Cath Clark writes from Ashby, near Yamba.
Hallelujah! I was treated to a koala sighting at my neighbour Peter Wrightson’s place today. [Peter is the son of the late lamented Patricia Wrightson, who wrote Australian children’s books that I adore – Joy.] He had rung before I left for shopping in the morning to report excitedly that there was one up his red gum tree. I wanted to race right over, but had some pre-Xmas shopping in Maclean that needed doing. Did the shop, had lunch, unloaded groceries, and rang up Peter to see if I could go with him and his dog on his afternoon walk in case the koala was still there. He said it was, so I dusted off my 400 mm lens on my old film camera and rousted-up my monopod (a one-legged tripod that doubles as a walking stick). Urf, that thing is heavy, so into my good padded backpack it all went with binocs and water.
It was 29 degrees C and so humid just ahead of a rainstorm by about 4:00 p.m. when I joined Peter at his place down near the Broadwater. The land is more level there, with much bigger trees than here, and more lush and diverse vegetation. Peter had koalas 20 years ago in noticeable numbers, but they’d stopped coming when the Pateman’s Road neighbourhood started developing too heavily. Just in the past couple of years, they’ve started making their presence known again, and this was the second ‘koala-call-out’ I’d been invited to at his place.
Peter regularly walks his dog, ‘Bronte’, on his large wooded block, and had alerted him to the presence of the koala. She can smell a koala a mile away, remarkable since this one was probably 30 feet up a large, beautiful old red gum. The koala was resting in the upper branches, as they’re wont to do during the daylight hours. Without the dog, he doubted he’d have ever seen it. I pulled out my camera and screwed on the monopod, but no matter how far back I tilted it, the angle was just wrong. So I undid it, threw down my old sit-upon that I wove in Guides a few years back, and laid on the ground. I took a few pics, but as is usually the case around here, what one gets is a lovely photo of a furry bum and sprawled legs, but no head. Consoled myself with a couple shots of Peter and the red gum, especially the fresh scratch marks that help mark a koala tree. He also pointed out the ‘scat’ at the base of the tree, which is about the size of a plump kalamata olive pit. It did NOT smell like nice eucalypt leaves, but rather more like poo. He knows I’m trying to learn more about koalas, so had kindly collected a primo one earlier, which he proudly deposited in the palm of my hand in his kitchen later on. (I had him put it in some tin foil for the trip home.)
Koalas have been very much on my mind lately. Coincidentally? At the start of this week, I submitted my 20 pages of comment on Council’s draft Koala Management Plan for Ashby, something I’d spent 4 days solid working on. It’s important to me that they get it right, as I lobbied hard for this a couple years back, and my efforts with the help of Valley Watch are finally beginning to see fruition. Last week I got a letter from the local Catchment Management Authority saying my ‘Expression of Interest’ to have them prepare a property management plan for koala habitat on my land had been approved. (Yay! they do the work for free, and when the plan gets recognised, I’m eligible for grant funding.) Just yesterday, I had a Green Corps [Work for the Dole] group out to inspect our land ahead of doing some free work for us early in 2011. Since we’re in ‘core’ koala habitat, their manager had gotten in touch with Valley Watch, who then got ahold of me. Marnee and her crew of 8-10 strapping young men will come and spend about 6 days removing noxious lantana weeds, and planting free koala food trees that I can get from Friends of the Koala.
I haven’t seen a koala on or near our property for 4 years now, but long to see one again. My theory is, if you dream them, they will come. If not to me, to my friends, which is just as good!