Category Archives: Snowy Mountains

Australian bushfires..you 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Snowy Mountains, a walk amongst the wild flowers and snowgums..

Canberra, the capital of Australia, was created to appease the established cities of Melbourne and Sydney…..both of whom thought they should be the capital!

UK Net Guide photo

As a result Canberrans are lucky enough to live in a small manageable size city….. not too far away from big cities…and with two other holiday choices, the pretty South Coast beaches, and the Snowy Mountains, which is the highest Alpine Region in Australia.

In the summer time, Paul and I often come to Lake Crackenback, which is just outside Kosciuszko National Park, to enjoy the cooler mountain air, and to do some walking and see the alpine flowers.

self designated umpire looking for players

Lake Crackenback has a Lodge and some self-contained apartments, and nearby the kangaroos are frequent visitors.

These kangaroos easily hop over fences to graze on the lawns, but will also hop away if you come too close.

We drove from Crackenback up to Charlotte’s Pass amidst flower-covered borders along the road….for me this is reminiscent of Scotland (where my father was born)

We took the walk  from Charlotte’s Pass down to the head waters of the Snowy River seen below….Paul had ideas of walking up the path on the other side which goes to the Blue Lake…..but I thought we should quit while we were ahead!

These Alpine plants cope with harsh conditions during the winter….

and then create this patchwork of colour during summer..

The yellow flowers, Billy Buttons. 

Australia is the only country in the world where a single genus of tree, Eucalypt (commonly called gum trees), occurs from the desert to the mountains, to the sea.

The Snow-gum trees are very imposing, often looking dramatically twisted and stunted, and able to repair themselves from wind and snow damage.

The Silver Snow Daisy makes a lovely carpet of flowers beneath the Snow gums.

It is impossible to go past one of these trees without touching the silk-smooth trunk and branches.

The sign nearby says  ”these grandfather trees are two or three hundred years old. Aboriginal tradition says that the spirits of the ancestral travellers live in these warraganj (old snow-gums)”

The water here is cool and clear…a lovely place to stop and take some photos..

Australia is such a dry country, water is always a delight to see..

Time to turn back….unfortunately what comes down……must go up….

However, the scenery along the way is worth it..

Meanwhile, at Lake Crackenback, the kangaroos are snoozing on the edge of the golf course…..amazing really..

and near our self-contained accomodation…we’ve interrupted a bit of grazing on the grass

”where have you been?”

Just as well we walked that day, the next morning the Scottish weather had rolled in… dramatic and beautiful in its own way…

Many thanks for dropping by to read about my place in the world, and I hope you are enjoying your own green spaces, city or country,  where ever that may be….

 

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved

 

 

The Snowy Mountains, Pygmy Possums and Bogong moths.

Canberra is not far away from the Snowy Mountains, and autumn is the perfect time to enjoy the mountain air, and do some walking.

Even the kangaroos have a slow start on these crisp mornings, and here are a few enjoying the morning sunshine on the Lake Crackenback golf course.

as we drive away a young kangaroo keeps an eye on us, as her joey is nearby..

In the morning we noticed a deer grazing nearby….this can only mean trouble….

We drove to Thredbo and took the chairlift up to the Kosciuszko walk, on a beautiful clear sunny morning.

Everywhere you look there are scattered rocks and sharp crags shaped by water and ice..

The lichen encrusted boulders give shelter to small mammals like the endangered Pygmy-possum.

This fascinating mouse-sized marsupial is capable of surviving for almost two weeks by  bringing their bodies down to low temperatures during times of extreme cold or heat.

Haley Bates has written an interesting article in The Conversation called:

Australian endangered species: Mountain Pygmy Possum

Conversation: Australian Endangered Species: Mountain Pygmy-possum by Hayley Bates

Bogong moths are also well known in this part of the world. During summer they fly from the heat of NSW and Queensland, to the cool mountain crevices.

photo from buzzle.com

Aboriginal people explored these mountains, and interpreted the landscape, and many of their beliefs and ceremonies were forged in these areas.

Many of the paths forged by Aboriginal people were in turn used by early European explorers such as the Polish explorer Paul Strzelecki who climbed the highest mountain, Mount Kosciuszko, and named it  after a Polish  patriot.

Over time the mountains and surrounds have become accessible to all, and explorers, graziers, scientists, surveyors, writers, and artists have all been captivated by the ”high country” as it is known.

I must admit, after many years of coming here with our family, the landscape of the high country draws me in too.

…but the path back to hot coffee is always welcome…

…and to think we packed our own lunch!

When we returned to Lake Crackenback we stumbled on a few wombat holes, unfortunately, not a wombat in sight…usually only seen at night…

but I have included a photo of a wombat in the snow….something I look forward to seeing one day…

NSW National Parks

I hope you are enjoying your place in the world, as much as I am enjoying mine!

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey All Rights Reserved.