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Zooboy28 in Australia

Discussion in 'Australia' started by zooboy28, 25 Mar 2013.

  1. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

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    Day One Hundred and Ninety-five

    14/9/2013. Today’s foray was to the south-west of Melbourne, to the Victorian government-run Serendip Sanctuary, which has operated for over 50 years as a wildlife research station, and has been open to the public since 1991. And it’s free! We arrived at 10.30am, and ours was the only car in the carpark. It’s an unusual set-up, with just a path leading away from the carpark into a lightly-wooded, ex-farmland landscape. Following the path took us across a bridge above a Musk Duck exhibit, and then to the unattended information centre, which had some interesting signage and an apparently empty frog tank. Outside was a duck pond (I think the birds on it were captive Chestnut Teal and other wild ducks), and then the first of four trails.

    The first trail was the Wildlife Walk, and this included most of the captive animal enclosures. First was a walkthrough Eastern Grey Kangaroo and Emu enclosure, also inhabited by the ubiquitous Cape Barren Geese, which were everywhere. Next was a nice Brolga exhibit, with a very active pair that appeared to be courting. This was followed by a series of hides that looked out over various wetlands, each occupied by a variety of birds, some captive, some wild. Next were a series of aviaries, the first for Masked Owl, the next few for Freckled Ducks, and the last for Spot-tailed Quoll, within a walkthrough wallaby/Pademelon exhibit. The final exhibit here was a large walkthrough aviary, the first section containing White-faced Herons, Banded Rails & Black Ducks, and the second with Tawny Frogmouths, Bronzewing Pigeons and Red-rumped Parrots.

    The rest of the sanctuary was made up of three different trails, which lead to various wetlands, which contained wild or perhaps semi-captive waterfowl. Most of the wild birds I saw were fairly common Victorian species – fairy-wrens, wattlebirds, standard waterfowl, although there were also some species I hadn’t seen before (at least wild). There are also a number of Emu in the sanctuary grounds, and watching these running through the woodland was pretty cool. After completing the three trails, the exit path led past the breeding pens, which were set up for Magpie Geese, Cape Barren Geese, Brolga and Australian Bustards. The Bustard set-up was especially interesting, the females were able to move between pens and therefore select the male they wanted, but the males could not leave their pens, which was quite a clever way to mimic nature.

    New Species: Australian Bustard, White-winged Chough.
     
  2. tetrapod

    tetrapod Well-Known Member

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    Sounds like a really nice setup. The bustard breeding pens reminds me of the off-display breeding complex for capercaillie at Highland WP in Scotland. Girls which are smaller can slip away from boisterous males.
     
  3. nanoboy

    nanoboy Well-Known Member

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    Zooboy, do you have your own bird field guide? Your inbox is full, by the way.
     
  4. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

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    Yes, I have two, the Morecombe one and the Pizzey and Knight one. I've also got mammal and reptile field guides. Which have all come in handy over the last couple of weeks!

    I'll try and make some space in my inbox over the next couple of days.
     
  5. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands Premium Member

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    "A Field Companion to the Mammals of Australia" has just recently been published. It's a complement to the Mammals of Australia which is a rather large and heavy tome. It contains a small amount of info for field identification for all mammals, plus keys and info on skulls, teeth etc.

    :p

    Hix
     
  6. nanoboy

    nanoboy Well-Known Member

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    Oh ok. I have an extra brand new field guide that is still looking for a new home.
     
  7. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

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    Day Two Hundred and Nine to Two Hundred and Seventeen:

    28/9-10/10/2013. At the start of October, I spent a couple of weeks in the National Parks around Alice Springs, in the arid centre of Australia. This was to collect fish samples for my PhD, although there were other people on the trip doing other work. As such, the first week was spent at Watarrka National Park, which is a few hours south-west of Alice Springs. This is a very beautiful park, with loads of amazing landscapes (Kings Canyon, Garden of Eden), as well as lots of wildlife. Highlights included Freckled Monitor, Budgie, Grey-crowned Babbler, Peregrine Falcon, Wedge-tailed Eagle, and Dingo!

    The second week was spent at the West MacDonnell National Park, which runs west from Alice Springs for over 150km. This is a radically different NP to Watarrka, with much more people, water, and fish! It is still very beautiful, and we visited all the major waterholes in the Park, including one that required a helicopter to get to, and one that we had to swim through a 100m long, 2m wide gorge to get to! Not really what I’d expected in the desert. I also spent a lot of time wildlife spotting, including a Night Stalk (actually organised by Perth Zoo) where I saw geckos and frogs. Highlights of the West Macs were two – a Black-faced Rock Wallaby 30m up a steep cliff (amazing animal to watch – so nimble!) and a Perentie that came down to drink from a waterhole which we were seining, and ended up drinking barely a metre from us!

    Our final sampling took place in the Finke Gorge National Park, the least accessible park, located near the town of Hermannsburg. This required a 2.5 hour 4WD drive to reach, so we camped there, under the outback stars. The waterhole here was large and had heaps of birds, including pelicans, cormorants, herons, egrets, ducks, dotterals and sandpipers. Here we caught a glimpse of a pair of Mulga Parrots.

    We also spent a few days in Alice Springs, which was very different to what I had expected. One night we fed the colony of Rock Wallabies at Heavitree Gap Hotel, where we also saw a few Euro. I also visited the Olive Pink Botanical Gardens, which is very nice, and has great views over the town. I also saw a Red Kangaroo mother and large joey here, scrounging water.

    I’ll probably be back sometime next year, and I’m really looking forward to it. Alice Springs and the nearby National Parks are beautiful places and I highly recommend a visit! Hopefully next time I’ll get to Uluru too!

    New Species: Unidentified Gecko, Bynoe’s Gecko, Long-nosed Dragon, Western Bowerbird, Little Crow, Yellow-throated Miner, Western Gerygone, Grey-crowned Babbler, Mistletoe Bird, Fairy Martin, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Singing Honeyeater, Black-fronted Dotteral, Grey Goshawk, Wood Sandpiper, Mulga Parrot, Rainbow Bee-eater, Splendid Fairy-wren, Black-faced Rock Wallaby.
     
  8. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands Premium Member

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    So you got to see your Babblers then?

    :p

    Hix
     
  9. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

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    Yes, there was a family near one of the houses we were using, and they were great to watch in the mornings, hopping around together. We saw them at a couple of other places too. Very adorable birds!
     
  10. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands Premium Member

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    When I visited the West MacDonnells I absolutely loved Redbank Gorge. There were plenty of Rock Wallabies there too.

    :p

    Hix
     
  11. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

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    Redbank was OK, we sampled it but there was no fish there (which was a bit surprising since there had been fish there in the past). Didn't see any Rock Wallabies there, but it wasn't a good time of day for them I don't think, although the habitat for them would have been perfect!
     
  12. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    silly zooboy, everybody knows fish live in water!

    Sounds like an awesome time there. I've never managed to get to the centre of Australia, lots of nice animals there I would like to see.
     
  13. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

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    Surprising how much water there is up there actually, but still amazing that fish are able to persist there at all. We caught over 100 fish total of four different species, but saw another four species too, so there is quite a high level of diversity out there.

    It was an awesome trip, lots of amazing places and wildlife, and the people up there were amazing too, which was not something I had expected. I'll hopefully put some photos in the gallery over the weekend.
     
  14. nanoboy

    nanoboy Well-Known Member

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    Was it really hot?
     
  15. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

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    Most days it was in the thirties, although once it only got to something like 23C (of course that was the day I got sunburnt). There were a few days when it reached the low 40s, which made field work difficult, especially when there was no shade near the waterhole. At one site we got back to the car, which was fully parked in the shade, and the temperature gauge said 47C, but I don't think it was really quite that hot.

    You have to be very careful out there though, many people don't take nearly enough water when they go out walking, or even driving. The rangers were telling us how many tourists had died walking some tracks (short day tracks mostly), and the numbers were horrifying. And driving between National Parks we came across a broken down sedan, which we ended up towing to the nearest town, and the occupants had hardly any water with them.
     
  16. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

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    Day Two Hundred and Eighteen:

    7/10/2013. Today was a partial day off in Alice Springs, so I visited the Alice Springs Reptile Centre, located near the town centre. This looks like a converted house, and a staircase leads up to the reception, where I paid $13 as a student, and got a map of the place. The first room is a relatively new attraction, the Gecko Cave opened in 2006. This was a nocturnal house style room, with ten large tanks set into the walls. These contained geckos and legless lizards, typically in multi-species exhibits.

    The next room (Room 1) was entered via a sliding door, guarded by a very friendly Spencer’s Monitor, which wandered around the visitors, and could be patted. This room had sixteen tanks around the walls, although these were not generally spacious given the larger sizes of their inhabitants, typically snakes, monitors and larger lizards. Another sliding door led into Room 2, which was a bit smaller, but had a similar number of tanks around the wall, mostly with smaller snakes and lizards, as well as some frogs and turtles. The centre of the room was dominated by a terrarium for Freshwater Crocodiles.

    I then stepped outside into the sweltering heat, and explored the outdoor exhibits, basically a series of low-walled, sand-filled enclosures, mostly shaded. Most of the reptiles out here were larger monitors, as well as a selection of common lizards – blue-tongues and bearded dragons. The largest exhibit outside held Terry, a Saltwater Crocodile wild-caught in Darwin in 2002. He can be viewed underwater and from land. The most exciting species outside however, was the Thorny Devil, a couple shared an exhibit with some Centralian Blue-tongues. These are very beautiful lizards, and well-worth seeing.

    Back inside, Room 1 and the Gecko Cave were both being used for demonstrations, so I sat in the Gecko Cave (with a crowd of mostly international tourists) and watched a Northern Territory Park Ranger give a show about local reptiles, with obligatory lizard and python holding. This was well-done, and indeed the whole centre was generally well-done, with good signage and enclosures. It is a privately-owned facility, and the guy who runs it is has an excellent reputation for helping with injured reptiles or those that need removing. Overall I saw 49 species (all native reptiles, except for one frog), of which eighteen were species I hadn’t seen before. Definitely recommend checking this place out if you ever visit Alice Springs.

    New Species: Northern Spiny-tailed Gecko, Zigzag Velvet Gecko, Yellow-headed Legless Lizard, Mesa Gecko, Sand Plains Gecko, Hooded Scaly-foot, Spencer’s Monitor, Nocturnal Desert Skink, Western Brown Snake, Northern Brown Snake, Desert Death Adder, Speckled Brown Snake, Central Netted Dragon, Worrell’s Turtle, Curl Snake, Yellow-faced Whip-snake, Western Blue-tongue Lizard, Thorny Devil.
     
  17. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

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  18. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

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    Day Two Hundred and Twenty-four:

    13/10/2013. Our last full day in Alice Springs was another fairly warm one, and it commenced with breakfast at the Olive Pink Botanic Gardens, followed by a walk around the place. Which is great, and features a brilliant lookout over the city. And is also full of birds, as well as the first wild Red Kangaroos I’ve seen – a mother with a pretty big joey.

    The afternoon was spent at the Alice Springs Desert Park, a government-run facility that opened in 1997 and showcases the local wildlife. Entry was $17.50, and included an audio guide, although the information was fairly basic and the battery in mine died at the first stop. Most of the zoo exhibits are aviaries, in fact apart from the nocturnal house, Red Kangaroo and Perentie exhibits, only birds are on display. And the aviaries are great, with heaps of great birds, including many more passerines than I’ve seen almost anywhere else. There is also a bird show, which was really good – not too long, interesting birds and excellent commentary.

    The highlight of the zoo is definitely the nocturnal house, easily the biggest and best I’ve ever been in, with plenty of room for visitors and most species. The collection isn’t massive, but I saw 28 vertebrates, the standout being Mala, so it’s certainly the largest nocturnal house in Australasia. Unfortunately I missed the Western Quoll, which were off display following the birth of three joeys.

    I definitely recommend a visit here, but if you do come, make sure you visit on a weekday and add a nocturnal tour to your ticket – these are supposed to be amazing, and give great views of many of the Park’s mammals, which are otherwise not visible. The most impressive of these would be the Spectacled Hare-Wallaby, but apparently you see lots of others too. I was not in Alice Springs on any weekday evenings, which really sucked! Priority for my next trip. I did see lots of new species – 27 in total, which was super exciting!

    New species: Mulga Snake, Central Carlia, Spinifex Legless Lizard, Panther Skink, Spiny-tailed Gecko, Painted Finch, Dusky Grasswren, Red-capped Robin, Masked Woodswallow, Crested Bellbird, White-winged Triller, Banded Lapwing, Cinnamon Quail-thrush, Orange Chat, White-winged Fairy-wren, Pied Honeyeater, Black-faced Woodswallow, Crimson Chat, Brown Falcon, Black Honeyeater, Southern Whiteface, Red-backed Kingfisher, Chiming Wedgebill, White-fronted Honeyeater, Mala, Kultarr, Greater Stick-nest Rat.
     
  19. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

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    Day Two Hundred and Forty-three:

    1/11/2013. The Grampians National Park is located 250km west of Melbourne and contains a stunning mountain range, well-populated with exciting wildlife. We had spent the previous night in the small town of Halls Gap, and the early morning watching the Eastern Grey Kangaroos feeding on the lawns outside our motel. After that, we explored some of the local waterfalls and lookouts, and saw a few other exciting birds, including Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos.

    And then we went to the local zoo, Halls Gap Zoo, a privately-owned facility with a fairly large collection of mostly common species. Entry was fairly expensive, $24 for adults, plus $1 animal food bags. The entry building includes some reptile tanks, and outside is a small nocturnal house. This was probably the zoo’s best feature, especially the massive Veiled Chameleon in the entryway. Among the typical marsupials displayed were Black-footed Tree Rats and Brush-tailed Rabbit-rats! And some super active Squirrel Gliders and Bettongs!

    The rest of the zoo was basically what one would expect in a regional private zoo, plenty of macropod and ungulate enclosures, aviaries of mostly common birds, and a good number of primate exhibits. A few marsupial and reptile exhibits, dingoes, a serval, a red panda, and a meerkat, as well as farm animals, rounded out the collection. None of these were particularly special, but none were bad either. There was a surprisingly large number of Tiger Quolls, which were awesome. There are lots of free-range animals, including many hungry, map-stealing, Fallow Deer, and a rather intimidating Turkey.

    The zoo has managed to acquire a number of surplus animals from the big zoos, notably Przewalski’s Horse and Giraffe, which are cool, and I look forward to seeing how they are going to develop the collection in the future, in terms of taking it to the next level. Most of the exhibits are fairly basic, and some are in need of replacement. The layout appears awkward and there isn’t really any grouping of species in any way yet.

    New Species: Baudin’s Black Cockatoo, Brush-tailed Rabbit-rat.
     
  20. CGSwans

    CGSwans Well-Known Member

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    I'm very, very fond of Halls Gap Zoo, and I wish I could still visit. Unfortunately, I can't imagine it happening again in the foreseeable future for a couple of reasons. :(