Tag Archives: kangaroos

Trip 3:Monday, September 11

I slept incredibly well in the wonderful brass bed in the comfortable guest room. The fragrance of a bouquet of freesia and grape hyacinth that Judy had placed in the room was a delightful welcome to consciousness. Judy and Geoff are great gardeners, and there are flowers everywhere outside, but also cut flowers throughout the house.

The sky was overcast, but it was not raining, so we still had high hopes for the day. We had breakfast by the kitchen window, so we could watch the birds that gather here: crimson rosellas, magpies, gray currawongs, and a wattle bird. I love this place.

The sky began to clear, so we headed off to the Royal Melbourne Zoo. I had visited the Melbourne Zoo during my first trip to Australia, so I knew it was splendid, but it’s a fair drive from the ranch—almost all the way back to the airport. However, Judy and Geoff assured me that they were pleased to have a reason to visit, as they loved the zoo, too. So we were off.

The day remained a bit gray and quite cool, but that didn’t keep us from having a wonderful time. The zoo was even better than I had remembered, plus there were things I hadn’t seen previously. I was again dazzled by the astonishing walk-through aviary. Since the weather suits the birds there, it isn’t even really enclosed, just netted at tree-top level. As a result, there is almost no feeling of separation between the vegetation outside and that inside the aviary—and the large number of wild birds that gather nearby help bolster that feeling. Just astonishing, the variety and beauty of birds from all over Australia, swooping and perching and dining and preening their feathers and wading and showing off.

In the aviary

Big day for things with wings, as the butterfly house was next. I was ecstatic. There is something so ephemeral and ethereal about butterflies, it is a bit like touching a rainbow or a piece of sky. The numbers of butterflies made their beauty even more overwhelming. They were fluttering everywhere, some landing on me, many perching on the flowers that crowed around us, others dancing together. I was almost giddy with delight.

Judy and Geoff are keen on Aussie animals, so they were as happy as I was in the exhibits of local fauna. I have seen all these animals in the wild, but I never get tired of them. One behavior I hadn’t seen before (other than in videos) was kangaroos boxing. It’s likely the ones we saw were just practicing for the mating season, but these creatures can really fight when it comes time to divide up the ladies. Emus (birds, but not in the aviary as they are flightless) and a southern hairy-nosed wombat posed nicely for my photos.

Kangaroos boxing



We also fit in some African and South American fauna. It’s too big a zoo to see everything, but we did our best, staying until closing time.

Then back to the mountains. We missed most of the traffic, so we got back to the ranch in just over an hour. Geoff built up a fire in the fireplace, Judy made tea, and we relaxed for a while before Judy started dinner. We then spent an amiable evening, talking about Australia and books, Judy’s horses and endurance riding and her and Geoff’s road rallies. It was a lovely evening. But then it was time for bed, as we have an early start tomorrow.



Filed under Australia, Nature, Travel

The Kangaroo Mob Recovers

I couldn’t leave you with the kangaroos dying from the mosquito-borne disease. Here’s the video that follows up with the mob 10 months later, when the survivors are rebuilding their lives.


Filed under Australia, Geography, Nature, Science, Video

Kangaroos and Mosquito Plague

Nature is amazing, but it is not always kind or easy. In this video, a kangaroo mob is besieged by disease-carrying mosquitoes. While the mob will recover in time, it is sad to see them suffer–and while I realize that death is often a key part of how nature keeps itself strong, it still makes me want to spray the whole place with DDT.


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Kangaroos in the Outback

While I find koalas interesting, the Aussie animals I love most are kangaroos and wallabies. Such remarkable creatures. I’ve discovered a splendid BBC series on kangaroos in particular, and I thought it worth sharing. Note that a group of kangaroos is generally referred to as a mob, and if you listened to the video I posted last January about magpies, you’ll recognize their caroling in the background of this video.

Clearly, it’s not easy being a ‘roo in the back of beyond.

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September 10, part 2

Back on the main road again, I continued to climb along the winding road, pulling off again when I reached the turnoff for Reid Lookout. Again, I parked and headed off on foot, hiking along narrow trails, taking photos of broad valleys and cloud-muffled peaks. It has begun to drizzle a bit, but this has not diminished the beauty of this dramatic place. (It has, however, made getting good photographs unlikely, at least of panoramas. Pretty dark and hazy.)
Then onward, to Boroka Lookout–a bit farther off the main drag, down a road lined with wildflowers in white, a dozen shades of pink (including the lovely Common Heath, state flower of Victoria), and the familiar yellow of the wattles. Here, the view was down across Halls Gap and the Wonderland Range, and the avian delight here was a sparrow-sized bird with a brilliant orange breast.
Grampians-cloudy vista2-B

Common Heath

Common Heath

Half an hour later, I was winding down toward Halls Gap, through the Wonderland Range. This is a truly beautiful, craggy, wild area. (Which, besides being gorgeous, also makes driving “interesting.” Wet, winding road, and I’m on the “wrong” side. Definitely part of the adventure.) I passed the Elephant’s Hide and Indian Head (rock formations that really do match their names), stopping to admire them, and then dropped down into Halls Gap.

It was after 1:00pm, so I parked the car and walked along the main street to Stony Creek. The Flying Emu Café offered tables overlooking the creek, so I decided it would be a good for lunch. After eating, I popped into the craft store next door and bought a T-shirt for my sister-in-law. Then it was back to the car and onward.

Now I headed south, driving the entire length of the Grampians National Park, emerging an hour later at Dunkeld. On this stretch of road, I had the wilderness to myself. No other cars interrupted the silence on this dark, damp day. It was splendid: just me and the trees and the rain. I was delighted almost to giddiness by kookaburras, laughing and flying past, and kangaroos hopping across the road. At one spot, I saw a kangaroo hesitate and look back, and I read this as a signal that others would follow, so I stopped the car. A few seconds later, the first ‘roo was followed by several others. I waited until nearly a dozen kangaroos of varying ages and sizes had safely crossed the road before I continued on. Breathtaking.

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Kangaroo Island

A short hop in a small, twin-prop airplane carried me from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island, which lies off the coast of South Australia. Because of its isolation from mainland Australia, the island has its own variety of kangaroo. The Kangaroo Island kangaroo is short—about 3 feet tall—and dark brown. They are adorable, curious, and eager for handouts. One of the locals told me they also make faithful pets. In my dreams. Being surrounded by a crowd of these splendid little marsupials was just one of the many delights of Kangaroo Island, but it was a great start.

Kangaroo Island kangaroos

Kangaroo Island kangaroos

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Cabin ‘roo at Ross River

For reasons I do not fully understand, I connected with the outback, particularly in the Red Centre, at a deep level. As a result, on my first trip back, I made sure I spent time in the Centre. I spent a few days in Alice Springs and then headed out to Ross River Homestead, where I rented a cabin a bit more “away from it all.” I had underestimated my reaction on returning to this area, and had not planned nearly enough time. After three days, I had to leave Ross River, and I’m sure they thought it odd that tears were running down my face as they drove me back to Alice Springs. But it was very hard to leave, having had to work so hard to get back.

If you saw the movie Quigley Down Under, you’ve seen this area; this is the site they picked for recreating the outback cattle station (for non-Aussies, station=ranch). It’s located along the eastern stretch of the MacDonnell Range, a splendid, ancient, eroded range of red mountains that looks like the bones of the earth sticking through its red skin.

I had a splendid time at Ross River Homestead (one of the oldest homestead in the Northern Territory). I spent my days hiking among rock formations and along dried river beds, and my evenings listening to tales from local Aboriginal story tellers or learning about the area’s history.

The area around Ross River is made more wonderful by the wildlife. There is an astonishing variety of bird life, as the southern and northern bird habitats overlap here. There are also plenty of kangaroos. Having become accustomed to the presence of humans, they are often surprisingly close at hand. (The big ones are, anyway—they know they can take care of themselves—smaller ‘roos were still a bit shy.) Apparently, the paving stones in front of the cabins make a nice place to catch the sun—my guess is because it is a bit cooler than the surrounding red dirt. As a result, it was not uncommon to return to my cabin and find I had company.


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