11 February 2013

Because of working on Gillian’s gold prospecting Uncle, William Furley, I have been reading a lot about Australia, particularly our travel diaries of 1992 when we visited Tasmania. Of all the island continent’s wonderful natural history sites my favourite is ‘Tassie’.
It was a long drive to Langoona, further than the back of beyond, into the Leven Valley. The camp was pleasantly set in a big curve of the river. The cabins were very attractive and comfortable with a huge quantity of wood for the open fireplace.
The river was high after rain. I spent some time casting over a huge run without a touch. After steak for supper I was washing up as the light was going when suddenly I saw the first of our visitors: a pademelon. Soon they were feeding in front of the house. As I was watched, leaning on the hitching rail outside the chalet, Gillian called softly and pointed. There was a Spotted Tailed Quoll calmly sniffing my boots.
This delightful, endangered marsupial, sometimes called a Tasmanian Tiger Cat, is about the size of an African Genet with a long bushy tail and white spots. A Common Brush-tailed Possum came to sit on the hitching rail and feed off mash supplied by our host. It was so busy eating that I was able to stroke its fur.
Later I fell asleep in front of a roaring fire after a marvellous day of natural history.
Next day I rose early to go fishing; but again nothing. After breakfast I tried again and caught two half-pound brown trout on a Dunkeld. Then I walked with Gillian through tree-ferns to see a very beautiful male Scarlet Robin..
I scrounged some spuds and cooked a splendid supper, though the trout could have been bigger. As advised by Len, our host, I left the fish guts on the doorstep. Len asked if we would like to look for platypus though, he warned, that with river so high we were unlikely to find them.
We went to the big pool where I fished and almost at once Len spotted two. It took us ages to see them: they lie so low in the water that all one sees is movement as they swim upstream. Then the little animal dives, lifting a beaver-like tail, as whales do when they sound. We had good views of the only wild platypus we are ever likely to see. As we watched a rare White Goshawk flew over us.
I settled by the fire to write up my diary. Suddenly there was a squawk outside as the Possum shot up the wall: there, on the doorstep, was a Tasmanian Devil eating the fishy offering I had left hoping it might tempt him.
This strange wild marsupial ate his supper a few feet from me separated by the glass of the window. It was an old battered creature with a scarred ugly face and a missing ear.
There cannot be many places where one can see Goshawk, Quoll, Pademelon, Platypus and Tasmanian Devil in the same evening.

Robin Hull


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