Tag Archives: David Attenborough

Summer bush fires, Port Macquarie, the koala hospital..

Summer can be a fearful time in Australia. This year has seen prolonged drought in many parts of the country, and, with drought comes bushfires..

In 2003 Canberra experienced the worst bush fire in the city’s history.  In one afternoon, 400 homes and 4 lives were lost. A time seared in the memory of all who lived through it.

This eerie smoke filled photo was taken at 3.00 pm in the afternoon in our street, as we all filled cars and prepared to leave our homes.(soon afterwards we were saved by a change in wind direction)

This month there have many  protracted fires in Queensland and northern NSW, and our thoughts and best wishes go out to those affected.

It is heart-breaking to see people confronted with homes burnt to the ground, and animals, and birds, unable to escape the burning flames.

newcastleherald.com.au

Amongst the towns and regions most affected, is one known fondly by my family, the pretty coastal town of Port Macquarie.

Port Macquarie Maps

My parents lived in Port Macquarie, and my brother and his family still live there.

Port Macquarie ..Lighthouse Beach photo by portmacquarieinfo.com.au

We had many happy summer holidays there while our families were growing up.

My parents owned a small house and a very big garden  (some might say a jungle) running down to a creek, and surrounded by beautiful mature Eucalyptus trees.

My Father at the bottom of the garden!

As soon as we arrived for our holiday, Dad would take the girls down to the trees to say hello to the fairies….. when branches rubbed together in the wind.

….this tradition lasted a long time and is a lovely lifetime memory for us all.

(And a big thanks to my brother who kept that lovely garden under control until Mum and Dad died in 2000.)

One of the big attractions for young families visiting in Port Macquarie was Peppermint Park, with all kinds of rides, a big water slide and lots of shady trees  (for parents like me to sit under and enjoy some summer reading)

The water slide at Peppermint Park

The day this photo was taken a koala fell out of one of the big Eucalyptus trees overhead, right into the water slide. He slide to the bottom and ran (koala fashion) back to his tree, no harm done…but much excitement amongst the onlookers!

My parents lived just opposite the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, and  we often walked over to see the koalas. This hospital was established in 1973, and is not only for sick and injured koalas but for research into koala’s health and diseases.

Today, with fires raging,  this hospital is inundated with fire-affected koalas, many in intensive care units being fed formula and having their burns regularly dressed.

Some of the koalas, on the way to recovery, are adjusting to mittens and gloves, which help them to move around while their paws are healing. The photos I have seen of the koalas when they first arrive are heart-breaking, but many recover surprisingly quickly.. as seen with this very healthy looking koala below.

International Fund for Animal Welfare

The Animal Rescue Craft Guild has also been using pillowcases, and flannelette sheets for pouches for young kangaroos and wallabies.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare

The hospital has been overwhelmed with  donations of money, food, towels and pharmaceutical supplies. The money will enable wildlife organisations to distribute drinking stations for koalas and other wildlife in the fire ravaged areas.

Northern Star

This year the fires have begun earlier than usual, and are more widespread, and much more difficult to contain. Although each state has a firefighting service, we could not do without the volunteer fighters; all firefighters  are affectionately known as ”the firies”.

The town of Port Macquarie, thanking ”the firies”  on a smoke filled day.

When the fires are burning, volunteers are needed on all fronts, local people and charity groups are invaluable in providing food and accommodation to the firefighters, and this is often for indefinite periods of time. The people who are left homeless are suspended in an unreal world, often without much money or shelter, to continue a normal life. The kindness of friends and neighbours and other members of the community is paramount.

Daily Telegraph> Northern Beaches

So, many thanks and salute to those who fight fires, and those who help on a voluntary basis, not to mention the reciprocal help and support given by firefighters from California, Canada and New Zealand…..doesn’t that just give you hope for the world?

However, much as Australians understand that bush fires are a fact of life, the amount of bush fires burning across the country this year suggests we are in uncharted territory. It is not sustainable to assume we can always rely on volunteers, and hope that the fires won’t be as bad next year; long term planning is needed …. hopefully both state and federal governments will soon begin serious discussion on future policies and budgets for our changing world.

I have used this David Attenborough quote before, but it’s worth a repeat:

It seems to me that the natural world is a great source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. 

It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living. 

Many thanks for taking the time to read my blog, and may you be warm in winter and cool in summer.

PS: Two koalas from the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital appear in the National Geographic DVD, and these two superstars are called Crescent Head Jimmy, and Oxley Twinkles.

I can’t help thinking my first photo of the cute koala in yellow mittens might be Oxley Twinkles!

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parliament House Courtyard Gardens in spring…

Spring time is the perfect time in Canberra to visit gardens and a best kept secret is a tour of some of the 17 courtyard gardens within Parliament House..

The first courtyard, filled with spring bulbs, Azalea hedges and Silver Birches

It is hard to believe there could be so many gardens tucked away in Parliament House.

These courtyards are designed to provide natural light into office spaces and to give all the people who work here some fresh air and breathing spaces.

Oh that all office spaces were designed this way!

My absolute favourite …the Dogwood tree

The garden plants are selected to provide shade and screening, variety and colour throughout the year. The courtyard beds have both native and exotic flowering shrubs.

Deciduous trees are chosen to provide shade in summer and allow sunshine in winter.

We went on this tour in 2015, and the question always arises as to why we do not have more native plants in the gardens.

The answer is that until about 10/15 years ago, native plants were not considered for formal gardens (seems incredible today) but in recent times have been introduced into some of the courtyard gardens.

We did see a very interesting courtyard full of Australian natives, but it was one of the no-go areas for photos. 

 

Since our last tour I’ve noticed less Currawongs in the courtyards (the bully boys) and many of the smaller birds have returned and could be heard singing in the trees.

Magpies are still in evidence, and enjoying life alongside Parliamentarians at the House (as PH is affectionately known by locals)

When our tour group arrived in this courtyard, this resident Magpie gave up fossicking for worms, jumped onto the garden chair …moved in the centre, for the best effect, and warbled loudly until he drowned out the tour guide.

My neighbour suggested he was getting paid time and a half for a Sunday…

The warbling Magpie…how could such a small bird makes so much noise!

There are water features in 14 of the courtyards.

These provide cool places to sit in summer and also are deliberately there to dampen down private conversations from other courtyard users. They provide ”white noise”….. hard for people nearby to listen in…..

Perhaps restaurants should think of introducing water features..it would be great to dampen down the neighbouring table!

Four of the water features are supplied with recycled water from a cooling tower.

Parliament House is on permanent Stage 1 water restrictions.

A computer operated irrigation system checks rainfall, evaporation and soil moisture levels, and irrigation occurs based on daily evaporation rates

.The gardens have set a water saving target of 15%.

The original topsoil on Capital Hill was removed during the construction of Parliament House. and the decision was made to use sand based soil on the site.

Our guide told us that sand based soil is good for drainage, compaction resistance, especially for turfed surfaces.  It is used in landscapes built on the top of car parks, roofs and basement areas.

However, for plants in sand based soils, nutrients can easily leak through the soil, so the method is to use a controlled-release fertiliser and also to fertilise ”little and often”

The aim of the Parliamentary Gardens is to use less toxic pesticides and where possible use natural predators.

For example: parasitic wasps for scale, Lacewings for aphids, parasitic nematodes and soap sprays.

The horticulturalist spends time in the gardens, looking very much like David Attenborough  with a magnifying glass detecting predators amongst the leaves and then releasing bugs to combat the pests.

The courtyard below has beautiful Flowering Cherry trees (Mt Fuji), a gift from Japan

…we just missed a big photo-shoot in this courtyard last week when the blossoms were at their height.

Our guide, Trent said when he began at Parliament House some years ago, the gardeners, and young apprentices were allowed to choose an azalea each, for this courtyard…..no such lassez faire approach these days I’m sure.

The azaleas were still ablaze with colour and a credit to them.

In the courtyard below, the exotic and native plantings work well.

The rich red coloured Rhododendron hedges (just starting to bloom) blend in with the native grasses, which are much easier to maintain, and are irresistible to pass without waving your hands across them..

The tour ended with tea/coffee and scones in the Queen’s Terrace…a lovely end to an interesting morning.

This photo was taken in 2015, but shows the lovely light and colour in the courtyard as a TV crew get ready for an interview.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

 

This week our thoughts go to all those fighting fires in California. We have shared the terrible destruction and devastation of fires, best wishes to everyone, but especially the fire fighters, and all those who fight natural disasters…… often unsung heroes of our world.