. We are all okay so far!
    Best wishes, Clare x

    • Wonderful to hear from you, Clare. I’m very relieved to hear that you are going ok so far. I’m assuming this would be extra challenging for your daughter with anxiety. It’s anxiety-inducing for most people! Yes, I didn’t really think things through that night at White Rock. I was so caught up in the excitement of finding powerful owl chicks. That changed rapidly though. It was pretty silly in hindsight. 🙂 Yes, my place was safe from the fires. A few major things have happened with family since I wrote my previous blog post but we’re getting on with things. Thankfully, my sons and daughter-in-law have jobs that enable them to work from home. I’m dreading my daughter going back to her medical training in a couple of weeks, but that is the nature of her career choice so it has to be accepted. She’s doing what she loves. I do hope you all stay well, Clare. All my best. x

      • I am so pleased you are all fine, so far. I can empathise a little with your worries about your daughter. My sister works for the ambulance service in Kent and even though she is now one of the managers she has chosen to work on the ambulances to cover for those staff who are sick. My sister has asthma and nearly died a few years ago when she developed pneumonia. She loves her work and is an excellent manager and cares deeply for her staff.
        I hope you get to see some powerful owl chicks someday. I love owls very much and we often see and hear them where we live. A tawny owl nests every year in the ash tree opposite our house and for a few weeks during the summer we hear the chicks calling from the nest all night long! We also see barn owls, little owls and short-eared owls. I have even seen a long-eared owl but not for many years.
        Our owls are much smaller than the powerful owl but they are all such beautiful birds.
        You are right in saying that my daughter’s anxiety is causing her problems during this pandemic. She had been getting on really well at university, and had been commuting there by train each day having never travelled alone before last autumn. She is now working from home and finding it difficult to concentrate.
        Take care, dear Jane and keep well and safe.
        Best wishes xx

        • You’ve had so many owl encounters! I’m so pleased for you, Clare. Even my observant naturalist friends don’t see many owls in my region. I do see raptors such as kestrels, hawks, falcons and eagles frequently though so I guess that helps make up for it. I’m wondering about why that is so now. What is different about your region and its history compared to mine that encourages owl species? Something for me to ponder. 🙂
          I do hope your sister stays well. She sounds like a very compassionate and competent person. My daughter doesn’t have great lungs. Neither do I. We both got Influenza A last year despite being vaccinated and ended up with asymptomatic pneumonia. We both get asthma as well and the EDS makes our lungs more susceptible to long term damage. She eventually hopes to become a specialist in a field that doesn’t expose her to lots of infection, but in the meantime needs to do her doctor training in a busy hospital which is in a corona hotspot. I’m hoping Australia doesn’t follow the horrible progression of some other countries. We’ve been lucky so far.
          Yes, it must be challenging for your daughter now. It sounds like she was progressing well before this. With anxiety it can be hard to maintain the same study routine when you change location. Home can be full of distractions and it can have a “holiday vibe” as well so it’s hard to get focused. I hope she’s able to adjust soon.
          All my best to you and your family, Clare. x

          • Thank you, Jane. I suspect I get to see many different types of owl because this is farming/agricultural country. Plenty of rodents and birds living in the hedgerows and around the farmyards and grain stores. Barn owls especially, have had a hard time in recent years as their usual nesting places in barns have disappeared because of barn conversions into up-market homes or holiday accommodation. Fortunately, they are quite happy to set up home in nest boxes on stilts or set in trees, so there is hope for them.
            Best wishes to you and your family and take care xx

            • Ahh…thanks for your answer, Clare. That makes sense. While we do get a lot of rodents here, I think our snake and feral cat populations control them and our particular owl species tend to need forests to breed here rather than open agricultural areas, unlike your barn owls etc. Ours tend to roost in thick forest canopies and breed in tree hollows. Having said that, as their usual food sources and nesting habitats are being reduced, Powerful Owls are increasingly moving into leafy suburban areas close to reserves where possums, gliders, and bats live. Hopefully, our local councils will save enough old growth trees for them to continue breeding. Thanks and take care, dear Clare. x

  17. It’s always grand to see you’ve posted another fantastic adventure for us. As usual, I squirreled away plenty of time to sit back and have a few laughs of your blunders. I knew since you’d written a post that you lived through your risky adventure… so I was able to enjoy the terror of it all! Ha ha!

    Having made it through difficult earlier years, as we both have, there isn’t too much out there that truly terrifies me. I still hope one night I will pitch a small tent and camp at the west end of our property near the river. I long to be one with nature, whatever it entails. Yes, we have wild hogs here too, and snakes (though not pythons like your area), but I don’t fear these things. It isn’t such a safe world we live in… and I think it is normal to feel fear, especially at our age. Not so much because we can’t do what we used to, and our bodies fail us a bit more, I think it’s more that we’ve learned to tap into instinct and pay attention to our radar. We listen and we don’t second guess. I am glad you found safety in your car, and that you’ve decided not to go it alone again.

    By the way, your photographs are fantastic! Whoo wouldn’t fall in love with those eyes and that alluring physique? Have you ever read the book, “Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl” by Stacey O’Brien? I think you’d love it.

    • Hi Lori! So wonderful to hear from you again. I had noticed you were posting again because I’d seen the notifications in my email inbox, but have not had the chance to catch up. I’m so glad you are alive! I’ve been appalled at the infection rates and deaths from Covid-19 in the US and the UK and wondered how everyone was coping.
      Thanks for suggesting that book. It sounds fantastic. Just my cup of tea. I will google it immediately! When I was a child I read an American novel called “Emily and the Killer Hawk.” It was a sort of coming of age story which also followed the story of a teenager who reared a hawk chick after a storm blew the nest down. As the chick got older she had to start making difficult decisions about how to feed it fresh food and teach it to become independent in order to release it. I’d love to find another copy.
      I hope you can pitch a tent and enjoy a night out in the “wilds” of nature. The starry sky and the sounds of night creatures make night adventures so different to our daytime observations. Wild hogs like our large feral pigs can be a risk, but like you I don’t really fear creatures in the way I fear humans. Having said that, I’ve never lived in big bear country! Hahah. Yes, I agree – as we age we start to trust or tap in to our natural intuition more. Instead of telling ourselves we are “silly women” (like we’ve been told often), we learn to read the signs and act on them with more decisiveness. Thanks as always for your very wise words and support. It’s a shame that we may never get the chance to walk or camp together although I still hold out some hope! You’re one special lady. 🙂

      • I don’t give up!! Where there’s a will, there’s a way!!
        We don’t have bears here in our part of the state, but there are mountain lions.
        I am going to have to look up that book you were talking about. I have several good books about wildlife. I once paid the atrocious price of $12.50 for an old book that was not in the best shape, but as I held it I “felt” something good and special about it. “Umingmuk of the Barrens”, by Francis Dickie turned out to be a treasure! Umingmuk is a young musk ox who saw his herd trapped into captivity, and found himself alone and to fend for himself. There are other animal stories in that book. I bet I’ve read it a dozen times or more. I laugh because the penny pincher in me thought that was just “highway robbery” to ask that price for such a ratty book. I wouldn’t sell that book for all of the money in the world…

        • Hahah. Love your penny pinching ways and that in the end you “wouldn’t sell that book for all the money in the world.” Sounds like a great book! I’ll check it out too. 😀

  18. I adore owls, Jane, so I can imagine why you decided to head out in the dark. How brave. I can feel a knot in my stomach just thinking about being alone in the dark, though. My imagination is far too vivid for that.

    • Thanks Jolandi! Not sure it was bravery. Probably just passion over-riding commen sense! 😉 Normally I’d have a dozen knots in my stomach thinking about being at White Rock alone at night. I am even nervous about going outside my house into my own backyard after dark normally. I won’t do it if I am the only person at home. I even get terrified just watching movies where women are out in the dark walking alone. So I was definitely in a different headspace when searching for powerful owl chicks! It seems like such a long time ago now with everything else that has happened. I hope you’re coping ok with the current situation and are well? The powerful owls have started looking for mates again now so people are hearing their calls at night. I won’t be heading out there alone at night again though! Haha. Best wishes. 🙂

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