Magnetic Island North Queensland
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A young koala's beach adventure

December 22nd 2006
A tail from outside in

Lifestyle magazine editors extol the virtues of tropical architecture in which there is a "gentle transition between inside and out". Letting the breeze flow through and feeling more at one with nature are concepts I, too, happily embrace. But for some who reside beneath our roof that idyll can hide the truth that the inside-outside thing is also a two way street.

Our bathroom is just a shower with a wash basin and mirror - a tacked on afterthought to an otherwise delightful Queenslander cottage. Its least worst feature is probably the louvered window which is mostly open and, although of no appeal in itself, affords a pleasing view to our finest frangipani. But to three frogs and as many geckos the bathroom is a gastronomic paradise. Meals are flown in daily - fresh and often stunningly presented on gossamer wings - and, the servery around the night time light, has a range unsurpassed this side of Gustav Creek.

As a voluble masticator myself, I'm not one to deny anyone else the pleasures of the munch. The frenzied thwacking of geckos taking on an oversized fruit sucking moth in their upsidedownland cafeteria is as unremarkably homely as the clink of knife and fork through a infant potato. The less frequent sound of a frog, when, after half a week of motionless meditation, it finally notices the movement of something culinary, is louder. Following a crash, bash, slap or clomp we expect to find a bottle of something bathroomy lying in the washbasin or on the floor and, occupying its former locale, will be one of the three green grinners.

But earlier this week there was a crashing, bashing, slapping and clomping emanating from that place. It was noisier than the norm so I was drawn to investigate.

It was as I had expected. The gastronomic parameters had violently shifted and, as a member of the species which continue to enjoy the pointy peak of the food chain, it was a jolt for my sense of mortality to see the helplessly kicking hindquarters of a grinner protruding from the expanded jaws of a very large tree snake. The pitiful yaps of the little amphibian, still audible from its predator's throat, lasted many hours longer in my mind.

That night I dreamed of snakes - my hands full of them. They didn't bite me and felt cool and marvellous, as snakes really are, to touch. I wondered what that meant. Should I simply embrace the pleasures of nature or be thankful I wasn't a frog?

A bathroom scene: the tree snake departs after its meal

Story & photo: George Hirst

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A tail from outside in
Mal H
December 23rd 2006
That's quite a snake- I'm sure he's been to our place too.Snakes are beautiful, mostly timid creatures, somewhat reviled and misunderstood. Sadly I still hear some people say "the only good snake is a dead snake". All snakes are protected in Australia, even the deadly ones. Any wild animal will defend itself when threatened, with whatever means it has. We humans must learn how not to act like a threat, or in the case of crocs and sharks, how not to act like food. It's that simple.
Lorraine Phillippo
December 23rd 2006
The hazards (and delights) of the tropics (and tropical style houses)! Last night we received urgent communication from a very agitated female sunbird - flew inside and wouldn't leave the house - investigation outside revealed a python investigating her nest. Derek employed his usual sophisticated snake catching method (barbeque tongs just below the head and release of snake further up back yard). To our surprise, Sunbird was happily back in the nest this morning. No rest for the Picnic Bay wildlife warrior though, as first thing this morning he was scooping a distressed kookaburra who flew too low, out of the pool, (cheered on by Kooka's partner and two mates on the fence). Partner stayed sitting on the fence for almost two hours until the waterlogged kooka felt well enough to give itself a shake and preen and fly off; In the past we've lost a frog that sometimes lived in a kitchen drawer to a tree snake (desperate attempts to liberate frog failed and snake and its lunch disappeared behind kitchen cupboards, never to be seen again .....). I hate to tell this one .... but ... I've also boiled a frog in a kettle and not discovered it until after that first cup of tea. Now have a gecko, frog, and other wildlife proof jug. Speaking of gecko's, there's nothing quite like taking a dish of (covered) leftover's out of the fridge and discovering a gecko tail on top. How did it get there? Where was the rest of the gecko? The message obviously was, don't eat the leftovers. PS: Who needs an alarm clock in this part of the world - when living in a very open house at Horseshoe Bay some years ago I was woken by a lost possum running across my head - don't know who got the biggest fright!
Patricia Oates
December 24th 2006
I moved to Townsville in 1963 with my Danish husband, Niels Pedersen. Niels worked for Hayles Magnetic Island Cruises until we moved south to Sydney in 1967. Our son, Justin, was born in T'ville in'64.

Many times Justin and I went back and forth to Magnetic Island to just be with my husband whilst he was working. We'd picnic on the dock. Sometimes we took supplies to Palm Island.

Just telling this to give background. I now live in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA.

In the early 80's I took a job in Maningrida in Arnhemland. Living conditions were simple. I lived in a two-room cottage with screened jalousied windows, a small kitchen and bathroom. Learned to leave the toilet seat up; was the only way to rescue frogs before using and flushing. Geckos kept me company every evening clicking across the ceiling in territorial battles, catching large flying cockroaches, and generally, with the frogs, keeping the insect population at a manageable number.

One night I was deeply asleep when in my dreams I was kicked by a horse in the back. Woke to really serious pain, trying to work out reality from dream. I reached over to turn on the bedside light. Scuttling across the bed was a foot long brown and orange centipede -- which had bitten me in the shoulder. Not well for a few days.

One day in the Maningrida store discovered a rather large python coiled up on the back of the cistern in the employees toilet. Managed to rescue it and release way outside of town. Raised a lovely azure kingfisher from infancy to release. Also, kept company with a young emu.

Those days are memorable and rich with experience. Plan on moving back to Australia when family duties here are complete. My heart remains there.
December 25th 2006
Glad that snake wasn't any lower George, or you might have ended up with an "R" classification!!
April 20th 2009
super,very,very intrasting thank you very much.

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