Category Archives: wildlife

The Waiting


J.K.Leahy Short Story

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It was a regular non-event weekday until I opened my email. An email with an attachment was about to change my life. It was what I had waited for, for weeks, and yet, I could not believe it. I sat in the faded red leather chair. I had long promised myself to replace this chair when I had some money, but now, the paint had started falling off the skin to give the chair a vintage look. I had decided the aged look suited me.

When I opened the attachment, and began completing the very important document before me, something moved in the ceiling above me. It was broad daylight and the usual sounds from the ceiling would be of possums farting and snoring. Even possums kept baby-making to night time and in the nearby bushland. This loud disturbing pounding ended in sliding, scratching and then loud tumbling that got me off the red leather chair in a fright. Clearly, something big was up there. Or were there two big things? Whatever it was, its weight vibrated the ceiling. I dashed from my red chair into the open lounge. It was a “WTF?!” moment. My heart pounded to that beat in the ceiling. My house is old. She can only bear certain strains on her bones and frames.

The thing or things were now rolling and hitting the ceiling frame and came towards me. The ceiling looked like it would fall on me. I stepped backwards and looked for my phone to ring the snake catcher. By now I had assumptions going on in my head. Was it a spring mating session gone wrong? And were they possums or snakes? Or both? It was about 3pm. The sounds were not in the rhythm of life here in Bellbowrie.

As the “thing” moved again, it now became obvious it was a large snake. The sliding sound was like a tarpaulin dragged on the ground. Then, the screeching sounds of sharp nails tugging on the ceiling, timber and the iron roof.

I rang the snake catcher. No answer. I gave my assumptions in a voice message. “Snake and snake, possum and possum or snake and possum” doing something rigorous enough to break the ceiling. Later as I hung up and listened attentively, I drew the conclusion that it was a large snake attacking a possum. The possums slept in this part of the house during the day. The animal must have had a rude awakening. I felt sad and ill. I was wondered what I could do if the damned thing broke the ceiling. Catch it in a garbage bag? No!

Snakes live here in the bushland surrounds. Many. In spring, they are out hunting. We get both poisonous and non-poisonous snakes. In the past two weeks, I spotted an Eastern Brown and the Australian carpet snake or carpet python. The birds alerted me on both snakes’ locations. It was like an alarm gone off each time and nearer they got to the house. Ten days ago, I saw the 2-metre-long carpet snake outside the kitchen. For a week, it had wandered away from the house in the garden and the birds kept a close watch. On that day, it was outside the kitchen, I called Mark, our friend and local snake catcher to relocate the reptile, but he was on the coast. A few hours later, the snake was on the go. Mark describes this as “motor rolling”. When this happens, the snake moves quickly and disappears. The eastern brown was sun-bathing in a succulent garden and the birds went crazy. I sat there in the mornings to have my coffee. It disappeared when I approached. It was far from the house, so I figured it was somewhere between us and the neighbours. I informed the snake catcher and family.

When the carpet snake disappeared from behind the kitchen, it began a guessing game of where the reptile would show up next. Carpets love to hang around in the house or nearby for the rats and possums. The snake makes its appearance only rarely and quietly for water, birds or the possums. Sometimes they like to sleep in the sun where the pot plants are or in a chair. Once a female carpet curled its tail on our front door knob and it’s body spanned up two metres to the window. I had opened the door to go swimming and met her fat body while trying to push the door open. It was very hot and the snake had come for some water. Later I learnt it was very pregnant. Often a snake hung like a branch to confuse the birds; its neck hooked and head turned up and ready to strike. I’m sure you have read some of my snake stories here. I don’t harm snakes. They are part of our eco system. It is also illegal to kill them here. The relocation from this place is only because, I protect the birds and sometimes the poisonous snakes become too difficult to see when you move about. I do believe many relocated species have come back.

The Australian carpet snake.

A carpet snake/sunbather.

Collection and relocation of a sunbather.

Here is Mark doing a quick “collection” of one of the carpet snakes. Mark can be contacted on reptileremoval.com.au

The ceiling noise kept going and drew me back. I shut all the room doors. The afternoon’s excitement got to the stage where the ceiling joint gaped slightly and dirt and dried paint fell out. By now, Mark had called back and he was very sorry he could not help because I told him, the snake was not out where he could see and pick it up. He said to keep a watch and call later in the evening if the snake was out. Mark had caught and relocated one while it constricted a large male possum one night. The snake lashed out and trapped the possum with its body above my children and I, while we were having dinner. The attack shocked us at dinner table. I had argued with my son Nathan as to what was happening in the ceiling until the possum’s cries horrified us. We called Mark. By the time Mark took it out from the ceiling, the possum had died. This one was further into the ceiling. I could not see it from the outside and it was dangerous to intercept a feeding time.

While I kept watch with the broom in my hand, thinking I should finish my document on the computer, I remembered the arrival noise in the ceiling nights before. I realised today’s craziness was the ending of the snake stake out. Even though the snake had fallen onto the roof days before, it did not attack the possums right away. The possums did come on the roof the same way, using the jacaranda trees and when sensing the snake, they ran across the roof like elephants and jumped off onto the trees. It was a movie of sounds.

So, a few nights ago, about midnight, a rustle of jacaranda leaves, a large branch bending, a huge thud was followed by a continuous sliding over my bedroom. The ‘motor rolling’ confirmed the reptile had now made its way into our ceiling, a regular hunting ground and home to a family of possums. The reptiles catch the possums easier this way – trapped in the ceiling. And the possum numbers sadly have dropped since we moved here ten years ago. I tried to chase the snake again.

Smart Hunters. JKLeahy illustration.

With the house broom, I started pounded the ceiling and yelled in my loudest Papua New Guinean woman voice. It was a voice I learnt as a child that was only used when you needed to save yourself. (It was a scary voice. My mother also used this voice as a last call, when she was very angry). I yelled and scraped the ceiling with the back of the broom head. The broom sound mimicked the motor rolling sounds. Suddenly in all the mixed and confusing noises, I heard an eerie sound. It was nothing like the thumping sounds. It sounded familiar and as I repeated the scraping, the sound responded. I could not believe it. The snake was hissing loudly. I was astounded. I used the broom again and the snake got loud, and aggressive. I yelled at the snake to leave the house. But the noise continued. Mark suddenly called. Mark could tell by my voice; I was in distress. I said to him, I would leave for a while and he thought it was a great idea. He said by nightfall, the reptile will disappear. After I hung up, I left the house.

It was quiet when I returned two hours later. It was getting dark. I switched the lights on in all the rooms, thinking the heat could warm the ceiling and alert my ‘hissing encounter’ that I was back. I had also hoped this heat would force it to motor roller away. I picked up the broom and scraped the ceiling once more and was greeted with a soft hissing. It was possible the reptile was guarding its fresh kill. I heard the gentle movements. The waiting.

“Yu win pinis!” I spoke firmly to the ceiling. In Tok Pisin, it meant, you have won already. I put the broom away and continued with my business. I had no time to wait. I completed my document and clicked “send”. I carried on as if it was a regular non-event evening. After I took my shower, I slept with my eyes wide open, hoping to hear the motor rolling – going away from me.

The next day, I woke at 7am and made a cup of tea. The birds were singing. The ceiling was intact. It was calm in the house. Where the previous day’s debris had escaped from the ceiling gap and piled on the timber floor, I reached up with the broom and scraped the ceiling. Nothing happened. I did another scrape with the broom head and there was not a single sound, nor hissing.

If you enjoyed this story, you can search for other snake stories on this blog. Feel free to comment, like and share the post. Thank you.

Lik Lik Rokrok – Little Green Frog


“Liklik rokrok” means little frog in Papua New Guinea pidgin. I once designed and will be bringing back a collection of children’s T-shirts called “Liklik Rokrok”.  Watch this blog for the re-launch later this year.

Frogs play a huge role in our environment and especially the condition of our environment. I have a special affection for this little frog. It was wonderful to find a short YouTube video posted by “Love Nature” about their life and how they have changed over time. I hope you enjoy this video as much as I did. It is amazing to learn about how a tiny creature could evolve throughout revolution and protect itself from predators to this day.

Kaz is a Father – Wildlife Stories


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Baby lorikeet tries to balance himself on the umbrella tree fruit.

Kaz, our pet lorikeet is a father, and he has been for about a month. I only just found out a week ago. I guess I am a grandmother again, having already had several ducklings being born to ducks my sons and I have raised in Bellbowrie, Queensland.

Weeks before the baby was born, Kaz the lorikeet came for chats in the Umbrella tree (Schefflera actinophylla) while I was hanging the washing. He normally visited us on the verandah where he grew up, at the front of the house. I thought at the clothesline was an odd place for him to be. A three metre drop just under where he sat was a typical place for snakes, and even the snake catcher reminded me a few times. “Dry leaves under shady dry quiet place with both sunny and dark nooks – a snake haven” he said with a grin. I suppose one day, I would cut everything down, but I didn’t have the heart to  damage the place. Both the pythons and brown snakes were removed by snake catchers from this spot and taken to the park. Currently, a baby green tree snake lives there – he is only 50cm long and suns itself on the back verandah often.

Near the umbrella tree where rainbow lorikeets gathered, Kaz would fly low onto the mango tree branches and tell me long-winded tales while I hung the washing or tended to my garden. I wished I understood him. The changes in the pitch and his excitement showed there was some important things happening in his life, but all I could do was respond in whistles, PNG pidgin and make my own sounds so he knew I was listening. He always responded cheerfully. Often he would hop onto the clothesline for a few minutes before he flew away.

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Kaz in his element, as he watches over his family.

One day, two weeks ago I heard a baby bird cry and a soothing motherly response just above the clothes line. I heard these cries start a month ago. It was louder and closer. It sounded like a baby parrot in the umbrella tree, but I could not see it. The giant leaves hid the birds. I also did not know what type of parrot it was, but I suspected a rainbow lorikeet because these birds loved the spiky flower of the umbrella tree which turns into fruit.

A week went by and I noticed my feathered son Kaz coming out of the same tree. He usually slept in the palm and the gum trees in front of the house.  At the house, he came alone and stayed longer than five minutes which was his usual visiting time. He also chased baby parrot Boz out of its cage and ate the crumbs. Katz often stayed in the cage for a while longer. He was unaccompanied. His female partner was nowhere to be seen. Since he had left home, Kaz always flew with her. I wondered if she ditched him which wouldn’t have surprised me because Kaz could get rowdy and demanding at times. Last week, he flew down to me when I arrived home and flew straight back into the umbrella tree and made so much noise. He called loudly and whistled. I followed him and could hear the baby bird as well.

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Mother and baby take a moment under the leaves of the umbrella tree.

Under the clothesline I listened. I saw Kaz on the branch, his partner and a baby bird. I was so surprised, but my thoughts went back to how little he was and how he just fitted in my hand when he first came to us. Kaz could not stop talking and shouting. I stared at him realising I had become a grandmother. That was what all the clothesline storytelling was about a week ago. At that moment, my excitement and sense of pride felt like I could easily fly up to the umbrella tree. I could not tell anyone about Kaz’s news as I was alone. I felt strangely moved and wanted to hug Kaz and tell him I was proud. But he is the wild thing he is supposed to be, and I just hope he can see how happy I am for him.

Over the week, I watched Kaz’s family and how attentive the parents were; keeping their little one safely in the large leaves of the umbrella tree. They protected the baby from crows, kookaburra and other large birds. Kaz visited the house daily to bring ‘take-aways’ of honey, bread, fruit and seeds back to the nest.

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First family outing.

Today, almost a month after I heard that baby bird, a rare moment presented itself when the whole family flew to another umbrella tree 20 metres away. It happened while I was walking in the back. I quickly ran back into the house to fetch my camera. The lighting was terrible and the shots were fleeting, but I am happy to share some rare images of my feathered family. Life can give you joy in the most interesting ways.

 

 

Go Inky! Octopus Escapes NZ National Aquarium


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Inky the octopus, escaped from New Zealand’s National Aquarium and made his way to the ocean. Courtesy of The National Aquarium of New Zealand.

Inky the octopus didn’t even try to cover his tracks.

I loved this story so much I had to blog it.

By the time the staff at New Zealand’s National Aquarium noticed that he was missing, telltale suction cup prints were the main clue to an easily solved mystery.

Inky had slipped through a gap left by maintenance workers at the top of his enclosure and, as evidenced by the tracks, made his way across the floor to a 15-centimetre-wide drain. He squeezed his football-sized body in — octopuses are very malleable, aquarium manager Rob Yarrall told the New Zealand website Stuff — and made a break for the Pacific. Read more from Karen Brulliard in Washington Post.

Kookaburra – Australia’s Laughing Bird


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JK.Leahy picture.

Kookaburras are a type of kingfishers that live in Australia and PNG and they are very territorial. They are referred to as the laughing birds because of the way they sound, just like someone is dying laughing. They live in most treed parts of Australia.

The birds can grow between 30 and 40cm tall and eat mostly insects, worms, crustaceans, small snakes, frogs and other small birds. Australians sing songs about the Kookaburra’s laugh, but the truth is, that loud continuous sound they make, sometimes in a group, is a territorial call. The bird warns its family of birds about who is approaching their territory. I grew up with a song call, Kookaburra Sings on the Old Gum Tree.  And all this time, before I knew, I thought they were singing to welcome me, but they were warning each other.

The birds can become tame around humans, like these two that have been living on our balcony since we moved to Bellbowrie five years ago. One in particular (pictured here) has recently started grabbing food off the plates or comes into the kitchen to help herself.

She also likes it when you hand feed her. I took these micro shots of the cheeky one. She was very patient and she did not fly off, so these are all her.  Read more here.

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First Day in the Water – Wildlife Photography


Ten ducklings had their first day with their mother in the water yesterday.  The Pacific Black duck pair had been living in our backyard this last year. These are their first hatchlings.

The test begins now to see if they would all survive into autumn. Last night, between 7pm and 9pm, Nathan, Chris and I barely managed to put them into a safe enclosure for the night.

At 4:30am this morning, I woke up to some loud scrapping sounds only to find, it wasn’t the usual suspects, the possums, but the local rascal, the wild cat that kills birds in our neighbourhood. The cat tried to get into the enclosure. I got out, just in time to chase it away.

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Rain Catcher – Green Tree Frog in Photography


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It rained yesterday.  Guess what was on the chicken house? Not a spider this time. The rain catcher, the first Green Tree Frog (I have seen) for 2016. Sitting strategically where all the rainwater ran to it, it had its eyes shut until I approached with the camera.

This frog, the Litoria caerulea or the Green Tree Frog lives in Queensland. It is also found in northern and eastern Australia. It is generally a large frog, and grows to 110mm. The frog is green to light brown or even blue, short snout and rounded face. It has a smooth, thick skin on head and shoulders. Some have white spots or irregular stripe from mouth to forearm. Its abdomen is white and  the back of its thighs is sometimes maroon or yellow. More information can be found on Save Our Waterways.

Although they are called the tree frog, they love to live in building drain pipes and water tanks. In summertime of course, they love wide open spaces with waterways…I guess that’s why this frog found this spot and stayed. I wish I could have told the frog this was not a waterway, but as soon as the rain stopped, it disappeared.

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The Return of the Cicadas


The cicadas are one of my favourite insects. I have listened to them on many occasions through out my life without knowing what a complex and intricate life-cycle they have.  They remind me of the low-sounds made by Jews Harp, a small musical instrument which is held against the teeth or lips. When there are thousands of cicadas calling at once, it is like an orchestra of the Jews Harp.

I hope you enjoy this video as much as I have.

 

Lunch At Bellbowrie


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Baby opens its mouth wide, mum has a grasshopper.  It is lunch at Bellbowrie, but mum is hungry too. Mum eats the grasshopper.

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Let’s see… what else is there to eat? Well, someone dropped some brown rice on the balcony.

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Mum goes for brown rice.

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Baby will eat anything – even rice.

Female magpies work tirelessly all-day-long to feed their young. I wasn’t surprise to see mum take a quick snack.