Updated: Feb 13, 2022
The summer is almost over and it has rained. The fires have stopped. The days are almost constantly hot but unlike the later part of 2019, during the fires, the humidity is high now. A bit like a normal summer really.
We had some rain in October - 59millimetres - with two days of rain and getting lucky with 48mm. Soon after you would never know though. It was so hot and November ended in only 3mm.
Everything was brown again by November. During this period, walking through the bush the trees dropped their leaves due to so little rain leaving the forest floor littered in leaves, adding to the leaves already dropped. It crunches under foot. This was all over the valley.
The dryness of the landscape is such that any ignition will start a fire. The days have been hot, many over 40°C which is much hotter for spring but it is the wind. When the wind picks up it sends embers sometimes kilometres where they land and start another fire.
The Fires Continued
The fires burnt half of the one million hectares of the Clarence Valley. That is massive. We have had hundreds of homes destroyed and a number of lives taken. The sun turned red from the fires.
Every day involved checking the Rural Fire Service app "Fires Near Me". On hot and windy days the checking became more often and listening to the wonderful ABC as it broadcast the emergency warnings.
What started out as several fires joined to form massive fire grounds, now burnt out. One on the northern side of the valley and one on the southern side, and these joining to the west. Another fire, which started in the Richmond valley has now burnt south and west, only stopping where previous fires have been or the ocean in the east.
One of the northern fires started out around Washpool. This is rainforest country. The fire burnt through the rainforest, came down the mountain and crossed the Clarence River, gradually burning towards us and the village of Copmanhurst. Many homes were protected and saved but already depleted paddocks were burnt leaving nothing for the cattle and other stock or our native wildlife.
Our last close fire started out when the Washpool fire spotted kilometres to the east, starting a fire in the Banyabba forest which then proceeded to spread in all directions including south west towards us. As it approached the fire took a run. The wind picked it up and fanned the flames in our direction.
We had a visit from the RFS to warn us that they thought it would jump the last road between us and the fire. They wanted to know if we were staying or going. We had been preparing for this for weeks and had decided to stay and defend.
The RFS set out containment lines to hold the fire as can be clearly seen by the "Fires Near Me" app. See how they ran a fire line along the southern and eastern boundary. We had a nervous evening but this stopped the fire along with the intense work from the RFS along the containment lines.
It was not for another two weeks that we had a little rain. As we headed for the end of the year it finally rained just before Christmas. We had 70mm over three days. What a relief at least for us. Not everyone got the same amount of rain. It was enough to put the fires behind us here.
The streams still didn't flow though. The drought was still there but the grass began to grow and parts of the valley turned green. It was the first relief from the dry and the fires in a year.
The delight of Christmas was the appearance of a koala in the trees right in front of the house. We had a few more visits after that too. We are putting together a video of these but here is a little gallery in the mean time.
Plumed Whistling Ducks
Our plumed whistling ducks (Dendrocygna eytoni) have changed their behavior recently. We are still getting thirty plus birds here most days but usually they are in clan groups often squabbling among each other. Now they have paired off. We have also noticed that some birds have formed a bump at the rear of the bird. This bump is not present all year and has only been obvious lately. We have now identified these birds as drakes. The ducks don't have this bump.
When researching this duck it is often stated that the ducks mate for life and are monogamous. Although we can see them pairing off right now we aren't so sure they are monogamous.
The mating is an extraordinary sight as the mating is not just a single male with a single female but many drakes mating with a single duck, pushing each other off the duck and sometimes other drakes holding the duck down while another drakes mate with her.
The video is in production. We'll let you know when it is done.
The first rain came just before Christmas. We ended up with 70mm over five days. It changed things. The days became humid although the heat kept up, reaching 40°C many times. We finished the year with 436mm, under half of our yearly average.
More rain came in January with 169mm and the creek down the hill started to run again for the first time in over a year. It more than ran, it gushed. It was dry in the morning and gushing in the afternoon.
The creek only flowed for a week or so illustrating how dry everything is still. It will take a lot more to break the drought but more rain is predicted to be on its way. We have just had 80mm of rain and expect more over the next few days. The wetland has a little water in it and our creek is running again! Everything is very green. What a relief.
Then the rain really came in February. It started early in the month and the rain was widespread. As the days went by the rain continued. Our creek was flowing once again. Then a wonderful almost 200mm fell and the wetland filled up and overflowed. The first in a couple of years. All the springs were running and eventually the Clarence flooded. Only moderate flooding but the valley had a fantastic flush of water. We recorded 335 up to mid February bringing our yearly total of over 500 mm. This is more than our whole year in 2019.
The frogs went ballistic when the wetland filled. The sound from the wetland was almost deafening but we loved it.
Everything is green again and although it will be a while before the aquifers fill the drought seems to have broken!