Lillico Beach

There is one of those, “I must go there one day” places along the Bass Highway between Ulverstone and Devonport. I am ashamed to say it took me eight years in Tasmania before I pulled off the highway to explore Lillico Beach Conservation Area. The reserve is home to a colony of the world’s smallest penguins, aptly named the Little Penguin or Fairy Penguin. I entered the walkway and immediately spotted little concrete shelters scattered through the vegetation.

1.penguin burrow2.penguin burrow

The artificial burrows are used when there is a lack of natural burrow habitat and offer protection from predators such as feral cats.

3.penguin burrows

I wandered along the viewing platform, distracted by the spectacular panorama of Bass Strait at low tide.

4.looking west5.looking north6.looking east

The burrow designs are quite innovative and seem perfectly sized for a penguin who is only 30cm high and weighs around one kilogram.

7.penguin burrow

This important wildlife corridor hugs the coast for 2.5kms,

8.Bass Strait

the shingle beach and rock pools make for stunning scenery.

9.on the beach

If I were living at Lillico Beach, this would be my choice of home,

10.penguin burrow

if only for the location.

11.penguin burrow

There were no penguins to be seen on this day, they were all out fishing in the beautiful blue ocean. We will visit one summer evening to watch them waddling back to their burrows. I won’t wait another eight years.

midwinter morning

Winter is well and truly upon us. After a very mild autumn, we are having one of the coldest winters in Tasmania I can remember. Maybe it’s just that the bones are getting older? One morning last week, I awoke early and, after turning off the alarm on my phone, I checked the weather forecast. Currently 1ºC, feels like -3ºC. Fortunately, it was considerably warmer inside as the wood fire was still burning. Just before I left for work, I became aware of the subtle hues in the sky, promising a spectacular sunrise.

1.pre sunrise2.pre sunrise

Making my way to the garage, I noticed the bird bath had frozen. The nocturnal creatures had left their calling cards as usual.

3.birdbath

The frost was beautiful

4.frosty garden

and crisp underfoot as Michael and Poppy headed off for their morning walk.

7.frosty paddock

Driving along the dirt road toward the bitumen, this vision had me reaching for my camera.

8.almost sunrise

As I drove, I kept watch from every angle, intermittently testing the brakes as I stopped to capture the spectacle.

9.almost sunrise

The newly ploughed chocolate paddock had a delicious topping of vanilla ice.

10.chocolate field

Travelling north, the fire in the east simmered,

11.sky on fire

the roofline silhouettes a captivating contrast.

12.silhouette

In the valley, the frost lingered

13.rolling frost

before the road climbed again. One last glimpse of nature’s wonder.

14.sunrise at last

The moon was still high in the sky over the suburbs of Burnie.

15.moon over Burnie

I really had to get to work.

mellow monotreme

We rarely see echidnas in the wild and were very excited when, travelling back from lunch at a friend’s house, we spotted one foraging in the grass.

1.echidna

Echidnas are fascinating creatures. Along with the platypus, they belong to the order of monotremes, the only living mammals that lay eggs. Evolving between 20 and 50 million years ago, their ancestors were aquatic before echidnas adapted to life on land.

2.echidna

The cream coloured spines, around 50mm in length, are actually modified hairs. The fur between the spines provides insulation and ranges in colour from honey to dark reddish-brown and even black.

3.echidna

Long-beaked echidnas are only found in New Guinea, we have the short-beaked variety here in Australia. The Tasmanian ones are larger than those on the mainland and their fur is thicker and longer, concealing most of the spines.

4.echidna

Their diet is mainly ants and termites but the echidna is also partial to grubs, larvae and worms.

5.echidna

The pointy snout is an amazing appendage. Not only can it sense the smell of its prey, it detects the electrical impulses from the insect’s bodies. Then, the long, sharp claws on strong forepaws are used to dig into the soil or open up ant’s nests, followed by the devoration of a meal with a sticky, 15cm tongue. They have no teeth, but grind their tasty morsels with horny pads in their mouths and on the back of their tongues.

6.echidna

Breeding season is between June and September. A single egg is laid into the backward facing pouch where it hatches after 10 days. Echidnas don’t have nipples, they secrete milk through two patches on the skin from which the young suckle. Around 3 months of age, the puggle (such a cute name for the baby echidna) leaves the pouch or rather, mother ejects it due to the growth of the spines. Mum leaves the puggle while she goes off to forage and returns every 5 days to suckle it, until it is weaned at 6 months of age. She then leaves it to fend for itself, never to return.

7.echidna

Echidnas do have natural predators, despite their spines, such as eagles and Tasmanian Devils. They were a favourite food of the early settlers and Aboriginal people. Fortunately, even though they are not considered endangered, they are now protected by law. After posing for a few photos, we left him (or her) to enjoy afternoon tea.

8.echidna

The Old Coast Road

After a bitterly cold, overcast weekend recently, we were greeted on Monday by a perfect autumn day. I don’t work on Mondays and so, we decided to drive along the old coast road to Ulverstone for lunch. With the top down, Cooper took us on a magnificent journey, reminding us of the natural beauty we have so close to home. We turned off the highway at Sulphur Creek, apparently named because of the perceived smell of sulphur in the area when first explored by Europeans.

1.Sulphur Creek

Sulphur is associated with volcanic activity, which has determined the landscape of northwest Tasmania. There is no longer evidence of the offending aroma, just a stunning, sandy beach.

2.Sulphur Creek3.Cooper at Sulphur Creek

There used to be a fabulous restaurant at Preservation Bay, hopefully one day there will be another to make the most of this wonderful vista.

4.Preservation Bay5.Cooper at Preservation Bay

Soon, we were in the gorgeous town of Penguin.

6.Penguin7.Penguin8.Ocean Road

As we travelled the narrow, winding road, I was boggled by the reflections of the sun on the glassy water.

9.Ocean Road10.Ocean Road11.Ocean Road12.Ocean Road13.Ocean Road

There is a house along this road that fills me with more than a little envy.

14.house15.house

The Three Sisters are a group of three small islands (the third is almost hidden behind the headland at the right of the pic)

16.Three Sisters17.2 of the 3 sisters

and, along with Goat Island, they form the 37 hectare Three Sisters – Goat Island Nature Reserve.

18.Goat Island

Goat Island is a granite island and houses a breeding colony of little penguins.

19.Goat Island

It can be walked to at low tide, a lovely spot for a picnic.

20.Goat Island

As we reached Ulverstone,

21.Ulverstone

we spied Pedro’s across the river.

22.Pedro's23.Pedro's

The restaurant has a lovely, relaxed ambience

24.Pedro's

and we were shown to a table on the enclosed balcony, warmed by the autumn sun.

28.Pedro's

The Derwent Estate Pinot Gris came highly recommended. A delicious shade of pink, I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

29.pinot gris

The salt & pepper calamari and crumbed scallops were exquisite, the real flavor of fresh seafood.

Outside, the gulls were enjoying a bathe in the shallows of the river’s edge, soon the tide would be high and their chance would be missed.

33.gulls

The Leven River glistened

34.Leven River

as we left Pedro’s

35.Pedro's

and retraced our journey.

36.old ocean road37.old ocean road

Table Cape emerged in the distance

38.Table Cape

before disappearing behind the next headland.

39.old ocean road

We were surprised to see the masts of a tall ship in the bay, not a common sight in these waters. I read the next day, poor weather conditions had forced the UK ship, Tenacious, to stop in Burnie for a couple of days on its way from Melbourne to New Zealand. Tenacious is the world’s largest operative wooden hulled tall ship and offers opportunities for people with a disability to experience a sailing voyage.

40.Tenacious

What a marvelous way to end our day.