I said Darren saw our pair of platypus with their baby, newly emerged from the burrow, here on the Araucaria property. He took a video, with zoom, from the cliff top, and when he replayed it we realized there was not one baby but two! They were swimming in circles, apparently play-chasing each other, their little tails and hind legs splashing energetically as though still getting used to this idea that they could really stay afloat and move through this strange new medium.
Having been so concerned that the platypus might never return after the massive flood of early 2008 destroyed burrows, creek banks and riparian vegetation, this was wonderful!
Darren took our Danish guests to the creek to watch platypus late this afternoon, and instead of two saw three! Their young one has emerged from the burrow. And after dark, a brushtail possum with baby, other possums, a pademelon, a red-necked wallaby, plenty of bandicoot babies and a tawny frogmouth, and a cicada emerging from its larval skin, as well as hearing plenty of frogs.
We picked folk up for a custom tour this morning (4.00am!) to take them seeking wild koalas and wallabies on their way from Brisbane to the Gold Coast.
It was raining at our first stop, but we walked for about half an hour through the bushland – no koalas and one possible fleeting glimpse of a wallaby.
Okay, off to the next possibility, and within two minutes we were looking up at a female koala in a gum tree, in a most classic koala pose, calmly looking down at us, and staying that way for multiple photos.
Next stop – almost immediately a female red-necked wallaby with a fairly large joey grazing the grass beside her. Joey looked at us and decided he’d be safer back in poor Mum’s pouch. Just around the corner was a large male, who seemed quite unperturbed by our presence, and soon a small joey popped his head out of another female’s pouch – another great photo opportunity.
Our next bushwalk produced no koalas or wallabies (the latter possibly because on our arrival a couple were illegally exercising their unleashed, barking dogs.
I had just pointed out a termite nest in a tree that looked as though a kookaburra had excavated for its own nest, when a kookaburra started laughing.
Koalas, wallabies and kookaburras laughing – not a bad introduction to Australia within two hours of leaving the international airport.
This little snake (seen on our rainforests, glow worms and wine tour) had me confused at the Cedar Creek Falls last week.
It looked and behaved like a yellow-faced whipsnake – shy but not panicky, just wanting to quietly sunbathe on the side of the track and moving just a little at our approach – but it didn’t seem to have enough yellow on the face, and the body looked too dark and dull.
Looking carefully at the markings around the eye, they were in the right place, just not as bright as usual, and the eye seemed unusually dark and dull.
I now think it is a yellow-faced whipsnake after all, but about to shed its skin – hence the dull appearance of body, face and eye.
I asked my 5-year-old grandson to give me the orange cushion with white spots, then told him I’d chosen that one because it was the colour of a quoll.
“What’s a quoll?” he asked.
“It’s an animal that keeps it babies in a pouch like a kangaroo” I said, “but it hunts like a cat and has sharp teeth and claws, and it’s the colour of that cushion.”
His eyes had been widening, and he said “I want to see a quoll.” I promised to take him to a wildlife reserve where he can see one. I explained they live in the forests around here, but it’s very difficult to see them in the wild.
He’s only five years old, so it wasn’t surprising he hadn’t heard of quolls, but many older children haven’t either. MAny of them know virtually nothing about our wildlife other than kangaroos. koalas, wombats, possums and platypus? Wonderful animals all of these, but there is so much more.
And it’s not only kids – many adults (including government staff, developers and others in positions to influence their survival) know very little about the special animals that share our country. A teacher would quite rightfully think a child who hadn’t heard of elephants or tigers very ignorant. How about making sure all our school-children learn the basics of our own native fauna as an essential part of their early training?
It’s not enough either to just give a list or a few pictures, or even the animal itself with no explanations. These are interesting creatures and we have to communicate why they are interesting. I remember years ago taking some young teenagers around a wildlife park. They saw a sign saying ‘Native Cats’ (which quolls were called in those day) above a pathetically small and dingy enclosure. They looked in and said ‘Ha. I though it was going to be real cats but it’s just those things’ and walked on to the next exhibit. Just those things? I was able to enlighten these particular girls, but what a depressing first reaction, and I wonder how many others passed on by without another thought to these fascinating creatures. Had they heard exciting things about about quolls beforehand, or seen them in a decent enclosure with eye-catching and readable interpretation about their behaviour and ecology, perhaps they would have reacted differently.
Our wildlife is wonderful, and our whole population could be taking a lot more pleasure in this.
And it’s only when people know about our animals that they’ll be able to care about their conservation and understand what is needed to achieve it.
So, I’d love to hear lots of others saying what my wide-eyed little grandson said: “I want to see a quoll”
We had another call today to rescue a bat caught in a cocos palm. These palms are really bad news for wildlife – it would be good to see them all replaced with bangalow or other native wildlife-friendly palms.
Once again the bat freed himself while we attempted to reach him, but this time with his leg bleeding, so we can only hope the wound was not too serious.
Darren and I had a call from Bat Conservation and Rescue (of which we are members) last week to say we were the closest rescuer available for a fruitbat stuck in a cocos palm near Boonah, and being constantly attacked by noisy miners and other birds.
I asked how tall the tree was and it sounded a bit out of reach, so I first rang RSPCA to see if they had equipment to get up there, and they promised to check and get back to me if they had something available that could be taken to Mount Alford (near Boonah) in a reasonable time.
I then called Council and was told that yes they did have suitable equipment but could not let any of their staff handle a bat because they hadn’t been vaccinated for rabies (fruitbats occasionally carry lyssa virus, which is related to rabies, and there have been two known deaths of people bitten while handling them). I said my son and I have both been vaccinated but I was told they could not – for public liability reasons – allow us to climb their ladders or ride in a crane etc.
So, Darren and I headed over with our inadequate ladder, plus protective sleeves for our arms, a box to put the bat in (lined with a comfy bit of fabric), and some apple and honey, as we were told he had been in the tree for several days with nothing to eat.
We arrived, and saw the bat on the frond – no longer entangled in the clump of green fruit. He showed no sign of injury, and when Darren mounted the ladder he energetically climbed higher. He was a black flying fox, not full size, so we wondered if perhaps he was just confused and famished. We couldn’t think of any reasonably safe way of reaching him, so decided to leave him with some food overnight and hope that with restored strength he might fly off with his comrades if they visited the property that night. Through our binoculars, we examined him for any sign of injury to the wing.
When Darren mounted the ladder again, the young bat suddenly discovered he could still fly and made an impressive wide arc to a leopard tree. We left apple and honey in a fork of the leopard tree, but before we left he had moved to an adjacent cocos palm, considerably higher than the original one.
Next day I had meeting to attend in the opposite direction, and the owner was headin g off for a few days, so I called Heike from Destiny Eco Cottage and Wendy Dunn of Fassifern Naturalists, and they both made the effort to head over and check out the trees. The bat was gone, hopefully back with his companions in a near-by colony.
Cocos palms are often a problem for bats and other wildlife, and the owner of the house is going to get rid of hers. They can be replaced by the native bangalow palms.
What wildlife activities would you like to be involved in? Scenic Rim Wildlife (Scenic Rim branch of the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland) is running a survey to find out out the kinds of activities folk would most like to participate in over the next few months. If you live in or near the Scenic Rim (Southeast Queensland) or visit from time to time, please let us know by completing our strictly confidential 2-minute survey
Darren went down to our creek to see how a family from America were doing in their attempts to see the platypus. They had been advised to sit quietly with no sudden movements or noises, so he was a bit alarmed to see both kids walking along right at the edge of the water. When they saw him they shouted ‘There’s no platypus here!’
Well, no, there wasn’t that day. There were a pair living there but probably if they had started to emerge for their night of foraging they were by now tucked up back in their burrows waiting for a little peace and quiet before re-emerging.
In Tasmania platypus are often seen throughout the day, and occasionally the same is true further north, but they are primarily nocturnal. Typically they will leave their burrows an hour or so before dusk, continue feeding throughout the night and return to the burrow an hour or so after dawn.
Thus the best time to see them is usually during the first hour after sunrise or the last hour before sunset.
They are found in unpolluted streams along the east coast from Tasmania to far north Queensland, and have been introduced to Kangaroo Island, South Australia. The best foraging spots seem to be slow-moving areas where the water is between one and three metres deep. Don’t bother looking for them high in the mountains above tall waterfalls though – they would find it hard to travel up to these.
Their eyes and ears may not be brilliant (and they don’t use either for foraging), but unless they have become well habituated to human presence, they will notice anyone sitting or standing near the bank, and most likely return to the safety of the burrow. Sudden sharp movements or loud noises will almost guarantee they will disappear until it is too dark to see them. Quiet human presence in the water – in a canoe or floating for instance – doesn’t seem to worry them quite so much, perhaps because most of their predators come from the land.
They tend to be more predictable during breeding season in the last half of the year, so if you are advised late in the year that they have been seen recently in a particular part of the creek, there is a good chance they will continue to use this spot for a while,.
So, to see a platypus, find out which local streams are likely, wear something warm, perhaps take a book or something to nibble if you have trouble sitting still, then do just that – sit still and quietly from sunrise onwards or from late afternoon, glancing at the water evry minute or so if you don’t feel like watching it constantly.
No grunts or bellows announce its arrival. It is not there and then suddenly, very quietly, it is there. Sometimes you will see a small row of bubbles just before it surfaces, then can watch as it floats on the surface chewing whatever it has just caught, or perhaps scratching its ear or swimming along a little way. Then it hunches its back and dives down again for maybe a minute or two before re-emerging.
Maybe you won’t see one on your first few attempts, but there are worse ways fo passing the time than sitting by a quiet stream listening to bird calls.
Or maybe, suddenly, very quietly, there he is in front of you.
Perfect weather, a wonderful display of live locally-native animals, interesting displays and presentations and a crowd of cheerful people of all ages made our Wildlife Expo a great success. Visitors got to meet bettongs, potoroos, gliders, fruitbats, owls, cuckoos, flap-footed lizards, turtles, pythons and other creatures and learn about wildlife conservation, care of orphaned and injured animals, wildlife feeding, nesting boxes, wildlife-attracting plants, nature photography, wildlife art, tertiary courses involving wildlife, birding, reptiles shows and more.
The photo shows Martin Fingland of Gecko’s Wildlife, with one of his tame local species.
The Expo was run by the Scenic Rim branch of the WIldlife Preservation Society of Queensland.
For details of this great day, visit Scenic Rim Wildlife, and stay tuned for the next expo (either 2011 or 2012)