Table Top Wargaming in the 1970s

Fifty years ago when this world was very young, your correspondent’s hobby was War Gaming.

I don’t mean shootups on a screen at implausible digitalised foes. There were no screens then; we’re talking about the dark ages here, the 1970s. No, this War Gaming was played out with regiments of miniature figurines on a table covered in green paint or blaze cloth and set up with ‘terrain’ cobbled together from home made paper mache hills and railway-model trees and buildings.

A miniture figurine  regiment of Scots Guards advances. Brits to the left of them, cavalry to the right
Highlanders advance

These days there are  entire shops in shopping centres that sell excellent figurines. These are mostly figures of imaginary hordes loosely modelled on Tolkein’s orcs and various Star-Wars and other villains. But many wargamers still stick to the traditional idea of attempting to refight historic campaigns with forces more or less representing those of the (human) past.

Prussian infantry advances. Metal figurines.
Prussians advance according to plan

All War Gamers, whether they prefer Orcs or Elves, Persians or Prussians, Incas or Ghurkas, take pride in their labour of sourcing (recruiting), painting and marshalling their formations. The range of figurines available today, metal and plastic, covers every concievable era- and Middle Earth and several alternative universes. But in the aforementioned dawn of time when I were a lad, none of this was so.

My first ‘troops’ were cardboard ‘flats’; soldiers that I carefully copied from books, re-scaled, drew, and patiently cut out. My focus and patience on this activity amazed my parents because I was utterly clumsy at everything else. I was also hopeless at drawing anything else. Mum worked out where her best nail scissors had got to and retrieved them, a set-back which slowed my recruitment drive.

Maori, French Foreign Legion, Zouaves, French African Auxillaries
Maori, French Foreign Legion, Zouaves, French African Auxillaries

Then I chanced upon a packet of metal figures, some of which you see in these photos*. They represented forces from the 19th Century: British, Highlanders, Maori, Zouaves, Italians, Foreign Legion, Prussians and Austrians. Beautifully moulded and painted, they were sold in groups of five. They were expensive! I sank all my earnings from lawn mowing into this collection, recruiting soldiers five at a time until I had something of a force to manoeuvre. At that time the floor was my battleground and the furniture formed the terrain.

Household Cavalry moves out as the infantry hold the line
Household Cavalry moves out as Brits hold the line

In my teens, I discovered the plastic figures put out by ‘Airfix’. These were far cheaper and came in twenties. Box by box I recruited and handpainted my Romans, Ancient Britons, medievals, American Civil War troops and my ‘moderns’. (I am one of the few table top wargamers to have not bothered with the Napoleonic era.) Eventually, I could field mighty armies of a sort with up to 200 figures a side.

But in the early days, the only figurines I had were these few, hard-earned, difficult-to-source metal figures shown in the photos. Though I never used them after the age of 13, I have carried them about ever since from flat to flat, house to house. Today they are helping to show off to you my well preserved very first book of wargaming rules,

Wargaming requires rules, preferably a playable set with which contenders can set up their forces, clash, and come to a conclusion within two or three hours, all the while bickering away amiably. You need agreement on how to deal with movement, missile discharges, melees, morale, and casualties. Clubs of wargamers formed in the sixties especially in England. They created makeshift sets of rules, all different. This was no use to me in Australia nor to any other gamer, and there turned out to be many table top wargamers also in the USA.

Published 1969, bought by me in 1971 and still looking good. Defended here by Brits, Highlanders and Household Cavalry
Published 1969, bought by me in 1971 and still looking good. Defended here by Brits, Highlanders and Household Cavalry

Terence Wise’s 170 page heavily illustrated “Introduction to Battle Gaming” book changed this. His simple set of suggestions was indeed highly playable. With this book in hand, I was able to form a group of my own among my school mates. One of us focused on Napoleonics, one on Moderns, and two of us on other eras. Between us we enjoyed many hours of table top play along with the requisite amiable bickering.  But eventually we wanted something more challenging. I then discovered the Rules that for a long time dominated the small but growing wargaming people -those that were by published by the Wargames Research Group. I put Mr Wise’s book away. But clearly I have treasured it.  His was the publication that properly began the hobby for me, and for many others.

Troops: Prussians in grey, then clockwise,  Scots, some Brits, Italians along the top flanked by Zouaves, then Austrian Cavalr
Troops: Prussians in grey, then clockwise,  Scots, some Brits, Italians along the top flanked by Zouaves, then Austrian Cavalry

Where to Find Introduction to Battle Gaming by Terence Wise, published 1969 by Model and Alliled Publications Ltd, Argus Press Ltd: When I searched the Net to see where you might find this books, I was surprised to discover that other wargamers of the 1970’s vintage must still be about because several copies of this revered tome still exist, mainly through There is also an updated version, apparently.

*I have forgotten the brand name of these soldiers and could perhaps make a miniature fortune on EBay if only I could remember it.

**Because the range even of the plastic figures was then limited, I would alter figures to resemble other troops eg by adding tiny spears and shields to certain Medievals to create Persians. I am amazed now that I ever did anything so finicky. All gamers then did such things. We researched our eras, and we were all possibly a bit barmy. They were good days. Good days.

AbeBooks. Thousands of booksellers - millions of books.

You are at Baffled Bear Books. Here writes Mark, guardian of Mawson Bear. Mawson is a Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears.  He is the writer bear of It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In . Mawson has many qualitites but he is not a drop bear.

Asimov’s Foundation: revisited

Long ago, in the dawn of galactic history, way back in the 1970s, on the crust of a planet orbiting an insignificant star on the fringe of the star charts, a small bipedal creature hunched over well thumbed copies of secret lore printed on cheap paper and marvelled at the immensity of space and time.

From one end of the galaxy to another there was a crumbling Empire; and only Hari Seldon’s successors could save its billions of people from 30,000 years of barbarism. Maybe other kids like me felt like misfits as we fumbled at games and got relegated out of teams to merely keep scores on sports days. But we were involved in the sweep of galactic history. We also knew the Laws of Robotics by heart. We read Asimov.

I spent the earnings of my paper rounds (remember those?) on Asimov’s books. When I had enough cash (remember cash?) I made my pilgrimage to the sacred local bookshop. I’d approach the cash register already reading the first page and cycle home to read late into the night, straining my eyes at the tiny print and firing up ganglion after ganglion in my brain. Weeks would have to then pass before I could afford the next title, so what did I do? I read the titles I already had over and over again.

Asimov’s Foundation series appealed to me because they they were NOT space operas in which brawny jocks blew up green aliens and rescued females clad in scraps of cloth and leather. There are certainly wars in the story but they take place on the fringes. All the action is comprised of talk: talk and thought; people using their brains to solve vast problems of strategy, politics and the sweep of history. (‘I am .. not a clef-chinned, barrel-chested hero of a subetheric trimension thriller’. General Bel Rios to Brodig. Foundation and Empire.). To a teenager who was regularly pummelled by cricket balls because he never worked out how to catch them, this was great reading.

Eons passed. Propelled by my interest in Table Top Wargames, I read much history, and realised that Asimov’s ‘pyscho-history’ was well based on the events on good old brutal Earth. The decay of his Galactic Empire is loosely modelled on the fall of Rome. General Bel Riose, who retakes parts of the old Empire but falls foul of a suspicious Emperor is obviously inspired by Flavius Belisarius who angered Emperor Justinian of Byztantium by being too successful. The “Traders” and their Association recalled to my mind the early aggressive European traders such as the Portuguese and, later, the powerful East India Company. There are many points of inspiration that I eventually spotted -and I imagine fellow Asimovians did too.

More eons passed – let’s call them ‘human decades’. There I was the other day browsing in the sacred local library, repository of the wisdom of the ages (and an astonishing number of Harry Potter books) when Lo! I chanced upon all three Foundation titles.

“Read us, Mark”, they called in that quieter-than-thought but unmissable voice that books transmit when they spot their likely readers (You all read a lot; you know the voice I mean.) “You’ve only read us a dozen times before. Take us home. You don’t even need to do a paper run in the rain any more. Borrow us. We’re free from your local library.” Readers, your Correspondent borrowed them.

What an intriguing return journey this is. It’s like returning to the town where you grew up but being now able to see it differently. Look, there on the second page are the ‘calculator pads’ that Asimov imagined in the 1940’s*. I thought it would be wonderful to have something like that – and now I do. I call it a ‘smart phone’. And there is the reference to the planetary power source that I did not understand at all in the 1970s but now know to mean thermal power. And look, there is the basis of all sci-fi travel, beloved by novelists and movie makers, without which their stories would be impossible even as improbable fiction – the notion of ‘Hyper Jumps’.

With the magic of hindsight, I can see too how Asimov was still stuck in the 1940s and 1950s despite the far reach of his imagination. For one thing, the characters read newspapers. Another oddity, is that although Asimov crafted his Robot novels on the idea of a ‘positronic brain’, there is little computerisation in the Foundation series – although, to be fair, he was imagining a decaying civilisation in which nothing new got invented. And there is the omission worthy of note even to a teenage boy in the 1970s: there are few women; and such who do appear, like Batya in Foundation and Empire, are introduced with cringeworthy emphasis on their looks. Tobacco smoking remains prominent and the men light up cigars at any excuse. Smoking inside space ships! The thought chokes me up.

*These stories by Isaac Asimov were first published in magazine form by Street & Street Publications and the first paperback editions in 1952 by Gnome Press. The 2016 edition by HarperVoyager is the one which I photographed above (with my calculator-pad-smart-phone.)

Where to find the Foundation series: At BookDepository (free shipping) and Book Shop Org (supporting local bookshops). Or visit the sci fi section of your revered local bookshop, repository of the wisdom of the ages and of books that will call to you from the shelves, “Take us home, take us home.”

You are at Mark’s blog called Baffled Bear Books. Mark is a dark coffee tragic and bibliophile as well as the Guardian and blundering typist for Mawson Bear, Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears.

Where to find Mawson’s Guardian, besides ZuckerBook:

Dear Friends. The recent FaceBlock fiasco in Australia reminds us that to rely on any one platform/service/outlet run by moguls/barons/billionaires is unwise. We have not put all our bears in one basket, however, and you can find Me, Mark, and Mawson (the furry one) all over this bright world including, of course, right here at WordPress.

Mawson’s own Web Den on WordPress called .

Our publisher is Odyssey Books, where you can find beautiful pictorial books, poetry, fantasy epics, memoirs, and great fiction.

Amazon in all regions: This link here is to Amazon dot com.

Mawson on Instagram: @MawsonBear

Mawson on Twitter: See @MawsonBear

Mawson’s Guardian, Mark, on Twitter: See @Mawsonsguardian

Mawson’s Guardian at Good Reads

Mawson’s Guardian at Pinterest.

OR use a Search Engine eg DuckDuckGo (or Google if you must) to look for ‘Mawson Bear‘ and you will find four pages of links (beams proudly.)

Mawson Bear is the top hit on search engines for himself.
We looked for Mawson Bear, Mawson, and we found you!

You can see all about Mawson’s books over on GoodReads too.

It's a Bright World to Feel Lost In It’s a Bright World to Feel Lost In
reviews: 26
ratings: 34 (avg rating 4.32)
She Ran Away From Love She Ran Away From Love
reviews: 27
ratings: 33 (avg rating 4.30)
Dreamy Days and Random Naps Dreamy Days and Random Naps
reviews: 23
ratings: 26 (avg rating 4.38)

By the way, when I tried to publish the post above on my FB page during the fiasco, it was blocked. It was considered as ‘news or news content from a news provider’. So there you have it: Mawson is NEWS.

Your host, Mark, is Mawson Bear’s Guardian, photographer, editor, blundering typist, chocolates fetcher and cushions re-arranger. Baffled Bear Books ABN: 4787910119.

Going Postal about Book Postage?

The Problem: You look for a book on a book retail website. You send your order to the “Shopping Cart”. But what’s this? A delivery charge rises up on your screen like monster looming over the horizon. And the size of the thing!

‘Bother!’ You say. (You might say other words entirely and at some length, but this is a bear-friendly web-den.) And you change your mind about buying that book in print because the delivery cost has trampled over all your hopes. Is there another way? Why, yes. Read on.

Our Post Bear, Scottie, goes postal over particular postage problems of his own

BOOK SHOPS. Beating dinosaur sized postal costs Tip One: Visit your friendly local book shop. The book might be in stock, and if not the staff can order it in for you. This is good for everyone: you get your book, the book shop people take note that readers want this book and they consider getting more in, they stay in business, and in turn that means you can return there to book-bathe whenever you want to.

(‘Book-bathe’? you ask. Well, you’ve heard of how nature-bathing is good for the soul? So is book-bathing. You simply wander around places with lots of books and you start to feel better right away. That is also why staff in a bookshop are friendly and helpful: they get to book-bathe all day long … But I digress. Where was I? Oh yes, Tip Two.)

LIBRARIES. Beating Godzilla sized postal costs Tip Two. Visit your local library (where the staff are friendly because of all their book bathing). Reasons this is good: If you can borrow the book, you pay for neither the book nor postage; in Australia and some other countries the author still gets a fee for each borrowing (very small, but still a fee); and if book is not there, you can ask the staff to consider adding it to their stock. That is good for you, the library, the publisher and the author. Also, just by going to your library you are participating in your local community. All sorts of activities happen there. Maybe you’ll get involved in some.

SHOP AROUND. Beating road train sized postal costs Tip Three: Shop around with OTHER on-line retailers! Don’t stick with, for instance, ‘A-Far-Too-Powerful-Retailer-Named-After-A-River’ if it is gouging you more than it is serving you. There are other retailers, some listed at the end of this post. Several supply the book you want with free postage so long as it is within your particular country or region. One retailer does not charge ‘shipping’ or postage costs at all. Consider BookDepository.

Our Scotland the Brave shops shops around.

SPEND MORE. Beating fuel tanker sized postal costs Tip Four: This tip requires you to exercise restraint to a degree you did not know you had. You have to wait, yes, wait until three or four books of the books you want become available at a fair price. Then, you send them to the ‘Shopping Cart’ together. This often, but not always, gains you a waiver on the postage costs. Good things about this: you get more than one book and you save on postage. Not-good things about this: You have to spend more money than you probably meant to. And when the books do arrive, the To-Be-Read-Pile of books in your room gets so high that it topples over and buries you under hundreds of stories and your family doesn’t find your body for days because they just assumed you were reading your way through them all.

EBOOKS. Beating mammoth sized postal costs Tip Five. Go digital. Sadly, this means you will miss out on the pleasures of holding the book itself, enjoying its particular weight and texture, slipping your battered old book marks between the pages, shelving it in your favourite way (by colour, by height, by author, by subject, oh the possibilities), ostentatiously opening it up to read on the public transport, lending it to a good friend, seriously wondering about the ‘goodness’ of that friend when the book is not returned … But I digress. The thing is, there are no postage costs with them.

Your Challenge: Beat the postage monsters. You can do this, really you can.

Have a practice with getting your paws on Dreamy Days and Random Naps without postage costs. Like all of Mawson’s picture books for frazzled grownups (and by the time you have gone up against the postage monster you will be frazzled, believe me) this one is available all over the world including through:
 Amazon everywhere, at Amazon Australia (where Mawson sleepily lives), AbeBooks, Ad Libris,  Barnes and Noble (USA), Booklubben, (Recommenced by me because it supports bookshops), Casa Bahia (Brazil), Dymocks and Booktopia (Australia), Desert Cart (several regions), Fa Saxo (Denmark),Linnaeus Boekhandel, Loot (South Africa), Mas Americanas (Brazil), McNally Jackson (New York), Mighty Ape (New Zealand), Pontio Frio (Brazil), Rahva Rahmat (Estonia, yes, Estonia – this bear gets around), Walmart (USA), Google Books, WH Smith ( UK), and more.
Hopefully, at one of these you will beat the postage monsters. Otherwise, back to the library! Our publisher is Odyssey Books.

Your host, Mark, is Mawson Bear’s Guardian, photographer, editor, blundering typist, chocolates fetcher and cushions re-arranger. Baffled Bear Books ABN: 4787910119.

Your review is welcome in a writer’s neighbourhood

Each review is wanted,
Each review is good,
Your review is welcome
In a writer’s neighbourhood.

Mawson Bear’s Guardian Mark speaks: As you know, our Mawson is a Writer-Bear. His brand new book is called Dreamy Days and Random Naps. It’s about slowing down, indulging in big dreams of a grand world, and resting on cushions. Just perfect for all the tired daydream-believers who want to give themselves permission to relax for little while – or even longer. Could this be you?

I’m sure many frazzled grownups would enjoy escaping for a peaceful half hour into this cosy world – If only they knew about it. And this is the same for every writer: if only readers knew about their books!

Writers need your help. Yes, YOUR help: When you are quiet sort of writer (or a quiet writer-bear) it is not easy to be heard out there in the wide world. Only YOU, the all-powerful reader, can help. You can post your own review about a book on one of the book-retailer websites. Now don’t be alarmed by the word ‘review’. An essay is not required or wanted, rather just a few words about what you think of the book and what you liked.

How to do it: Go to your chosen book retailer. Search for the book title, or author name, or ISBN number. Here are some retailers: Amazon and Good ReadsBarnes and Noble (USA), and Booktopia (Australia) and Library Thing . (There are more listed below.)
After you find the book, scroll down to the field headed ‘Leave A Review’, or ‘Write Your Own Review’.
If you haven’t before used that book retailer you need to register to do so. This does take a couple of minutes of bother, I know, but then comes the fun.

Smiting at the Star Ratings. With all the power of your mighty keyboard, bash at the ratings. If you are an excitable sort of person, or if you love the book, keep on smiting. Smite Thrice!!! Smite Fourfold!!!! And, yea even unto Five times!!!!!  

Our Scotland the Brave charges at the ratings and smites for all he is worth.

You can post your review on other sites too: Having tasted your awesome power, why stop there? You can copy and paste your review to any other on-line retailer, as many as you like, depending on how mighty waxeth your smiting arm that day.

Other ways to help writers that cost nothing: Look at the reviews left by other readers and click the “helpful” or “like’ buttons. Share the links about that book all over the place. You can look at the writer’s other titles too and if you are not able to buy one just now, add to a ‘Wish List.’ On GoodReads add it to “Want to read’ list. These small actions tell the websites’ algorithms that people are taking notice of the book. It all adds up. And up. And UP. And it means lots of people will fall in love with our Dreamy Days and Random Naps (and the other books you review, of course) just like you. All writers will be grateful for these things which you can do in a jiffy.

Can you help with Mawson’s Dreamy Days and Random Naps?

Please let me know if you would like to do a review for Dreamy Days and Random NapsI can send you a PDF version. Short remarks are fine. It is, after all, a little book. Or just bash away at those star ratings.

Where to find Dreamy Days and Random Naps

Dreamy Days and Random Naps is at Amazon everywhere, at Amazon Australia (where Mawson sleepily lives), at BookDepository, at Barnes and Noble, at Dymocks, at Booktopia, at Walmart, at AbeBooks, at Loot (South Africa), Mighty Ape (New Zealand), Google Books, at Booklubben, and at, and more. Our publisher is Odyssey Books.

Reviews of Mawson’s books on GoodReads.

It's a Bright World to Feel Lost In It’s a Bright World to Feel Lost In
reviews: 26
ratings: 34 (avg rating 4.32)
She Ran Away From Love She Ran Away From Love
reviews: 27
ratings: 33 (avg rating 4.30)
Dreamy Days and Random Naps Dreamy Days and Random Naps
reviews: 23
ratings: 26 (avg rating 4.38)

Your host, Mark, is Mawson Bear’s Guardian, photographer, editor, blundering typist, chocolates fetcher and cushions re-arranger. Baffled Bear Books ABN: 4787910119.

Who is this Writer-Bear named Mawson? He is a pondering author for our befuddled times

Do you sometimes feel a bit muddled about, well, Things ?

Sometimes rather ruffled when Things just go and, well, Happen ?

Sometimes feel confused one moment and completely baffled the next?

It’s not easy being Grownup. All this business of having to be sophisticated and industrious all day long! It just wears you down. But when you arrive in Mawson’s cosy world, the frazzled reader can flop down among the cushions and relax. Make your world a world of calm, for a little while anyway.

Listen to the quiet

Dreamy Days and Random Naps is Mawson’s latest little book stuffed with happy moments. If you are a daydream believer in a world still bright despite everything, then this book is for you.

Here you can find the answers to just about nothing at all. You can forget you ever had questions anyway. Mawson and his friends are befuddled about most things most of the time – just like so many of us. And that’s all right.

In She Ran Away From Love, by Mawson, his little friend Frilly feels hopelessly baffled by Big Questions. But does she give up? No! She sets out on a quest. See where it takes her.

‘Writing about love, dreams, happiness, and finding your own identity is all found within this short happy book.‘ Review on Amazon UK.

And in his first book, It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In , Mawson attempts to put into words that mysterious feeling of Feeling Lost.


It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In” is a book about optimism, searching for new adventures and making the most of life and love’. Review on GoodReads by Debbie Young, author of the Sophie Sayer Mysteries.

Our publisher is OdysseyBooks where you can find fun and beautiful books with pictures for grownups.

Where to find Mawson’s Books: At Amazon everywhere, including at Amazon India, and at Amazon Australia (where Mawson Lives), Amazon UK and Amazon France, among others.

Reviews of Mawson’s Books at GoodReads.

It's a Bright World to Feel Lost In It’s a Bright World to Feel Lost In
reviews: 26
ratings: 34 (avg rating 4.32)
She Ran Away From Love She Ran Away From Love
reviews: 27
ratings: 33 (avg rating 4.30)
Dreamy Days and Random Naps Dreamy Days and Random Naps
reviews: 23
ratings: 26 (avg rating 4.38)

If you would rather not use Amazon, Mawson’s book are all over the place. Try BookDepository, or Barnes and Noble, or Dymocks, or at Booktopia, and soon to be at more.

You are at Mark’s blog, Baffled Bear Books. Mark is guardian and hapless typist for Mawson Bear, Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears. Baffled Bear Books ABN: 4787910119

Your Review is Very Welcome in a Writer’s Neighbourhood

Did you know, Fellow Baffled Ones and Gentlebears, that you can leave reviews of books? You don’t have to be a formal reviewer. You can just plonk down what you think about a book. You can say a lot or say a little. It would be so wonderful if you do some reviews.

Each review is wanted,
Each review is good,
Your review is welcome
In a writer’s neighbourhood.

Why your help matters:  In these days of (shudder) Algorithms all forms of recognition for a book matter. They are all noted. They all add up. Likes, Shares, Mentions, Clicks on buttons that say ‘Helpful’- they all get taken into account by these (shudder) Algorithms. But the most helpful thing of all is a REVIEW.

YOUR review matters so much that I would send every reviewer a block of chocolate* if I could, smudged by tears of gratitude. Your review not only tells other purchasers of Grand Books about (cough) mine, but they also jump up the rankings and the visibility and all that sort of thing.

It’s easy, really it is:  Some reviews kindly given for It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In have been only a line. Two lines. A few more lines. Click here to see examples, real reviews on Amazon dot Com.


It’s fun to have a bash: If you are stuck for something to say, simply bash away on the star ratings. They all get counted by those (shudder) algorithms. Here Sir Scotland The Brave shows how to stab most valiantly at the ratings.

Where to do reviews: With most of your favourite retailers: Amazon or Goodreads or Barnes and Noble or Dymocks or Booktopia or LibraryThing or Walmart. Mawson Bear’s books are at all these retailers – this bear gets around!

Click Like: While you are at these websites, you can also run your eye down the page to the reviews left by other fine people, and click on the  ‘Helpful’ or ‘Like’ buttons beneath them.

The awesome power of ‘playing’ on your device:  Every Share, Like and Mention on your social media helps; yes, the (shudder) algorithms note it all.  Keep them coming and Mawson’s books, and the books of all writers, can keep bravely going out into the wide bright world.

Writer-Bears love reviews too: Mawson’s own books are She Ran Away From Love and It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In. Soon, he will also bring you a book on a subject dear to every dreamy, imaginative reader (that surely means you!) It’s called Dreamy Days and Random Naps. It’s not quite ready yet. More news soon.

*I was thinking 78% dark choc with chunks of macadamia and hints of chilli.

You have wandered into the blog by Mark, guardian and photographer for Mawson Bear, one of this bright world’s very few Writer-Bears. Mawson wrote She Ran Away From Love and It’s A Bright world To Feel Lost In.

Birds, Birds, Birds at Lady Elliot Island on the Barrier Reef

BeeBear has regaled her friends with tales of Lady Elliot Island, her journey there, her explorations of the island, the corals she saw in the lagoon, and whether she saw turtles. But her bird friends at home especially want to know if she saw tropical birds.

She certainly did! Lady Elliot Island is paradise for twitchers (bird spotters.) On this coral quay which is so small that the air-strip cuts right across it (see picture above) there are thousands of birds. They come for the nesting season and peak around November.

It’s high density living here. Birds that usually nest on the ground get squeezed out by the earliest arrivals of the season and so take to the trees instead. They are all over every branch of every tree.

The birds in the picture above were in the trees three metres from our veranda. You can simply sit on your cabin veranda with a camera and take pictures of domestic life among the birds.

Birds that prefer trees have to find themselves a place on the ground. It’s all about high demand for premium real estate.

Everyone is making a racket. ‘Mummy, where are you, I’m hungry!’,
‘Harold, you’ve been ages. It’s your turn to mind your kid’,
‘Steady on, Mabel, I only just got back’,
‘You stayed out at sea deliberately, didn’t you, leaving me stuck here with this squawker’,
‘I did not, Mabel, you’ve no idea how far I had to go for fish ‘,
‘ Hah! A likely story’,
‘Its true. I blame those trawlers’,
‘Oi, you lot, get off my branch’,
‘Your branch? Hah! It so is not.’
‘It is, it is. Me and Narelle got it first, so get lost’.
‘ You did not, you great big liars, we got it first,’
‘You pinched it!’
‘ You get over here, mate, and try saying that, go on, go on.’
‘ Mummeee, Daddeeeeee! Where’s my fooooood!’

Screeches, calls, warnings, quarrels. On, and on, all night it goes. The resort even provides ear plugs so that guests can sleep at night.

Birds soar everywhere. Outgoing- traffic of the parents leaving chicks to find food in the ocean crosses through incoming traffic of food-laden parents in what looks like an air-traffic controller’s worst nightmare.

The birds are all protected from humans these days, of course, and completely at ease with people. They perch all over the cabin verandas and some venture hopefully toward the diners in the restaurant. They even raise their young right next to the walkways and buildings, including the most unusual bird you see below.

This is the rare Red-tailed Tropic Bird. It’s one of the world’s oldest and most elusive birds. Read more about them here and here. We had the most wonderful good fortune to see a young one and only hundred metres from our cabin.

Just look at this Red-tailed Tropicbird chick hunkered into its ground-nest waiting for its ocean going parents. It was enormous. It was bigger than a full grown chicken. . ‘Food”, it cried, ‘Gimmee foooooood!’ Of course, we didn’t- no feeding of the birds on Lady Elliot Island. But we did wonder how the parents could ever bring back enough food to satisfy this big lad. Both of them were out at sea trying to do just that.

In the next post, fellow Baffled Ones and Gentlebears, we bring you even more birds and more chicks.

You are at Baffled Bear Books, brought to you by Mark, guardian and blundering typist for Mawson Bear, Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears. Mawson is writer bear of It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In and of She Ran Away From Love.

Turtle Dawn on The Great Barrier Reef

Welcome back to Lady Elliot Island, a coral quay on The Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia. We flew here with BeeBear (read all about it here) and walked around exploring (read it here.)

Lady Elliot Island at the southern end of Great Barrier Reef

Almost every tree you see on the island in the photo above has been planted in the past 30 years during the patient restoration process. The island was stripped for the guano in the years before that. But it is a conservation success story now, and safe again for the turtles to nest on.

Those buildings in the photo below are some cabins of the Eco Resort. See how close they are to the beach. We stayed in one of those. They are not fancy because this is a low-impact eco resort.

During our stay in November, turtles were heaving themselves ashore after years at sea. On our first night we sat by the seats you see above watching the turtle who made these very tracks. Ironically, she dug right next to the sign about turtles.

Laboriously she dug, then moved, then dug, and moved again, not satisfied with the particular holes. On and on she dug. We were exhausted, and we were only watching. We went to bed and left her still digging. In the morning we saw that she had not been happy with any of the holes. No eggs laid.

We rose before dawn and set off stumbling along the crumbly edges of the island peering for obstacles. We did not take torches because the lights can disturb the turtles. We were part way around the island at the point where the runway comes almost down to the water when we saw tracks. Our turtle seemed to have lumbered ashore, gone into the bushes, worked her way through them and circled back around towards the sea. It must have been a very long trek for her, and all of it over ground deemed unsuitable for laying in.

There was a mound by the runway edge that might be a successful nest. (We would report it to the staff who monitor all the possible turtle nests). But where was she? Oh no, Look there! Our heroine is that rounded shell in the middle of the photo being watched over by a heron. She had taken so long at her mission that the tide had gone out. She was stuck within the reef.

We watched over her for a while as the sun came up. Sometimes she circled hopefully. Most of the time she rested. She had worked all night to clamber up the shore, to dig, to lay, and to get back down to the water – she must have been exhausted.

We moved away to leave our “Dawn Turtle” in peace. On returning from our walk, we were delighted to see her checking possible exits through the rocks and coral. As the tide came in the water lapped higher and she got a bit further out. And then with a splash and a surge she made it over the big outer reef.

There she goes, one turtle taking on the vast Pacific Ocean. We were so happy to see her making her way out, but worried too. The scourge of plastic is out there, just waiting to uselessly fill her stomach. And the long nets of the predatory trawlers show no mercy. But if .. she can still find real food and if .. she somehow escapes entanglement, she will be return one day to Lady Elliot Island. Let’s hope so.

Swim, turtle, swim.

You are at Baffled Bear Books, the blog by Mark O’Dwyer, guardian of
Mawson, Writer Bear of It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In. 

Emma of FNM Book Reviews said of It’s A Bright World, “Comforting, like an old security blanket”.  

The Lagoon at Lady Elliot Island on the Great Barrier Reef

Welcome back to Lady Elliot Island, a coral quay on The Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia. The Barrier Reef, as everyone knows, is the mighty reef down which Nemo’s dad swam to find his little son.

We flew here with BeeBear (read all about it here) and walked around exploring (read it here.)


But what do you really want to see at a coral lagoon? The lagoon of course! The glass bottomed boats leave from the beach at the end of the runway that runs through the middle of the island (see aerial view.) Almost all the trees you see here have been planted in the past 30 years during the patient restoration process – it had been stripped down for the guano in the years before that.

Boat 1

Looking back from the boat at nearly high tide, you can see how clear the lagoon water is. Those buildings on the far left of the photo below are some cabins of the Eco Resort. See how close they are to the sea. We stayed in one of those. They are not fancy because this is a low-impact eco resort.

Boat 5

Our glass bottomed boat took us further out to just above the main reef where the water gets more blue and you can see the whole island from here.  Out and out we went. In the deeper water above the reef we tourists went snorkling with the boat crew keeping on eye on us so we felt quite safe. The staff on Lady Elliot Island must have the best job in Australia, in the world.

Boat 2

We saw all kinds of fish and a huge groper and even briefly saw a manta ray.  A large green turtle came up from under a coral shelf right in front of me. It was one of those moments that stay in your mind forever.  I have no pictures – didn’t have that kind of camera. Besides while you are down there, you just want to experience the moments fully, right there, as you are.

Boat 3

And what of the coral? The coral is not easy to see in the deeper water especially as the swell builds, and from the boat itself this is about all you can make out (below). The startling blues of the starfish are clearly visible though. We saw lots of coral at low tide and I will show you that later.

Don’t worry, I won’t leave you without any photos at all of the wonderful animals in the lagoon, for once back on shore we saw this little fella. He was just turtling along right among the people! It is after all, a turtle’s home, not peoples’ home.

” I’m just a turtle,
Turtling along,
A happy green turtle,
Burbling a song…”

Green turtle 6

We settled on a deck chair as evening fell. Would the big female loggerhead turtles clamber up this very beach in the night? Yes, they did! But that’s for another post.

Beach 3 low tide

You are at Baffled Bear Books, the blog by Mark O’Dwyer, guardian of
Mawson, Writer Bear of It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In. 

Emma of FNM Book Reviews said of  Bright World, “Comforting, like an old security blanket”.