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Chlidonias Goes To Asia, part five: 2016-2017

Discussion in 'Asia - General' started by Chlidonias, 14 Oct 2016.

  1. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    I have made some changes to my Asian zoo list thread, to include the collections I visited on this trip:The Asian Zoo List of Chlidonias

    Disclaimer: Rankings are entirely subjective and not at all justifiable.
     
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  2. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    MELBOURNE - not at all Asia


    Just a quick post to round up the 2016-17 trip.


    The trip as a whole started in October and went like this: Bukit Fraser (Peninsular Malaysia) to Sabah (Malaysian Borneo) to northern India, then to Sri Lanka for a month (as an add-on due to the demonetisation disaster in India) and back to India for a couple of months (going south to north), then to Thailand briefly and through Cambodia for a couple of weeks to Vietnam where I stayed for three months. Ending the trip I headed back through Thailand and Peninsular Malaysia, for about a month total, and then flew to Melbourne where I spent just a few days before returning to New Zealand.

    I didn't spend long in Melbourne or do a lot whilst there, largely because Australia is so expensive. I mean, NZ$30 for a dorm bed! I stayed at the King St Backpackers which is where I would always recommend staying. It has the cheapest dorms (or, at least, the cheapest which have no vermin and are actually clean enough to sleep in) but the food situation tips the scales too. It has a free breakfast which is your basic cereals and bread, but it means you can also sneakily make sandwiches for lunch so the only meal you have to pay for is dinner - and the "free food shelf" (where departing backpackers leave their surplus) sometimes provides even that for free. I only spent about $10 on food over six days. It's location is handy too, being just round the corner from the Southern Cross Train Station, and within easy walking distance of several animal-related spots like the zoo and the aquarium (neither of which I visited this time), the museum, and the Botanic Gardens.

    ..................................

    My main aim for Melbourne was to see a moloch or thorny devil. This is one of the coolest lizards in the world. Found in the deserts of central Australia it looks like a jumble of spikes on legs, and feeds solely on ants of one species. I'd like to find one in the wild one day, but for now I had recently discovered that the Melbourne Museum keeps a pair. They aren't out on display most of the time, but once a day they are put into one of the ant tanks to feed. You need to be at the museum at the right time of day.

    I had emailed the Discovery Centre at the museum to check the timing (around 11.30am), so after a few hours wandering around in the Botanic Gardens looking for birds I walked up to the museum. An amazing little lizard. I have put a few photos in the Melbourne Museum gallery to show what he looks like (Melbourne Museum - Photo Galleries | ZooChat).

    As for what to do for the rest of the day, I had been looking at my map of the city and seen that Yarra Bend Park didn't look too far away. Five kilometres from the city centre apparently. There is a large colony of grey-headed flying foxes at Yarra Bend which I wanted to see. They used to roost in the Botanic Gardens years ago (where I had seen them on previous visits) but were "encouraged" to move elsewhere because they were killing the trees. The colony resettled at Yarra Bend, which is now the only site to see them in Melbourne.

    Although the park may only be five kilometres from the city, the route I took led me to the very opposite side of the park from where the fruit bats were. I didn't mind, it was a nice walk and I saw some birds along the way, but by the time I had done the complete circuit, seen the bats, and got back to the city again I had probably walked about twenty kilometres. There are, supposedly, black flying foxes in the colony as well, seen there since 2010. I went through all the bats with my binoculars but all the ones I could see were grey-headed flying foxes. Eventually I got bored with examining bats and left. Maybe there are just a few black flying foxes there, maybe a whole group, or maybe they are just brief visitors - I don't know the answer to that, but I've seen black flying foxes before, in Australia and Indonesia, so it wasn't all that important.

    ..................................

    The next day I went to Sherbrooke Forest, which is easy to get to - just catch the train to Belgrave station and then walk through the forest. Sherbrooke is a great site for superb lyrebirds (I saw three today, although I still couldn't find any pilotbirds) and there's also a bird-feeding area which attracts various parrot species. Today the only attendants were sulphur-crested cockatoos and crimson rosellas which were studiously ignoring the tourists with their handfuls of seeds. However, an animal I wanted to try and see here more was a wombat. I had found out not too long ago that wombats were common at Sherbrooke. They are nocturnal of course, so I took my torch with me and planned to stay out there until the evening.

    On the Neumann Track I found a large grassy slope which was covered in wombat droppings and signs of their digging. I've seen wombats in Tasmania and there they tend to come out in the late afternoon when there is still enough light for viewing and photography. Tasmanians are pretty obliging. I was hoping the same would be the case here. From the grassy slope back to the bird-feeding area is about 2km and from there to the Belgrave station is about 3km, so about 5km altogether which I had to walk back, and I knew that not only were there loads of rusa deer in these forests but that this particular area along the Neumann Track had a lot of shooting to cull them. Getting shot while walking back in the dark was not really to my liking. But, you gotta do what you gotta do.

    Because it is winter it gets dark very early, around 5.30pm. The first mammals to appear were eastern grey kangaroos at around 5pm, hopping out of the forest to graze. I was keeping an eye on two wombat burrows, at least one of which was definitely active judging by all the dirt outside it. No wombats were coming out before dark though. At 5.20pm or so I had a little wander to see if any were elsewhere in the meadow, and found a swamp wallaby but no wombats. Back to watching the burrows, and just on 5.30pm, when it was just light enough to make them out but also dark enough to not be able to photograph them, a wombat and her baby came strolling through. I made it back to Belgrave without getting shot.

    ..................................

    Apart for a visit to St. Kilda pier to see some little blue penguins and Australian water rats, the only other places I went were to Moonlit Sanctuary and to Healesville Sanctuary where I haven't been for ten years. Both are brilliant zoos for native Australian wildlife and are highly recommended. There are also quite a lot of native wild birds in their grounds. I put a few photos in their respective galleries (Moonlit Sanctuary - Photo Galleries | ZooChat and Healesville Sanctuary - Photo Galleries | ZooChat). I wrote a little review of Healesville here - Healesville Sanctuary - Healesville Sanctuary review, June 2017 - and, just to be even-handed, here's the review of Moonlit Sanctuary which I wrote for my 2014 visit: Moonlit Sanctuary - First visit to Moonlit Sanctuary, 27 May 2014

    Something else I was going to do was to try and see Burrunan dolphins, which were declared as a new species (split from other bottlenose dolphins) in 2011. They are restricted to coastal Victoria I think (the southeast at any rate) and this is the third time I've been through Melbourne since 2011. But I found out just in time - before heading south to the bottom of Port Phillip Bay for the ferries - that winter is not a good time to see them because they disperse and are no longer reliable. I'll get them one day though!

    And then I flew back to New Zealand.

    ..................................

    There's a list of birds and mammals from the Australia part on the Big Year thread (minus a few birds which were already seen in Asia this year).
    2017 Big Year
     
    Last edited: 26 Jun 2017
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  3. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    I have uploaded my Sri Lanka wildlife photos into the gallery now: Sri Lanka - Wildlife - Photo Galleries | ZooChat

    I did it by animal group (invertebrates then reptiles then birds then mammals) rather than by area, so the photos from various national parks are all mixed up. The photos of monkeys were uploaded quite a while ago, though, so they are before the invertebrates.

    The way the old forum worked was that as photos were commented upon they moved to the top of the gallery, but now they remain in place. Perhaps future versions of the forum will return to that method - which I think everybody found preferable? - but for now all the photos will remain in their respective blocks.

    These are two of my favourites:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
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  4. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Well-Known Member

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  5. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    I like this quote: "As per the RBI data, it's safe to say that demonetisation has been a failure of epic proportions."

    I think it's probably difficult to comprehend the full effect of the demonetisation unless a person was actually in India at the time. It's a bit abstract otherwise. Kind of like how you can see news about a flood or earthquake, but actually being in that place is vastly different to remotely experiencing it. The demonetisation effect on the people was almost equivalent to having a natural disaster hit the country.
     
  6. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Well-Known Member

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    At the time your thread was actually quite useful for adding a touch of realism to the news coverage. Personal experience can cut across a lot of waffle sometimes.
     
  7. baboon

    baboon Well-Known Member

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    I am preparing to go to Sri Lanka with friends in early February for rusty-spotted cat, fishing cat and mouse deer. These travel reports in MammalWatching shows that most rusty-spotted and fishing cat sightings are in Wilpattu, but it seems that the only way of spotlighting there is staying in their extremely expensive safari camp ($400 for one person and one night). Thus we are planning to give a bet to Sigiriya. Therefore do you know if there someones have done spotlighting on foot in the forest trails near Sigiriya? (For I am really afraided of coming across elephants in a dense forest at night.) Or should all the spotlightings be done along the main road, whether on foot or by vehicle? Thank you~
     
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  8. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    Almost without exception, the Mammalwatching lot all use the same tour company and the same tour guide for Sri Lanka. Find the report by Vladimir Dinets though - he did Sri Lanka by himself (with a hire-car) so his report is a million times more useful than any of the others.

    I didn't get out on foot at Sigiriya because of the rain, but there are night drives there if you can find them. They don't know how to spotlight for the smaller animals though - they're mainly targeting elephants and deer. The elephants in Sri Lanka have a reputation for being extremely dangerous so I wouldn't mess around with them, and in places like Wilpattu and Sigiriya they are everywhere, not just in the forest. You'd need to be very careful if out on foot at night.

    I would also really recommend the Popham Arboretum at Dambulla (quite near Sigiriya) where you should find Mouse Deer with no problem (and with a high chance of Grey Slender Loris - even I managed to see those there!)
     
  9. baboon

    baboon Well-Known Member

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    Thank you very much! I have found the Vladimir Dinet's report and it is very useful. And we will definitely try to join the night safari in Popham Arboretum:D
     
  10. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    For Popham, there are a couple of bungalows on the grounds as well as some other accommodation down the road. Staying on the property is preferable obviously. I put the phone number of the manager in my post (#116) about the place, here: Chlidonias Goes To Asia, part five: 2016-2017
     
  11. baboon

    baboon Well-Known Member

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    Thank you! I have read another report about a pangolin sighting in this place! Definitely a must-visit place~