Sunday, May 27, 2012

Another Walk on the Wild(life) Side

I'll start with a couple of explanatory notes intended to save my some typing along the way. Unless otherwise noted, the photos in this post were taken at Caversham Wildlife Park in Perth. This was a wonderful place where, unlike another park considered for a visit, you didn't have to pay extra for a photograph of yourself with an animal. This was a somewhat important consideration since I desperately wanted photos of myself with a koala and with a wombat. Also, we saw more animals than I'm showing here, but I'm trying to concentrate on animals one typically associates with Australia. I could, for example, include a photo of myself holding a carpet python, but I don't think people view pythons as a uniquely Australian animal. Kangaroos, on the other hand, are considered Aussie to the max.

I actually missed the first wildlife sighting, napping in the car as we went from Perth to Northam on our first day in Australia. The husband saw a two-dimensional kangaroo beside the road and noted that he thought they could jump higher. Over our time in Oz, we ended up seeing plenty of kangaroos next to or within easy sight of the road; fortunately, we avoided contact with any of them. We saw these guys while touring the wine country in Southwest Australia, around Margaret River.
At Caversham, we got up closer and more personal with some kangaroos.
These joeys are being raised by humans. The white one (it's not albino, just white in color) was one of a set of twins. Presented with twins, a mother kangaroo will abandon one. The bags that these joeys are in simulate the mother's pouch. A keeper takes them home each night, feeding them every couple of hours. After some months, they will be weaned and leave the bag just as they would leave their mother's pouch.

At Caversham, there is an area in which you can mingle with and feed some kangaroos. Needless to say, this was a pretty incredible experience given that some of the female kangaroos were "with joey." (If you read the Wikipedia article linked above, you will see that adult female kangaroos are basically only not pregnant on the day on which they give birth.)
Watching a joey exit and then re-enter its mother's pouch was quite intriguing.
Finally on the subject of kangaroos, having seen this sculpture of a kangaroo at the Vasse Felix Winery, I'd somewhat wondered how common a kangaroo pose it portrayed.
As it turned out, it wasn't that far off the mark.

If you are Facebook friends with me or in my online quilting group, you have likely seen references to my squealing and pushing an elderly couple out of the way so that I could sit with a wombat. For the record, I did squeal, but only after sitting with the wombat. And I did not push an elderly couple out of the way; I graciously let them go first. As for the wombat, her name was Bub. For those readers who think wombats are a wee thing, they are not. Here is Bub.
For the record, Bub weighs 30 kilograms (66 pounds). Here's a closer-up shot of Bub. The older son says this is the closest thing he's seen to a cross between a pig and a dog, and he may be right.
As for wombats not on stage and posing with tourists, here are a couple of shots of the wombat enclosure.

You may have noticed the stuffed koala sitting with Bub. That's Charlie, the stuffed friend I took along so that he could discover his Australian roots and, hopefully, get up close and personal with some of his own kind. Thanks to the one of two koala keepers who "got it," that plan succeeded.
Koalas are pretty darn cute when it comes right down to it.
They're not too active, though, sleeping about 20 hours of each 24-hour day. In fact, for the rest of the trip the phrase "doing the koala" came to refer to naps or nodding off. And they can sleep in almost any position.
But lest you think they're all cute and cuddly, their claws suggest that you might not want to be on the wrong side of one.
All of the koala photos I included above were taken at Caversham. We did, however, see more koalas both in the wild and at a koala conservation center on Philip Island near Melbourne.

Of all the different animals we saw, my vote goes to the echidna as the most different. They're spiny anteaters because they do eat them along with termites; however, they are not closely related to what we think of here as an anteater. Along with the platypus, the echidna is one of the few egg-laying mammals. Caversham had an echidna on the same indoor display at which I met Bub,
but you couldn't really interact with it. Our chance to do that came later, when we encountered one of the keepers taking an echidna back to its enclosure. As an aside, Tara was the same keeper who was taking one of the joeys home with her every night.
She showed us how hard it is to actually see an echidna since they react to handling by curling up.
We did get a chance to see an echidna move around, though, when Tara put it back into its enclosure.
As for my references to this echidna as "it," Tara noted that they think it is a male given its size but that they really don't know. It is very difficult to unball a balled-up echidna, so the keepers do that only when absolutely necessary. As for what look like quills or spikes on the echidna, they're actually somewhat rubbery and not at all the kind of point that would pierce human skin. Yes, I'm speaking from experience since we got to pet the echidna Tara was holding.

As for other animals, the wallaby is like a small kangaroo. This one was at the Caversham park.
We also saw wallabies at the koala conservation center on Philip Island near Melbourne,
as well as beside or on the roads, fortunately always in time to slow down and avoid any collisions.

To speed quickly through some other animals we did not see as much of or find quite as interesting as the above, consider the Australian possum and its prehensile tail.

There's also the dingo, none of which we saw in the wild.

We had dinner in Melbourne at a house often visited by flying fox; unfortunately, they didn't make a stop at the fruit trees in the backyard while we were there. We did see them at Caversham, though.

Finally, not all the animals we saw were exotic by any means, though even some of the more run-of-the-mill animals were striking. Take, for example, this dog waiting for its owners to finish lunch at the cafe beside the Busselton jetty.

Coming next, to this blog near you, a stroll through Perth's Kings Park and the ANZAC Day service that the husband thought about skipping but which turned out to be one of the most memorable parts of the trip.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Walk on the Wlid(life) Side: The Birds

The wildlife had to be one of the high points of Australia. Some animals, we were able to see in the wild as well as captivity; others, we were only able to see in a wildlife park or preserve. With many, we were able to get up close and personal, actually touching them. Others, just seeing was enough. My initial list of photos to include here is so long that I shall endeavor to cut it further as I develop this post, perhaps limiting it to one or two "in the wild" and one or two "in captivity" shots. Let's see if I can succeed.

One of the things I miss most about Australia now that we're home is waking up to some of the most incredible bird calls I've ever heard. Some readers who might also be birders will cringe at my statement that I've never really noticed the calls of birds here. Owls, maybe, at night, but not really any others during the daytime. In Australia, we woke up most mornings to some of the most incredible bird calls. There are birds that stand out here--cardinals come to mind--but the everyday ones we saw in Australia are the same ones we'd go to the National Zoo in Washington, DC to see here. So let's start with the birds.

In the post I managed to put up from Western Australia, I noted that we'd seen that popular crossword puzzle answer, emu, in the wild.
We also saw one in captivity,
as well as another large group in the wild. We also saw emu eggs, which are dark bluish-black, for sale in a craft shop. We also saw ostrich eggs being sold as emu eggs, perhaps because they are bigger and may seem more impressive. Personally, I thought the real emu eggs were pretty darn impressive on their own.

At the same place we saw the captive emu, we saw these guys up in a tree, which technically makes them in the wild.
According to an Australian source in the comments that follow, these canoodling types are galahs, something I may have been told at the time but forgot in the interim. I also saw a whole flock (not really, since they don't go together, but what else should I call a large number of birds) of amazing birds at the Caversham Wildlife Park in Perth. There were some incredible owls, including the tawny frogmouth that masquerades as a tree branch.
We also saw two others somewhat reminiscent of Harry Potter.
Besides the owls, we saw these birds at the indoor animal viewing time. This one is a type of cockatoo known as a Major Mitchel; I remembered that after reading it in the comments below.
And again, thanks to the comments, this one is a gang gang.
I still have no idea what this dancing fellow is, but feel free to enlighten me with a comment.
This guy was in one of the outdoor enclosures. I think this is the one referenced in the comments as a lorikeet.
So was this one.
This is actually a wild kookaburra that found its way into the wildlife park. It took off from the fence and ended up atop the kookaburra enclosure. Needless to say, the kookaburras within were not too happy and expressed their displeasure somewhat vehemently.
While I was buying some music CDs and gifts at the gift shop, the husband made a quick trip to see the cassowary he'd always wanted to see in person.
While in Melbourne, we traveled on what is known as the Great Ocean Road, on which we encountered a number of cockatoos, some in more interesting poses than others,
including one that helped answer the question of why the cockatoo crossed the road.
Answer: Better grubs in the lawn on the other side. Finally, also from Melbourne, we visited Philip Island for the nightly parade of little penguins (also called fairy penguins) from the ocean to their nests. No photography is permitted, and the photos for sale--a photo of you against a green screen into which penguins were photoshopped--were just too cheesy for words.

Coming next: Mammals and more.