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