The Boss's Dog

Quiet creatures of the River

By The General

With nightfall coming earlier and the Easter throng absent from the river environs, The Boss is heading down more often to enjoy the coming of dusk along the river.

He calls it a "spectacle" but there’s not much happening as far as I can see.

I like action, as you know – and there’s not much action. Not the sort I like anyway.

The cockies and corellas add a bit as they wheel around and try to figure out where they want to roost – I keep an eye out for any silly enough to drop to the ground but once they see me they make a lot of fuss and alert each other.

It hurts me deeply when we wander through the bush in the mornings and I see a bunch of white feathers where a fox has managed to nail one and eat it overnight.

Foxes have a little more patience, I figure, than my good self. Queenie likes to remind me that she has hammered a few corellas in her day but she won’t tell me the secret. Though I don't think she’s quite as good as the fox, myself.

Anyway, we end up sitting down there after sunset waiting for The Boss to do something interesting like throw stick or a ball but he motions for us to sit down and watch, which is boring.

Like, he nods when a carp slaps the surface and seems to think it's interesting when the swallows swoop for insects or an Azure Kingfisher spears low off a log and grabs a shrimp in the shallows on the other side.

But what he's really doing is waiting for the sugar gliders and he reckons we need to be quiet. Real quiet.

They are pretty wary, these little critters. He knows a few bolt holes up on the tall dead trees where they hang out.

“They’re in there, General. If you just sit still for a while we might see them,” he says, frowning at me like he doesn't really expect me to.

If I sidle up to him and roll over within hand’s reach he will keeping scratching me just to keep me quiet, so that's a good thing. I learned how to do that watching Queenie, during those long waits for the ducks to come in at dusk up on the rice fields. It works.

Then I’ll hear him take a deep breath so I look up and whimper with a bit of excitement because I know something is going on - and he’ll slap my head down like I’m not the most important thing in his life and, sure enough, there’s two or three of them scampering up the tall dead redgum across the river.

The Boss says their Latin name, Petaurus breviceps, translates as "short-headed rope dancer" because of their acrobatics. They can glide around 50 metres from tree to tree, both in search of food and to avoid predators like owls, snakes and feral cats. 

They have a weak spot for nectar and sap, which is where they get their name from, but they will eat insects, lizards, birds' eggs, pollen, acacia seeds or native fruits. 

The Boss says there are plenty of them along the Goulburn but they are nocturnal so, unless you're out there right on dark and staying still, you're not going to see them. He says there are a few Squirrel Gliders around as well - they are bigger, with a bushy tail; and he once spotted a Feathertail glider too, which are tiny -  6-8cm with a tail that looks like a feather and they use it like a rudder when they fly.

A bit like I use my tail to steer when I swim! Woof.