By Vita Forest
More creatures seen on our recent holiday in Kiama and its surrounds…
- On Blowhole Point… my mother delighted in sighting two willy wagtails, black tails swinging sideways as they called to each other and hopped about on the grass. A bird she remembers seeing a lot as a child in Sydney but hasn’t seen locally for years.
- On a few of our walks, we saw long-legged herons with blue-grey feathers picking through the wet grass, or rising heavily into the air.
- Climbing up the hill towards Minnamurra… Lucy stooped to watch an orange ladybird exploring a blade of grass. We had just come from a lookout and read about the whales that migrate past that point, not right now though, we were either too early or too late. From thinking about the blue whale – the largest animal in the world, to a tiny ladybird.
- As we neared Gerringong on the Kiama Coast track… we came upon a field of black and white cows – Friesians, straight off the picture on the milk bottle. We were in dairy country after all, the lush green hills ridged with meandering bovine tracks beneath the long grass.
- Driving up to Saddleback Mountain… we saw honey-coloured horses leaning over white timber fences, manes shaking as a woman walked toward them, hand outstretched. And later as we returned, we wondered if they admired that view all the way to Wollongong, or liked the cooling wind straight off the ocean.
- And on that same trip… before we got to the top of that long ascending road that followed the spine of the hill, we had to pull over, stop the car, open the door and ‘encourage’ a large green stick insect (or was it a cricket?) to join the wide green world outside again. It leapt out the window, flinging itself back toward the grass with whirring wings, much to the relief of the rest of us.
- At the summit of Saddleback Mountain… after parking the car, we walked through fluttering butterflies and hovering dragonflies, straight out of a scene from a Studio Ghibli film.
- On the second last day, my sister Molly and I were walking back from Blowhole Point, around the headland toward the Surf Beach… when all of a sudden, a girl in the group just ahead of us pointed towards the water, “Dolphins!” and there they were. Three of them, black-bodies arcing out of the water then diving back again. We stood and exclaimed as they reappeared again and again, chasing a school of fish.
- And on the last day, taking one of our last swims in the Continental pool by the harbour… we swam out from the bay in the direction of the sea, and as we watched, a crab reared up above our heads and scuttled sideways along the edge of the pool, silhouetted against the blue water behind. Lucy lurched forward and it disappeared again, down over the side of the seawall, under the waves that the sea sent over the edge of the pool to splash us.
- And heading toward our very last swim in the rock pool on Blowhole Point, we walked around the harbour and stopped near the boat ramp… and saw the most enormous blue and black spotted stingray with a long tail and huge eyes, dredging the shallow water for discarded fish with a pelican keeping it company. We had missed the stingray show (a new development since last we visited) but it seems the stingrays know the place to be for tasty treats in the harbour.
- Arriving home later that day… we found two little cats very pleased to see us again.
Cormorant at Bombo Headland
By Vita Forest
Just letting you know – this is Part 1…
- On top of a tall lamp post on Blowhole Point… on each of its three lights, sprawled three birds; two black cormorants chilling in the sun, and one pelican, asleep, tail up in the air, head down. How it stayed up there, I do not know.
- On the Kiama Coast walk from Kiama to Gerringong… we heard again the scrabbling chatter of fairy wrens hidden in the dense scrub pressed into the hillside by the wind. And later behind Bombo Beach… a male in his iridescent blue finery danced around the bare feet of a man sitting on a bench and staring out to sea.
Kiama Coast Walk between Loves Bay and Gerringong
- At lunchtime, between past Loves Bay and before Gerringong, when you can see no houses or roads and you truly feel you are away from it all, where we sat on the track, looking down on the waves smashing on the rock platforms and the shivering grass on the hills, there, at the most isolated point, who should appear over the crest of the hill, but two walkers and their dog, their friendly dog who saw our lunch and bounded down the grassy track, while we scrambled for lids and bags and clutched our food away from its eager jaws. (And not long after this, our peace was disturbed again, by the peal of a bell, not a bird but a mountain bike that we turned and saw negotiating its way down the grassy slope toward us while we grabbed our possessions again to make room for it to pass, Lucy snatching up her iPhone that lay right in its way, on this track, in the middle of nowhere, or perhaps not after all. After that we finished our meal in peace).
Kiama Coast walk
- At Minnamurra Rainforest… the scratch of claws amongst the ferns and dry sticks alerted us to the presence of a lyre bird. Then another crashed under the walkway where we stood and into the greenery beyond, trailing its curling brown tail flowers, like the fern fronds it was pushing through. And we heard it trill and chatter and screech. Max played a ring tone on his phone (he’s seen this done on YouTube, how they’ll copy other sounds) but this one was too caught up in its own crazy song to worry about sounding like a doorbell.
Cicada in the rainforest
- And higher up in the rainforest… where we climbed to see the waterfall, we walked through a force field, a pulsing deafening din that you could feel in your bones – cicadas. We noticed some on the track – black bodies and beady red eyes. But it was the ones that we couldn’t see, hidden in the trees that shook the air.
- After lunching at The Boneyard, a delightful rocky bay just around the corner from Bombo Headland, while surfers straddled boards out on the break and snorkelers floated in the clear water closer in, we pulled on our backpacks and our hats and retraced our steps around the bay on our way to Cathedral Rocks and beyond to Minnamurra. On the path a shriek from Lucy, and I turned to see a small snake wriggling through the soft grass where I had just stepped. It seemed little and harmless…
There be a snake somewhere about… The Boneyard
By Vita Forest
Despite being nestled in suburbia, our school is home to a large number of creatures. Some of these are:
- Kookaburras sitting silently in trees, tilting their heads inquisitively, on the lookout for lizards or perhaps something tasty from a lunchbox. It’s no laughing matter.
- Sulphur-crested cockatoos with yellow quiffs and pigeon-toed claws, so smart they have learned to open school bags that are not zipped up properly. The bins in the playground have to be placed flush against poles as they have also learned how to grasp the lids and flip them open.
- Silky, velvet-soft, tan-coloured rabbits with white cotton-ball tails that appear when the playground is quiet. Witnessing one such visitor, Lucy remarked that we were “so lucky” at our school to have these little bunny friends. The principal may not agree.
- When it rains, there are ducks that enjoy the puddles and plovers that pick their way through the sodden grass, and worms that wriggle out of the dark, muddy earth and make kids shriek as they stretch across the asphalt and into their path. Some get picked up between index fingers and thumbs and curled inside small palms to be inspected before they are carried back to the safety of a garden bed.
- Worms too are plentiful in the compost bin, they flail and turn away from the shaft of light invading their home as I empty in the current day’s Fruit Break scraps.
- Technicolour Rainbow Lorrikeets with their whirring wings that like to move in packs and pick at any food left on the ground. We have a rule at eating time that we pick up three things and put them in the bin before going to play. We are trying to improve their diet. When its the right season, they can be found chirping and swaying off the scarlet bottlebrush blossoms.
- Deep in the dark recesses of my paint cupboard there is a plastic box housing creepy, crawly mealworms so the students can observe the various stages of their lifecycle.
- Unfortunately there are sometimes cockroaches too.
- Occasionally there are red-back spiders which cause the budding arachnologists to send alerts to the teachers or the office staff and hold back the crowds with much self-importance,until someone arrives with a spray or a thick heel to grind them under.
- And recently a new visitor, a brush turkey migrating down from the Tropics in these days of climate change. These large birds have picked their way south, scratching through the fingers of bush, across roads and into gardens, right into the middle of Sydney. The brush turkey struts about the playground, cocky as you like, that is until the bell rings and students stream out of the classrooms. Then it makes a dash for it, across the road, or out on the footpath, or across those thick white lines that mean “out of bounds”. Much to the amusement of the children.