In June we had visitors from Australia and it was interesting to observe their excitement about deer and black bears and even chipmunks, animals they’d never see in their home country. Then I remembered how on our visit to Australia I found the animals there endlessly fascinating. I’d seen kangaroos before in zoos but to view them in the wild was exciting for me.
We stayed in the Hunter Valley in the province of New South Wales for several days and I went for a long walk each morning. I saw plenty of yellow highway signs with black silhouettes of kangaroos on them warning drivers to stay alert. Each morning on my walk I’d count the number of kangaroos I saw hopping across the road, through the vineyards and or in among the trees. My record one morning was thirty -two kangaroos.
On my walks along the ocean in Manly Beach, near Sydney I frequently spotted Australian pelicans. They looked very different than any pelicans I’d ever seen before with their distinctive black markings on their wings. Australian pelicans are larger than any other kind of pelican in the world. Their enormous pink bills or beaks are also much longer than those of their fellow pelicans in other countries.
My daily walk in the town of Mittagong let me witness an interesting battle between an early morning fisherman and an octopus. The angler had snagged the octopus and was trying to reel him in so he could take out his hook. However whenever the man got the creature close to shore it used its suction cups to fasten itself to rocks and the man had one heck of a time trying to pry the octopus loose.
Golfing was hard for me because the five courses we played in Australia all had such interesting creatures inhabiting them. I was forever putting down my clubs to get out my camera and take a picture of a lizard on the green or a large turtle unconcernedly plodding across the fairway. Although most of the water hazards on the Australian golf courses came with signs that warned us to beware of poisonous snakes we never encountered one.
The birds of Australia were noisy. We found the birds so loud particularly on the golf courses, that they became really annoying. On one golf course a worker was driving around in a cart shooting off blank cartridges to scare the flocks of noisy birds away. He told us to plug our ears while he let out one deafening blast after another. Many of the birds in Australia were particularly flamboyant and colorful. I ended up deleting quite a few bird pictures from my camera too.
It’s not only the present day animals of Australia that are fascinating. At the Australian Museum of Natural History we learned that the dinosaurs roaming Australia in pre-historic times were unique as well, certainly very different than dinosaurs in other parts of the world. What is even more exciting is it is only in the last few years that many of the Australian dinosaur fossils have been discovered. Several years ago evidence of three new kinds of dinosaurs were unearthed, species paleontologists had never heard of before. The giant wombats that roamed Australia from 2 million to 10,000 years ago particularly intrigued me.
Australia has many other unique animals I didn’t get to see- the emu and the dingo to name two. However I did encounter enough of Australia’s distinctive creatures to confirm my belief that the world is indeed a place of diverse beauty and creative wonder.