Bless all the creatures that reside at Kingbilli, where we live. From wild to rescued to rehabilitated to just plain domestic, we are not alone on this large property. Here are a few of the animals we’ve met so far:
In the Fields and Paddocks
This is the first group of animals here who gave me the time of day. I was walking along a hilly pasture and saw what looked like three sheep on the other side. I cautiously moved towards them, hoping not to scare them away. Getting closer, these sheep didn’t look like any sheep I’d seen before. They looked more like a cross between sheep dogs and goats…with goat-like horns and noses, and a veritable mop of crimped hair that covers everything including their eyes just like a sheep dog.
One of them trundled up to me to check me out, and before I knew it was surrounded by these lovelies, all looking for cuddles and scrubs. When I got up to continue on my walk, I had three companions bouncing along side me for the rest of my journey.
Although llamas are supposed to be gentle and friendly, I have found them to be more stand-offish than anything else. Similar to cats, llamas will come to you when they’re good and ready, and rarely if you are particularly enthusiastic about it.
Be that as it may, we have started to have success in meeting a few of the llamas on the property, which is quite the experience. Stay tuned for a step-by-step post on the finer points of llama etiquette.
Georgina (the brilliant animal-centric goddess who is the go-to gal for wildlife rescue within 3,000 square kilometers) kindled her love of animals with a horse rehabilitation program. In fact, she has a knack for taking horses who have tried to kill people and make them right again.
I am one of those people who have been victim of attempted murder on the part of a horse, so I tend to give her steeds a wide berth. But there is no denying their beauty and grace, as I watch them gallop, neigh, and play around their paddocks. Graffiti (pictured) is my favourite, and holds proud title of being one of the largest mares in Australia. As enormous and intimidating as she is, I am assured that she is a suck, and that her threats and aggression is all for show. She is the most endeared to me so far, always coming over to the fence to see me when I walk by.
A friend of mine in the hospitality industry calls silly tourists who do dumb things “donkeys”. So I’m pleasantly reminded of him every time I run into one of these dear creatures on the property.
Moses, the male, is kept separately from the four females (named Treasure, Precious, Dearest, and Poppet) who roam and graze throughout many areas of the property. Apparently he wasn’t supposed to be able to have any babies, but managed to have two. And judging by his daily loud and mournful brays that can be heard for miles around, he sounds like a persistent bugger.
The females are quite friendly, and more than once I’ve found myself hiking through a paddock in their company. Two of them are a little braver than the other two, but they all eventually like to have their soft heads and necks scratched.
Kimberley is a border collie, and lives the idyllic life of such a breed of dog. She is beautiful and brilliant, and incredibly eager to play fetch if you’ll oblige her. And occasionally we get to see her do what border collies do best: to herd the animals. While Georgina stands in one place and quietly issues commands and words of encouragement, Kimberley will bark and round up the likes of donkeys, llamas, goats, and even horses.
Despite the militant name, Tank the Chihuahua is hardly to be feared, especially clad in his pink studded collar and pink knitted coat (it’s not for fashion; he really does get cold). Georgina playfully cites the conversation she had with her boyfriend in which he threatened not to come home if she got a Chihuahua; and of course as soon as he had business to take care of out of town for a few days, she got one.
I think he likes Tank a little better now, but we are told that cuddle-sessions are rare.
Wild and Rescued/Rehabilitated
Kangaroos and Wallabies
It wouldn’t be Australia if there weren’t a few kangaroos and wallabies hopping around. Bracken the rescued kangaroo is one of the more gregarious ones, as he occasionally hops around in search of some cuddles. He was raised as a house pet (sadly) with lots of cuddles from his human owners. So when he reached an adolescent age, as all adolescent creatures try to do, he got a little horny. And kangaroos and humans just don’t mix well. So his owners had to let him go, and he came to Kingbilli to be rehabilitated and introduced to the wild (which is especially tough for Bracken, since he thinks he’s human). He is coming along nicely, and even keeps a watchful eye over the baby kangaroos on the property who have been rescued.
But we are also careful to keep our shoes and other personal effects inside; when Bracken comes to visit us, he tends to make love to anything; bicycles, chairs, shoes, gloves…anything. It’s a messy affair.
Another kangaroo that lives in the lap (or pouch) of luxury is Opal, who currently lives in a custom made pouch which hangs in the kitchen. Opal is seven months old, and was orphaned when her mum was hit by a car and she was in the pouch (as is the way many animals at Kingbilli are rescued). Her foot was smashed to bits and her ability to fully heal is questionable. But she forges on, happy to be in the middle of it all in the Beach family kitchen.
Despite their unattractive name, wombats are quite cute, resembling large teddy bears. There are a number of both wild and rehabilitated ones running around the property, and we usually see them when driving along the driveway at night.
One wombat in particular named Leroy has a home quite close to our cottage, so we hope to become friends with him or others of his kind soon.
Kingbilli sees four types of possum and three types of gliders, so these marsupials have us surrounded. And Kingbilli is in the process of developing a possum sanctuary, full of re-vegetated plants and trees that are attractive to possums, so that many more wild possums and gliders can call this patch of paradise “home”.
We haven’t met him yet, but Fang is one such possum who will occasionally interact with humans at Kingbilli, and he lives right next to our cottage. We’ve been told to keep an ear out for him knocking on the door at night – he literally opens and slams shut the screen door to get our attention. Of course he is looking for food, and he will accept an apple piece or carrot if he has to, but he’s really after a slice of bread with jam. It takes all kinds…
Although one apparently lives immediately behind our cottage, we have yet to see any echidnas. We are told that they resemble hedgehogs with a long snout. There are many of these marsupials around, but as with so many nocturnal wild creatures, they remain elusive if you aren’t prepared to sit quietly at night outside and wait for the show to begin. And it’s still a touch too cold to sit comfortably (or at all) at night without shivering uncontrollably and scaring the animals away anyway. So we’ll wait for spring on that one!
I still remember my stuffed platypus that kept me company for many a night as a child. So there is a particularly soft spot in my heart for these dear creatures. They’re tough to spot though, but when the weather warms up a bit, I’ll be staging a quiet stakeout at dusk along the creek in search of them paddling from pool to pool.
Although there aren’t many, there are indeed koalas around Kingbilli, often coming onto the property as rescued orphans or sick animals. Georgina likens them to grumpy old men, who just want their pudding and to be left alone. So although we all have pictures in our heads of cuddling cute koalas, the koalas themselves aren’t always so keen on the cuddling part, and if they’re in a bad mood can really do some damage.
However even as Georgina shares tales of snobbish or mean koalas who have even come nose to nose with her with an aim to cause pain, she smiles and says she loves their strong personalities, as do most people who spend much time with koalas.
Birds, Birds, and More Birds
There is no end to the charming birdsong (coming from the 140 species of birds, ducks, geese, swans, etc on the property) that is our Kingbilli soundtrack from dawn to dusk. The only birds whose song lacks charm in my mind is the cockatoo, who screams incredibly loudly in an eerily prehistoric manner. You’d never know that these gorgeous and commonly personable pets back home can create such a ruckus. But get a flock of them making a stink, and everybody for miles around will know about it.
We are particularly fond of the family of King Parrots who live outside our front door. In fact, most Australian birdlife amazes me for its gorgeous colours and sizes; it is one of the more pronounced differences between Australia and Canada for me, silly and insignificant as it may seem.
And my grand-finale favourite bird of Australia (and quickly becoming one of my all-time favourite animals) is the Kookaburra. Sounding more like a monkey than a bird, its cackle is unmistakable as it calls out its territory each morning and evening. Get a gaggle of them cackling and the hills really do come alive.