Sunday 16 June 2024

Mammals on Monday - Eastern Grey Kangaroo

 The Eastern Grey Kangaroo (Macropus giganteus) is the default Kangaroo in my part of Australia.  This species is found in most of the eastern states of Australia, including Tasmania.  Generally they are found in areas where the annual rainfall is more than 250mm. They can also be found in subalpine areas. AS a habitat, they tend to favour denser scrubs and forests.

These individuals were photographed at Wilsons Promontory National Park (on the same day as last week's Wombats), in an area where their 'chosen' rainfall preference is clear, although I would not really describe the areas where I saw them as dense scrub or forest.

Oh well.

Being called Grey is pretty accurate: Their fur is a light grey colour except the face which is a little darker. They also have a dark tip to their tails. The males have a body length to about 1.3m and a extra 1m of tail! The females are generally a little smaller.

You can't really see the difference between their massively strong hind legs, and their much smaller front legs - which I cant help but think of as arm.  But you can see that the 'arms' are well adapted for scratching!


Friday 14 June 2024

Skull Rock / Cleft Island - Wilsons Promontory National Park

When I was down at The Prom last week I went out on a boat tour from Normal Bay Beach.  Not a lot was happening on the bird watching front, but the granite geology of the area is rather special.

One of the most remarkable features is  Skull Rock also known as Cleft Island.  This large block of granite has had a 'cave' carved out of one face by wave action, and it forms a natural amphitheater.  However, as far as people know, only 9 people have set foot inside the cleft!  That's less than have walked on the surface of the Moon!

The cave is 130 metres (430 ft) wide and 60 metres (200 ft) tall: rather impressive.


Wednesday 12 June 2024

Wild Bird Wednesday 620 - Bearded Reedling / Bearded Tit

On the 12th January this year, at Titchwell RSPB Reserve, I finally saw a bird that I had been hoping to see for at least 35 years.  It's another species like the Avocet that was basically mythical during my earlier years, and one that is completely absent from Australia.

The Bearded Reedling / Bearded Tit (Panurus biarmicus) is a bird that relies on extensive reed beds as a habitat.  And, much to our shame, extensive reed beds have been pretty much systematically destroyed over the years.  So, as the reed beds declined so did this species.

But also like the Avocet, the tide seems to have turned a little for this species, as we now come to understand the value of wetlands in general and reed beds in particular. There are now at least 650 breeding pairs in the UK - often on reserves like Titchwell, but always in places that have been managed to restore or expand the reed bed habitat they need.  Wetlands are not waste lands, and it shows how limited our understanding of value is (or has been) that we can only see value in them by converting them to something else.

The Bearded Reedling is a rather unique bird, and it's classification has changed much over the years as people have tried to place it within the great web of bird taxonomy. It lacks close relatives and is nearest to the lark family.

This species is strongly sexually dimorphic - and for reasons I don't fully grasp few if any of the useable images I managed to make were of the female.  The male with its blue-grey head and big, dropping moustache face markings is very distinctive.

There were 6 or 7 birds in the group I watched, and they were very active and often rather distant.  I admit I checked the time in the UK and phoned my family in Australia to tell them I was finally watching this species.  They weren't as excited as was, but that's understandable! 


As ever, to join in with WBW click on the link below.  SM

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Monday 10 June 2024

Mammals on Monday 1: Wombat

The Wombat (Vombatus ursinus) or Common Wombat or Bare Nosed Wombat is found in Tasmania, eastern New South Wales and eastern Victoria, with scattered populations in south-eastern South Australia and south-western Victoria. Across this range, three subspecies are identified, with the wombats in this post be of the sub-species hirsutus.

There are two other species of wombat in Australia - the Northern and Southern Hairy Nosed Wombat (I'm not making this up) but I am yet to see either species.

I spent some time down at Wilsons Promontory National Park last week, and this is a great place to watch wombats, especially in the cooler, shorter days in the year.   If you don't live in Victoria, but happen to visit, I would strongly recommend a trip to The Prom.

Wombats are the worlds largest hole dwelling herbivores, and have a very slow rate of metabolism. Wombats are about 1 m (40 in) in length with small, stubby tails and weigh between 20 and 35 kg (44 and 77 lb). As with many creatures in Australia they are a marsupial, but they are the only one where the pouch faces 'backwards' - which means that it does not fill with soil as the animal moves around in its burrow!

Although their metabolism is slow they can run surprisingly fast - but look find of amusing when they do.

Although technically crepuscular and nocturnal, wombats may also venture out to feed on cool or overcast days, which explains why the cooler months are the best time to see them (in my experience).

The pictures of the young wombat - called a joey - and its mother were taken next to a road!  The wombats ignored the traffic, but were less tolerant of inconsiderate tourists who seem to forget that these are wild animals - not pets or zoo captives!  (Enough already Stewart!) 

Just to show that I look at things other than birds, I'll be doing a Mammal on Monday each Monday for a few weeks.  Cheers  SM

Wednesday 5 June 2024

Wild Bird Wednesday 619 - Avocet

The Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta) or just Avocet to me is a bird with a remarkable story in the UK.  By the 19th century this species was extinct in the UK: lost to habitat change, egg collectors and hunting.

But during the Second World War the species recolonised beaches and marshes in East Anglia that had been flooded to prevent them being used as potential landing stages for invasion.  By 1947 the species had started to once more breed in the UK. Since that time the population of Avocets in the UK has expanded greatly.  Although less than 2000 pairs breed in the summer, the winter population exceeds 7000 and is even considered 'locally common' in some areas.  

This is a remarkable success story.  

As you can see, with its upturned beak and bold black and white colours it's a striking bird.

As a bit of a challenge - see if you can spot and identify some of the other species that have sneaked into some of these pictures.

As ever, to join in with WBW click on the link below.  SM

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Sunday 2 June 2024


 In February this year I was in London, these are some of the pictures I took.

Cheers. SM