Keep your cats inside. For everyone’s sake. Vale Ozzie the cockatiel.

ornamental ozzie

Vale Ozzie. Fabulous little cockatiel, and occasional shelf ornament.

I just found out that Ozzie the cockatiel, beloved feather-baby of my friend Leah  and honoured guest in my house last year, was killed by a roaming pet cat, who attacked him inside his cage, tearing off one of his wings. He had to be put down.

Ozzie on my head

Ozzie loved eating Post-It notes, chewing on important pieces of paper, and whistling Jingle Bells off-key.

Caught in the act of destroying my "to do" list, Ozzie takes offence at me documenting the offence.

Caught in the act of destroying my “to do” list, Ozzie takes offence at me documenting the offence.

He was seven years old – young for a cockatiel – these Australian natives can live up to 20 years in captivity, and are intelligent, loving companions.

Ozzie on boot

This is Ozzie and his beloved Ugg boot. Some might say he loved the boot a little too much…

Feral and other marauding cats kill millions of animals every night across the country, doubtless many wild cockatiels among them. Not all of them have names, personal histories that tie them to humans like Ozzie, but all of them are vital, living parts of the complicated landscape that we call home.

Ozzie eats the competition

Native birds in battle for habitat on the kitchen shelf.

Cats do not need to roam outdoors. Sure, most like to, but it’s not strictly necessary for their happiness and well-being. I’d like to spend my whole life frolicking at the beach drinking fancy cocktails and eating green tea ice cream whilst receiving foot massages, but we can’t have it all.Ozzie likes TasCountry

My cat never goes outside, and is rarely seen listening to Morrissey records, moping around in heavy black make-up or looking longingly at razorblades. I make sure she has fun things to play with indoors, feed her a healthy diet, and occasionally sling a tennis ball her way for her to murder like the mesopredator she is.

ozzie eats pencil

Keep your cats inside. Desex them. Microchip them. Love them and keep them safe from cars, disease, dogs and other animals. Keep the local wildlife and other people’s pets safe from your cat. It’s better for everyone.  Ozzie's to do list

Mobbed, and very nearly eaten, by the Sunshine Coast’s Eco Goats.

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Yesterday, I hung out with the fine caprines of Eco Goats Queensland, up in the weed-infested hills of the Sunshine Coast hinterlands.  As well as being completely adorable, these goats are working to help clear environmental weeds like the feral Mexican sunflower (Tithonia diversifolia), which, with a horde of other invasive plants, are growing into tall, dense weedy tracts throughout the region.  Although they are rightly known as pests elsewhere, when managed correctly, goats can provide a herbicide-free, cost-effective weed control service in some environments.

As well as being very hard working, the Eco Goats are also very friendly, and desperate for hugs and pats.  They mobbed me like I was a rockstar – I smelt pretty goaty by yesterday afternoon!

Goats are great – check them out!

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Goats are often considered to have broad tastes.   A few of them had a bit of a nibble on my arms and legs to see if I was worth a chew, and one of them managed to get hold of my fancy diary, which I’d foolishly left poking out of one pocket.  It’s dry now, but it was a little gross there for a bit.

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To the island! Schouten Island, giant sharks, Tasmanian tigers and my un-illustrious family history.

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For the next week or so, hopefully*, I will be on Schouten Island, volunteering for the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service as a camp host. Part of the stunning Freycinet National Park, on Tasmania’s east coast, this large granite island is about 2800 Ha (about 6km by 7km), and generally only visited by yachties and hardy kayakers.

schouten tight

Schouten Island. So big! 

I’m quite excited about heading to Schouten, as apart from never having been there before, my family has island form. Apparently, we used to run cattle out there in the early 1900’s and possibly before. My great-great-great grandfather used to tie the head steer (that’s a young bull without balls) to the back of a boat and row him out there – all the other cattle would swim behind him, across an often rough stretch of water patrolled by rather large sharks (more on them later).

According to my father, my family also shot what was probably the last Tasmanian tiger on the east coast on Schouten (now you see why I work in conservation). I don’t have a great deal of information on this as yet, but will continue sifting through the family dirt over the next few weeks. As well as various internet trawling spoils, I have these for research purposes, which should make for interesting reading.

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I’ve also downloaded the Hamish Saunders Expedition report for the island – I didn’t go on this particular expedition, but many skilled ecologists did, and the report gives a great overview of what natural delights may await us.

Stay tuned for more stories of giant sharks, pocket pygmy possums, hidden waterfalls and island adventures!

(* I say hopefully, as we were supposed to head out there yesterday, but weather and waves prevented our departure. The next couple of days are also out, but Thursday looks possible, apparently.  Digits crossed!)

Z is for Bassian thrush (Zoothera lunulata) – guilty-looking ground scruffler of the understorey #MelaleucaMiscellany

One with worms, one with veg - on their way to a potluck, perhaps - excellent shot from Mick Brown.

One with worms, one with veg – on their way to a potluck, perhaps – excellent shot from Mick Brown.

And so we arrive at the last letter of the alphabet, the enigmatic Z.  Our alphabetical natural miscellany comes to a end, not with a bang, but with a scruffle, for Z is for Zoothera lunulata, a.k.a. the rather adorable Bassian thrush. I’d never seen a Bassian thrush prior to visiting Melaleuca, but since meeting them there, they have become firm favourites in the world of cryptic, little (mostly) brown birds.  Birdlife Australia describe them as “secretive”, so maybe it’s not surprising we only just met. Bassian thrushes seem to wear a permanent look of anxious guilt, as if you’ve caught them smoking behind the school tennis sheds. They are members of the unfortunately named Turdidae family, which also includes the similarly remorseful-looking blackbirds, who doubtless were smoking behind the tennis sheds, and probably ripping the moss of my bonsai plants, the little bastards.

So delicious!  This fabulous shot from JJ Harrison, via the Wikimedia Commons -  (jjharrison89@facebook.com)

So delicious! This fabulous shot from JJ Harrison, via the Wikimedia Commons – (jjharrison89@facebook.com)e hope of startling unwary visitors.  

Larger than many of the other LBBs, Bassian thrushes have the most beautifully patterned feathers, in colours from cream through to caramels, in toffee and coffee tones, their edges scalloped in a rich dark-chocolate.  Although they look quite delicious, do not be tempted to eat them! Bassian thrushes enjoy such pastimes as ground scruffling, turning over litter to find tasty bits of bug, fruit or worm, and also lurking around the bushwalkers’ huts in the hope of startling unwary visitors.

The bird that lived outside the backdoor of the Charles King Memorial Hut was convinced of its mad camo-skills.  Should you walk too close, it would take a couple of quick steps, then freeze in “invisible” mode, which unfortunately, was only effective in the dark. Another Bassian thrush regularly tempted fate by stealing blueberries from the Fenton-King residence.  It probably thought itself lucky to survive a close encounter with a flying hearth brush, when the wanton theft became too much for one of the bipedal residents to bear*.

Mick Brown captured this BT in Deny King's garden - could this be our blueberry thief?

Mick Brown captured this BT in Deny King’s garden – could this be our blueberry thief?

This is the final instalment of the Melaleuca Miscellany.  Many many thanks to all of the lovely people who’ve contributed photos and ideas to the series – I hope you all get to visit the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area one day, to experience the magic of Melaleuca for yourselves.

The Bassian thrush is so cryptic, I bet you can't even see it in this photo.

The Bassian thrush is so cryptic, I bet you can’t even see it in this photo.  Hint: it’s by the back door of the hut on the left, pretending it’s a feathery rock.

*N.B. – No birds were harmed in the making of this anecdote.

Y is for yellow-throated honeyeater! #MelaleucaMiscellany

Yellow-throated honeyeater snacking on a native cherry - picture courtesy of Mick Brown.

Yellow-throated honeyeater snacking on a native cherry – picture courtesy of Mick Brown.

Yellow-throated honeyeaters (Lichenostomus flavicollis) are common around the rangers hut at Melaleuca, and are often seen chasing other birds about in what appears to be a spirited defence of their territories.  They were once considered pests of orchards, which is perhaps where their other common name, the green cherry-picker, comes from.

Upside-down Miss Jane! Lovely yellow-throated honeyeater photo by Michelle Turner.

Upside-down Miss Jane! Lovely yellow-throated honeyeater photo by Michelle Turner.

X is for Xyris – sharp but gentle yellow-eyes of the buttongrass moor #MelaleucaMiscellany

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Tall yellow-eye, Xyris operculata, sans pretty flowers.

Xyris comes from the Greek for “cutting knife” or “sword”.  Fortunately, their leaves resemble dangerous weapons in shape only; unlike much of the vegetation of the button-grass moorlands, they are smooth and gentle on the skin.

There are four types of Xyris in Tasmania – these sedges are commonly known as yellow-eyes due to their quite showy, three-petalled yellow flowers, held aloft on elongated, loosely twisted stems.

Although Xyris flowers in summer, they were pretty much done by the time I made it to Melaleuca.  However, you can find many pretty photos of them on Flickr here.

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Xyris operculata, traditional ink-stylee, borrowed from classicnatureprints.com

W is for Wildflowers of the South West Wilderness #MelaleucaMiscellany

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Paper Daisy (Helichrysum pumilum) – important orange-bellied parrot tucker – its abundance is tied to the fire regime.

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Tiny Flannelflower (Actinotus bellidioides) – more important parrot food. The seeds of these furry flora are so tiny, it’s no wonder the OBPs spend all their time stuffing their feathery little faces – it’d be like trying to subsist entirely on hundreds and thousands.

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A pretty eyebright (Euphrasia) from Mount Beattie.

Triggerplant!  Proto-carnivore and insect basher.  When insects land on trigger plant flowers, a fused stigma/style swings around like a teensy botanical fist and thumps the unsuspecting invertebrate on the rear, thus disseminating the plant's pollen.  Trigger plants also have a sticky mucilage which is thought to allow them to trap and digest insects.  Double jeopardy!

Triggerplant! Proto-carnivore and insect basher. When insects land on trigger plant flowers, a fused stigma/style swings around like a teensy botanical fist and thumps the unsuspecting invertebrate on the rear, thus disseminating the plant’s pollen. Trigger plants also have a sticky mucilage which is thought to allow them to trap and digest insects. Double jeopardy!

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Purple death flowers!

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Epacrids!