• Kalang River Forest Alliance

Peter and Ruth in Kalang

Written by Peter and Ruth Carter - residents of Kalang.


It was natural really, and unhurried. Ruth and I had left the deeply satisfying, demanding life in Sydney and sailed for six years to and around the islands of Australasia. Now, in 2006 we paused in Coffs Harbour, awaiting news of the birth of our first grandchild, and found - Kalang.


The river, the ferns, the rainforest filled our souls. We became part of the community of Kalang, richly divergent families who were accustomed to coming together for projects, celebrations and help in crises.


For six months the lower paddock became home, with a kitchen, home tent and log wall bathroom amid the camphor trunks.


The home, seen below reflected in the duck pond, was ready enough (thanks to Rupert and Shane) for the onset of winter, and our camping days ended.


Each season is different but always there is life in abundance. Kookaburras, butcher birds, magpies and plovers took over the mown home paddock as the gentler wrens and fire tails retreated to the thicker brush.


Yellow tail black cockatoos scratch and deeply chisel the young eucalypts as they seek the finger-sized grubs deep inside. They pause, head cocked, to listen for the grub, then find it with precision chisel strokes. Often the weakened tree cracks and falls.


This tawny frogmouth was definitely not amused when he became trapped in a cylinder cage protecting a young tree.


Fledgling swallows, shown here in a mirror held above the nest beneath the roof gable, undertook their first flight after their parents and other adult swallows had tormented the kookaburras into leaving.


The blue wren babies also had fearless parental protection as they made their first flight from the grevillea nest. The initial attempts were controlled falls before they learned the trick and the family flew off.


For the microbats we installed box homes on the verandah to provide a little more peace and privacy than the Akubra hat.


There have been several satin bower bird homes over the years, showing the blue plastic decorations as well as ephemeral blue flowers. As yet we have not observed the courting dance.


This beautiful raptor, a grey goshawk, was a temporary guest in the chook enclosure where he had destroyed a dove. Ferocious until free.

No less a member of the Kalang tribe, here is a close up of Roger the Rooster.


The insect world:



Some summers, cicadas make the days almost intolerable with their noise, yet other years they are barely noticeable. This eucalypt twig shows how cicadas raise the bark to deposit a single egg under each spike. The hatched larvae drop to earth and burrow to grow on root sap for years.


Kalang has huntsman, funnel web and yes, redback spiders.


These two caterpillar species could not be more different. An explosion of growth one year, not noticed again.


There are giant ringwoods (Backhousia anisata) in the rainforest, left intact by the early loggers, set amongst bangalow palms and tree ferns, with wide fungal collars on decomposing logs. They are endemic to Kalang. Road access was lost years ago due to a land slip taking out track and bridge. The ringwoods, especially young ones, are susceptible to myrtle rust which has spread in NSW over the past ten years. The maturity and isolation of these giants may be helpful. These photos were taken on a walk in 2008, before myrtle rust was a concern.




The duck pond in the home paddock is not always full of tadpoles, but after sustained rain the frogs are many and loud. The shallows erupt in life and any moss covered sunken stick or rock has a fringe of feeding tadpoles.



When the river warms, each male catfish prepares his courting circle, about four meters in diameter, cleared of leaves and debris. He patrols and cleans endlessly (seen here inside the left edge), then protects the eggs until hatching, repelling intruders.


Seen here in daylight is the mucus string curtain of the glow worm. At night the worm, about six mm long, shines brightly in the recess, luring insects onto the curtain. There are dozens of these glow worms lining the moist gullies, and surprisingly they rapidly return after flooding.


No summer Kalang story is complete without snakes. Redbelly black snakes, as shown above are fairly common, venomous but shy.

Pythons are more common, especially in the vicinity of domestic poultry (that is where the mice are). They are non venomous and do keep the mice in check.

Pythons shed their skin, all of it as a sheath, and what a beautiful pattern it has.


We saw from the beginning of our time here, the fragility of the system. With rain came floods, revision of the riverbed, fallen trees and huge landslips along the Kalang road and fire trails. The slips happen where grading has occurred because the fragile shale has lost its stabilising topsoil.


Commercial scale logging in the steep slopes of our headwaters, as planned by Forestry Corporation, would have a disastrous impact on this very unstable country.

The way to keep the wondrous diversity of this valley is to stop logging the native forests.


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