Lake Macquarie History

Sooty, Kitty, Tommy and Spot

Amongst the animals on Bulba Sanctuary were four o'possums with whom I soon made friends.

“Sooty" was a very fine specimen of black Tasmanian, and in her winter coat very hard to discern, as it was always quite dark when she made her appearance at the keeper's cottage. Trained careful watching, and one could see just the tip of a flesh coloured snout, and which appeared to be a very dark shadow moving from side to side in an ungainly fashion. When it approached to within a few yards, the swaying motion ceased, and rearing into a sitting posture was "Sooty" in all her glory. When given a peace offering of bread she would squat on her haunches and quickly dispose of it and approach for more. Sometimes she appeared at the back of the cottage & at others by the front verandah.

Her half grown black 'kitten' would appear a little later and generally filch the piece of bread from her mother, and swiftly scaling the nearest swamp oak would dispose of the spoils. Patience earned a joyful reward when I was enabled to have 'Kitty' also come and take a piece of bread from my hand. She however, was always shy, and would dart away as soon as she had secured her piece. Eventually 'Kitty' took to the bush and I never saw her again. Maybe the fact that her successor was already in mother's pouch was the cause of her disappearance!

This youngster I watched with continued interest from being "naked and unashamed" develop into a beautiful silver grey kitten. Becoming too large for the pouch, she would arrive on mother's back and like her black sister before her, steal the piece of bread & scamper off with it. This was not always easily accomplished and I have been heartily amused at the various tactics used before the theft was successfully carried out.

“Tommy” was made of sterner stuff, and of the silver grey variety. He carried the scars of many a midnight frolic on his sparsely furred pelt. A heavy padded tread on the cottage roof was the medium of his debut. As therefrom came my water supply this was taboo and many a weary hour was spent in trying to get him down. “Lying 'possum”, is a very apt expression, because no sooner would I be at one side of the cottage with the lantern, than he would be lying in the shadows on the opposite side: One night he took a plunge into a half tank of water that stood adjoining the cottage and it was a very woe-begone "Tommy” that scrambled out and off to the bush. The very next night found him back on the roof again as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Notwithstanding this lapse in his make up, “Tommy” was a very lovable creature, and would take a piece as often as offered.

"Spot" was a real 'hobo' and any time between 3 pm, onwards would find him wassling on all fours towards the cottage. Often he would spend the whole day curled up in a corner of the back verandah. More brown than black in colour, with a white spot on his rump, he certainly raised a laugh at his ungainly appearance. He was never very robust, although he would gorge to repletion from greens and vegetable peelings thrown from the cottage. It was a sad day when I found him curled up on the verandah with the spark of life ebbing very fast.

"Puss" was another silvery grey visitor that sought the cottage bounty. Sleek and well groomed, with a beautiful "brush" she took much patient coaxing before she would come hear enough to make a lightning grab at the piece of bread in an outstretched hand, only to speed off with it to the bush.

Lovable creatures all that brought much joy to an old naturalist’s heart.

Thompson Noble. 16.7.1934.