Wallabies, Wallaroos, Peepo and Drought

Red-necked Wallabies come to our house for water. Normally wild and skittish, this one was so thirsty it allowed me to get close.

This young male drank until there was nothing left in the saucepan of water I left for the dog. I didn’t like me being a few feet away taking photos, but it was too desperate for water to hop away.

Last weekend I went to turn on a sprinkler and found a Common Wallaroo sitting on it. Grazing at the sparse grass runners that have come up since I watered my favourite Jacaranda.

Long-established trees don’t usually require care. With desperately dry weather, I gave it a soaking to get some green leaves back. No purple flowers next month, but at least I saved it.

I’ve lost my rose garden. Of 56 hand-picked English Roses, 6 are barely alive. Since 2016, Wallabies and Wallaroos have eaten every leaf and flower off the bushes.

It hurts to lose them, but if it keeps wildlife alive it’s a sacrifice I can make. Besides, the roos are starving.

My house has the only available water and my garden the only edible greens for miles.

Wallabies strip off rosemary sprigs and chew the dried out lavender they hate to eat. On the mountain they’ve lived on longer than I have, there’s nothing else for them to eat.

The Red-necks are Rock Wallabies who thrive in rocky escarpments and steep hills. Smaller than kangaroos, the Common Wallaroos and wallabies are protected in their environment.

They’ve decimated my garden and drain all water sources overnight but I’m used to it. Seeing a joey dive in the pouch, or its mum bound away with its head hanging out gives me a buzz.

Heading into the shower, a small joey flashed past my bathroom window. It dashed back to its wallaby mum, changed its mind about getting on board and hopped away again.

Clothes back on, I ran to get the camera. Both wallabies saw me. Joey was scared but curious. I captured it hiding in and out the pouch, continually checking if I was still watching. Tiny front paws shaking, it was playing ‘Peepo’.

Just before the wallabies left, joey poked its head out from behind the pizza oven. We both jumped in surprise. I couldn’t stop laughing as the mini-roo went berserk. Skipping in different directions it played peek-a-boo.

Lately, 28 km wind gusts create dust storms that block the sunlight. The sky turns an odd orange-brown. Old, dry topsoil is whipped into the air like a sandstorm. Dirt gets in my face making my eyes itch; swept inside beneath closed doors, it makes the floors gritty.

The sky is full of smoke today, though the closest of 78 bush fires burning in the state is still 2 hours away. It feels like the wildfire is close when you can smell, taste and see smoke in the air.

This morning was so hazy it blurred the mountains, making them indistinct.

East of the house, 6:30 am 29.10.19.
A burnt orange sunset this evening, still smoky due west 6:45 pm 29.10.19.

Conditions ripe for bush fires make me anxious, checking outside every other minute. We lost our first homestead to fire over 25 years ago. With so much depression afterwards, I know I couldn’t cope if I lost everything I owned again.

It’s hot, 38 degrees or over 100 Fahrenheit as I sat in my car after work. And there’s another month to go before scorching summer weather starts.

Over three years of total drought on our north-west NSW farm.

The biggest Australian dry spell anyone alive has ever known.

I’ve had enough of it.

Extreme temperatures and less than an inch of rain in 4 months is a disaster waiting to happen. I can’t turn our air conditioning on, there’s not enough rainwater left in tanks to run it.

We rarely saw Wallabies or Wallaroos at any time other than dawn or dusk before. Shy of humans, the marsupials hopped away if you made a sound. Now they’re out scrounging for something to sustain them all day, all night.

I’m worn out with waiting, wishing and praying for rain.

Good, soaking, drenching rain has to come soon. Then follow up and then recovery. As farmers, we need a few decent seasons with milder weather. I have to see our property thriving with full dams, a trickling creek, green grass and lush feed again soon.

This day, this drought, this weather is a far-reaching climate disaster.

There are still over 50 out-of-control bush fires burning around NSW tonight, in towns, properties and National Parks.

I’m frightened.

Thirsty small, medium and large Red-necked Wallabies: a family.

All I can do is top up the birdbath, the old bath and fill containers around the house, and hope it’s enough.

I realise I’m lucky to see such extraordinary wildlife every day. The family of Wallabies, mum, dad and baby have made themselves at home in my cliff-side garden. But even providing water access might not be enough for creatures who’ll be lucky to survive this drought at all.

Australia is a hard country.

This is a harsh time to be living on the land.

Seeing extraordinary native birds and marsupials outside my door makes the drought a bit more bearable; especially a small joey I’ve decided to call Peepo.

All photos are my own.

Writing about the real life, farm life, reading life, birdlife, wildlife, pet life and school life I have in my life. My blog: birdlifesaving.blogspot.com

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