Category Archives: Nature

A secret squirrel

Secret Squirrel

Bertie was quite relieved when he was moved away from the gushing waterfall and placed safely back in the bag. Honestly! He thought, the things I do!!! And he brushed off a few bits of moss which had decided to attach themselves to his legs. Bertie decided he was out of practice with this adventure stuff and stuck his head out of the bag to see where they were heading next.

It was a beautiful day. The sun warmed his fur and a gentle, spring breeze brushed against him they made their way along a winding pathway. This is how Bertie remembered home. Not raining and dismal but a warm, fresh spring day like today where the birds were singing and everything seemed to come alive.

Suddenly, they stopped. Bertie heard a rustling noise and he knew this was his cue to stay very still. Looking around Bertie could feel he was being watched, but he wasn’t sure by who or by what!

He heard the soft rustle again and looked up. There, in the tree above him, was a squirrel looking back at him with small, black beady eyes. There was something very unusual about this squirrel. It was red in colour and quite small. The oak leaf it carried in its mouth looked as big as its head.

Bertie was face to face with a real, rare red squirrel. These squirrels can only be found in certain parts of the UK and are quite tricky to spot. What a treat!!! Thought Bertie. He was so pleased when he heard the familiar shutter of the camera. He didn’t dare move in case he scared the squirrel off but at least they got a photograph for Croc.

I wonder what Croc would make of a red squirrel? Thought Bertie. He would probably be hiding at the bottom of the camera bag. What do you think?

The old boat house

IMG_2349

Croc was still recovering from his brief encounter with the English wildlife. He didn’t feel as confident as he did before he had seen the swan and there had been no more leaning out of the pocket. Instead Croc had taken to peaking with one beady eye while using Bertie and a wad of tissues he’d found in the pocket as support.

In complete comparison, Bertie was in his element. He was reliving the past and so many happy and pleasant memories were coming back to him like ghosts being awoken by the sights, sounds and smells he was experiencing.

Bertie could remember listening to the story of how Newmillerdam got it’s name. The village was originally called Thurstonhaigh, but got its current name when a grain mill powered by water from the dammed lake was built, changing the name to ‘New mill on the dam”.

Bertie was in a wave of memories when he suddenly squealed and grabbed a rather startled Croc. “Look, look, look!” shouted Bertie waving his paw in the direction of the outside world. A rather shocked Croc attempted to sink back into the warm, dark pocket thinking if he kept getting shocks like this he would age beyond his crocodile years, but Bertie was having none of it this time. He gave a big tug on Crocs tail as he was trying to make his escape and they were both catapulted into the daylight, much to Croc’s dismay. As their eyes became adjusted to the light Bertie was elated to find they had been placed on a log together over looking the 1820’s Boat House he had been getting so excited about and had wanted to show Croc. Croc hadn’t noticed the Boat House, he was too busy looking out for white swan ghosts again and identifying a plan of escape.

As Bertie chatted away to Croc about the history of the Boat House, how he had once been in there for a cup of tea when it was a cafe and how it was the most photographed thing at the lake, Croc slowly began to relax and found himself getting caught up in his colleagues enthusiasm. If Bertie isn’t scared when he has those stubbly little legs to help him escape, then I should be fine, thought Croc. It was at this moment that Croc truly began to take in the pretty cool scenery around him.

Croc gets a sudden fright!

IMG_2344

Bertie knew exactly where he was going to take Croc next, although he kept it as a surprise. Croc was beginning to get use to the travelling lifestyle and was becoming more and more adventurous. As the familiar motion of the car came to a stop Bertie explained to Croc that they were going somewhere which was very special to him. He had a real connection to this place and could recall being in a push chair as a young bear with a different travelling companion being pushed around, occasionally stopping to feed the ducks and listening to his travelling companion squeal with delight.

Bertie and Croc were at Newmillerdam Country Park, a historical lake dating back to 1800’s with a wealth of history hidden within the woods and along the nature reserve walk.

Croc was keen to get going and started to peep out of the coat pocket almost as soon as they were out of the car. He could hear the now familiar bird calls and the gravel of a pathway crunching underneath him. He was very careful not to lean too far following his latest experience of falling!

Suddenly Croc leap fully back into the pocket and lay quietly as if he was at the bottom of a lake. Bertie was taken completely by surprise at Croc’s reaction. He gently calmed Croc down and found out that when he was looking out of the pocket he had seen a huge white ghost!

Confused brave Bertie peeked out and then started to laugh. It wasn’t a ghost, Bertie explained, but a swan! A large white bird coming in to sit on its nest. A crocodiles automatic reaction to any danger is to sink as low as they can and remain perfectly still and this was exactly what Croc had done. Bertie encouraged him to come and have a look again now the bird was settled. It was still a close call Croc thought to himself!

On closer inspection…

IMG_2343

On their way towards the car park at Sandal Castle, Croc asked Bertie about the many different plant and flowers he was seeing. Croc had never left Australia before and some of the simple things which Bertie never really noticed were really catching his attention. He didn’t realised that there could be so many subtle differences between two countries.

Bertie happily pointed out the flowers and trees. Croc was especially drawn to the brightly coloured daffodils. They reminded him of mini sunshines and as he leaned further out of the coat pocket he was in to get a better look he began to feel himself slipping. Seeing his friend in danger, Bertie grabbed hold of Croc’s tail, but it was too late. Momentum had already taken hold and was stronger than Bertie’s grip. Both Bertie and Croc tumbled towards the floor.

The bump of their landing wasn’t has heavy as Bertie knew it should be. When they both opened their eyes they realised they were in the middle of the very flowers Croc had been leaning out of the pocket to admire. They both looked at each other and started laughing.

Thankfully for these two adventurers, their absence from the coat pocket didn’t go un-noticed and soon they were scooped up and placed back into safety. Croc commented on how lovely the daffodils had smelt when they were laid in the middle of them. Bertie agreed. Croc decided that he was beginning to like Bertie’s home and started to feel excited about where he would be taken to next. His crocodile adventurous spirit has started to awaken and stir!

F* you Tracy!

The title of this blog is one of the comments written in dust on the back of the mangled wreckage of a car photographed in the aftermath of Cyclone Tracy. Darwin’s Museum and Art Gallery has a great array of interesting photographs and personal accounts of what happened when the tropical cyclone hit Darwin on Christmas Eve in 1974.

When Cyclone Tracy hit in 1974 it killed 71 people and cost A$837 million in damage. It destroyed more than 70% of Darwin’s buildings, including 80% of houses. There were more than 41,000 out of the 47,000 inhabitants of the city homeless and it caused the evacuation of over 30,000 people.

20160213_120741
A plane at the local airport, picked up by the cyclone and wrapped around a building.

Whilst travelling through the Kimberley two years ago I met a Grey Nomad (travelling retired person usually with a caravan in tow) who had survived Cyclone Tracy. I want to recount the story he told me. I can not recall his name so for the purpose of this post we shall call him John.

It was Christmas Eve. John had been living in the local caravan site with his dog whilst he was working in Darwin. He had gone out to a Christmas party with work and was looking forward to a few Christmas Eve drinks to wind down after the intense working week he had had.

The weather had had been pretty windy and stormy and on Christmas Eve it had really begun to pick up. John wasn’t too worried as the forecast had warned about a cyclone passing near to Darwin but it wasn’t on course to hit Darwin itself. A bit of wind and rain and tropical storms were nothing for the wet season in the Top End. What John didn’t realised, along with many others was the cyclone had changed direction at the last minute and was going to hit Darwin head on.

As the weather got wilder John began to get more and more concerned and decided to travel back to his caravan to collect his dog, then return to a safe place to wait out the storm.

By the time he managed to get to the caravan the cyclone had started. Knowing that he would not have enough time to get back to the safe place he decided to wait the cyclone out. Placing a table on top of the sofas in the caravan he sheltered underneath holding his dog. He had tied the flapping skylight on the roof of the caravan to the heaviest thing he had….his fridge. He watched in horror and shock as the cyclones’ strong winds ripped the skylight out and took the fridge with it. It was then he began to realise he might be in trouble. Shortly afterwards a piece of twisted tin sliced through the caravan cutting it in half and devastating the other side to the one he was sheltered in.

As the winds began to die down John realised that he was in the eye of the storm and had limited time to seek proper shelter before it all started again. Climbing out of the rubble he pushed his dog through a hole first and climbed through after him. There were a few people were milling around looking confused and helping others. John’s thoughts immediately went to an elderly man called Tom who lived in a make shift tin hut on the same plot of land. John ran to Tom’s hut only to find it completely flattened, folded neatly in on itself. After calling the Tom’s name he heard a faint reply and they began to move the debris. Amazingly the elderly man was safely hidden underneath his flattened house. John pull him to his feet and they made their way to a concrete shelter where a few others were also sheltering.

The second round of Cyclone Tracy started. The winds picking up, sheets of tin from houses and buildings flying past. John stood in the doorway of the concrete building as there was limited space, feeling it swaying and rocking in the strong winds with his dog safely tucked beside him he held on tight and waited for it all to stop.

 

This amazing story is one of many reminding us of the power of mother nature, as well as the kindness of neighbours.

All photographs in this post are displayed in Darwin’s Museum and Art Gallery.

Cyclone Tracy
Tin roofs wrapped around a telegraph pole

Sweetheart

Sweetheart Blog post
Never smile at a crocodile! 

Bertie has met some interesting characters on his travels. Some would even say he has become a little nonchalant to unusual sights. A recent trip to Darwin’s Art Gallery soon changed that and reminded him that you need to be alert at all times, especially if you are near water and in the Northern Territory.

Yes, that beautiful green blue tropical water might look enticing and pleasant on a warm humid day but there are creatures living in there which might find a small bear a tasty snack.

Here is an appropriate moment for Bertie to introduce Sweetheart, a HUGE 5.1 metre saltwater crocodile. Yes, you heard him right, SALTWATER as in SEA!

Don’t be fooled by Sweethearts ironic name. If you listen carefully to the commentary at the Art Gallery you will learn that Sweetheart was responsible for a series of attacks on boats in Australia between 1974 and 1979. He attacked outboard motors, dinghies, and fishing boats. In July 1979, Sweetheart was caught alive by a team from the Territory Parks and Wildlife Commission, but unfortunately drowned while being transported when he became tangled with a log. The crocodile’s mounted body is now on permanent display at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory.

After all this excitement Bertie needed a nice cup of tea, he is a British bear after all, and went to the Museum and Art Gallery’s cafe, Cornucopia, which he can highly recommend as, although there was a view of the ocean there were no crocodiles in sight!

Are you thinking like an ant?

2014 05 Bungle bungles copyright Key Image Photographers
The awesome Bungle Bungles outside Kununurra, Western Australia

It’s all about perspective.

When your looking up at something it seems impossible, huge and intimidating, like a mountain.

Look down on something and it can seem small, insignificant and nothing to worry about, like an ant.

If you get many ants together, they may be small but they have the force and determination to be able to move objects much bigger than themselves. They look at the size of something and ask for help and work collectively towards a shared goal/outcome.

Everything you view is put into perspective by your thoughts. The amount of effort and determination you put in is based on your belief systems and what you achieve is based on your ability to believe in yourself.

Are you thinking like an ant? Where no mountain is too big, no hill too small, everything can be achieved with the help of a few friends and some determination.