Taronga Zoo

On a warm December day in Sydney, we caught the ferry from Circular Quay to spend the day at Taronga Zoo. Officially opened in 1916, the zoo was based on the bar-less exhibits seen at Hamburg Zoo on a visit to Germany by the Secretary of the zoo in 1908. The 69 acre site is home to over 4,000 animals of 350 species and is a wonderful place to spend a leisurely day. The first animal we encountered was the gorgeous red panda. The deep rust-red colour contrasts beautifully with cream facial markings, the large claws a bonus when it comes to tree climbing.

These two were enjoying a nap in the humid heat, dreaming of their ancestors in south-east Asia. Binturongs have been described as a bear-cat and as tree dwellers with long bushy tails, it’s hard to believe they are distantly related to meerkats. Apparently, they have a strong odour of a cross between burnt popcorn and corn chips. We didn’t get close enough to find out.

The Java Finch seemed to be enjoying the steamy atmosphere in the waterbird exhibit.

Usually a white bird, the Cattle Egret is seen on the backs of cattle making a meal of ticks and flies. The orange brown breeding plumage becomes bright red at the height of the season. Interestingly, a group of egrets is known as a “skewer”.

9.cattle egret

The smallest known ibis in Australia, the Glossy Ibis was showing the magnificent colours of breeding plumage.

10.glossy ibis

The Asian elephant breeding program has been very successful at Taronga. The keepers led them out for their daily exercise, giving them wooden “toys” to play with.

11.Asian elephants

15.Asian elephants

The Sumatran Tiger and Snow Leopard were on alert

16.Sumatran Tiger17.Snow Leopard

but there were others who had given in to the somnolent, steamy atmosphere.

18.lioness19.bear20.tapir

I have always had a soft spot for hippos and the baby pygmy hippo stole my heart.

The meerkats were entertaining, as usual, I could watch them for hours. The dark patches around their eyes act as sunglasses to lessen the glare of the desert.

Mum and baby gorilla were enjoying a nap, dad doesn’t look too impressed at being left out.

We passed the colourful cassowary and opulent ostrich

on the way to the giraffes. The meal didn’t look very appetizing but he was tall enough to catch glimpses of the Harbour Bridge.

The world’s largest lizard at 3 metres long, the Komoda Dragon was magnificent.

38.Komodo Dragon

Unfortunately, Tuka, as he was named, died two years ago at the age of 33.

There were many fascinating lizards and snakes, I won’t even attempt to identify them.

The Indian Star tortoise was heading for lunch

50.Indian star tortoise

while the eastern snake-necked turtle cooled off in the pool.

51.Eastern snake-necked turtle

The handsome countenance of the Rhinoceros Iguana reveals the sheer pleasure of basking in the sunshine.

There was a fabulous view from the Sky Safari cable car. The lush verdancy  below

contrasted perfectly with the harbour and city beyond.

58.gondola view

Watching the chimpanzees brought us back to earth. It’s not hard to believe they are our closest living relatives, sharing nearly 99% of our DNA.

Nearing the end of our visit, we stopped by the farmyard where children can get close to the animals. The piglets were adorable

and the acrobatic goat had us wondering how she would get down from there.

68.goat

We enjoyed every minute of our day at Taronga, and with a final hint from the crocodile on how to stay cool,

69.crocodile

we returned to our apartment to do just that.

70.cooling off

Swallows Welcome

There are many fabulous wineries in the Margaret River region but Swallows Welcome, the smallest winery in the region, is really something special. Tim & Pat Negus first planted grapes in 1994 and the family run business has been producing wine since 1997. The rural setting is peaceful and the artistic influences are evident on arrival.

Patricia Negus is a well known watercolour artist, her illustrations of wildflowers and birds have graced the pages of many books. Tim & Pat built the mudbrick and timber Chapel of the Flowers, a serene gallery, to exhibit 102 of Pat’s works that are featured in Wildflowers of Southwest Australia (the plastic chairs were remnants of a recent social occasion).

9.Chapel of the Flowers

The beautiful leadlight windows create a subtle ambience.

The delights continue outside,

the garden is a testament to Pat’s love of nature.

31. honeyeater

We made our way, past the magnificent magnolia tree, to her studio, filled with stunning artwork, books and cards for sale.

We wandered through a gorgeous courtyard cottage garden,

inhabited by a few frogs

and the occasional snail.

45.snail

After all the distractions, we finally reached the tasting room,

46.tasting room

adorned with more colourful leadlight.

Pat guided us through the range of superb reds,

finishing with a nip of Pensioners Port. Tim’s self-portrait graces the label

51.tasting room

and his other works decorate the walls. Pat instructed the boys on the fine art of labelling

52.Pat, Michael and Dave

and they soon had a dozen ready to ship home.

53.labelling

I could have lingered in that garden all day but lunch was beckoning. It’s a good life for some……..

54.winery dog

random rambling

There are times when I feel compelled to take a photograph, whether it is something particularly beautiful or unusual, or both. I then wonder what I am going to do with that photo, so here are some of my random snaps to share with you. In spring, we had a pair of welcome swallows determined to nest close to our front door. Each time they started a nest, we devised cunning ways to deter their efforts. We eventually ended up with a 30cm strip of black plastic stapled to the top of our walls to prevent them attaching their mud to the cedar cladding. They finally got the message they weren’t welcome.

1.angry swallow

Michael came across this gorgeous mum keeping her eggs warm, while walking with Poppy in the forest.

2.forest bird

I love kookaburras, I spied this handsome fella in the garden before leaving for work one morning, keeping an eye out for a tasty breakfast morsel.

After a brief rain shower one summer morning, behind the stream of sunlight, the plants were letting off steam.

10.morning sunlight11.morning steam

The strelitzia looked magnificent after the rain.

12.strelitzia

When we first moved to our house, there was an impressive stand of oriental poppies outside the lounge window, the same ones you can see on the header image of this blog. They then disappeared, my husband suspects I inadvertently poisoned them along with the weeds (he could be right). This year, just one bloomed and hopefully there will be more in the future.

The Japanese black pine seemed to be at impossible angles, reflected against the clear sky in the waters of our pond.

17.reflections18.reflections

I don’t know what these enormous moths had been up to but it looked like they were enjoying a well deserved rest.

The Tiger Lilies fell victim to our nocturnal furry critters last year and we had no blooms. For some reason, they left them alone this time around and they were stunning. Apparently, they are named because of their spots. Shouldn’t they be called Leopard Lilies?

Walking in the forest, I saw these cute fungi emerging from the damp humus.

26.fungi

On my way to bed one night, I sensed I wasn’t alone. It’s nice to get a friendly wave, just not from five hands at the same time!

28.spider

No spiders were harmed, he was gently relocated out of doors. Finally, after a hard day working in the garden, there is nothing better than a draught of home brewed stout.

29.stout

Cheers!

30.stout

Toby’s Inlet

The day after arriving in Perth we were whisked away to Dunsborough, our base to explore the Margaret River Region. The house of a friend of our friends was the perfect base for day trips.

1-house

The front door was guarded by the most beautiful moss covered dog I have ever seen.

The garden hugged the banks of Toby’s Inlet,

4-tobys-inlet

a small estuary that offered some magnificent morning reflections.

5-tobys-inlet6-tobys-inlet

The pontoon was a convenient perch for the gulls

7-gull

to observe the downstream drift of the pelicans

9-pelican

who were sometimes accompanied by an entourage of ducks.

The home was a wonderful, peaceful place to return to each day after our explorations.

13-garden