A real life dragon

Splash! I quickly turn knowing that I have just missed my chance of seeing a water dragon. These little reptiles generally don’t stick around, especially when I have Bundy with me but I got lucky walking around a local wildlife reserve one afternoon. The lake in the reserve has been on the receiving end of a lot of regeneration activity in the past 12-18 months with native trees and grasses being planted all around the foreshore. Piles of branches stacked around tree stumps are yet to be cleared away and these make great little hiding holes for all sorts of creatures. Wary of snakes I steered clear of one pile and kept Bundy close as I inched towards the water’s edge in order to photograph the pelicans on the lake. It wasn’t until I looked away from the pelicans that I noticed a lizard sitting on the pile of wood, an Easter Water Dragon to be precise.

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Easter Water Dragons can be found in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. They can live for up to twenty years and will eat insects, small reptiles and frogs as well as fruit and other vegetation. Some people keep them as pets but I think you need a permit to do so and I would much rather see them in their natural habitat. Occasionally I see them lying on the side of the road, it is nice and warm for them and they will scamper off when they see you coming however they’re not always that lucky at escaping traffic.

The water dragon barely moved, his eyes watching every step Bundy and I took. I was grateful to have my camera and 70-200mm lens with me rather than my phone, allowing me to get close-up photos without disturbing him too much. You might be wondering why I’m referring to the water dragon as a male, if you look closely at the photo you can see that the water dragon has a reddish chest, apparently the chest of a male water dragon goes bright red during mating season so I’m thinking that this boy is on the prowl. After mating the female lays up to 25 eggs in the soft soil or sand and then she does a runner, playing no part in the parenting. Thankfully the kids are independent once they hatch, I just hope they stay off the road.

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Out on the farm

The farm road
The farm road

My brother recently bought 100 acres of bushland in the Hunter Valley, he and his partner want to build a house there and raise their beautiful daughter in the country. He refers to the land as ‘the farm’ although it is far from it at this point in time. Much of land cannot be cleared for environmental reasons however this isn’t a huge deal because my brother doesn’t have any plans to raise cattle, sheep or grow crops. Obviously the previous owners have done some work on the property, farm equipment has been left to rust and there is a gate growing out of a tree. The land is in the middle of wine country in the Hunter Valley which aligns nicely with our desire for a winter retreat where we can alternate between visiting vineyards and enjoying local produce while sitting by an open fire.

I had the pleasure of seeing the property a couple of weeks ago and there is plenty of work to be done in order to make the land habitable for a family. Patches of land have been cleared previously providing nice open spaces and views of neighbouring properties, my brother and a mate of his have also spent time tidying up the area where they plan to build their house. Walking through the bush takes me back to my childhood when we used to explore the countryside looking for the perfect swimming hole. On one occasion we made fishing rods out of bamboo and tried our luck in the creek, the fish were much smarter than us. As kids we never really worried about snakes or eels or getting seriously hurt, but I was very wary of coming across a snake whilst walking through the bush on my brother’s property.

Camera in hand I was fascinated by tiny purple flowers, and funny looking nuts on a native tree. My fingers were crossed in the hope that I would come across wildlife of the furry and feathered kind. With a creek running through one end of the property and a dried creek bed at the other we were guaranteed to see something and sure enough we saw a few kangaroos from the car, as well as a goanna and a couple of rabbits. One kangaroo scared the bejeezus out of my when it leapt out of the bush to the left of me and bounded away, madly scrambling to get my camera ready I thankfully secured one shot which made my day. Even as an Australian I still get excited by seeing our native wildlife.

Without rain the bush is looking dry and the grass feels crunchy underfoot. Closer to the creek there is more colour, the water providing sustenance for plants as well as a variety of creatures that we hear but not see as they scamper away and hide. I envy the life that my brother and his family will have, living away from the maddening traffic and being able to look at the window and see sights that we grew up with. I don’t envy the work or the size of the mortgage that it takes to own such a property but I admire my brother for the commitment he has made in following a dream. I hope that one day I have the courage to do the same.

Koalas, Kangaroos and Echidnas at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary

A visit to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary in Queensland is highly recommended, for children and the young at heart it is a fabulous way to spend a day. As soon as you walk through the entry gate you will smile at the sight of koalas sitting among tree branches, munching away on eucalyptus leaves or having a nap. These beautiful creatures, like so many of our native flora and fauna are victims of progress, their natural environment destroyed by developers and their lives threatened by domestic animals and traffic. The wildlife sanctuary does a wonderful job of raising awareness of the plight of our native animals, educating children and caring for the sick and injured at their wildlife hospital.

There are plenty of opportunities to get up close and personal with some of the animals. For a fee you can have your photo taken cuddling a koala or you can buy food for the lorikeets and kangaroos and feed them by hand. We didn’t do any of that, however we did venture into the kangaroo enclosure and took great pleasure in patting young kangaroos while they were dozing in the sunlight. The largest and oldest of the male kangaroos was taking a nap near the gate, at 8 years old he has fathered plenty of kangaroos, the second male is 4 years old and not quite as large although one of the volunteers told us that his nickname was Fatty.

My friends and I spent a day there recently and we loved every minute. When our legs grew weary and our stomachs hungry we hopped on the people mover train and enjoyed a ride through the park and selected a lunch venue. The sanctuary’s rainforest environment is filled with the sound of birds calling and at times, howling dingoes, the train passes by the enclosures of kangaroos, wallabies, water birds and the Tasmanian Devil. Cameras and phones in hand we took hundreds of photos of creatures we don’t often get to see as well as a few that we will never see in the wild because their numbers are low and they are on the endangered list. I regretted not taking a camera with better zoom than my iPhone, the digital zoom on an iPhone really isn’t great and many of my photos look more painterly than photographic.

Lamington National Park flora and fauna

Lamington National Park is World Heritage Listed and includes over 20,000 hectares of diverse forest ranging from sub-tropical rainforest to dry eucalypt forest. The park is home to a variety of flora and fauna, providing a wealth of photographic opportunities for everyone.

Living with the local wildlife

We all think of Koalas as the most cute and cuddly of creatures, they’re one of the most popular Australian native animals and there are many opportunities for visitors to have their photo taken cuddling a Koala. Did you know that they also bite? Well they do and a couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of one grabbing hold of my thumb and not wanting to let go, nothing serious but gave me a fright and antibiotics were prescribed as a precautionary measure. It wasn’t the Koala’s fault, he was casually sitting on the side of the motorway minding his own business and I was on my way to the shelter. Koalas are often victims to traffic and there was no way I was going to leave the little fellow (not sure what gender actually) in such a precarious position, I pulled over and with towel in hand walked over to the Koala hoping that he wouldn’t make a run for it and end up under a truck. Not knowing whether the animal was injured or just frightened, I threw the towel around him, picked him up with every intention of taking him to the vet for a checkup and that was when he decided to bite me on the hand. I swore and wondered if he was ever going to let my thumb go, nobody bothered to stop and help and seeing as though he was starting to struggle I let him go into the bush. Apparently a Koala that doesn’t struggle is either in shock, badly injured or very unwell, and this little fellow took off into the bush and up a tree so I am assuming that he was ok. Having a wild animal loose in my car probably wasn’t such a good idea anyway.

Getting bitten by a Koala isn’t terribly common, most people look surprised when I tell them and then start laughing, Hubby being one of them. Even the Doctor and Nurse at the local medical centre found it interesting, they’d seen plenty of other types of animal bites but never a Koala. It makes for a great story, and if I ever have to rescue another Koala I will know to be wary of his mouth as well as the claws and I’m tempted to leave a pair of thick gloves in the car just in case.

I don’t have any photos of my Koala experience, instead please enjoy a cuteness overload of ducklings out for a morning stroll and a curious Wallaby that visited us one afternoon.

Big snake, full belly

With all of the bushland surrounding the local shelter it isn’t unusual to see a variety of creatures other than dogs, cats, birds and guinea pigs. Most days you can see a few wallabies, plenty of ibis, bush turkeys and magpies however, on occasion you do get to see green tree snakes or a python. I’m not sure what sort of python is residing at the shelter, it is possibly a carpet python or a diamond python, whatever the type it certainly has a full belly as you can see from these photos.

python in tree

python in tree

python in tree

It is moments like this when I wish I had my DSLR, the iphone digital zoom is really not great and there was no way on this earth that I was going to climb the tree to get a better view. If you think you know what sort of snake it is, please leave a comment and let me know.

Happy Sunday!