from Anne in Adelaide, South Australia: steps towards normal – with a QR Code.

December 2.

warnings are getting more graphic!

You will be happy to hear that the news from South Australia is good.

Australians love to use the word, ‘good’.

‘How are you?’

‘I am good!’

We seem to be escaping from the recent predictions of community spread. There has been a flurry of testing since November 18 when it was feared that we were in for a significant outbreak and a severe lockdown was imposed and as quickly lifted.

But new measures are now in place: we have a process of checking in with your smart phone whenever you enter a public place or club – it’s Called ‘COVID SAfe Check-In’ and this allows our SA Health to follow up on contacts with more efficiency. (The SA capitalised in ‘SAfe’ is for South Australia). You read the QR code using your smart phone camera and up pops a table where you enter your details. I think this is the way forward for the next year – or so.

The problem is many people of a certain age do not have a smart phone or find it difficult to work this technology. I foresee long queues of people waiting outside venues as they struggled to adapt. But it can be done and it should be done without too much grumbling.

This week I went to our Adelaide Central Market for the first time this year. Our central market is a joy to all Adelaideans. It is located right in the centre of the city with easy cheap parking above the trading halls. It promotes itself as one of the largest undercover fresh produce markets in the southern hemisphere.

strawberries, mangoes, apricots and peaches are IN

It was opened in 1870 and locals like nothing better than to shop on a Saturday morning and have a breakfast there as well. There are 70 traders. Perhaps in London terms this is not large but it is perfect for our little city. The range of fruit, small goods, cheeses, flowers, cakes and pastries, seafood, spice shops, and quirky trendy outlets makes for a shopping spree. There is even an exotic food shop called Something Wild, selling exotic meats such as camel, emu, feral goat, crocodile and kangaroo as well as native greens.

https://www.broadsheet.com.au/adelaide/shops/something-wild

I was on a mission. Having had some time to clear out one of those cupboards filled with ‘things-we-don’t-use’ and ‘things-we-will-never-use’, I took a bag of old camera bits and pieces (Nikon, Tamron, Minolta) to the camera shop in the market. (In spite of mild protest from my husband). They don’t want digital cameras for resale, only the old analog SLRs for students learning photography. I am happy that my once precious cameras might be used once more. Better than the bin.

Locals getting their morning coffee fix

Then, lightened physically and mentally, I enjoyed breakfast in the market, watched masked police collecting their cappuccinos, and admired the wonderful spread of goodies on offer.

I felt old times might be returning.

from Anne in Adelaide, Australia: A visit to the dentist – is this the new normal?

24 November

Turned into a beauty

We have had it easy in South Australia. No question. Masks are not mandatory and even spraying with hand sanitiser at the entrance to every shop is not well observed. Our relative infection rate and death rate are less than a 30th of the USA’s. Life here is almost normal. Almost – except when you go to the dentist.

Yesterday, I went to my dentist’s surgery for a check-up and clean. In doing so, I realised that they are taking Covid-19 very seriously. This is the process I went through.

First, there were multiple warnings on the door as to the numbers allowed in and asking you to go away if your health was compromised in any way.

Once inside, I approached Reception where three staff were seated behind a continuous plexiglass barrier. I was first directed to sign in – not digitally I must say. Then I was asked to read through a lengthy list of venues: four full close-typed pages.

‘Please let us know,’ the receptionist said, ‘if you have been to any of these places.’

The list was a comprehensive listing of all sorts of venues (listed next to a time) that were of concern to our contact tracers as a result of the recent ‘Parafield Cluster’ outbreak. The list revealed the wandering life of a very busy extended family: several primary and high schools, a major hospital, early learning centres, lots of buses (routes and times listed), bus stations, hotels, pubs, many shopping centres, many supermarkets, doctors’ surgeries, cafes, chemists, swimming pools etc. Over 50 places.

I could answer, ‘No’ because they all showed that the wandering infected people had been north of the city and luckily, I had not taken a bus in the last two weeks.

Once I told the receptionist I was not a suspect connected to these many places, (I can now understand why so many thousands are currently in quarantine,) my temperature was taken with one of those hand-held gun things.

I was now prepared for my be-masked hygienist. With her there was yet another protocol before the procedure could start –  I had to rinse twice with some anti-septic, counting to 30 each time.

On the drive home I marvelled at how well-behaved we are in Australia. Few complain, few protest. It appears that the Victorian people in our neighbouring state, have already forgiven Premier Daniel Andrews and his government for their ‘cock-up’ months ago.

Sun, blue and purple: summer

Most important news is that our streets have exploded in a riot of jacaranda blossom and the sidewalks are festooned with fallen flowers. They always remind me of Durban, South Africa, and the annual exam season (flowering in November – year-end examination time in South Africa: ‘purple panic’ in Queensland).

There was a story at our Natal university in Durban that if you stood under a jacaranda tree, gazing upward, and caught a blossom as it fell, you would pass your exams! It seemed to be counter-productive advice. I did not try it.

The jacarandas in Adelaide seem especially magnificent this year. Maybe we are now more observant, more sensitive to the world around us.

There has to be something positive that comes out of all this.

from Anne in Adelaide, Australia: Oops! Sorry, it wasn’t a pizza box!

Our Premier, Steven Marshall looking for explanations

November 22. Well that was a mistake. Our severe lockdown lasted a mere three days. It was announced on Wednesday and by Friday there was a major backtrack.

This weekend the newspapers are full of analysis, recriminations and quite a lot of finger-pointing. What went wrong?

On Monday, our creative writing group had returned from the Flinders Ranges to hear about the ominous virus ooutbreak in our northern suburbs called the ‘Parafield’ cluster. It all seem to be under control until Wednesday when with little notice we were put into severe lockdown.

We were told that this was definitely a more virulent strain of the virus. The only hope for our state was to shutdown at short notice. There was a sense of panic in the community: hour long queues developed outside supermarkets. There was a flurry of emails cancelling appointments, weddings, funerals, travel plans; closing clubs, restaurants etc … think ALL activity outside your home. Borders were closed and incoming flights diverted.

Only one person from each household was to be allowed out once a day to shop. Dogs were not allowed to be exercised.However, people were quite innovative. I noticed walkers with backpacks on the way to shops, sometimes with a large dog in tow which they tied up outside. (For the first time I wore a mask to the supermarket. I found it mildly unpleasant.)

Then on Friday the news came out that the lockdown was unnecessary. There had been a mistake. What went wrong? I suppose we are all in a learning curve and the state government and medical authorities are as well.

Authorities believed that the virus was being transferred into the community on pizza boxes! It seems silly to say this now. But do you remember all that discussion months ago about how the virus could survive on different surfaces?

Contact tracers had interviewed an infected man who said that he had bought a pizza and from a pizza take-away business where another infected person was working. That’s how he had caught the infection. Our authorities jumped to the conclusion that this young man had been infected by merely handling a takeaway pizza. If this was true, then all the people who had collected pizzas during this period needed to be quarantined. Authorities went into overdrive contacting everyone who had been to that pizza parlour. Over 4,000 people were put into quarantine. (I wonder if they all bought pizzas – if so that was one very popular pizza restaurant!)

However, after checking they found out that this individual had lied. He was in fact working shifts at the pizza parlour and had been infected by a colleague working there. Apparently, this makes all the difference. No infected pizza boxes. No hundreds of customers potentially infected.

Our premier Steven Marshall reacted quickly. On Friday he announced the error and declared that on Saturday night the severe lockdown would end. People were allowed out to exercise and take their dogs out walking once more. We are still under restrictions but bearable. We ourselves are going out to lunch at friends shortly – 10 people are allowed to gather. We will be only 8. Outings next week are back on the calendar.

Now people are looking for someone to blame. Why did the authorities not double check when the concept of pizza box transmission seemed a little unlikely?

Why did the young teenager lie? Was he in fact paid cash over-the-counter? That’s avoiding tax. Was he a temporary resident? Perhaps a student struggling? Whatever the story, the poor youngster is in trouble. Apparently, he is being interviewed by the police but it appears there is no real sanction for lie telling. Even the current US president gets away with it daily – on a mighty scale. Why shouldn’t the teenager occasionally protect himself? And perhaps he was frightened and did not realise the enormity of his lie.

Either way, our state has had a shock, emotionally and financially, but we are on the better side of the event: no rampant community transmission.

And most critical, we have no Donald Trump look-alike spinning nonsense to undermine our democracy.

from Anne in Adelaide, Australia: 6 day ‘Circuit Breaker’ from midnight tonight.

November 18.

Just when we were rather pleased with ourselves in South Australia, we are brought up short.

From midnight tonight, South Australia will be locked down: the most severe lockdown we have had since the beginning of this pandemic. Basically, you cannot leave your house except to buy food or for emergencies – a long list of instructions has been published of what you can and cannot do.

The news spread fast and the response by the public was instantaneous. It was as if there would be a lockdown on the supermarkets as well. The parking lots were full within minutes. There were queues to get into the supermarkets and every trolley that came out was heavily laden. Once more, the toilet rolls were targeted; the meat shelves were emptied and there was not a loaf of bread left in sight. Madness.

We are not even allowed to order takeaways during this time. I felt sorry for all those restaurants and fast-food outlets that had perishable stocks. They had no warning.

If you are travelling within South Australia, you had 12 hours to make a choice. Either you decided to stay where you were for the next six days or you had to rush home before midnight tonight. I have some friends who had just arrived in the Flinders Ranges, over 500 km north of us. They have spent one night there of the three planned. If they had not heard from anyone of these events, they will have a challenge trying to get home in time. Large parts of the Flinders Ranges are out of telephone range.

There are not many cases in our state, but apparently this particular strain of the virus is spreading very rapidly and has a short incubation period of 24 hours, with many people showing minimal symptoms. The virus escaped from one of the quarantine hotels in the centre of Adelaide. The source was a returning traveller from the UK. A cleaner working in the hotel apparently got infected from a surface. But that idea is disputed. She managed to infect her mother: a woman of 80 years old. And that older woman ended up in hospital and was diagnosed. Meanwhile, her large family, over the few days, had visited many places, sending children to school and university etc. We now have the long list of places online, (including certain buses), which are considered potential sources of infection.

Testing centres have been overwhelmed and people are waiting 5 to 6 hours to be tested. The centres are now going to be open 24 hours. 5,000 people are in self-isolation / quarantine including 100 police.

Our State is trying what they call a ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown to get on top of the spread. This will be followed by an 8 day less stringent lockdown. We just have to hope it works so all our plans for Christmas and being with family interstate are not scuppered. Our Chief Public Health Officer, Professor Nicola Spurrier, is very popular and we have faith in her decisions.

This is not a major catastrophe for us in South Australia. Or neighbouring state of Victoria endured a 4-month lockdown. If this is what it takes to contain this outbreak, we have to go with it.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-11-18/sa-ordered-into-major-lockdowns-amid-coronavirus-outbreak/12894666

from Anne in Adelaide, South Australia: a Scorcher

November 14-16. Willow Springs, Flinders Ranges.

Sunday was forecast to be a scorcher – over 40 degrees with a hot northern wind – but since we only had a brief time in the Flinders Ranges, our group decided to make the best of it by taking off early to explore – with the backup-plan to rush home to retire indoors when our excursion became unpleasant. The locals at Willow Springs Station told us that they were hoping for a little rain. They’re always hoping for rain; their lives are circumscribed by the rainfall.

the ‘golden’ spike

So, we drove north to enter the world famous Brachina Gorge geological trail.

Through this spectacular gorge you can follow a corridor of geological time: exposed rocks from 1,500 billion years to the Cambrian (beginning 541 billion years ago). We drove through a billion years of rock deposition!

Brachina Gorge, Flinders Ranges

We took a short excursion within the gorge to see the ‘Golden Spike’ which marks the spot where the relatively new Ediacaran geological era is defined (635-541mya). This significant place for geologists is on the bank of a dry creek bed surrounded by river red gums. Very low key.

Along the way, we saw several emus, including a family with nine chicks.

Emu Family – Flinders Ranges

But sadly, during the whole day we saw only two kangaroos. In the past, before the current drought, kangaroos were plentiful. I searched the rocky hillsides for the endangered yellow-footed rock wallabies but saw none – previously they were plentiful at that location.

Yellow-footed Rock Wallaby – taken on a previous trip

After about 10 o’clock the hot wind gusts made us rush back to the comfort of the cars. We carried on to the western side of the Flinders Ranges to reach the famous Prairie Hotel at Parachilna – it was an oasis! We had coffee and drinks before heading east through another gorge: the Parachilna. The temperature was now over 39° and dust eddies battered our cars.

We arrived home, thankful for the cool haven of the shearers’ quarters. About four pm, the sky turned weirdly brown. I drove up to the main station to pick up the local wi-fi. I was sitting in the car when the world around me disappeared in ferocious flurries of dust and flying branches. It seemed like a tornado.

the Begining of the dust storm

Extreme wind squalls rocked the car, brought down huge branches from the eucalypts in the creek beds and torn tin sheets from one of the station’s houses.

The dust storm in the creek

I kept my car in the open, nervous to drive back to our accommodation, as I realised that driving under a gum tree was highly dangerous. The newly arrived sheep did not seem to mind these events: huddling together, they put their backs to the wind and rain and shook their fleeces.

The dust storm was followed by a short hail storm and hard rain lasting only 5 minutes – 2.5mm – hardly leaving a puddle.

The shearers’ quarters in the rain squall

The temperature dropped 15°, the wind abated and within minutes it was delightful to be outside: the trees were shining, the sheep ventured out, only the eastern horizon was black over the Bunker Hills.

But there had been further damage: a branch had taken down our local power line. We brought out the candles and torches for our last night.

So, it had been a memorable day: we experienced some of the extremes for which Australia is famous. To be a farmer here you need fortitude, patience and to ever believe that things will get better. 

Sunset after the storm – Willow Springs’ shearers’ quarters and woolshed

I arrived home on Monday to be greeted by the news that South Australia is again heading towards lockdown. A worker at one of our ‘medi-hotels’, where travellers are in quarantine, got infected – how so is a mystery at the moment. Before she was diagnosed, she had infected her family and they had all travelled around Adelaide and their kids had been to school. So, the wicked genii are out of the bottle and we are in trouble. Whether contact tracing, testing and other vigilance to stop the spread will work is the big question for us in the coming two weeks.

From Anne in Adelaide, Australia: 1,200 sheep outside my window

November 14.

Willow Springs Station

I am 530 kms north of Adelaide in the Flinders Ranges. My creative writing group is spending 3 nights at a working sheep station called Willow Springs. We booked the shearers’ quarters with its communal kitchens and close proximity to the woodshed.

This a different world controlled by the weather and long term decisions about stocking and de-stocking large quantities of sheep. The dramatic world of USA elections seems as remote as Mars.

the stock truck arrives – 3 stories of sheep

We arrived to see a stock-carrier vehicle discharging 1,200 8-month old merino lambs into an small paddock. The lambs had to be encouraged out of their confinement but once free they hurried to the piles of hay. Another 1,000 lambs arrived today.

persuading the sheep to disembark!
thank goodness it was not a hot day for their journey

The sounds of the ma-ing in all their varying tones has been the backdrop to our hours here. The Reynold family, owners of Willow Springs, are excited. They have suffered 4 years of drought with only 17 inches of rain over 4 years when the average is normally 12 inches a year. They are north of the Goyder line (north of this virtual line grain is not considered possible).

The fodder for sheep wilted and died and pastoralists in this region sold their stock. On our walk today we could see how huge numbers of the hardy native callitris pines and river red gums have also died. They stand as ashen sticks on the hillsides and in the creek beds.

Struggling River Red Gums

This year, Willow Springs has received 9 inches of rain and the hillsides are once more green with pasture. To the untrained eye the feed seems minimal but apparently there is enough for the lambs to survive our coming blast of a summer.

I have discovered that each sheep has a slightly different voice. Some high, some low. Why do they call so? It is strange to listen to them calling to one another and to watch them huddle together in the shade of the few river red gums. What I do see is how frightened they are of us and I can understand why – we are indeed a brutal lot.

Noises in the night

Mrs Reynolds told us that before the drought there were huge problems from dingoes (or wild dogs x dingoes) mauling their sheep. Distressing. The drought has decimated the dingoes – and the mobs of kangaroos that we used to see along the roads all over the Flinders Ranges. We have yet to see a kangaroo. The pastoralists are happy about this as the kangaroos competed with the sheep for the fodder.

Tomorrow morning, the sheep will be released into the larger paddocks of the station. It is forecast to be 40 degrees and they will need to find a cool spot in the dry but cooler river beds.

The dry creeks

At Willow Springs they are hoping for some sort of return to normalacy very soon. I hope this will also be the case in the USA.

Morning with the flock

from Anne in Adelaide, Australia: ‘Democracy in Chains’

cover of the latest Economist

November 3. My husband tells me he doesn’t want to hear about Trump any more. Neither do. I wish he was still just one of the pantheon of narcissistic TV personalities that frequent the front pages of our weekly celebrity gossip magazine, Woman’s Day … old copies that you might pick up in the dentist’s waiting room … the junk pages you flipped over to move on to featured recipes.

For that is where Donald Trump belongs, where he started … in over-the-top gossip magazines.

I hope that after January 20, 2021 Trump can disappear into the background of the world and we will never have to hear from him. Apparently in Australia, about 25% of the population said they had confidence in President Trump trying to do the right thing for world affairs (whereas 87% supported Barack Obama during his presidency). This is very low for our country as usually we support our closest ally.

Within the USA, the trend of the population supporting the standing president has been declining since 2013 when it’s stood at 66% – being favourable support for President Barack Obama. This declining perception of the standing USA president is repeated across the Western World. I wonder to what extent American voters comprehend this.

From Australia, there’s nothing we can do about the unfolding events in the USA. We have two children and four grandchildren living there. This heightens my anxiety. And it is not just Trump and his bombastic ignorance and lies, it is the damage done to the body politic by him and his enablers: the loss of trust in the democratic system; the extent of the gerrymandering going on; the stark racial divide; the erosion of the separation of powers and the weakening of the media.

So, I am thinking about the beautiful passage in Ecclesiastes 3:1-3:22…about times in our human life. No doubt we are going to be doing some of this in a few days’ time.

(I like the old King James’ bible version. It is worth re-visiting.)

https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Ecclesiastes-Chapter-3/

‘To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;’

They forgot about … ‘A time to be anxious’!

I have been slowly reading People, Power and Profits by Joseph E. Stiglitz (2019). Slowly, because there is much to absorb. This is what I read today. (Page 160 in the Penguin edition, Chapter 8 on Restoring Democracy.)

‘It is becoming clearer that the objective of the Republican Party is a permanent rule of the minority over the majority. This is an imperative for them because the policies for which they had advocated, from regressive taxation (taxing the rich at lower rates than the rest), to cutting back on Social Security and Medicare, and cutting back on government more generally, are anathema to the majority of voters. Republicans have to make sure that the majority doesn’t get control. And if the majority does get control, they have to make sure that it can’t put in place the policies that it would like, and which would advance the interests of the majority. As Nancy Maclean, professor of history at Duke University put it, they have to put “democracy in chains“.

What more can one say about what is at stake in the USA?

From Anne in Adelaide, Australia: a koala closer to home

27 October.

Why is he on the ground?

I was going to write a post about the relaxing of restrictions in Victoria. They have had a very serious lockdown in Melbourne for 164 days. Everyone is so relieved that at last Victoria has had two days of no infections.

Instead, I have another story about koalas. On my way to our garage I noticed a dark shape hunched under a small eucalypt. It was a male (a buck) koala huddled over in the shade. I thought he might need water – although it is not a hot day. So, I took down a basin of water and offered it to him. He did not seem to be scared at all but drank steadily for a while.

I know that one of the signs of a sick koala is a tendency to stay on the ground. The ground is a dangerous place for them. So, I phoned up an organisation called Koala Rescue. A young lady arrived within half an hour with a large pet container. Using a towel for protection she picked up the koala from behind and placed him safely in the box. She said you have to be careful as their claws are very sharp, but they are not aggressive. Just frightened.

With koala sound effects and birds singing

She thought that he had been in a fight and also he might have a virus. Koalas often get chlamydia. So my koala was off to hospital. I will be informed of his progress and when he’s better he will be returned to our property. Koalas are territorial. There is a shortage of habitat for koalas and they have been moving into urban areas. There they come into contact with domestic dogs. Furthermore, koalas have no road sense.

My koala did not seem to mind being photographed. So enjoy some close-ups.! Nothing much happens with koalas unless they are fighting.

Lots of chomping sounds. Eucalyptus leaves are not pliable or soft. They take some chewing! Note the signs of fighting on his nose. I think a doe was involved …

For anyone who is used to the animals of Africa, it is a very subdued wildlife interaction.

from Anne in Adelaide, Australia: Kangaroo Island – a case of too many koalas

sunrise on Island Beach

25 October. I am on the beach a few minutes after dawn. The clouds cover the rising sun, blocking out the orange sunrise of the previous days. They are brilliant, backlit across the horizon against the early-blue sky, each unique shape mottled in shades of grey and white and sunrise yellow. Such a wonder of nature.

I am following the long footprints of a kangaroo: the last one to walk this path. There is no other human as far as I can see. A pair of pied oystercatchers is patrolling the sand ahead of me. I think from their behaviour that they might have youngsters hidden higher up in the marram grass. In the forest to my right a pied currawong is calling, his distinctive ‘clang, clang’. A pair of superb wrens are foraging in low grey bush closer to me. My dog Roy is intently sniffing for evidence of kangaroos: half-blind, Roy is still a hunter. Like me, he is happiest on the beach.

happiest …

We are leaving Kangaroo Island today, and I have been thinking about how Australians need to care for this special island.

In 1802, when Captain Matthew Flinders arrived here in his ship, HMS Investigator, filled with a hungry crew, they were delighted to find so many (almost tame) kangaroos which they promptly slaughtered. In honour of this feast, Flinders so named the island. Flinders was tasked by the British Admiralty to map the coastline of Australia. They could not have found a better navigator or cartographer.

21-22 March, 1802. Diary of Captain Matthew Flinders. ‘Several black lumps, like rocks, were pretended to have been seen in motion by some of the young gentlemen, which caused the force of their imaginations to be much admired; next morning, however, on going toward the shore, a number of dark-brown kangaroos were seen feeding upon a grass-plat by the side of the wood and our landing gave them no disturbance. I had with me a double-barrelled gun, fitted with a bayonet, and the gentlemen my companions had muskets. It would be difficult to guess how many kangaroos were seen; but I killed ten, and the rest of the party made up the number to thirty-one, taken on board in the course of the day; the least of them weighing sixty-nine, and the largest one hundred and twenty-five pounds. These kangaroos had much resemblance to the large species found in the forest lands of New South Wales, except that their colour was darker, and they were not wholly destitute of fat.’

https://sites.google.com/site/kipaview/history/extracts-from-the-diary-of-matthew-flinders

The island remains special for its wildlife. Although the mainland’s original wildlife has suffered from the introduction of all sorts of ferals animals, Kangaroo Island seems to have escaped the invasion by a few of the worst: foxes and rabbits.

Rabbits were released on Kangaroo Island several times but they did not survive, thank goodness. Apparently, they fell prey to the local Rosenberg’s goannas who must have found the rabbit warrens a perfect feeding ground. Kangaroo Island is the last stronghold for these goannas. The absence of aboriginal people is the reason given for the goanna numbers on the island.  Aboriginal people left the island about 2,000 years ago. Kangaroo Island was separated from the mainland over 10,000 years ago by the rising oceans – enough time for species to differentiate.

The lack of some of the worst feral animals that plague the mainland and the paucity of the island’s soils have combined to preserve a lot of the native vegetation and fauna.

Cute – but can be a problem…

However, there is one animal that is a major problem: the koala. Twelve disease-free koalas were moved to the island in the 1920s, in a conservation response to the decimation of the koalas for the fur trade. And the marsupials loved their new home, finding it quite perfect. They took to the manna gums and the blue gum forests with gusto. The numbers have exploded. Rare manna gums are now threatened. So now there is a serious problem in the National Parks and eucalyptus plantations: too many koalas. What to do?

The obvious answer was to cull koalas but there was such an outcry at the idea of shooting or euthanising these iconic marsupials, this option was shelved. Of course, tourists flock to Kangaroo Island to see koalas and to have their photographs taken with them. Instead, at great expense, authorities have sterilised many koalas and moved some off the island. Still too many remain and they breed annually.

During the devastating bushfires of January this year, (almost half of the island’s 4,400 sq kms was burnt) thousands of koalas were wiped out (some say as many as 25,000). The scale of the destruction by the fires is hard to imagine. You can get some idea from the before and after images in this ABC report of February 2020.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-02-18/kangaroo-island-bushfires-before-and-after-destruction/11970788?nw=0

Many injured ones were rescued and the sight of these pathetic animals resulted in an outpouring of donations for their care. Maybe 25,000 remain. BUT Kangaroo Island would be better off without ANY koalas. Whereas, kangaroos can manage their reproductive rate (embryonic diapause) in reaction to times of scarcity, koalas cannot.

Bushland on Kangaroo Island will recover, so will the koalas and the problem will continue. The larger question of how to preserve the island from inappropriate development (such as golf courses that need copious amounts of water) and lifestyle developments (that carve up precious coastal blocks for fly-in owners) remains.

I could walk the beach on my own this sunrise – a privilege that I did not take for granted. Long may Kangaroo Island remain a island where life is lived at a slower pace: a place where artists gather, boutique wine-makers offer you wine tastings while you observe wild kangaroos and locals care for our native animals.

I am following the long footprints of a kangaroo: the last one to walk this path. There is no other human as far as I can see. A pair of pied oystercatchers is patrolling the sand ahead of me. I think from their behaviour that they might have youngsters hidden higher up in the marram grass.In the forest to my right a pied currawong is calling, his distinctive ‘clang, clang’. A pair of superb wrens are foraging in low grey bush closer to me. My dog Roy is intently sniffing for evidence of kangaroos: half blind Roy is still a hunter. Like me, he is happiest on the beach

From Anne in Adelaide, Australia: across the Straits to Kangaroo Island.

21 October.

Ferry to Kangaroo Island

Kangaroo Island, off the south coast of South Australia, is perhaps one of the safest places to be during a pandemic. The population of under 5000 is spread across the 4,200 square kms of countryside and villages and only a small ferry connects the mainland. They had a case of COVID-19 in April that infected two other people but that’s that. Now with all the careful behaviour there have been no cases for a long time.

While here, we have barely listened to the National news. What has come through is the welcome news from Victoria State where the daily numbers of infections have declined to well below 10. What is less welcome is their reports of the political cover up of who decided to appoint the ill-fated security detail for quarantined travellers. The Royal Commission has closed their public hearings and is yet to report.

We have come here for seven days to stay in a cottage on the idyllic Island Beach.

Roy dog at dawn

I have been getting up at dawn to take Roy, our Cairn Terrier, for a beach walk to allow the rest of the household to sleep in. It is only a pleasure.

Dawn on Island Beach

At the moment I share the four kilometre beach with no other human. However, I do enjoy the space with many pairs of pied oystercatchers. Pied oystercatchers are well dressed birds: a coat of black and white, a long crimson beak and scarlet legs. These birds are breeding at the moment and are fiercely protective of their particular stretch of beach. I watched two of them defending their territory with aggressive body arching and loud whistles of protest. The interlopers flew off. Further along a pair already have a couple of long-legged youngsters who rush into the seagrass as people approach.

Pied Oystercatchers

As birdwatchers, we are enjoying the extensive unspoilt bush land on the island. As a bonus this week we have the annual Backyard Birdcount going on, organised by Birdlife Australia. You record the bird species and the numbers you see in time slots of 20 minutes. The app registers your location. So far, with four days to go, 2 million birds have been sighted and 63,000 checklists have been uploaded.

No longer is Kangaroo Island home to the dwarf emu: wiped out by humans and declared extinct by 1837 not long after the first permanent colonists (whalers and immigrants) settled on the isand. Evolution continues. Bird species are evolving into subspecies here and one day there will be endemic bird species on Kangaroo Island again.