Tuesday, 2 April 2013

An introduction to Australian wildlife

One of the best things about getting even a little bit 'rural' in Australia are the opportunities to see native wildlife. Lush Maleny is a wonderful place to see an array of native species and to introduce a visitor to our squawking, slithering and hopping native fauna. Starting with those that inhabit back gardens.

My parents are great bird lovers and have taken care to put up bird boxes and native flowering plants to attract birds to their garden. They have a regular parade of King Parrots, doves, Sulphur-crested and Black Cockatoos, various lorikeet species and many others flying around the trees and shrubs.

The weekend started out charmingly enough with a Tawny Frogmouth. This one had taken up daytime residence on a post right outside my parents front door. He'd been there for three days when we arrived for the weekend and did not move except for when he/she went hunting at night.

Newly resident Tawny, doing its tree-branch impression.

Equally charming are the Butcherbirds my mum feeds from the balcony every morning. My mum has always had a soft spot for Butchies. They kill garden pests, have beautiful songs and are real little characters when you get to know them. She feeds them small quantities of raw mince. Just enough to keep them coming, not enough to substitute their normal diet. Now a regular team of four to five birds come most mornings. One in particular only has one eye, so he gets some special treatment. As long as you don't scare them, they will pick the mince off your fingers.

Feeding one-eye.

As well as the bird boxes and sugar-glider boxes (there is a difference), my parents have recently had a native bee box installed. There seems to be a bit of a fad at the moment for native bee boxes. Several restaurants in Brisbane have installed them on their rooves and there is such a demand for them that the Bee Man can't keep up. Native bees are not kept for honey, they produce at an extremely slow rate, but for the health benefits to the gardens they inhabit and busily pollinate.

The hive, staked into the veggie patch, is on the outside just a polystyrene box. Watch it for a few minutes though and you see the tiny sting-less bees shuffling in and out with packets of pollen.

The tiny native bees flying in and out.

One of the main tourist attractions in Maleny is the Mary Cairncross Rainforest Walk. This walk, in a lush section of forest near Maleny town, is an easy 45 minute walk, accessible by wheel chair and has a cafe and ranger park for the hundreds of people who walk through it every weekend.

If you're a local, however, you know that the best time of day to go is at first light, before the birds and Pademelons are disturbed by the racket of people and hide away from sight. On Saturday morning, in the drizzling rain and mist, we got up at 7am and were in the park when it opened. We were the first and only people who were crazy enough to get up on a cold wet morning but it was worth it when we saw this guy just 2 metres away, lazily eating on the path in front of us.

Red Legged Pademelons. Comfortable around people but not the noise they make. 

He was the first of 8 Pademelons we had the good fortune to see that morning, along with a host of small fluttering native birds.

A Pademelon spying on us through the undergrowth.

A Bush Turkey, one of the least impressive native animals, but also one of the few willing to stay still for a photo.

However, perhaps the highlight of the trip, in terms of Australian animal experiences was on another walk through the dry rainforest near Baroon Pocket Dam. While pausing on a rock in a stream to take a photo, my visitor came toe to toe with a snake. Dark grey back, bright yellow belly. I thought at first it was a Yellow-bellied Black Snake and we both had minor heart palpitations at how close the experience was, but on returning home and consulting the guidebook, we decided it was probably a common tree snake.

The snake. Not a great photo but it wasn't up for posing.

I won't tell you the whole story, I don't want to spoil it for my guest for whom this is one hell of a story to tell everyone back home in England. The time he came This Close to a Potentially Poisonous Snake. Can't take that away from him.

Thus concludes an introduction to Australian wildlife. Some of it might kill you, most of it won't.

Next stop: the crocs at Australia Zoo!


  1. Sounds like the boy got a good introduction to our wildlife :).

  2. I love Tawny Frogmouths and normally you see them so rarely. That fellow plus the Pademelons was a nice cute introduction to animals in the wild.

    Now that the terror of the snake has passed, it has become an excellent story.


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