If this isn’t already clear, I (Karen) am a critter nut. Ken likes them too, yet I think he may like them more through my eyes. At least through my giddy laughter and girly hops when I spot the furry/winged/scaly animals.
Australia does not disappoint in animal entertainment. And they know it. There are plenty of zoos, wildlife reserves and tours taking people into the wild to spot all sorts of creatures. I thought most of our animal viewing would be through these options, as I kept reading how hard it was going to be to spot certain animals in the wild by myself. Animal karma opened wide and we saw many of the Australian classic animals in the wild!
Many wonderful winged animals fly through the skies, like cockatoos, rosellas, rainbow lorikeets, cranes, ibis and magpies. Fruit bats squawk in the trees by day and darken the skies by dusk, looking for dinner. Near Phillip Island, the world’s largest pelicans are fed scraps from the fishing boats each day. They do the best stretching exercise with their necks, I can only assume to make more room to eat more fish. Looking serious to me, the Laughing Kookaburra does not live up to its name. And splendidly colored are the Black Necked Storks. You can tell the sex by looking at their eye color; the female’s is yellow. And the most exotic to me, the Tawny Frogmouth, a nightjar that looks and acts similar to an owl, looks like it stepped off the set of a Harry Potter movie.
Lots of bird like creatures call Australia home, yet cannot fly. We spotted emus, Little Penguins and cassowaries. Little Penguins are the world’s smallest penguin and are delightful to watch at the Penguin Parade held each night on Phillip Island. Crowds, up to 4000 people, watch anywhere from 40 to 2000 penguins come in from feeding in the ocean to their land-based burrows. The Cassowary, found only at the Wet Tropics area of North Queensland and in Papau New Guinea, are an endangered bird and are vital to the future of the rainforest. They eat the fruit and “plant” the seeds that are necessary to keep the rainforest thriving. You do not want to see one of these in the wild as they are not friendly and could be capable of disemboweling you, should they choose to do so. Thankfully, we only saw the millions of road signs telling us to watch out for them.
There were more critters we never saw, yet we enjoyed the evidence they left behind of their passing. While hiking through Wilsons Promontory, we spotted lots of disturbed dirt and droppings, but sadly, not the wombats who created them. We marveled at the sand ball art left behind on Noah’s Beach by mini crabs who dig their holes each day.
No, I did not forget about Australia’s iconic critters: kangaroo, wallaby, crocodile, koala, platypus and echidna. All spotted in the wild, except the crocodile, yet I still swear that huge splash I heard in the mangroves of the Daintree Rainforest was not created by a tree branch. Here is a quickie of the echidna, a-mini-anteater-meets-porcupine specimen. Shy little bugger.
Some of my best memories of my time in Australia are thanks to its critters. He-he!!