On doggies and owls in 2021

by | Jan 9, 2022 | owls, science communication, Wombat Forest, writing | 4 comments

With the coronavirus pandemic entering Year Three, it is getting harder to tell what year it is, or indeed what has actually happened! To round off 2021 and get ready for the year ahead I wanted to recap some highlights. It was a big year!

First of all anyone who knows me well knows that the BIGGEST event of 2021 was the peaceful death of our beloved King Charles cavalier Leela. Our gorgeous cavvie reached the grand old age of fifteen and a half – with “mummy” on tenterhooks riding what I call the old dog rollercoaster as the role slipped from companion to nurse for about three years. By the end she was heavily medicated on three different heart meds, two or three arthritis meds, on a special kidney disease diet and required lifting in and out of the car, and ramps to get about the house. Leela also smelled very very bad! It is hard to remember now but I bought baby sheets from the op shops to lay under her on our bed and couches – I called them stink blankets and they were great for absorbing her smells and stenchy fluids! Despite all this she ate and drank and poo’d like an absolute champ – and emanated this magical joy and good cheer ALL OF THE TIME!

Leela stopped eating the last weekend of August and on the Monday we took her to see Emma and Lou from Hepburn Veterinary Clinic – Leela loved going to the vets so much her whole life ( friends! treats!) that a final trip seemed in order. 🙂 We are so incredibly grateful Leela got to experience nearly 5 years as an only dog without Mr Puff the fluffy white cloud aka dominating terrier haha. She was soo gentle with all wildlife, my budgies and other birds, and with kids. She loved little girls the most. I hope she is being patted by a bunch of sweet little girls over the rainbow bridge!

Leela in 2018 next to some Showy Podolepis – at Tipperary Springs

Owls Owls Owls!

While I was still working at Birdlife Australia, I started a monthly radio segment on ABC Mornings with Gavin McGrath. These short casual chats were great fun as we discussed all things bird and I answered folk’s questions. Gav isn’t a birder, and some of his questions, and the callers’ questions were fresh and interesting and actually bloody hard! For example – why are some cockatoos white and other black?? I think I riffed a bit on evolutionary relationships between the different cockatoo genera stretching back some 50 million years…

Thanks to this radio segment – and the awesomeness of my mate and former editor of Cosmos Andrew Masterson, I ended up doing some contract comms with Science In Public for National Science Week. I wrote web copy for the Hoot Detective project website, based on the great work by the nocturnal bird scientists at Birdlife Australia, and I did a series of radio interviews. So great!

And THEN lovely Tanya Ha from Science in Public called to see if I was up for a long form, personal style interview on the ABC podcast “Conversations”. I had carefully saved the show in the podcasts section of my phone years ago – and then never had a listen! Anyway I was delighted – and I had three long lovely chats with Alice the producer as we prepped for the actual interview.

I was terrified! Even though I enjoyed live radio, and public speaking – this felt different as the Conversation was to be recorded forever! I was also feeling like maybe I wasn’t mentally up to the task as I was still grieving super-hard for Leela, and also reeling from my beloved mum’s cancer diagnosis and need for surgery (Note: mum is all good now- hooray!) But I am so glad I pushed on through as it was a wonderful experience!

As a child, Tanya Loos was captivated by the narrative of an earth pulsing with living beings.

By the age of nine, armed with her binoculars, Tanya was recording field notes and tracking the wildlife at her favourite sit spots, out in nature.
She became a field naturalist, fascinated by the unique character of each different environment she came across.
When she turned 35, Tanya decided to study ornithology, to add to her field naturalist toolkit.
For the past 19 years she’s followed the local Powerful Owl population in Wombat Forest in Victoria. For Tanya, the majesty of these top predators represents the fragility of the beloved environment she shares with them.
from the blurb under the interview – see here if you missed it! : ) )

In this cute photo I am smiling at my Dad, who played a huge role in my life – as geologist, science buff, and fellow nature lover. Alice the producer was fascinated by the fact that Dad worked in mining and exploration for mining companies like BP, and asked if this was ever a source of conflict between us? We simply never mentioned it – even when I was a teenager and reading lots of George Orwell and listening to Dead Kennedys. I guess Dad’s best friend Hans was a high up exec for Monsanto so maybe BP seemed the lesser of two evils?? haha!  Dad would have loved the interview, I know this…

The conversation was very much about joy and connection to nature, and sharing this joy… and after it was recorded I realised I had only told one part of the story – when one feels vast amounts of love and connection, the corollary is grief, and loss when that which you love suffers, or is taken away. Most of my life I feel like I have been grieving one way or another –  for the death of dad when he was only 48 ( my age now!!), for my doggies, and ever present is a great sadness and grief that humans ( especially modern humans) maim and desecrate and needlessly kill other living beings and non-living beings such as rivers and mountains.

I wrote a long essay about eco-grief and heartbreak- ecosystem collapse, climate breakdown, anti-science sentiment – and looking at it now – it’s not bad! I might polish it up for a bit of light reading for you all later in the year.
A massive thanks to everyone who contacted me after listening to the Conversations interview – your feedback was just beautiful and also welcome to my new readers!!!! Many of whom have subsequently bought copies of my book Daylesford Nature Diary : )

Work changes

Lily Langham, Gib Wettenhall and moi

This year I very much enjoyed working at Seeding Victoria – a not-for-profit community organisation focused upon the collection, storage and distribution of native seed for revegetation projects. My part-time role was to write a business plan for the organisation, and to update and improve their comms. One of the highlights of this role was going out collecting eucalyptus seeds with Dan and the rest of the team after the hideous storm mid-year that decimated parts of the Wombat Forest. It felt so positive – like we were rescuing babies! Precious genetic material from the Wettenhalls’ Mollonghip forest, and even from some of the old roadside manna gums here in Porcupine Ridge.

By end of November 2021 I knew I needed to find some more work – and in a pretty snazzy and super quick move I am now on the board of Seeding Victoria with a great bunch of people, the wonderful Elle Fox is covering my comms role at Seeding Vic – and I have taken on some work with the National Malleefowl Recovery Team! There are some other opportunities on the horizon so hopefully by mid-February  my paid work will be secure so I can once again focus on doing lots of writing.

Monthly nature writing – back at it!
One of my happiest achievements as a naturalist and nature writer was 9 years of monthly nature stories for the Hepburn Advocate. I loved writing these! And they formed the basis of my book Daylesford Nature Diary. I loved how the printed newspaper reached everyone locally – I was stopped at servo and supermarket by townspeople commenting on “their” blue wrens or their surprise that baby echidnas might be sheltering in burn piles. I wrote for the Local for a while but the geese debacle and the way biodiversity issues were represented in that publication didn’t sit so well with me. So I was delighted when Gib Wettenhall (thanks Gib!) introduced me to Tim Bach and I am now a monthly columnist for the Wombat Post! Unfortunately it is 100% online but it is a great local publication and I am happy to be writing about local nature happenings again. In December it was “pobblebonks are a’bonking again” with some wonderful pics and footage by Margaret Hodge.
I am going to end this rather long post with a photo of  my newest work mate – a beautiful Malleefowl! This lovely image of a Malleefowl walking across a sandy trail was captured by my friend Michael Gooch – presently National Malleefowl Recovery Team Coordinator. Michael is also one half of the wonderful Explore the Mallee team – with Louise Nicholas. Look at those wonderful feet! Like Bush Turkeys, Malleefowl are mound builders – they lay their eggs in mounds of material… in the mallee, this material is sand! More on Malleefowl soon…..

Malleefowl – I have actually seen this individual with my own eyes when I last stayed with Michael and Louise : )


  1. Beverley Phillips

    So good to read and hear more of your journey. Like many I can only empathise re Leela as I still mourn my beautiful Kelpie now dead 2 years, but also in sync with living in a wild environment. Your story also touched as I so enjoyed doing the course at the Seed bank with Dan and the others (send a hello, but not sure they will recall me out of the mob), and still collect for various reasons at home in Durdidwarrah (so if ever you want a Brisbane Ranges day please be in touch). The storms both then, and just the past week have rather made seed collecting of smaller delicates almost impossible. In these difficult times, how fortunate we are to have such wonderful environments to be nourished through, but how easily we can contribute to their destruction. Just a note to encourage and appreciate receiving your news.

    • Tanya

      Thank you so much for your kind comments Beverley! My condolences for your kelpie – what wonderful companions we have been blessed with. Hmm I might take you up on a brisbane ranges outing later in winter or early spring! I don’t know the area well at all. Always better through the eyes of a local! I will definitely say hi to Dan for you : ) best wishes! Tanya

  2. Sharon

    Busy year babe!! You’re doing amazing things and educating us all through passion and laughter, the best medicine.

    • Tanya

      Oh that’s a lovely thing to say! Thanks my dear friend! xox