If you choose to live on the edge of a national forest on a hectare of land, you’ll be visited by wildlife. There was a resident mob of kangaroos in the valley which went from property to property keeping the grass down and fertilising. We saw them often, at any time of day or evening. And sometimes we didn’t see them at all.
I took one memorable picture quite early in our tenure. I knew the roos were close to the house, so I fetched my camera and walked around the corner to where the front patio would be. The alpha buck and his ladies were right there in front of me. He stood up with a surprised look on his face but he didn’t react, although a couple (not all) of the ladies bolted. I backed off quietly and took a few pictures, then left them to it. The alpha male (we called him Bruce) was enormous. He stood well over six feet, with an upper body Arnie would have envied. I have never seen a bigger buck.
The nice thing about the roos was that, although wild, they were comfortable with people, and behaved completely naturally. Mums would let their joeys out for a run around and I saw one mum refuse to let a joey that panicked at the sight of me, back into the pouch. I wasn’t a threat.
The young bucks would practice fighting, and check on the girls to see if they could have a quickie while the boss buck was away. They would lounge on the grass, relax in the shade, and generally be kangaroos.
The Wombat State Forest was home to wombats (I saw one crossing the road once) but we didn’t see them much. We had possums, both brushtail and ringtail, and we saw the occasional koala. We heard them more often, the big males growling from the forest above our house. Here’s what they sound like.
But apart from the roos, the most abundant critters were birds. Sulphur-crested cockatoos in their thousands called the Wombat Forest home. We would see them in the early morning, warming up their wings in raucous groups, planning their day. In the evening, they would perch up in the highest trees to catch the last of the sun before they went off for a last noisy fly-around before they settled down in the trees to roost. They’re lovely birds living to a ripe old age of 50+ years in the wild, but they are big, loud, and destructive. They are the bush’s native tip pruners, and they love soft wood like western red cedar window frames. They didn’t mind a bite of treated pine, either, so we didn’t encourage them too much.
Gang-gangs visited in the Summer, obvious by their distinctive call which sounds like a creaking gate. And, of course, pink and grey galahs. They loved lining up on the power lines on the road and performing acrobatics. We also had heaps of crimson rosellas. They loved the purple wisteria, but weren’t so much interested in the white one. They also loved the catkins on the silver birches.
Of course we had magpies. They very quickly learned we were friends. They nested in the three gums near the dam, and popped in for snacks at a feeder table we set up just outside the kitchen. Kookaburras visited, too. When we replaced the washing line with a rotary hoist, they liked to sit on the central high point. A few birds quite liked sitting on the hoist’s arms and going for a ride in the breeze.
The little birds, in particular, loved our garden because we had so many dense bushes. Superb blue wrens nested in a number of places, including the shade house. A blackbird set up in there, too.
Wood ducks nest in tree hollows (up in a tree). Their kids have to jump down, and from there mum and dad take them for their first swim.
We had frogs, too. In particular the pond at the base of the waterfall in the terrace garden became a frog pond. Every year we’d see the eggs and later the tadpoles around the rushes.
You’re going to ask, aren’t you? About the spiders and the snakes. And the simple answer is ‘of course’. This is the Australian bush. On a number of occasions, I caught large huntsmen spiders in the house and escorted them outside. (That was my job – Pete just told me where they were.) Pete killed two snakes with the brushcutter when he was hacking back the long grass when we first moved in. I don’t condone killing animals for no reason. Snakes are normally pretty keen on minding their own business. One ventured onto our front veranda and we encouraged him out to the grass with brooms – just guiding, not attacking – where he hightailed it out of there. In the years we lived at Greendale I saw a snake four times, and never in an aggressive pose. Don’t do anything stupid like stand on them, or try to attack them, and you’re usually pretty safe. Given a chance, they’ll get out of your way.
So that’s about it. Join me for FAQ’s in the next post – the final one.