Friday, 31 December 2010

New Year's Eve

As New Year Eves go, this one was a bit of a fizzer!

Even though I had defrosted some nice cheese and put out various nibbles for a New Year supper, both Nick and Erin were in bed by 10 o'clock!

Vaughan and I stayed up another hour, watching the fridge lizard hunting various bugs.

He/she ate the smaller ones and chased off the larger guys, as presumably they were vying for territory.

Sand Swimmer vs Fridge Lizard

Sand swimmer en route from our bedroom
We sat quietly after dinner and discovered there were actually three sand swimmers living in the house!  As we watched one walked across the floor from our bedroom.  The fridge lizard must have been watching too because he came out and scuttled across the floor to meet the interloper.

There was a lizard stand-off before they head-butted each other!  The sand swimmer then chased the other one back under the fridge.

All were concerned for the fridge lizard's well being but he emerged from beneath the fridge later - hale and hearty!  Hooray!

Praying for attention?!

Me and my ... praying mantis!
This fine fellow started limbo-ing on my shoulder, trying to impress me! 

Well, I think that was his intention - maybe?!

Nick escorted him into the Christmas tree to keep the fake bugs company.

Fairy Martens

A community of fairy martens had built mud nests under the roof of a demountable building at the free camping area.

We stopped to admire their handiwork.  Many of the nests had fallen to the ground below.

Erin and Vaughan collected a nest each and those treasures then lived on the dining room table, slowly shedding red dust onto the laminex whenever they were moved!


Although we had asked for a house with air-conditioning, Louise's evaporative cooler wasn't very effective against the more humid conditions.  At lunchtime it was 37 degrees outside and 36.5 degrees inside.  The only difference the "Bonaire" made was to create more noise!

I dozed after lunch, trying to counter a headache, while Nick took Erin and Vaughan exploring.

They returned in the early evening, quite hurriedly as Vaughan had fallen off a dirt pile and injured his hand (again).
He was quite sure he wouldn't survive the injury, so they had driven him home very quickly for treatment!

After Nick applied first aid, I was taken to admire all the frogs in Tom Fagan park!

These guys were huddled together under the picnic shelter roof. 

It seemed to us that the spot they had chosen was quite hot, exacerbated by so many frogs in close proximity but they seemed happy enough!

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Erin and Elmer

Erin's first drive with Elmer
It had been a hot day - still 36 degrees at 3:30pm and stayed that way throughout the afternoon/evening. 

Erin had her first drive with Elmer much later in the day.

We headed up to the Bluff and poked around up there for a while.  Vaughan turned over a rock and startled a gecko, which then ran up a tree and was sitting on a branch.  I was able to reach up and put my hand over to catch it.  Vaughan was very impressed (and presumably the gecko less so)!

We returned home for thermal-cooked Butter Pork (and Frank's pudding).

"The egg man"!

The pikelet chef - and assistant!
Erin was keen to cook pikelets so she and Nick went down the street a few houses to see "the egg man".

It was quite some time later that Erin returned with the eggs - but without Nick!

Seemingly Nick was still chatting to Frank and his mate. (They had offered Erin beer, port, Scotch and Bourbon before asking if she wanted iced water or cordial)!

Nick finally returned, somewhat merry, and bearing a Christmas pudding!

(Erin had given up on cooking by then as it was too tricky to adjust the gas appropriately).

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Cracking nuts

Vaughan and Nick regularly cracked nuts out on the front verandah in the late afternoon/evening.

Sometimes they would sing "Home among the gum trees' while they worked!

(I think it may have been one of Vaughan's songs for his pre-school Christmas Concert).

Despite some understandable concern for various parts of their anatomy, there were no injuries (or other nuts cracked) at any time!

During our stay, Vaughan became quite good at picking nuts from Louie's driveway. 

He had cracked one in the morning and though it had a white clay centre, there was quite pretty colour through the ironstone shell.

Digging deeper

Nick is good at digging himself into a hole!
Nick had been digging most mornings since our arrival at Yowah, leaving home about 5:30am and returning around 8:00am.

He often went digging again in the later afternoon.  As you see, he was making progress!

Cleaning the catch

The catch was washed in the kitchen sink and then cooked in batches (carefully counted by Erin and Vaughan).

Some of the yabbies seemed dead - until they were splashed with the tap water!

Good enough to eat?!
Fortunately Greg arrived soon after the last batch was cooked - so he demonstrated several techniques to Nick and Erin for shelling (and eating) the yabbies. 

Next time we'll enjoy the fun of yabbying - and then releasing them again!

Yabbying at Moolya Creek

There were cows paddling in the creek  when we arrived!
We had driven out to Moolya Creek the previous day and decided to go back with some of Peter's yabby traps.

(Peter recommended frankfurts as yabby bait, so we called back home to collect a pack).  

To describe the afternoon as stinking hot was probably an understatement! Shortly after arrival, I returned home for extra drinks, cool-ties and a long sleeved shirt for Erin.  By the time I came back, the others had caught a dozen yabbies!

Checking for launch!
Vaughan called me "Batman"!

We caught 33 yabbies before heading home!
As well as the expected yabbies, the traps also yielded several varieties of small fish, a yellow crab and a snail!

Throughout the afternoon, Vaughan also found a few tiny frogs tucked into the muddy cowprints.

The Basilisk revealed!

Given all the basilisk discussion during the day, I had dreamed of our roof dweller dropping from the foam ceiling panels onto the bed!  Fortunately as I lay awake pondering the best course of action in the event the basilisk did land on me, I finally heard it's feet.  My relief was huge!

Much later in the morning, when all were awake and breakfasted, Nick poked the ceiling more enthusiastically - and a juvenile sand goanna fell out!  He was probably about 40cm long including his tail.

All were much happier knowing the would-be basilisk was not a huge mulga snake!!

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Bath in a box

One of the highlights of our July trip to Yowah had been the open-roof bath house at the Artesian Waters Caravan Park.

In contrast, Louie's shack did not offer such starlight bathing experiences but at least the shower temperature was adjustable!

Vaughan remains a fan of the bath, so we improvised this one for him.

Despite his expression, he was quite happy with the cramped substitute and enjoyed several box baths during our stay!

Bearded Dragon

This guy/gal was enjoying the sun while resting on the thick mud at the start of Black Gate Road.

Of course, our lizard-catching enthusiasts dived from the car intent on another capture!

There was much excitement as the lizard was caught - in real-life and for posterity by way of "footage" and "film"!

Once home again we all listened to "the basilisk" in the roof and speculated as to it's identity.  Whatever it was had been quite active throughout the afternoon, moving from one end of the house to the other (particularly when Nick used a broom to gently poke the foam ceiling panels)!

We all hoped the whatever would stay in the roof capping and bugger off quietly!

Tadpole treasure!

Looking, looking!
After breakfast Nick, Erin and Vaughan went for a wander along the bore-drain.  Vaughan took his net and bug box for possible catches.  It was quite some time later before they returned with tiny fish, tadpoles and some frogs' eggs.

The catches were transferred to a larger box and we enjoyed watching the developing tadpoles over the next few days.

Vaughan enjoyed dip-netting for fish so much that we needed to encourage a "catch and release" program to limit casualties of his enthusiasm!

Monday, 27 December 2010

Striated/Tree Skink

It had been a big day out, so no-one was inclined to do much when we were finally home again.  I was soaking my feet when another lizard was spotted in the kitchen!

Nick captured him/her, who was identified as a Tree or Striated Skink.

Many pics were taken before Vaughan released him/her back to the kitchen.  The lizard then strutted rather boldly through the house!

When he wasn't strutting he seemed to live underneath the stove, so became known as the "stove lizard".  A smaller relative lived under the fridge and was referred to as the "fridge lizard"!

Sand goanna

It was around 4:30pm when we arrived at Eulo, so we rested for a while before heading "home" to Yowah.

We saw many dragons sunning themselves on the road - as well as this gorgeous sand goanna!

Back to Eulo

We drove back to Eulo, where the General Store proprietor Garry was very happy to assist with fuel and other purchases. He inspected my sand-flied feet and recommended a beeswax ointment to try. (It goes without saying that Garry's helpfulness was in sharp contrast to the Bulloo River barmaid's hindrances)!

Vaughan was quite happy sitting outside the store, playing with a huge beetle that rolled over the table making buzzing noises - very similar to a toy we have at home!

Lucked out on lunch!

When we pulled up at the pub, we parked in front of a ute with a large cage on the back. Several rather impressive pig-dogs stared out from it at us as we passed.

Erin and Vaughan waited outside while Nick and I entered the building.

The barmaid, like the dogs, was neither welcoming or encouraging! Nick has since dubbed her "the crankiest barmaid in the West" and while I thought her attitude might have been in reaction to us as tourists, it seems even the semi-regulars don't fare much better! (Various Yowah-ites agreed whole-heartedly with Nick's description when we related the story).

Lunch was definitely "off" and we were somewhat sorry we had enquired as to the possibility!


Despite the impressive welcoming signage, Thargomindah was not as large as we had expected.

We actually drove around and through a couple of times, thinking we may have missed something!
Most of the town was still closed for the Christmas holiday period - and the Tourist Information wasn't set to re-open till 4 January, which rather foiled our postcard buying efforts!

In using the public toilets we learned that the Hydro Power Plant, Thargomindah's most significant tourist attraction, did not hold demonstrations over summer (and was undergoing maintenance also).

We called over into a service station to re-fuel - and we were out of luck there too!

On to Thargomindah!

We left the visitor shelter and re-joined the road to Thargomindah - marveling at the vast expanse of water as we drove along.  There were smaller sections of water beside the road in places and we spotted these emu paddling along the way!

Lake Bindegolly

Elmer - after traveling Blackgate Road!
When we had visited Yowah in July, another couple sang the praises of all the birdlife at Lake Bindegolly.

We weren't able to visit that trip but definitely wanted to see the lake, so called in on our way to Thargomindah.

All the rain meant the lake was a huge expanse of water, which was very impressive as we drove along - even before turning in to the information shelter.

We had been enjoying Elmer's air-conditioning, so the afternoon heat was a little shocking!

Not surprisingly, no-one was keen to walk 2.5, 4.5 or 9.2 kilometres in the blazing sun to see more birds!

The former road and causeway ...
Fortunately, we only needed to look up as there was a mud nest with chicks under the shelter roof - and other birds swimming quite close to a former causeway.

(Traffic now uses the bridge which can be seen in the extreme left of pic).

Blackgate Road

We decided to visit Thar-go-min-dah, given the name had caused so much amusement on our last trip to Yo-wah!

Rather than backtrack to Eulo we wanted to use the Blackgate Road shortcut, which would cut about from the trip.

There had been a fair bit of rain though and the start of the road (at left) didn't look overly promising, so we called in to ask Peter if our plan would be OK.  The consensus was that the road should be passable as it had been graded "recently".  Of course, "recently" is a relative term!

Although the road looks dry in the pic at right, there were quite a few soggy/muddy sections further along and we had a lot of fun testing Elmer through them. 

(We encouraged him with enthusiastic "come on, Elmer" cheers)!

There were many emu families en route, as well as various lizards scuttling through the puddles.  We were all a little disappointed when the road ended and we met the bitumen again!

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Frog Hopping

Everyone else was asleep that night when Tanya rang. I chatted to her while watching a very small (and speedy) frog skip across the concrete floor. In trying to catch him later, I spotted another on one of the screen doors so let that one out instead. The shack had three doors and I ended up escorting one frog through each but whenever I turned around there were more frogs - and all much faster than me! Consequently, there were still plenty inside when I went to bed!

I was semi-asleep another night with Vaughan snuggled against me. I thought he was playing with my hair in his sleep but realised his hands were in the wrong position, so felt behind my pillow and encountered a medium-sized frog hopping through my hair! He continued across the top of the bed - and later returned the same way!

Kingfisher's Box(ing) Day

The baby kingfisher had made a couple of short flights on Christmas day and had spent the night inside again, in a towel covered box.

Nick put him/her on the back verandah when departing for the "mine".

The little fellow spent most of the morning perched on our camping clothesline with his parents visiting frequently, bearing small frogs and grasshoppers.

Later in the afternoon we noticed many apostle birds but no kingfisher.  On investigating further we found he had flown into his tree and the other birds were bullying him.  We threw out some bread and happily the apostle birds flew down to fight over that instead.

Erin later reported that the baby kingfisher had flown next door and could no longer be seen.  However she spotted him much later in the day, flying near the bore drain with both parents looking on.  We saw all of them at different times during the remainder of our stay.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

In and out ...

like a blue-arse fly?!

Simple Pleasures

It rained lightly after lunch, then quite heavily and consistently for nearly two hours later in the afternoon.  As much as Vaughan enjoyed all his Christmas loot, he was very happily amused playing in the water for as long as the rain continued!

Top of town - on the way to the fossicking area
We drove over to the fossicking area in the early evening, admiring all the puddles and the newly-washed town.

There were so many frogs that night - singing with loud enthusiasm! I tried a recording but couldn't do them justice.

Christmas Feast

The Chef (and Chef's assistant)!
We enjoyed a lovely, relaxed morning playing with our various Christmas loot and supervising Vaughan's bike riding.

It was quite hot, so I lay down again to doze for a while.

When I woke, Nick had cheffed lunch and all I needed to do was set the table (and make some "Yowah nut" gravy)!

The Christmas lunch crew!
It was a gorgeous feast of baked lamb, roast vegies, tinned corn and peas - which we all thoroughly enjoyed (in spite of the heat). 

Our cracker jokes were extra funny as half were written in some obscure European language!

Ver du hvorfor Lada'n har fire pedaler?
Gass brems, clutch - og en til a pumpe opp airbagen med ...

Hah?! Hah?! Hah?!

Kingfisher feast:  When Erin woke, the parent kingfishers were on the back verandah calling for their baby (who had spent Christmas Eve inside with us, safe in a towel-covered box).  Erin took him out to them and they brought him grasshoppers and frogs through the day.  Although he rejected some tidbits, he had enough energy to make a couple of short flights and we were pleased with his progress!

Merry Christmas!

Ready to "speed"!
Vaughan had come into our bed quite early on Christmas morning.  He had forgotten all about Santa, so just requested a drink and soon fell back to sleep.

Nick and Erin were awake around the usual 7am but I was still happily dozing with Vaughan until they woke him an hour or so later, keen to start opening presents!

Vaughan had been asking for a bike for many weeks and was greatly excited that Santa (and the Elves) had delivered!  Although his first try-out was without training wheels, he insisted that Nick fit them for subsequent rides.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Kingfisher Kapers

"That's where he was!"
There was much excitement when Vaughan found a baby kingfisher fallen from the large tree behind the shack. (He is indicating the location in the pic at right).

Ants were all over the little bird and understandably it was quite distressed. Nick picked it up then handed to Erin, who dashed inside to bath him/her in the bathroom sink. 

The ants were many and quite tenacious, so it took some time to wash them all off.

(Meanwhile I washed out a margarine container to use as a surrogate nest).
Such a pretty little bird ...

First Nick and then Erin scaled the ladder to wedge the "nest" back in the tree.

The little kingfisher had soon hopped out though and was shortly back on the ground, again covered in ants - so Erin effected another rescue and basin bath.

Mum and Dad brought many frog tidbits!

Given he/she wasn't greatly appreciative of our "nest" effort, we decided a box on a bench at the back of the house was probably a better option.

We checked often and were pleased to see both parents visiting regularly.

Christmas Cake

Vaughan and I started making our Christmas cake early in the morning on Christmas Eve, before it got too hot. 

Although Louie's shack had an oven, I decided to do the cake in the thermal cooker - to save gas and not add to the already hot temperatures.

After 25 minutes simmering on the stove, our wonderful creation was put into the thermal cooker at 10am and stayed there till after tea.

The end result was pretty good - even if I do say so myself!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Night-time visitor

What's in the box?!
Although the heat took a bit of getting used to, there was definitely much more wildlife in the summer!

Erin was outside on the phone when she called us to see this fellow, who was promptly caught and brought inside for closer inspection (and compulsory photos)!

Who's that handsome fellow over there?!
He was obviously a dragon but his skin was as soft as a gecko's - so he was quite young and still needing to "harden up"!

We let him go outside and then enjoyed our thermal cooked Green Curry (listening to the evening frog-song).