(Red Kangaroo shows off his agility in the Flinders Ranges)
I was not born a natural animal lover. In fact, as a child I had a severe fear of dogs – severe! Even If I saw one on a leash in the distance, I would break out into a sweat, shake with fear and be close to tears. Ok I admit it – sometimes there were actual tears involved.
Whilst my childhood fear of dogs disappeared with my childhood fear of needles (completely unrelated of course), I still grew up with a lack of appreciation for Australian wildlife. I grew up in the outback surrounded by iconic creatures that are unique to this part of the world – but I took it for granted. You never really appreciate what is in your own backyard (and in the case of growing up in Broken Hill, I mean that quite literally!)
It was only when I started travelling beyond my own backyard and developing an interest in photography that I really began to appreciate the wildlife that calls Australia home. And it’s not just the creatures themselves that intrigue me – it’s their habits, their survival instincts, their relationship with their natural environment and the interaction within and between species.
Exploring South Australia with my camera provided a number of great opportunities to observe Australian birds and animals in their natural environments – and had me dreaming of returning in my next life as the reincarnation of David Attenborough!
Here are my Top 10 Wildlife Photographs from my recent road trips.
These pelicans near the Kingscote Jetty in Kangaroo Island had just scrambled over each other to enjoy the daily feeding session performed by a local. Shortly after I captured this photograph they treated me to a graceful flying performance, gliding above me as the sun set over the island. I also regularly saw pelicans on Henley Jetty in Adelaide, hoping for a free feed from a generous local fisherman.
Did You Know? Pelicans do not store fish in their pouch. They simply use it to catch them and then tip it back to drain out water and swallow the fish immediately. Young pelicans feed by sticking their bills into their parents’ throats to retrieve food.
This koala was surprisingly active considering it was the middle of the day. He moved from branch to branch on this tree until he found a comfortable position to take a nap – taken on Koala Walk in the Hanson Wildlife Sanctuary on Kangaroo Island.
Did You Know? The Koala Bear is not a bear – it is a marsupial which means they carry their young in their pouch. And a newborn koala is usually only 2 centimetres long!
Whilst driving in Innes National Park in the Yorke Peninsula, I was stopped in my tracks by this emu apparently teaching it’s young to cross the road. When they reached the other side, the adult emu turned around and aggressively pecked it’s young – so I suspect it failed it’s test!
Did You Know? Emus have two sets of eyelids! One is used for blinking and the other to keep the dust out.
7. Another Emu
I have to confess that the emu is not my favourite Australian animal. I find them entertaining, unique and a little bit ridiculous but I’m also very wary of them. I think this comes from childhood visits to the aggressive and slightly intimidating residents of Penrose Park in Silverton.
Did You Know? Emus cannot fly, but can run up to 50 kilometres per hour
6. Pied Oystercatcher
When I first arrived at Hanson’s Bay on Kangaroo Island, I breathed in the fresh air and sat on a rock to enjoy the solitude visiting the island outside peak tourist season provides. I soon realised I was not alone as I noticed three little baby oystercatchers hopping around on the sand. Before long their adult parents appeared to remind me this was their territory and I was simply a visitor.
Did You Know? The Pied Oystercatcher’s bill is strong enough to break shells apart.
5. Australian Sea-lion
A recent adventure in South Georgia and Antarctica had opened up my eyes to the world of seals. I find them both entertaining and intriguing. Although it’s difficult to find a more incredible environment in the world than Antarctica, visiting Seal Bay on Kangaroo Island was a great experience in its own right.
Did You Know? Australian sea lions are the only seal species with a breeding cycle that varies from year to year with a gap between cycles of almost 18 months. Interestingly, breeding seasons differ from colony to colony.
4. A Barn Owl’s Lunch
Now in the interest of full disclosure and being an honest, upstanding citizen, I must reveal that this was not taken in the Australian wild in the strictest sense of the word. I captured this photograph whilst visiting the Raptor Domain Centre on Kangaroo Island. Regardless, I love this photograph for the simple fact that it reminds me of the harsh reality of the animal and bird kingdom where one animal’s prey is another’s sustenance.
Did You Know? Barn Owl’s have a very short life span. Most adults only live for 3-4 years and they have a high mortality rate in their first year.
3. Yellow-Footed Rock Wallaby
Brachina Gorge in the Flinders Ranges is home to the endangered but distinctly beautiful Yellow-Footed Rock Wallaby. I was lucky enough to come across a couple on a morning drive through the area. I could easily have spent hours just watching them bounce around the rocky plantation, feed and interact with each other.
Did You Know? Yellow-Footed Rock Wallabies have been threatened with extinction but attempts to save them are being successfully made by initiatives such as Bounce Back. There were only 50 wallabies in the Flinders Ranges in 1990 but their population has ‘boucned back’ to more than 1,000 in the area today
2. The Red Kangaroo
It’s difficult to find an animal that is more iconically Australian than the kangaroo. We name our sporting teams after it, it features in songs, books and movies and we even eat it! The chance of spotting a kangaroo in the Australian outback is likely as spotting a penguin in Antarctica – virtually guaranteed. On my recent trip to the Flinders Ranges I came across a group of red kangaroos near Stokes Hill Lookout. Whilst the majority of the group bounced away as soon as I stepped outside my car, this large male was less spooked. He stood his ground and seemed to pose for me, standing up tall, turning to the left, turning to the right (maybe his better side?) and have a little scratch.
Did You Know? The reason kangaroos hop is because their legs cannot move independently of each other.
1. Wedge-Tailed Eagle
I never really understood the fascination of birds until I watched a pair of Light-Mantled Sooty Albatrosses performed a mating ritual in South Georgia. I was fascinated and have looked at birds differently ever since. And on a recent trip to the Flinders Ranges I was keen to observe Australia’s largest bird of prey in their natural environment – and I had no shortage of opportunity! They have a wing span of up to 2.5 metres and have quite an intimidating look about them. Watching them glide above you in the thermals is quite a majestic sight. They are such a fascinating creature to watch in the wild, I’ve added a bonus photograph!
Did You Know? Wedged-Tailed Eagles mate for life. Although they may have more than one chick, they often only rear one and the older and stronger sibling is the most likely to survive. If hungry, they may even feed on the weaker siblings.
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