Scarborough

Although I was quite young when I left England, I have fond memories of holidays to the seaside. I think Scarborough Beach is where I first fell in love with donkeys.

1.me & Sally the donkey

I just had to re-visit while we were in Yorkshire, although the donkeys were keeping warm elsewhere until summertime came around again. Tourists have been flocking to Scarborough since the 17th century when healing waters were discovered and a spa was opened. The beautiful sandy beaches are divided into two bays, the north bay being the more peaceful end of the resort.

2.North Bay, Scarborough

The colourful beach huts have stood the test of time, with 166 being the largest collection in the North of England. The pyramid shaped structure in the distance is the Sea Life Sanctuary. More than simply an aquarium, it is a centre for rescuing and breeding creatures of the sea as well as being an important educational facility. The huge apartment complex is The Sands, five-star luxury that certainly wasn’t there in the 1960s. Personally, I prefer the character of the gorgeous guesthouses on Queen’s Parade.

3.Queen's Parade Scarborough

A high rocky promontory separates the north and south bays

4.Headland between North & South Bay

upon which are the ruins of the 11th century Scarborough Castle. The castle has been developed into a fascinating tourist attraction but, unfortunately, at the end of October most of these national monuments are closed for the winter.

5.Scarborough Castle

We didn’t visit south bay and the old town, it is the main tourist area with a long, sandy beach, cafés, amusement arcades and theatres. Instead, we drove to Whitby and then across the Yorkshire Moors back to Harrogate.

6.Yorkshire Moors

We watched the steam train of the North Yorkshire Moors heritage railway as it carried passengers through twenty four miles of Yorkshire’s stunning scenery. Maybe next time we’ll hop on board.

7.Yorkshire Moors

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

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

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