Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A semi-arid break pt1.

I  must  admit I have enjoyed many  great  locations at this time of year. I  particularly  remember Paris and I  particularly  remember the Lakes District in Cumbria UK. Both  beautiful, both wonderfully memorable.

Dave driving the cruiser

However, I  do  love the stark contrast of the semi-arid regions of Australia. Again, in the pursuit of history we found ourselves back along the Dowling track, and again  to visit  my  cousin "Frosty" on his property called "Boodgherree"(  pronounced boo-gerry).

The area is about to be drought declared, and I was curious to  see the stark contrast with the past 2 years, and as recently  as April 2013. We stayed at the wonderful shearers quarters on Kilcowera and enjoyed the hospitality of the Sherwins. Geoffs property  is next door and a "short" 15klm drive door to door.

Sun up and about the ride off to Lake Wyara. ( looong shadows!)

The following day, dave and I  got up at first light, and prepared our motorbikes for the 70-80km ride through the properties to Lake Wyara. The contrast against previous seasons was never more apparent.
There were few birds, all water holes had dried up, and starving emus, could only  walk a few paces before collapsing from starvation.

The track was dry, dusty and even in the early  morning waves of heated air washed over us. It was going to  be hot. 47c. The tracks are a mixture of sand, rocky outcrops and creek wash outs. You have to  have your wits about you, watching out for kangaroos, emus as well as charging cattle. All can  knock you  off your bike in an instant. There is just no chance, being over 30km from help, that  you  could simply  walk back with  a shrug of your shoulders.

Finding shade where we could to  have a drink and a short rest.

Our riding was easy  on the bikes, easy  on ourselves. There is no room to  risk losing a chain, or any breakdown for that matter.

The lake itself was 2 klm further away than it was back in April. I  was amazing at just how unforgiving outback Australia is.

We returned via the Murderers Bore and I  was quick  excited to  find some of the landscape that my  family had photographed in the 1940s, when this was part of Boorara. I  find linking evidence of old photos with  today,  exciting.  "Forensic", history research is what I like. Sadly  our pastoral history will be lost.

Arrival at Lake Wyara. Hot dry dusty, and the lakes water on the horizon.

It was several hours before we returned to the shearers quarters., Hot, covered in red dust, and thirsty.  In that heat the air acts like a hair drying, and it seems you cannot get as much water in as the air is drying our of you.

A chair set up  under the Pepper tree

A rest for 40 winks was in order before a late afternoon of bird watching. The shade of the Pepper tree and the green grass that  surrounds the shearers quarters a refreshing contrast to the death of drought.
Here I  set up  my  camera, bird book and binoculars to  try  and capture photos of the birds coming to  drink from a small puddle of water leaking from the tap. When  we packed to  leave I  stumbled on a cap that my  old friend, Jim,  left here in 2011. I  thought that  with  Christmas being a time to share with  friends and remember those gone, I  should take his cap with  us when  we are birding, simply  to  remember great  friendships, which  only  ever seem to last  a short time. I am  sure Jim  would have got a laugh.

Pt2 Working on Boodgherree. Cleaning water troughs, and checking stock…birds seen..

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Well deserved rest!

Well, its time I had a well deserved rest, and having loaded the Cruiser with  2 bikes, camping equipment, we are heading towards Hungerford/Thargomindah at  2am tonight.

My  new motorbike

Temperatures will be 40c+. However we are well prepared with icy cold beer, bird books, binoculars, water, breakdown equipment, extra spare wheels, food….you  name it! We are quite independent and capable.

Above is my  new bike… its set up  for mustering /droving, as well as birding. Bikes are great for sneaking up  on game.
Looks a mess but it will not be once tied down

The canvas covers on the seat and tank protect the bike from the scratches from dogs and general wear and tear.

Today I  found a cap worn by Jim when he was here in 2011. For the sake of nostalgia I will  bring it to   our favourite birding spots. I  hope my  UK and Austrian friends will enjoy that!

This is a semi arid trip in drought conditions and requires real focus!

Well- See you  all  soon in Lamington land!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Merry Christmas!

I  would like to  wish  any one reading this a very  Merry  Christmas and Happy  New Year!

Merry  Christmas from the crew!

Yesterday  we spent time practising "whips". This is where you  approach  a motocross jump,  angle the bike on the up ramp and "whip" it across the table top section.

It was really  very  hot at  42c, and the guys needed a lot of water after each  session.

Davids friend Gareth is perhaps the best  rider I  have seen, and below is a series of photos on how just to  whip it good!

Gareth "mid whip"

Bringing the nose down for the landing...
Another perspective….

..then once landed, hard left turn and into the straight!

A great  lesson in how to  do  it right.

Merry  Christmas!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Droving Women

In researching my families pastoral  history,  the one thing that really  sits in my  mind is the life the women had. Every bit as tough and as hard as the men, only  different.

I  really  would like to  make their story heard as well as it is in this song.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Boorara. The final chapter.

I have just heard that Boorara Station has been  sold to the QLD government and will become part of a larger Currawinya national park.

I  have some mixed feelings about this. Certainly, something had to be done, and in terms of the environment, I  guess the outcome is good.  However, a well managed property can be better maintained that a national park. Sadly, the "lock it and leave it" mentality of governments rarely produces a good result.  By switching off the bores, the certainty  of watering points for  native wildlife becomes an issue.

The fact remains that the land is altered permanently  from its original state, and careful management to prevent weed infestations, as well as predatory animals (I  saw feral cats on the lake shores there), is vital.

The old bull catcher.

Can  the QLD government do it? I  don't know.  I  would like the  pioneers, and specifically the MaGrath family to  be recognised. Its the hard work of these families that  gave us the wealth  we have today.

The good news is, I  can  visit as often as I  like.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The bush fires are all but over and the boys did this...

Dave filmed his mates doing free style! All very  cool.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Fires. the worst in 45 years.

The worst  fire situation in 45 years, a state of emergency  declared and over 300klms of fire front. The risk in the next 48 hours will be that the fires of Bilpin/Mt Lagoon, jump containment lines and join with  the fire of Mt York and then into the Grose River Gorge.

With this potential, the fires could impact the Sydney  basin including Richmond and Penrith.

Below is a photo by Phil Hearne that has gone viral across the world. The fire fighters have gone for days without sleep and as such  catch  40 winks when they can.

Members of my  family  are rostered on tomorrow for fire duty and David is on to assist with the truck refit as required.

Our gutters are clean, down pipes blocked and all fire fighting equipment in place and on active standby.

Our neighbours are packing and leaving, and we have packed those items that mean a lot to us


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Bushfires again!

This time last year we had fires close to the house. Yesterday,  as weather conditions deteriorated, a back burn got away. Here are some of the images courtesy  of the Sydney Morning Herald.

Roads were closed and houses lost as well as a couple of fire trucks. (see above)

Today the fires are under control but not without the concerted efforts of the Rural Fire brigades. This season is going to  be worse than  last  year I  think.

Saturday, September 7, 2013


The past few weeks have been a little intense, with a couple of melanomas being removed. Its a real bother, as I  had to  go and get one further removed as they  did not get it all. Tomorrow I have to  have a full body  scan, and there may  be one or two more.
A Garden Nome stands guard!

So, one of the things I am  finding a real pleasure is my  garden. I plant a lot of daisies last  year and they are really  coming on. I  also  planted lavender and the bees are really  enjoying that.

Ms Bee enjoying the work around the lavender

Native birds are also enjoying the native plants I  put in. Noticeably, the Lewins honeyeater, Wattlebird and Eastern Spinebill.

Bright Pig Face!

These are a few on the photos. The garden is starting to  take shape and is a real pleasure to sit in and enjoy.!

One of the native flowers.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Bush Fire Brigade

Some readers may  remember that  12 months ago we had a serious fire incident only  metres from our home. A National Parks hazard reduction got away, jumping containment lines and raced towards us via the Burralow and Wool Wash Creek.
Some of the tankers ready  for the competitions

I was all very  serious stuff, with  helicopters water bombing and the Rural Fire Service Tankers lined up in the street. To our relief the co-ordintationa and efforts of the teams prevented what  could have been are catastrophe from occuring.

Lads demonstrating how to  extinguish a fire.

Last  weekend, the various brigades got together for their annual competition to  see who were the outstanding performers and who had the best presented truck.

I am  pleased to  say  that, our brigade won- Grose Vale, and came 2nd for best  presented truck.

Dave sprinting back after unrolling a line.

It was quite exciting to watch  the younger guys roll out hoses, connect and put out a fire, then  roll up and store. There were various field events and the overall winner was decided based on a total aggregate time.

The winning crew at the end of the day!

It was a real community event and a vital one for our safety.

Note- to  those of you  who have commented in  recent weeks. HUGE thank you . I have not been  feeling up  to  blogging with a couple of health issues taking priority. Your support is much appreciated

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Reception

The reception was held at Wolfies in the Rocks area of Sydney. An old convict built wool store, it has fantastic views down the harbour and across to the Opera house.
Toms art

Kesia and Tom had some of their artwork on display, and the evening was a wonderful mixture of the traditional, (in speeches), with the modern/gothic. Kesias Mum created some fantastic table displays too.

Kesias art

Even the cake was different. A womans torso with a corset, top hat and raven skulls around the base.

The cake.

Perhaps the most  "confronting" artwork was a sculpture which  Tom created. Made from steel, its a full sized womans body, however the head has rams horns and a strong face like an alian. I  found it beautiful and confronting at the same time.

Toms sculpture of Kesia. You have to zoom in to see details of the face

Frankly, the whole wedding was a wonderful show, both  couples have a real commitment for each other, and they are truely  talented. I  am  so delighted to see my  son so happy, and delighted to have such a daughter-in-law

 Kesias portrait of Tom ( yes, he is that fit)

Monday, July 22, 2013

Sons Wedding Part 1

Perhaps one of the most memorable moments, has been  my  sons wedding. He has married a very talented girl and we welcome her into  our family.

Tom with  his sister Rosalie. Tom is very  fit.

The wedding was held in Waverly Cemetery, and unlike traditional weddings, was  a "black" wedding. The day  was perfect with a light breeze, blue skies with a hint of cloud. Whales played in the ocean behind, as sea eagles cruised the thermals across the ocean.

Tom and Kesia tying the knot

Kesia wore a 140 year old mourning dress and all  her bridal party  were looking splendid in their clothes. Black roses, a Celtic harp and a real tying the knot over the hands all added to  the atmosphere.

Signing the registrar. Rosalie is far left. Jack is looking very  dapper ( far right)

At an area known as  The Rocks in Sydney, where other bridal Parties go to  have photo shoots, Our wedding party arrived. It  was such a contrast to the white weddings that  other camera crews stopped taking photos of their party  and began taking photos of ours!

Kesia looks stunning as too does everyone.

I will post more photos later in the week and show you  some of the artwork both  these talented people create

Friday, June 28, 2013

Wonnaminta Station

Yet another property  in the outback of NSW that  features in our family  history  is Wonnaminta.  Wonnaminta is situated approximatley 210km NNE of Broken Hill, 50km east of Packsaddlers. The terrain here is quite different to that  of Thurloo, Boorara, Waroo which  of course lie to the east etc.

The Homestead Circa 1900.

The land itself is more like that  of Mutawinji national park, some quite harsh sections, jump ups, and open land. However the 6 bedroom homestead itself is positioned along the Wonnaminta Creek, and provides shelter, shade and comfort.  The homestead is of similar construction to those others I  have visited. Rammed earth/limestone construction. 14 foot ceilings, cool room and verandah on all sides.

The homestead is surrounded by beautiful  gardens.
It  is a grand structure with  formal reading room, formal and informal flow.

Further improvements include a managers cottage, Shearers quarters, various machinery  sheds, and of course the iconic shearing shed itself. The structures are superbly  maintained and are a credit to the owners.

The managers cottage.

In the location of the Homestead magnificent red Gums shade and protect this secluded spot. The Wonnaminta creek itself reminds me of the creek system through Mutawinji. The bottom is sandy and dry most of the time, tall banks and tree lined.  The temperature drops dramatically  from  the heat  of the day  in this location.

The shearing shed.

To the north and in stark contrast is the Koonenberry Mountain range with its rocky rises and outcrops. I  recall climbing Mt Wood (Sturt Stoney desert National Park), and just  being in awe of the landscape, contrasting so sharply with the MT Wood Homestead.  I  continue to  be in awe of the men and women who came through this place and made it home.

In sharp contrast to the creek systems and homestead location.

The property  runs approximately 15,000 merino sheep and harvests about 5000 goats p.a.  Wonnaminta is a classical property  that was formerly  owned by the Kidman empire. Again the structures of the homestead provide a welcome oasis from  the hard work conducted in maintaining fences, dams, bores, mustering , shearing etc. The isolation is simply  fabulous and I  can  see why 

The Wonnaminta creek.  

The property  is being offered for sale via Landmark Harcourt at Cobar for 2.9 million.  I  certainly  hope the property  is placed in the hands of someone who  will  maintain it to the standards of the current owners, and not end up  like Urisino or Caiwarro. Another loss to our pastoral history.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Willandra Station

I am  off for a well deserved rest at Willandra where I am  in pursuit of the Plains Wanderer. I  hope by using mountain bikes I  will be able to  catch  another good look at a rare bird.

See you  all soon in Laminton country!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

I'm a Cunnamulla Fella!

Now I'm a scrubber runner and breaker too,
I live on damper and wallaby stew.
I've got a big cattle dog with a staghound cross.

I never saw the scrubber we couldn't toss.
'Cause I'm the Feller, from Cunnamulla
Yes I'm the Cunnamulla Feller.

Now once when I was drovin' on the cattle trails,
I met a little girl her name was Ada Vale.
I said "Marry me Ada and I'll be the feller,
And we'll settle down in Augathella."
I'll be the Feller at Augathella,
Yes I'll be the Augathella Feller.

Oh, she said her daddy's name was Charley Ville,
She had a lot of kiddies and a lot of bills.
So I grabbed my horse that was nice and handy,
And I never stopped till I reached Dirranbandi.
I was the dandy at Dirranbandi,
Yes I was the Dirranbandi Dandy.

Now in my moleskin trousers and my Williams boots,
Aboard an outlaw as he leaves the chutes.
In my goose neck spurs I rake their fiery hide,
And the girls all shouting around the ringside.
Oh he's the Feller from Cunnamulla,
Yeah he's the Cunnamulla Feller.

Now I've done a little fightin' in the western bars,
Done a little lovin' neath the moon and stars.
I wear bright clothes and shirts full of colour,
And the girls know me as that certain feller.
Yes he's the Feller from Cunnamulla,
Yes he's the Cunnamulla Feller.

Oh he's the Cunnamulla Feller,
Yes he's the Cunnamulla Feller.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

BIrd Photography by Akos Lumnitzer

Its so difficult to get first class bird photos in flight or at night. Above is a beautiful photograph from Akos Lumnitzer.

I urge you  to  visit Akos website www.amatteroflight.com    A brilliant play  on words, you  can  explore what  it takes, (and what  he has to  wear!), in order to  capture some of the best birding  photos I have seen.

There are workshops, as well ,that  you  can  do- (one coming up  soon at Taronga Zoo in  June), if you  want to improve your ability  to  take better shots. Also a list  of equipment needed. Its a complete package that  will  at the very least make you  a better birder.

Many  thanks for the permission to  use this photo.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Big Crash

Nice jump, but.....

Despite some nice riding, Dave had quite a large crash yesterday on the track. I had at first thought that he had broken his foot or leg. The bike was quite bent on the right side too. it came about after they water the track and whilst he was "racing" a KTM 250 2 stroke ( read- very  very  quick bike)

Fortunately,  after some time in ice, it seems the foot is heavily sprained and we will be ok to  ride again in a few weeks. As for the bike? Well I  rode it, to check it out, and it felt quite "warped". So, off to the workshop again!

What  on earth would your grandparents say Dave??

Saturday, April 27, 2013

White water rafting

With  the Queensland outback and motocross riding at Lue a "distant", ( read last  week),  memory. I  thought what  can  we do  that  will  test a young bloke.

I  know! White water rafting! (  after all just  how boring can riding the above be??)

Penrith White Water Centre was created for the 2000 olympics and is world class. Now part of the Penrtih  lakes system its a fabulous place to  bird, and enjoy  aquatic sports.

Poor fellow.... nerves....

The lesson is 90 minutes long and the coaches teach the basics of white water rafting.. Paddling, steering, using body  weight, working as a team, PLUS setting the raft up  in "out of control" situations.
By that I  mean setting the raft up  to  capsize and teaching those who  participate how to  cope in those situations.

And away they go!

It was a blue warm day and the State Emergency  Services were also using the facility  to  practice water rescues.

Ooops!  get ready  for a roll!

I  was surprised that  Dave was a little nervous.. Having again completed the 145 foot jump on the motocross bike I could not imagine that  he had some nerves for the task ahead. But he did.

Yet after a few laps you  could see just  how "into it" the boys were becoming. following the excellent instruction coming from PWW instructor who informed the lads that  he did this on the river Nile, It was not too long before the boys enjoyed every moment, including a dunking and rescue!

After what seems to be a few moments ( read a couple of hours), the boys had finished their first day of instruction.  delight prevailed as I realised that  Dave had spent the time with  the 4 sons of one of my  long term friends, Bernie!

Dave and Bernies boys.

What a bloody small world! We had no idea until the event was over. A fantastic day  was had by all.

So Dave, more waves for kayaking or is the lure of the motocross track too much?  Time will tell.

Dave-dog surveying the wild blue yonder.....