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  • Writer's pictureIan

The shortest days

Updated: Feb 13, 2022

Winters on the north coast of NSW are usually beautiful blue sky days and we have already had quite a few of them already. There is usually not much rain, although we have had some good falls this month already, over 140mm. Everyone was a little nervous after the terrible flooding in Lismore and the Tweed in March. The streams are flowing with a gusto and the wetlands are overflowing but no serious flooding this time.

Full wetlands are a boom time for the water birds.

Black Swans (Cygnus atratus)

We had a visit from some beautiful black swans on our local wetland.

These are very large birds with over 1.5m wingspan. They only stayed for a day here but they are seen on dams and wetlands in the region.

Purple Swamphens (Porphyrio porphyrio)

Our purple swamp hens have been mating (and squabbling amongst themselves). One group has three chicks that we can see.

Plumed Whistling Ducks (Dendrocygna eytoni)

Our glamour duck, plumed whistling ducks, have been here almost every day in numbers for weeks.

Flocks of 30-60 can appear at first light in the morning after a night of foraging in the fields.

They spend most of their day, sleeping under the bushes near our house pond, only moving if you get too close to the flock and then only flying to the opposite side of the pond. They emerge in the later afternoon to have a frolic on the pond, a fluff and dry on the bank, the occasional squabble with a neighbouring group and for those in the know, having been here before, an attempt to scoop up as much of the chook food as they can.

See our Glamour Ducks blog

Red-necked wallaby (Macropus rufogriseus)

Our local red necked wallaby, we call her Mos, is here every morning, coming right up to the front door. Yes we do feed her a little grain. It is like she is part of the family.

Red-necked wallabies are fairly common in this region, although common isn't really an appropriate term as they are beautiful animals. They are about the size of a border collie with a deep red back and deep black eyes. She has a joey which is just starting to spend some time outside her pouch.

Once you head inland from the coast the days can get cold with frosts. We had a small frost here a couple of weeks ago but only enough to frighten the pumpkin leaves. The grass is only just beginning to brown off.

The coast banksias bloom most of the year here but particularly during autumn. This is the time to enjoy the flocks of birds moving through the banksias like gangs screeching at each other. The noisy friar birds are indeed noisy calling endlessly to each other as they feed. The rainbow lorikeets screech and race across the sky.

We have seen two echidnas recently. They are on the move at this time of year. This one was digging into an ants nest when it was found. Once disturbed it rolls to a ball.

She-oaks in Flower (Allocasuarina torulosa)

The rusty brown flowers of the male casuarinas, mainly forest she-oak, are diminishing now. They are a favourite of mine as the flowers can completely cover a tree with a vibrant rusty colour making them stand out through an otherwise green bush. They give off a cloud of pollen, picked up in the breeze, transporting it to a female flower. The female flowers are small intricate red blossoms along the thicker branches where the cones form.

See our Rusty Trees blog.

As the Autumn drifts into winter the orchids begin to flower. Already the first of the lady finger orchids are flowering. Although they are small flowers they can form large patches putting on a wonderful display.

The days will lengthen now but the cold will deepen. We usually get some frosts. The days are warm and clear. The wattles are forming buds already.


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