Australian don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone…

The devastating bush fires burning across much of Australia has made this a long and sombre summer for most Australians.  The extent of the bush fires, and the ferocity of those fires is unprecedented.

Today’s  newspaper has a photo of an older man, former owner of a lovely home in a community he and his wife loved; he pointed to the charred rubble on the ground and said…

life was good, and then suddenly there was nothing.”

In December and January many holiday makers go to the pretty NSW South Coast of Australia, and this year we too, intended to meet up with our family there for Christmas.

We cancelled our holiday just before Christmas, and stayed at home. Luckily we did. We had a lovely time at home, and cleaning birdbaths and watering was a daily occurrence.

In early January the fires tore across the south coast, destroying homes, and communities, and with some loss of lives.

The Brindabella Mountains during a hot summer.

Canberra too, is in a fire prone area, and, in January, as the fires continued to burn in National Parks and along the coast, we had to prepare ourselves for the possibility of leaving our homes at short notice.

What do you take when you may be leaving your home for good?  

A suitcase of clothes, essential documents, water, a full tank of petrol in the car, photos, and sleeping bags (where did they go…given away years ago?) USBs, chargers, torches, batteries, candles, matches, the list goes on.

If there is no power, we are back to torches, matches and candles…. the real world!

We have lived in Canberra for over 30 years, and those of you who follow this blog know that one of the joys of living in Canberra is that almost every suburb is surrounded by bush, and the birds, the kangaroos, wallabies are part of every day living for us.

A young kangaroo watching us as we walk up Mount Taylor is spring. (before the drought)
A very important looking Cockatoo, on his/her way to Mount Taylor..

However, this comes at a price during droughts and bush fires season.

Two young Galahs who always stay in family groups, or in pairs.

Communications during bush fire threats are much better these days, it brings a chill to all Canberrans to remember how poor the communication was during the 2003 fires.

These days we have a helpful app called “Fires Near Me” which gives daily and hourly updates on fires in our region.

During the really hot days, everything is quiet,  and the smoke from the surrounding fires is thick in the air. A quality index reading above 200 is considered hazardous to health. On one particular day the reading in Canberra was 5,000, the highest level in the world for that day.

It is a great relief when a cool change comes,  the smoke haze improves (for a while), and the birds come back again.

As the weather clears, the cockatoos fill the skies with their screeching as they swing confidently into the garden to check the almond tree..(miraculously full of fruit).

This  gives us an endearing sense of normality.

Cockatoos feeding in a nearby garden.  Paul says the cockatoos have an App called “Food Near Me”

Needless to say, they and all animals and birds are welcome to any food we can give them.

We live near Mt Taylor, home to many kangaroos, wallabies, birds, butterflies, lizards, insects, indeed, a smorgasbord of animal and insect life. Now, in the early morning and the late evening some kangaroos, one with a joey, come down our street to drink from the birdbaths, and buckets of water we leave out for them.

A group of volunteers called Water our Wildlife put stations of water in the same place daily so that the animals know where to go for predictable water supplies.

 As I write there are no active fires in or very near Canberra, however, we have been in a state of alert since the beginning of  January.  So much has been written about the fires, and so much sadness,  that I decided to just show some photos of our two most loved holiday destinations, both of which are also on high alert..

Kosciusko National Park ..(some contained fires in the higher regions)

This is an area rich in flora and fauna……

A sign near this beautiful Snow Gum (Eucalyptus trees) says “these grandfather trees are two and three hundred years old. Aboriginal tradition says that the spirit of ancestral travellers live in these warraganj (old snow gums)

During all the fires, there is the devastating loss of wildlife, flora and fauna, and loss of habitat for those who survive.

However, this little Pygmy Possum (a mouse sized marsupial) is capable of surviving for almost two weeks by bringing its body down to the low temperatures during times of extreme cold or heat. The biggest threat to this little possum is clearance of the land…another story.

Our second frequent and much loved holiday destination is:

The NSW South Coast ..also on alert..

We have spent many happy days with friends  walking along these pretty beaches solving world problems .

The bird life in this part of the world is amazing, and to see the birds fly between these beautiful spotted Eucalyptus trees, with jet pilot  precision,  is both stunning and a privilege.

The Rainbow Lorikeets are very noisy in spring when they feed off the flowers from the Spotted Eucalyptus  trees…and then reverse into the bird bath for drinks…ever cautious..


A walk through a wooded area near the sea..

I hope this young Swamp Wallaby, and others, have found safety..

Firefighters are often fighting for long days with extreme temperatures…no wonder they are sleeping on the ground.

Amongst all that is lost, and fear of what may be lost, is the absolute admiration and out pouring of gratitude for the fire-fighters.

They are the first port of call for wildlife too

this firefighter nearly missed the birth of his son.
The son of fallen volunteer fire-fighter Geoffrey Keaton receives a posthumous award on his behalf, from RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons. Photo NSW RFS

Some firefighters have been killed, most with young families. These families have to grow up without a father, which is a life long sentence.

There is so much more to say about the generosity and kindness of ordinary Australians, the leadership and calmness of RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons, and the heartfelt worldwide response, but I will leave that for another post.

Jessica, (blog:  Rusty Duck) will have seen that Kangaroo Island has suffered badly in every way from the fires, and has lost most of its Ligurian honey bees, believed to be the last remaining pure stock of bees found anywhere in the world.

Many thanks to all of you who have sent good wishes, it is lovely to have a blogging community across many worlds.

PS I will write about the gardens in New Zealand in February.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.




















22 Replies to “Australian don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone…”

  1. Gerrie, reading your post with its stunning scenic photos brought a lump to my throat when I considered just how much has been lost. I’m watching those Snowy Mountains fires creeping slowly closer to Canberra with despair. I hope you will be safe. We have rain forecast at the end of this week: perhaps you and the mountains will receive some of that too.

    1. Thanks Jane, yes there is forecast for rain by the end of the week, and fingers crossed we get some. It would help if the Snowy mountains got some rain too. I hope all is going well in Mudgee and you are not affected by the Blue Mountain fires. What a time it is!

  2. A dreadful time for all affected by your frightening fires, having to breathe such polluted air must be hard indeed. Thanks, though, for your photographs especially the snow gums which I love above all gum trees, and the Rainbow Lorikeets. Do hope that the weather relents soon and that the fires are eventually brought under control.

    1. Thanks Susan. The Snow Gums are my absolute favourites too, they are stunning trees. And it would be hard to find a bird more colourful than a Lorikeet!

  3. Thank you for this post because it tells a story that certainly touches us all while giving a true account of what is going on in your beautiful country. I applaud all of your efforts to help the animals survive, and my hat is off to your first responders. I am always amazed in an emergency when we run away from the situation, and they run towards it. You are so right that the young families who have lost loved ones will spend their lifetime trying to adjust to the loss. Australia is suffering such a devastating loss that it really renders the rest of us speechless. I continue to send you best wishes to remain safe and that the fires come to a conclusion so that people can assess their losses and firefighters can return to their families.

  4. Reading your post and seeing the amazing photos brings home the awful situation for those living with the constant threat of evacuation and perhaps having their home destroyed by the fires. The wildlife is so abundant and beautiful and it’s awful to contemplate that so much of their environment is being destroyed. So glad that you are safe so far and I pray that the fires don’t reach your area, Gerrie. Those firemen are so brave and true heroes. Sending hugs and positive thoughts your way.

    1. Many thanks Sylvia,and we do very much appreciate the heartfelt sympathy expressed by so many people. It is very sad to think of wildlife losing their habitat.

  5. I’ve been following the unfolding tragedy on Kangaroo Island for the last week or so and it leaves me truly heartbroken. We’ve spent days walking the trails through Flinders Chase national park, wild creatures coming out to greet us at almost every turn. 25,000 koalas lost in just a couple of days and goodness knows how many other creatures perished. It defies belief. As you say, when it is places you know and love the devastation hits particularly hard.
    I just hope that now, finally, change will come. We go on ignoring climate at our peril and Australia is surely on the front line. Keep safe Gerrie. My thoughts will be with everyone ‘Down Under’ for the duration of this long hot summer.

    1. Thanks Jessica, and yes, Kangaroo Island looks dreadful at the moment, and so much smoke some of the helicopters and planes are having trouble taking off and landing. The pilots are also amazing. Thanks for your kind thoughts, and let’s hope for rain this week.

  6. Oh Gerrie, my heart has broken seeing the terrible images and hearing of the loss and destruction. It truly is unbelievable. I am praying for rain for you all. Here’s to you keeping safe, hopefully the fires will die down soon.xxxx

    1. Thanks Dina, let’s hope for rains and cool weather. The wildlife will take years to recover, and so much habitat lost.

  7. I read Gippsland mentioned in the fires. Do you remember a blogger from Gippsland called Heidi? I wonder how she is (she stopped blogging years back)

    I have also seen some pictures of green sprouting in areas where the fires are out – some small hope for nature.

    1. I haven’t seen blog posts from Heidi in Gippsland, but it is normally beautiful lush country and I can imagine many gardeners would be in danger of losing their house and gardens in that area. I have shared some photos (on FB) of some green sprouting grasses/plants. Such a wonderful sign of hope, and the resilience of some plants.

  8. So very, very sorry for what the people and wildlife have had to endure. When I see the fierce orange pictures of what is burning in Australia, I feel as though I can hardly breathe. I have been thinking of you often. Wonderful to read how you are setting out water for thirsty creatures. Stay safe! And here is my New Year’s wish: May the rains come and may they come soon. Finally, thanks for posting this piece, which gives an up close and personal look of what is going on.

    1. Many thanks Laurie, we do appreciate your empathy and sympathy. We are hoping for some rain later this week..fingers crossed!

    1. Thanks Jason and Judy, things are much calmer this week, and a possibility of rain! Chicago seems to have had damaging storms…none of this is good gardening weather!

  9. I can’t wrap my mind around all of the animals killed by these fires. Absolutely heartbreaking. I understand your worst fire months are coming up. Let’s hope things don’t get worse.

    1. Yes, I agree the destruction of wildlife is just dreadful and the poor koalas have very little chance against fire because they move so slowly. Rain is falling, in many parts of Australia, and the temperatures are cooler so that is a positive.

  10. There isn’t much more that I can say that hasn’t already been said, Gerrie. I am so very sorry for the people of Australia and have been horrified by the fires, the loss of human and animal life and the loss of habitat. I hope that you get regular rainfall, and that the heat reduces to a manageable level.
    Your photographs are gorgeous, as ever and bring a lump to my throat.

    1. Many thanks Clare, we have had a small amount of rain, and in some parts, plants have started re-shooting again…nature is truly amazing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.