from Anne in Adelaide, South Australia: Red Emergency Warning – Out of Control

25 January, 2021

Cherry Gardens, Scott Creek Fire

The ‘Red Emergency Warning’ on our Alert SA Apps is the one to fear if the map covers your home. Unless you have a house that is defendable you should have already left the area. By this stage, the roads out may be blocked. Safety now lies remaining in your home and you hope that the CFS (Country Fire Service) will come and help you. The CFS publish recommendations on what to do when a firefront goes over your house. You just hope you have read and remember them.

‘You are now in danger. Take shelter in a solid building. … For updates listen to your local ABC radio station on a battery powered radio.’

Yesterday, a fire started in the Adelaide Hills, 17 kms to our south-west. The fire quickly exploded into the Cherry Gardens’ eucalyptus forests and the hills and steep valleys of the precious Scott Creek Conservation Park. Many koalas and other slow-moving animals have perished.

https://www.parks.sa.gov.au/find-a-park/Browse_by_region/Adelaide_Hills/scott-creek-conservation-park

It is now reported that the fire was deliberately lit. There were various ignition spots. The alleged perpetrator was apprehended at the scene – a 60 year old man 3 times over our legal alcohol limit.

Over 400 fire fighters battled the fire on the 42 degree day as it spread towards some larger towns. The fire quickly burnt 2,700 hectares destroying 17 out-buildings and at least 2 homes. No deaths reported. People evacuated their horses and other animals onto cricket ovals and many messages of support went out on social media. The fire had a perimeter of 28 kms.

This morning, still hot, we awoke to the strong smell of smoke and the sight of Adelaide covered in grey. Many people posted pictures of the immense clouds forming over the Hills.

Some call these ‘fire clouds’ or pyrocumulus clouds. I think it’s just smoke. Channel 9 image.

We watched the weather maps for the promised rain. At first the weather system slid past us to the south, to Kangaroo Island, but in the early afternoon the rain came: over 30 mm fell over the fire ground. It was most welcome. I took our dog walking in the warm rain. However, it will take more than one day of rain to put out this fire. It will smoulder in the forests, in the burning logs.

They have not yet counted the cost in terms of the conservation park and its wealth of native creatures.

Images taken from the Channel 9 News and on the right, a waterfall on our driveway.

from Anne in Adelaide, South Australia: There’ll be days like this.

January 24, 2021

First, I have to record my joy at the events of 20 January, 2021. What a relief!

When it’s not always raining there’ll be days like this
When there’s no one complaining there’ll be days like this
When everything falls into place like the flick of a switch
Well my mama told me there’ll be days like this

When you don’t need to worry there’ll be days like this
When no one’s in a hurry there’ll be days like this
When you don’t get betrayed by that old Judas kiss
Oh my mama told me there’ll be days like this

When you don’t need an answer, there’ll be days like this
When you don’t meet a chancer there’ll be days like this
When all the parts of the puzzle start to look like they fit it
Then I must remember there’ll be days like this …

Van Morrison himself. 1995 release.

Surely, Van Morrison had in mind one of those rare times when (unexpectedly) everything comes right. When you can live fully in the moment, be somewhere special with those you love, and suddenly realise that what you are feeling is contentment and it might even be the edge of happiness.

I have to say that when Biden and Harris were sworn in and there were no untoward incidents, I felt we (those who felt Trump was a disaster for the USA and for the World) could not ask for more. It was a rocky ride from election night, with the uncertainty of the following days, waiting through the 62 election law suits Trump raised (61 failed and he raised US$200 million to fight them). The courts held firm, the electoral system held firm and finally Mike Pence did not roll over in the face of the attacking mob, enraged by Trump.

So, for a little while, we can bask in the sense that we might be heading to a more stable, sensible, kind USA, led by a team of people prepared to roll back Trump’s xenophobic enactments.

Meanwhile …

Alert-SA on going fires in South Australia

On the other hand, here at home in South Australia, today is one of those summer days when the temperatures rises over 40°, we draw the curtains against the glare and the hot windows, we huddle inside and hope the power is not cut.

Worker bees collecting water to cool their hive

It is hard to describe just how strange it is when the temperature is 35° at 8.30 am with a strong gusty wind and the humidity level is around 14%. These are dangerous numbers. We were up early watering and switching on the sprinklers. We put out basins of water for the birds, the koalas and the bees. I noticed our resident koala climbing down out of a tree. They know what kind of day it is going to be. In the mid-afternoon when the temperature was 40 degrees C (104F), I looked for and found him – or found his grey furry back as he is buried deep in a pile of succulents at the base of the tree – seeking some sort of shelter.

Visitors to our bird bath. Koalas do not normally drink. They have no ability to lap – as dogs do.

We have not had rain for weeks and the countryside is brown and tinder dry. The eucalyptus trees around our house are dropping their leaves and our gutters gather their wind-blown drifts.

We are all recommended to have an emergency ‘Bushfire Survival Plan’ for days such as this. ‘Be Bushfire Ready!’

https://www.cfs.sa.gov.au/simplethings/index.html

The first decision is whether to go or to stay and that decision must be made long before any fire front is close. Most deaths during catastrophic fire events are due to people leaving their properties too late. Some of our friends, who live in the Adelaide Hills surrounded by forest, pack their dogs, cats and other precious items in the car and spend the day in town with relatives. They realise there is no way that they can defend their houses which are surrounded by towering eucalyptus.

Our plan is to STAY and defend, in the event of a bushfire. We are on the fringe of the city fringe facing north. The dangerous fires come from the north with a hot wind out of the centre of Australia. We are sort of prepared. But most dangerous is an ember attack and that can come from any direction.

On the top of our house there are water sprinklers. The plan is that the water will fill the gutters (we have to block the down-pipes with sand-filled socks) and prevent flying embers getting sucked into the roof. But the sprinklers are powered by an electric motor and in the event of a fire in this area the power would most likely be turned off.

We also have a petrol fire pump, which I would struggle to start! In the house, we keep a bucket in the laundry filled with the gear that you would need in the event of firefighting: leather gloves, cotton long-sleeved shirts, blankets, etc. (No artificial materials that melt on your skin).

Finally, we have a ‘bolt hole’ under the house with a fireproof door and backed by the water tank – where we store our wine!

We all have smart phone apps (Alert-SA) that warn us of any fire within a circle of say, 10 km. You can see from the image where the current fires are in South Australia. At the moment, there are 12 fires listed and only three of these are ‘contained’. Every time I look, there is another fire listed. One larger fire, Cherry Brook, is on the edge of getting into a precious national park called Scott Creek. They also list how many ‘units’ (think fire-trucks and aircraft) are attending the fire and what type of fire it is. (grass, forest, vehicle, building …)

This time last year Australia, was ravaged by fire like never before. Since then, with La Niña we have had rains in most of the country and the drought is over but for a few isolated patches. Even so, summer means fire season for us in South Australia – the driest state in the driest continent in the world. ‘On a continual quest for water’.

UPDATE ON THE 2021 AUSTRALIAN OPEN.

Today it has been reported that 10 of the 72 people associated with the Aussie Open (players, coaches and supporters), all who are in quarantine, are infected with Covid-19 and 3 of them have the new UK Covid-19 variant strain. The player, Paula Badosa, who complained about quarantine rules, has now tested positive. She is now apologising profusely. Three of the 15 flights chartered by Aussie Open Admin for the players had infected people on board.

Victoria State has had 18 days without community transmission, they certainly don’t want any infection to escape due to the 2021 Aussie Open being held in Melbourne.

In the days to come, more news will surely evolve from this tennis story!

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